October 30, 2008 | Ronda Jambe

It’s almost Halloween but I’m not even scared

Today is already Mischief Night. As a teenager, that was the time we ran around in packs doing really thrilling things like jumping out from behind bushes and hitting each other over the head with flour-filled socks. For the more adventurous, an egg smashed in the hair was pretty exciting, or ringing random doorbells and then dashing away.
The urban myths about razor blades in trick or treat apples have been around since then, but the latest twist is more post-modern and very American: football games have been postponed or rescheduled because of text messages warning in their viral way of dangerous activities planned for Mischief Night and Halloween. The mayor of Newark was on TV making pronouncements about the threats to…well, at that point I clicked away, because I just had to know what second hand store Sarah Palin shops at in Alaska. At least we have that much in common! Apparently she’s going to return the $150K of designer clothing the Repubs thought necessary to make her look ordinary.
What would the globalisers and anti-globalisers make of the shops in Costa Rica that advertise Ropa Americana, which is really just second-hand clothes? Most of these come from the US, but in a typically circuitous and complex modern way, were manufactured elewhere, including Central America. Costa Rica is a nation of small time entrepreneurs, and every street has a variety of offerings, from a front-room beauty salon to a sign saying ‘shoes repaired’.
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The real Mischief Night is likely to be next Tuesday. The airwaves and internet are abuzz with claims about voter fraud, machines that can be subverted, about long lines for early voting and voters being disenfranchised. As always, the real information is online, for example the excellent California Voters Foundation (www.calvoter.org) which provides accessible information on ballot issue, the money trail, and other matters that the informed voter needs nowadays. For example, in a few minutes of helping my mother to understand the public questions on the NJ ballot, I discovered that the REAL state debt in NJ is about $28 B, but the narrowly defined legislative debt is only (!) $3 B. The difference, and the scary bit, is what state instrumentalities borrow, currenly without voter approval. The states have been playing the same shell and pea game as the hedge funds, often playing with them.
These are my thoughts as I wander the streets of my childhood, dodging the dozens of monstrous four wheel drives that show up twice a day where obese parents in obese vehicles show up to drop off and pick up the not yet obese children from the grand new unified (obese) school. Gone are the days when kids could ride a sleigh two blocks downhill, picking up speed to mount the snow-packed curb and continue on past the brick school to end up finally in the baseball field. Today they’d run into the school, or a truck, but then it doesn’t snow much anymore
It has turned colder here than mid-winter in Canberra, and Halloween is coming! It is too early to put up the Christmas decorations, but they are fully into it with monsters, cobwebs on hedges, and lots of pumpkins. It is all colourful and good fun, along with the marathon fright night movies they have scheduled for the next fews days.
Some of the monsters look more alive than John McCain, but let’s not get nasty. I leave that to television hosts like Jon Stewart and Bill Mahar, who are not as inhibited as Australian comedians by ridiculous libel laws. Not only are they extremely cruel, they bring on actor/activists like Tim Robbins to provide what passes for informed debate. And then, in true American fashion, analyse to death (but only superficially) the impact of satire on voting patterns. It’s almost enough to make you scream.
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But it’s all less scary than the prospect of McCain getting elected, which seems to be fading like a bad nightmare. It does look like Obama will get elected, and then the real fun begins. Will all his millions of small donors hold him accountable to his promises of change? Will the fine detail of his plans be corroded by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, or will the Democrats realise this is not a triumph, it is a challenge? Obama makes the right noises about health care, energy, and the real cost of Iraq, but can he deliver?
With the New York skyline in the distance, I await the passing of Mischief Night and the next installment of the American dream/nightmare.
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Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:40 pm | Comments Off on It’s almost Halloween but I’m not even scared |
Filed under: US Politics

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