June 30, 2009

Palin Revisited

The August Issue of Vanity Fair featured an article by Todd S. Purdum:

It Came From Wasilla

Here are some excerpts:

Palin is at once the sexiest and the riskiest brand in the Republican Party. Her appeal to people in the party (and in the country) who share her convictions and resentments is profound. The fascination is viral, and global.

Whatever her political future, the emergence of Sarah Palin raises questions that will not soon go away. What does it say about the nature of modern American politics that a public official who often seems proud of what she does not know is not only accepted but applauded? What does her prominence say about the importance of having (or lacking) a record of achievement in public life? Why did so many skilled veterans of the Republican Party—long regarded as the more adroit team in presidential politics—keep loyally working for her election even after they privately realized she was casual about the truth and totally unfit for the vice-presidency? Perhaps most painful, how could John McCain, one of the cagiest survivors in contemporary politics—with a fine appreciation of life’s injustices and absurdities, a love for the sweep of history, and an overdeveloped sense of his own integrity and honor—ever have picked a person whose utter shortage of qualification for her proposed job all but disqualified him for his?

[Personal insert: There is one answer that will cover the last two questions, at least: Neither McCain nor the Republican Party at large wanted to win the election. Palin was not in on the joke. Just my personal take on the disaster that was the last Republican presidential campaign.]

In the aftermath of the November election, the conventional wisdom among Palin’s supporters in the Republican establishment was that she should go home, keep her head down, show that she could govern effectively, and quietly educate herself about foreign and domestic policy with the help of a cadre of experienced advisers. She has done none of this.

Palin is a cipher by choice. When she chooses to reveal herself, what she reveals is not always the same thing as the truth. Her singular refusal to have in-depth conversations with the national media . . . has compounded the challenge of understanding who she really is. There has been Hollywood talk that Palin could star in a reality-TV show about running Alaska, but nothing has come of it yet.

[**Personal note: Oh, please, oh please do, Sarah! What an efficient method for destroying your next campaign! Please! Please! Please!]

Little Shop of Horrors

The caricature of Sarah Palin that emerged in the presidential campaign, for good and ill, is now ineradicable. The swift journey from her knockout convention speech to Tina Fey’s dead-eyed incarnation of her as Dan Quayle with an updo played out in real time, no less for the bewildered McCain campaign than for the public at large. It is an ironclad axiom of politics that if a campaign looks troubled from the outside the inside reality is far worse, and the McCain-Palin fiasco was no exception.

By the time Election Day rolled around, the staff had been serially pummeled by unflattering press reports about the gaps in Palin’s knowledge, her stubborn resistance to direction, and the post-selection spending spree in which she ran up bills of $150,000 on clothes for herself and her family at high-end stores. The top McCain aides who had tried hard to work with Palin . . . were barely on speaking terms with her, and news organizations were reporting that anonymous McCain aides saw Palin as a “diva” and a “whack job.”

[I]n a recent series of conversations, a range of people from the McCain-Palin campaign, including members of the high command, agreed to elaborate on how a match they thought so right ended up going so wrong.

After she was picked, the campaign belatedly sent a dozen lawyers and researchers, led by a veteran Bush aide, Taylor Griffin, to Alaska, in a desperate race against the national reporters descending on the state. At one point, trying out a debating point that she believed showed she could empathize with uninsured Americans, Palin told McCain aides that she and Todd in the early years of their marriage had been unable to afford health insurance of any kind, and had gone without it until he got his union card and went to work for British Petroleum . . . . Checking with Todd Palin himself revealed that, no, they had had catastrophic coverage all along. She insisted that catastrophic insurance didn’t really count and need not be revealed. This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small.

In regards to the debate with Biden:

Palin worked hard, and the results were adequate. Palin’s winking “Can I call you Joe?” performance against Biden was nothing like a disaster. In fact, it seems to have emboldened her enough that the next day she openly voiced disagreement with the McCain team’s decision to pull out of active competition in Michigan. When orders or advice from McCain headquarters began to conflict with her own impulses, aides told me, she simply did what she wanted to do.


Immediately, Jim Geraghty of the National Review Online came out swinging.

He wrote an article entitled, Reading and Mocking the Palin Profile So You Don’t Have To.

He led off with, “To go through the 9,800 word profile/excoriation of Sarah Palin by Todd Purdum in Vanity Fair and Fisk it line by line would take an enormous amount of time and space, and probably more time than you’re willing to devote to reading it. So for now, the low-lights:”

Isn’t it beautiful? In one fell swoop he dismissed his readers’ need to check the source and helped them feel virtuous for choosing to remain ignorant of what the article actually said. That’s quite a skill. “There, there, dears. Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about what’s in that nasty old article. Uncle Jim will tell you everything you need to know.”

He then goes on to argue against the hyperbole [of which there is plenty, I admit] and the opinions [ditto]. However, he mentions very few of the facts outlined in the article, and pretty much refuses to dispute them. I would imagine that is because could not disagree with the factual statements as they were all true. Indeed, he simply glossed over most of them. Best not to put them before his readers’ eyes, after all. They might get to know some of the more unsavory bits about their princess. Probably not a good idea.

His article reminds me of the Lawyer’s First Rule: When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, call the other lawyer names. Does this remind you of any campaign of recent history? Geraghty continues this great tradition. In his case, he sneered at Purdum while ignoring the truths in the article.

His fancy footwork was amazing. Again—he displayed a great deal of skill. The fact that he used it to lull his readers into complacent bobble-headed acceptance of an altogether unprepared person who may well be seeking the presidency is pretty frightening, to my way of thinking.

[As I was rereading the last paragraph, what popped into my mind’s eye was Richard Gere’s/Billy Flynn’s tap-dance during the trial of Roxie Hart in CHICAGO. That little link scared the bejeebers out of me. We’re not talking about a fictional character who killed her lover in a passionate frenzy here, but about a woman who very likely has her eye on the Oval Office.]

Geraghty adroitly used opinions put forth by Purdum about Palin as chances to take digs at Obama and even Bill Clinton. I counted two against Obama and one against Clinton. Uh, this is a response to an article about Palin, remember? He did, however, quote a fairly funny joke made by Obama during a speech. I guess that’s supposed to make it all OK.

He claimed that Purdum intimated that Palin won the debate against Byden. I watched that debate. I’ll bet you did, too. Tell me, who do you think won?

Geraghty wrote, “She has been living in the eye of a hurricane since last August, and has become one of the few figures subject to the scrutiny of both the political media and the celebrity-industrial complex manifested in People and Us Weekly. Almost overnight, she’s gained millions of devoted fans and furious enemies. That has to be a horrific environment to make tough decisions in.”

To my mind, this statement makes Palin out to be some sort of innocent bystander—not the person who has orchestrated the media frenzy from the beginning of her campaign until the present—notwithstanding the attempts by her handlers to get her off the stage where she just keeps damaging herself in the public eye.

Geraghty did make one cogent and truthful point: “Palin may run for president in 2012, which could very well be a mistake. Her current public reputation and support is probably just enough to win the GOP nomination and then generate similar electoral college results as 2008. As a GOP strategist put it to me a few months ago, ‘The perception of Sarah Palin will change when the reality of Sarah Palin changes.’” Ummm, do you actually expect THAT to happen? Me neither.

Another skill Geraghty displayed was changing the subject so dexterously that I almost missed it.

Note Purdum’s statement in the original article:

“Also with Coale’s help, Palin formed the grandiosely named Alaska Fund Trust, to defray a reported half million dollars in legal expenses arising from a slew of formal ethics complaints against her in her home state—prompting yet another formal complaint, that the fund itself constitutes an ethical breach.”

And Geraghty’s response:

“The fact that Palin is now 15 for 15 in having those “formal ethics complaints” dismissed as groundless would seem to be somewhat relevant.

Purdum wrote about the Alaska Fund Trust and the reason it was created—to offset Palin’s legal costs. He did not suggest that the ethics complaints had merit. He DID say that the Fund itself turned out to have been questioned as to its own ethics.

However, Geraghty ignored the point about the Fund and focused on the merit of the complaints. Nifty knitting? Yes. Answering the point brought up in the original article? No.

Finally, he went on to say, “I find my toddler son exhausting; I can only imagine a life running a state while caring for a son with Down syndrome and a son in Iraq and a daughter who is a new mother in the sharp glare of the public spotlight and a grandson and another daughter suddenly appearing in David Letterman’s routine. This may not be the right time for another go-round in a multi-year process in which vast swaths of the political world will aim to see her torn down to nothing.”

Once again: “Poor widdle Sarah. She’s such a victim. Feel sowwy foa her.”

And he ended his piece with that most vapid of statements: “But it’s her call, and time will tell.”

Oh, really? The rest of us hadn’t figured that part out. Thanks for explaining it to us mindless ijits.

June 26, 2009

A Novel Idea: Health Care for the Masses

Health Care Faces the 'R' Word -- by Michael Kinsley

Even though more and more Americans have no health insurance at all, Americans consider health care to be a right. Not just that: We consider the best possible health care to be a right. Few would find it acceptable for a poor person to die of a medically curable disease for lack of money. Even fewer would find it acceptable that they themselves should die because the system won't spend the money to cure them. This is all in theory, of course. In practice, people die all the time because some effective treatment is too expensive. But whenever an issue gets drawn into the political system and becomes explicit, it becomes harder. That is what health-care reform will do to the question of rationing.

The Obama administration believes that health care can be made cheaper without any reduction in quality. It has evidence to back this up. According to the famous Dartmouth studies, health care costs two or three times as much per person in some places in America as it does in others, with no measurable difference in results. Atul Gawande's deservedly admired recent essay in the New Yorker makes a similar point. So in theory it's easy: Just figure out how the cheap places do it and apply this knowledge to bring down the cost in the pricier places.
The administration is investing great hopes (and $1.1 billion of stimulus money) in "comparative effectiveness research." Because we don't collect and compare in any systematic way the vast piles of data we have about individual patients and their treatment, we know astonishingly little about which treatments work and which are a waste of money. The administration is touting the figure of 30 percent of all health-care costs as spending that may accomplish nothing.

I suspect that what a billion-plus dollars' worth of research will find is that perhaps 30 percent of what we spend on health care is almost entirely worthless, or just barely better than a much cheaper alternative. Or it might be better and no one knows for sure.

Click here for the complete text.
Being one of those who has no health insurance ['the great unwashed' as I call us uninsureds], I'll be glad when this thang is settled--though it'll be too late to benefit me. Next year, I become eligible for Medicare.
Still, it's about time the rest of the population can see a physician without breaking the bank, don't you think?

June 21, 2009

And We Should Care Why?

I picked this up on All Voices:
US census to count gay and lesbian married couples
By: jonnalagadda3
Washington: The Census Bureau of the USA will recognize married couple of the same sex in the 2010 census.
Same sex couples could not get married in US during the last census. Last y[e]ar, two states approved same sex marriages, and now it became imperative they be taken for head count for statistical purposes. This count will also help arriving at a data of homosexuals, gays and lesbians who are legally married. This would also help the state plan their welfare. President Barack Obama has recently signed a memorandum giving the same rights and facilities to those employees who are married to same sex, on par with other government employees [sic]. Steve Jost, a spokesman of the Census Bureau sa[i]d same sex couples ought to report themselves for the count. He said after the 2010 census, the country will have good data on which to discuss the same sex phenomena emerging in the country.
Well, the government is counting married gays. So what? It's still perceiving them as second class citizens.
They can't serve in the military unless they lie about who they are.
Obama's Justice Department just compared their marriages to incest and the marrying of children.

Maybe the census will count each of them as 3/5 of a person?

June 19, 2009

Les Enrag�s.org: Million Can March: Yes We Can!

Please note the button on the sidebar linking to the Million Can March.

Food pantries are struggling now as the increase in demand meets the decrease in donations.
So, in answer to the Teabagging Parties scheduled for July 4, Les Enrages.org has launched a drive for 1 million cans of food to be donated to food pantries around the world.

And there's more! [That came out like one of those late-night commercials -- sorrreeee.]
RevPhat has emailed Rachel Maddow asking her to mention the Million Can March on her show. And she's asking the rest of us to do the same. Rachel's e-ddress is: Rachel@msnbc.com
Les Enrag�s.org: Million Can March: Yes We Can!

June 17, 2009


O.K. So last year, Obama said he supported gays. In fact, he said he DID NOT support Don’t Ask Don’t Tell [DADT] and would get rid of it if he got to be POTUS. As a result of that and other statements, a lot of gays supported him. And worked for his campaign. And voted for him.

What a difference a year makes. Here we are, almost 5 months into his presidency and DADT is still very much the law of the land. Still enforced. Two hundred fifty three people have, since Obama took office, had their military careers destroyed—just like they did under Bush and Clinton before him.
These people want to serve their country. And he kicks them in the teeth.

Change We Can Believe In. Uh huh.

Then, last Friday the Justice Department took out the trash [a concept you’re familiar with if you religiously watched (as I did) the TV drama, The West Wing.]
In case you didn’t, here’s the idea: on Fridays, the government releases information it doesn’t want people to notice.
The weekend is coming up and fewer people read newspapers on Saturday and Sunday. So, if you want to put out a story —so you won’t be accused of hiding stuff— but you want it to be used only to line the bottom of the birdcage and nothing else, you sit on it till Friday and release it along with a whole slew of other stuff —all at once.

Only, this time, people noticed.

Here’s what was supposed to leak out under the radar —only it didn’t:
A statement was released by the Justice Department supporting the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA].
Here are excerpts from the Act:
Powers reserved to the states:
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
Definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse':
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
Last Friday’s brief was authored by a Bush holdover. A Mormon. And it shows. It equated gay marriage with a marriage between uncle and niece. It equated gay marriage with marrying off children.

Do you see why they wanted to release this piece of garbage on Friday? It could just have easily have come from the Bush administration. Except Bush would have been proud of it and released it on Tuesday morning with a flourish of trumpets.
They were right in one way —the correct thing to do with it was to line the bottom of the bird cage.

Last Friday evening Rachel and others speculated that Obama didn’t know this filth had been released. Even that he doesn’t agree with it.
I’m sorry, but I’m of the mind that he is, after all, the president. And I’m with Harry Truman—if he didn’t know it was coming out, he should have known. It’s his buck.
It looks from here as if, when it comes to gays, Obama is an empty suit.
So, fast forward to today:
All of a sudden, Obama makes the announcement that he is giving ‘many of’ the same rights to gay federal employees and their partners that ‘opposite’ married people have enjoyed forever and ever.

This is another of those little items Obama had promised—but not delivered. Now, he’s using it to sop up the egg that’s dripping off his chin.
Oh, and by the way, what does ‘many of’ mean?

Nice try, Barry. But you're offering too little too late.
For one thing, this tidbit had come out so precipitously and so recently that Rachel and her staff and the guest she discussed it with didn’t yet know what form it had taken. Was it a resolution or a memorandum? I hadn’t known the two types of statements existed—let alone the implications involved.
Here’s what it boils down to: A resolution becomes standard operating procedure —it remains in effect unless and until a later president repeals it— and that requires legal action.
A memorandum remains in effect for as long as Obama is president. Once he’s out of office it immediately dies.

Maybe I’m being really, really cynical here—but that seems to be pretty nifty if you’re trying to bribe a certain constituency to vote for you come 2012.
I don’t know how many federal employees are LGBT but, it’s a fair number, I imagine. Since 1.5% of the general population is LGBT and since there are a lot of federal employees—it’s a good guess that the same percentage of federal employees are LGBT. Add to that number their spouses—who certainly aren’t all, themselves, fed employees—well, let’s call it 2.5% of the number of feds. Not enough to swing the election, of course, but still—a welcome voting block come 2012.
So, suppose you’re one of the people who suddenly had your basic rights acknowledged. And suppose those rights will expire in January unless the guy who [however expediently] signed the measure that recognized them gets reelected. Well? Who are you going to vote for? Yeah. Me too.

But laying all that aside —Mr. Obama, your administration just delivered a deadly insult to a group of people that worked for you, got the vote out for you, voted for you and whom you have ignored since November:
First you invited Rick Warren to offer an invocation at your inauguration. When the understandable hoopla ensued, you hurriedly invited Gene Robinson, too. Shame on you.
During your campaign you promised to repeal DADT.
Even supposing it would take some time to do that, you could, with a stroke of your pen, tell the Pentagon to stop enforcing it. You could stop the practice of ruining people’s careers. It would take ten minutes.
You haven’t bothered. Shame on you.
Also, during your campaign, you promised to address gay marriage. And THIS is what you did. You ignored it. Then you insulted 1.5% of the population. Then you backtracked by giving the ones among them who work for you “many of” the rights enjoyed by the straight married people in your employ.
Gee, thanks, Mr. President.
And shame on you.

Here are some related articles:
The Village Voice, The CBS Blog, The New York Times, and an article whose headline:'Dept. of Justice defends DOMA, Obama wants it overturned', all by itself, gave me whiplash— The Catholic News Agency.

By the way, that last article lead off with this statement:
'Although the Department of Justice filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last week, the Obama administration has made it clear that promoting same-sex “marriage” will be an important focus of its political agenda.'

Oh, and that hoity-toity, holier-than-thou Catholic newspaper can remove those condescending quotes around the word "marriage", too.

June 9, 2009

Our Surrender

The Bush Hangover: Guantanamo Undercuts Our Protests of North Korea -- by Mitchell Bard
George W. Bush has been out of office for more than four months now, but I fear that the damage done during the Bush years has inflicted serious injury to the American psyche and reputation, and it will take years, if not decades, to recover.

I woke up this morning to the chilling news that two American journalists had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor by a North Korean court for the "crimes" of illegally entering the country and committing "hostile acts."
[T]he international community has to stand against the heinous actions of the North Korean government. Clearly, the United States should be at the head of such international action.

But today, I also read about Lakhdar Boumediene, and the truly disturbing story of what happened to him after the 9/11 attacks. An Algerian man living with his wife and two children in Sarajevo, Bosnia, he was working for the Red Crescent in October 2001 when he was arrested and charged with conspiring to blow up the American and British embassies in the city. An investigation revealed no evidence of his involvement in any plot, so a Bosnian judge ordered him released, but the Bush administration intervened, and in January 2002 he was shackled and flown to Guantanamo Bay.
In the end, Boumediene was held for 7 1/2 years in Guantanamo, during which time, he says, he was tortured. He says he was kept up for 16 days straight, beaten, "stretched" (pulled up from under his arms while his feet were shackled to a chair) and forced to run while chained to guards, and if he could not keep up, he was dragged until he was bloody and bruised. After he began a hunger strike, he had food tubes put up his nose and, he claims, soldiers would purposely poke IV needles into the wrong parts of his arm, just to induce pain. But the one thing that was not done to him? Nobody asked if he was involved in a plot to blow up the U.S. and British embassies in Sarajevo. Rather, all he was repeatedly asked was about his connections to al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden (he insists he had no connection at all to the terrorist group).

But there was one thing in the article that not only amazed me but brilliantly illuminated why the U.S. should never torture, and why it is so important that we repudiate what happened during the Bush years and chart a clear and unequivocal new path forward, one that reflects the country's traditional values. Boumediene said:
"I thought America, the big country, they have CIA, FBI. Maybe one week, two weeks, they know I am innocent. I can go back to my home."

In other words, Boumediene had faith that a country like the United States could not possibly keep an innocent man prisoner with no way to contest his guilt. His view of America is one that many in the world shared before the Bush years . . . .
That is supposed to be the difference between a country like North Korea and a country like the United States.
Click here for the complete article.
This says it all. The US willingly surrendered what high ground we had had before.

Of course, even before Bush, our 'high ground' had been tenuous at best:
A country founded on genocide and slavery.
Jim Crow and, even now, capital punishment and imprisonment that allows strikingly different statistics depending on race.
The sham of The War On Drugs.
The only western country which does not offer reasonable health care to its citizens [unless they happen to hold high government office].
That has 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' as a very real law and denies marriage to 1.5% of its population.
Whose education is falling apart.
That tolerates children going to bed hungry every night.
That accepts the fact that some of its people still kill in the name of God.
Whose people are urged to take their guns to church——
All this doesn't leave us a lot of room to talk, does it?

Still, before Bush was appointed president, we had slightly more room than we do now.
And Cheney just goes on telling us how right he and his cronies were all that time—spouting the lie that 'torture saved lives' just as if that were the question [which it is not].

But, today, the real issue comes home. Two of our citizens are being illegally and immorally held by another country and we are powerless to even raise our voice in protest—all because we have done the same thing—and right recently.