American cities, ranked by conservatism


A fascinating chart from Representation in Municipal Government, publishing in American Political Science Review and written by MIT political scientists Chris Tausanovitch and Christopher Warshaw. (via Bruce Sterling)

(Image: Carpintera city limit, Al Pavangkanan, CC-BY)

This Hallowe'en, why not dress your baby as a burning cigarette?

Stay classy, Brands on sale. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Lamar "SOPA" Smith dispatches GOP commissars to National Science Foundation

The Republican Texas Congressjerk maintains a flying squad of political officers who descend upon the NSF to pore through its grant records looking for evidence of ideologically impure science.

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How state anti-choice laws let judges humiliate vulnerable teens


If you're a child, pregnant, and fear or can't find your parents in states like Florida, you can still get an abortion, but only by convincing a judge, by way of a grueling, kafkaesque, humiliating procedure.

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10% of Americans have 10 or more alcoholic drinks every day


The eye-popping stat comes from Philip J Cook's 2007 booze-economics book Paying the Tab.

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Consumer groups tell DoJ to block Comcast/Time Warner merger

If it goes through, Comcast will control an unimaginable swath of American Internet access -- that's a hell of a lot of power to give the Worst Company in America.

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Hong Kong and America: two systems, one corruption


The massive, student led protests in Hong Kong were sparked by the fact that Beijing's political and economic elites get to choose the candidates in its elections ("I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating" -Boss Tweed) -- but is this really any different from America's big money primaries, where corporate elites can spend unlimited sums fixing the race?

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Hundreds of US police forces have distributed malware as "Internet safety software"

Law enforcement agencies have been buying and distributing Computercop, advising citizens that the software is the "first step" for protecting their kids; one sheriff bought copies for every family in the county.

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Cash-strapped Kansas auctions huge lot of seized sex-toys


GOP governor Sam Brownback's "experiment" in tax/spending cuts produced a $300M budget deficit; they're selling off a massive lot of sex toys and porn seized from a company that wouldn't pay its tax-bills.

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Medievalists on Disney's middle ages

A fascinating new scholarly essay collection, The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, looks at Disney's portrayal of the middle ages and reflects on how these are inextricably linked to other Disney settings, from Tomorrowland to Frontierland, and how the "Americanized" medieval narrative has played out over the decades.

John McChesney-Young sent me a great review of the book by Yale historian Paul Freedman, which is in the current issue of The Medieval Review (but not yet in its online archive):

Fantasyland is the home of neo-medieval stories, especially of princesses and their accoutrements; it has been gendered female. Adventureland, Frontierland and Tomorrowland incline towards a male audience, or at least they did in their heyday. Changing public perceptions have meant that the Old West as a setting for the making of rugged American character runs up against an appreciation of the fate of Native Americans, while with the fading allure of pre-internet "Gee Whiz" technology, Tomorrowland has been partially reinvented as "Retroland," a kind of self-mocking "Jetsons" take on what we once thought the future would look like (p. 69).

Fantasyland remains the core of the Disney imagination, and it is lightly dusted with medieval fairy-sparkle. It can't really call to mind even a first-order artificial nineteenth-century romantic Middle Ages, because that would interfere with the goal of presenting Disney's modern world as "the happiest place on earth," a happiness that is more goal-oriented and, one might say, middle-class values-centered than escapist or expressive of discontent with the present. The pastness of Disney's fantasies is tempered and in effect denied by anti-elitist, can-do characters. Amy Foster in "Futuristic Medievalism" shows how the medieval past is shaped by American anti-elitism and the promise of technology. Unidentified Flying Oddball was a 1979 reworking of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in which a NASA engineer is transported to Camelot. Not only does he amaze the court with his scientific knowledge and gadgetry, his "regular guy" nature is paramount. He treats peasants, servants and King Arthur alike, for example. Bob Gossedge, in an essay devoted to the 1963 animation of The Sword in the Stone, points out that young "Wart," the future King Arthur, is the only principal character in that film with an American accent. Merlin, in a cultivated English voice, instructs Wart that he needs to get "these medieval ideas out of your head--clear the way for new ideas: knowledge of man's fabulous discoveries in the centuries ahead" (pp. 127-128). One sees similarities in the all-American rendering of underdog heroes like Zorro in the 1957-1959 television series or Remy in Ratatouille (2007). Disney's principal characters tend to be resourceful Americans (whatever their putative nationality) stuck in a past that is attractively fantastic, but irritatingly hierarchical and behind-the-times.

Disney's egalitarianism is about universal opportunity, not economic equality. It amounts to what Foster (p. 164) refers to as "sentimental populism" based on Horatio Alger, not Marx. Anyone can be a princess, anyone can cook (in the non-medieval Ratatouille). The mistreated Snow White and Cinderella are eventually exalted and not only does "happily ever after happen every day," but it happens to anyone receptive to the Disney message or "magic."

The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past [Pugh and Aronstein, eds]

(Thanks, John!)

Not one Republican Senator voted for campaign finance reform


The entire GOP Senate caucus voted against Tom Udall's proposed Constitutional amendment that would have allowed states to set rules limiting campaign contributions, overturning the notorious Citizens United Supreme Court decision that found that money was a form of protected speech.

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Why the disgusting Red Delicious apple rules American grocery stores


It started off as a celebrated, gorgeous mutation in an Iowa orchard, spread across the land, and was then selectively bred to look redder, bruise less, and ripen on the truck -- all at the cost of flavor and texture.

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Canada's anti-counterfeiting bill stalled by US demand for removal of humanitarian safeguards

Michael Geist writes, "Last year, the Canadian government trumpeted anti-counterfeiting legislation as a key priority. The bill raced through the legislative process in the winter and following some minor modifications after committee hearings, seemed set to pass through the House of Commons. Yet after committee approval, the bill suddenly stalled with little movement throughout the spring. Why did a legislative priority with all-party approval seemingly grind to a halt?"

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Invited citizen journalist at GOP rally violently arrested for recording speakers

Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist, was invited to a GOP rally in Atlanta, but State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens demanded that she (and not other, more friendly press) stop recording his speech; when she refused, he summoned a deputy who violently arrested her and then charged her with felony obstruction after she elbowed him while he was bending her over and pressing his groin into her buttocks.

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Sportsfans offered toilet-seat made of mystery meat & beer-cheese


The Horse Collar is a $20 monster kielbasa sold at the Green Bay Packers' Lambeau Field, intended for consumption by two persons ("If you can tackle this one alone, you're a champ" -Lambeau Field executive chef Heath Barbato).

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