Friday, October 24, 2008

Amateur hour

Interesting how the amateur political videos are turning out to be much better than the official ones. One more strike for Web 2.0 (the rise of user-generated content) into the realm of politics.

Here are a couple of absolutely classic YouTube do-it-yourself amateur campaign videos. Andrew Sullivan says they are the best of the season.

He might be right. Interesting how they reflect the two great genres of modern U.S. popular culture: illustrated children's lit (remember that George W.'s favorite book was "The Very Hungry Caterpillar") and beer commercials.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Watch out -- all the new media are watching

One interesting thing about the election is how hard it is to deny it when you say something that you wanted to say to one group but not have another hear. True at the global level, too - as the Danish cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed (of Islam) last year showed: they thought they were having a nice, local exercise in free speech and their own brand of humor, that tends to parody and sarcasm, but once launched in almost any form, things can spread all over the nation or world very quickly.

Here is a new one for the USA.

Robin Hayes spoke at a McCain-Palin rally yesterday, about how "liberals hate real Americans who work and achieve and believe in God".

Quoting DailyKos:
Hayes had prefaced his comments by saying that he wanted to be sure "not to say something stupid". Apparently what he meant was, he didn't actually want to be quoted saying anything stupid, so as to retain plausible deniability.

Because he flatly denies making the comments. He claims that the national press were there and nobody wrote about it, so the New York Observer's Jason Horowitz (who broke the story) must have misreported.

Update: Hayes spokeswoman, Amanda Little, says that Hayes absolutely denies making the comments that appear in the Observer article. She noted that other national reporters were at the event and didn't pick up on what the Observer reported.

The Crypt called the Observer reporter in question, Jason Horowitz, and he said he stands firmly by his reporting. "I was there. That’s what I heard. I was taking notes while he was talking," said Horowitz.

But here is the soundbite captured by someone and spread all over the Internet. A little something to remember when speaking in public.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Race and the campaign in Western Pennsylvania: "We're voting for the n***er."

Sometimes the USA really does amaze me. I don't know whether this election will make race issues worse or better, but I am beginning to hope it will be better.

Here is a story from, which does great campaign coverage, particularly aggregating and making sense of the polls, but also interesting on the road type stuff.

"So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

In this economy, racism is officially a luxury."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blood sport

Whether you enjoy blood sports, like hunting, or find them problematic, is an interesting cleavage in modern society. For myself, I consciously stopped hunting back in Idaho at about 17, when I was also deciding on a bunch of other changes in where my life was headed.

There were two specific incidents that tipped me over into making the decision. One came from going goose hunting with two of my nephews, Andy and Dan Tiller, out near a bird sanctuary near Lake Lowell in Nampa, Idaho. Dan and I both shot at the same goose. We both claimed it, which is still the occasion of discussion. But the real lasting effect on me was to realize that I wished it was still up in the sky, flying magnificently along, instead of crumpled in a dead heap of feathers on the ground. I started losing my taste for the idea, particularly since the poor thing was so full of buckshot that it wasn't even edible. The real tipping point came a bit later, when I was hunting rabbits out in the desert, near my hometown, Kuna, Idaho. I shot one in the stomach and it screamed. Exactly like a child. I was too transfixed to even go put it out of its misery at first. That pretty much did it. I sold off my .22 and shotguns.

I was fine with other people hunting, particularly for deer, particularly when they actually intended to eat the meat. I was even happy to eat it under those circumstances. I just stopped seeing it as my kind of sport. I recognize that a lot of hunters, like my nephew Dan, who has established a private game preserve in an old farm along a river in Idaho, do a lot of good in preserving the habitat of the birds they hunt.

Still, for a variety of reasons, the image of Sarah Palin hunting wolves from the air made me sick to my stomach. Not much sport in shooting an animal from the air, particularly in winter when it has almost no chance of getting away. Might as well tie it to a post and then shoot it.

My wife Sandy had an even more virulent reaction. She dreamed that cannibal hunters, including Palin, were hunting people, including her, from helicopters and then eating them. I am sure Dr. Freud could have a real field day with that.

Hunting wolves has been a particularly hot issue in the west. A lot of the locals see them as dangerous pests who just prey on livestock. Outsiders tend to see them as a noble animal which ought to be preserved. I lean toward the latter, but can understand how a rancher might think the other way. But I think the blood sport shown in this video is pretty disgusting either way. If a hunter wants to go after a wolf, he or she at least ought to have do it on the ground, preferably on foot, to even the odds up -- maybe put some actual sport into it.