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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feeling a bit of a donkey about local planetary politics

I’ve tried to ignore it for long enough but it’s time to face up to the elephant in the room – as well as the donkey.

It’s Election Year in Planet America and while we've already experienced the country going to the polls shortly after we first landed, with the usual complications moving involves, I was more concerned then about the state of our heads than our head of state.
This time around we have no excuse – and frankly we don’t need any as it’s impossible not to get caught up in the coverage of the race to the White House. Who wouldn’t be interested in a race that pits an elephant against a donkey? Who wouldn’t be interested in a political party that picks an elephant or a donkey as their symbol? So hence my first bit of cultural research – what was the story behind the pachyderm and the pack-ass?

Most of us would associate a donkey with (let’s just call a chad a chad) stubbornness and even stupidity and apparently, we’re not far wrong as to the original use. The Democratic Donkey evolved after opponents of Democrat Andrew Jackson called him a jackass in his 1828 presidential campaign. He in turn decided to adopt the image as meaning strong-willed in his election posters. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast then jumped on the donkey-pulled bandwagon and used the animal to represent the party, hence its existence today as the unofficial but accepted Democratic emblem.

Over to the Republicans who have the elephant as their official symbol. Nast is also accredited with this one after depicting a donkey hidden in a lion’s skin scaring away all the animals in the zoo. One of these was an elephant labeled “the Republican vote”. And that was all it took. That and a good memory.

Today’s Democrats apparently view their donkey as humble, hard-working and courageous while Republicans, far from seeing the elephant as slow and bumbling, believe it represents dignity and strength. Hope my subalien evolution turns out as well!

Another previous hurdle in my own race for local political wisdom was the constant use in political commentaries of the term GOP. I now know that this stands for the Republican nickname, the Grand Old Party. But 55% of Americans didn't when asked in a sample poll last August. Even more amazingly, only 51% of the Republicans polled got it right.

To confuse you even further, GOP was originally used to describe the Democrats before the Republican Party even existed. They would appear to have (stubbornly?) resisted any other acronym since so headline writers are forced to reduce them to Dems where necessary. Although (contrary to what many paleontologists say), apparently DINOs still exist (Democrats In Name Only). In the interests of fairness, I should of course add there are many humourous “alternative” versions of GOP, my current favourites being “Greedy One Percent” and “Grumpy Old Patriots”.

Then there’s the colour issue  - and I’m not talking about the “of color” issue here. In most other democracies, any party on the political left would usually be associated with the colour red and those parties more right-wing or conservative would see their leaders bedecked with blue ties (or skirts in the case of the UK’s Mrs Thatcher). Here, with the national flag a very convenient red, white and blue, and a clear political case of left versus right, an interplanetary visitor could be excused for assuming the same rules would apply.

Wrong – in fact it’s exactly the opposite. Red states are those where local aliens generally vote for a Republican president, blue for a Democratic one. It’s not always been that way. With the advent of colour television, networks all adopted their own system, some apparently alternating every four years between blue and red for the incumbent President’s party. This led to one famous comment by an anchorman when (Republican) Ronald Reagan won his 44-state landslide in 1980 that his electoral map looked like "a suburban swimming pool". Other commentators called it “Lake Reagan”.

It was only in 2000 that the accepted red/blue Republican/Democrat divide set in. This was the famous “chad” election when the viewing public were subjected to the electoral map for days after going to the polls thanks to the close contest between George W (did you know it stands for Walker?) Bush and Al Gore. Given the political shenanigans were confusing enough, it helped that at least all the TV stations were on the same page - or screen - as far as the political colours were concerned.

There is one other suggestion that the evolution of the colours is because donkeys can have a reddish coat and elephants a blue-ish hue but I'll not wait for the count to come in on that one....

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