Friday, March 26, 2010

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Archive Maintenance

Upgraded template to new blogger. While this blog may be retired, its contributors are not. See Linklist.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eulogist Wanted

My beta.confidence is building. We’ll make the move next week. Once it’s official, I plan on removing all team members from wagtheslate. That means you won’t be able to post here anymore. I’ll also add links to WikiFray (we’ve moved) to the header and the sidebar.

That leaves a final post (Last Post) to serve as wagtheslate’s masthead for all eternity. I was thinking a concise history of this blog, something that’s both informative and honors the role wagtheslate has played in our evolution. I’d appreciate it if a better writer than I would volunteer to write that last post. Or it could be a group effort. Or a competition. Or a series of posts. Who’s up for it?

Speaking of Great Pictures...

Mike the Barber

I just broke off a five-year relationship. It wasn't a valued relationship, although services were provided and pleasantries exchanged, but as these things go, some measure of loyalty has accreted over time with familiar intertia.

When I first came to Massachusetts, I chose to patronize Mike for no other reason than his proximity to my place of employment. It wouldn't really be correct to call Mike a barber, recalling, as it does, gruff men with buzzing shears and worn-through formica, and newspapers and coffee. Mike is more of a stylist, and he ran his own place. I watched a couple of Mike's halfhearted business adventures come and go. He'd rearranged the place a couple of times, and tried to support a manicurist for a short time. He never really seemed into it.

Mike has a lisp and a Greek accent, middle aged with dark, full hair and the slouch of a healthy man who does nothing physical. He smells of hair product and the cigarette he smoked an hour ago in the back room. I'd have guessed he's a gay man (the lisp), and maybe he is, but he's got grown children and a brother-in-law with whom he's resigned enough to drop the business for a week and drive to wherever. I'd have said "happy enough", but Mike doesn't ever really look happy. He's amused on rare occasions, but most of the time he trudges around just a hair cowed, just a hair desultory. "How's the family?" he'd drawl without enthusiasm, remembering, without details, that I have young children. "How's work?"

I usually came in during lunch--what I'd think would be peak hours--but I never saw very many patrons in Mike's shop. One time, a fat, loudmouthed woman bowled the man over about her trip to Greece, flirting with him, at which Mike looked profoundly uncomfortable. She left him a suggestive thank-you card, which he uncomfortably asked me to read for him as her car crunched away in the driveway. Maybe he can read Greek.

Mike always did a terrible job cutting my hair, but you can probably guess how much that bothers me. I came back every month, and left the poor bastard a tip, as I did the last time. "I've moved," Mike told me on the phone as I arranged my appointment. (He wasn't comfortable with a walk-in.) It wasn't really any further from work, but as I walked in, it was apparent Mike had a new partner as well. He must be the sort of guy that draws heavy obnoxious blondes, because he looked more broken than ever. I asked him about the move, and he glanced at the sow by the door before he answered that "the place was too big for just me." I asked if many clients had followed him here. "Not many," he softly replied, after looking at the scowling heifer by the register. Nervously, he handled my fourteen bucks plus tip. "I- I'm not so good at the new machine."

"Should I ask for you when I come back?"

"Okay...but only on Fridays and Saturdays now."

"I'll try to remember. Thanks."

"Okay," he mumbled.

I held out for about twice as long as usual, but couldn't bring myself to go back. Even if I could prop my eyes open to the shame, Mike made it damn inconvenient with the whole Friday-only thing.

So yesterday, I went to the commercial place. "We cater to men," the owner (yet another tubby and annoying blonde) bubbled at me. "TVs at every chair. We shampoo after we cut. A neck massage with every visit."

A massage, you say.

"I love cutting wavy hair," my young hairdresser told me.

"Really? What the hell do you do with it?"

"For you, just some gel."

I made the obligatory remarks about hairline recession here. It's not as bad as I whine about. "Do what you think works," I said.

I took off the coke bottles as she did her magic, but afterwards, I must say that I liked the shampoo. I'd forgotten how pleasant it is to have some nubile, delicate-fingered girl massage your scalp. And then the vibrator on my back. Yowza. I didn't want to go back to work.

She was right about the gel, too. I walked out with the best haircut I've had in a decade. When I got home, my wife noticed, and if that wasn't out of character enough, I think she was a little turned on.

I hope Mike does well, but I think the poor fella's on his way out. I can't help but feel somewhat responsible.

I Want A Katrina Cottage

Makes perfect economic sense. It's an ideal size for an in-law apartment, I can buy it at Lowe's, and with almost an acre on my existing property I have the lot space to build it. I could use it for my parents, for my kids when they need a transition space after college, or even for myself if I want to get away from my kids.

How much you want to bet zoning won't allow me to build it? Fuckers.

hurts my eyes somewhere

Playing straight man for swit.


The year is 1987. Five southbound teenagers are traveling north on I64 to William and Mary Hall, where R.E.M. are playing on their Document tour. The evening will be recorded in Rolling Stone as one of the worst concerts R.E.M. ever gave. They had recently become a fraternity favorite, and the drunken moshing of Sigma Nus screaming "Leonard Bernstein" at just the wrong moment would prompt Michael Stipe to flashlight a couple for security to escort from the building. The southbound teenagers would enjoy the concert, would avoid the hard, human crush, would speed back through Norfolk (where they had started their trip) and on to North Carolina, where they sleepily take the S.A.T.'s the next morning.

Each of the boys has told his parents a different story. August says he is going to North Carolina, spending the night with friends so he can be well-rested and prepared for "Clint Eastwood is to codfish as [blank] is to mackerel." Ben's parents believe he is spending the night with Phil. Phil informed his parents he is going to the beach with August. All but Allan edited out the part about R.E.M. Allan did tell his parents about R.E.M., but left out the S.A.T's. Fortunately for all concerned, the respective parents never wind their way through this spool of half-truths.

The point was that North Carolina gave the S.A.T's a month before Virginia. By slipping across the border, we could then get in two rounds before college applications were do, thus doubling our chances of a decent score. And if we then rewarded ourselves with a trip to the beach, did we not deserve a little time in the ocean? And when we discovered R.E.M. was playing in Williamsburg, well, why not?

Put it this way; I would never have risked my college education on U2. On the subject of incomprehensible lyric: what the hell is pride in the name of love?

Back to the five teenagers, one of whom was a me barely recognizable to me now. R.E.M. made sense to them. Not at the concert, where they felt beamed into a world we weren't ready for, but in the truck on the way from the S.A.T.'s (disaster!) to the beach the next day. They had a tapes of Murmur and Chronic Town, and the twangy harmonies seemed to spread through the grasses along the Alligator River (oh shit, Jefferson I think we're lost). They were so happy to be in motion: lower wolves. It was dark when they reached the beach, and they talked of all the people they thought they might be, but it didn't work out that way (gardening at night). They had passions they did not understand and could not articulate, loyalties to spaces they didn't realize were demarcated. They found twisted harmonies and dissonances; they drank heavily, slept it off, went home. They understood what was to come, but of course they had no idea.

WikiFray Prep [Email Me]

I assume we’re all onboard for moving?

The sooner the better. I’m not done customizing WikiFray yet, but it is fully functional. In preparation for the move I’m going to send those of you who respond a gmail invite (if needed) and an invite to join WikiFray.

Although you don’t have to create a gmail account in order to register for a google account (for beta.blogger), I suggest you go the gmail route anyway. In the long run, it simplifies things. Nevertheless, it’s your option.

Handle these items at your own pace. I don’t want to guess when we’ll decide to shut down wagtheslate and move operations over to WikiFray, but it’s right around the corner, and maybe even as soon as next week. Obviously, it’s better if we’re all able to post on both blogs before we actually execute the transition.

With that understood, rather than send out a mass email to everyone listed as a contributor, I think it’s best I only send out invitations to people actively participating (for starters). So for those of you who are actually contributing, please send me an email me at wikifray@gmail.com.

What's up with Sorkin's Kansas?

A running theme of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip seems to be exploring what happens when "red" and "blue" collide, and whether people from differnt backgrounds can work together.

In The West Wing, in the beginning, conservatives were strawmen who might bicker with the lower level staffers, but would then stand slack-jawed as Barlett or some other senior staffer delivered an unanswerable speech. The first entry here is probably the canonical example. Conservatives were caricatures who would shove another child in front of a bus in order to go yell at a woman walking by an abortion clinic on the off-chance she might be getting an abortion.

Then, we got Ainsley Hayes, who was allowed to land a few punches before being put back into her place (in the boiling room) before she ran off to fire guns in Miami.

Now, on Studio 60, we have Harriet Hayes, who is the star of the show, kind to everyone, but happens to be an evangelical Christian. She seems to be the next evolutionary step from Ainsley Hayes.

So, I wonder where we're going.

As the episode including Tom's parents showed, Sorkin's not above trotting out stereotypes of red state folks to smash them down. I mean, they had never heard of Abbott and Costello?

We've also got the current cliffhanger of half the cast being stuck in a rural Nevada police station with a judge played by John Goodman who started off like he was on the same bus as Tom's parents, then showed otherwise, but then returned to what seemed like a caricature. And this whole sequence was kicked off when Harriett expressed her views on same sex marriage and was confronted by a gay couple who didn't approve of her disapproval.

Anyway -- what do you think Sorkin's trying to teach us about red state - blue state relationships? That as long as red state people are smart and tolerant (Harriet's OK with premarital sex) and look like one of the Hayes sisters, we can get along great?

Thoughts welcome...

[sikwoiu] WikiFray

Hello All: An update imbedded in a test. Lots of experimentation and a little progress. If you visit WikiFray, you’ll see that I’m giving the comments feed a prominent place. I happen to think one of the things that makes us unique is the fact that we actually converse. Anyway, I’m also interested in widening our appeal. To that end, I’ve figured out a workaround to do one better than blogroll. Essentially (assuming this works), I’ve figured out a way for those of you with your own blogs to have your blog posts automatically (that means, after setup it’s hands free) have your posts appear in this comments feed. So, when you post on your blog, it gets face time on WikiFray.

I really like this idea, as I believe the future of WikiFray is as a hub for our community as it outgrows the fray. Anyway, if this works you’re reading this post which I posted on my sikwoiu blog.

Anyway, I believe WikiFray is beginning to take a discernable shape, so trash it now or forever hold your peace. This has been a test.

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Posted By sikwoiu to sikwoiu at 11/08/2006 03:23:00 PM

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Babies and bathwater

Via MOJ, a Commonweal post by Cathleen Kaveny listing framing methods used by conservative Catholics and other religious people that she hopes will go by the wayside.


1. A Manichean world view: it’s Good v. Evil, the forces of light v. the forces of darkness. And by the way, WE are GOOD.


Fair enough -- we could do with more self-examination.


2. A delight in demonizing the opposition: who could see anything good in the forces of darkness? How could the forces of darkness have any point worth considering whatsoever?


Also fair enough -- those who differ with us do so for what are good reasons that are typically rooted in compassion. We thing it's misguided compassion, but it will not be guided in the correct direction by us yelling about how evil they are, and by engaging them, we can make policies that work for all involved.


3. An inability to recognize hard questions, and to acknowledge good faith disagreement about difficult moral and political issues. To Catholic culture warriors, the question of stem-cell research, or the Terri Schiavo case, weren’t even hard questions. The very suggestion that they are hard questions proved your moral turpitude.


Eh, not so fast. Some questions aren't hard. It shouldn't be hard to know that theft is wrong. Or rape. Or, yes, wars of aggression and torture. For someone to suggest that these are hard questions suggests that some self-deception is going on.

And yes, it is hard for me to see how one can fail to recognize that destroyin one human life for another's benefit is wrong and something we shouldn't do. And that if all someone needs to continue to live is to be fed, we should continue to feed her. We were reminded in last week's Gospel how simple morality really is. Difficult, but simple. Pretending that it's complicated yes, is usually a sign of moral turpitude. Perhaps pointing this out isn't the best choice for an initial approach in engaging these people, but we shouldn't pretend it's not the case.


4. An ends-justifies-the-political-means mentality. If what it takes to rid the world of Saddam is prevarication on WMDs, so be it. If what it takes to save Terri Schiavo is to violate settled principles of federalism, so be it.


And now I'm officially off the bus.

End-means justification is perfectly fine so long as the means are not intrinsically immoral. I wouldn't normally rip off another person's sweater, but I might to administer life-saving CPR.

I can accept that lying or embellishing evidence of WMD's was and is immoral. Bearing false witness and all.

But "violat[ing] settled principles of federalism" is not intrinsically immoral. And it seems especially odd to see this implied in an article arguing for nuance. If adhering to settled principles of federalism means sitting on our hands while a woman is starving, screw federalism. If adhering to settled principles of federalism means botching a post-hurricane relief effort because things like that are really the states' responsibility, screw federalism!

Yes, I know -- federalism was more of a post-hoc excuse for the pathetic effort thatn a guiding principle for the governement's (non)-actions. But still, we all recognize that getting people out of a flooded city is a higher moral principle than federalism


5. An inability to see nuance, or to take into account anything but one moral principle at a time. Abortion is the taking of innocent human life. Nothing else needs to be said. Therefore it should always be illegal, even in cases of rape or incest. If you think the question of the woman’s consent to sex is at all relevant to the legal status of abortion, you’re the enemy.

In the paragraph above, Kaveny was suggesting that we sacrifice Terry Schiavo on the altar of federalism; now she's criticizing others for letting one moral principle wiegh to heavily?

Also, if I'm not mistaken, our own President Bush holds the position that Kaveny describes as that of the "enemy." And I thought he was the guy we were too attached to.

And what, exactly, is the moral principle that says that fetuses conceived by rape do not have a right to life?


6. A preference for the stick rather than the carrot – after all, you can’t fight a war with a carrot. Support marriage by banning gay marriage; don’t provide married couples with the social support and other resources they need to make their commitment stick. Be pro-life by banning abortion, not by voting for social services that will prevent unwanted pregnancies or help mothers and fathers make a long-term commitment to raise children.


Listen, I like things like the 95-10 initative. And banning abortion does not discharge our duty to babies conceived in difficult circumstances. But it is the necessary first step. Yes, first.

I know I'm displaying the characterisic lack of tolerance and recognition of nuance by even drawing this parallel, but if someone in the 1850's said that the best way to address the injustice of slavery is not to ban it, but to offer incentives and support to southern plantation owners so they could compete wihout access to slave labor, how seriously would you take his opposition to slavery. If you were a slave and had the ability to vote, would you vote for the candidate who proposed this solution (along with a commitment to never criminalize slavery), or the candidate who wanted to criminalize slavery?

Yes, there I go again, seeing things from only one side. But there is an injustice being done. And a prerequisite for effectively addressing it is legally recognizing it as an injustice.




I agree we could all do with a healthy dose of humility and compassion when we enter into debates. We should recognize that our adversaries are not neccesarily our enemies. But we shouldn't pretend not know what we know.

Dear Chicken of the Sea

Hello. I have a complaint. But before I explain to you the particulars of my complaint, I want to establish a few facts:

1. I know that your product is not chicken. I’d like to think I know this because of all many foodstuffs that do taste like chicken, yours is not one of them. It’s likely that simple. Nevertheless, I do not discount the possibility that my firsthand experience with your product in conjunction with my basic understanding of the English language is what accounts for my possession of this knowledge. Although I do not recall the specifics surrounding my recognition of the true nature of your product, the above are the most likely. However, there is one last remote possibility. It’s possible that I know Chicken of the Sea is not chicken simply by virtue of the following facts: I do not intend to, nor have I ever applied to be a Mouseketeer; I am not blond (real or fake); and I can’t sing.

2. I’m a Bumble Bee man. For whatever reason (their tuna is more expensive and their packaging is more appealing on a subconscious level), I’ve always felt Bumble Bee tuna was of a better quality than StarKist. If it were up to me, I’d always choose Bumble Bee. Fortunately, it’s not up to me. I’ve surrendered the responsibility for grocery shopping to my wife. That’s not to say that I don’t accompany her to the grocery store. It is to say that with the exception of pushing the cart and picking out some Haagen-Dazs, it’s not my job to worry about keeping the kitchen stocked. So you’ll forgive me if I’ve chosen to tolerate substandard tune rather than have the conversation with my wife--who chooses your tuna because it’s cheap--where I attempt to explain to her why Bumble Bee is better.

3. You, dear addressee, are not a chicken (of the sea), a cartoon tuna, or even Mr. StarKist. You are, most likely, a “Customer Service Representative”. This means: (a) I’m not so insane that I think I’m writing to a fowl, rendering, or someone with the power to cure my complaint; (b) I am, however, still insane enough to waste my time writing; and (c) you are stuck in a dead-end job.

Now that we know a little bit about me, and a little bit about you, I feel more comfortable about telling you why I’m writing to complain. Perhaps the following behavior is strange, or weird, but it is how I was raised (read: I have an excuse). I was taught that the first two steps of preparing to prepare tuna are: 1. open the can with a can opener; and 2. squeeze the water out of the can. It is the second step that left me flustered the other night. Note: I said “squeeze” the water out, and not strain or drain the water out. To squeeze the water out of a can of tuna you hold the can with both hands over the sink with the cut lid still on. You then invert the can, and using your thumbs, you press down on the lid (now pressing upwards since the can is upside-down), the water is gradually squeezed out of the can and into the sink. This method works like a charm, and the determined squeezer (I am one) can squeeze nearly all the water out of a can of tuna in this way.

This is how I prepare to prepare tuna. This is how I’ve always prepared to prepare tuna. Absent either of these first two steps, I find I am unable to prepare to prepare tuna. So you can imagine my chagrin when after completing step 1 and commencing with step 2, the cut metal lid bent under the slight initial pressure I was applying to it and Chicken of the Sea squirted all over the sink. Flummoxed, I went to a second can, and sure enough, the lid of the second can again bent despite the insignificant pressure I was applying to it. When the lids of all 6 cans of tuna I’d opened proved inadequate I was beside myself.

Naturally, you might question my method. I would if I were in your shoes. But I can assure you that over the years I’ve become something of an expert at squeezing the water out of tuna cans. By using the full breadth of both thumbs, shifting points of pressure and a little patience, I’m actually quite impressive.

Therefore, it is my expert opinion that given all 6 lids failed to withstand my most meticulous attempts that the problem is not with me, but with you. The problem, it appears, is this that through some misguided effort to conserve resources or cut costs, you’ve changed the composition of your cans, and inadvertently made the lids too thin to perform their secondary task—that of squeezer. In other words, I can no longer satisfactorily squeeze the water out of your cans of tuna. That’s not to say I didn’t improvise. Surely I retrieved a cup from the cupboard whose base was relative to the side of the tuna can and used it to help squeeze the water out. But it was a stopgap measure that didn’t work as well as my thumb over sink method.

In conclusion, the next time I’m pushing a cart through the grocery store, I will break from my daydreaming long enough to explain to my wife why Bumble Bee is better. It won’t be because it’s more expensive or subliminally appealing. You see, she was witness to the fiasco, and so all I need say is maybe Bumble Bee’s cans are up to the task and that we should try them. We’ll buy them, and they’ll squeeze just fine (I’ll make sure of that [wink]), and from then on forward, my good wife will remember why we prefer Bumble Bee over StarKist. Goodbye.

Don't Make Decisions By the "Ick Factor"

In response to this Slate article.

Now that the Supreme Court is talking a great deal about topics it knows very little about again, all the yahoos are coming back out to play. I know they have a degree that says "doctor" in it, but that's not for being a medical doctor. I'm not for late-term abortions outside of medical necessity. On the other hand, I have some grave concerns for a law that doesn't take medical necessity into account, and requires deciding input from someone who isn't a doctor. But I'm not talking about this law.

I'm talking about an argument tactic that some people use. I see it time and time again - the squicked out reader hits that paragraph that describes the process of a late-term abortion and just freaks out. They start calling anyone who could do this a monster, etc.

Banning this because you think the procedure is gross is NOT acceptable. Laws are made with the head.

I hate to break it to you squeamish types, but being a doctor is full of things like that. People require some amazing ends to keep them alive. Medicine is full of things I wish to God never had to happen to even my worst enemy.

I remember talking to an acquaintance of mine who is an opthamologist about a particularly intense scleral buckle she had installed. Or how about debriding a major burn?

Note the tone of the instructions. They're the same. I could have come up with some really cool ones, like mitigating obstetrical fistulas or a cauterizing vasectomy, but I didn't want to have the entire audience under the table.

I'm not unsympathetic to those feelings. I found a release form for doing that debriding thing to children who had 3rd degree burns and just thinking about that made me shiver. But I don't make my decisions based on that.

Think about it. Do we start banning open heart surgery because just the sound of cracking a chest will give you nightmares and describing the rest of the process makes some people feel icky? No. That would be ridiculous.

So why do you think in cases where there is real danger to the mother, banning this procedure is okay? The only reason I've seen you give is because you don't approve of the required steps and they gross you out. And because of that you think that it should never ever be able to happen even when there's risk to the mother? Or that someone who's not even a doctor and works banker's hours is supposedly going to make that choice fast enough in the emergency circumstances where this might be appropriate? It can't be because of risk - open heart surgery is just as much a life and death situation.

That's what this law requires. That's what you are suggesting that the Supreme court use as it's criteria. I have some concerns they're going to make a good decision here even with all this advice they've been getting and all that education they have. I have no faith at all in your tossing tummy as a rubric.

I don't know what those lawmakers were thinking. They have a blueprint to write this law in a legal fashion, but they chose not to. I don't know why. Maybe the lawmakers were too grossed out by that description, too, and followed their heaving bellies instead of legal reality.

We have a real problem here people, and if you're too faint-hearted to face it with your brain instead of your stomach, then shut up and faint quietly in the corner. Real life and real people have some gross parts, and we have real work to do getting this situation dealt with.

[sikwoiu] Another test post from sikwoiu.

The short version of how it should work: sikwoiu to sikwoiu feed. sikwoiu feed emails to 3936 auto publish. 3936 to 3936 feed. 3936 feed to comment sidebar.

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Posted By sikwoiu to sikwoiu at 11/09/2006 08:14:00 AM

Expanding the Circle

Looks like we got a good number of hits yesterday from WaPo's Techonorati links. Nice work, august!

The Teaching Canard

Some of you may remember Tom Moore, the teacher in the Bronx who wrote a series of dispatches for Slate in 2002. Tom has a blog. He hasn't been keeping up with it as much as one might like, but the archives are full of great anecdotes about teaching, and also persuasivey argued essays on teaching policy. All that, and cool pictures, too!

In posts here and here, Tom explains why the problem isn't about old teachers, and it isn't really about new teachers. New York has spent a ton of money on programs to get people to teach. The problem? Holding on to people. Because while the city will hire you without a teaching degree, they won't actually give you time off to complete your education. And without additional support, teachers either leave or get fired.

I'm not sure how Tom feels about teacher's unions. My sense is he doesn't feel they represent his needs. But I thought of Tom's writing while listening to Kaus on bloggingheads. Kaus briefly pulls out an old carnard -- the Democrats are in bed with unions. With American industry tanking, what unions is is talking about? Not UAW. Not the Teamsters. The teachers.

Yes, folks, Johnny can't read because the teachers' unions back seniority and refuse to endorse any kind of school choice ("even" Mickey exclaims, "charter schools!"). Nevermind that in Jersey, charter schools as often as not benefit wealthy kids whose parents know enough to send their kids there. In fact, the problem with most failing schools isn't seniority, it is recruitment and retention. The media stereotype of the jaded 30 year veteran just doesn't address the reality of the situation.

And that's generally the problem with public policy. Decision-making by anecdote, where the anecdotes are based more on literary convention than on on-the-ground realities. My kid is doing well in private school -- send everybody to private school! High standards are good! All of which may or may not be true. But to have a sense, we need to rely on more than our vague memories of our favorite teacher or where our own kids happened to succeed. All that might not be so helpful in the Bronx...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Frayge6:TheOuterSanctum-Special BotF Edition

Posters Sizzle As The Mid-Term Election Results Heat Up The Best of the Fray's Otherwise Threadbare Kitchen
Compiled by switters
Updated Wednesday, November 8, 2006 at 12 PM CST

In a week that culminated in the midterm elections, the political boards lit up to a slow boil, climaxing at nearly the same time as Frayers stepped up to the Slate and hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer right down the center of the goalie posts. Here are some of the highlights.

9/11 Defines Political Character Of The Y Generation Again
-By fizzlizzard

On Laura Bush's Concession Speech To Hillary Clinton (With Transcript Exegesis)
-By pardon_my_French

Is Cheney's Impeachment Imminent Or Eminent?
-By ThymeFlies

How Alexander Hamilton Would've Voted
-By Lou_Rawls_Frozen_Brain

A Grateful Nation Lets Out A Collective Dry Heave
-By AAMeeding

Is Donald Rumsfeld's Resignation Implied Or Inferred?
-By OICUP

A Katie Couric CBS News Career Retrospective And Cooking Demonstration
-By cOoLaDe

Diebold Voting Machine Writes Itself In On Paperless Ballot In Ohio Gubernatorial Race
-By Fraytard

Say It Ain't So, Britterline Kevispear!
-By Loose_Tool

Network Teleprompter Operator Calls Florida Too Early, Idaho Secretly Annexed By Canada
-By aMEALyur8

Alabama And The Red State Blues
-By BubbaGotGame

Armless Montanan Votes With Feet, Votes With Feet
-Pair'oPleejack

Nancy Pelosi Head Butts Bill Frist, 9 Hurt
-By tribblemaker

Black Voters (I.e., Felons) Turned Away At Mississippi Polling Station & Casino
-By NASCARmom

Newly Elected Congressman Vows First Act As Congressman Will Be To Run For Reelection
-By MrSnit

Nancy Grace Swallows Own Face Live On Air
-By That_Quaker_Oats_Dude

Arizona Confused About New Ballot Initiative, Accidentally Secedes From Nation
-By fickledick

Newly Elected Senator Vows First Act As Senator Will Be To Sodomize Hooker In Vegas While On Fact Finding Mission In His Pants
-By NotOnMyWatch

Gay Mayor-Elect Makes Good On Man Date
-By PlanetFabUlust

Campaign Promises Begin To Spoil On Shelves All Across America Due To Lack Of Preservatives, Integrity, Honesty, Reliability, Testicles
-By SoapScumPirate

Krazy Karl Kreates Kreepy Kalifornia Konundrum
-By KKK

Hang This Chad
-By squint

Post Election Poll Results: 1% Of Country's Population Controls 99% Of Its Health
-By BuNkRuBbEr

Monkey Votes In Topeka: Kansas Evolves
-in2it

Jesus Wept
-By _cue_pile_on_here_

Got an opinion? Come on in to Best of the Fray. The water's just fine.



"Ya shoulda hung out, man… Ten minutes after you left…"

It's always ten minutes after you leave, like The Fun Mobile is ten minutes behind you at all times… Filled with strippers and midgets and balloons…

"Ten minutes after you left, the Dixie Chicks broke in and fucked everybody… Even the fat kid with asthma wearing the 'Babylon 5' t-shirt got a hand job… And it's never gonna happen again…"

-Dave Attell

Analysis of Virginia Returns

How to read this map. I think it tells us a number of things even before we get to the dreaded recount.

As I write this (Wednesday am), Webb is ahead and the odds-on favorite, but his victory is by no means assured. Nevertheless, the vote totals allow some preliminary conclusions about voting patterns in Virginia. I favor the Democrats, and thus will concentrate on what the election means for them.

History

To make sense of Virginia, you have to understand the Byrd machine (named after a prominent Virginia family – I'm pretty sure they are relatives of the West Virginian of the same name). This was the Dixiecrat device by which rural areas of the western part of the state were favored over cities in the eastern part. The system worked mainly in the statehouse – it suppressed the black vote and prevented the cities of Norfolk and Richmond from gaining too much clout. It also, of course, delivered a reliably conservative delegation to Congress.

Two things worked to undo the Byrd machine. The first – civil rights – broke later in Virginia than in the deep south, and with no particularly spectacular effect on the overall voting pattern. When Virginia was ordered to integrate public schools, the state simply shut them down – a campaign known as "massive resistance." It's proponents to this day claim that this act helped prevent "unrest," by which they can quietly conjure images of black people running amuck without actually saying so. But Virginia did integrate, and the racial makeup of the state had some effect on voting. However, the legacies of the Byrd machine continued to work: the black vote was heavily concentrated in cities or swallowed up in rural districts.

Civil rights also undid the Dixiecrats, of course. Increasingly, the voice of rural white Virginia became Republican. Despite this seminal shift, the dynamics of the Byrd machine remained, they just worked to favor Republicans instead of Democrats.

The bigger undoing of Byrd politics was the rise of the Northern Virginia suburbs. These folks, mind you, are not for the most part screaming liberals. But it is a diverse community (VA natives still talk about it as a separate state), and less prone to vote according to party loyalty. They grew very, very quickly. In the eighties, conservative Democrats like Chuck Robb discovered that if they could combine enough remnant party loyalty throughout the state, the black vote, and the Northern Virginia vote, they could win elections.

The Republican response to this is well known. They used religion and culture to argue that Robb type Democrats were posers – that they were culturally alien to most of the state. Robb of course did not help matters by hanging out at parties in Virginia Beach were the cocaine drifted like snow. The state's first black governor, Douglas Wilder, had a similar tale of woe. And then the combination of the Reagan Revolution and the boy genius let the Republicans make huge gains in suburbs – huge swaths of development around the cities that largely cancelled out the urban vote. It was Byrd Politics 2.0 – encircle the enemy.

There was an implicit cultural argument in this maneuver. You, suburban residents, have values more similar to the rural parts of the state than to the godless, carpetbagger, crime-ridden cities. The challenge for Webb was to either get suburbanites to think like urbanites, or for suburbanites to think of him as real and his opponent as fake. The key would be the suburbs of Norfolk and Richmond, where the vote wound up pretty evenly split. If you want to know why the race is deadlocked, look at the returns in Suffolk and Chesapeake (semi-rural but developing areas around Norfolk). Even-steven.

Webb and the Gaffer

Cultural factors explain the power of the word "Macaca." The Democrats never had a prayer in this election until Macaca broke. The word had such effect because a healthy chunk of Northern Virginia's population growth is among immigrant communities. I was shocked a few years ago to find Korean neighborhoods (in 1988, there were two Asian kids in my high school of 2000). Those are the folks who would have taken Macaca seriously. They and their neighbors must have seen Allen's fumbling about identity as a sign of a lot of things they'd been noticing.

The investigation into Allen's background also revealed that he only came to Virginia in college. This fact would not of course bother immigrants, but it made it harder for him to employ the old line of painting Dems as outsiders and liberal snobs.

Webb made it particularly hard. He has a son in Iraq. His policies are modeled on the old Southern Democrats. If it were simply a matter of policy, progressives would bury this guy – he's pro-choice, anti-immigration (although he's softened this line for obvious reasons), and he talks like a native. Most importantly, he seems genuine. The defense used against Robb and Wilder – that they are ultimately eastern elites – just doesn't stick.

So Webb follows an old model of how to win an election. You poll very well in Northern Virginia. You mobilize black and urban voters. And – and this will be crucial to the outcome – you pick up enough votes elsewhere that it's harder for Republicans to count on their base. There was an anti-gay-marriage initiative on the ballot. Something like a third of the folks voting for it voted for Webb. It's not a ton, but it may turn out to have been enough to supplement Webb's natural strengths.

Democrats and the War

Of course, in heavily military Virginia, the war is a big deal. But here's the thing. Only part of the Webb vote was an anti-war vote. Another significant chunk consisted of people who wanted the war run by people who know something about war. It's no so much anti-war as anti-Rumsfeld. If Webb pulls this thing out, he won't really have a mandate for pullout.

I thought Webb had to win Virginia Beach to win the election. The Beach is full of suburbs and megachurches, but it also has a sizable military population. I thought it would be a bellweather of how well he convinced people who had come to see themselves as culturally (not just politically) Republican to vote for him. He lost. If he hadn't, his victory would have been much, much clearer.

Webb specifically ran because he wants to change the Democratic Party. Progressives will be justifiably nervous about those changes. But for the party to maintain power, for it to hold on in states like Virginia, it has to find ways to show people that there are a lot of ways to be a Democrat. I still think Virginia Beach is a key measure. Lots of people there think of themselves as conservatives, and simply as a matter of identity refuse to vote for Democrats. The Democratic Party is fighting a story that people tell themselves about their culture. To capture those votes, it needs to tell a different story about itself, and it needs spokesmen like Webb. And then, of course, it needs to find a way for the Webbs of the world to work with the Kennedys. The Virginia election results suggest that the answer is populist rather than progressive politics. I feel ambivalent about that (especially as it means that a Democratic congress will not really be very different from a Republican one), but I am so fed up with the alternative, I can live with it.


UPDATE: Webb claims victory! As Suffolk goes, so goes the Commonwealth...Race called for Webb. Really, I don't see what Allen can hope for at this point. But I've been wrong before.

AH WHAT THE HELL

might as well whore for traffic:

Richmond War Room will not be seduced by flashy campaigns... Really, they're serious.

Virtual Conservative debriefs the Republicans. Republicans lost because "they allowed themselves to run against themselves." It's Faulty Towers over there -- just don't mention the war!

Bacon's Rebellion is my favorite of the conservative bloggers (conservative in VA being very conservative by Fray standards). Great historical reference, guys. Spirit of 1676!

Virginia Progressive gives insight into Dem voter turnout: "I ain't no macaca!"

My family is from Lynchburg, so I'm not as suprised as I should be that these folks are blaming Dem. corruption. I'm sure there were problems, but it seems like a stretch to me.

Hampton Roads Politics comes closest to my own feeling: it's the war, stupid.

I'm very fond of Virginia -- these people speak my language. Let's hope they are coming together around some kind of moderate core and not splintering into a "culture war" that is more spin than substance.

That's enough politics for me. Still waiting to hear the scoop on a. Gilmore Girls b. Miss Spears c. Legally Blonde. Little help here please!


FINALLY: looks like Allen will concede, in part under pressure from party bigwigs. Death with dignity.

He's gone. Here's WaPo on the changes in Northern Virginia. All true, but I still think Bacon's Rebellion and Hampton Roads Politics are closer to the mark. Dems can win in Virginia only if they can shave Republican majorities in conservative areas. Even then, Webb would surely have lost if Rummy resigned two weeks ago.

Midterm Reactions

Amendment 2 Approved


I was somewhat giddy(see 8:12 comment) at the thought this would fail, but it appears to have passed.

So, the pro-ESCR crowd managed to buy their amendment. I hope they're happy with themselves. I found this especially rich:

Donn Rubin, of the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, said, “We've known for a long time that a large majority of Missourians support stem cell research. Unfortunately, the issue was clouded to a great extent in the last few weeks ... I think that's why the margin of victory was as narrow as it was.”

Ah, yes, pity the poort Amendment 2 advocates, with their 30 to 1 money advantage and array of star power, who nevertheless had the issue clouded. Perhaps if they had built their case honestly, instead of hyped promises, they wouldn't have been open to such "clouding." I mean really, how can a campaign that ran ads in pretty much every commercial break for the last month dare to complaing about their issue being "clouded?"

Oh, well..

McCaskill defeats Talent


I think Jim Talent is a decent guy who got caught up in the anti-GOP current, and lost because of it. And I am not expecting anything special from McCaskill in the Senate.

This may seem like sour grapes, but it looked to me over the past week that Talent's heart wasn't in it. I think he was tired of trying to bridge the tension between running for himself and running from the party's unpopularity. When I saw him give his concession speech last night, he seemed relieved, glad he doesn't have to play this game anymore.

He's still a young man, hopefully he'll do some more good things.

Dems take House


No skin off my nose. I think Washington needs a shake-up.

The big issue this would seem to have an impact on is immigration, which I'm not too firmly on one side or the other.

I saw Dan Murtha interviewed on NBC last night, and if he takes on a leadership position, I think his reputation is going to suffer. He looked to me like he has one gear -- angry. He couldn't take "yes" for an answer.

Yes, Dan, your anger about the Iraq war is understandable. But you just won the election, and now you have to govern. And blind rage isn't going to do it.

If he becomes House majority leader, I expect he'll become a punch line for a lot of Letterman and Stewart jokes.

Dems appear to take Senate


This is a bit more troublesome for me, because of the judiciary. Bush has already demonstrated that judicial nominations is one area where he'll give a little bit. If there is another vacancy on the Supreme Court, I don't know that Bush has either the capital or the will to back a conservative nominee against a Democratic Senate.

This will be especially true if, as expected, Christian conservatives emerge as the scapegoats for the rout. Especially with Santorum going down. (Even though he went down to a socially conservative Democrat, and his defeat probably has more to do with his stubborn defense of the Iraq policy than his social positions). I mean, do we even need to read Andrew Sullivan today to know that he's saying that today's election results should serve as a wakeup call to the GOP that to remain relevant they need to break the chains with the "Christianists?" Let me check... Here it is! I suspect more will follow.

It'll be an easy bone for Bush to throw to nominate a "moderate," and distance himself from the now discredited Christian Right.

Miscellany


  • MO Cigarrette tax defeates -- Somewhat surprising to me. It's interesting to me that we'll gamble on embryonic research, which may or may not cure diseases, but we won't take serious measures to curtail smoking, which has more certain health benefits.

    Probably demonstrates that any initiative that has the word "tax" in it faces an uphill battles.
  • Minimum wage increase approved by wide margin -- It will be interesting to see how regions with higher minumum wages fare compared to those who have the federal one.
  • Tom Brokaw's "perspective" -- I suspect a high correlation between Tom Brokaw's "perspective" on what "America was saying" and Tom Brokaw's personal beliefs.
  • The New Divide Kaus says the red-blue divide may go away, and that may be true. I don't think either party can count on taking whole sections of the map anymore, especially the GOP in the central plains. In order to have power, the GOP will need to find a way to appeal to what were "blue states." They can't just write them off and count on winning the South and West. That's a good thing.

    But I think the red-blue state divide may be replaced by a lower scale urban-rural divide. Every state may be up for grabs (or at least open to Democrats), but regions remain solidly in one camp or another, especially with gerrymandering.

    This was driven home watching the results in Missouri come in last night. Amendment 2 was and McCaskill were trailing by 5-6 points most of the night. Then the results from the St. Louis and Kansas City cam in, and McCaskill and Amendment 2 surged ahead.