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Ginger for President!

Change we can believe in, and she doesn’t even use a teleprompter!

And on top of that, she can yodel.

I’d rather have the plagues of Egypt

I never thought I would be grateful for this ankle monitor. From today’s SF Chronicle:

First lady Michelle Obama’s commencement speech at UC Merced on Saturday is the biggest thing to happen in this sleepy Central Valley city since, well, ever.

“This is something that puts the UC Merced campus on an international stage and gives our city a chance to shine along with it,” said Merced city spokesman Mike Conway. “We couldn’t be happier.”

For her part, the president’s wife will experience two things the area is best known for – picturesque cow pastures and blistering 95-degree spring days.

And for everyone else, there will be more good ol’ family fun than this town has seen since, well, ever.

A two-day “Cap & Town” festival that begins downtown today is like a county fair on steroids, with everything from goofy human-bowling-ball games to kids flinging themselves against Velcro walls.

Obama’s 1:30 p.m. speech, for which no tickets remain, will be broadcast on JumboTrons around town for those who weren’t lucky enough to score a pass to hear it in person, and every restaurant will be pitching its cuisine late into the evening.

The festival and the A-list speaker are firsts for Merced – as are many things this weekend, most related in some way to Obama’s appearance.

And because of that, everyone – from the 80,608 souls who call Merced home to the 2,718 UC Merced students – is filled with something approaching giddiness.

“We’ve just never seen anything like this before,” said David Martinez, bartender at the Partisan pub downtown, which is bracing for overflow. “We did have Arnold Schwarzenegger drive through here once, and he stopped at a Starbucks. That was pretty big.

“But I think Michelle Obama is definitely going to blow him out of the water.”

Until now, Merced has been mainly known as “The Gateway to Yosemite,” where you gas up on your way to the national park via Highway 140, and the hometown of actress Janet Leigh and serial killer Cary Stayner. The snazziest event most local can remember is February’s Amgen Tour of California bike race, which drew star cyclist Lance Armstrong and 15,000 attendees.

This “sleepy Central Valley city” is my hometown. If you count the unincorporated suburbs Merced is well over 100,000 in population, which is about four times the size it was when I was growing up. These days Merced is probably better know for meth labs than cow pastures.

I happened to be downtown the day Arnold’s caravan stopped for coffee at one of our three Starbucks. I was so excited I went into the used bookstore across the street and scanned the shelves for books by my favorite authors while I waited for my heart to stop racing.

I went to school with Cary Stayner, which some of you might think explains a lot. His younger brother Steven was kidnapped by a pedophile and held for 7 years before being found and returned to his family. They made a television movie about that.

Michelle Obama isn’t the biggest celebrity to ever visit Merced. President Jimmy Carter, Vice-President George H.W. Bush, the late Senator Robert Kennedy and George McGovern all gave speeches in Merced.

Merced is also the hometown of game show hostess Summer Bartholomew, who won the 1975 Miss California and Miss USA pageants. (you didn’t see the “Miss California” thing coming, didja?)

Michelle Obama is far from being the “biggest thing to happen” in Merced. Back in the seventies Ike and Tina Turner gave a concert at the fairgrounds, and the Goodyear Blimp visited the airport several times. Heck, we even had Phyllis Diller perform at our county fair one year!

Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Breakfast Read

  • Obama determined to be one of the greatest punters
  • Either that or he’s telling us “who cares about what I promised during the campaign”
    President Obama to restart Guantanamo Bay military tribunals

    President Barack Obama is to restart the Bush-era military tribunals for Guantánamo Bay detainees that he once denounced.
    On the presidential campaign trail in February 2008, Mr Obama had described the Guantánamo trials as “a flawed military commission system”.

    Obama Planning to Keep Tribunals for Detainees

    President Obama has decided to keep the military commission system that his predecessor created to try suspected terrorists but will ask Congress to expand the rights of defendants to contest the charges against them, officials briefed on the plan said Thursday.

    Inside Guantánamo Bay: Desperate prisoners ask ‘where is freedom?’

    Blogtalk: Obama and Detainee Photos

    The WSJ editorial board is gleeful. Why not?
    Democrats Discover Gitmo’s Virtues

    All Democrats in favor of standing with your president to shout out the evils of Guantanamo, shout aye! “Aye!” All Democrats in favor of doing what would be necessary to close Guantanamo, shout aye! . . . What, nobody?

    Is all this a big victory for Dick Cheney?
    David Axelrod: Dick Cheney not an influence on photos

    Asked in an interview Thursday with PBS’s Newshour whether Cheney’s comments played any role in Obama’s reversal on the photo issue, Axelrod said, “Absolutely not. Believe me, I’ve been with the president as he speaks about these issues, and he’s got one thing on his mind, which is to make the right decision for the troops, for the country, for our national security. I don’t think he’s worried about comments from the sidelines by anybody.”

  • Torturegate
  • Nancy Pelosi accuses CIA of lying about use of torture

    How Waterboarding Is Drowning Pelosi

    Chuck Krauthammer is still a bag of douche
    The Torture Debate, Continued

    CIA Denies Cheney’s Request to Release Intelligence Documents

    Castro and Cheney: ghosts of administrations past

    Dick Cheney and Fidel Castro may not have a lot in common, but they share this: too much time on their hands. Rather than gracefully exit the world stage after a long run, they have decided they are indispensable defenders of the faith — albeit different faiths, of course.

  • Outrage du jour: Obama is commencement speaker at Notre Dame
  • Activists plan Notre Dame protest

    Anti-abortion activists at the University of Notre Dame have planned a series of at least six demonstrations and other events for Sunday to protest the school’s selection of President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address.

    The Rude Pundit goes through the archives and wonders:

    Why Is This Pro-Choice Commencement Guest Different Than the Others?
    In 1980, the commencement speaker was Carter administration Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, a supporter of abortion rights.

    In 1987, an honorary degrees were given to the pro-choice Coretta Scott King, Alan Simpson, and Rosalyn Carter.

    In 1991, an honorary degree was given to Jane Pauley, a pro-choice supporter.

    In 1992, protesters lined up as pro-choice Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was given the university’s Laetare Medal, “the oldest and most prestigious honor awarded an American Catholic,” according to the Washington Post. President George H.W. Bush, giving the commencement keynote, went out of his way to praise Moynihan.

    In 1993, an honorary degree was given to pro-choice judge Alan C. Page.

    In 2000, the commencement speaker was then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who supports all kinds of family planning programs, including those where abortion is allowed.

  • How bad is the economy?
  • Economists Foresee Protracted Recovery

    Eurozone economies contract 2.5%

    Chrysler Ax Falls Across U.S.

    Paul Krugman takes his shrillness to Asia and shares his observations
    Empire of Carbon

  • Way top go!
  • Soldier Zachary Boyd caught fighting Taleban in pink underpants

    Zachary Boyd, 19, was sleeping when the ambush occurred and only had time to put on his helmet and body armour before grabbing his gun and rushing into action, leaving his “I love New York” pink boxers on full display.

  • Is Keith Olbermann’s douchiness even higher than you thought?
  • Meltdown With Keith Olbermann!

  • Stuff I hope my boss reads
  • Brain’s Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream (via Yves Smith)

    The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that activity in numerous brain regions increases when our minds wander. It also finds that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving – previously thought to go dormant when we daydream – are in fact highly active during these episodes.