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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: elections, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 38
1. Around This Time It Would Make Sense to Do an Election Day Post

Though, to be perfectly honest, Saturday’s post sort of covered all the bases there.  Still and all, I wanted to do something in honor of the day.  It’s tricky.  I could do a post of links, like 100 Years of Women in Congress—12 Political Pioneers to Introduce to Kids or Vote Here: Books for Tweens About Elections or If Boys Could Vote.  Or I could whip up a list of recent picture books about elections in all their myriad forms.  But none of that seems special enough.

So I sat down with my husband and James Kennedy last night over ice cream to hash out the problem.  James mentioned off-handedly the picture book Duck for President, which is a notable title partly because it’s so old it contained outdated Bill-Clinton-playing-the-saxophone references.  I mentioned I liked that book and we got to talking about whether or not all these books for small children about elections are new or not.  Are there older ones out there?  Classic ones?  Books like . . .


Wait.  That’s not a book.  That’s a music score.  But surely SURELY there are older election titles out there.  Books that weren’t published in the last 10 years or so.

Well, I found a couple.  Actually I found a lot, but not that many with book jacket images online.  In respect of the day, then, enjoy this smattering of older children’s books on the topic of elections:

Let’s Go to Vote by Agnes McCarthy (1962)


A red book from the 60s on voting by someone named McCarthy?  Will wonders never cease?  Also . . . is that policeman encouraging that girl to vote?  Oh dearie dear.

Right On, Dellums! My Dad Goes to Congress by Bob and Lynn Fitch (1971)


There is nothing I don’t love about this boy.  His hat.  The fact he’s supposedly saying “right on”.  The power salute.  I know his dad’s the one running, but I’d vote for that kid any day of the week.  The dad, by the way, was Ron Dellums, and the salute was sort of his thing.  Google him and you’ll see him doing it quite a bit.  The description of the book reads, “After a long campaign, eight-year-old Brandy Dellums’ father is elected as the first black Congressman from Berkeley, California, and the family moves to Washington, D.C.

Maggie Marmelstein for President by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, ill. Ben Shecter (1975)


Alas, poor Maggie.  She had quite the series in the 70s, with all sorts of editions.  Too much time has passed, however, and though I’ve no doubt that there are libraries all over the country that still carry her books, for the most part they’re forgotten.  I sort of love the vitriol in this description too: “Maggie Marmelstein thought that her friend Thad would be a good class president. But when he refuses her offer to manage his campaign, she decides to run against him with a vengeance.”  Rowr!  VENGEANCE SHALL BE MAGGIE’S!

It’s a Free Country! A Young Person’s Guide to Politics & Elections by Cynthia K. Samuels (1988)


Are they singing?  Clearly they’re singing.  But what, I ask of you, would they have been singing in 1988?

Electing J.J. by James VanOosting (1990)


Best I could do in terms of finding an image.  The plot reads, “In Framburg, a small farming community, lots of families face the loss of their farms. Three boys, one of them politically aware J.J. Ellison, decide to organize a campaign against the corrupt mayor of Framburg who is profiting from everyone’s misfortune.”

NEATE to the Rescue by Deborah Chocolate (1992)


I found this one through the Chicago Public Library.  Apparently it was a Chicago-based series in the 90s and this is the first one Ms. Chocolate wrote.  The plot is about a, “campaign for the reelection of Naimah’s mother to the city council. It’s a bitter struggle between the respected woman and her white male opponent, an unabashed racist who advocates the re-zoning of community districts to quash African American voting power.”  Yep.  A whole book for kids on re-zoning.  Um . . . can we get this republished with a new cover, please?  On second thought, I love this cover.  Can we make it historical fiction then?

Those are the best I could find.  I didn’t want to go much further than The Boy Who Ran for President, due to its recent popularity and all.  Instead, let’s finish with a bang.  I give you . . .

Duck for President!


5 Comments on Around This Time It Would Make Sense to Do an Election Day Post, last added: 11/15/2016
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2. 2016 ALSC Election Results

Many thanks to all of the candidates who ran for division office this year. We appreciate their willingness to put their names forward for the division. Here are the results from the 2016 ALSC elections:

Vice President/President-Elect

Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA

Board of Directors

Karen MacPherson, Takoma Park Maryland Library, Takoma Park, MD

New to ALSC Board of Directors

Amy Koester, Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL

Fiscal Officer

Paula Holmes, Upper St. Clair Library Board, Upper St Clair, PA

Newbery 2018 Committee

Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, Los Alamos, NM
Sujei Lugo, Boston Public Library, Jamaica Plain, MA
Thaddeus Andracki, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago, IL
Janice Del Negro, Dominican University GSLIS, River Forest, IL
Catharine Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME
Carol Goldman, Queens Library, Forest Hills, NY
Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
Susan Giffard, Ethical Culture School, New York, NY

Caldecott 2018 Committee

Sylvia Vardell, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX
Dean Schneider, Ensworth School, Nashville, TN
Katie Salo, Melrose Park, IL Jeanne McDermott, Amagansett Free Library, Amagansett, NY
Naphtali Faris, Mid-Continent Public Library, Independence, MO
Michelle Young, Lihue Public Library, Lihue, HI
Sarah Hinkle, West Linn Public Library, West Linn, OR
Heather McNeil, Deschutes Public Library, Bend, OR

Sibert 2018 Committee

Madeline Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
Mary Michell, Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL
Debra Marshall, Wilson Elementary School, Coppell, TX
Adrienne Gillespie, Stoller Middle School, Portland, OR
Danielle Forest, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS

Wilder 2018 Committee

Viki Ash, San Antonio Public Library, San Antonio, TX
Susan Faust, Katherine Burke School, San Francisco, CA
Merri Lindgren, Cooperative Children’s Book Center / Univ of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Visit the ALA 2016 Election page.

The post 2016 ALSC Election Results appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. #828 – President Squid by Aaron Reynolds & Sara Varon

President Squid Written by Aaron Reynolds Illustrated by Sara Varon Chronicle Books    3/01/2016 978-1-4521-3647-9 44 pages       Ages 5—8 “President Squid hilariously explores the ideal qualities of a President. Squid knows he’s perfect for the job because he lives in a big house, does all the talking, bosses people around, and wears …

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4. The Republican view on bipartisanship

Anyone who expects bipartisanship in the wake of last Tuesday’s elections has not been paying attention. The Republican Party does not believe in a two-party system that includes the Democrats, and it never has. Ever since the Civil War, when the Republicans were convinced that their Democratic opposition was in treacherous league with the Confederacy, the Grand Old Party in season and out has doubted the legitimacy of the Democrats to hold power. While the Republicans have accepted the results of national elections as facts they could not change, they have not believed that the Democrats were ever legitimately holding power. Democratic victories, in the minds of Republicans, are the result of fraud and abuse.

Consider some examples: In 1876, Republicans in New York said the Democratic party was “the same in character and spirit as when it sympathized with treason.” Half a century later, speaking of Woodrow Wilson, Henry Cabot Lodge told the 1920 Republican national convention that “Mr. Wilson stands for a theory of administration and government which is not American.” When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy spoke of “twenty years of treason” in the 1950s, he was not joking. He meant the statement as literal fact. So too did an aide to George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he observed, “We are America. These other people are not America.”

So when Rush Limbaugh comments that “Democrats were not elected to govern,” or Leon H. Wolf of Redstate says Democrats “should not be even be invited to be part of the discussion lest their gangrenous, festering and destructive ideas should further infect our caucus,” they are reflecting an attitude toward the Democrats that is at least a century and a half old.

If, as many Republicans believe, there are elements of illegitimacy and evil in the Democratic Party under the leadership of President Obama, then a posture of intense resistance become a necessary GOP tactic. Meeting the threat that the Democrats pose in terms of such issues as same-sex marriage, climate change   and immigration reform requires going beyond politics as usual and employing any means necessary to save the nation.

For contemporary Republicans, scorched earth tactics and all-out opposition seem the appropriate response to the presence of a pretender in the White House who in their minds is pursuing the collapse of the American republic. There no longer exists between Republicans and Democrats a rough consensus about the purpose of the United States.

RNC 2008
The 2008 Republican National Convention. Photo part of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

How has it come to this? A long review of both political parties suggests that the experience of the Civil War introduced a flaw into American democracy that was never resolved or recognized. The Republicans regarded the wartime flirtation of some Democrats with the Confederacy as evidence of treason. So it may have been at that distant time. What rendered that conclusion toxic was the perpetuation of the idea of Democratic illegitimacy and betrayal long after 1865.

After their extended years in the wilderness during the New Deal, Republicans reasserted their presidential dominance, with a few Democratic interruptions from 1952 to 1992. Republicans thus saw in the ascendancy of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and the two Bushes a return to the proper order of politics in which the Republicans were destined to be in charge and Democrats to occupy a position of perennial deference outside of Congress.

Then the unthinkable happened. Not just a Democrat but a black Democrat won the White House. The southern-based Republican Party saw its worst fears coming true. A man with a foreign-sounding name, an equivocal religious background, and a black skin was president and pursuing what were to most Republicans sinister goals. Under his administration, blacks became assertive, gays married, the poor got health care, and the wealthy faced both a lack of due respect and a claim on their income.

The Republican allegiance to traditional democratic practices now seemed to them outmoded in this national crisis. Americans could not really have elected Barack Obama and put his party in control of the destiny of the nation. Such an outcome must be illegitimate. And what is the remedy for illegitimacy, treason, and godlessness? To quote Leon Wolf again: “Working with these people is not what America elected you to do. Republicans, it elected you to stop them.” Pundits who forecast a new era of bipartisanship comparable to what Dwight D. Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen, Sam Rayburn, and Lyndon B. Johnson achieved in the 1950s are living in a nostalgic dream world. Richard Nixon viewed politics as war and contemporary Republicans will proceed to explore the validity of his insight over the next two years. For the American voter, clinging to the naive notion of the parties working together, each taking part of the loaf, the best guide may be Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Featured image: Members of the Republican Party gather at the 1900 National Convention. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post The Republican view on bipartisanship appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. After the elections: Thanksgiving, consumerism, and the American soul

The elections, thankfully, are finally over, but America’s search for security and prosperity continues to center on ordinary politics and raw commerce. This ongoing focus is perilous and misconceived. Recalling the ineffably core origins of American philosophy, what we should really be asking these days is the broadly antecedent question: “How can we make the souls of our citizens better?”

To be sure, this is not a scientific question. There is no convincing way in which we could possibly include the concept of “soul” in any meaningfully testable hypotheses or theories. Nonetheless, thinkers from Plato to Freud have understood that science can have substantial intellectual limits, and that sometimes we truly need to look at our problems from the inside.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit philosopher, inquired, in The Phenomenon of Man: “Has science ever troubled to look at the world other than from without?” This not a silly or superficial question. Earlier, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American Transcendentalist, had written wisely in The Over-Soul: “Even the most exact calculator has no prescience that something incalculable may not balk the next moment.” Moreover, he continued later on in the same classic essay: “Before the revelations of the soul, Time, Space, and Nature shrink away.”

That’s quite a claim. What, precisely, do these “phenomenological” insights suggest about elections and consumerism in the present American Commonwealth? To begin, no matter how much we may claim to teach our children diligently about “democracy” and “freedom,” this nation, whatever its recurrent electoral judgments on individual responsibility, remains mired in imitation. More to the point, whenever we begin our annual excursions to Thanksgiving, all Americans are aggressively reminded of this country’s most emphatically soulless mantra.

“You are what you buy.”

This almost sacred American axiom is reassuringly simple. It’s not complicated. Above all, it signals that every sham can have a patina, that gloss should be taken as truth, and that any discernible seriousness of thought, at least when it is detached from tangible considerations of material profit, is of no conceivably estimable value.

Ultimately, we Americans will need to learn an altogether different mantra. As a composite, we should finally come to understand, every society is basically the sum total of individual souls seeking redemption. For this nation, moreover, the favored path to any such redemption has remained narrowly fashioned by cliché, and announced only in chorus.

Where there dominates a palpable fear of standing apart from prevailing social judgments (social networking?), there can remain no consoling tolerance for intellectual courage, or, as corollary, for any reflective soulfulness. In such circumstances, as in our own present-day American society, this fear quickly transforms citizens into consumers.

Black Friday at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, New York City, 2011by JoeInQueens. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

While still citizens, our “education” starts early. From the primary grades onward, each and every American is made to understand that conformance and “fitting in” are the reciprocally core components of individual success. Now, the grievously distressing results of such learning are very easy to see, not just in politics, but also in companies, communities, and families.

Above all, these results exhibit a debilitating fusion of democratic politics with an incessant materialism. Or, as once clarified by Emerson himself: “The reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”

Nonetheless, “We the people” cannot be fooled all of the time. We already know that nation, society, and economy are endangered not only by war, terrorism, and inequality, but also by a steadily deepening ocean of scientifically incalculable loneliness. For us, let us be candid, elections make little core difference. For us, as Americans, happiness remains painfully elusive.

In essence, no matter how hard we may try to discover or rediscover some tiny hints of joy in the world, and some connecting evidence of progress in politics, we still can’t manage to shake loose a gathering sense of paralyzing futility.

Tangibly, of course, some things are getting better. Stock prices have been rising. The economy — “macro,” at least — is improving.

Still, the immutably primal edifice of American prosperity, driven at its deepest levels by our most overwhelming personal insecurities, remains based upon a viscerally mindless dedication to consumption. Ground down daily by the glibly rehearsed babble of politicians and their media interpreters, we the people are no longer motivated by any credible search for dignity or social harmony, but by the dutifully revered buying expectations of patently crude economics.

Can anything be done to escape this hovering pendulum of our own mad clockwork? To answer, we must consider the pertinent facts. These unflattering facts, moreover, are pretty much irrefutable.

For the most part, we Americans now live shamelessly at the lowest common intellectual denominator. Cocooned in this generally ignored societal arithmetic, our proliferating universities are becoming expensive training schools, promising jobs, but less and less of a real education. Openly “branding” themselves in the unappetizing manner of fast food companies and underarm deodorants, these vaunted institutions of higher education correspondingly instruct each student that learning is just a commodity. Commodities, in turn, learns each student, exist solely for profit, for gainful exchange in the ever-widening marketplace.

Optimally, our students exist at the university in order, ultimately, to be bought and sold. Memorize, regurgitate, and “fit in” the ritualized mold, instructs the college. Then, all be praised, all will make money, and all will be well.

But all is not well. In these times, faced with potentially existential threats from Iran, North Korea, and many other conspicuously volatile places, we prefer to distract ourselves from inconvenient truths with the immense clamor of imitative mass society. Obligingly, America now imposes upon its already-breathless people the grotesque cadence of a vast and over-burdened machine. Predictably, the most likely outcome of this rhythmically calculated delirium will be a thoroughly exhausted country, one that is neither democratic, nor free.

Ironically, we Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, it seems, we still had a unique opportunity to nudge each single individual to become more than a crowd. Once, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quintessential American philosopher, had described us as a unique people, one motivated by industry and “self-reliance,” and not by anxiety, fear, and a hideously relentless trembling.

America, Emerson had urged, needed to favor “plain living” and “high thinking.” What he likely feared most was a society wherein individual citizens would “measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.”

No distinctly American philosophy could possibly have been more systematically disregarded. Soon, even if we can somehow avoid the unprecedented paroxysms of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, the swaying of the American ship will become unsustainable. Then, finally, we will be able to make out and understand the phantoms of other once-great ships of state.

Laden with silver and gold, these other vanished “vessels” are already long forgotten. Then, too, we will learn that those starkly overwhelming perils that once sent the works of Homer, Goethe, Milton, and Shakespeare to join the works of more easily forgotten poets are no longer unimaginable. They are already here, in the newspapers.

In spite of our proudly heroic claim to be a nation of “rugged individuals,” it is actually the delirious mass or crowd that shapes us, as a people, as Americans. Look about. Our unbalanced society absolutely bristles with demeaning hucksterism, humiliating allusions, choreographed violence, and utterly endless political equivocations. Surely, we ought finally to assert, there must be something more to this country than its fundamentally meaningless elections, its stupefying music, its growing tastelessness, and its all-too willing surrender to near-epidemic patterns of mob-directed consumption.

In an 1897 essay titled “On Being Human,” Woodrow Wilson asked plaintively about the authenticity of America. “Is it even open to us,” inquired Wilson, “to choose to be genuine?” This earlier American president had answered “yes,” but only if we would first refuse to stoop so cowardly before corruption, venality, and political double-talk. Otherwise, Wilson had already understood, our entire society would be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of machinery, more unsightly even than the death of an individual person.

“The crowd,” observed the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, “is untruth.” Today, following recent elections, and approaching another Thanksgiving, America’s democracy continues to flounder upon a cravenly obsequious and still soulless crowd. Before this can change, we Americans will first need to acknowledge that our institutionalized political, social, and economic world has been constructed precariously upon ashes, and that more substantially secure human foundations now require us to regain a dignified identity, as “self-reliant” individual persons, and as thinking public citizens.

Heading image: Boxing Day at the Toronto Eaton Centre by 松林 L. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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6. Choosing a president in a new democracy: lessons from Eastern and Central Europe

In his famous statement about the perils of presidentialism, Juan Linz argued that newly emerging democracies ought to avoid adopting a presidential form of government. One of Linz’s reasons had to do with the winner-take-all-nature of presidential elections. By definition, such elections are zero-sum games where the losing candidates have little to no prospect of sharing in executive power. By having a single indivisible and powerful executive office, presidential elections amplify the gap between winning and losing, and can contribute to creating and deepening political divisions, which is precisely what a new democracy ought to minimize.

At the same time, having the people elect the head of their state directly can strengthen the legitimacy of the democratic foundations of the new constitutional order. When conducted in a fair, free, and transparent manner observing the highest standards of electoral integrity, direct presidential elections can play an important role in aiding the development of civic and political values such as electoral participation, competitiveness, and accountability. If the population is not imbued by such values, the new democratic system may soon hollow out and become a procedural mechanism with no substantive values informing and guiding it.

An intermediate constitutional solution is the adoption of a semi-presidential system of government, which, according to scholars like Maurice Duverger and Robert Elgie, is characterized by a presidency that is elected directly by the people but that is also considerably weaker in power and authority than the chief executive of a presidential system of government. The relative weakness of the semi-presidential head of state is underscored by the fact that the office shares executive power with the prime minister who, as the head of government, is responsible to the legislature. Semi-presidentialism often becomes an attractive constitutional choice in new democracies precisely because it has the advantage of encouraging popular participation in the political system without concentrating too much power in a single executive office.

Budapest Parliament by Mike Gabelmann. CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr

The experience of the ten post-communist democracies in Eastern and Central Europe is an excellent case in point. At the time of their transition to democracy in the early 1990s, only half of the ten states had a semi-presidential executive: Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and Romania. The remaining five states (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovakia) remained parliamentary systems with both the prime minister and the president elected by the legislature. By 2015 Hungary, Estonia, and Latvia have remained the only three cases with indirectly elected heads of state. At first Slovakia, in 1998, and then the Czech Republic, in 2012, enacted constitutional changes to move from indirect to direct presidential elections. In both of these cases, the adoption of direct presidential elections was the result of repeated failures by parliament to ensure a smooth and efficient process. In Slovakia, the National Council was unable to elect a president after several unsuccessful rounds of balloting in 1998, whereas in the Czech Republic both the 2003 and the 2008 elections were characterized by legislative tumult leading to renewed calls for delegating the choice of president to the people.

What can constitutional designers and engineers learn from the history of presidential elections in the post-communist region? Insofar as political stability and legitimacy are concerned, there are three important lessons:

  1. The semi-presidential model is a reliable and good constitutional choice as long as the formal powers of the head of state are kept modest. Some of the most serious constitutional battles between a directly elected president and the legislature took place in the three states where the head of state had the greatest formal powers (Lithuania, Poland, and Romania). However, while subsequent constitutional changes in these states modified the term or the powers of the president, none of them did away with the directly elective nature of the office.
  2. Indirect presidential elections can be a major source of political instability, and loss of public trust in the legislature, unless the rules of the game are kept efficient. The examples of Slovakia and the Czech Republic showed that inclusive and consensus-oriented rules do not work in the long run. In both cases, the constitution required that the winning candidate obtain a highly qualified majority of votes, which proved to be extremely difficult, or even impossible, in an already fragmented multi-party parliament.
  3. Efficient rules for indirect presidential elections ought to combine a simple majority threshold for winning with a fixed number of rounds in which the election must be completed. As the cases of Hungary and Estonia show, efficient rules will typically favor the candidate of the incumbent governing coalition and as such will further concentrate executive power in its hands. However, this may be a small price to pay relative to the instability that can be caused by the failure of consensus-oriented inclusive rules.

In short, the post-communist cases suggest that the ideal form of choosing the president of a new democracy may be either direct election by the people or indirect election by parliament using efficient, result-oriented rules and procedures. While presidentialism as a constitutional system may be perilous for the stability of a new democracy, as Juan Linz argued, there is also a great danger in adopting parliamentary processes of presidential election which can themselves become the source of political instability.

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7. 2015 ALSC Election Results

Many thanks to all of the candidates who ran for division office this year. We appreciate their willingness to put their names forward for the division. Here are the results from the 2015 ALSC elections:

Vice President/President-Elect

Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn, Philadelphia, PA

Board of Directors

Christine Caputo, Free Library of Philadelphia-TOPSS, Philadelphia, PA
Vicky Smith, Kirkus Reviews, Portland, ME
Mary Voors, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN

Division Councilor

Jenna Nemec-Loise, Chicago Public Library, Chicago, IL

Caldecott 2017 Committee

Stacy Dillon, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI), New York, NY
Laurie Reese, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
Ashley Waring, Reading Public Library, Reading, MA
Brian Wilson, Evanston Public Library, Evanston, IL
Erica Dean Glenn, Berkeley Public Library, Oakland, CA
Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, Chappaqua, NY
Janet Mumford, James McKinney Elementary School Library, Victoria, BC CANADA
Holly Jin, Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL

Newbery 2017 Committee

Daniel Meyer, Kew Gardens Hills, NY
Brandy Sanchez, Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia, MO
Tony Carmack, Rocklin Library, Rocklin, CA
Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
Laura Lutz, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York, NY
Matthew Krueger, Irondequoit Public Library, Rochester, NY
Maryann Owen, Oak Creek Public Library, Oak Creek, WI
Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Calgary, AB CANADA

Sibert 2017 Committee

Elise DeGuiseppi, Pierce County Library System, Tacoma, WA
Ted McCoy, Springfield City Library, Springfield, MA
Gail Nordstrom, Viking Library System, Fergus Falls, MN
Louise Capizzo, Scarborough Public Library, Scarborough, ME
Michael Rogalla, Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL

Wilder 2017 Committee

Robin Gibson, Westerville Public Library, Westerville, OH
Luann Toth, School Library Journal, New York, NY
Virginia Walter, Venice, CA

A full list of election information including candidates and proposed amendments is available from the ALSC Election Information page.

To learn more about ALA’s election results, please visit the ALA Election Information page.

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8. Monster Needs Your Vote, by Paul Czajak | Book Review

The fifth book in the award winning Monster & Me series finds Monster eager to do his civic duty and vote.

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9. ASCLA Member? Please Vote!

The ALA Elections are starting soon.

If you're a member of ASCLA (the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies) please consider voting for me for - I'm running for Secretary.

The full slate of candidates is at the ASCLA blog.

Thank you!

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Why Bad News for Dems in 2010 Could be Good News for the President

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at Congress. See Lim’s previous OUPblogs here.

On this Presidents Day, it would appear that everyone but the President’s rivals for public affection are doing well in the polls.

Hillary Clinton has shed the image that she is a soft liberal and she is well poised to say, “I told you so,” about her erstwhile charge that Barack Obama lacks experience and fortitude. Even Dick Cheney is doing well, with the public behind him and against civilian trials for terrorist suspects. And we just found out that Evan Bayh is bowing out, probably to escape the anti-incumbency wave on the horizon even though recent polls put him 20 points ahead of his competitors. Given that Bayh left his party less than a week to scramble to collect 4,500 signatures for a viable candidate for his Senate seat, he appears to be setting himself up for a future run as a centrist Democrat who stands up to party apparatchiks. (And here’s another clue: “I am an executive at heart,” Bayh told reporters on Monday.)

The only people doing worse than Obama are Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic Congress as a whole. As Evan Bayh put it, “I do not love Congress.” The atmosphere now in Washington is toxic and the poison is leaking down Pennsylvania Avenue and inundating the White House. That is why I am wondering if White House strategists are secretly hoping to lose Democratic control of Congress this year.

The conventional wisdom is that whatever the President proposes, Congress delivers. But not only has this not happened, the failure of Congress to act collectively to pass legislation (especially on
healthcare reform) has tarnished the name of the Democratic Party of which the President is titular head. As a result of the seeming asset of unified Democratic control of all branches of government, Barack Obama could not do what Reagan did when he too suffered from bad poll numbers in his first years in office as a result of recession – blame the other branch. The American people love to hate Congress, and unified Democratic control of all the elected federal branches has merely reinforced the Americans’ instinctive fear of consolidated power as the Tea Party Movement most viscerally represents. The American Presidency thrives on blame avoidance and freedom from party ties, not single-party government.

Because Washington moves so slowly no matter who is in power and when it does it invariably creates a program so sullied with pork-barrel compromises, it is often better to be able to blame someone else for failing to deliver than to have delivered anything at all. Lyndon Johnson doesn’t get high marks from historians for creating Medicare. And FDR’s fame did not come from the Social Security Act. If we do not judge presidential success by legislative achievements, then presidents are better off when they act unilaterally against a recalcitrant Congress. Better still if this Congress is controlled by another party because presidential unilateralism can be executed without dilemma. Barack Obama would then be free to descend from the law professor’s lectern, as Sarah Palin put it, and move, as Publius recommended, wi

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11. Hot Topics: Vote!

There are some key places and activities I remember very clearly from my earliest days — going to the library every week; sledding down the biggest “hill” Long Island could manage; waiting at the bus stop in the near dark; and…voting on election day!

No, I wasn’t sneaking in on a very well-made fake ID. My parents, who now vote early in the morning (or even earlier in the week), waited until evening so they could bring us. We’d wait on the line (which, in retrospect, must have driven my mother crazy) and then I’d go into the booth with one parent and my sister with the other. We’d get to pull the big red lever and then watch and listen as they voted. I don’t remember specifics, but I’m pretty sure they always cancelled each other out – Carter-Ford, Reagan-Carter, etc. But I thought it was amazing.

My first big election was in 1988. I was in college and we had all sent in for absentee ballots. In early October, a large group sat around the big table in the common area and filled in our ballots together — for Dukakis (I should mention that we were the creative and performing arts dorm and only allowed one or two Republicans per semester to live there.). It was fun and then very exciting to join an even larger crowd in the TV room on election night.

Over the years, there have other election days and other election night parties. I’ll be going to one tonight in the hopes of celebrating a “Yea” vote on my local library referendum.

My point: just as readers beget readers; voters beget voters. My sister and I are readers, in large part, because our parents are readers. They “modelled” reading, as the experts say. And they modelled voting as well. They didn’t make it seem important and fun; They made it important and fun. It wasn’t a right or even really a duty. Voting is something you do as a member of society and you should have joy in doing so.

As an adult, when I try to talk people into voting (rarely, since I tend to hang out with like-minded people), I talk about it as a duty, but also that if you don’t vote – shut up for the next 2-4 years! I do believe that an abstention is a legitimate vote. However, to abstain, you must go to your polling place, sign in, and walk into the booth. You can leave everything blank. Or maybe just vote “Yes” on that library referendum and leave the — I’ll admit — sometimes sickening choices at Senate and House blank. Your choice. And isn’t that great!

If I Ran for PresidentIf I Were PresidentAlbert Whitman & Company publishes a couple of election related picture books: If I Ran for President, by Catherine Stier, illustrated by Lynne Avril; and If I Were President both by Catherine Stier, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.

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12. Is the Brotherhood part of Egypt’s future, or just its past?

By Geneive Abdo

Over the past several weeks, leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have placed on public display the lessons they have learned as Egypt’s officially banned but most influential social and political movement by trying to pre-empt alarmist declarations that the country is now headed for an Iran-style theocracy.

Members of the venerable Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by an Egyptian school teacher to revitalize Islam and oppose British colonial rule, have so far stated no plans to run a candidate in the next presidential election, and they surprised many by their halting participation in the transitional government, after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. They also have made it clear that they have no desire to seek a majority in the Egyptian parliament, when free elections are held, as promised by Egypt’s current military rulers. In fact, the Brotherhood has voiced its commitment to work with all groups within the opposition – including the secular-leaning youth who inspired the revolution – without demanding a leading role for itself.

These gestures have produced two reactions from Western governments and other international actors heavily invested in Egypt’s future: Some simply see this as evidence that there is no reason to fear the Brotherhood will become a dominant force in the next government.

Others view the Brotherhood’s public declarations with skepticism, saying the promises are designed simply to head off any anxiety over the future influence and scope of the religious-based movement. For example, British Minister David Cameron, who last week became the first foreign leader to visit Egypt after Mubarak’s downfall, refused to meet Brotherhood leaders, saying he wanted the people to see there are political alternatives to “extreme” Islamist opposition. Such simplistic characterization of the Muslim Brotherhood simply echoes Mubarak’s long-term tactic to scare the West into supporting his authoritarian rule as the best alternative to Islamic extremism.

But the future on the horizon for the Brotherhood lies most likely somewhere between these divergent views. Now that Egyptians have freed themselves from decades of restraint and fear, a liberalized party system will logically follow, reflecting the values, aspirations and religious beliefs of Egyptian society as a whole.

What the outside world seems to have missed during the many decades since the Brotherhood was banned is the fact that the movement has never been a political and social force somehow detached from Egyptian society. Rather, the widespread popularity of the movement – which is fragmented along generational lines – can be best explained by the extent to which it reflects the views of a vast swathe of Egyptians.

The Brotherhood has waited patiently for society to evolve beyond the Free Officers movement of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Beginning in the early 1990s, it was clear that Islamization was taking hold in Egypt. In my book, No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam, which documented the societal transformation from a secular to more religious Egypt during the 1990s, I made it clear that the Brotherhood was on the rise. This was in part responsible for the Brotherhood’s strong showing in parliamentary elections in 2005, when they ran candidates as independents because Egyptian law prohibits religiously-based parties to run candidates in elections.

The question now is wh

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13. Citizens United: a first anniversary update

By Bill Wiist

Little more than a year after the January 21, 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission, it is already apparent that the effects of the ruling are widespread, contaminate the democratic processes, and could be long-lasting. Because the effects of the ruling on the 2010 election campaign were significant, the potential effects on public health could be pervasive. Finding new ways to undo its pernicious consequences is an important public health goal.

The Ruling

The Citizens United ruling overthrew previous laws and court rulings ranging from the early 1900’s to parts of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, sometimes known as the McCain-Feingold law. The Court ruled that previous laws and regulations were so restrictive as to prohibit free speech. The ruling gave corporations the right to use unlimited amounts of money directly from the corporation’s treasury for independent election campaign advocacy. The results of the decision were immediately revealed in the November 2010 mid-term U.S. Congressional election campaign and its aftermath.

The Relevance of the Court’s Ruling to Public Health

Corporate wealth gives companies the special ability to develop and test communications that frame issues, appeal to emotions, provide inaccurate and incomplete information, and increase the cognitive availability of ideas. This allows them to take advantage of voters’ decision-making vulnerabilities. Thus, corporate campaign election funds could be directed into tailored messages for or against candidates who take positions on a variety of public health issues ranging from abortion, coal-fired power plants, menu labeling, and worker health, to budget appropriations and other aspects of health that are vulnerable to market forces. Corporate lobbyists could pressure elected officials based on their contributions to the official’s campaign as a means of gaining legislative favors. Donations from insurance and pharmaceutical corporations in the 2008 election cycle seem to have gained them access and influence during health care financing reform. After the 2010 election Representative Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, reportedly asked 150 trade associations, corporations and think tanks to provide a wish list of public health, environmental and other public protections they wanted eliminated. The Court’s ruling in Citizens United has raised concerns about the government’s ability to regulate the commercial speech of tobacco and other corporations in advertising their products.

Follow the money

More money ($4 billion) was spent on the 2010 congressional elections by political parties and outside groups than in any previous midterm election cycle.  According to reports by Public Citizen, in the 2010 election independent organizations that were the direct beneficiaries of corporate largess after the Citizens United ruling increased spending more than 400% over the 2006 mid-term election. About 54% of them disclosed anything about their sources. The groups that did not disclose information about sources spent 46% of the total $294 million spent by outside organizations on the election. In 60 of the 75 Congressional elections in which the seat was won by a candidate from a party different than the incumbent, the spending by outside organizations favored the winner. In the Senate election, winners had a 7-to-1 advantage in spending by outside organizations. The corporate funding ties and the political expenditures of some of the most influential of the independent organizations are known.

Campaign finance and disclosure laws in mo

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14. Fake Mustache - a review

Angleberger, Tom. 2012. Fake Mustache: How Jodie O'Rodeo and her Wonder Horse (and some nerdy kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind. New York: Amulet.

(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher)

With another impossibly long title (who can forget last year's hilarious Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset?), Tom Angleberger is ready to unleash another load of laughs on eagerly waiting middle schoolers in Fake Mustache: How Jodie O'Rodeo and her Wonder Horse (and some nerdy kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind.

In retrospect, 7th grader, Lenny Flem, Jr., realizes that he never should have loaned his friend Casper Bengue, the ten dollars to buy the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven from Hairsprinkle's own Sven's Fair Price Store.  The mustache, combined with the "man-about-town" suit purchased at Chauncey's Big & Small, Short & Tall Shop, enable a chain of events that threaten the town of Hairsprinkle, the presidential election and especially, Lenny Flem, Jr.  A cast of zany characters, including washed-up teen rodeo queen, Jodie O'Rodeo, fill out this funny, improbable adventure story.

Midway through the story, the first-person narration switches from Lenny to Jodie, so the reader doesn't miss any of the action.  Angleberger's humor can be blatantly obvious, as in the "first-ever billion-dollar bank robbery" "carried out by a gang of strolling accordion players," or hidden away for those who take notice. 

One chapter ends,

"No, thanks," I told the mime. "You clowns can either let us both go or get your heinies kicked.  What'll it be?"
"First of all, I'm not a clown.  I'm a mime.  Second of all, do you really think you can kick the heinies of Hairsprinkle's top ten karate instructors?"
"I only see five."
"Look behind you." 
And what, you ask, is the title of the next chapter?  Why, "Behind Me," of course!

Kids looking for a quick and goofy read will devour this book as quickly as a Hairsprinkle Hot Dog!

I look forward to seeing the finished artwork, which was not ready in time for the printing of this Advance Reader Copy.

Note: Just in case you're disappointed with our own election season and are seeking another choice, Tom Angleberger has got you covered.  Get your Vote Fako! bumper sticker.  Heck, he'll even throw in a free mustache (but not the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven - it's simply too dangerous!)
Other reviews @
Fuse #8
Educating Alice

Coming to a bookshelf near you on April 1st.

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15. Fusenews: Paddington V. Pooh (supporters could call themselves marmalites and hunnies)

You folks have been awfully good about my recent shoddy blogging, so I tip my hat in your general direction.  Jules of 7-Imp and I are putting the final touches on our book for Candlewick editing-wise and, as you might imagine, it eats up large swaths of time like an irate and hungry badger.  There is no situation in which a badger cannot be used as an example.  True fact.

In other news, there’s an author/illustrator out there that I happen to like very much.  His name is Aaron Zenz and over the years he has startled me time and again with the relative brilliance of his creativity.  If he wasn’t making multiple inspired pieces for the Re-Seussification Project then his kids were contributing to the stellar Boogie Woogie blog.  Well, Aaron and Co. are some of my favorite folks so when I saw the Friends of Zenz page asking to help ‘em out in the midst of some pretty upsetting surgery, you can bet I jumped on board.  If you’ve a minute, you can too.  They’re swell folks.

So I got to meet J.K. Rowling the other day.  Yup.  The woman who basically set me on the path of children’s librarianship in the first place via her books and I up and met her.  You see the good Dan Blank had tickets and one of those tickets happened to have my name on it.  So I got to see her speak with Ann Patchett about this adult novel of hers The Casual Vacancy (a title I’m certain she stole from the notes of Lemony Snicket) and then I stood in a long line and got my copy signed.  The conversation between us is as follows:

J.K. Rowling: Thanks for coming.

Betsy Bird:  Guh.

Many thanks to Dan for the opportunity.  He’s blogged about the experience here and just so you writer folks know, he’s doing another session of his author platform course starting Oct 31, with a free webinar. The course features Jane Friedman, Richard Nash, Colleen Lindsay, Kathleen Schmidt, Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins as guest speakers.  Info on the session is here and the webinar is here.

COMIC LEGEND: There was a Winnie the Pooh comic strip where the characters acted a lot more aggressively than most Winnie the Pooh fans are used to.


Thus we find the strangest and maybe most engaging link of the day.  Apparently there was a Winnie-the-Pooh syndicated comic strip out there for a while that contained the Disneyfied Pooh and friends.  And apparently it was written by some seriously odd souls.  How else to explain some of these downright weird inclusions?  Comic Book Legends Revealed explains more (you’ll have to scroll down a little but they’re worth finding).  This one’s my favorite:


And speaking of bears . . . how do you get kids interested in the political process?  Have ‘em vote for bears, of course!  The West Linn Public Library had an inspired idea.  They’re holding a bear election through election day on November 6 and, as they explained it to me:

“inviting kids (and adults) to vote for their favorite bear from children’s literature: Pooh, Paddington, Mama Berenstain, or Corduroy. We have also gotten staff involved by asking them to volunteer to be bear campaign managers. The response from staff and patrons has been tremendous! Our campaign managers have embraced their roles beyond my wildest dreams by designing posters, stickers, bookmarks, and games to support their bear.We are having so much fun that I thought I would share with other libraries. I have even created a campaign video for my candidate, Mama Bear—here is that link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=vb.153513568034372&type=2“  Love it!  I suppose I’m a staunch Pooh supporter thanks to my job, but it’s tough.  Paddington comes in at a close second in my heart.

Okay, let’s do the Me Stuff all in one fell swoop today.  First off, I made a reading list for NYC’s New Victory Theater to accompany their upcoming shows.  Check it out here.  I never properly thanked Miss Kathleen at Mental Floss for including me in the 24 Library-Centric Sites We Love round-up, to say nothing of the compliments regarding my video with Travis Jonker. Thanks to Maureen Petry for the links!  I’m speaking at a Joan Aiken event tonight so enjoy this piece written by Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, entitled Voices: The magical mysteries of children’s literature.  I was interviewed at the blog The Children’s Book Review as part of their ongoing librarian series.  And the Children’s Media Association blog gave me what could well be the most flattering spotlight I’ve received in my long internet life. Whew!

There was a Bibliography-Off between Judy Blume and one of my favorite comics Patton Oswalt not long ago.  As Jezebel described it, “The only thing that could really be better than this (for a Sunday, anyway) is if Calvin and Hobbes were real and they spoke at a TED Talk about the vividness of a small child’s imagination.” I just wish S.E. Hinton had heeded Patton’s call to give him a hand.  She’s on Twitter all the time, y’know.  Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link!

Maybe you can’t see Phil Nel speaking in my library tomorrow about Crockett Johnson.  If not, here’s the next best thing.

All right.  Enough with the books.  Let’s look at some up-to-date movie news directly from Cynopsis Kids.  First up:

Nickelodeon begins production this month on its new original comedy/caper TV movie, Swindle, which will star a bevy of the network’s stars including Jennette McCurdy (iCarly), Noah Crawford (How to Rock, You Gotta See This), Noah Munck (iCarly), Ariana Grande (Victorious), Chris O’Neal (How to Rock, You Gotta See This) and Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush). Based on the popular kids book of the same name by Gordon Korman, the movie will be shot in Vancouver Canada. The movie is set to begin airing in 2014 on Nickelodeon’s 40+ international channels across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia. The story begins when an evil collector cons Griffin (Crawford) out of a million dollar baseball card that could have saved his best friend’s (O’Neal) home, he teams a ragtag group of his classmates (Grande, McCurdy, Munck and Bravo) to take down the swindler. Directed by Jonathan Judge (Big Time Rush, Fred 3), Swindle is written by Bill Motz (Brandy & Mr. Whiskers) & Bob Roth (Lion King 2), Eric Freiser (Road to Ruin) and Adam Rifkin (Small Soliders, Mousehunt). Marjorie Cohn (Big Time Movie, Rags), Lauren Levine (Bridge to Terabithia, Best Player), Loris Lunsford, Karen Glass and Paul Barry serve as executive producers. Scott McAboy’s Pacific Bay Entertainment is producing.”

Second up:

“Toronto-based Radical Sheep Productions (Stella and Sam, Yub Yubs, The Big Comfy Couch) acquires the rights to the graphic novel series Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, by author/illustrator Michael Rex (Goodnight Goon, The Runaway Mummy). Under the deal Radical Sheep will develop a K6-11 aimed animated series based on Fangbone! The story revolves around Fangbone, a nine-year-old barbarian warrior from Skullbania who winds up in third grade at Eastwood Elementary in order to save his native land from the evildoer Venomous Drool. With the help of his new pal Bill, a lovable, average, goofy kid, Fangbone outwits his enemies while discovering the modern world.”

Sometimes the title sells it alone: Children’s Author Illustrator Elisha Cooper Gives Lecture on “Inappropriate” Children’s Books.

New Blog Alert: The election’s coming up and everyone’s getting ready.  With that in mind, did you know that there’s a blog out there solely dedicated to talking about political children’s books?  Kid Lit About Politics it’s called.  One for the radar.

New Blog Alert II: For that matter did you know there was a mother-son blog out there (adult mother and son!) called crossreferencing: a hereditary blog?  Yep.  There you can find Sarah and Mark Flowers as they, “discuss YA Literature and Librarianship from our dual perspectives.”  It’s pretty cool.

New Blog Alert III: Tis the season.  This third new blog is actual that of The Junior Library Guild called Shelf Life.  It’s currently doing a wonderful job of discussing current issues and hot books.  Of particular note is the post Save [Books of Wonder] and Save Your Soul.  Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Have you ever watched the movie Matilda and thought to yourself, Whatever happened to child actress Mara Wilson?  Thank god for the internet, eh?  Thanks to Brita for the link.

On a serious note there is a lovely memory of Peter Sieruta up at the blog Archives and Special Collections.  It happens to include what may be the first picture of Peter to ever make it to the world wide web.  God, I miss that guy.

The Onion’s A.V. Club has been a bit lazy in their looks at children’s and YA literature but this recent post on 2012 graphic novels is well worth reading. Many thanks to Eric Carpenter for the link!

Daily Image:

Just knowing that Gabi Swiatkowska has a blog where she displays art like the pieces below is enough to make my life complete.

Thanks to Jane Curley for the link.

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16. Tim Wadham: 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate

In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts today consist of interviews with the candidates for 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect: Tim Wadham and Andrew Medlar. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.

This morning’s interview is with Tim Wadham:

1.      What do you consider the most important role of the ALSC President?


Photo supplied by Tim Wadham

One of the most important aspects of the ALSC’s President’s role is to be the face of the organization to the general public.  Certainly, the ALSC President shapes the makeup of committees through their appointments, but more important than that is being able to be articulate as they act in the role of spokesperson.

2.      What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?

As a library director, one of my primary responsibilities is to be the face of the library in the community and to build community support in order to advocate for the library with elected officials.  This is a strength I would bring as I filled a similar role for ALSC.   The office also requires someone who is an advocate.  I would bring to the office the fact that, for me, children’s librarianship has not been just a profession but rather a life long passion.  I think I first knew I wanted to be a children’s librarian when I was still a kid participating in summer reading club in my local public library.  I would call the ALA press office at Midwinter to find out which books had won the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, then I would bike the dozen or so blocks to the library so I could be the first to tell my librarians of the winners (this was in the days before internet and the webcast).

Professionally, I started out as a children’s librarian and have always sought positions that would allow me to keep my hand and heart active in children’s services.  I would bring the political skills that I have developed as a library administrator, working with library boards and challenging city councils.  One of my strengths is leading effective meetings (know when to stop and make sure that meetings result in actionable assignments and that real decision-making occurs).  Through my experience as a deputy director and library director I have learned the skills necessary to get consensus within diverse, challenging groups.

Beyond these skills and strengths, I would bring to the office a passion and enthusiasm for the work of ALSC.  I was once asked if I could describe myself in two words, and I asked if one of the words could be hyphenated.  Receiving a positive response, I replied: “Enthusiastic book-missionary.”

3.      What area of library service to children is your favorite?

I suppose that my favorite area of library service to children has to be the programming aspect.  One of the appeals of being a children’s librarian is the opportunity it affords to indulge all your artistic impulses.  You can be an actor, a producer, a musician, a puppeteer, a storyteller and an artist.  I love doing storytimes.  Creating voices for the characters in picture books reminds me of the fun I had in high school doing humorous interpretations of selections from plays.  I enjoy producing and presenting puppet shows—including finding the right book, writing an adaptation, finding the background music, along with all of the other challenges such as building a puppet stage and finding the funding for custom puppets.  And I love doing author programs and introducing kids to their favorite authors.

4.      Why should someone choose to join ALSC? What services do you feel ALSC provides that are valuable to new members? To long-term members?

Membership in ALSC is incredibly rewarding.  ALSC provides the opportunity for like-minded children’s services librarians to share ideas, and most importantly become friends.  I was able to attend my first ALA annual conference due to ALSC and the Penguin Young Readers Group Award which helped cover my expenses to travel to New Orleans.  It didn’t hurt that Penguin was the winning publisher of the Caldecott winner that year (Owl Moon), and that my first conference was also my first opportunity to attend the Newbery/Caldecott banquet.  Over my 27 years as an ALSC member, I have made wonderful friends who I look forward to seeing twice a year at conference.  In that regard, ALSC is better than both Facebook and LinkedIn.  It provides a network of both colleagues and friends who you can know face to face and on whom you can call for assistance or advice.  It has also provided me, as a long-term member, an opportunity to give back by mentoring new librarians coming into the profession.

5.      What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? What are your ideas to recruit new members?

Long years of doing outreach have convinced me that the best way of reaching and involving anyone in an organization or institution is to go where the people are rather than waiting for them to come to you.  That may not be practical on a national scale, but I would certainly consider ways of reaching and involving members by finding them where they hang out virtually, rather than expecting them to come to the ALSC listserv or other official methods of communication.  Reaching out to them first may bring them to tools such as ALA Connect.  This outreach can also be a focus for recruitment efforts.  Perhaps there needs to be a way for ALSC to have ambassadors at state library conferences who can do recruiting—passionate members who know the value of being involved professionally.

The emergence of virtual committees has gone better than I ever anticipated when I was on the ALSC board working on the idea.  With the right chair, a virtual committee can be the perfect way to involve more members and to make them feel more a part of the association.  Recruitment of new members has to emphasize that there are more opportunities than ever to be a fully participating member of ALSC.  Our ALSC ambassadors can promote how important professional involvement is for career advancement.

6.      How has ALSC membership impacted your life?  How has your membership in ALSC impacted library service to children?

ALSC membership allowed me to fulfill a dream I have had since I was a child, which was to be on the Newbery committee.  That alone was a huge accomplishment for a kid who was first challenged to read all the Newbery Medal winners by his middle-school librarian.  The level of discussion on the Newbery committee forever changed the way I think about and evaluate books and share books with kids.  ALSC membership gave me the motivation to apply for and host two May Hill Arbuthnot lectures: Lois Lowry at the St. Louis County Library, and Ursula K. LeGuin at the Maricopa County Library in partnership with the Arizona State Library.

My many committee assignments have impacted my library service to children in ways as simple as providing me with information on titles, such as my service on the Notable Videos and Carnegie Medal committees, which gave me invaluable help with video collection development and exposed me to wonderful films I might not have known about otherwise.  Many librarians value the “stamp of approval” that comes with the notable lists and other award lists and rely heavily on titles recommended by ALSC committees in their collection development.   Beyond that, my experiences as a participating member of ALSC have given me tools to be a better librarian.

7.     Changes in the economy and advances in technology are dramatically impacting libraries. What are your thoughts on how ALSC can best continue to be a positive force for librarians, for libraries, and for children?

My experience as an adjunct professor for the University of Arizona teaching children’s literature and youth services in public libraries taught me that what new professionals most want is practical education about what they can expect in the field.  They don’t want abstract theory.  ALSC can be most effective by providing practical information to children’s librarians on the front lines.  When I began my first job in the Dallas Public Library system, I was never given a mentor to demonstrate best practices for storytimes, and I had to learn what worked on my own.  The best way ALSC can continue to be a positive force is to find ways to disseminate practical information to practicing professionals.  We can be creative in the ways and locations we put out this information, and equally inventive in prioritizing the kinds of information that can come from ALSC.  As an example, the association can disseminate information on best practices for using technology in the day to day work of children’s librarians.  My staff are experimenting with creative new ways of using tablets for storytimes and finding that this technology allows us to think of storytimes in a way we never had previously.  We are able to project books that formerly we couldn’t share with a large group because of their size.  We can show films, or even use book apps in storytime.  These are the kinds of things that should be shared as widely as possible.  Focusing on this will result in librarians with more tools in their tool belt, able to advocate articulately for their libraries, and ultimately enriching the lives of children who come in to their libraries.

8.      What strengths would you bring to help ALSC attain the goals of the ALSC Strategic Plan?

I was part of the 2010 meeting that resulted in the strategic plan and I strongly support the three strategic goals that resulted from the process.  1) Advocacy.  Being an advocate is one of my strengths.  I love libraries and I believe in children’s books.  I am happy to tell anyone at any time why they should read out loud to their child and why libraries are important and not passé.  Advocacy begins with the education, training, and mentoring of new librarians coming into the profession.  2) Education.  ALSC plays an important role in the ongoing education of professionals who serve children in libraries.  ALSC can expand that role and find new ways to accomplish it.  As someone who has taught children’s services to prospective professionals, I have a clear vision of what effective teaching can accomplish.  3) Access to Library Services.  I have always believed that libraries are the great equalizer.  I can bring my experience expanding library and book access for children speaking languages other than English.  Parents from cultures where there is not a strong tradition of public library service need to feel that they’ve been given permission to come into the public library along with their children.

9.      What is your motivation in running for this position?

I have been inspired watching many past presidents serve with class and with grace and I’ve seen the impacts that they were able to make in their presidential years.  My three years of service on the ALSC board gave me insight into how the board works, and taught me how I can be an effective president.  Being asked to run for ALSC President has given me the opportunity for some introspection as to the issues that I truly and deeply care about.  I am motivated by the opportunity that being ALSC President would give to focus on these priorities: 1) Building a better relationship between ALSC and our sister youth divisions.  2) Advocating for the rich legacy of books that should be part of every child’s life, to keep them from being slowly weeded from our collective memory, and encouraging children to appreciate the value of fiction in their lives.  3) Library service to Spanish-speaking children has been a strong professional interest of mine, and I want to advocate for the provision of multi-cultural literature (and library service) to all children and families that equitably bridges the barriers of culture and language.  4) I am concerned that we may be neglecting our middle graders and I believe that we can build on the success of our early literacy efforts to provide literature-based programs for 8-11 year-olds.  Finally, I am motivated by the opportunity of a national platform to speak out about the power that books and stories have in the lives of young people to whoever will listen.

10.    What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?

My ultimate goal when providing any library service is always to make a difference and to change the lives of those served in some small way.  Following are two of the many experiences that I feel have achieved this goal:

In partnership with Childsplay Children’s Theater, I commissioned and participated in the writing and development of a play based on the children’s book Tomás and the Library Lady, which was performed for over 70,000 children within the Maricopa County Library District.  Since that time, the play has been performed before countless other children on national tour and in productions by children’s theater companies across the country—including a performance in Hampton, Iowa, where the original story actually took place.  To this day I feel that this has been one of the most important things I have done in my career in terms of the number of children impacted by it and the way it impacted them.  This was encapsulated by the simple response of one child after seeing the show: “I speak Spanish, just like Tomás!”

I commissioned Bill Harley, James Deem and Wendelin Van Draanen to write original novels for which I developed interactive websites, creating the concept of the “online novel.”  New chapters were put up on the web on a regular basis, and the websites included curriculum connections for teachers using the novel in their classrooms.  This project won the John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award, the NAACO (National Association of County Organizations) Best of Category Award, and Highsmith Award for Library Innovation.  Two of the novels were later published for the trade market, after appearing first exclusively on our library website.

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17. Andrew Medlar: 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate

In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts today consist of interviews with the candidates for 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect: Tim Wadham and Andrew Medlar. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.

This afternoon’s interview is with Andrew Medlar:

1.      What do you consider the most important role of the ALSC President?

Medlar Photo 2(1)

Photo supplied by Andrew Medlar

The ALSC President must enthusiastically and wisely lead our organization along the track of our strategic plan toward the Big Hairy Audacious Goal of ensuring that libraries are recognized as vital to all children and the communities that support them. A key element of that is the responsibility to facilitate and support the brilliant work that our members are doing every day and to represent us to the rest of ALA and the wider world.

2.      What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?

I like to put ideas into action, and one thing that will enable me to do this effectively as President is my knowledge of, and experience with, how the structure of ALSC and ALA functions. I know what it’s like to serve on and chair ALSC committees and task forces, I’ve represented ALSC not only on Council (where I co-convene the Youth Council Caucus) but also other ALA bodies such as the Planning & Budget Assembly, and I served as ALSC Budget Committee chair twice during the beginning of the Great Recession. My current position on the ALSC Board’s Executive Committee gives me insight and participation on current issues, and my day job as Assistant Commissioner at Chicago Public Library continually sharpens my skills in advocating and building consensus in order to improve library service. However above all, I believe that my greatest strength is passion for our work as an association and as individual members.

3.      What area of library service to children is your favorite?

It’s impossible for me to pick just one because they really are all so connected. Since a single shift in the children’s room can involve programming, reference, collection development, advocacy, and picking up and putting away all of the Duplos, we have to be sure to recognize and actively appreciate how all of the many different aspects of the work our members do comes together to create a better future for kids. And, actually, I think THAT is my favorite part of library service to children: the variety, because no day is ever dull!

4.      Why should someone choose to join ALSC? What services do you feel ALSC provides that are valuable to new members? To long-term members?

If someone should buy real estate because of location, location, location, someone should join ALSC because of people, people, people. It’s so valuable the way we as members collaborate on advocacy, education, and access, and these aren’t just words in our strategic plan. As specific ALSC goal areas these are commitments that our organization has made to ourselves and from which all of us benefit. ALSC’s Mentoring Program is a great example of how ALSC can serve both new and long-term members in different ways even at the same time, and in all of our efforts we recognize and share different perspectives and common challenges, which is advantageous for everyone.

5.      What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? What are your ideas to recruit new members?

At Midwinter in Philadelphia I met a local group of fabulous new and soon-to-be ALSC members who had come to observe the Youth Council Caucus meeting, and their energy, ideas, initiative, and questions were so exciting! And while that kind of personal connection is wonderful, to reach more folks who don’t have such convenient or economical access to a national library event in their backyard, the continuing development of the ALSC Roadshow is a fantastic way to find and encourage new members where they’re at.

And we also need to do more of that electronically, as I’m a firm believer in continuing to strengthen the virtual work we’ve already begun. During my service on several virtual task forces and in many online ALSC community forums I’ve experienced first-hand how well they can work, and am also very aware of the ways in which they need continual development. And moving forward, the need for ALSC to liaise with even more non-library associations and groups concerned with youth issues will continue to grow in importance in our inter-related world and will bring even more members, and often less traditional ones, into our community.

6.      How has ALSC membership impacted your life?  How has your membership in ALSC impacted library service to children?

ALSC has given me education, fun, opportunity, and friends, which I consider a fantastic bargain! And I’m always conscious of the importance of sharing those benefits with my colleagues and kids. This can run the gamut from sharing the latest research on the role of play in learning from an ALSC white paper to sharing my real-life experience with others during a Mock Caldecott discussion to sharing a new fingerplay I read about on ALSC-L.

7.     Changes in the economy and advances in technology are dramatically impacting libraries. What are your thoughts on how ALSC can best continue to be a positive force for librarians, for libraries, and for children?

Looking for ways to be increasingly nimble is important for this premier membership organization in such a rapidly evolving profession as ours, and I believe that is doable, especially in the content of the work now going on ALA-wide to “re-imagine” ALA itself. Being able to respond to change (and to do it economically) is vital and the “Hot Topic” programs coming up at Annual in Las Vegas will go far in providing the very latest developments affecting our work. And ALSC’s impressive Everyday Advocacy efforts are a superb way for everyone providing and caring about library service to children to be a positive force as issues pop up and evolve. We can also do this by supporting, encouraging, and spreading the word about distinguished content for children, including for underrepresented communities, with our world famous and financially impactful media awards.

8.      What strengths would you bring to help ALSC attain the goals of the ALSC Strategic Plan?

Knowing how to work with both large and small groups and how to accomplish objectives within the context of ALA is a practical strength of mine, particularly as we strive to attain our strategic goals. I also bring a close familiarity with the Plan as I’ve been a member of the ALSC Board’s Executive Committee since the Plan’s first year and so have been involved in its implementation and ongoing evaluation. And I also look forward to sharing my belief in the importance of consensus building, knowledge-based decision making, and spirit of collaboration, not to mention the aforementioned passion for our work!

9.      What is your motivation in running for this position?

My motivation is all about moving forward, reaching out, and giving back. Keeping any organization relevant through changing times is a constant challenge and I’m determined (and convinced!) that ALSC will be around for a long, long time, so am very motivated to help move us all forward with such things as increased expertise and presence around apps and digital storytelling. I feel it’s important for us to reach out further, both inside and outside libraries, for greater inclusiveness with current and potential members and also for collaborations with a wider range of other youth-focused organizations to increase the recognition of, and access to, library services for all kids. And I continue to receive so much from my experiences here that I want to give back to ALSC, especially in this special role, to ensure that others get that same chance.

10.    What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?

I have literally been involved with library service to children since before I was born (as a librarian herself, my mom didn’t wait for her July due date to sign me up on the first day of that year’s summer reading program in June) and have done every job there is to do in a library, from shelving picture books to advocating with the First Lady, and as a true believer in ALSC’s work and our Desired Future, I ask for the honor of your vote to represent all of us as Vice President/President-Elect. And please follow me on Twitter @ammlib so we can continue the conversation! #AndrewIsForALSC

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18. 2014 ALSC Election Results

Many thanks to all of the candidates who ran for division office this year. These folks put their time and talents up for the division and we thank them. Here are the results from the 2014 ALSC Elections:

Vice President/President-elect

Andrew Medlar

Board of Director

Doris Gebel
Julie Roach
Kay Weisman

2016 Caldecott Committee

Lauren, Anduri
Alan Bailey
Brian Fahey
Jill Bellomy
Karen MacPherson
Sarah Bean Thompson
Tess Prendergast
Tessa Michaelson-Schmidt

2016 Newbery Committee

Allie Jane Bruce
Cheryl Lee
Christine Scheper
Destinee Sutton
Eric Barbus
Joanna Ward
Shawn Brommer
Ty Burns

2016 Sibert Committee

Alan Bern
Eric Gomez
Grace Ruth
Nick Glass
Susan Lempke

2017 Wilder Committee

Maria Gentle
Carolyn Phelan
Kathleen Isaacs

To learn more about ALA’s election results, please visit the ALA Election Information page.

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19. All (European) politics is national

By Jean Pisani-Ferry

At the end of May, 400 million EU citizens will be called to participate in the second-largest direct election in the world (the first being held in India). Since they last went to the polls to elect their parliament, in 2009, Europe has gone through an acute crisis that precipitated several countries deeper into recession than any peacetime shock they had suffered for a century. In several of the continent’s regions, more than a fourth of the labour force is unemployed. Over the last five years, the crisis has exposed many weaknesses in the design of the euro area and there has been no shortage of heated policy debates about the nature of the systemic reforms that were required. In the same vein, both the European Central Bank’s response and the pace of fiscal consolidation have been matters for ongoing controversies.

Against this background, one could expect political parties to offer clearly defined alternative choices for the future of Europe and citizens to participate to the elections en masse – even more so because the next parliament will have a say in the selection of the coming European Commission, the EU’s executive body. Expectations, however, are uniformly grim. Last time the election was held, turnout was 43% only. It is anticipated that it will be low again and that fringe national parties will be significant winners in the election. Throughout Europe, mainstream politicians are preparing for a setback. Some foresee a disaster.

There are three reasons for this paradox. First, citizens do not grasp what the European parliament is about. It is, in fact, an active and thorough legislator. Over the last five years, it has for example been an energetic player in the elaboration of a regulatory response to the global financial crisis and a staunch protector of European consumer. Recently it has played a major role in the creation of a banking union in the EU. But it is rarely the place where the debates that define the political agenda and capture the citizens’ attention are held.

european parliament

Second, dividing lines within parliament are often national rather than political. On industrial policy, trade and regulation, as well as far as relationships with neighbours are concerned, which country you belong to matters as much as which camp you are from. Consequently, issues are often settled with a compromise that blurs the separation between left and right. As in addition virtually all the media are national and generally pitch the debate as opposing the national capital and ‘Brussels’ or another capital, voters have no perception of the sometimes very real differences between left and right.

Third, the fundamental European debate is of a constitutional nature and for this reason it cannot be settled by the parliament. This is true of the key issues that arose during the euro crisis: whether to rescue countries in trouble, whether to mutualise public debt, whether to change the decision rule for sanctions against excessive budget deficits, whether to go for a banking union. Each time the big question was, what do Germany, France and other Eurozone countries think? It was not what does the European parliament think, because almost by definition the parliament has always been in favour of more Europe.

These three obstacles to a pan-European political debate explain why fringe anti-EU parties like the UK Independence Party (UKIP), or the French National Front generally do well in the European parliament elections. Their simple message is that European integration is the wrong way to go and that national governments should repatriate powers from Brussels. As the scope for disagreement between the two main centre-right and centre-left parties is much narrower than the range of views amongst voters, voters who have sympathy for the anti-EU know why and for whom they should vote while those who are in favour of European integration do not have many reasons to vote, because the mainstream parties’ platforms are largely interchangeable.

To overcome the obstacle, a recent reform has stipulated that when appointing the European Commission’s president, the heads of state and government should take into account the result of the elections to the European parliament. In principle therefore, the next European Commission president will belong to the party holding the (relative) majority in the European parliament. Furthermore, the main parties have already nominated their candidates to the European Commission. This politicisation is meant to flag to the citizens that their vote matters and will result in determining the roadmap for the next five years. Unfortunately however, it is not clear whether mainstream parties will be able to formulate policy platforms that are defined enough to attract voters.

Does it matter? After all Europe’s situation is not unique. In the US participation rates in the mid-term elections (when the presidency is not in the ballot) are generally well below 50%. They are also rather low in other federations like India or Switzerland. As Tip O’Neill, the former speaker of the US House, used to say, “all politics is local” and this affects the voters’ behaviour. Europe, in a way, is awkward, but normal: the EU does the legislation, but politics is national.

This is however a too complacent reading of the reality. At a time when countries participating in the euro are confronted with major choices, the risk for Europe is to emerge from the elections with a weak legitimacy (because of the turnout) and a politically distorted parliament (because of the strong showing of the fringe parties). This would make governments wary of bold choices and could result in an unhealthy stalemate. It is not yet time for the EU to become boringly normal.

Jean Pisani-Ferry currently serves as the Commissioner-General for Policy Planning to the Prime Minister of France. He is also Professor of Economics and Public Management at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Until May 2013 he was the director of Bruegel, the Brussels-based economic think tank he contributed to founding in 2005. He is the author of The Euro Crisis and Its Aftermath.

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Image credit: The European Parliament, Brussels. Photo by Alina Zienowicz. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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20. 2014 Halloween / Día de los Muertos

Denver's dead trick-n-treatin'. Students dead/Mexico rising from the dead? Not-voting suicide. Latino/a Rising will live.

The two holiday observances ironically portray death from two opposing perspectives, as Flo Hernandez-Ramos explained yesterday. Today's post relates to different news bits about "death." It ends with good news.

Denver's dead trick-n-treatin'

We're such a nation of scared sheep, I'm not surprised. For over a month the Colorado press and media, politicians, police and fear-mongers have been sensationalizing a Non-threat: "Denver Police Warn Parents About Pot-Laced Candy During Trick-or-Treat Season." Give me a break, with more than a Snickers.

We're a richly self-medicated nation, abusing a lot of prescription drugs. For decades we've had bathroom shelves of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, given out for pain, so much that some is usually left over. Those are cheap compared to what THC spray costs. Were warnings issued every year about codone-laced candy?

When Denverites complained about the police's fear-mongering, the cops made a video posted on Facebook! They got slammed for that, too, but it was too late. At least in some Denver neighborhoods, on a Halloween night warmer than many previous, we had the lowest turnout ever. I'm guessing why. People in other areas report similar low turnouts, though not everywhere.

What will we hear next year to make us keep kids "safe" and inside and not walk the neighborhoods? ISIS terrorist sympathizers giving out hand-grenade treats! Disgruntled African immigrants giving out Ebola-licked gummy bears! Listen in to your fave shock-brained radio jock to find out. And be scared. It's as American as apple pie laced with GMOs. Oh, that's right--that's a real threat.

43 Students dead / Mexico rising from the dead?

U.S. drug habits and drug laws, gun mania and shipments into Mexico are now responsible for the likely murders of 43 students from Ayotzinapa Normal teacher-training school, missing since Sept. 26th. Big deal. Drugs, drug lords, killings, kidnappings, decapitations, "disappearings", cartel-bribed politicians, police and soldiers are always in the news. That's the Mexico the U.S. helped create and we're not surprised to hear more. However, this time, more than mierda has hit the fan.

"Most of the students were in their teens, in their first semester, and from impoverished communities that a majority of Mexicans identify with. The voids in Mexico’s government are all too obvious now. The country seems to be trembling at the edge of a terrible cataclysm or, for the hopeful, an inspiring transformation.

Mexico City rally for the 43
"There will be a march in Mexico City on Oct. 31st, coinciding with the Day of the Dead, and a “mega march” is scheduled for Nov. 5th, the day Mexico’s universities and colleges are planning a national strike. How many universities, colleges, and institutes will stick with it, and for how long? Will it spread to other areas of society, to the high schools, for example, as recent student strikes in Chile did, bringing about significant changes in the country? When masses of students boycott classes, it fills a country with an air of emergency and danger.
"What many Mexicans have been telling me is this: It’s either now or never."

Chicanos, mexicanos, latinos from the U.S. will no doubt support as they can whatever arises from the probable deaths of the 43. A new Revolución, across the river from El Paso, San Diego and Brownsville? It wouldn't be sci-fi or fantasy to imagine how our government, politicians and military would react to that. Or the gun lobby and industry, anti-immigrant racists and radio shock-jocks. I can hear them now. But for the rest of the country, it would be a true gauge of a "commitment" to democracy. Maybe they'd be spared the agony of having to decide. Yo espero que no.

Not-voting suicide

Earlier this year, I was among those advocating NOT voting. I was wrong. "We" are not united enough for that to have an effect. A discussion about when that time might come doesn't matter at the moment.

In the meantime, I'm voting because the Koch brothers, the anti-science crazies, the pro-oil conglomerates and the anti-immigrant racists are trying to elect their kind. They're even going after judgeships so justifiable claims against corporations will be more frequently overturned by "their" judges in the future.

Wherever I look on the Internet, TV or the press, and whoever I talk to, I could almost believe Armageddon is here, and Dystopia is our only future. Many people (including me) are negative, bitter, even reverting to political hermits. For that reason, I have been Facebooking the points below--one per day--trying to answer typical reasons you hear about why somebody won't vote next week. Use them, elaborate and improve them, if you want.

Many idiots, but make sure they're yours
#1 - Why you don't have to vote: Because you don't believe in the lesser of 2 evils.
What! Satan's not worse than a demon?
Frostbitten's not worse than shivering?
The 1% has robbed us of plenty. Did they steal your vote yet?

#2 - Why you don't have to vote: Because you think corporate ads already bought yours.
What! You think the 1% can control and even predict the future?
Hiding your head in the sand is smarter than sticking it in a voting booth?
Yes, the 1% has bribed most politicians. But you go alone into the voting booth.

#3 - Why you don't have to vote: Because the polls already canceled out your vote.
What! You think pulling one lever matters less than 1,000 opinions?
Ask the condemned man who he fears more--the hangman or the mob out front.
No, you might not have much to pick from. But which end of the rope do you prefer?

#4 - Why you don't have to vote:  Because there's only a few hours left, and you've got too much to do.
What! You don't want to spend a few minutes to avoid years of suffering?
Only terminal cancer patients (my apologies) could say voting does them no good.
No, you never have enough time. But voting could make the future, worth living.

#5 - Why you DON'T have to vote: Because you only care about who the President is, not a bunch of politicians.
What! You think if your President is elected, he/she will take care of everything?
Congress or your state legislature make the laws. The Prez and governors sign them, or not.
Your vote next week adds or detracts from the next President's or governor's power; that's the math.

Latino/a Rising will live!

I apologize to everyone who this week received too many bits from me about funding and supporting the anthology, Latino/a Rising, the first collection of U.S. Latino/a science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative genres. I do believe it is worth supporting and buying copies of once it's published. And I did have a personal stake in it, since a story of mine might be included. Even if it's not, I expect it to be a precursor of latino contributions to come. Echando más salsa en la literature Americana.

The good news is that the Kickstarter campaign surpassed its $10,000 goal but there's still time, until midnight, for you to kick in and get some cool perks, like autographed copies, T-shirts and swag.

I was just one of many who participated in reaching that goal. At times, I felt ambivalent: Why do we Latinos have to ask for money for a first-ever anthology when so many are produced in the U.S. every year? That's a because that I won't get into. What made me feel better were the non-latinos who responded, sometimes directly, letting me know they had contributed. It made me remember that we're not alone. There are some progressive Anglos, and others, out there. We just need to re-educate more of them.

Es todo, hoy, ni un treat más,
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, Chicano spec author with too much left-over candy

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21. Mapping historic US elections

Today is Election Day in the United States, and we’ve mapped out some of the stories behind historic American elections. Explore America’s presidential and Congressional history, from Abraham Lincoln’s first Senatorial race in 1858 to George W. Bush’s hotly-contested victory against Al Gore in 2000. We sourced our facts and figures from The Republicans: A History of the Grand Old Party by Lewis L. Gould and articles from the Journal of American History, Sociology of Religion, and the Journal of Church and State. Some of the contests featured here are widely known, others less so, but all of the locations on our map offer a piece of electoral history.

Heading image: The County Elections by George Caleb Bingham. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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22. Obama and EPA libraries

In October, Obama sent out letters to a few US Agencies addressing concerns and issues that the President of the American Federation of Government Employees (John Cage) had inquired about. Concerning the letter to the EPA, Obama states:

I strongly oppose attempts by the Bush Administration to thwart publication of EPA researchers’ scientific findings, as well as the attempt to eliminate the agency’s library system. In an Obama Administration, the principle of scientific integrity will be an absolute, and I will never sanction any attempt to subvert the work of scientists.

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23. On Iran

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at the election in Iran. Read his previous OUPblogs here.

Let me be the first to admit that I don’t know if the recent Iranian “election” was fraudulent, but the faith some pundits have placed on the “evidence” for their conviction that it was gives me pause.

The elections certainly weren’t free and fair, not least because the regime had hand-picked the slate of candidates, but we are unlikely to ever know that straight-up fraud was involved or if voting irregularities were of a higher frequency than those we have routinely taken for granted even in this country. Our failure to contemplate even the possibility that many a dictator has been democratically elected is a dangerous democratic hubris that has shaped and sometimes thwarted our foreign policy.

I am not asserting that the Iranian election was definitely legitimate, only that it is at least remotely possible that it was. At least two independent pollsters agree, and have offered the illuminating factoid from their poll that the only demographic group that found Hossein Mousavi leading Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were graduates and those with high-incomes. (That is to say, they are people most likely to resemble western spectators still staring at the final vote tally in disbelief.) Yet Christopher Hitchens would have none of it and Steve Clemons has decided that there will be blood. But is the blood that Clemons not implausibly predicts will ensue the result of the subversion of democracy in the Iranian electoral process or its success?

Shutting down the media may be egregiously non-democratic, but it is different than creating ballots out of thin air. The reason why this distinction matters is that we must learn to contemplate why millions of people around the world would want to rally behind fanatical leaders who hold such spectacularly repugnant positions as denying the holocaust. This has happened so many times before that it makes our failure to accept its possibility even more revealing of the depth and scope of our mind-block: consider the cases of Gamal Nasser (Egypt), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), Slobodan Milošević (Serbia), and now, possibly, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Democracy is messy, and it is not naturally or dialectically inclined towards human rights, western liberal ideals, or the best candidate according to our standards. Neo-conservatives in America positing that the Iraqi people would welcome our troops as liberators back in 2003 have had to learn the hard way the costs of believing what they wanted to believe. In an analagous way, today’s pundits have been so quick to assert that the Iranian people in their post-election riots have exposed the charade of their recent “elections,” but maybe it is democracy itself that has outwitted the pundits. To understand the unpredictable and poigant path of democracy and democratization in the world, those of us who believe in democracy must urgently and honestly contemplate the number of times we have been hoisted by our own petard.

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24. Poetry Friday: Folloween

Yesterday at Booklights I talked about monster books that are perfect for Halloween but aren't shelved in the holiday section of your library if, say, you were supposed to get a book for reading to your child's class and somehow put it off until the last minute and then realized that the only thing you had in the house was Clifford's Halloween and you were not using that because okay, he's a BIG dog and you so get it already and there has to be something better and there totally was except all the moms who were doing their job correctly made it to the library when they should have and left the shelves empty except for one beat-up copy of Clifford's Halloween which would make you scream, but with a deep breath you remember the monster books at Booklights - with some additional suggestions in the comments from Abby (the) Librarian - so you can pick out something very appropriate and fun for the kids.

In that post, I mentioned the two poetry books of Adam Rex, Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake. Amazing, funny, brilliant, books with incredible artistry. A better blogger would now spend some time reviewing one or the other of them, but I expended all of my energy on that run-on sentence above. So instead you'll get a poem. And not even the whole poem, because now I'm getting freaked out by the legality of that. Plus the whole poem really needs the illustrations to make it work to its full potential. But in any case, here is the beginning and you can get the book to see how Girl Scouts fit in.


No ghosts are seen on Halloween,
except for kids in sheets.
No zombies ring for anything
apart from tricks or treats.
Though people say
today's the day
when bogeymen
come out to play,
November first is when the worst
of monsters hit the streets.

And in disguise the dead arise
to sell us magazines.
In ties and slacks
they hand out tracts
as fine, upstanding teens.
Before I got to the second part of the poem, I was absolutely certain that he was going to talk about election campaigners. I don't know how it's been in other parts of the country, but in Virginia the election is huge with the Republican candidate for governor leading by double digits in a state that went blue in 2008. I've been getting tons of calls and campaigners coming by and flyers at every local event. Obama even came to a rally in Norfolk, but a little late I think. The only thing that could really help the Democrats now is if people take the new health care legislation seriously and don't want Virginia to opt out of a public health care choice. In any case, they'll have to campaign without me on Folloween because I need this weekend to catch up on things I let go for the last two months.

I also need time to prepare - possibly - for National Novel Writing Month. I've never been interested before, but I do have a book in my head and maybe this is the time to let it out. I don't know. Is it crazy to go from being consumed by KidlitCon to committing to writing a novel in a month? Are you doing it this year? If you did it before, was it worth the pressure?

Oh, Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jennie at Biblio File. Happy Halloween everyone!

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25. On The Disrupted Sequence of Health-Care Reform

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at the health-care reform bill that the House passed. See his previous OUPblogs here.

Democrats must be thinking: what happened to the halcyon days of 2008? It is almost difficult to believe that after the string of Democratic electoral victories in 2006 and 2008, the vast momentum for progressive “change” has fizzled out to a mere five vote margin over one of the most major campaign issues of 2008, a health-care bill passed in the House this weekend. If you raise hopes, you get votes; but if you dash hopes you lose votes. That’s the karma of elections, and we saw it move last Tuesday.

Democratic Party leaders scrambled, in response, to keep the momentum of “Yes, we can” going, by passing a health-care reform bill in the House this weekend. But despite claims of victory, Democratic party leaders probably wished that their first victory on the health-care reform road came from the Senate and not from the House. President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have always hoped to let the Senate pass its health-care reform bill first, initiating a bandwagon effect so that passage in the House would follow quickly and more easily, and a final bill could be delivered to the president’s desk.

Instead, the order of bill passage has been reversed, making a final bill less likely than if things had gone according to plan. If even the House, which is not subject to supermajority decision-making rules, barely squeaked by with a 220-215 vote, then it has now set the upper limit of what health-care reform will ultimately look like. Potentially dissenting Democratic Senators see this, and there might now be a reverse band-wagoning effect. Already, we are hearing talk from the Senate about the timeline for a final bill possibly being pushed past Christmas into 2010. This is just what Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama were hoping against, by pushing the Senate to pass a bill first. Unfortunately for them, the Senate took so long that to keep the momentum going (and amidst the electoral losses in NJ and VA last week), they felt compelled to pass something in the House to signal a token show of progress.

But the danger is that the move to regain control may initiate a further loss of control. The less than plenary “victory” in the House bill has only made it clearer than ever that if a final bill is to find its way to the President’s desk, it will have to be relieved of its more ambitiously liberal bells and whistles. Even though the House Bill, estimated at a trillion dollars, is more expensive than the Senate version being considered, and it has added controversial tax provisions for wealthier Americans earning more than $500,000, what the House passed was already a compromise to Blue Dogs. On Friday night, a block of Democratic members of Congress threatened to withhold their support unless House leaders agreed to take up an amendment preventing anyone who gets a government tax credit to buy insurance from enrolling in a plan that covers abortion. If even the House had to cave in some, there will have to be many more compromises to be made in the Senate, especially on the “public option.”

Sequencing matters in drama as it does in politics. It is at the heart of the Obama narrative, the soul and animating force behind the (now unraveling) Democratic majority in 2009. “Yes, we can” generates and benefits from a self-reinforcing bandwagon effect that begins with a whisper of audacious hope. From the State House of Illinois to the US Senate, from Iowa to Virginia – the story of Barack Obama is a narrative of crescendo. “They said this day would never come” is a story of improbable beginnings and spectacular conclusions. The structural underpinnings of the Obama narrative are now straining under the pressure of events. To regain control of events, the President must first regain control of his story.

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