Tuesday, September 30, 2008

That's mavirckiness we can believe in, my friends

I hate to say it, but Sarah Palin has a point.
He's got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we've been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he's got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I'm the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he's got the experience based on many many years in the Senate and voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.

Got that? Don't vote for the old guy who's been in the Senate--like--forever. Vote for the new kid with energy and ideas. This must be why McCain has started chaperoning her to her interviews.

Speaking of mavirckiness we can believe in, those clever kids over at FireDogLake found a Mother Jones interview with McCain from 1998 when he was opposed to Clinton going after bin Laden.
Look, is this guy, Laden, really the bad guy that's depicted? Most of us have never heard of him before. And where there is a parallel with Vietnam is: What's plan B? What do we do next? We sent our troops into Vietnam to protect the bases. Lyndon Johnson said, Only to protect the bases. Next thing you know.... Well, we've declared to the terrorists that we're going to strike them wherever they live. That's fine. But what's next? That's where there might be some comparison.

We shouldn't let that Laden guy lure us into a global war on terror, because you never know what kind of unforeseen consequences that might have.

(Both quotes via AmericaBlog.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout fallout

The bailout bill just failed and the stock market dropped 600 almost 800 points. Boehner and the Republicans are saying they voted against the bill because Pelosi hurt their feelings. I'm not sure whether the bill was good or bad, but I do know a stock market crash is not good.

Update: The final count on the Dow Jones is possible the biggest single day drop in history.

Earlier today, the McCain team was pushing the narrative that he personally saved the deal by pararchuting in last week. Now he's he's stamping his well-shod feet and shouting that Obama personally ruined the deal.

The House Republicans are sticking by their statement that they threw the deal because Pelosi hurt their iddle widdle feelings. Presumably, that means they were ready to vote for the bill on its merits until Pelosi said something mean. That's quite an amazing thing to admit. We always suspected that they were a bunch of drama queens who cared more about having their egos massaged than about doing what they think is best for America. But it's something else to hear it from their own mouths. Mind you, these are the same manly men who claim they are the only thing standing between us and total victory by the terrorists, immigrants, homosexuals, rap musicians, and Putin.

While it's true that they more likely changed their minds and scuttled the deal that John McCain personally negotiated because they thought running against the deal might be a way to save their pathetic jobs in November, it doesn't change the fact that claiming to be a bunch thin-skinned crybabies is really an amazing thing to announce in public. An not something that inspires confidence.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain can't do two things at once

John McCain has been taking a drubbing in the campaign lately and now he wants to call time out.
John McCain said he and Democratic rival Barack Obama should suspend their presidential campaigns and delay Friday's scheduled debate to work with lawmakers on a plan for addressing the financial-markets crisis.

McCain said the Bush administration's proposal to rescue struggling financial companies and unlock credit markets won't pass Congress in its current form.

He said he will return to Washington tomorrow to join congressional deliberations, and won't participate in the debate unless there is a resolution by then.

I'm sure some in McCain's campaign think a time out is a good idea as it can be used to slow the momentum of his decline. The economic crisis provides perfect cover for this maneuver. The McCain campaigners want their guy to be seen rushing back to take charge of this important issue. They want him to be seen as caring more about what's good for America than about campaigning for president. I'm sure many will take his actions at face value and be impressed by them. Not me. I don't believe a word of it.

First, McCain is largely responsible for this mess. During his twenty-six years in congress he has been a tireless voice for deregulation, doing a way with the structure of laws and oversight that pulled us out of the depression in the thirties and prevented a repeat of those horrible events for over seventy years. That structure has been good for American workers, consumers, and retirees, but opposed by speculators who make huge profits by exploiting short-sighted gains and running away before they have to pay the consequences. Led by his advisor Phil "Whiners" Gramm, the Republicans finally succeeded in undoing the work of the New Deal Under Reagan and the Gingrich-DeLay congresses. After that, it was just a matter of time before things collapsed. Many economists and responsible, civic minded businessmen like Warren Buffett warned that this was coming, but people like McCain mocked them as "nay-sayers" and encouraged the builders of our economic house of cards. As one of the architects of this mess, McCain is one of the last people we should look to as a leader in fixing the problem.

Secondly, despite his sneering dismissal of Obama's patriotism, it is McCain who cares more about getting elected than anything else. It is McCain who has racked up a higher absentee rate over the last two years than anyone in the Senate. While Obama warned of the coming crisis and offered solutions, McCain travelled the election circuit proudly bragging about his record of fighting regulation, confessing his ignorance on economic matters, and promising more and longer wars for the next generation to fight.

Finally, why should he be allowed to opt out of the election process now? What better time for the American people to hear what he has to offer, to make him explain why we should trust him?

This call for a time out should fill us with doubt and fear. When the president is called on to deal with one crisis, America's other problems and enemies don't patiently wait until he finishes, has a nap, and is ready for them. Today, Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the next hurricane aren't going to wait until we're done with this problem before causing trouble. Their manners won't get any better during a McCain administration. If McCain doesn't have the energy, attention span, or ability to do more than one thing at once, McCain doesn't have what it takes to be president. Period.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin's excellent dinosaur adventure

Uh oh. Those relentless investigative reporters of the right think they have caught lefty celebrities and mainstream media stars getting hoaxed by a humor site and spreading lies about Sarah Palin. Warner Todd Huston has a column up on a dozen or so right-wing sites with the poop on our latest perfidy.
As if we needed another reason to think that the excitable Maureen Dowd and the empty headed Matt Damon are... well, excitable and empty headed… we get the newest raindrop in their river of blather as proof that their "research" into a subject seems to consist of hearing an unsupported claim and deciding it represent gospel truth. Our latest proof is that they both seem to have been taken in by a nutrooter lie, a fake quote that claims Sarah Palin said, "dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago."

Both seem to have fallen for a parody of Governor Palin invented by a blogger whose post seems to have been taken literally. The following self-identified "fake Governor Sarah Palin Quote" was posted on August 30: "God made dinosaurs 4,000 years ago as ultimately flawed creatures, lizards of Satan really, so when they died and became petroleum products we, made in his perfect image, could use them in our pickup trucks, snow machines and fishing boats."


[H]ow do these two darlings of the far left explain away their use against Palin of a known nutrooter lie? I suppose, like most leftists, truth doesn’t matter to them if the end result is a win for their side. After all, for the left, the ends truly do justify the means.

Huston shouldn't be so quick to declare victory on that one. Many creationists do believe that the men of Genesis and dinosaurs lived together, that Noah carried dinosaurs on his ark, that dinosaurs are the dragons and monsters of ancient and medieval lore, and that they have only gone extinct in historical times. Google the word dinosaur along with Behemoth and Leviathan. Take Ken Ham (please! Ba-dump), the owner of the fancy new creation science museum in Kentucky.
In the Bible, in Job 40:15-24, God describes to Job (who lived after the Flood) a great beast with which Job was familiar. This great animal, called 'behemoth,' is described as 'the chief of the ways of God,' perhaps the biggest land animal God had created. Impressively, he moved his tail like a cedar tree! Although some Bible commentaries say this may have been an elephant or hippopotamus, the description actually fits that of a dinosaur like Brachiosaurus. Elephants and hippos certainly do not have tails like cedar trees!


Interestingly, the word 'dragon' is used a number of times in the Old Testament. In most instances, the word dinosaur could substitute for dragon and it would fit very nicely. Creation scientists believe that dinosaurs were called dragons before the word dinosaur was invented in the 1800s. We would not expect to find the word dinosaur in Bibles like the Authorized Version (1611), as it was translated well before the word dinosaur was ever used.

Also, there are many very old history books in various libraries around the world that have detailed records of dragons and their encounters with people. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly for creationists), many of these descriptions of dragons fit with how modern scientists would describe dinosaurs, even Tyrannosaurus. Unfortunately, this evidence is not considered valid by evolutionists. Why? Only because their belief is that man and dinosaurs did not live at the same time!

At least one Alaskan claims Palin went along with this theory up until a few years ago. From Philip Munger's Progressive Alaska. "[In June 1997] I bumped into her in a hall away from other people. I congratulated her on her victory, and took her aside to ask about her faith. Among other things, she declared that she was a young earth creationist, accepting both that the world was about 6,000-plus years old, and that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time." In another version of the story, Munger told an interviewer "I pushed her on the earth's creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she'd seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them." About eight years later he ran into her again. "At this time, people were beginning to encourage her to run for Governor. Once again, we found ourselves being able to talk privately. I reminded her of the earlier conversation, asking her if her views had changed. She was no longer 'necessarily' a young earth creationist, she told me. But she strongly reiterated her belief that 'The Lord is coming soon.' I was trying to get her to tell me what she felt the signs were, when she had to move on." Unless Huston can discredit Munger as a witness, the truth on this one is, at best, that she used to believe that people and dinosaurs once lived together, but now she isn't sure.

By the way, the Matt Damon clip that is circulating does not "propagate [that] as fact." He question it. He says it is important to find out if that is something she believes. But lets not let facts get in the way. If there is one thing the right loves as much as a good press bashing, it's a good Hollywood bashing. By linking Dowd and Damon on this one it's a twofer Huston and his readers. Huston can be as snide and sarcastic as he wants, but he's wrong on this one. So, how will they explain away the use against Dowd and Damon of known wingnut misinformation when this gets out? Will they just ignore it? "I suppose, like most leftists rightists, truth doesn’t matter to them if the end result is a win for their side. After all, for the left right, the ends truly do justify the means." Yeah, my enemy is just plain evil, that must be the explanation.

Palin Rumors: Part 2

Charlie Martin has moved his Palin Rumors debunking to a new home and begun updating and adding to the list. I'll continue my practice of fisking his debunking as long as he keeps adding to the collection. Here are the next few on the list:
72. No, she didn’t try to charge rape victimsd personally for rape kits. This is one of those complicated ones with a tiny hint of truth behind it. First, the Cheif of Police in Wasilla did apparently have a policy of asking a victim’s health insurnace to pay for the rape kit as part of the ER visit. This, it turns out, is policy in a number of states, including Missouri and North Carolina. Second, the way this became an issue was after the then-governor of Alaska signed a bill forbidding it; this law was signed before Palin was Governor and no one tried to reverse it while she was Governor. Third, what the CoP in Wasilla wanted to do was charge the perpetrator as part of restitution.

I wrote extensively on this one already, here. Again Charlie hamstrings my attempt to do a thorough follow up by not citing his sources. Did someone really say she tried to reverse the Croft bill outlawing the practice or is he just being sarcastic? I'll probably never know. In any case, his attempt to justify her practice is bogus. First, who care if other states bill the victims? If they jumped off a cliff.... It's still wrong. Second, Chief Fannon's claim about wanting to bill the criminals is a weak effort at damage control at best. The rape kit is an investigative tool. Does Fannon bill the victims of shootings for ballistic work? Does he bill the victims of burglary for fingerprint work (if any is done)? In no other crime is the victim charged for the investigation. If the courts want to charge the criminal restitution for the costs to the police, nothing is stopping them. Fallon's action singles out the victims of this one crime for special--and cruel--treatment.

Two things about the crime of rape make the victims stand apart from the victims of other crimes. They are almost entirely women and they can become pregnant as a result of the crime. The rape examination can, but doesn't necessarily, include a morning after pill to stop a potential pregnancy. And, like any medical procedure during pregnancy, the exam has a slight risk of causing a miscarriage. Palin is an anti-abortion extremist; she opposes abortion even for rape and/or incest. Early in her political career she was active in picketing and driving away the only abortion provider in the Susitna valley. Many anti-abortion zealots oppose morning after contraception and encourage pharmacists not to carry it. Finally, the practice of billing the victims was introduced into Wasilla by Palin's hand chosen police chief and was not practiced by the chief she fired.

73. Yes, she did say that she figured if "under God" was good enough for the Founding Fathers, it was good enough for her. No, in context I don’t think that means she thinks the Founding Fathers wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

In context, I don't see how it can mean anything else. Since Charlie doesn't actually link to the context, I will. You can make up your own mind whether Charlie or I are correct. Note: Eagle Forum, the Phylis Schafly group that originally polled her on this has taken the poll results offline. This copy is from the Anchorage Daily News. There are dozens of other copies of the poll out there. Eagle Forum isn't very internet savvy.

Part 1 of my fisking is here.

Now that I own an insurance company

The US, better known as you and me, just bought an 80% majority of the insurance giant American International Group Inc., better known as AIG. I'll leave conservatives to fret over this socialist takeover of private industry, I'm concerned about how our company has been run. Now that we are the majority stakeholders I expect we will have most of the seats on the company's board of directors and executive compensation committee. From those positions, I think we should fire all of the current management above the department head level and institute a stockholder's lawsuit against those former executives and board members who have so badly mismanaged our company. Besides suing them to return all pay and compensation received during their disastrous tenures, I think we should ask for sizable punitive damages to make an example of them. And, since we are now a socialist dictatorship like Denmark, where's my damn socialized medicine?

Unemployed again

For the last year, I've had a part-time job writing content for the beta version a news chat site (which is the official excuse for my sparse posting over here). But that came to an end Friday. The site is now mature enough that they can generate discussion without paid ringers like me to keep things going. It was a part time job and only provided pocket money for me, but I enjoyed it. Now, I need to find an income again. Sigh. I'm a hard worker and good at a number of things, but networking and finding work are not among my talents. So here's the situation: I'm a skilled writer/editor in the Seattle area available for full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract work. My dream job is writing content for a project that uses one of my areas of knowledge. That would be news, politics, science, history, or literature. I have written catalogs for collections, press releases, newsletters, book reviews, software helpfiles and manuals, and even a little marketing text. Send those tips and job offers to the e-mail at the left or drop them in the comments. Thanks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska is right next to Russia

When others have mentioned this fact as something that qualifies Sarah Palin for vice president, most people have laughed. Therefore, I was surprised to hear her bring it up herself.
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

In her defense, maybe she thought Gibson said "What sight do you have..." in which case her geography factoid might have been a correct answer. She was referring to the Diomede Islands which straddle the International Date Line in the Bering Straits. Big Diomede is on the Russian side of the line and Little Domede is on the Alaskan side. There is a village of about 150 Eskimos on Little Domede who live mostly by fishing and walrus hunting. The islands are only two and a half miles apart, so it's easy to see one from the other on a clear day. In the winter when the ice is frozen you can walk across in about an hour.

This point was a laugh line a week ago but, since they don't have anything better to offer with Palin, the McCain campaign is trying to repackage it as a serious argument. If they repeat it enough, reporters might start to take it seriously (or, at least, report it seriously in their he-said-she-said narrative). Supporters, who will repeat anything their side says, will have no problem swallowing the koolaid that this is a serious argument. By the old propaganda principle called the "big lie," if you repeat something enough times it becomes conventional wisdom, regardless of how silly, false, or unbelievable it may have been at the beginning.

I see a big flaw in this big lie. Even if it is true that a person can become a foreign policy expert just by seeing the shoreline of Russia, I can find no evidence that Sarah Palin has done so. I can locate no news articles or any other evidence that she has ever been to Little Diomede or that she has seen Russia. Even she said, you can see Russia from Alaska, not that she has seen Russia from Alaska.

I lived in Alaska for nineteen years and I've been to Russia. I guess that makes me a thousand times the foreign policy expert she is. Former Python Michael Palin has been to Little Diomede, so I guess he's qualified to Prime Minister.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

About those rape kits

Earlier this week, reporters and bloggers looking into Sarah Palin's record as mayor came up with a horrifying story from the local Wasilla paper The Frontiersman. The story was that under Palin, the police department of Wasilla had a policy of billing the victims of rape for the medical tests used by the police in their investigation. The reason for the original news article was that the Alaska state legislature had passed a law forbidding police departments from continuing that practice. Most cop show fans will be familiar with the term "rape kit" used for these exams. What the television dramas don't mention is that these exams and related lab work cost between $300 and $1200 apiece. That's a big burden to drop on someone who is already traumatized by being the victim of a violent crime. The new law required police departments to pay the costs themselves.
The governor signed House Bill 270, sponsored by Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, outside the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam room at Alaska Regional Hospital. In attendance at the signing were members of victims advocate groups, law enforcement agencies and legislators.

The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur.

While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests. Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. "In the past we've charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don't want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer," Fannon said. According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.

The response to the article has been incredulous and loud. Obviously, outrage has been the primary response on one side of the aisle. On the other side three primary responses have emerged. First, simple dismissal. Any criticism of Palin is a smear, negative campaigning, and motivated by sexism.

The second response is an argument from ignorance. The respondent refuses to believe it could be that bad.
The only conceivable possibility is that there may have been cases for which insurance didn't pay (the article provides no evidence of this), in which case the most likely scenario would be the department paying as in the city of Palmer. ... There is no evidence in the slightest than any[one] ever had to pay a cent, and this would be obvious and easy for the newspaper to have checked - and I'm sure the DNC's team of operatives would have turned up something better than this hit job if there were any such thing to find.

The author here has no facts beyond those in The Frontiersman piece but makes assumptions about what must have happened and denigrates the article as a "hit job." Note: the DNC "team of operatives" he refers to is a Republican urban legend. There is no DNC team of operatives as described in his link.

The third defense is the bad underling defense. The respondent says that if it did happen, it wasn't Palin's fault, she couldn't have known about it, and that it was the police chief's fault. This response also depends on making assumptions without presenting any new facts. This ignores the fact that she hired the police chief and that in politics responsibility flows upward, not down.

No one seems to know if anyone was ever actually charged for their rape kit. Charlie Fannon, the police chief Palin hired after firing Irl Stambaugh, said, "In the past we've charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible." Does that imply it wasn't always possible? If so, what who paid? Tony Knowles, the governor at the time, and Eric Croft, the primary sponsor of the bill, both say the bill was specifically aimed at Wasilla. The reporter who wrote the original Frontiersman article that started this whole brou-ha-ha made a rather clear statement that "the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests." Is the certainty of this statement based on it having happened or on her understanding of Fannon's policy? Again, no one really knows.

The one truth in this is that during Palin's term as mayor, the police chief she hired had a policy of placing the responsibility for paying for a vital investigative tool on the victims rather than paying for it out of police funds. Did he also require the victims of shootings to pay for ballistic testing of guns and bullets? Singling out rape for this kind of treatment certainly indicates a gross insensitivity toward the victims and probably that he placed a lower value on solving these crimes than on others.

This is an issue where Palin and McCain are in perfect agreement. In 1994, John McCain voted in the minority against legislation -- pushed by Joe Biden -- that helped put an end to charging rape victims for sexual assault exams. That bill, H.R.3355: the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, provided funding for a variety of law enforcement programs, but would have denied funds to any police department that billed victims for their rape kits. As recently as 2007 McCain voted against reauthorizing that program. There is far more reason to absolve McCain than Palin. In his defense, the 1994 bill was a large bill with many provisions; the rape kit section was one among many. Palin has no such defense.

Much, if not most, of the bump that McCain received from adding Palin to his ticket has come from white women. If there was any strategy at all involved in picking her, and she wasn't just the lucky result of a tantrum McCain threw when they told him he couldn't have Lieberman, this was it. The Palin bump is the last hurrah of the disgruntled PUMAs. Unfortunately for McCain, Palin's position on the issues that the press usually identifies as "women's issues" is not good. When the novelty of her wears off, many of the women who moved to the R column last week will move back to the D column. But they won't move without help. The Obama campaign needs to move agressively to reestablish the Democratic brand superiority on those women's issues

More Obama sexism

Brace yourself.
President Bush's announcement Tuesday that he would bring home 8,000 troops from Iraq early next year did not win over Barack Obama. The Democratic presidential nominee said the move just "kicks the can down the road" to the next president.

He said "can"!!! That's clearly a reference to Palin's butt! I'm outraged at the sexism of Obama, the Democrats, and the liberal media. I demand an apology!! I demand a denouncement!!! Where's my smelling salts? Besides, Al Gore has a bigger can than Palin. So there.

Lose your house, lose your vote

In their continuing efforts to make sure that poor people who might vote Democratic don't get to vote at all, the Republicans have come up with a new tool. They are using home foreclosures to reenact a system suspiciously similar to the property requirements that were in force in the early days of the republic.
The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week.

A little history lesson is in order. One of the minor themes that often appears in American History and Western Civilization classes is that progress is directed toward the achievement of greater democracy and that full participation in the elctoral system is a good thing. Leaving aside philosophical questions of teleology, this isn't a particularly bad interpretation. Admitting that there have been setbacks along the way, the rough thrust of our history has been in the direction of expanding the right to vote (enfranchisement) from a privileged few to all adult citizens.

When the Constitution was ratified, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's population) had the vote. Between 1820 and 1840 the property requirement was gradually removed and all white males had the vote. This shift is one of the primary elements of the Jacksonian revolution. In the years before the Civil War, the adoption of literacy tests (aimed at disenfranchising immigrants, especially the Irish) rolled this back. The Fifteenth Amendment, adopted in 1870, formally gave all male citizens the vote, though most states fudged the law quite a bit. Jim Crow laws adopted across the South in the years around 1890 managed to disenfranchise most black voters. Women got the vote in 1920 and American Indians in 1924. Beginning in 1957, a series of laws and court decisions outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests, and other laws that were being used to keep southern Blacks from voting. In 1971 the voting age was lowered to 18, formally giving almost all adults the right to vote. During the seventies long residency requirements and other barriers to voter registration were struck down. The few remaining categories of disenfranchised adults at the end of the seventies included convicted felons and the mentally ill.

The seventies were the peak of enfranchisement according to the law. Since then, efforts to disenfranchise whole groups of voters have mostly been informal rather than legal. Some of the dirty tricks used since then have been telling voters to appear on the wrong day, telling voters that they can't vote if they have outstanding tickets or debt, and not providing enough voting equipment or ballots to certain precincts. In recent years, however, there has been a rise in legal efforts at disenfranchisement. Voter roll purges and tough ID laws are the primary tools of this new disenfranchisement.

Voting rights is an area where the psychological and linguistic differences between liberals and conservatives are starkly clear. Virtually all Americans agree that voting is a right and that people should exercise that right. Most of the time when someone says this or that group shouldn't be allowed to vote, they mean it as a tasteless joke or a bitter commentary on some item in the news and not as a serious proposal to change the Constitution. There are exceptions, but they are mostly stupid people who shouldn't be allowed to vote.*

The reason that liberals and conservatives come into conflict over voting rights every election is that while they agree that voting is a right, they don't agree on what the word "right" means. Most liberals think rights are something all people are born with and that they can only be deprived of their rights for the most grevious wrongdoing. Most conservatives think rights are something earned; though we might all be born with a potential to have the same rights, we must first earn the the perrogative to exercise a specific right. Simply put, when a conservative says "right" he means what a liberal means when he says "privilege."

This difference is most visible in discussions of election malfeasance. When conservatives get upset over election problems, they are almost always upset over the idea that someone voted who didn't "deserve" to vote. "Deserve" is one of the most powerful words in the conservative lexicon. They worry that the value of their rights are diminished by undeserving people exercising the same rights. When liberals get upset over election problems, they are almost always upset over the idea that someone was unfairly prevented from voting who was entitled to vote. "Fair" is one of the most powerful words in the liberal lexicon. Being excluded is one of the most unfair things a liberal can imagine. Election reform for conservatives means strict controls to keep the wrong people from voting. Election reform for liberals means making sure no one is prevented from exercising their right to vote.

This brings us back to Macomb County, Michigan. Most conservatives will think James Carabelli's efforts to prevent people from voting who can't prove residency in the precinct are perfectly reasonable. If they don't belong to the precinct, they shouldn't vote there and it's just too bad if they can't vote anywhere else. Most liberals will be outraged that people who have already endured the loss of their homes will now face the added insult of being deprived of the vote. Both sides will think the other side is cheating and not understand why the other side doesn't care about "rights."

* For the sake of the humor-impaired, I should point out that that was an ironic demonstration of the tasteless joke thing I just referred to.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Praying for McCain's death -- sequel

Since the first praying post has had a lot of traffic, I feel owe everyone an update. Of the two sources that were quoted praying for McCain's death, one is legit and one is a satire.

Calvinists 4 Conservatism written by Ixion is a satire in the same style as Blogs 4 Brownback. It's very straight-faced and so close to some real sites I've looked at, that I took it seriously. I should have checked further.

The second site, The Forerunner written by Jay Rogers, is for real. Ixion's satire was actually in reference to Rogers' piece. The attention he gained (mostly from Pharyngula readers) has led him to change his post. Rather than reading, "Pray for John McCain's salvation and speedy death," it now reads, "Pray for John McCain's salvation and pray specific imprecatory prayers if he fails to pro-actively defend the sanctity of human life." Lawrence Salberg, a friend of Jay's wrote to say that Jay is a harmless fellow who likes to create controversy. Well, he did. Apparently more than he could handle.

Jay, according to Salberg is fixated on the concept of imprecatory prayer, an old idea of praying for God to either convert or kill certain leaders. A quick browsing of Jay's blog shows this to be true. He has a new post explaining the idea. The use of imprecatory prayer had almost faded from everyday use in this country (except for in college athletics) until it was rediscovered by right-wing religious extremists. It's a popular idea in the anti-abortion movement. There lies the danger. As we have seen, it's easy for religious extremists to make the shift from praying for God's wrath on their opponents, to believing that they are the tool of God's wrath. The result is assassination, car bombs, hijacking, suicide killers, or combination of all of the above.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fisking a debunking

Update: 09-09-08 I have made additions or corrections to items 2, 37, 38, 58, & 59. Just for the record, my previous comments are still there, but crossed out. I'll continue in this style unless it becomes incoherent.

Clever Wife regularly participates in a forum for craftspeople who make soap. Lately the forum has included some long digressions into politics. She is usually capable of responding to the misinformation she sees, but occasionally she asks for my help. The other day someone posted a list of "rumors" about Sarah Palin debunked by someone named Charlie Martin, a computer programmer in Colorado. Charlie's list on his blog Explorations is now up to 71 points and has earned him a spot on Fox News along with tens of thousands of blog hits.

Clever Wife thought that Charlie's debunking shows a solid pro-Palin slant. It looks that way to me, too. It's not so much about setting the record straight as it is about presenting a partisan defense of Palin against any criticism. CW asked if I could help her debunk some of Charlie's debunking. Some of his debunking is just fine, but many of the answers leave important information out, simply accept the McCain/Palin version of events, blame the victim, or take cheap shots at the mainstream media. After trying to hit just a few of the more difficult points on his list things rapidly got out of hand. I decided to take on the whole list fisk-style. I wish he included the source for some of the rumors because they really are quite stupid and Charlie is right to dismiss them.

I have tried to include all of his links, but forgive me if I miss or mess up a few. This is much more complicated than it looks.
1. Yes, she is Governor of Alaska. No, she’s not the Lieutenant Governor. No, she’s not currently Mayor of Wasilla. Yes, she was Mayor of Wasilla, some years ago.

Palin is currently the Governor of Alaska. Previously she was governor of the town of Wasilla. While mayor of Wasilla, she needed a city administrator to help her oversee 53 employees (her count in 1996). That's fewer employees than the average WalMart has.
2. Yes, as Governor of Alaska, she’s the Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard. And yes, her professional military subordinate is quite impressed with her in that role.

As governor, she commands the Alaska National Guard when it is not in federal service. While that is command in some sense it is not the same as being "Commander in Chief." The only Commander in Chief is the president of the United States. She has no control over the equipping, mission, or deployment of the AKNG in Iraq; that is done by the Pentagon. Day to day management of the AKNG is done by Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. His title is Commander. The only times she has ordered the AKNG into action has been to supplement fire fighting units and to sandbag coastal communities whose shorelines are facing rapid erosion. While these are management, neither of those constitute "command" experience in the sense of running a war.
As governor, she commands the Alaska National Guard when it is not in federal service. While that is command in some sense it is not the same as being "Commander in Chief." The only Commander in Chief is the president of the United States. She has no control over the equipping, mission, or deployment of the AKNG in Iraq; that is done by the Pentagon. Day to day management of the AKNG is done by General Craig E. Campbell of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. His title is Commander. The only times she has ordered the AKNG into action has been to supplement fire fighting units and to sandbag coastal communities whose shorelines are facing rapid erosion. While these are management, neither of those constitute "command" experience in the sense of running a war. General Campbell made the favorable comments that Charlie links to on Sept. 5; he was promoted a full rank, from Major General to Lieutenant General, on Sept. 8. You can decide for yourself whether or not there was a quid pro quo involved.
3. And yes, the New York Times says the job of Governor of Alaska is one of the harder, and more powerful, jobs in state government.

Alaska governors have significant power, so it is a real job. And yes, sneering at the New York Times always sells tickets on the right.
4. Yes, there are people in Alaska who think she’s too liberal.

There are people who think Bush is a liberal. What does that prove and why does a simple statement of fact like that constitute a rumor?
5. Yes, she did giggle when someone called Lyda Green a "bitch." Yes, Lyda Green is a cancer survivor. Yes, it was the same Lyda Green who tried to force a scheduling conflict that would make Palin miss her son’s high school graduation. Yes, this would also be the Lyda Green who complained no one had asked her about Palin during the vetting process.

Palin and Preen have an on-going feud and Green has done and said some nasty things. So has Palin. The real question is whether or not Palin's action was professional. This will not be the last time Charlie will dismiss an accusation of wrongdoing of Palin's by saying the bitch had it coming (blaming the victim).
6. Yes, she did push for and approve the Wasilla Sports Center. Yes, it did cost a lot of money. (People keep saying $20 million, that article says $14.5 million, but then they also added a $1.2 million dollar food service/kitchen piece. This year, after Palin was out of office as Mayor.) Yes, the city went into debt to do it (how did you buy your house, bunkie?) and raised the city sales tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent to pay for it. Yes, the city is paying it off early. Yes, there is an ongoing dispute about title (following a struggle with the Nature Conservancy and another buyer. And yes, at the time it was built, Wasilla had a Federal judge’s decision that they had title to the land.

Wasilla had no debt when she became mayor and was twenty million in debt when she left office. She raised the sales tax rate while mayor. The Sports Center contributed a lot to that debt. Palin has a pattern of spending today without worrying about the long term consequenses. None of these fit with the Republican ideal of fiscal conservatism, though they do match Bush's behavior as President. The sports complex issue also highlights her impulsiveness. because she ordered construction to begin befor title was secured on the property, the town of Wasilla ended up paying $1.3 million to settle the land issue.
7. Yes, she did want authority to have wolves culled from the air, because they were taking too many moose and caribou. Which people hunt for food in the back country in Alaska. No, she isn't shooting them herself. I mean, not that she couldn’t, but I’m sure she doesn’t have time. (Thanks to bluemerlin in the comments.)

She is in favor of the aerial wolf cull. This is a very controversial and a perennial issue in Alaska. Even many hunters and those in favor of culling the wolf population, so that they don't compete with human hunters, find shooting wolves from the air to be unsportsmanlike. I haven't seen the claim that she was going to conduct the entire cull by herself. This is number two of "the bitch[es] had it coming."
8. No, the Downs baby (Trig) isn’t Bristol’s kid, and no, the kid wasn’t born with Downs because (a) Palin flew on an airplane (b) went home to have the baby after an amniotic leak (c) because he was the result of incest between Todd Palin and Bristol.

Down's Syndrome is a genetic disorder and not caused by anything the mother does while pregnant. As far as anyone knows, the father is her husband, Todd. No one except Todd has the right to challenge that; it's none of our business. However, her continued traveling after she went into labor with Trig does strike many as irresponsible.
9. No, Track (the kid who is leaving for Iraq) didn’t join the NG because he was a drug addict. He may have joined the NG because he was tired of people saying his Mom was getting him into the good hockey leagues. (Yes, that one was original reporting. I’ve got sources in Wasilla.)

No one knows what goes on in another person's mind. I have no reason to believe Track had any other reason to join the Guard other than his stated ones. The only way this would be any of our business would be if Palin somehow forced him into the Guard or used her position to influence the course of his career there. I have heard no claims that anything like that is the case.
10. No, Willow and Piper aren’t named for witches on TV. Among other things, Willow was born before Buffy came on TV, and Piper was born before Charmed.

Daughters Willow and Bristol are named for places in Alaska. Willow is a spot on the map near Wasilla where the state was planning to build a new capital in the eighties. The project has since been indefinitely postponed. Bristol Bay is the Eastern-most part of the Bering Sea and a major salmon fishery. Piper is a type of plane common in Alaska. I don't know what Track and Trig are named for (Track might be a snowmobile brand). The equivalent would be someone in Washington state naming their kids Puget, Walla, Boeing, and Skidoo. It's eccentric, but is not otherwise significant.
11. Yes, Trig’s name may be misspelled. Isn’t it usually "Tryg" as in "Trygve"? In any case, I doubt he’s named for the Secretary General of the UN (1948-1952), either. But at least that was before he was born, unlike the others.(Thanks to Chris, via his blog

See # 10.
12. Yes, it appears that she has a Big Dipper tattooed on her ankle. She lost a bet.

I hadn't heard of the tattoo. It sounds cool to me, but has no political significance.
13. No, she’s never been in any porn as far as anyone can find (and God knows I get enough google hits on those very topics.) I would think the Big Dipper tattoo would be a giveaway.

The porn rumor apparently comes from her appearance. Many jokers say the glasses and hair make her look like the hot librarian/secretary/nurse character common in seventies porn. That joke pre-dates her selection by McCain.
14. No, no one seems to be able to even find swimsuit pictures of her from her beauty queen days; God knows I looked. The bikini pictures that are around are photoshopped, just like the Vogue cover I have up.

What's the rumor here? Aside from curiosity, why does anyone care about swimsuit pictures from her beauty queen days?
15. No she wasn't a member of the (wild-eyed libertarian) Alaska independence Party, although her husband once was

She did address their convention in Wasilla when she was mayor there. She said, "Your party plays an important role in our state's politics ... keep up the good work, and God bless you." She claims that it was part of her duty to make visitors feel welcome in her town. And she did. The confusion about her membership comes from the fact that they felt so welcome that the leadership of the AIP believed she was one of them.
16. No, neither the (Canadian) National Post, nor Marc Armbinder at the Atlantic have troubled themselves to issue a correction. Yes, the New York Times did finally correct their story of September 1 — on September 5. This was after Elizabeth Bumiller was quoted by Howard Kurtz as saying she was "completely confident about the story." Yes, that was after the New York Times's source retracted the story. Yes, this should embarrass the Times, Bumiller, and Howard Kurtz. No, there have been no signs of embarrassment.

Again, what's the rumor here? Or is the point simply to take another shot at the New York Times and the mainstream media? It's not enough for the Times to correct the story, they must publicly express embarrassment.
17. No, she was never a Pat Buchanan supporter; even when Buchanan claims she was, she was on the board of Steve Forbes's campaign in Alaska.

As Mayor of Wasilla, she appeared at a Buchanan event wearing a Buchanan button. Buchanan got the impression that she and her husband supported him. She now denies that she did. As with the Alaska Independence Party convention, she says she was just trying to make Buchanan feel welcome in Wasilla. Notice how she only has a record of extending this courtesy to the farthest right fringe visitors? Did she find it necessary to welcome visiting environmentalist big shots and make them feel that she was on their side.
18. No, she's not anti-Semitic. In fact, she has an Israeli flag in her office. (Contrary to popular belief, the usual Evangelical thinks Israel has a right to exist, granted by God.)

An Israeli flag and membership in a church that supports Christian Zionism does not prove that she is or is not anti-Semitic. She did sit in her church on August 17 and listen to David Brickner, a speaker from Jews for Jesus, say that terrorist attacks were God's judgment on Israel because the Jews haven't accepted Christianity. If it had been Rev. Wright, Obama would be required to distance, denounce, disown Wright's comments, and then he would be accused of being insincere. Christian Zionism, the support that many end-time believers have for the state of Israel, is considered suspect by many Jews. The usual end-time scenario requires most of the Jews to gather in Israel and then be killed there during the final battles between the Antichrist and the returned Jesus. In most versions, the only survivors are 144,000 Jews who convert to the right kind of Christianity before the final battles begin.
19. No, I don’t think she's being "indoctrinated by Lieberman and AIPAC as we speak"; I don't get the feeling that being indoctrinated is something that Palin does well.

Joe Lieberman is helping brief Palin on McCain's positions this week. During that time she will be making few public appearances and will not be talking to reporters. Whether that constitutes indoctrination is a judgment call. In the sense that she's receiving some kind of Zionist brainwashing--which is what I read Charlie's response to imply the rumors he's heard mean--I'd say there is no indoctrination. In the sense that she's learning the right talking points to give to support McCain's campaign message, it could be called indoctrination.
20. Yes, it seems unlikely that she's going to be in hiding for the next two weeks seeing as she’s been in rallies twice in the last two days. Or at least it’s going to be real rough, given that she has three media interviews scheduled today (6 September) alone.

The current McCain strategy is to not let her give very many press conferences at all. She is only to appear at carefully controlled events. Of course, that could change.
21. Yes, it does appear that Palin’s local pastor preached about an end time when God will judge everyone, even Wasilla, Alaska, and the United States. Duh. This is called the Book of Revelations, and while I don’t believe it personally, I don’t see it as a disqualifier for the hundred million or so Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals, Episcopalians, Catholics, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Lutherans (traditional and Missouri Synod), African Methodist, and so on Christians in the US.

See # 18.
22. Yes, I do sometimes wonder about the state of Andrew’s health.

Who the hell is Andrew?
23. No, she’s doesn’t believe that the Iraq War was directed by God. Yes, she did pray that proceeding with the war was God's will: "they should pray 'that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.'" (Ever hear the phrase "Not my will, but Thine, be done"?) Yes, this apparently freaks some people right out.

The quote about the war and God's will is unclear (different printed versions give it different punctuation adding to the confusion), but I agree with Charlie. It makes most sense if you read it to mean she hopes the war advances God's will, not hat she thinks the war already is God's will. Some people are indeed freaked out by any kind of God talk. My interpretation of Charlie bringing this up is that he meant it as a swipe at the mythical anti-Christian tendencies of the left in general and the Democratic Party in particular.
24. No, Buchanan doesn’t support her now; in fact he’s supporting Obama. (Buchanan did think her speech was amazing, but then so do 80 percent of the people who saw it.) Or maybe not. Buchanan sure doesn’t like McCain though.

On September 2 Buchanan said his position on Israel and Iran is "a lot closer to Barack Obama's than it is John McCain." That's not an endorsement of Obama for president; that's a comparison of their positions on one issue. As far as I know, Buchanan hasn't endorsed anybody. I would be pretty surprised to find out that he's supporting Obama or any Democrat.
25. Yes, she was apparently pregnant when she got married

Track, her oldest son, was born seven months after she was married. It makes talk of abstinence till marriage a bit hypocritical, but it is a very trivial issue for most people. Most folks of her generation did not go to their marriage beds as virgins. This fact still upsets many on the religious right, the group she is supposed to help McCain with. Some pro-Democratic bloggers might think bringing up this fact from her past could be effective in driving some religious right voters away from McCain (so far it has not). I think it's lower politics than Democrats should engage in.
26. No, so far there’s no confirmation she had an affair while she was married, and they’ve denied it pretty strongly. No, she wouldn’t be the first Christian woman who got a little on the side, if it were true.

Some people in Wasilla think she had an affair with her husband's business partner. None of the people involved claim that happened. So, this is just local gossip.
27. No, she wasn't named as a co-respondent in a divorce; there's no evidence she had an affair with her husbands' business partner. The partner tried to have his divorce records sealed because he was being harrassed by journalists who used them to get his phone number.

See # 26.
28. Yes, barring immaculate conception virgin birth (whatever), Bristol appears to have had sex with her fiancee. No, Bristol didn’t receive only "abstinence-only" sex ed.

Does anyone still care about Bristol's pregnancy? Sometime around April, Bristol got pregnant by her boyfriend Levi. Levi's year-old MySpace page (since removed) said he didn't want children. He has since become her fiance and everyone says they are thrilled about the little miracle. Palin tried to arrange a quick wedding right after McCain called her, hoping to have them married before anyone found out. The cover-up failed because someone in Wasilla gossiped (it was no secret among their high school friends). The only political issues involved in this are: A) the massive hypocrisy of people like Bill O'Reilly who went ballistic over Jamie Lynn Spear's pregnancy last year (calling her parents unfit and pinheads) but who now plead for Bristol's privacy, B) the support of the Republican Party for abstinence only education (they would have kept Bristol and Levi from getting any kind of birth control information or counseling), and C) the the religious right praising Bristol and the Palin's for their choice of keeping the baby when they don't want anyone to actually have a choice there. Also, does anyone actually think Palin gave her daughter a "choice"?
29. Yes, I have it on reliable report that Sarah Levi's mom has been heard screaming "Way to go Levi!" at her future son-in-law son. No, it doesn’t appear to have been when Bristol broke the news to her family. Note: I originally understood this story to be about Sarah, not Levi's mom, in the context of hockey games. As such, it's shouldn't be in a Sarah Palin Rumors story, but I like the story too much to delete it.

See # 28.
30. yes, her 17 year old daughter is pregnant; no, the baby’s father is not an eighth grader; no, having sex at 16 is not statutory rape in Alaska. And no, there’s no way that a 17 year old can be 5 months pregnant as a result of having sex before she was 16. Learn to count for God's sakes.

See # 28.
31. yes, she did fire the public safety guy — but he said in the Anchorage paper that, for the record, she never, and no one else in her administration ever, tried to make him fire her ex-brother-in-law

That is simply not correct. In the Anchorage Daily News, Palin admitted that some on her staff had placed improper pressure on the commissioner for public safety to fire her ex-brother-in-law. Tapes exist of the conversations and Palin has suspended one member of her staff. Is this scapegoating or is it really a case of an overzealous employee? A through investigation might reveal the truth, but the McCain camp is trying to prevent one from happening.

I don't pretend to know what the whole truth is on this issue. The accusations are as follows: Sarah Palin's sister was divorced from State Trooper Mike Wooten the year before Palin ran for governor. It was an extremely nasty divorce that eventually drew Palin's entire family. The day her sister filed for divorce, their father called the troopers and reported every bad thing he had ever seen Wooten do. Wooten was disciplined by the Troopers for his bad behavior, but the Heath/Palin family did not think the discipline was severe enough. They thought Wooten should have been fired. The commissioner for public safety, Walter Monegan, says that, soon after taking office, Palin, her husband, and three of her staffers began pressuring him to reopen Wooten's case. Todd Palin hired a detective to gather evidence against Wooten and lobbied people further down the hierarchy between Monegan and Wooten. In July this year, Monegan was fired. He says it is because of the Wooten issue; Palin says it was not. The legislature ordered a review of the whole brou-ha-ha with a report due in October. Palin at first made all of the traditional noises about welcoming the chance to clear her name and promised to cooperate, but since joining the McCain team, a gaggle of high paid Republican Lawyers have descended on Alaska to block the review. The governor's office will not provide any of the documents requested by the committee and the lawyers have challenged the authority of the legislature to investigate the governor.
32. and yes, the state trooper (her sister's ex-husband) she was worried about did: tase her 10 year old nephew; drive his state patrol car while drinking or drunk; did threaten to "bring her down"; and did threaten to murder her father and sister if they dared to get an attorney to help with the divorce.

So, she (or her family) didn't try to get him fired through extra-legal means, but if they had, it would have been okay because the bitch had it coming. No doubt about it, Mike Wooten was a jerk. At the time, which was before Palin became governor, she wrote to the chief of the State Troopers and said not firing Wooten "would lead a rational person to believe there is a problem inside the organization."
33. yes, the state trooper was suspended when he was put under a court protective order

Legally, the issue of Wooten's bad behavior was taken care of before Palin became governor. Just to be clear, the Troopergate scandal involves the accusation that she (or her staff or her family) tried to revive the issue and force additional punishments on him after taking office.
34. no, the trooper wasn't fired

Yet. It certainly wasn't because of a lack of efforts on the part of her family to get him fired.
35. yes, she did fire the Wasilla Chief of Police as Mayor; yes, it was because he was lying to the City Council.

He says it was because he contributed to her opponent in the election and opposed a state bill to ease restrictions on concealed weapons, which she supported. There do appear to be two sides to this story. Why does Charlie assume her version is always the correct one?
36. Yes, she did try to cut her own salary as Mayor by $4000 a year; yes, she had voted against the $4000 a year raise while on the City Council.

While she did cut her own pay, she hired an administrator to help her do her job, adding another entire salary to the payroll.
37. No, she didn't cut funding for unwed mothers; yes, she did increase it by "only" 354 percent instead of 454 percent, as part of a multi-year capital expenditures program. No, the Washington Post doesn't appear to have corrected their story. Even after this was pointed out in the comments on the story.

She cut the amount that the legislature budgeted for the coming year, which was to include expansion of the Covenant House as well as it's annual operating budget. The WaPo reported this accurately.
The budget passed by the legislature in April appropriated five million for Covenant House, the organization that aided unwed mothers. This was a considerable increase over the previous budget. Palin made a line item change in the budget cutting that amount to 3.9 million, which is still an increase over the previous budget. To claim "she increased the budget" is quite a distortion and claims credit that properly belongs to the legislature. She allowed the legislature to to increase their budget, but not by as much as the legislature wanted. The WaPo blog reported this accurately, if not especially clearly.
38. No, she didn’t cut special needs student funding; yes, she did raise it by "only" 175 percent.

This is apparently an honest misunderstanding. The budget enacted in April 2008 included some changes in the education system recommended by a legislative committee the year before. This added some categories to the budget that were not in the previous budget. The claim that she cut the special needs budget comes from comparing the wrong two lines in the budget. First, the claim that the budget was reduced 62% comes from comparing the Department of Education and Early Development budget for special schools. Special schools are things like the school for the deaf and the military academy. The apparent cut was the result of one of the legislature's recommendation which moved the military school into a different budget category. In any case, the "special schools" line item is not where the "special needs" programs are funded. They are covered under something called the Foundation Program, which did indeed get an increase of about 175%.

The FactCheck.org report that corrected the facts on this item is entitled "Sliming Palin" which is just as inflammatory as any of the rumors it ties to debunk. The Weekly Standard's piece called it the "Newest Palin Smear." Look, budgets are big complicated documents and people have just started combing through the various Wasilla and state budgets that she had a hand in. Information will be trickling out for some time concerning these things and some of it will be wrong or misinterpreted. This does not always mean that there is a big shadowy conspiracy of Democrats and the "liberal mainstream media" to smear Palin.

I wonder who Charlie is quoting with the scare quotes around "only."
39. yes, she did try, clearly unsuccessfully, to get Bristol married off to her fiancee before the story came out

See # 28.
40. yes, she did ask the librarian if some books could be withdrawn because of being offensive; no, they couldn't; yes, it was "rhetorical", at least as was reported contemporaneously in 1996[1] ; yes she did threaten to fire the librarian a month later; no, that wasn't over the books thing but instead over administrative issues; no, the librarian wasn’t fired either; yes, the librarian was a big supporter of one of her political opponents; yes, the librarian was also the girlfriend of the Chief of police mentioned above; no, this is not the first time in the history of civilization that someone has been threatened with being fired over a political dispute

I'm not sure who said this was the first time in the history of civilization that someone has been threatened with being fired over a political dispute, but repetition of corruption doesn't make it less corrupt. The article Charlie links to has Palin claiming the discussions were just "rhetorical." The Library Director, Mary Ellen Emmons, clearly came away from the conversation less sure. "I'm hoping it was just a trial balloon," she told reporters at the time. The letter firing Emmons came four days after Palin quizzed her at a town council meeting. No administrative issues were mentioned at that time. Emmons was told she was not supportive of Palin's program.
41. No the list of books she wanted to ban that's being passed around isn’t real; among other things, it includes a number of books published after her time in office there.

Emmons says no titles were actually discussed. The list Charlie mentions includes the usual suspects that come up again and again when book banners gather.
42. No, that hasn’t actually deterred people from claiming it really is true even if the list isn't correct. For example:

"This list might not in fact reflect the books Sarah Palin wanted banned. As more than one person in Comments has pointed out, some of them were not published when Palin was in office. It is my hope that the mainstream media will not let this story drop and that at some point an actual list will surface. The very thought of having someone who once advocated book-banning possibly occupying one of the highest offices of our land fills me with profound dread. It should fill you with dread too."

"It's true even if it's not true" is an interesting reading of the quote. The writer seems to me to be saying "the issue is important even if the details are wrong and the press should continue to try to get to the bottom of it." What's wrong with that.
43. No, I don’t understand why a fake list is supposed to fill me with dread, either.

The comment is that having a book banner in office should fill you with dread, not that the list should fill you with dread. This one really bugged Charlie.
44. no, it wasn't won't be [bad tense, hasn't happened yet] a shotgun wedding; Bristol and Levi been engaged for a good while according to Levi's mother. It was either an accident or just an unconventional order.

See # 28. "Unconventional order." I like that. But the important issue is that no actual shotguns have been involved and only the liberal, rumor-mongering media would suggest otherwise.
45. yes, she's an was an Assembly of God Holy Roller. No, she doesn't attend an AoG church now. Yes, she did leave the AoG because they were getting too weird for her.

Palin no longer regularly attends the Assembly of God church that she did for most of her life, but she hasn't completely broken with them. She still visits on occasion. She has made no statement suggesting she found the church "too weird."
46. No, she's not anti-Mormon. No, not all AoG churches are anti-Mormon. (AoG is even more hard-core about allowing each pastor and congregation to make their own decisions than the Baptists are.) (Thanks to AnonAmom in the comments.)

See # 45 and # 69.
47. No, she’s not from another planet. No, I haven't actually heard that one yet, but you wait. Okay, I have now heard it.

I can sympathize with Charlie here. I think I'd get a little testy and sarcastic if I had to dig through the world of internet and e-mail rumor mongering for too long. In fact, I am getting testy.
48. yes, she apparently believes in some variant of Intelligent Design

She hasn't actually used the phrase Intelligent Design, so it might be more accurate to use the older term Creationism since her own description of her opinion is that she thinks the world "looks created."
49. no, she didn't try to force the schools to teach it; she said if someone brought it up, it was an appropriate subject for debate.

This is only somewhat correct. When asked about it during a campaign debate, she said "teach both" meaning science and creationism. Later she reduced that position to "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class." She subsequently promised not to force creationism into the schools and has kept that promise. So, she is in favor of schools discussing creationism, but not in favor of formally putting it on the curriculum. That's a fairly sophisticated maneuver. She has managed to tell the religious right that she is on their side while reassuring the secular left that she won't poison the education system or cause expensive lawsuits to be filed against the state.
50. No, she doesn’t believe in "abstinence only" education. Yes, she thinks abstinence is an effective way of preventing pregnancy. Duh. Yes, she believes kids should learn about condom use in schools.

Her position hasn't been carved in stone on this and could cause some controversy with the base.
51. Yes, she did smoke marijuana, when it was legal in Alaska. Yes, she apparently did inhale.

And so did everyone else in Alaska in those days. This might cause some controversy with those who still call Clinton a "dope smoker" but it shouldn't bother anyone else.

The next group of "rumors" aren't really rumors since all are true and relatively public information. I suspect Charlie just added them for balance. Several of these have been mentioned in the press as part of the rustic character narrative put out by her Republican press team and eaten up by the mainstream media. Several of these biography details are no more critical than the fact that McCain was a POW or that he was born in Panama while his father was serving there in the Navy.
52. yes, she kills animals and eats them, and wears their skins

Millions of Americans hunt, most Americans eat meat, and most wear leather. Fur has fallen out of fashion in the Lower 48, but only a few radical vegans think using animal products should disqualify someone for public office. And who does that leave for them to vote for? Moose and caribou are both quite tasty and affordable to people in a state that has to bring most of its food in by ship from distant locations. I'll be glad when the media get over their infatuation with such trivia and get on to real reporting.
53. yes, she was a beauty contest contestant

Some people take this as evidence that she isn't serious enough to be in the line of succession. It should be no more of a disqualifier than having been a frat boy in college. Okay, that was a bad example.
54. yes, she was once a sportscaster

55. yes, she has a college degree in Journalism, but I won’t hold that against her, as she seems to have found honest work as well

No rumor here, but it is a clever opportunity to engage in a little more media bashing.
56. yes, she sometimes wears her hair up; no that’s not a "beehive"

Are we really down to parsing the correct name for her hairstyle? Haircare became presidential news back during the Reagan years (does he color it? Only his hairdresser knows for sure). Whoever started this annoying trend should be soundly beaten and drummed out of the press corps.
57. yes, her husband is Not A White Person (he's a Yup'ik; an Eskimo but not an Inuit as my Inuit cousins have taken some pains to explain)

This could be an issue for some people, mostly Republicans. Charlie's cousins are absolutely correct. Some people have the impression that Inuit is the preferred PC noun for the people formerly known as Eskimos. That is not correct. Inuit is just one subgroup of the people who speak Eskimo languages, Canadian Eskimo to be exact. Alaskan Eskimos are Yup'ik in the west and Inupiaq in the north (spellings differ). There are a few smaller groups in between as well as Eskimos of Greenland and Siberia. Todd's kin, the Yup'ik, come from the area around Bristol Bay, which probably has something to do with his elder daughter's name. Just for the record, not all Alaskan natives are Eskimo. "Native" is an acceptable collective noun for Eskimo, Aleut, and Indian. "Aboriginal" is not. And yes, I'm just showing off because I know this stuff. It's not like I get use information like this very often.
58. yes, she has on occasion, as Mayor, tried to get money from the federal government.

The amount of earmarks that she got for Wasilla was high even by Alaskan standards. Alaska gets the highest per capita return from the federal government of any state. The point, of course, is not whether she did good by the citizens of Wasilla--she did--it's whether her claim to be an anti-earmark crusader is bogus--it is.
While Mayor, she hired Steven Silver, a former chief of staff to now-indicted GOP senator Ted Stevens, to help win federal earmarks for the city. The McCain campaign is referring to Silver as a "consultant," but he was a registered lobbyist with ties to Jack Abramoff, the corrupt lobbyist now doing time in federal prison. The amount of earmarks that she got for Wasilla was high even by Alaskan standards. Alaska gets the highest per capita return from the federal government of any state. The point, of course, is not whether she did good by the citizens of Wasilla--she did--it's whether her claim to be an anti-earmark crusader is bogus--it is.
59. yes, she did finally turn down the money for the bridge. Yes, that meant changing her mind about it.

That's certainly an abbreviated version of the story. To review, she was perfectly happy to accept the money and even campaigned in Ketchikan by saying she was personally offended that the press was calling Gravina Island "nowhere." In answer to question by the Anchorage Daily News she said she was in favor of taking the money, "The window is now -- while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist." It was only a year after she was elected and she realized the issue had become an unpopular symbol that she decided she was against it. This had nothing to do with a principled stand against earmarks. She did not become Ted Stevens' enemy over the issue (he endorsed her in the election and was still endorsing her when McCain tapped her for a new job). She turned like a weathervane with the changing winds of public opinion. The line "I told Congress 'thanks but no thanks' on that bridge to nowhere," is a stock part of her stump speech and personal legend and is frankly dishonest.
That's certainly an abbreviated version of the story. To review, she was perfectly happy to accept the money and even campaigned in Ketchikan by saying she was personally offended that the press was calling Gravina Island "nowhere." In answer to question by the Anchorage Daily News she said she was in favor of taking the money, "The window is now -- while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist." It was only a year after she was elected and she realized the issue had become an unpopular symbol--even among Alaskans--that she decided she was against it. This had nothing to do with a principled stand against earmarks. She did not become Ted Stevens' enemy over the issue (he endorsed her in the election and was still endorsing her when McCain tapped her for a new job). She turned like a weathervane with the changing winds of public opinion.

Her "thanks but no thanks" line implies that she did not accept the money for the Gravina bridge. That's not the case. She kept the money and applied it to other transportation projects. By the time she canceled the Garvina bridge, the price had gone up and the state had already spent some of the money on other projects. Some might call those projects pork. The line "I told Congress 'thanks but no thanks' on that bridge to nowhere," is a stock part of her stump speech and personal legend. A current McCain ad states it in even stronger terms: "she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere,” according to the voiceover. That is frankly dishonest.
60. yes, she was vetted extensively, not just in three days — I’ve got links to press reports about people coming to Wassila on 29 May, and we had her on our Veepstakes at PJM from the first day we ran it.

This is a matter of definitions. Some sort of preliminary vetting may have been done in May when the McCain campaign compiled a list of possible VPs, but that hardly counts as "extensive." Who came to Wasilla in May? Who did they talk to? What information did they collect? That she was showed up on some peoples lists of candidates, such as his VJM Veepstakes, or that she she was pushed by a few pundits, most notably William Kristol, doesn't count as vetting in any sense of the word.
61. yes, she want to a bunch of colleges before getting a degree. No, that's not illegal. Yes, she seems to have made something of herself anyway.

She went to five colleges in six years. I'm not sure who Charlie read that says that's illegal or that she didn't make anything of herself because of that. Lots of people are flaky when they are that age.
62. no, they didn't talk to a lot of the R's power structure during the vetting; that probably has to do with the fact that she beat them in elections and sent a bunch of them to jail.

Are you saying that there are no Republicans left in Alaska who are not her sworn enemies or that the vetters should only have talked to her most adoring supporters? So, who did they talk to? They didn't talk to Republicans. They didn't talk to Democrats. They didn't talk to the press. They didn't ask for minutes from the Wasilla town clerk. Again, what makes this vetting "extensive"?
63. Yes, Sarah Palin's acceptance speech was written by a speechwriter. Duh. No, none of Obama’s, McCain's, nor Biden's speeches were impromptu off the cuff things either.

True, but her speech was given a day after Fred Thompson addressed the Republican convention and made the point of sneering at Obama's convention address as a "teleprompter speech". Palin's speech is interesting to some who get excited about process because it wasn't actually written for her. McCain took so long to decide on a running mate that his staff started writing the speech before they knew who would be reading it. The writer, Matthew Scully, customized it for her in the second draft. As a former television newsperson, she's very experienced in reading "teleprompter speeches."
64. Yes, she did put the Governors plane on eBay. No, that's not how it was finally sold. Yes, McCain did say it wrong. Bad McCain.

McCain was not only wrong in claiming she sold the plane on eBay, he was also wrong when he claimed she made a profit on the deal. I've written about this before. The short version is that after failing to sell the plane on eBay, she allowed a Republican member of the state house to arrange the sale of the plane, at a loss of half a million dollars, to a Valdez businessman whose wife was a campaign contributor to both Palin and the congressman. Again, the carefully spun image of a plucky and practical crusader against corruption hardly stands up to scrutiny. By the way, congressman Harris is a republican who is still on speaking terms with her; why didn't the vetters talk to him?
65. No, Sarah Palin doesn’t have such control of Alaskans that people are afraid to say bad things about her. (What, are you nuts? Look at this list.) No, I don’t think it's likely that she called Obama "Sambo". (Good God, man, I'm ten years older than she and I barely remember "Little Black Sambo.") Yes, it seems unlikely to me that she’s be real racist and marry a Yup'ik (or a part Yup'ik.) But yes, people are capable of amazing things. Yes, I'm sure there are people who don’t like her — I've talked with some myself. And no, I don't think this waitress would have been thrilled to be called an "aboriginal". And yes, if she called Hillary a "bitch", I'm pretty confident is wasn't the first time anyone in politics has said that.

The idea that anyone could make Alaskans afraid to express opinions is pretty silly. As to the second part of this rumor: Sambo has not disappeared from the language. Marrying one minority does not imply a lack of prejudice toward other minorities. And, while many right wing sites are denouncing the LA Progressive story as a smear, no one I can find has yet come up with any real information to confirm or debunk the story about her saying "Sambo beat the bitch." Whether Charlie or I find it believable or not is irrelevant. At this point neither of us knows whether it is true.
66. No, she's not a "global warming denier", and when the crush dies down remind me to explain why the very phrasing "global warming denier" is anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, and a clear sign of a desire to impose your beliefs by coercion. But in the mean time, while I do believe that she has expressed some skepticism that warming is wholly human-caused, the existence of the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet and the Alaska Climate Change Strategy work demonstrate that she’s considering the problem and has brought together people more expert than she to advise her.

Charlie is playing with definitions again. The rise in the average global temperature is so well documented that no one in their right mind still denies that it's happening. The official right-wing is now to deny that people have anything to do with it. Palin is clearly a denialist in that sense. The same day she was nominated, she told Newsmax, "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one, though, who would attribute it to being man-made."
67. Yes, Todd Palin did have a DUI. Twenty-two years ago. Get a grip.

Grip gotten.
68. No, Sarah Palin's brother isn't in jail. No matter what the commenter at Anderson Cooper's page says. (Thanks to Galynn in comments.)

Good catch.
69. Yes, Sarah Palin's pastor apparently does believe that gays can "repent" and be cured of homosexuality. No, believe it or not, even fundamentalist Christians don't have to believe every litle thing their pastor believes. Yes, Palin seems to be more libertarian about this.

On the other hand, Obama is responsible for every single thing Rev. Wright has said.
70. Yes, contrary to press reports, Sarah Palin's mother-in-law plans to vote for her and the R ticket (on Inside Edition this evening.)

When Palin's selection was first announced, her mother-in-law Faye Palin told the New York Daily News that she hadn't yet decided how she'd vote. It was a week later that she she announced her support for her daughter-in-law. So the press reports are not wrong, they are just out of date. But a little fact like that shouldn't get the way of some good press bashing.
71. No, the fact that some 17 year old was arrested for malicious mischief at the right time doens't mean Track Palin was. Goddamn, Josh, have you no shame at all?

That wasn't Josh Marshall who wrote that; it was some diarist called RE. Josh doesn't preview and approve every diary and comment that appears on TPM anymore than the CEO of Google checks out every post published on Blogger.

I want to thank Charlie for not adding to his list during the whole damn day it took me to research and write this. I'm now completely sick of Sarah Palin and plan to go think about woolly mammoths for a while. The next step in our rapid progression into ridiculousness will be for someone to write a rebuttal to my fisking of Charlie's debunking of everybody else's rumors.

Postscript: Naturally, if you have any additions or corrections to my fisking, put them in the comments. Links to supporting sources get you extra points. When you have enough points, you win a new president.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

New Ecuador constitution recognizes evolution

On September 28, the people of Ecuador will vote on a new constitution and that constitution is expected to gain easy approval. The new constitution includes a five article section granting rights to nature as a whole. The section refers to nature as Pachamama, a local pagan goddess, the equivalent to Mother Earth or Mother Nature in Anglo-American idiom. Nature has the right to "integral restoration" and people of any nationality can petition the courts in the name of nature. The government Ecuador is obligated to protect nature and prevent extinction or harmful alteration of ecosystems and natural cycles.

In a choice of phrase that would be almost unthinkable in the Untied States, the first article states that nature has the right to maintain "its processes in evolution." While it's possible to read that use of the word "evolution" to mean simply "change" and not to refer to the transformation of species through Darwinian processes, the very presence of the word would be too controversial to survive in this country. But in Catholic Ecuador, things are different.

This is one of the most unambiguous extensions of rights to a nonhuman entity that any country has attempted in modern times. In the United States, corporations acquired individual rights over a century ago almost by accident. Laws in Western countries against cruelty to animals regularly dance around the issue of whether this constitutes rights. Indigenous populations often exercise rights as groups that are separate from their rights as individuals. And Fascist countries tried to reverse the whole Western trend of individual rights by reasserting the superiority of the rights of the nation and state over the individual. But this is something new. The Ecuadoran move to encode the rights of nature in the constitution goes beyond anything yet attempted. It might prove to be a dead letter in practice, but it is definitely a precedent to watch.

About that plane

In her introduction to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, Sarah Palin clearly charmed the delegates. Besides offering some red meat in her attacks on Obama, she presented a folksy, practical image of herself that is being touted as her greatest contribution to the McCain campaign. Like most things political, that image is partly real and partly a carefully rehearsed artifice. As the details come out, some of the charm will no doubt wear off. The out and out falsehoods, like her claim to have been an unwavering opponent of the Ketchican-Gravina "bridge to nowhere," will be the first to go, but the exaggerations and difference between public and private personality will be harder to banish. Here's one example.

The eBay jet Has become a major element of her legend. The jet was purchased by her predecessor and fellow Republican Frank Murkowski to fly around the state on government business. Much of Alaska, including the capital itself, is inaccessible from the road network. Legislators and businessmen use commercial airlines, hire a well developed system of "air taxis," or learn to fly and get their own planes in order to move about the state. Murkowski purchased the jet, a ten seat Westwind II, for $2.7 million over the objections of the legislature. It came to be one of the symbols of his corrupt, self-serving administration. Palin promised to get rid of the jet and did so after taking office. She now uses commercial airlines to get to and from Juneau, just like the rest of the legislature.

Palin used the story of the jet sale to good effect as an applause line in her convention speech.
I came to office promising major ethics reform to end the culture of self-dealing, and today that ethics reform is the law. While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the Governor's Office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for. That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay.

The crowd ate it up. Using eBay sounds so practical, so middle class, so mavricky. Of course, that's just half of the story. McCain goes even further in his telling and ventures into the realm of fantasy (or, as I like to call it, he lies).
You know what I enjoyed the most? She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on eBay — made a profit.

Palin did offer the jet on eBay, but it didn't sell. After six months and three attempts, the state had only received one serious bid and that fell through. Eventually, the Republican speaker of the Alaska House, John L. Harris, brokered a deal through a middleman, Turbo North Aviation, to sell the jet to a businessman from Valdez named Larry Reynolds. The state lost over half a million dollars on the deal. Reynolds, who got this great deal, was a contributor to Palin and Harris.

It might be that Murkowski paid more for the jet that it was worth and the state was bleeding money just maintaining the jet while they tried to sell it, so getting rid of it sooner rather than later was probably the best move. But they deal most certainly was not a profit maker for the state and giving Reynolds a bargain was hardly the dramatic break with the culture of cronyism and corruption that it has been portrayed as.

I think we can expect more revelations like this one in the weeks to come.