Don’t light a match.

If California were Virginia, they could get Pat Robertson to turn stuff like this back:


God hates the Golden State, obviously. I often note, driving around town, that Detroit is really one of the butt-ugliest cities I’ve ever seen, but so far I’ve never seen anything like this, driving home. On the other hand, I can’t say it’s all that much worse than a typical January morning commute down, say, Jefferson, with the boarded storefronts and the snow pushed to the curb and what is that in the right lane that I can barely make out in the gray murk of a steely dawn? An old woman driving her electric scooter in the road because the sidewalk is impassable? Oh, OK.

(Sometimes she’s walking on two canes. Alan and I have been to the Majestic Theater complex a couple times in the past year. It’s adjacent to the Detroit Medical Center, formerly Detroit Receiving, the big public hospital that serves everyone. In a place where the safety net is strained and fraying, it’s safe to say that not everyone is released from the ER into the arms of a loving family and a comfortable home. Both times we were at the Majestic, I came thisclose to mowing down some poor shlub in a hospital scrub top and fresh bandages, jaywalking home from their latest doctor visit, across Woodward and against the light. One was in a wheelchair. I almost wet my pants.)

Anyway, LA Mary, who sent me a couple of fire pictures this week: Keep your roof wet and your powder dry.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: It’s hard to understand what life is like in another place, even another place you’ve visited. Even if you read a lot and are very skilled at putting yourself in the shoes of another. And if that place is Los Angeles, triple that. I’ve never been anywhere in this country that felt so much like a different country, and that mostly has to do with the land and the weather. Everyone discusses L.A.’s essential oddness in terms of freeways, which seems silly, because every city bigger than a grease spot has freeways. What always baffled me about L.A. was the topography — one minute you’re in a regular old city and the next you’ve gone over a ridge and you’re in a canyon, and you might as well be in a cowboy movie. When I was freelancing for a horse magazine, I had a long chat with a California-based rider, who told me she kept four jumpers on a single acre of land tucked back in one of those canyons, and it all worked out fine. There was a small barn — I imagine the horses slept in bunk beds — and a small corral made of PVC pipe, and her own living space. The tack was hung from trees. The animals were ridden daily, and there was a network of trails leading to a community ring for their schoolwork, and that was just the California Way.

In the Midwest, in case you’re wondering, the rule of thumb for horsekeeping is one acre per horse. Some people go denser than that, but those would be commercial operations, not backyard owners.

Throw in the hell winds from the desert and the sort of single-digit humidity that makes your skin feel like a stretched drumhead, it’s easy to see how this sort of thing happens. But hard to fully understand, just the same.

Meanwhile, I’m always telling people how flat is is here. How flat? This flat: Last weekend I stopped at a light at Mound and 10 Mile Road, facing south. And I could see the Renaissance Center. Ten miles away.

OK, bloggage, while I frantically clean house — John and Sam due this afternoon — and prepare for Tolstoy:

You know how Sarah Palin complained about how irritated she was with Katie Couric’s mean, irrelevant questions? She was probably happier with Rush Limbaugh:

“You seem to understand the stark choice we have and the real danger the country faces in the future if the Obama-Biden ticket is elected. And I’d just like to know, do you see it that way?”

“I do,” she responded.

I missed David Frum on Rachel Maddow’s show the other night, but that’s why we have YouTube. My lord, what a horrible, horrible man. Is it worth it, having to take ridiculous, contemptible positions in public in exchange for a fat living? It can’t be, not in the end. (When he brought up Paul Wolfowitz, I thought my head would asplode.) Roy, as usual, nails it.

OK, sheet-changin’ time. The floor is yours.

Posted at 9:57 am in Current events, Detroit life |

74 responses to “Don’t light a match.”

  1. brian stouder said on October 15, 2008 at 10:18 am

    From the Limbaugh link above:

    “I’ve got nothing to lose in this,” Ms. Palin said. “And I think America has everything to gain by understanding the differences, the contrasts here between Obama and McCain.”

    When I read “I’ve got nothing to lose in this”, I was thunderstruck.

    True enough, I may well be misinterpreting what she meant (a recurring problem with me!), but Good Heavens!

    It is like she took the detached, out of step attitude that McCain expressed at the beginning of the market crash – “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” – and turbocharged it!!

    ‘Course, when your talking to a multi-millionaire lip-flapper who is safely cloistered in a Florida compound, an “I’ve got nothing to lose” attitude in these trying times WILL meet with receptive ears; one wonders about the average Uncle Rush listener, though

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  2. nancy said on October 15, 2008 at 10:25 am

    That was the proverbial rare moment of candor, Brian. She knows she’s on a losing team, and she’s not working for the election of John McCain in 2008; she’s working for the nomination of Sarah Palin in 2012, or 2016. That much is simply obvious — it’s the only way her strategy makes sense at all.

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  3. coozledad said on October 15, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Nabokov said something once about sociopaths being unable to hold a mirror up to themselves. I don’t think Frum is a sociopath; but he’s definitely been a stringer for one, and it appears to have rubbed off.
    One of his associates must have informed him he came off as a bloated, heavy lidded cretin, because he issued an excuse (I was jet-lagged) after the show.
    What I saw was Maddow very gently mopping the studio floor with his arse.

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  4. Rana said on October 15, 2008 at 10:32 am

    As a long-time resident of California, I feel much that way about the Midwest, though obviously in reverse. The gradual shifting from city to suburb to farm and then… back to the suburbs of _another_ city is still quite odd to me.

    The fires and mudslides though – that can be laid pretty clearly at human feet. It’s a fire ecology out there – lots of dry, resinous native species – but one that used to burn frequently enough that the fires were small and unimportant. (Pretty much every kid in California used to grow up knowing what a “brush fire” smelled like, versus the smell of woodsmoke from a fireplace.) These days, there are so many people in areas with chaparral, that they’ve been unwilling to either let it burn or to do the hard work of grubbing out the dead undergrowth. I used to walk through the smaller canyons of San Diego, the kind with big mega mansions perched on the rim, and shake my head at the state of the brush in them. Not good. Ditto on the mudslides – which the fire makes worse by destroying ground cover and hardening the surface soil, increasing run-off. (If you ever want to read some amusingly cynical analyses of these dynamics, check out Mike Davis’ books on Los Angeles.)

    All in all, California’s simply a place with far more people than its environment can comfortably sustain; that, along with the high cost of living and lack of jobs, is a big part of why we no longer live there.

    Still, I miss it.

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  5. John said on October 15, 2008 at 10:33 am

    She (Palin) truly is a flash in the pan. Excepting it ain’t gold! Can you imagine her for one moment on the campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire?

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  6. nancy said on October 15, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Rana, some day you natives will have to explain “debris flows” to me. John McPhee’s essay on them, complete with the description of debris catch basins the size of football stadiums, left me barely comprehending them. They’re, basically, mudslides? Of developed land? So they’re mudslides with houses and cars mixed in? Mind-boggling.

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  7. Rana said on October 15, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Nancy – yup, that’s what they are.

    I will say, though, that while fires and quakes were pretty familiar (at least small ones) I don’t remember mudslides being that big of a deal. The kind McPhee describes (from The Control of Nature, right?) seem pretty extreme – sort of the mudslide equivalent of the big fires we see now. The mudslides I was familiar with, growing up, were ones that blocked parts of roads in steep, hilly areas – the kind of places that had “watch for falling rock” signs and wire mesh on the slope. I wasn’t in LA, though – San Diego and the Bay Area and working knowledge of the southeastern deserts – so LAMary would probably have a better sense of the Los Angeles mudslides than I would.

    If you want to see pictures of truly impressive movements of dirt, check out the historic pictures of hydraulic mining – now, _those_ were mudslides!

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  8. brian stouder said on October 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

    OK – so if Cheney dies and we get a state funeral, what effect might that have on the election?

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  9. LAMary said on October 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I read that John McPhee essay not long after I bought a house here, shudder. Rana is right about where houses have been built. Much of the fire areas that are populated are filled with houses 25 years old or less. Wind tears through those canyons, and they filled now with big houses on cul-de-sacs. I have several coworkers who live in the Santa Clarita area. They are used to being evacuated. Where they live is not tolerable without air conditioning 24 hours a day for about 8 months out of the year. They commute 40 or 50 miles in each direction to work, and everything natural around them burns every year. I’ve only lived here since 81, and the sprawl I’ve seen makes no sense other than it allows people to own huge silly houses when they never could before, at a cost that is not part of your mortgage payment. They think I’m nuts for living in the city.

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  10. ellen said on October 15, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I went to K-State. Which is right next to Ft Riley, home of the Big Red 1. They do infantry artillery training at the fort nearly every day. So basically you live with shelling as near-constant background noise. Depending on the day/exercise, your dorm room windows might rattle. I was there in the run-up to Gulf War 1. Then it was shelling and Blackhawk helicopters in the sky. I had a Lebanese instructor. He felt right at home.

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  11. paddyo' said on October 15, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I grew up in SoCal’s San Gabriel Valley, about 20 miles east of the L.A. city limits, in the shadow of the mountains of the same name. (IF they could actually cast a shadow, I should hasten to add; the amazingly noxious yellow smog of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s flattened everything and often hid those mountains from view, less than 3 miles from our front yard.)

    We had two seasonal rituals:

    In late summer/early fall, watch from our front lawn as the wildfires leapt from the ridges of the San Gabriels . . . and in the winter, watch the mudslides down the same foothills canyons and hillsides above Azusa, Glendora, San Dimas, etc.

    A former neighbor from our flatland/valley-floor subdivision (“Glenside Grove,” they called it in the mid-’50s when throngs of post-WWII couples and their growing broods moved into no-money-down 3 BR /1-1/2 BA ramblers carved out of old orange groves, with three or four still-producing trees left on each little lot) moved on up into the hills one year, and that winter saw a neighbor’s house surf down the street in front of them on a wave/wall of “debris flow” and mud.

    It’s the L.A. condition . . . hasn’t changed in half a century or more.

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  12. moe99 said on October 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    The back and forth is absolutely hilarious. Not as good as Rachel Maddow with Frum, but again, it points out the shallowness of the Repubs on the economic crisis. I want the away from regulating my banks stat!

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  13. MichaelG said on October 15, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    The worst mudslide in recent memory was in 2005 in La Conchita, Ventura County just up the coast from L. A. There have been many others.

    One of the guys in our group is doing the slope stabilization contract there even as we speak.

    Some years ago there was a large slide on Angel Island in S. F. Bay. I had the fixit job then. It was basically “See that road and hillside sitting in the Bay? Pick it all up and put back on the hillside.”

    Sunday and Monday Angel Island partially burned down. Check out the link and click on “view more images”:

    Now you know why I remain so nervous about my former spouse who still lives in the woods in Auburn.

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  14. Gasman said on October 15, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    For you few McCain/Palin supporters who regularly read and contribute here at, the following excerpts from last night’s Olbermann succinctly encapsulates the hypocrisy, inflammatory hyperbole, and the bizarrely schizophrenic nature to which the McCain/Palin campaign has descended.

    On Congressman John Lewis’ remarks regarding the McCain/Palin campaign’s seemingly tacit endorsement of violence at their rallies, a la vintage George Wallace:

    “And I’m astonished that Senator Obama has not repudiated Congressman John Lewis, who said the most outrageous thing I’ve ever seen in politics. Connecting Sarah Palin and me to a church bombing, to George Wallace, to segregation, and Senator Obama has not repudiated John Lewis. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”

    Really? The worst thing he’s ever heard? Worse than “Terrorist!”, “Off with his head!”, or worse than “Kill him!”? Judging from their actions, the Secret Service finds the later comments far worse as they have launched a criminal investigation into the “Kill him!” remarks. They are not investigating Congressman Lewis’ remarks. Shouting “Kill him!” while referring to a presidential candidate is criminal, Congressman Lewis’ remarks are not. So, Senator McCain, how exactly are John Lewis’ remarks “the worst thing (you’ve) ever heard?”

    Then there’s this gem, where McCain asserts that there are reciprocally equivalent remarks about him at Obama rallies (from a CNN interview with Dana Bash):

    “We’ve heard people in the crowd screaming things like ‘Terrorist’, ‘Traitor’ and when you talked about Senator Obama, and worse.”

    McCain (interrupting):
    “I’ve heard the same thing, I’ve heard the same thing, at uh, I’ve heard the same thing, unfortunately at Senator Obama’s rallies being said about me.”

    Can any McCain supporter cite such an instance? Can you provide a single video link or transcript? No, you cannot, because it is pure fiction – no, it is a lie – for McCain to make such ridiculous charges. Set aside McCain’s ham-fisted and goofy responses to the latest economic crisis. I believe that it is McCain’s schizophrenic, over-the-top hyperbole that is having the greatest effect upon his declining poll numbers.

    He acts as if we are too stupid to remember what he said yesterday. He seems to feel that all Americans should behave like the mindless ditto-head drones that populate his rallies, the ones who lap up the most ludicrous nonsense and dutifully boo on cue. I wondered how these folks could sustain the deafening levels of cognitive dissonance being pumped into their skulls, then I realized: there is no dissonance if there is no cognition. It seems that you either have to be gullible enough to not question the McCain/Palin rhetoric, or you have to be willing to go along with all the lies.

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  15. alex said on October 15, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    La Conchita — hey, that’s Venezuelan for “a little pussy.”

    Michelle Obama’s in the Fort right now giving a speech. I’d be there were it not for previous commitments, work related.

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  16. brian stouder said on October 15, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Michelle Obama’s in the Fort right now

    Yes – they moved her event to the Grand Wayne convention center, instead of the airy pavillion at Headwaters Park.

    Sarah Palin is doing an event in Indianapolis today, too.

    If you wanted to go see Ms Obama, all you had to do was show up at the event, and then you’re in.

    If you wanted to go see Ms Palin, first you go to your local Republican headquarters, and request a ticket; and if they decide to let you have one, then you’d have a chance to get in.

    But what the hell, Ms Palin’s ‘got nothing to lose in this’, at all!

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  17. Jolene said on October 15, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Marc Ambinders reports that Obama’s Michigan field staff are being deployed in more competitive states–some to Indiana and some to North Carolina. Coozledad, Brian, Alex . . . here’s your chance to meet big-time political operatives!

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  18. caliban said on October 15, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    I remember vividly seeing scenes like that flying into Detroit in 1967 after a family vacation in Freeport GB, while being told by our pilot that the city was about to be put under martial law and that we’d better get our baggage and get our white asses the hell out of Dodge, out Woodward Avenue to Birmingham and the Bloomfields. Still smoldering, with troops and tanks too, when I went to Metropolitan Hospital (12th Street and Tuxedo, hard by the John Lodge, couple blocks from the Ground Zero blind pig)) with my dad. He had a Public Safety Physician’s pass through checkpoints and 24-hour curfew, and the rest of us didn’t think he should make the drive solo.

    Human agents for the conflagrations, for sure in Detroit, most likely in California (subprime arson?). Different tinder–slumlord deathtraps in the ghet-toe, redwood and glass greed cathedrals in mismanaged forests.

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  19. Jeff Borden said on October 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    California Lovers or Haters:

    Some years ago I read an book called “Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster” by a Los Angeles based writer named Mike Davis.

    Among the factoids I recall is that Malibu Canyon is one of the most fire-prone canyons in the world, a place so dangerous that indigenous Indian tribes burned it out every year rather than be consumed by fire. Now, of course, it’s home to multi-gazillion-dollar mansions. When fire take them out, the insurance pays off and even larger homes go up.

    At base, this book is about how Southern California was ruined after the Spanish were driven out because the Northern Europeans who took over did not recognize SoCal as a Mediterranean-style, arid climate.

    His book is very, very downbeat, concluding that SoCal may actually be moving from a relatively wet period that spanned the last century or so to its real status as a genuine desert. As populations grow in states to the east, the battle for water among the parched residents of SoCal, Nevada, Arizona, etc. could be pretty intense.

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  20. Jolene said on October 15, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Jeff, based on what little I know about what’s ahead of us as climate change unfolds, the battle for water may get intense in lots of places. SoCal and the neighboring states are just a small part of the problem, although, of course, they’re our part.

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  21. Catherine said on October 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Angeleno since 1986 here. I grew up mostly in CA’s Central Coast where we were taught to turn up our noses at the sprawl and ugliness of LA. Living here and gaining a small measure of understanding has changed my attitude. Several books that helped me see this city: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion; any mystery by Naomi Hirihara; Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (I know, not all that as a book) and my very favorite, Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. A little James M. Cain and John Steinbeck (for context) are nice too. The brushfires are part of the package, and you haven’t really lived here until you’ve stood in a friend’s yard watching the eucalyptus on the next ridge flash into flames, wondering how long until it reaches you.

    So, what books get at the heart of Detroit, or Alexandria, or any other city?

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  22. JGW said on October 15, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I finally have something (off topic) to contribute. It’s a blog called “Criggo” which compiles newspaper goofs, home town news (police blotter) for your reading pleasure.

    Their motto is: Newspapers are Going Away. That’s too bad.

    I’m going to have to scour the Bluffton News-Banner for material to add. I happen to like the post here titled Sexism:

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  23. Jim said on October 15, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    The fact that Indiana is even in play show’s where this thing is heading.

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  24. brian stouder said on October 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Jim, you got that right! On the other hand, I’ll only start to breathe more easily when – is it December 20th? – the Electoral College balloting is over, and the President-elect is Constitutionally elected

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  25. MichaelG said on October 15, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    There’ll be a big fight over water between NoCal and SoCal. It’s been simmering for years. It’s called the peripheral canal.

    You know you’re a CA resident when you have pix of water bombers taken from your front porch. When you have to clean the ashes off your car.

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  26. LAMary said on October 15, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    You get very jumpy here during fire season. My hill has been built up since the early twentieth century and we’ve had a couple of slides, a couple of smallish fires. It could be another Oakland Hills easily, though. My house is from either 1928 or 1935, depending on which document you look at, and it’s held up so far. We’re good about brush clearance and we don’t have a shake roof, but you are only as safe as your neighbors are diligent, and on a windy day, people five miles away are your neighbors.

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  27. Rana said on October 15, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Jeff – you should also check out Davis’ _City of Quartz_ – which was his first look at “hidden L.A.” Reisner’s _Cadillac Desert_ and Don Worster’s _Rivers of Empire_ are also pretty good (if huge).

    (If anyone wants further suggestions for books on the subject of Californian and Western history and environmental issues, email me (it’s what my degree’s in).)

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  28. mark said on October 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm


    You are always amusing. You should get a dictionary. And then look up “hyperbole”, followed by a quick glance at “irony.”

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  29. moe99 said on October 15, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    This is way close to my roots in Ohio. And it rings so true of folks that live there, unfortunately. How ironic that it is Al Jazeera that brings us this report.

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  30. Gasman said on October 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Yet again, in your quaintly Palinesque way, you fail to address the substance of my critique toward McCain.

    Yes, I do have access to a dictionary. The online version of Oxford lists the following:

    hyperbole – exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

    irony – the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

    So, I gather, based upon the above definitions that you are suggesting that McCain is implying the opposite of what he has been saying? So, according to the McCain useage of ironic hyperbole, Obama IS to be trusted, he DIDN’T associate with Bill Ayers, McCain really DOES know who the real Barrack Obama is, and he did NOT cause the current financial crisis?

    The trouble is with McCain is his that rhetoric changes weekly, or sometimes by the hour. There is no consistency in his pronouncements, so how do you know what is meant to be taken seriously and what is meant to be tongue in cheek? Furthermore, when called upon concerning his more incendiary remarks or the inciting of his mobs, he doesn’t provide a wink-wink-nudge-nudge reaction indicating it was all meant as a joke. No, he defends his words and his actions. McCain has engaged in utterly, totally reprehensible behavior that cannot be justified, so to avoid the issue, he tries to establish that there is some sort of equivalent behavior from the Obama camp. There is not.

    Please, just once, address the substance in a critique without attacking the messenger. I pointed out another example of McCain’s galling hypocrisy, which by now are legion in number. You sidestepped McCain’s ridiculous claims entirely and chose to mock me instead. You continue to make my point about the substantive vacuity of the McCain/Palin campaign as well as I can myself.

    I didn’t pose it as a question before, but I will now. Do you support McCain’s statements quoted above? Do you think there is substance to McCain’s charges? Can you cite a single instance that would buttress his claims?

    I’ll be anxiously holding my breath while you research your answer.

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  31. Dexter said on October 15, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    moe99: That was almost cartoonish, that video…but of course we know many people feel that way. Let me cheer you up: here in NW Ohio , Obama / Biden yard signs outnumber Palin / McCain ( that’s the way she wants the signs to read) at least 3 to 1. Williams County, where I live, always votes 3-1 repugg, so this is an amazing situation…I see more and more Obama signs on my daily bicycle jaunts.
    As Carville pointed out today on TV, this race will tighten up as election day nears, HHH closed rapidly and nearly won in ’68, Ford closed quickly and almost beat Carter in ’76.
    It appears this outcome will give us our first Black President.
    And as Chris Rock sez: “Do NOT expect no Black shit to get done on November 5…you’ll carry your own bags that day!!”

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  32. Dexter said on October 15, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    …used to be able to see the Twin Towers from the Tappan Zee, 25 miles north of Midtown…we could see the Fort Wayne broadcast towers nearly 30 miles away from our higher altitude home in De Kalb County. Those broadcast towers were on FWA’s south side.

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  33. Dexter said on October 15, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    CATHERINE: “So, what books get at the heart of Detroit, or Alexandria, or any other city?”

    To capture the beauty of Detroit, aerial photography works.
    Dale Fisher had a few books printed of his photos , shot from helicopters. They are dirt cheap now…how cheap? Like a couple bucks!,%20Dale

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  34. Linda said on October 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Let me second Dexter. Here is Toledo, a largely Democratic town, Obama is doing well, although my neighbor believed until just last week that Obama was a Muslim (her brother finally set her straight). In past elections, the Ayers stuff would have gotten much more traction just because people would have the luxury of sweating the small stuff. No more. Reality–in the form of a sever economic downturn–can trump nonsense sometimes.

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  35. moe99 said on October 15, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Dexter, my paternal forebears were Paulding County residents (next door to Williams County): my great grandfather, WH Cullen, was appointed postmaster of Paulding Oh by Theodore Roosevelt. It is heartening to hear your news.

    Edited to fix the county designation

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  36. Jolene said on October 15, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Rolling Stone has yet another Obama cover story. Ambinders calls it “Obama porn”. (Click on the photo to get to the article.)

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  37. Dexter said on October 15, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    LAMary, Rana, Catherine… :
    My wife’s cousin recently moved to Chino Hills, (just a few miles SE of Pamona)…Google Earth shows a lot of trees all around Chino Hills…are residents subject to major fire problems in Chino Hills?

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  38. LAMary said on October 15, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Dexter, it would depend on where in Chino Hills. I think they had some fires there last year. Any newish development that’s surrounded by hills with uncleared brush is vulnerable.

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  39. joodyb said on October 15, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    not like David Frum has a conscience. i saw it live. hair-raising. i kept waiting for rachel to freak out, but no, of course she continued to call him on his accusations which he did not answer – it was clear his agenda was to call out msnbc for what he perceives to be its smug and flippant coverage of the campaigns. great tv, if you’ve the stomach. if he thought she was so childish, why was he talking to her? nobody is THAT tired. he really did himself a disservice, one hopes careerwise as well.

    understand mccain pulled ad buys in Wis. this afternoon.

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  40. Rana said on October 15, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Dexter – what LAMary said, with additional caveats if the trees are high-resin ones, like pines or eucalyptus. Your cousin-in-law should look into clearing the land around the property, replacing a shake roof if there is one, and making sure that sparks can’t get in through ventilation fans. (It ought to be pretty easy to Google up specific fire prevention diagrams and check-lists). Tell him/her to watch out especially during the fall, when you get strong, dry, hot winds mixing with summer-dried vegetation. If there’s a time to keep the yard plants irrigated, that’s it.

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    for LA/SoCal/Vegas — Tim Powers: Last Call, Expiration Date, Earthquake Weather (a peculiar angle, but quite a view of the region).

    for Indianapolis — Kurt Vonnegut: Palm Sunday

    for Chicago — Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel: anything (and Jean Shepherd for Da Region to da sou’east)

    Allan Eckert has Ohio nailed, but only up to about 1830. Contemporary . . . Mark Weingardener (sp?) w/ “Crooked River Burning,” and check out Joe Eszterhaz’ non-fiction memoirs “Hollywood Animal,” “American Rhapsody,” and “Crossbearer.” There’s an African-American journalist who wrote on post-Thurber Columbus, and i haven’t tracked him down yet.

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  42. Catherine said on October 15, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Dexter, what Mary & Rana said, especially about the roof. Chino Hills is pretty recently developed, although it’s right in the middle of built-up areas. Chino Hills State Park is a great big greenspace (aka, perfect place to start a brushfire) that was formerly a dairy farm/ranch. It’s like Nancy said, you’re in a fairly dense suburb, then you go around the corner and you’re in a California rancho from the early 1900s. A lot depends on how far you are from the edge of things — it’s not very nice to view your neighbors as a firebreak, but there you go.

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  43. Jolene said on October 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Jeff, were you thinking of Wil Haygood? His book is The Haygoods of Columbus: A Love Story. I haven’t read this book, but I’ve read some of his feature articles in the Post, and they were excellent.

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  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    That’s it! Danke schoen.

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  45. Catherine said on October 15, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the reading lists!

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  46. alex said on October 15, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    If this is John McCain with the gloves off, it looks like his press-on nails aren’t glued on too well.

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  47. derwood said on October 15, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Is it just me or is McCain rambling?

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  48. basset said on October 15, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    based on what little I know from a few visits to Detroit and a couple of years upstate, Elmore Leonard appears to have the Motor City totally nailed. have a PDF on my desktop right now of a piece he did for the Detroit News Sunday magazine that is one of the best examples of magazine writing I have ever run across on any topic, send me your address offlist and I’ll pass it on.

    I would go with Conrad Richter for the early-settler days Ohio stuff, not familiar with Allan Eckert.

    second the Nelson Algren, Jean Shepherd, and Studs Terkel… and add Mike Royko.

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  49. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    They say the Daleys still won’t shop at Jewel because their stores had stand-up displays of “Boss” by Royko when it came out — made my aunts shop there all the more.

    Slats Grobnik, RIP.

    (They should have had a closing debate with 90 minutes of just the two of ’em, and electric fences in the wings to keep them on stage for 90 minutes of face to face, and Schieffer retreating to the wings to flash the lights if either started to fililbuster — and if a run-on statement ignored the lights blinking, then a bucket of ice water from the rafters. Seriously, two of ’em, no chairs, no table, no podia, just a stage and a split audience free to react to the candidates. IOW, they’re both rambling. Like a Rambler. Without power steering.)

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  50. alex said on October 15, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Sarah Palin has an autistic child? Or was McCain merely fumbling not to say ‘tard?

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  51. caliban said on October 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Pat Buchanon and the other GOP talking heads insisting (again) that McCain won the debate and will get a bump. First thing everybodyy’s going to see tomorrow is what McOldFart has in common with Ted Stevens:

    And the story makes it look like Cindy has the First Dudes in that family.

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  52. beb said on October 15, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    When Detroit is in the news, it’s never good news. The Washington Monthly links to an article on the Free Press about the median price of houses in the city — currently selling for under $10K. Readers of the blog were disbelieving that housing prices could be that low.

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  53. del said on October 15, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Alex, that was funny. The best part of the debate was when the mild mannered Obama called out FOX News. About time.

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  54. joodyb said on October 15, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    What’s funny about the wapo story is the raised hackles on ‘the campaign.’ what clowns. get over reporting. it’s public record. if it is true as they say that anyone can solicit such specialized cellular service in isolated areas, why do they care if it’s in the paper? given facts, readers will decide.
    my mind, post-debate, has asploded.

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  55. Gasman said on October 16, 2008 at 12:12 am

    These are the numbers from regarding debate performance:

    SurveyUSA California debate-watchers: Obama 56, McCain 28. Among California independents: Obama 55, McCain 29.

    CNN poll from the tee-vee: Obama 58, McCain 31.

    MediaCurves independents: Obama 60, McCain 30.

    CBS undecideds: Obama 53, McCain 22.

    These numbers essentially mirror the previous two debates. McCain cannot claim a clear win. Michelle can start measuring the drapes.

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  56. Jolene said on October 16, 2008 at 12:48 am

    James Fallows analyzes the debate here. As always, crisp and incisive.

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  57. Dexter said on October 16, 2008 at 2:25 am

    I am a huge Studs Terkel fan (I’ve blogged here before about how I have met him a few times and he sent me an inscribed book once) , and I love Nelson Algren’s books and would recommend them to anyone who wants to journey to the rough side, but we must not forget Richard Wright’s “Native Son”. You read that book and you will not forget you read it…it’s powerful; I’ll go so far as to say it’s as powerful as Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. I read that 38 years ago and I still think about it. The former’s a novel and the latter an autobiography and both should be required reading for all of humanity.

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  58. Dexter said on October 16, 2008 at 2:34 am

    Thanks for the tips for my wife’s cuz in Chino Hills.
    He’s an old man living with younger relatives in a sort of communal arrangement and he is not the home owner, but I am gonna send him the info you posted if my wife has his email…hell…now I’m thinking he’s computer illiterate…oh well.

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  59. Gasman said on October 16, 2008 at 2:44 am

    I don’t have cable, so I am somewhat behind the curve on watching Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I just watched the Maddow segment regarding Palin’s reaction to the ethics investigation of same:

    This is more evidence of the inability of Palin (or McCain, see my rants above) to tell the truth. I downloaded the entire report, and no, it does not exonerate Palin, as she claims. Quite the contrary, it eviscerates her on her lack of ethics. Potentially more troubling is Todd Palin’s rogue portfolio which, apparently empowers him to do whatever the hell he wants to do, accountable to nobody.

    With her own self appointed investigation going awry and, amazingly, the members of said panel seemingly deciding to actually investigate her, Gov. Palin appears to be in trouble. How does she distance herself from her own “legitimate” investigation? Will she refuse to cooperate with this one also? Will she even be in office as Governor come inauguration day? Curiouser and curiouser.

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  60. Julie Robinson said on October 16, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Alex, I thought the same thing when McCain kept mentioning autism in regard to Palin’s youngest. Can he not even be bothered to learn that he has Down’s Syndrome? I have an adult cousin with Down’s and with all due respect to Sarah Palin, her son is less than a year old and that doesn’t give her very much expertise.

    McCain sounded vague and desperate at the same time. Obama did a good job fending off the personal attacks and urging him to discuss the issues that are so vital today. He took the high road on the vice-presidential question, when it would have been SO easy to go low.

    It’s thrilling to live in Indiana and finally have a vote that matters in the election. Downside is all the horrible commercials being run. In the Fort we’re also getting the Ohio ads about the proposition for casinos. Maybe a windfall profit tax on TV stations could help our economy.

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  61. Jolene said on October 16, 2008 at 8:29 am

    I’ve seen several people commenting on various blogs, Julie, about the idea that Sarah Palin hasn’t yet begun to learn what it means to raise a child w/ special needs. Given that her son doesn’t appear to have any of the critical physical health problems that Down syndrome kids sometimes have, his current needs are likely not much different from those of any other infant. When he gets to be 14 months old and isn’t walking yet, they’ll begin to understand. I don’t mean to wish hardships on the Palins, but I find it nauseating that she’s spoken of as if she were both a great expert and a great advocate in the realm of special education when she is neither.

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  62. Dave K. said on October 16, 2008 at 9:27 am

    CBS Early Show just ran a segment on “Joe The Plumber”. First they said, “Joe thinks the Republican party has used him as a pawn in the debate….but he still disagrees with Obama’s tax proposal…”. The actual interview with Joe revealed once again the “Elephant in the Living Room” which unfortunately continues to influence this election. Joe: “…so I decided to ask some questions myself and unfortunately, he tap-danced around it, almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr….”.

    I saw the video of Barack’s answer and I thought he answered the question very directly. The “Sammy Davis Jr.”, racist attitude is alive and kicking out there. Obama’s lead in the polls is still growing but I certainly won’t feel comfortable until he is sworn in as President of the United States.

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  63. John said on October 16, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Hey, even Archie Bunker loved Sammy!

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  64. Jolene said on October 16, 2008 at 9:52 am

    And Sammy was a good tap-dancer. But, I agree, Dave. This can’t be over soon enough for me.

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  65. brian stouder said on October 16, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Well, on the subject of timing, one bit of cosmic justice is that this crash/meltdown/recession canNOT be blamed on ‘President Obama’s woeful mismanagement and out-moded leftist dogma’ (etc etc).

    The rightwing lip flappers would have instantly and intractably proclaimed and reiterated (forever and always) that this crash was ENTIRELY the fault of Obama’s sorry-assed leadership, if it occurred on January 22, 2009 ….whereas, in actual fact, they are all muted at the moment, with dark references to ‘the late unpleasantness’ and how it is all so unfair to McCain’s chances – as if this crisis fell out of the sky the way Dorothy’s Kansas farmhouse smashed the Wicked Witch of the East (well, maybe they wouldn’t compare McCain to the Wicked Witch of the West’s sister, but I will!!).

    The only question is, how many seconds after President Obama completes his inaugural address before Uncle Rush/Human Events/Weekly Standard/Sh*t-for-brains-Sean/NRO/etc etc retroactively and ex post facto blame IT ALL on Obama?

    My opening bet is – 34.5 seconds

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  66. moe99 said on October 16, 2008 at 10:15 am

    apparently not photoshopped post debate pic

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  67. Jolene said on October 16, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Brian, clearly you lack the imagination to be a true right-wing crank. Were you such a visionary, you’d realize that the sell-off in the market is occurring because people recognize that Obama is going to nationalize all our industries, impose confiscatory tax laws, and send capitalists to re-education camps. As for the past, well, all those problems in the housing market are a consequence of left-wing senators legislators who forced banks to issue loans to poor black people who couldn’t afford to pay them back.

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  68. Kirk said on October 16, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Jolene, don’t forget to mention that those non-white people have smaller brains that prevent them from knowing that they’re buying something they can’t afford.

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  69. brian stouder said on October 16, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Jolene, your observation about the right has the ring of truth.

    As an aside to last night’s debate, I was very impressed by….Walmart’s commercials! Say what you will about that enterprise in general, but their ads struck me as laser-like; they make an unadorned and unambiguous economic pitch (one-stop shopping for many different things, and low prices at that), and they look to me to be just spot-on with our current, turbulent times.

    Even if you think WalMart is a weed-like corporation, still one has to recognize the heartiness and adaptability of weeds!

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  70. coozledad said on October 16, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I was trying to come up with a way to watch the debate last night that enabled me to see it through a more empathic lens for John McCain. The best strategy I could come up with was to try and cast it as a debate between Hugh Grant and myself about who gets more pussy.
    I still think I’d be a more amiable loser.

    Hugh Grant-99

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  71. Dwight said on October 16, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Journos putting words in someone’s mouth is one of my all time pet peeves, especially local tv news reporters trying to draw out a man-on-the street interview.

    “So, would you say this was the most terrifying fire you’ve ever witnessed?”

    Gah. Why don’t you just interview yourself, Copernicus?

    I think about the story of Don Hewitt previewing one of Mike Wallace’s 60 minutes pieces in the editing room. One of the B-roll shots was of a spinning revolving door on a NY building.

    “Was that door really spinning by itself when you shot the footage? Or did somebody on the crew spin it for effect?” Hewitt asks.

    “I spun it,” says the producer.

    “Then cut that shot,” says Hewitt.

    That said…. No sane person considers Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, or Keith Obermann a journalist. Those credentials are hereby forfeited.

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  72. brian stouders said on October 16, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Those credentials are hereby forfeited.

    True enough, as far as that goes. But these personages are archetypical American muckrakers and opinion leaders, and it would be a mistake to simply disregard what they’re croaking about, I think.

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  73. joodyb said on October 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    good photo post, moe. i was afraid i’d get caught last night if i posted from AP – there’s another hilarious similar one of him with Cindy. what’s up with his tongue?

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  74. Ricardo said on October 19, 2008 at 12:29 am

    It was just about 1 year exactly since I posted my last Santa Ana wind report. This year it was short, only two days (so far). It was trash day so all of my recycle items, mostly boxes, were strewn all over my neighbor’s yard. The tree that many branches blew into my other neighbor’s yard was removed a few months ago. Also, my avocado tree that lost all of its fruit and blossoms last year, bore no fruit this year. I used to like Santa Ana winds, but they have become more fierce and destructive over the years. Chalk it up to global warming.

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