Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time to replace Obama?

By Bob Edwards
Former Payson Mayor and
Michigan State Legislator

Four years ago a country that was hurting responded by hiring Barack Obama to the most powerful position in the world despite an extremely thin resume. Even many who had serious reservations about his credentials and who he associated with cheered at his promise to be a post racial president and the final shattering of the racial ceiling, sadly, his strong racially motivated actions has destroyed that hope.  

The euphoria associated with his election allowed him, right out of the gate, to pass a huge but questionable stimulus package with the promise that it would be transparent  and aimed mainly at speeding up infrastructure needs, only to find out that a large percent was used for political purposes and projects not really needed.

Then while the country waited for him to fulfill his promise to cure our economic woes, he shifted all his efforts to passing Obamacare totally ignoring the need for jobs and did so while ignoring his promise to work across the aisle.

Early in his presidency it became clear that to believe his words was folly and that following his actions was a better course. It is normal and healthy for a populace to have political disagreement and, in fact, that is a strength our forefathers built in to our remarkable Constitution. The Presidency carries with it great weight and one of those loads is honesty, we may not agree but tell us the truth… on this he has failed many times. Some of these we have come to accept from our politicians of all parties and at all levels of government and while political lies disgust me I have enough years in politics to look around most.

However, the latest set of utterings coming out the White House regarding the tragedy in Libya is beyond the pale. It now appears that four of our brave citizens were allowed to die for questionable reasons when they could have been saved and the Obama Administration has chosen to mislead the public about it... for this, people should be fired. The main task of the Commander in Chief is to keep the citizens safe. While weak credentials and incompetence can excuse some actions, to deliberately mislead the public and fail on this main task without explanation is a basis for removal.

Romney's new position on abortion

KETTERING, Ohio (The Borowitz Report)—Hitting the campaign trail one day after the arrival of Superstorm Sandy, Republican nominee Mitt Romney tweaked his position on abortion today, saying he now supports it in cases where it makes people vote for him.

“I would make an exception for abortion in cases where the life of my campaign is at stake,” he told a crowd in Kettering, Ohio.

Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast last night, was such a powerful weather system that it prevented Mr. Romney from changing his position on abortion for twenty-four hours.

“It was important for Mitt to come up with a new position on abortion today,” said his campaign manager, Matt Rhoades. “It sends a message to the American people that in the aftermath of Sandy, things are getting back to normal.”

Mr. Romney made no reference to his comments about eliminating FEMA, which have been declared a disaster area.

Photograph by Lauren Lancaster.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Girls of Mesa del strut their stuff

Live from the Norman's Halloween Party (in case you doubt that Mesa del Caballo is where it's happening).

TCCA presents A Capella hipsters

42Five to Perform in
Payson, AZ. On November 4, 2012

Live On Stage, Inc. and the Tonto Community Concert Association Announce
42Five to continue their 2012-2013 Concert Season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (October 15, 2012) – A Cappella hipsters 42Five will perform their energy-infused five-part harmony program at the Payson High School Auditorium in Payson, Arizona on Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm.

Single tickets are $35 as available.  Children and students under the age of 18 will be admitted free when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. For more information visit the association website at or call 928-478-4363 or 928-474-4189.

The association has also sponsored a student outreach performance for this artist as part of their ongoing commitment to support arts education in the Payson area. The concert and outreach also received support from WESTAF, the Western States Arts Federation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Golden Voiced” – Orlando Weekly
Based in Orlando, Florida, 42Five delivers a roller coaster ride of death-defying vocal harmonies.  The five-member male vocal group easily strides through a myriad of musical styles, from doo-wop to hip-hop.  Their flawless vocal stylings are only matched by their signature humor and on-stage antics. Many of the members boast professional credentials from the amusement park and cruise ship industries based in Florida.  42Five creates their own arrangements, as well as engineering and producing each of their four recordings.  Beginning 2013 the band will record and perform under the name “Voiceplay.”

The Tonto Community Concert Association is committed to bringing quality entertainment to the Rim Country through an annual concert series and support of the fine arts in Payson schools.  This series is intended as an enriching cultural experience for the people of Payson and those in surrounding communities.

Live On Stage, Inc. provides acclaimed, affordable entertainment attractions and support services to an American community of concert presenters.  For more information, visit

Must read for potential GOP voters


Republican policies from Reagan to Bush are largely responsible for the obscene disparities of wealth and income in our country. The problem has been exacerbated by Congressional Republicans who have supported the needs of the rich while attacking middle-class and low-income programs. Here are some of the results of their work. 

1. We are close to having the worst wealth inequality in the entire world.

Out of 150 countries, we have the 5th-highest wealth disparity. We have a greater wealth gap than the countries traditionally viewed as unequal, such as those in Africa and South America. 

We fare a little better on income inequality, although with regard to developed (OECD) countries, we have the 7th highest income gap among 34 nations. 

2. Just five men together made more money than the entire U.S. foreign aid budget last year.

Our "winner take all" mentality allows -- indeed, encourages -- the richest Americans to take billions of dollars that could be used to support the needs of our society or the people of the world. The richest 5 Americans increased their estates by a total of $34 billion last year. Official Development Assistance (ODA) was a little over $30 billion. This amount represented just 1/5 of 1% of our GDP, the 5th lowest giving rate of 23 OECD countries. 

The same distorted allocation of wealth is evident within our own borders. In 2011 each ONE of the 10 richest Americans made, on average, as much as the entire budget for theNational Cancer Institute

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3. The men taking billions did not earn it through hard work and innovation. 

60 percent of the income for the Forbes 400 came from capital gains. Much of the rest came from carried interest, performance-related pay, stock options, and deferred compensation

The rich don't innovate. Market watch estimates that over 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, and real estate. According to economist Richard Wolff, about half of the assets of the richest 1% are held in unincorporated business equity (personal business accounts). 

The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey confirmed that the very rich spend less than two percent of their money on new business startups. Other studies from the Treasury Department andAmerican Progress said the same. 

4. The rich get almost as much from tax expenditures as Americans get from Social Security and Medicare.

The common complaint from the wealthiest Americans is that entitlements cause the deficit. But according to the Tax Policy Center, tax deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures, which largely benefit the rich, are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion. 

In comparison, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that about $1.2 trillion is spent on Social Security and Medicare. 

5. After all this, the rich have multiplied their wealth -- tax-free -- overseas.

The Tax Justice Network estimates that up to $32 trillion is hidden offshore, with about 40% of it, or $12.8 trillion, owned by Americans. This is close to the annual U.S. GDP of $15 trillion a year. 

Inequality, it can reasonably be concluded, is worse than we thought. The policies of people like Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan and George Bush made it happen. Congressional Republicans intensified it. Ralph Nader says, "Has there ever been a more crazed, cruel, anti-people, corporate-indentured, militaristic and monetized Republican Party in its 154-year history?" 

No, we've never seen anything like this before. And a vote for Romney will make it even worse.

One percent got rich by luck

Gazette Blog Editor's note: From time to time we'll be sharing examples of the excesses of America's fat cats as delineated on a website called Too Much.  If you want the whole nauseating experience, go to

America's most cited conservative jurist not yet sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, Richard Posner, has taken to musing about the source of grand fortune — and does not “find any merit to the celebration of the tycoon.”

All financial success, Posner posited earlier this month, boils down to chance, the luck of having wealthy parents or meeting the right people or being born with intelligence. If luck does trump all else, adds Posner, “a brilliant wealthy person like Bill Gates is not 'entitled' to his wealth in some moral, Ayn Randian sense.”

But Posner still opposes steep taxes on the rich. He considers them disincentives. Counters legal analyst James Kwak: If the rich don’t have “any particular moral entitlement to their wealth because that wealth is the product of luck,” why not have them pay more in taxes than the poor and middle class?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Noble and Sharon Collins LIVE!

Gazette Blog Columnist Noble Collins and better half Sharon performed at the Norman's Halloween party in Mesa del Caballo Saturday evening.

Special jazz event at First Friday

Guitar vocalist Joanie Smith joins bassist Larry Brasen and drummer Gerry Reynolds in a special musical get-together to play "cool, quiet and sophisticated" jazz standards, show tunes and pop tunes from the later part of the last century. A few country tunes too. Our good friend, Robert Tarallo, will sit-in on saxophone for a couple of tunes.

You don't want to miss this one, as the trio doesn't get out much.

This will be a special open house for the Community Presbyterian Church (800 W Main Street, Payson), as the proceeds from any donations received will be used towards providing assistance to deserving young people in the community during the holiday season.

So, mark your calendars and plan to attend:

The Joanie Smith, Larry Brasen, Gerry Reynolds Trio
Nov. 2nd (First Friday), 5 - 7 pm
Community Presbyterian Church
800 West Main Street, Payson

For more information, Call Gerry at 602-619-3355.

'Will history see us as doers or whiners?'


[Gazette Blog Editor's comment: While this letter writer's points are well taken, we believe there are some good Republicans.  On the local scene, they include sheriff's candidate Adam Shepherd and Supervisor Tommie Martin.  We endorse them both.]

When folks went to the polls on November 4, 2008 they were electing a President, not a Messiah. It appears a whole gob of people didn’t get that memo. Now here they are whining that nobody piled bars of gold on their porches while they sat on their butts watching “reality” TV.

Since 2008 how many people have taken to the streets in protest? (Forget Tea Party zealots. Oh sure, they’ve been in the streets with their racist, homophobic, screed, but all they were protesting is what the Koch Brothers told them to protest.)

It has recently been stated that working stiffs voting Republican is like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders. There is, however, one big, huge difference. Chickens have brains the size of peas.

Vote the straight Democratic ticket. Of course there are lots of phony Democrats, but there are also plenty of good ones, like those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Now name me one decent Republican. C’mon, just one.

After the elections lace up your boots. We’ll have to take to the streets in non-violent assemblages if we want to return this nation to those who built it...the working class. We’ll need general strikes if we hope to return a semblance of democracy to our nation. That is the only way to force corporatists. General strikes are not radical actions. They will be our salvation. Now it is up to vox populi.

There you have it. Will history look back on us a doers or whiners?

Rich Austin

Nation's #1 paper endorses Obama

'President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth.' (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
'President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth.' (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

[Gazette Blog Editor's note: Local Blog readers know me and know what I stand for as a journalist.  You know I was fired by the Payson Roundup for telling the truth no matter where it led.  You know the
Rim Country Gazette has always stood for the truth, even in a conservative community.  I am proud to say I learned my journalistic integrity in part by reading the nation's best newspaper - The New York Times.  
 As journalism students in college, we were required to subscribe to one of the Top 10 newspapers for a month to figure out what good journalism was all about.  The newspaper that always topped the list as number 1 was, and remains, The New York Times.  This is a significant and thoughtful endorsement that all voters should read before casting a ballot:]

   By The New York Times | Editorial   

28 October 12

he economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women's access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans' rights are cheapened by the right wing's determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney's true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney's choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.

We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the "fiscal cliff" battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.

In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama's many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.

Health Care
Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.

It was astonishing that Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress were able to get a bill past the Republican opposition. But the Republicans' propagandistic distortions of the new law helped them wrest back control of the House, and they are determined now to repeal the law.

That would eliminate the many benefits the reform has already brought: allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents' policies; lower drug costs for people on Medicare who are heavy users of prescription drugs; free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; a ban on lifetime limits on insurance payments. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers must accept all applicants. Once fully in effect, the new law would start to control health care costs.

Mr. Romney has no plan for covering the uninsured beyond his callous assumption that they will use emergency rooms. He wants to use voucher programs to shift more Medicare costs to beneficiaries and block grants to shift more Medicaid costs to the states.

The Economy
Mr. Obama prevented another Great Depression. The economy was cratering when he took office in January 2009. By that June it was growing, and it has been ever since (although at a rate that disappoints everyone), thanks in large part to interventions Mr. Obama championed, like the $840 billion stimulus bill. Republicans say it failed, but it created and preserved 2.5 million jobs and prevented unemployment from reaching 12 percent. Poverty would have been much worse without the billions spent on Medicaid, food stamps and jobless benefits.

Last year, Mr. Obama introduced a jobs plan that included spending on school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. It was stymied by Republicans. Contrary to Mr. Romney's claims, Mr. Obama has done good things for small businesses - like pushing through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.

The Dodd-Frank financial regulation was an important milestone. It is still a work in progress, but it established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. Mr. Romney wants to repeal it.

If re-elected, Mr. Obama would be in position to shape the "grand bargain" that could finally combine stimulus like the jobs bill with long-term deficit reduction that includes letting the high-end Bush-era tax cuts expire. Stimulus should come first, and deficit reduction as the economy strengthens. Mr. Obama has not been as aggressive as we would have liked in addressing the housing crisis, but he has increased efforts in refinancing and loan modifications.

Mr. Romney's economic plan, as much as we know about it, is regressive, relying on big tax cuts and deregulation. That kind of plan was not the answer after the financial crisis, and it will not create broad prosperity.

Foreign Affairs
Mr. Obama and his administration have been resolute in attacking Al Qaeda's leadership, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has ended the war in Iraq. Mr. Romney, however, has said he would have insisted on leaving thousands of American soldiers there. He has surrounded himself with Bush administration neocons who helped to engineer the Iraq war, and adopted their militaristic talk in a way that makes a Romney administration's foreign policies a frightening prospect.

Mr. Obama negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. Mr. Romney likes to say the president was ineffective on Iran, but at the final debate he agreed with Mr. Obama's policies. Mr. Obama deserves credit for his handling of the Arab Spring. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there. At the last debate, Mr. Romney talked about funneling arms through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funneling arms to jihadist groups.

Mr. Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the Libyan uprising, and kept American military forces in a background role. It was smart policy.

In the broadest terms, he introduced a measure of military restraint after the Bush years and helped repair America's badly damaged reputation in many countries from the low levels to which it had sunk by 2008.

The Supreme Court
The future of the nation's highest court hangs in the balance in this election - and along with it, reproductive freedom for American women and voting rights for all, to name just two issues. Whoever is president after the election will make at least one appointment to the court, and many more to federal appeals courts and district courts.
Mr. Obama, who appointed the impressive Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, understands how severely damaging conservative activism has been in areas like campaign spending. He would appoint justices and judges who understand that landmarks of equality like the Voting Rights Act must be defended against the steady attack from the right.

Mr. Romney's campaign Web site says he will "nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito," among the most conservative justices in the past 75 years. There is no doubt that he would appoint justices who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Civil Rights
The extraordinary fact of Mr. Obama's 2008 election did not usher in a new post-racial era. In fact, the steady undercurrent of racism in national politics is truly disturbing. Mr. Obama, however, has reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities' voting rights and has fought laws, like the ones in Arizona, that seek to turn undocumented immigrants into a class of criminals.

The military's odious "don't ask, don't tell" rule was finally legislated out of existence, under the Obama administration's leadership. There are still big hurdles to equality to be brought down, including the Defense of Marriage Act, the outrageous federal law that undermines the rights of gay men and lesbians, even in states that recognize those rights.

Though it took Mr. Obama some time to do it, he overcame his hesitation about same-sex marriage and declared his support. That support has helped spur marriage-equality movements around the country. His Justice Department has also stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against constitutional challenges.

Mr. Romney opposes same-sex marriage and supports the federal act, which not only denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples but allows states to ignore marriages made in other states. His campaign declared that Mr. Romney would not object if states also banned adoption by same-sex couples and restricted their rights to hospital visitation and other privileges.

Mr. Romney has been careful to avoid the efforts of some Republicans to criminalize abortion even in the case of women who had been raped, including by family members. He says he is not opposed to contraception, but he has promised to deny federal money to Planned Parenthood, on which millions of women depend for family planning.

For these and many other reasons, we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and express the hope that his victory will be accompanied by a new Congress willing to work for policies that Americans need.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jesus makes surprise Rim Country visit

Christ has not only risen but has returned to earth (specifically Mesa del Caballo), making a surprise appearance at the Norman's Halloween party Saturday night.  Stay tuned for more photos of your favorite characters between now and Halloween eve.

AZ Sr. Poet Laureate shares winning entry

(Gazette Blog Editor's note: We recently announced that Payson resident Carrie Backe had just won her fifth Arizona Senior Poet Laureate Award.  On Friday night, The Consort and your humble editor ran into Carrie in a local restaurant, whereupon I asked her to share with Gazette readers the poem that earned her the honor.  She graciously obliged and here it is:)

About Grandma
By Carrie Backe

I sat for months
At your grandma’s
Long days of just holding
Her soft, fragile, bony hand.
We seldom spoke.
She either didn’t know me or
She’d nod off in the middle
Of a sentence.
The air was not fresh,
Just hot and antiseptic.
I wanted to take her out,
So we could walk barefoot in
The grass,
But she was too tired.

I want to tell you:
Don’t do all that
For me.
It is heartbreaking,
And useless.
I want to tell you:
Stay home, and hug
Your children.

But I can’t.
Because, sometimes,
Once in a while,
Grandma’s grip was strong,
Her eyes focused,
And I saw her,
Somewhere inside,
For a moment.
And that was

(Readers: please remember that we accept and publish good poetry.  In fact, we have a POETRY tab.  Send your poems to

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The monsters among us

Posted: October 25, 2012
The Mummy, Frankenstein's monster and Dracula.
Movie monster mashup. From left to right: Boris Karloff as the Mummy, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster, and Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Written by Pete Zrioka
ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development
This article first appeared on ASU Research Matters.

 With Halloween approaching, people turn their attention to the spooky and the scary, reveling in stories and images of ghosts, ghouls and witches for the holiday. While some monstrous characters only come out to play in October, however, others enjoy attention year round.

For example, in recent years, vampire media has gained popularity, from Stephanie Meyer’s "Twilight" series of books and films to HBO’s "True Blood," which finished its fifth season this summer. Zombies have recently seen a resurgence in popularity as well, evidenced by new takes on the genre, such as Zach Synder’s 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead," Danny Boyle’s "28 Days Later" and Edgar Wright’s "Shaun of the Dead." Zombies have even shambled onto the television screen with AMC’s "The Walking Dead."

Hollywood is quick to cash in on what’s popular, but why do themes gain popularity in the first place? Does the prevalence of a certain monster reflect what’s going on in our society today?

“I would argue that monsters in literature, in general, are almost always indicative of things we fear in a sort of collective sense,” says Cajsa Baldini, a senior lecturer in the English Department of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Baldini is well-versed in classic monsters and their cultural significance. She teaches a course on 19th century fiction, which covers monstrous tales such as Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein" and "The Island of Doctor Moreau" by H.G. Wells. Both novels are steeped in themes of technology out of control and the ethical implications of science.

"Jurassic Park" is a great example of the “technology out of control” trope. It’s a modern-day Frankenstein story, says principal lecturer Paul Cook, who teaches and writes science fiction in the English Department.

In the original "Frankenstein," after Victor Frankenstein creates his monster, he abandons it to be persecuted and ostracized. Once the monster understands what his creator did to him, he seeks out the doctor.

“I think that’s what it’s about – to be confronted with our creations,” says Baldini of the novel. “What responsibilities do we have to what we create? It essentially posits the question, do scientists have ethical responsibilities, or is the only responsibility towards further discovery? And I think that’s the reason we read that novel today.”

Baldini points to Ridley Scott’s "Blade Runner," in which one man hunts down rogue human-looking androids, as a more modern interpretation of these ideas.

“The android turns around and says: ‘Hey, I know you built in a flaw in me, I’m going to die, I need to know when’ – a question most of us ask, as does Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s novel,” says Baldini.

Just as 19th century fiction reflected common fears and anxieties, science fiction in the 1950s served the same purpose. Films such as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" reflected Americans’ fear of communism.

“Science fiction of the 50s not only reflected the culture, but criticized it as well,” says Cook.

Cook believes that some monsters in fiction are simply manifestations of the worst parts of us, or a trait that is out of control.

“When ideas get out of control, you get monsters,” says Cook. “Monsters, as an archetype, are simply a reflection of some aspect of our human nature greatly magnified to the level of destruction. That is where you get the werewolf, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the Hulk – something that’s inside of us that comes out.”

Baldini thinks that the theme of the embattled force within us points to humanity’s desire to rise above the forces of nature.

“I think the werewolf is more of a psychological monster,” she says. “Like any monster, it has to be reflective of us to be interesting. I think it’s about the animal within, the aspects of us we think we’ve grown away from or that we don’t want to acknowledge we ever had. We’re not in control of nature, even if we like to think we are. Just look at an Ebola outbreak, or tsunamis. We think we can control nature, but we don’t. We’re subject to it like any other species on Earth.”

While some monsters are reflections of humanity’s struggle with internal, natural forces, others, such as the vampire, express a fear of external influences. Baldini’s course explores the first appearance of the modern vampire, in the 1819 novella "The Vampyre" by John Polidori.

“Today, it’s almost ridiculous because it’s so stereotypical – it’s about a vampire that’s aristocratic and evil, but he’s also strangely mesmerizing and attractive to people. But of course, everyone who associates with him ends badly,” says Baldini of Polidori’s story.

Even though not all modern interpretations of vampires pose them as aristocrats, Baldini sees these creatures as always being the elite.

“If you look at Polidori and Stoker’s vampires, they are aristocratic and evil,” says Baldini. “They are themselves special and set apart – not everyone can be them. And also whoever they seek out as their victim, even though it’s violent and it’s deadly, there’s a sense of being the elect – vampires don’t just go for anyone. I think this is part of the attraction, the erotic appeal of the vampire.”

Baldini cites that attraction to the elite nature of the vampire as part of their popularity in the 1980s, when Anne Rice’s novels and films like "The Lost Boys" portrayed vampires as evil but also glamorous and cool.

“That was the time period of glam and the early yuppies and Gordon Gekko saying ‘greed is good.’ It was okay to be selfish, to prioritize number one, to strive toward an elite status,” says Baldini.

Popular vampires today still have that elitism and admiration, but they are also tragic figures.

“It’s okay to want to be elite to the point were we start valorizing such characters, such as Edward Cullen,” says Baldini. “It’s actually a good thing to want to be like them and to be elected by them, and now there’s a humility trope in there too.”
While vampires represent the upper crust, a monster that is anything but has recently become incredibly popular: the zombie.

“The zombie is the underdog of the monsters, sort of the underachiever of monsters as well,” Baldini says of the stumbling, rotting creatures. “You don’t have to do much to become a zombie. You’re bitten by one and you become one. There’s minimal grooming involved. It’s the blue-collar monster.”

And being a zombie is cool today. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people turn out for zombie walks, or zombie pub crawls. Hordes of people dress up as the living dead and shuffle through cities across the world, sometimes to promote a cause, give to charity or just for fun. But what does the popularity of zombies say about society today?

“We’re looking at a monster that’s a collective body that consumes everything,” says Baldini. “That’s western culture, that’s what we are. We have over-consumed throughout the 1990s. We over-borrowed on credit, we took all the equity out of our homes and then some, we consumed indiscriminately, we didn’t think, because like zombies, we don’t think. We just followed the herd in consumption. I don’t think people sit around and think about this, but I think on some level, the zombie is relatable in this particular time in history.”

As Baldini points out, the cultural significance of monsters probably isn’t something most people consider on a conscious level. But that doesn’t make the themes embedded in monster stories any less important.

“We all recognize certain monstrosity in life itself, and so when we recognize it in a very old text like 'Dracula' or 'The Vampyre,' we can accept ourselves more. This is not new, it’s not just me. It’s there, and it’s worth acknowledging,” says Baldini.

“I think it’s most interesting in the way it serves to critique society in a way that seems perhaps innocuous – ‘Oh, it’s just horror’ – but which in fact is incredibly subversive and critical,” she adds.

GOP quandary: misogyny or racism


By Andy Borowitz

NEW HAMPSHIRE (The Borowitz Report)—With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, there is a deep divide among Republican leaders over whether to emphasize misogyny or racism as the campaign’s closing theme.

In one camp is the Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who says that his view that God is sometimes O.K. with rape is “gaining real traction with a key demographic: men who don’t like women very much.”

“I can’t tell you how many misogynists have come up to me at my rallies and said, ‘Thank you for saying what you said,’ ” he told reporters today. “I think they’re like, finally, someone’s taking a more nuanced position on rape.”

But in the other camp is the former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who worries that the Republican Party’s emphasis on misogyny is threatening to drown out its “winning message of racism.”

“I understand the appeal of Mourdock’s anti-woman theme, but I worry that it’s going to overshadow our core value of racism, which is still our best shot at winning this thing,” he said. “In politics, you’ve got to dance with the one who brung you.”

Hoping to heal a possible rift with so little time left until Election Day, the R.N.C. chairman Reince Priebus said today that there is room for both views in today’s Republican Party: “Our ‘big tent’ message to voters should be this: come for the misogyny, stay for the racism.”

Photograph by Michael Conroy/AP.