Showing posts with label elections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elections. Show all posts

25 July 2017

True Political Animals

by Barb Goffman

So much about politics divides our nation these days, but here is something I think we all can agree on: the death last week of the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, is a loss to us all.

You see, Talkeetna (two hours north of Anchorage, population less than 900) has for twenty years had the same mayor: Stubbs the orange tabby. Stubbs supposedly began his political career as a write-in candidate who garnered more votes than any of the humans on the ballot. He thereafter won several uncontested elections over the years. He even survived what's been billed an assassination attempt by a stray dog in 2013. (There's a newspaper in Alaska that claims Stubbs never was elected and his political career is effectively an urban legend, but I like what everyone else is reporting about Stubbs, so screw 'em.)

Anyway, it might seem silly to be sad over a deceased feline I never met--and it might seem sillier that said feline ran a town in Alaska for twenty years--but this cat did something few political candidates seem able to do these days. He brought his town together. Once he was elected, no one ran against him. His constituents actually liked him, and not for what he could do for them. They liked him just for himself. Isn't that refreshing?
Rest in peace, Stubbs.

That's not to say Stubbs accomplished nothing while in office. I understand he helped increase tourism because people wanted to meet him. And I daresay he promoted the idea that you don't have to look--or be--like everyone else in order to succeed, in politics as well as in life. Granted, Stubbs's job was apparently more symbolic than functional, but that makes Stubbs's accomplishments no less valid. So I salute you, Stubbs, for all your success. Thank you for your years of service. And may you rest in peace.

There's more where Stubbs came from

Stubbs was not the first animal elected to office in this country. Here are a few others. (Note: This information was gathered from multiple sources on the Internet. I haven't gone to each town to confirm, but why would anyone make this stuff up?)

In 1981, Bosco, a lab-rottweiler mix, was elected mayor of Sunol, California. He served for thirteen years, dying in office in 1994. His job was described as purely ceremonial, but he still got to be called mayor.

This isn't any of the Henry Clays,
but you get the idea.

In 1986, a political dynasty began in Lajitas, Texas, when Henry Clay, a billy goat, was elected as mayor. Since then Henry Clay Jr. and Henry Clay III have served in the same position.

In 1998, voters in the small town of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, elected Goofy, a German shepherd, mayor. Goofy was eventually succeeded by Junior, a black lab, who was succeeded by Lucy Lou, a border collie, who remains in office today. Goofy's election stemmed from a fundraiser for a local church. People paid $1 to cast each vote.

In 2011, a cow named April was elected mayor of Eastsound, Washington. After not running for re-election, April was succeeded the next year by Murphy, a Portuguese water dog (like Stubbs, Murphy was a write-in candidate). Other animal mayors of this town have been Granny, a whale; Jack, a golden retriever; and their current mayor, Lewis, a dog (breed unclear). As with other towns with animal mayors, the job in Eastsound is ceremonial, and the voting each year is designed to raise money for charity, but the effect of teaching respect for animals is certainly real.

This isn't Duke, but it looks like him.
And last, but certainly not least, there is Duke, a great Pyrenees, who was elected mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota, in 2014. He has won re-election annually since then, and he continues to serve today.

So, readers, would any of your furry friends make good politicians? Please share. I'm particularly interested in what qualities they have that we all could benefit from. (And no comments, please, about how any animal is better than the politicians we have today. All of these animals have been elected in good-natured environments, and I'd like this blog to remain just as positive.)

And so we don't stray too far from the topic of writing, if you know of any crime short stories or novels involving the election of an animal or an animal serving in office, please share those too.

08 November 2016

Election Day short stories

by Barb Goffman

I hope you'll excuse me for this short post. As I write this on Monday, the 7th, I'm on day twenty of bronchitis, and while I'm improving, I'm certainly not well.

I hope you'll all celebrate with me, too, because as you read this, it's Election Day, i.e., the end of what feels like the longest election season ever. While we all hope our own candidates will win, in the end, some people will be disappointed, but I hope we can all work to come together in the coming days for the good of ourselves and our nation.

One way to come together is to talk about a common love--short stories. And on this day, it seems perfect to focus on ones involving elections.

I've written one short story involving an election, "Ulterior Motives," which appeared in the anthology Ride 2, published in 2012. (This is an anthology series all about bicycles.) When asked to describe the story back then, I wrote: In "Ulterior Motives" a teenage girl finds herself in danger when she gets involved in a local civic campaign and learns that in politics, everyone has an ulterior motive.

My editor came up with his own description of the story: There's a mystery in this small town, and a secret, and a teenaged girl at the middle of it all who doesn't think the adults around her understand much. Which maybe they don't.

I got the idea for this story from a sad real-life event. Back in 2012, I read about a county in Oregon that was having such money problems, it had to cut back on its policing, with officers on patrol only a few hours each day. And because of the cutbacks, police might not respond to every call, including burglaries, the article said. Well, that got my writer's wheels spinning, and "Ulterior Motives" was born. The story involves a local campaign to get a bond issue on the ballot to fund a sheriff's department in similar straits to the real-life Oregon county. It may sound like a dry topic, but the story is told from the point of view of a teenage girl who cares very much about what happens, and she does her best to make an impact on the campaign. There's humor and danger and, hopefully, everything readers want in a mystery short story. I'm particularly proud of this story because of its local nature. So many political mysteries involve presidential elections. Not too many short stories that I know of involve local campaigns, which can have such a profound impact on day-to-day living. (If I'm wrong on this point, I hope you'll let me know, sharing story information in the comments.)

One other political short story (okay, it's a novella) worth mentioning here is by fellow SleuthSayer B.K. Stevens. The story is "One Shot." This description of the story is from B.K.'s website:


 When rising politician Karen Dodd pushes through the toughest gun-control bill in Ohio’s history, she thinks it’s her ticket to the governor’s office. But soon after she announces her candidacy, on the day she’s slated to receive an award from a gun-control organization, Karen Dodd is found dead in her comfortable suburban home, one bullet through her heart.

Okay, so that's two short stories perfect for Election Day. I hope you'll check them out, and I hope you'll share your favorite Election Day short stories in the comments. In the meanwhile, happy reading. And go vote!





06 November 2012

Election Day

by Dale C. Andrews

    Whew! 

    What can make you long for an otherwise insufferable commercial hawking ginsu knives?  (But wait – call in the next ten minutes and we will double your order!  Operators are standing by!) The answer, at least in areas within and surrounding eight so-called “battleground states” in our fine (but now frayed) union is the political commercial.

    We live in Washington, D.C., safely Democratic.  And we are close to Maryland, also safely Democratic.  But our television channels broadcast south as well, across the Potomac River to decidedly purple Virginia.  So we have been bombarded with political hawking now for months, and that seems to the captive viewer like years. 

   Commercials grant politicians the license to be a bit freer with the truth than they are in person.  (“Freer with the truth” being a euphemism for “lying.”)  Actual in-person accusations of lying are rather infrequent now-a-days.  But this was not always the case.  Theodore Roosevelt once roared at a presidential opponent that he was “atrociously and wickedly lying.”  And good old Abraham Lincoln had this to say about Stephen Douglas during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates:  “I don’t know what to call you except you are a liar.” 

    According to those keeping tabs on such things the current candidates to lead the country for the next four years have largely eschewed the use of the “L” word.  Instead of accusing each other of lies here is what we have instead by proxy (as collected in The Washington Post, October 24, 2012 at page A19):

    Mitt Romney: 
  • “I don’t concur with what the president said about my own record and the things that I’ve said. They don’t happen to be accurate.”
  • “You got that fact wrong.”
  • “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
  • “You’re wrong.”
President Obama:
  • “The math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it.”
  • “This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.”
  • “And the fact is . . . ”
  • “Governor Romney, that’s not what you said . . . ”
  • “I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know, airbrush history here. . . . That wasn’t true."
    But the simple fact is, if you credibly don’t want to be called a liar the easiest approach is this:  Don’t lie.  The problem with the approach is, that like many simple solutions it doesn’t work.  Bending the truth has a long history of getting candidates elected in the United States.  But for one of the best solutions that honors telling only the truth while still maintaining the capacity to sway the unsuspecting electorate one can look back to 1950 and the fabled Florida senatorial race between Claude Pepper, a liberal New Dealer previously swept into the Senate for what turned out to be only one term, and George Smathers, who took Pepper’s seat and served as Florida’s senator through 1969. 

    Smather’s challenge, in attempting to unseat his fellow Democrat Pepper, (back then in Florida the Democratic primary was the election) was to sway the upstate (for want of a better phrase “educationally challenged”) Florida populace.  Recorded speeches were a rarity in 1950, particularly stump speeches, and what Smathers said and what he did not say in his Florida panhandle campaign addresses has been roundly debated for years.  But according to many reports his stump speech included a clever use of paronomasia, a form of word play that utilizes words that suggests two or more meanings and then relies upon the resulting confusion for rhetorical and persuasive effect.  In any event, here is what Time Magazine in its April 17, 1950 edition had to say about some of the things Smather’s north-Florida stump speech may or may not have contained:
Time, April 17, 1950
Smathers was capable of going to any length in campaigning, but he indignantly denied that he had gone as far as a story printed in northern newspapers. The story wouldn't die, nonetheless, and it deserved not to. According to the yarn, Smathers had a little speech for cracker voters, who were presumed not to know what the words meant except that they must be something bad. The speech went like this: "Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy."

    It was also reported that Smathers bellowed to the crowds that in order to attend college Mr. Pepper was forced to matriculate.

    True or not, the story became one of which legends are made.  So much so that 20 years later Bill Garvin in issue 139 of Mad Magazine, December, 1970, offered up the following wonderful example of how to nail your opponent without stooping to lying:

Mad Magazine, Dec. 1970
    My fellow citizens, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here today.  My opponent has openly admitted he feels an affinity toward your city, but I happen to like this area. It might be a salubrious place to him, but to me it is one of the nation's most delightful garden spots.

    When I embarked upon this political campaign, I hoped that it could be conducted on a high level and that my opponent would be willing to stick to the issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to be tractable instead -- to indulge in unequivocal language, to eschew the use of outright lies in his speeches, and even to make repeated veracious statements about me.

    At first I tried to ignore these scrupulous, unvarnished fidelities. Now I will do so no longer. If my opponent wants a fight, he's going to get one!

       It might be instructive to start with his background. My friends, have you ever accidentally dislodged a rock on the ground and seen what was underneath? Well, exploring my opponent's background is dissimilar. All the slime and filth and corruption you can possibly imagine, even in your wildest dreams, are glaringly nonexistent in this man's life. And even in his childhood!

       Let us take a very quick look at that childhood: It is a known fact that, on a number of occasions, he emulated older boys at a certain playground. It is also known that his parents not only permitted him to masticate in their presence, but even urged him to do so. Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue exacerbated his own sister when they were both teenagers!

       I ask you, my fellow Americans: is this the kind of person we want in public office to set an example for our youth?

       Of course, it's not surprising that he should have such a typically pristine background -- no, not when you consider the other members of his family:

       His female relatives put on a constant pose of purity and innocence, and claim they are inscrutable, yet every one of them has taken part in hortatory activities.

       The men in the family are likewise completely amenable to moral suasion.

       My opponent's uncle was a flagrant heterosexual.

       His sister, who has always been obsessed by sects, once worked as a proselyte outside a church.

       His father was secretly chagrined at least a dozen times by matters of a pecuniary nature.

       His youngest brother wrote an essay extolling the virtues of being a homo sapien.

       His great-aunt expired from a degenerative disease.

       His nephew subscribes to a phonographic magazine.

       His wife was a thespian before their marriage and even performed the act in front of paying customers.

       And his own mother had to resign from a women's organization in her later years because she was an admitted sexagenarian.

       Now what shall we say about the man himself?

       I can tell you in solemn truth that he is the very antithesis of political radicalism, economic irresponsibility and personal depravity. His own record proves that he has frequently discountenanced treasonable, un-American philosophies and has perpetrated many overt acts as well.

       He perambulated his infant on the street.

       He practiced nepotism with his uncle and first cousin.

       He attempted to interest a 13-year-old girl in philately.

       He participated in a seance at a private residence where, among other odd goings-on, there was incense.

       He has declared himself in favor of more homogeneity on college campuses.

       He has advocated social intercourse in mixed company - and has taken part in such gatherings himself.

       He has been deliberately averse to crime in our city streets.

       He has urged our Protestant and Jewish citizens to develop more catholic tastes.

       Last summer he committed a piscatorial act on a boat that was flying the U.S. flag.

       Finally, at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign isms, he has cooly announced his belief in altruism - and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic!

       I beg you, my friends, to oppose this man whose life and work and ideas are so openly and avowedly compatible with our American way of life. A vote for him would be a vote for the perpetuation of everything we hold dear.

       The facts are clear; the record speaks for itself. Do your duty.
    Well, enough of this.  Be sure you vote today.  Unless you are voting for that other guy.  In which case,  stay home.

09 May 2012

Presidential (S)elections

by Neil Schofield

I haven't been having a cold like Leigh, or trouble with my leg like Rob, but what I've been having is like a combination of the worst aspects of both. I've been having a presidential election. I say 'I', but I really mean 'they', because although I'm in France, I'm not altogether of it, if you catch my drift. I can vote in local and regional elections being a European, but for any Rosbif who tries to muscle in on the choosing of the Head Grenouille, the shrift he gets is decidedly on the short side.

It's been a bad-tempered campaign, often peevish and at times verging on the distinctly shirty.
So to get away from this parliament of crows and the not unfrenzied activity which has surrounded it, I decided to catch up with my reading. Our town library now boasts a vast(ish) English language section with a high proportion of crime/mystery novels. From Block,Connelly, Coben and Cornwell  all the way to Westlake. Wodehouse is also there to ease the fractious mind.

My selection this last month has largely consisted of books I should have read long ago, but have inexplicably failed to. So it's been Catch-Up time. But you can't ever really catch-up, can you? And my reading has been interfered with by the thought that people will say incredulously "You haven't read that? But everybody's read that. Years ago!"

Well, okay. We can't all be perfect and I don't get out much. But three of this month's books have made for a fine distraction from the worritsome Gallic punch-up. What I like in a book is  (of course) a good story well told, but I also love to learn about something new to me. And these three have all taught me something new, told me about something of which I was completely ignorant. Coincidentally, all three concern America, but I don't mind that.




The first is The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. This is a very good book indeed. I've now stopped classing D. Lehane as a great crime writer and started thinking of him as a great writer full stop. And what fascinated me was the back-drop of Boston in 1919. I had never heard of the Boston police strike and most of all, I had never heard of the Boston Molasses Disaster. If anyone had spoken to me about it before I came across the book, I would have assumed they were talking about a Monty Python sketch. But the horrid reality was anything but funny. And the fact that it has Babe Ruth as a sort of Greek Chorus turning up throughout the narrative is a clever added bonus.

My second selection is The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. I am always a little wary about detective novels written about actual historical figures, but this is an exception. I didn't know about Sigmund Freud's visit to New York in 1909, and his fractious relationship with Carl Jung, so here again I learned something new. The (fictional) murder plot which takes place during the visit  and with which Freud becomes involved is well constructed but again, it was the back-drop that entertained me the most. The New York of 1909, with its towering nineteen-floor (gasp) skyscrapers, the Manhatten Bridge as yet unbuilt, the social New York of the Four Hundred Families - all beautifully drawn.

Third and not least, I read this.

And it frightened the bejasus out of me.

After 'No Country For Old Men', I had to amend my List Of People To Be Really, Really Scared Of, to include Anton Chigurh, but nothing prepared me for this. Why on earth hadn't I read this before? It is one of the strangest, most terrible, most terrifying things I have ever read. I kept having to stop during one of McCarthy's long hair-raising paragraphs, to take a few deep breaths and tell myself it was only a book. But it isn't only a book. One review (the NYT, I think) called it a journey 'through a hell without purpose'. And that it is and then some. There is no salvation in this book, no redemption for anyone. The end is as terrible as the beginning. It is dark, bloody and pitiless.

And what I didn't know about was John Joel Glanton , his band of scalphunters and their horrid, bloody work in 1849. And worst of all, I didn't know about Glanton's appalling second-in-command, the dreadful Judge Holden. And now I know, I'm not sure I wasn't better off not.

What mesmerises is McCarthy's English which is like no English language anyone one has written or  read before. It isn't simply the repetitive use of 'and', nor the lack of quotes around the dialogue. It is the way he drifts into near-Biblical  or quasi-mediaeval mode, his use of the archaic word, the outmoded phrase when he is describing the indescriptible which raised the hair on my neck. I am going to have to read it again to make sure I had it right the first time. But not just yet. I have to read some P.G.Wodehouse to settle my nerves.

France has elected a new President.

And I have elected Judge Holden to head my List of People To Be Really Really Scared Of, which now reads:
1. Judge Holden
2. Anton Chigurh
3. Roy Batty
4 Keyser Sose

They just keep on coming.