Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Election day

The Michigan Republican primary is today. It's an open primary, meaning any registered voter can wander into the polls and cast a ballot. The S.O. is contemplating doing so, and, depending on who's still on the ballot, throwing his support behind someone who is sufficiently obscure that the candidate he selects is  probably going to finish in last place. His only goal would be to reduce the percentages going to the top two contenders by a minuscule amount. I haven't heard if many non-Republicans are planning to attempt to piss in the soup this year, so the S.O.'s actions may qualify as more quixotic than usual, even for him. I'm not registered to vote in Michigan yet, so it's not an issue for me.

Back in 2000, when George W. Bush was jostling with John McCain for the top spot on the Republican ticket, Michigan's non-Republicans did come out in sufficient numbers to play havoc with the results. Our then-Governor, John Engler, was a strong aWol supporter -- he promised Bush he would deliver the state for him. There was a lot of talk of putting Engler on the ticket for V.P. if Bush carried Michigan in the primary. Unfortunately for Engler, he was sufficiently despised by that time that no one wanted to see his party loyalty rewarded: Democrats and independents went to the polls to vote for McCain in that open primary, and McCain won. It no doubt helped that back then, given a choice between McCain and aWol, McCain seemed like a more rational choice. aWol was not happy, and all the chatter about Engler being a rising star evaporated instantly, as did whatever political aspirations he may have still had. The chatter about national office stopped; Engler lost his 2002 bid for another term as governor and vanished into obscurity.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Something for which I can thank Rick Santorum

Thanks to Mr. Frothy, I finally got around to figuring out how to do screen shots:
I must say, it's rather reassuring that more people would rather read about old snowmobiles than read about a Republican trolling for votes.

Bystander effect

Several of the blogs I visit had references yesterday to an incident in Detroit where an elderly man was carjacked and severely injured. What made the incident newsworthy was it happened at a gas station, not in an isolated area, and there were other customers present. Numerous people saw the injured man; no one stopped to help him. As news reports described it, after having his leg broken in the assault, the victim had to crawl from the gas pumps where he'd been attacked into the station to ask for help. Naturally, a number of commentators cited the fact the incident happened in Detroit as a factor in the perceived callousness and inhumanity of bystanders.

Pshaw. It could have happened anywhere. Detroit doesn't have a monopoly on disturbing human behavior. Similar stories make the news on a regular basis, and, despite my occasional rant that they're evidence we're becoming a meaner, more callous society, they've been happening for a long time. The phenomenon is common enough that social psychologists even have a name for it -- bystander effect. It is a perverse characteristic of human nature that the more people who are around when something bad happens to one person, the less likely it is that any of the bystanders will intervene. If you're the only witness to another's misfortune, you're most likely going to step up and ask if they need help or if there's anything you can do. After all, if not you, who? There's no one else around. If, however, you see a little old lady get mugged on a crowded city sidewalk, the odds are you'll walk right on by. It's not your problem. Lots of people around; someone else will take care of it. Everyone else is just walking by; why should you stop? End result? Everyone keeps on walking while the old lady sits there alone and bleeding.

Of course, if just one person bucks the tendency and intervenes, suddenly the entire crowd will remember they're all human, too, and want to help. People aren't always callous; sometimes they're just oblivious to social conditioning.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Local pollution

Apparently there's Santorum being spread in Marquette today, as the former senator trolls for votes here in the U.P. Appropriately enough, the link on the Upper Michigan's Source website to the story on Rick Santorum's visit was right below the link for the results for the 19th Annual Outhouse Races held yesterday in Trenary.  The good news, such as it is, is that going by the comments about Santorum's visit, no one up here is too thrilled to see him.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Glacier Glide 2012

Ephemeral art - odds and ends of organic material embedded in ice
I talked the S.O. into going up to Marquette yesterday to check out Glacier Glide, an outdoor art show held at Presque Isle Park. According to the notice I saw, artwork would be positioned throughout the park to be viewed by the public, who could "snowshoe, ski, or hike" to see the various pieces. Thanks to frequent warm spells this winter, there isn't much snow on the ground at the lower elevations so I figured we were safe in planning on walking.
Quilted pieces made by members of a local quilting group. 
And walk we did -- all the way around the island, something that was actually a first for me. Presque Isle isn't particularly big, but for some reason up until yesterday if I circled the island, it was in a car. Old habits die hard -- that's the way I first saw the park, as a passenger in my grandparents' car a zillion years ago. We used to go there a lot as part of the traditional Sunday drive. We'd circle the island and then park near the Shiras Zoo to look at the half dozen animals on exhibit -- exotic creatures like black bears, porcupines, and bobcats in the small enclosures and whitetail deer in a larger fenced area. The deer would crowd up against the fence to beg for carrots. As a little barracuda, I loved it. As an adult, I'd no doubt be appalled. There are still deer on the island, but the fence is long gone. So is the rest of the zoo, except for one small reminder:
What's left of the Shiras Zoo. The enclosure for the deer was behind this structure. 
It was a nice afternoon and a pleasant walk, although at times it wasn't so much walking as doing a Tim Conway old man shuffle over long patches of ice. I did spot some cross-country ski tracks in a few places on the sections that were just hard-packed snow, and thought that whoever had skied that road was a far braver (or more foolhardy) person than I'd ever be. I know there are skiers who are really into the skating technique, but even the skiers who "skate" probably don't want to do it on real ice. When the road isn't hard and lumpy, though, it would be a really nice loop to ski.
As for the art, it was a bit of a disappointment. Going by the description in the paper, I thought there would be more artists represented and that they would do something spontaneous or a better job of reflecting the setting, but no such luck. Most of what we saw was quite nice -- lovely woven pieces, some gorgeous watercolors, some rather odd mixed media collages -- but almost everything was  work that could have been shown in any gallery at any time of the year.
On the other hand, I did spot a use for the singletree that's been kicking around the barn for years. I never thought about using it to hang a quilt, but after seeing that shawl waving in the breeze. . .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thinking about politics

Saw this over at the Booman Tribune this morning:
I think it's a stretch to call what Republicans have come up with a "strategy." The people who are taking on these fights in the GOP aren't shrewdly and carefully assessing the percentages of liberals, moderates, and conservatives in America, and planning accordingly -- they're drinking their own Kool-Aid and concluding, at least on a subconscious level, that they don't have to worry about non-conservative voters because non-conservatives aren't really Americans. 
Ann Coulter says Democrats would never win if we took away women's right to vote. Rush Limbaugh says Obama is pursuing an electoral strategy of trying win the votes of "the takers," not "the makers." These are rhetorical flights of fancy, but I think a large percentage of Republicans actually believe them, and have started to think that voters who don't pull the (R) lever aren't actually voters at all, because they shouldn't be. 
This isn't exactly news, but it is a nice capsule description.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Hallmark Day

Welcome to Geezerville

It's official. We're old. The S.O.'s "Welcome to Medicare" brochure was in the mail yesterday. I'm not sure why it should feel like a surprise, because from about age 50 on there's one reminder after another that time is moving on, starting with the invitation to join AARP, then the senior citizen discount being offered without you asking for it, and, most depressing of all, looking in the mirror and seeing your grandmother (or grandfather) staring back at you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Will 2012 set new records for low voter turnout?

It's looking like the monied interests in the Republican Party are going to succeed in buying the nomination for Romney, a candidate whose main selling point seems to be that he's Not Obama. Over on the Democratic side, the nominee will, of course, be the incumbent President. Somehow I can't see voters of either persuasion  or, for that matter, the much touted and lusted after independents getting particularly excited about voting either one. Votes for Romney in the general election won't be votes for Romney; they'll be votes against Obama, and vice versa. A lack of enthusiasm kept a lot of Democrats away from the polls in 2010 -- what happens in 2012 if neither side can work up the energy to vote?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Activism vs consumerism

There's been a lot written in the past few days about the decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to stop providing grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, a position that they may or may not have reversed (their press release is written in a way that suggests they have, but a careful reading indicates nothing has actually changed). I have a hunch the Komen Foundation is beginning to wish they'd never heard of Karen Handel (the rabidly right-wing anti-abortion zealot from Georgia they hired as a vice president for public policy and who is reportedly the mastermind behind the defunding efforts). Because they were smart enough to do a fast superficial reversal -- saying they're not canceling any grants already awarded and that Planned Parenthood can apply again next year isn't exactly a reversal; it's an attempt at covering their ass and hoping no one notices PP never gets any money from them again -- this controversy will eventually die down, but not before a lot of rocks get flipped over. Komen has to be unhappy about what's been crawling out.

The public is learning more than the Foundation ever wanted anyone to know about the internal workings of the organization, just where all those dollars raised via Walk for the Cure actually go, and the Foundation's dubious ties with various corporations and pinkwashing. Among other things, it turns out that despite the Komen Foundation's efforts to brand itself as the foremost cancer-fighting organization in the country, a remarkably low percentage of the monies raised actually go toward breast cancer prevention, screening, patient care, or research. Even worse, Komen's defunding of Planned Parenthood isn't its first venture into areas that actively hurt women -- as multiple articles have noted, Komen has paid lobbyists to help Big Pharma keep the cost of drugs high and to promote legislation that stifled research.

The Komen Foundation is hardly unique, however, when it comes to scamming the public with fund-raising for good causes. They just might happen to be the most successful or highest profile. A Gin and Tacos post about Komen -- "a marketing consultancy masquerading as a charity" -- included a link to a recent article, "The Big Business of Breast Cancer," by Lea Goldman in Marie Claire. Turns out the battle against breast cancer is rife with "charities" that specialize in ripping off well-intentioned donors.

Of course, the charity industry in general is rife with scams and marketing that are designed to make the gullible donor feel good but don't actually do much beyond enhancing the charity's bottom line. Doesn't matter if it's a medical cause, the environment, or social justice, there will be some organization that manages to convince people that they're doing a Good Thing by contributing and getting a tee-shirt, a tote bag, some address labels, a coffee mug, or some other made-in-China POS in return. If there's a good cause, some group is bound to try co-opting it by peddling merchandise with their logo on it. . . or convince industry that if they contribute to their particular charity, that industry can share in the goodwill generated by that cause. The pink lids on Yoplait yogurt was marketing genius: Yoplait is one of the pricier yogurts in a typical supermarket so how do you sucker consumers into buying it? Pink lids. Not all the time, of course, because General Mills has no desire to actually give huge amounts of money to any charity -- they just want to donate enough to make it look like a corporation has a conscience.

It's odd how this notion that you can do good works by shopping has crept into every facet of our lives. One of the things that kind of freaked me out this fall was seeing how easily and quickly a supposedly progressive blog slipped into marketing itself as part of its "support" for Occupy Wall Street. The weather started turning colder, and Firedoglake began hawking winter gear that would be donated to OWS participants. Only one problem: it was all going to be branded with the FDL logo. A banner ad for their FDL gear is, in fact, the first thing you see when you go to their site. When they started doing it, it struck me as really, really weird and remarkably self-serving. It still does. Whatever happened to encouraging people to go and actively participate in a movement instead of supporting it by shopping? It was like they were saying, "You don't need to worry about writing to your Congressman or going down and protesting in person. . . just shop, and everything will be fine."