on ads and infomercials

Barack Obama, although favored in most polls at the moment, isn’t leaving anything to chance. Not only did he air a half-hour paid prime-time infomercial simultaneously on the Fox, NBC and CBS broadcast networks tonight, but his campaign also released a new, decidedly more aggressive, ad — their first questioning McCain’s wisdom in selecting Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Their hope clearly is to capitalize on what they see as the increasingly poor perception Americans have of Palin, and perhaps fan the flames of discord between the running-mates themselves.

The ad begins with quotes from McCain on the campaign trail, talking about his limited understanding of economics. In the last quote of the series, McCain says that he “might have to rely on (the) vice president” he selects for assistance with such matters. Then we see the question “His Choice?” flash across the screen, followed a moment later by a photo of Sarah Palin winking at the camera during the Vice Presidential debate. It’s absolutely devastating.

McCain, of course, is fighting back with ads of his own that question Obama’s readiness to lead. And, from what I hear, McCain is getting some traction, at lest in Pennsylvania.

Posted in Politics | 13 Comments

you do know that some maynards aren’t real, right?

Once upon a time, back in the days of silent films, there was a famous fellow named Maynard who made his home in Hollywood. He was a publicist. Some are saying now, however, that he never actually existed. His family, we’re told, say otherwise. They distinctly remember a drunk and bitter old man… Anyway, as I sit down here and prepare to blog tonight, I can’t help but wonder if the future might hold a similar fate for me – another old and bitter Maynard known vaguely for spreading outlandish lies, but ultimately leaving little real mark on the world. I suppose the same is true of most of us, though. Fifty years after we’re gone, we might as well have been fiction.

[note: This micro mini-post was brought to by the letter J, the Shannon Lema reef ball, and sweaty evangelical teens everywhere.]

Posted in Mark's Life | 4 Comments

a rambling but short post to prime the pump

Just a reminder that you only have a few more days to enjoy the MM.com Buy-a-Burger-Get-a-Burger special at Sidetrack. The offer ends Friday at midnight…. I have good news to report, though. We’ve got another great Ypsi coupon cued up for November. Just come back on the first of the month to check it out.

Now – while I’m working on tonight’s big, boring election post – why don’t you kick back, forget for a moment that the world is ending, snuggle up with your favorite piece of gristle, and enjoy this video of the great LA punk band X performing on last night’s Late Late Show.

[Thanks to Kez for sharing the X video.]

Posted in Other | 2 Comments

vote suppression watch: virginia

According to reports coming out of Virginia, a phony flier from the State Board of Elections advising Democrats to vote on November 5, has been distributed fairly widely in an area known as Hampton Roads. The flyer, seen right, says that this change was, “the only way to ensure fairness to the complete electorial process.” (Republicans, it notes, are encouraged to vote on the 4th.)

There is, of course, no election taking place on November 5. Our next President will have been chosen by then.

Similar flyers are seen every four years. It seems to me that they’re generally distributed in predominantly African American communities. Apparently it was enough of a problem in Virginia that they passed a law about it… Here’s a quote from an article in the Virginian-Pilot:

…In 2007, the General Assembly passed a law making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly communicate false information to registered voters about the date, time and place of the election or voters’ precincts, polling places or voter registration statuses in order to impede their voting. The measure is one of the few such deceptive voting practice laws in the country, according to the watchdog group Common Cause…

It seems to me that it should be a felony to knowingly deceive someone about an election with the intention being to keep them from voting, but I suppose it’s good that they at least have a law on the books… I wonder if Michigan has any such law.

Posted in Civil Liberties | 16 Comments

the u.s. education system and my daughter’s chances of becoming an astronaut

Professor Michael Shayer, at King’s College in England, announced yesterday that, according to his research findings, the brightest 14 year olds today have roughly the same cognitive ability as their 12 year old counterparts had in 1976. The professor suggests that the change may be attributable to “over-testing” in schools. According to Shayer, “The moment you introduce targets, people will find the most economical strategies to achieve them.” And apparently, at least in his opinion, that doesn’t make students more able to demonstrate a “higher level of thinking,” such as that required to comprehend abstract scientific concepts.

As schools, and teachers themselves, at least here in the United States, are increasingly judged and rewarded based upon the standardized test scores of their students, it’s not surprising that the majority of classroom time would be spent not examining abstract concepts, but, instead, “teaching to the tests.” And, in that type of environment, where so much emphasis is put on bringing everyone to the same baseline, it’s not completely surprising that the minds of more gifted students, like these 14 year olds in England, would wither a bit. I don’t know if Shayer is correct in his analysis, but I think it certainly warrants discussion.

Here in the United States, our problems go a bit deeper than just the teaching to the test that has gained such dominance in the era of No Child Left Behind. We also have a culture war to contend with that often pits religion against education. The most recent battle is being fought in Texas, where a panel has been convened to assess the state’s K-12 science curriculum. Three of the six seats on the panel will be filled not by scientists, or educators, but by creationists. One of these is Stephen C. Meyer, a founder of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based advocacy group dedicated to pursuing what they call the Wedge strategy, which has as it’s central goal to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

It’s also worth noting that, in addition to championing young earth creationism, Meyer, and possibly other members of this panel, believe in “abstinence only” education, like that practiced so successfully by Bristol Palin and the girls of Ohio’s Timken High.

Having a young daughter about to enter school, I, of course, am concerned. Like most parents, I want her to be bright and develop critical thinking skills. I want her to learn that the earth is several million years old, and that sperm, which often comes out of a man’s penis during intercourse, is what brings babies about. I want her to understand the AIDS virus and how it’s spread. Basically, I want her to leave school prepared to be an adult and make adult decisions.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, kids here in Ypsilanti don’t seem to be getting the message, at least as far as AIDS and sex is concerned. According to a recent letter to the Ann Arbor News by Nicole Adelman, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan, “57 percent of this county’s new HIV cases among 15-29 year olds are in Ypsilanti (and) (l)ast year, 16 of the 28 new HIV cases among teens and young adults were in Ypsilanti.” Given this, and that fact that a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in four teenage girls in the United States has a sexually transmitted disease, it’s hard to imagine that there would be any controversy, but yet it does.

I want my daughter to be an astronaut. Or at least I want her to have that option. I hope this doesn’t make me sound like too much of a pessimist, but one day we’re going to have to leave this planet of ours, and, it makes me sad to say it, but they aren’t likely to have seats available for regular office workers like you and me, let alone bloggers and artists. (I know this post has taken a lot of weird turns, and I’m sorry about that, but that’s how my mind is working tonight.) My point is that I want my daughter to at least have the opportunity to become a scientist, and I don’t see that happening in a dumbed-down America where we tell our kids that the world is only 6,000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and keep them from information about penises and vaginas that could save their lives. It’s absolute insanity.

There is good news, though. A solar system has been identified that could contain a planet capable of supporting human life… All I have to do now is raise a brilliant daughter outside the influence of creationists and Hannah Montana who, in addition to knowing physics and molecular biology, is also fluent in Hindi and/or Mandarin. Because, as we all know, our manned space program here in the U.S. is going to the way of the polar bear.

Posted in Rants | 6 Comments


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