Thursday Reads

twitter-zombies

Good Morning!!

Tomorrow is Halloween, but the real horror will probably come next Tuesday when Republicans are predicted to take control of the Senate.

What will happen after that? Will they actually accomplish something, or will they just keep blocking everything President Obama tries to do? Even more horrifying, we may not know the makeup of the Senate for sure until next year, because two close races–in Georgia and Louisiana–will likely end up in runoffs.

Steven Brill at Reuters: Why Election Day won’t hold the answer to who will control the Senate for the next two years.

I’m not only thinking about the possibility that two close races — in Louisiana and Georgia — could end up requiring runoffs. If candidates do not get more than 50 percent of the vote because fringe opponents siphon off votes from the pair running neck and neck, Louisiana’s runoff would be in December and Georgia’s not until Jan. 6, 2015.

The uncertainty that’s more intriguing is that even after those runoffs, if they happen, there might be three independent senators who could swing the majority to one party or the other.

One, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, is a staunch liberal who will certainly cast his lot with the Democrats, as he has in the past. But Maine independent Angus King has not said for sure that he will continue to caucus with Democrats. And Kansas’s Greg Orman, an independent businessman who is locked in a tight race with incumbent Republican Pat Roberts, has steadfastly refused to say which party he would vote with.

Another longer-shot wild card is former Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota. He is also running has an independent, but his rise in the polls has subsided recently.

One can only imagine what Orman and King will be promised by both sides if one or both become swing votes. Beyond that, there is a Democratic senator in a red state (John Tester in Montana) and even one or two moderate Republicans in a blue state and a swing state (Mark Kirk in Illinois and Susan Collins in Maine) who might be persuaded to flip.

But most of the so-called experts are predicting we’ll ultimately be stuck with a Republican-controlled Congress. Larry Sabato, Kyle Londik, and Geoffrey Skelley write at Politico: Bet on a GOP Senate.

While many races remain close, it’s just getting harder and harder to envision a plausible path for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Ultimately, with just a few days to go before the election, the safe bet would be on Republicans eventually taking control of the upper chamber.

Generally speaking, candidates who have leads of three points or more in polling averages are in solid shape to win, but in this election five states—Republican-held Georgia and Kansas, and Democratic-held Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina—feature a Senate race where both of the two major polling averages (RealClearPolitics and HuffPost Pollster) show the leading candidate with an edge of smaller than three points.

 What makes the Democrats’ situation so precarious is that Republicans have polling leads of more than three points in five other states, all of which are currently held by Democrats: Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Two others, Democratic-held Alaska and Colorado, show Republicans leading in both averages, but by more than three points in just one. (These averages are as of the afternoon of Oct. 29.)

Citizen-Kang_458

Read it and weep folks. On the other hand, Tarini Parti, also at Politico, points out that this is “[t]he most wide-open Senate election in a decade.”

It’s the largest and most wide-open Senate battlefield in more than a decade: ten races, all neck-and-neck affairs headed into the final days of the campaign.

And it’s not only that there are more competitive races this time around; it’s how close they are that has made the 2014 midterms different from previous cycles. The 10 close contests this year are all separated by 5 points or less, according to RealClearPolitics polling averages as of Tuesday….

Republicans have an edge in more than half of the competitive races, based on RCP averages, and are favored to gain control of the Senate. But many races across the country remain too close — with more contests coming down to the wire than in recent election cycles.

Based on interviews with a dozen operatives on both sides of the state of play, some of these tight races do lean toward one party or the other. Republicans — who need a net gain of six seats to win control of the chamber — are perhaps most confident about their chances in Arkansas, largely dismiss any trouble in Kentucky and remain somewhat nervous about Kansas. After a brief moment of panic in South Dakota, the state, along with West Virginia and Montana, is back to being considered safe for the GOP, as Virginia, Oregon and Michigan are thought to be solid for the Democrats.

At the outset of the cycle, Democrats saw Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina as their firewall against a GOP takeover. Today, those races are neck and neck — and Republicans are even bullish about their chances in New Hampshire. There remains some uncertainty among Republicans about Alaska, despite Republican Dan Sullivan’s edge in polls, because of a superior Democratic ground game and the difficulty of polling the state.

It all adds up to an unusually jumbled puzzle less than a week before Election Day. In 2010, Republicans won just three of the eight tight races — despite their national wave. But in 2006, Democrats won all five of the closest races.

It’s really going to come down to turnout, and Democrats are traditionally better at that. So there’s always a chance. Let’s face it, Republicans have done very well at blocking Obama’s initiatives and appointments throughout his presidency. No matter what happens on Tuesday, we have to elect a Democrat to the White House in 2016.

Finally, Reid Wilson at The Washington Post writes that this “[e]lection could tip historic number of legislatures into Republican hands.”

Again, what will a Republican Senate accomplish? The consensus of the pundits seems to be that they’ll do very little. A few predictions:

John Dickerson at Slate: “Republican victories will prove the president is unpopular. They won’t give Republicans a mandate to govern.”

Danny Vinik at The New Republic: Republicans Have Big Plans for a GOP Senate. Here’s What Will Come of Them: Nothing.

Paul Waldman at the WaPo: Republicans will probably take the Senate. Here’s why it will be a nightmare for them.

Republican Zombies and Democratic Vampires

On a lighter note, I came across some Halloween-themed comparisons between Democrats and Republicans from a few years back. From a blog called Entertained Organizer, Movie Monsters and Political Parties: A Spotters Guide to America’s Psyche.

A good friend and colleague of mine recently sent me a link to the Cracked.com article “6 Mind-Blowing Ways Zombies and Vampires Explain America.”  Basically, the article looks at the bizarre fact that Zombie movies are more likely to be made under Republican Presidents and Vampire movies are more likely to be made under Democratic Presidents, and argues rather persuasively it’s that each monster represents the cultures fears of the Party in power.  Here’s a chart from the original article at Cracked.com.

Chart zombies and vampires

 

The Cracked.com articles argument for why Zombies embody the country’s worst fears of Republicans is pretty simple.  They’re mindless killing machines (see President George W. Bush).  They have a rabid pack mentality leading them to consume (see anyone who seems to believe “The Free Market” and “God” are synonyms).  And they’re bent on destroying minorities (the living).  Now of course I have absolutely no idea where any of those ideas about Republicans came from, and am frankly shocked that anyone might think those things about our Conservative Opponents.

Cracked.com’s argument for why Vampires pique conservatives fears of Democrats is even simpler.  Vampires are murderous immigrants from foreign sounding places like Transylvania (or Mexico).  Once they arrive, vampires start seducing everyone pretty much indiscriminately as symbols of carnal lust (you think they tried to impeach Clinton over an affair? Nope, Vampire).  And of course, more than anything, Vampires are leeches.  Sure Dracula is after your blood and Democrats are after your tax dollars but in the Howard Jarvis Republican Party, I’m pretty sure taxes are scarier than bleeding out.

evil-republicans-pic

The author then goes on to identify other parties by the movie monsters they represent: Green Party = Werewolves; The American Independent/Constitution Party = Pod People; Lyndon LaRouche Supporters = The Creature from the Black Lagoon; Libertarians = Mummies.

And did you know that horror writer HP Lovecraft had some choice words for the Republican zombies? From Before It’s News:

“As for the Republicans—–how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”

Street Harassment Follow-Up

A couple of days ago a video of a woman being harassed on the streets of New York City went viral. Dakinikat posted it in a comment on Tuesday, and JJ put it in her post yesterday. I found some interesting follow-up articles about the video that I want to share.

Here’s the video again:

At Slate, Hanna Rosin called attention to something I wondered about while I was watching the video. Where were the white men?

On Tuesday, Slate and everyone else posted a video of a woman who is harassed more than 100 times by men as she walks around New York City for ten hours. More specifically, it’s a video of a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around  New York City for ten hours. The one dude who turns around and says, “Nice,” is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,” or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not.

This doesn’t mean that the video doesn’t still effectively make its point, that a woman can’t walk down the street lost in her own thoughts, that men feel totally free to demand her attention and get annoyed when she doesn’t respond, that women can’t be at ease in a public space in the same way men can. But the video also unintentionally makes another point, that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break. As Roxane Gay tweeted, “The racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?”

Here’s the supposed explanation:

The video is a collaboration between Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, and the marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative. At the end they claim the woman experienced 100 plus incidents of harassment “involving people of all backgrounds.” Since that obviously doesn’t show up in the video, Bliss addressed it in a post. He wrote, “we got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” That may be true but if you find yourself editing out all the catcalling white guys, maybe you should try another take.

But Rosin notes that Bliss has had similar issues in the past.

This is not the first time Bliss has been called out for race blindness. In a video to promote Grand Rapids, Michigan, he was criticized for making a city that’s a third minority and a quarter poor look like it was filled with people who have “been reincarnated from those peppy family-style 1970s musical acts from Disney World or Knott’s Berry Farm,” as a local blogger wrote.

Activism is never perfectly executed. We can just conclude that they caught a small slice of catcallers and lots of other men do it too. But if the point of this video is to teach men about the day-to-day reality of women, then this video doesn’t hit its target.

Jessical Williams

Rosin recommends a video from Jessica Williams of The Daily Show. I watched it, and it’s terrific–plus it’s funny. Check it out.

On a more serious note, CNN reports that the woman in the viral video has been getting rape and death threats.

What started as an expose of the harassment women face in public has turned into fodder for death- and rape threats against the woman in the viral video….

“My nonverbal cues were saying, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ No eye contact. No friendly demeanor,” she said. “But they were ignoring my nonverbal cues.”

Roberts said the video is an accurate depiction of what she faces daily. For instance, there was a time when her grandfather died “and someone told me that they liked the way I looked.”

“It is all day long. It is every day,” she said. “That’s a typical day… It doesn’t matter what you wear.”

The 10 hours of footage was edited down to a 1:56 public service announcement for the anti-street harassment group Hollaback! It was shot by filmmaker Rob Bliss, who was wearing a hidden camera in his backpack.

“I have multiple experiences of sexual assault, which is why I wanted to be involved in this project,” Roberts said in a separate interview with HLN.

Also at CNN, Todd Leopold sort of misses the point, and wonders how men should approach women on the street. He quotes a 2010 piece by a woman named Katie Baker:

“There’s a huge difference between harassing a woman and trying to start a conversation,” she wrote. “Here are some tips: talk to her, not at her. Treat her with respect: be aware of her personal space, ask her how she’s doing or what she’s reading instead of commenting on her body parts, look at her face instead of her chest. If she ignores you, drops eye contact, or walks away, back off.

“It wasn’t rude of you to approach her, but she’s not being rude if she doesn’t want to keep talking to you, especially if you initiated conversation while she was running an errand, waiting for the bus, or on her computer at a coffee shop.”

But why do men feel they need to approach strange women at all? What if women did that to men?

Leopold also calls attention to a different kind of street harassment.

On the Reddit thread, which has drawn more than 6,500 comments, one man observed that lack of respect knows no gender.

“As a fat guy who once walked around NYC for a day sightseeing I got so many comments,” he wrote. “‘Lose weight, ass***e!’ ‘Hey fatty want me to buy you a hot dog?’ ‘Hey kill yourself you fat f***’ I would have been happy with just a ‘good morning.’ “

 Personally, as I love to say “hello” to strangers out in public. I’m a Midwesterner by birth, and that’s just how we are–friendly and open. Usually they seem to like it, but if people ignore me, I don’t take offense.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a nice Thursday and a great Halloween!