A reader sums up a “bizarre race” in one district:

The race in Massachusetts’s 6th Congressional District is getting strange. The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, is urging supporters to vote for Democrat Seth Moulton rather than an openly gay Republican, Richard Tisei. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign is staying out of the race completely, despite having previously endorsed in the district.

From one article cited by our reader:

Asked whether Moulton would welcome or reject votes cast in his favor by NOM supporters, a spokesperson for Moulton responded, “Reject.” “Seth Moulton fundamentally disagrees with everything NOM stands for and has long said that equality is the civil rights fight of our generation,” said Carrie Rankin, Moulton’s communications director. “Fighting against groups, like NOM, that deny equality as a basic human right will be a priority of Seth’s in Congress.” Rankin noted that Moulton has a gay brother and Moulton has said, “It’s fundamentally wrong that he and I don’t share the same rights just because of who he is.”

From another piece:

The nation’s largest LGBT-rights organization is not expected to get involved in the Massachusetts congressional race between openly gay Republican Richard Tisei and pro-LGBT Democrat Seth Moulton, Metro Weekly has learned. …

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Operation Strategic Trolling

Oct 31 2014 @ 2:24pm

NATO reported an “unusual burst of activity” by Russia’s nuclear-capable strategic bombers on its borders this week. While none of the flights violated NATO airspace, they are emblematic of the increasing tensions in Europe over the conflict in Ukraine:

In all, Nato said, its jets intercepted four groups of Russian aircraft in about 24 hours since Tuesday and some were still on manoeuvres late on Wednesday afternoon. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European air space,” the alliance said. A spokesman stressed there had been no violation of Nato air space, unlike a week earlier when a Russian spy plane briefly crossed Estonia’s border. But so many sorties in one day was unusual compared with recent years. … Nato said it had conducted more than 100 such intercepts of Russian aircraft this year so far, about three times as many as in 2013 before the confrontation with Moscow over separatist revolts in Ukraine soured relations.

Elias Groll adds:

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of kidnapping an Estonian intelligence agent. Swedish defense officials now speak of a fundamentally altered security paradigm in the Baltic after Russian planes carried out a mock bombing of Stockholm and violated Swedish airspace in the region.

Groll says such actions “bring relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.” Marc Champion also finds that “a version of the Cold War is returning, but its rules and parameters aren’t clear”:

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Alyssa Rosenberg, addressing a recent post of mine, sharpens a point in our current debate:

How much does masculine culture depend on women and femininity as a reference point? To what extent does asserting what it means to be a man necessitate pointing out and denigrating what men are not and what masculinity is not supposed to be?

If cheerleaders suddenly vanished from the sidelines of NFL games, would those contests suddenly be less fun? In action movies, do you find the hero’s bona fides less credible if a woman contributes to his successes, or if she rescues him? If you are playing video games, how much of your enjoyment has to do with opportunities to treat women in-game in ways that are not available to you in real life?

It occurs to me that I am somewhat (ahem) deficient in personal experience to address this point, which is why I encourage straight male readers to respond. And even when I have been immersed in masculine culture – such as a rowdy, rugby-loving, all-male high school – I wasn’t very attuned to how heterosexual attraction and views of women contributed to the atmosphere. I couldn’t bond with other adolescent boys over their difficulties with and longing for the opposite sex. I had no real struggle to date women, no frustrations or anxieties about the opposite sex, and so was oddly neutral – to the extent of having a real blind spot – in this eternal hetero-dilemma.

But I don’t want to duck Alyssa’s point, so let me think of it another way: to what extent can hetero male culture retain its quintessential maleness while losing its homophobia?

One way is to hope and pray that every cool straight dude ends up like Chris Kluwe and totally gets that it’s not kosher – and actually immature – to demean or demonize those men who do not fit into the classic male macho archetype. Another is to reassure straight men that gay men do not want to change the core part of male culture, but merely want to be accepted as fully part of it.

I think we’re making a lot of progress on both fronts. From the mainstreaming of gay culture to the emergence of openly gay men in highly masculinized cultures – think Tim Cook in nerdland or Michael Sam in sports – the sharper edges of homophobia have been rounded a bit. But that is partly because of a strategy of engagement rather than confrontation. My own inclination from the 1980s on – and it was not shared very enthusiastically by many on the gay left – was to emphasize what gay men and straight men have in common: a need for emotional commitment and stability as well as to get our rocks off from time to time; the desire and will to serve one’s country in the military; the commonalities of sports and drinking and the gym and dirty jokes. And part of our success, I think, is that we absolutely constructed this as a non-zero-sum project. I think a feminism that started with a love and appreciation for classic male culture – and then sought to persuade men that it doesn’t have to be sexist toward women – would be more productive than treating all men as inherently suspect or privileged, and attempting to police their culture from the outside.

But – and here’s the thing – I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where homophobia is absent among many men, especially younger ones. Our primate nature – exacerbated by cresting levels of testosterone in the teen and early adult years – will always trend toward loyalty to in-groups and disdain of out-groups. We can mitigate this, but it’s utopian to think we can abolish it. So, yeah, I can live with the word “fag” as something that will always be a part of hetero-male culture. I can live with religious groups demonizing me. I can ignore the insults and smears – on the street or online. It’s just part of the price for living in a free society.

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The Horserace Homestretch

Oct 31 2014 @ 1:31pm

Senate Seats

Nate Silver calculates that the “GOP’s chances of winning the Senate are 68.5 percent”:

Which states to watch over this final weekend? I’d point to three: Alaska, Iowa and Kansas. Any polling at all in Alaska would be helpful. Iowa, depending on the final few polls there, could wind up anywhere from a true tossup to a case more like Colorado. In Kansas, Roberts’s position is improved from a few weeks ago, but it isn’t clear whether he’s gaining ground or has stalled out. In most of the other states, the possibility of a runoff limits how much the polls can tell us, or we have so much polling that no one further poll is going to move the needle that much.

Nate Cohn examines early voting numbers. He finds that “Democratic efforts to turn out the young and nonwhite voters who sat out the 2010 midterm elections appear to be paying off in several Senate battleground states”:

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The CIA’s New BFF

Oct 31 2014 @ 1:16pm

John Hudson explains what a GOP Senate might mean for the torture report:

If the Nov. 4 elections deliver a GOP-controlled Senate, the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to go to a North Carolinian whose unwavering support for the CIA and NSA could radically transform the committee’s oversight agenda.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), an outspoken defender of enhanced interrogation techniques and broad government surveillance powers, is next in line for the chairmanship. Unlike the current Democratic head of the committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, Burr has been harshly critical of a yet-to-be-released report on the Bush administration’s post-9/11 torture practices — a view shared by many in the agency.

And although Burr’s views about NSA data collection largely mirror Feinstein’s, his distaste for publicity and devotion to secrecy could fundamentally alter the way the committee operates on a day-to-day basis.

Clashes In East Jerusalem After Israeli Activist Shooting

For the first time in 14 years, Israeli authorities yesterday closed off the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in the Old City of Jerusalem and prevented men under 50 from praying there this morning, out of fear of escalating tensions in the city amid whispers of a third intifada:

Palestinian leaders had called for a “day of rage” because of the closing on Thursday and the killing by Israeli forces of a Palestinian man suspected in the assassination attempt Wednesday night against Yehuda Glick. Mr. Glick is a right-wing activist who promoted increased Jewish access and prayer at the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. By midafternoon, Israel Radio reported that there were “riots” at several locations in the occupied West Bank, including Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the often-tense city of Hebron.

The situation remained mostly calm today but tensions remain high, and the situation could get worse before it gets better. Daniel Gordis describes the Israeli public’s reaction to the attempt on Glick’s life and the killing of the alleged shooter:

“How had he been found so quickly?” people wondered.

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Why Sponsored Content Will Win

Oct 31 2014 @ 12:28pm

Because journalists will make far more money from it than the old, ethical variety. Because no one has come up with a business model that can compete with it for moolah. And, above all, because readers don’t really give a shit:

If people are offended by content marketing, why would a single Purina brand, Beggin’ Strips, have nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans, as Michael Meyer reports in his provocative piece on the subject, when Purina’s hometown paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, can boast a relatively modest 120,000 fans? What’s more, some of the larger corporate newsrooms are producing exponentially more content each day than traditional news outlets.

That doesn’t mean this content is all good, or accurate, or honorable in its alleged attempt to serve its audience. But then again, plenty of work coming out of actual newsrooms doesn’t meet that standard either.

Catching Catcalls On Camera, Ctd

Oct 31 2014 @ 12:09pm

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Many more readers have their say on the controversial video:

You know, I wish this could be supplemented by videos of what it’s like for women to walk down the street who don’t conform to “pretty” norms. Quite frankly, plain women, or ones not compliant with “available chick” visual norms, get just as many cat calls – often more aggressive because “ugly women should be both available and grateful for the attention” and have added in an equal or greater load of criticisms. Dog barks, bitter comments about how ugly they are, suggestions where they should go and what they should do – many obscene, and many suggesting that a man approaching them would be doing them a favor screwing them or letting them go down on the idiots.

If you’re beautiful, it’s bad. If you’re NOT beautiful, it’s hell: all the come-ons, then a layer of vicious critique, all of it from sulky men insisting on their entitlement to women: their bodies, their attention, their sexual favors, even the right to insist on the “right” appearance. Jeez-Louise, it gets old.

Another references the above image:

The reader who wrote “It all smacks of white privilege to me” might be interested in Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s art project “Stop Telling Women To Smile.” Would that reader tell her portrait subjects (who are largely women of color) that they’re in neighborhoods where they don’t understand the social mores?

Much more commentary below:

I think a very important point has been missed, thus far, in the discussion of the catcall video.

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Trick Or Brand-Name Treat

Oct 31 2014 @ 11:51am

But first, a Halloween movie mashup to get you in the spirit:

Samira Kawash details the rise of Halloween candy:

Would you believe the earliest trick-or-treaters didn’t even expect to get candy? Back in the 1930s, when kids first started chanting “trick or treat” at the doorbell, the treat could be just about anything: nuts, coins, a small toy, a cookie or popcorn ball. Sometimes candy too, maybe a few jelly beans or a licorice stick. But it wasn’t until well into the 1950s that Americans started buying treats instead of making them, and the easiest treat to buy was candy. The candy industry also advertised heavily, and by the 1960s was offering innovative packaging and sizes like mini-bars to make it even easier to give out candy at Halloween. But if you look at candy trade discussions about holiday marketing in the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween doesn’t even get a mention.

She elaborates on another reason for the rise of branded sweets:

One of the biggest casualties of the poison treats scares of the 1970s was homemade sweets.

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Native Dress

Oct 31 2014 @ 11:35am

Lauren Sherman checks in on the place of sponsored content in fashion blogging:

[W]hile fashion has been slow to adapt digitally in so many ways, it was one of the first group of marketers to embrace native advertising. When fashion bloggers emerged in the mid-2000s as the new influencers, brands developed “gifting” programs to seed their products. A handbag line, for instance, would send a top 10 blogger the latest style in hopes that she might write about it, or post a photo of it on her blog with a link back to the brand’s e-commerce site. It wasn’t so different than the business of celebrity placements, when brands give a star a pair of jeans or a leather jacket in hopes that she’ll wear it in a well-publicized paparazzi photo.

However, as blogs transformed from diaries to media properties, bloggers began asking for more.

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