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By Barry Hollander:
- Fifty years ago this day, President John F. Kennedy announced before a joint session of Congress his plan to land “a man on the Moon” by the end of the decade.
- And 34 years ago this day, the first (or fourth, depending on your level of geekdom) the Star Wars movie premiered in theaters and stunned audiences with its visuals.
your crazy uncle
Many of us love a good conspiracy theory. Some of us, though, love them more than others. It’s no surprise liberals are more likely to buy into a conspiracy theory critical of the right, or conservatives are more likely to believe one critical of the left. The data supports exactly that, proving we often dare research the obvious. Here I’m going to discuss four specific conspiracy theories, two from each side of the political spectrum, and sketch what a national sample of over 5,000 U.S. adults tells us about who does, and does not, believe in them.
Evangelicals recently met to reach a consensus on which candidate not named Mitt Romney they should support for the Republican presidential nomination. The irony is not only in the location of the meeting, but who they decided to support.
As anyone paying attention to presidential politics knows, the evangelicals threw their Christian weight behind the candidacy of Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Santorum is Catholic. The evangelicals met in Texas, near Houston.
What’s the irony? Let me explain.
I have a new retirement scheme.
As a UGA professor, I’m a part of the state’s optional retirement system, one separate from the teacher retirement plan … At UGA, “optional” means you have only the option of retiring, not actually doing so.
In a few years I’ll waddle to class behind a walker, an IV stuck in my arm to keep myself properly medicated. Or I can turn to an exciting new supplemental retirement plan that involves me as a member of several class action lawsuits that I wasn’t even aware that I was participating in to begin with …
You might think that by now, everyone knows Mitt Romney’s religion.
He’s Mormon. Or “a cult,” if you buy into one crazy Texas pastor’s description, a good illustration of Romney’s difficulties with that basic element of the GOP base, Christian evangelicals.
A recent survey, though, found only 42 percent of Americans could correctly identify Romney’s religion. According to the report, the number who answered the question correctly is unchanged since earlier in the year when the controversial comments of a Christian pastor first made the political front page. So the news didn’t matter, at least in informing the public about his religious affiliation. Why?
When it comes to voter turnout, 2012 is starting to look an awful lot like 1996.
In 1996, a wounded Democratic incumbent faced an uninspiring Republican challenger. Sound familiar? That year, only 49 percent of the electorate voted – the lowest in the modern era. Back then, President Bill Clinton had been elected on a wave of enthusiasm four years earlier. By his next election, that enthusiasm was wavering. Sound familiar?
In 1996, Bob Dole was not really loved by conservatives. It’s possible he wasn’t loved by anyone. But it was his turn. He was a mainstream throwback, a “country club Republican.” Serious. Or at least not wacky. Yep, this is starting to sound familiar.
Spun Too Often
When a great phrase comes along, there’s no stopping it.
Take Ponzi scheme, for example. Please.
Named after Charles Ponzi, it’s a “fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation.” Or so says Wikipedia, That sums it up nicely.
Recycling the South
Here in Athens, our city-county commissioners recently pushed through single-stream recycling. In other words, folks no longer have to sort stuff into bins for pickup. With recycling on my mind, I wrote about it recently in my local daily newspaper and I’ll revisit aspects of that column below. Here, though, I want to focus on the South and whether we (the royal we, as in those lucky enough to live in the South) recycle as much as the rest of the country.
Being a numbers geek, I of course went to the data.
Why? Because I recently finished some research on the movement and what factors predict the likelihood to see Obama as born somewhere other than the U.S. Any publicity, for me, is good publicity.
Sitting in an academic journal’s queue for consideration is my study entitled Obama and the Birthers, followed by a colon and then what the study is really about. Yeah, the left side of the colon sounds like the name of a really bad 1960 pop band, but this colon thing is a rule. You have to have a sexy title, followed by a colon, and then the boring descriptive stuff. It’s called titular colinicity. And no, I didn’t it up. It only sounds like something I’d make up.
May 25 is an important space date. Why?
On the first, I was a mere 3 years old so you’ll forgive me if I really don’t remember the speech. But on the second I was a college freshman standing in line on a rainy Florence, Ala., night to buy tickets for this movie everyone was talking about.
“A” may be for Apple and ”J” for Jacks, at least in sweet breakfast cereal, but not when it comes to conspiracy theories.
In Conspiracy Theories in American History, “A” is for Abolitionists and “Z” is for ZOG, an acronym for Zionist Occupied Government. Those are the first and last entries in the weighty two-volume encyclopedia edited by Peter Knight.
Never has a book about conspiracies seemed such a fitting read.
We live in an age of conspiracism that one Newsweek writer described as “a religion that blends faith and doubt.” Today we have “birthers” and we have “truthers” and we have …
What’s In a Name? An awful lot when you’re a parent waiting for that first child. A baby’s name is the stuff of negotiation, family history, a sense of how it all flows together, and of course the single most important factor – not naming the kid after someone you always hated. Life’s too short to live with that.
The Social Security Administration is good for a lot of things, especially a check once a month if you happen to be retired. It also boasts this neat site that records and tabulates all the baby names under which people apply for social security numbers or, sometimes, through other historical documents.
Right off, let’s admit it’s easy to make fun of television news. If it weren’t, Jon Stewart would be out of a job.
So yes, TV news suffers from delusions of adequacy. But let’s move beyond pop criticism and look at a problem academics have often identified as one of the roots of boob tube evil, the idea that its news tends to be episodic rather than thematic. Or in the words of political scientist Shanto Iyengar, TV tends to tends to present “recurring issues as unrelated events.”
Sarah Palin needs a new line. Suddenly, no one is chanting: “Drill Baby Drill.”
Maybe it’s the 11 dead from an oil well explosion last week in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe it’s the oil slick the size of Rhode Island now oozing its way toward the wetlands of Louisiana. Or maybe Palin hasn’t been making many public appearances this week.
When I heard the news,
So how’s the Census doing? I’m glad you asked.
Nationwide, last I checked, the participation rate stands at about 50 percent. Not too shabby, if you want to count half the people. And I’ve met a lot of folks I’d rather not count.
For those of you who feel lucky because you didn’t get the long form – don’t. There is no long form this year, only the short version. Since 1940 a certain number of households, often one-out-of-six, got a longer proctologist-like version that asked about everything from whether a household had indoor plumbing to how long it took to drive to work every day. Don’t fret. The data are still being collected, but
According to a recent survey, 83 percent of young adults sleep with their cell phones.
And I thought my generation had all the best weird sex stuff.
When I first read this factoid, I didn’t believe it. So I asked students in my UGA class: “How many of you sleep with your cell phone?” I expected maybe 25 percent would admit it.
The result? Oh, about 83 percent said yes.
Remember that famous National Lampoon magazine cover, the one where a revolver is pointed at a dog with the infamous threat: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog”? Some Tea Party folks are adopting a similar strategy. Take, for example, this chilling quote from a The New York Times story about the Tea Party movement:
And in Indiana, Richard Behney, a Republican Senate candidate, told Tea Party supporters what he would do if the 2010 elections did not produce results to his liking: “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready
The Internet will kill Thanksgiving.
And it won’t stop there. The Internet is after all those other holidays where family members gather to share a year’s worth of news and, after a day or two, rub each other the wrong way.
Because thanks to the Internet, we don’t have anything safe left to talk about.
Thanks to Facebook, etc., we know all about Uncle Al’s colonoscopy or Aunt Emma’s hysterectomy. Hell, not only do we know the details, we’ve seen the video.
So before this holiday season gets rolling, I already know of the medical challenges overcome by my new niece Iris and her brother Scott. Seen the pictures, maybe even saw their medical charts. By Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is all old news.
With all the success of the film adaption of Where the Wild Things Are, it’s only a matter of time before other great classic children tales become movies. To get in on the action early, let the wild imagining of future films begin. Goodnight Moon This classic tale of “the great green room” and its odd collection of suspicious items: a telephone, a red balloon, and a picture of “The cow jumping over the moon” is so very ready for the screen. Things seem quiet enough. But are they? Yes, we have seemingly harmless bears and cute kittens and an enigmatic pair of mittens, but there is also the creepy “quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush.’” Twice, she whispers “hush.” Maybe she’s just a retired librarian, but I suspect she has some dark secret. The film adaption will explore the psychological aspects of those mittens and kittens and three […]
Conservative talk radio never really disappeared. We just stopped talking about it.
Until the last couple of weeks, that is. And I’m glad to hear it’s back.
The Bush years of 2000 to 2008 were a sleepy time for talk radio. Not in listeners, they were still there in huge numbers, but in something even more important in the media world – buzz.
A Republican administration, two wars, terrorists, the Internet, and an unfortunate growth in bad reality television programming had pushed talk radio out of the political limelight.
And then along comes Barack Obama, along comes Democratic control of the federal government and plans to overhaul health care and spend our way out of a crashing economy. And along with all this, surging back into the national conversation, comes Rush Limbaugh and a host of likeminded conservative talkmeisters.
With the Fall season comes football and favorite holidays, but it’s also a time when high school seniors begin to think about college applications.
One likely target for those applications? The University of Georgia, often jokingly referred to as The University of Cobb County given how many students apply and are accepted from Cobb each year. But as nicknames go it really doesn’t apply. Not any more.
When it comes to how many undergraduate students they supply to UGA, some counties are moving up and some are moving down the rankings. The table below ranks the top 10 counties in 1998 and 2008 (the last year data was available).
The University of Cobb County? The county has dropped from second to third place among all Georgia counties. Others slipping down the rankings are Bibb, Houston, and Clayton. The up-and-comers? Oconee, Forsyth, and Henry counties.
The Internet will kill Thanksgiving. And it won’t stop there. The Internet is after all those other holidays where family members gather to share a year’s worth of news and, after a day or two, rub each other the wrong way. Why? Because thanks to the Internet, we don’t have anything safe left to talk about. Thanks to Facebook, etc., we know all about Uncle Al’s colonoscopy or Aunt Emma’s hysterectomy. Hell, not only do we know the details, we’ve seen the video. So before this holiday season gets rolling, I already know of the medical challenges overcome by my new niece Iris and her brother Scott. Seen the pictures, maybe even saw their medical charts. By Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is all old news. So what’s left to talk about? None of the safe stuff, like bumps and bruises and illnesses, the successes in school or on the athletic […]
Once upon a time as a much younger reporter, I covered a story about members of a small south Louisiana church who for weeks kept a dead baby in an ice chest rather than report the death to authorities. Every night church members prayed over the ice chest in the hope their faith would be strong enough to bring the baby back. And every night they finished by gently returning the ice chest to a large freezer until the next prayer session. This went on for a few weeks – very nearly the biblical 40 days – until word leaked out and the cops came knocking at the church house door. Why tell you this gruesome little tale? It’s a story that has stuck with me for years and years. I tell it to my UGA journalism students as an example of how religious beliefs and governmental rules can intersect […]
For years now I’ve been searching for a Murray Wildcat. You may remember Murray-Ohio. The company built cheap bicycles from the 1930s to the 1990s, the kind other companies stamped with their name for resale. When I was a kid, that bike of yours from Sears or Western Auto probably came from Murray’s giant factory in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. – my hometown. The factory is still there. About 43 acres under a single roof, it’s roughly the size of 30 football fields. I remember as a kid being told it was the world’s largest bicycle factory. Now it’s a big, mostly empty building. Locked gates keep out people who don’t want inside, who watched helplessly as their factory strangled on cheap Asian imports. This is not some self-indulgent, fuzzy-headed reminiscence of a small southern town that will never be the same. Okay, maybe it is. A little. My search for a […]
Talk radio fills the southern airwaves, in cars and trucks, at construction sites and in offices.
Like a crazy uncle it’s always around: lovable and embarrassing, full of life and largely forgotten in a digital age. But it still makes a difference. If you know where to look.
For the last couple of months conservative talk radio hosts have hammered away at a single theme to describe President Barack Obama. He’s a socialist. Delete that word from the dictionary and talk radio/Fox News talkmeister Sean Hannity would have a lot of empty air time to fill. Rarely has one word, repeated so often, had such impact on how people evaluate a new president.
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