Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sarah Palin’s own little Truman Show and the road to the White House

By R.K. Barry

I have no idea if Sarah Palin is gearing up to run for the presidency in 2012. What I think I know is that sometime shortly after (or before?) the 2008 election, it occurred to Ms. Palin that she was sitting on one of the most lucrative franchises ever granted a person who had no reason to expect such an opportunity would ever come her way.

Maybe someone a lot smarter came to lay it out for her or maybe she figured it out for herself. Maybe she had an inkling that things would work out the way they did or maybe it was dumb luck. In any case, no one can deny that her “success,” devoid of anything that could be described as political skill, is something to behold.

We all have unique abilities and qualities and sometimes events conspire to provide just the right environment to help us make the best of what we have to offer. Perfect storms happen and our Miss Sarah is a cork riding atop a wave in the middle of that storm.

The storm to which I refer is the confluence of her personal attributes, the events that made her famous initially and America’s obsession with reality TV.

As if constructed in some sort of Stepford laboratory, she is made for reality television. She is photogenic, she is quirky, she says the darndest things and she makes everybody feel like they, or people they actually know, could succeed on a similar scale. That’s the formula for this brand of media.

At the Republican National Convention in '08, I distinctly remember a delegate gushing on camera that Sarah Palin was just like her sister-in-law. To this women, Palin was accessible but now, under these circumstances, special.

It is the nexus between the common and the extraordinary. It is all about plucking people from the shadows and placing them on a stage that would, under normal circumstances, never be available to them.

How, in reality T.V., ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstanced is beside the point. The fact that they are ordinary but granted a degree of fame is the dynamic that keeps people watching. 

Survivor, American Idol, The Bachelor, and so many other shows: these are all about demystifying the world we see on television, which is a proxy for importance, wealth and fame – all the things we are taught to crave. It’s about connecting the ordinary to the extraordinary. And though it is a bit off the argument, it is the same reason that lotteries are so popular – a bridge to the other side. We want to believe it’s possible and we like things that remind us that it might be.

It is often remarked that the more we make fun of Sarah Palin’s intelligence the more popular she becomes with some people. These are the people who don’t want to see her voted off the island, who want to see where the story goes. It’s these people who are living vicariously through the Palin experience. And there are, I suspect, a lot of them.

Just because there is frequently no good reason for the casts of reality shows to be famous, doesn’t mean that people don’t root for them and it doesn’t mean that audiences will be any less resentful when so called elites point out that the anointed don’t deserve the fame. No one likes to have his or her fun spoiled.

Fame for the sake of fame is where we are these days. “Being famous for being famous” is one of the better lines of the age.

The Truman Show is a movie about a man who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast 24-hours-a-day to billions of people across the globe.

Sarah P. may be aware that the cameras are rolling, but I don’t know that she could have fully anticipated how things would develop, though she has clearly done everything possible to ensure that America keeps watching whether it’s her daughter dancing or her televised travels through Alaska. Whether she constructed the reality she inhabits or it was constructed by events is almost secondary. It’s good TV and it seems always to be on.

The possibility that ordinariness can succeed in grand fashion is what keeps us watching. She was, as I said, made for this.

I doubt that this by itself gets her to the White House, as it has a lot more to do with general popularity than political popularity and we shouldn’t confuse the two. But a lot of people will want to see how the story ends, and, if for no other reason, this will make her a phenomenon until the string plays itself out - whenever that is.

In the end, a presidential campaign may be just too seductive a story line for her, or her producers, to ignore.

Stay tuned.

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Sarah Palin defends embarrassing North Korea gaffe by revising history, attacking Obama, and disrespecting America

Facing widespread ridicule (justifiable, given her history of ignorance, even if the what she said was understandable in context) over her North Korea gaffe, Sarah Palin has taken to Facebook -- it's either that or Fox News, the two places she can spin her lies and hurl her venom without being challenged -- to defend herself.

And she does that by revising history, claiming that she "corrected [herself] seconds after [her] slip-of-the-tongue" (she didn't) and attacking President Obama over his gaffes, as if somehow making fun of him lets her off the hook, as if he isn't a deep and serious thinker, which she most certainly is not.

Everyone makes mistakes. I said that in my post on Palin's gaffe. But that's not the issue. The issue is that Palin has proven to be, if I may be kind, an ignoramus. Time and time again, I wrote, what she reveals is that she doesn't think, let alone think seriously, about anything other than the marketing of the Palin brand. And her public utterances are nothing more than a string of shallow, self-aggrandizing talking points and ignorant assertions. She doesn't just make gaffes, she speaks without thinking, and without ever having thought about what she's talking about. She's a mouth without a brain, and she can't hide that with all the lipstick in the world.

Responding to her Facebook post, Andrew Sullivan hit the bull's-eye, as he usually does with Palin:

This may be a smart-ass retort; it may be useful inoculation against a potentially damaging gaffe; it may even be a well-researched blog-post, but what it isn't is anything approaching the kind of character we expect in a president. A simple respect for the office she seeks would not reflect itself in these increasingly callow, sarcastic, cheap jibes at a sitting president. But sadly, like so many now purporting to represent conservatism, there is, behind the faux awe before the constitution, a contempt for the restraint and dignity a polity's institutions require from its leaders.

There is no maturity here; no self-reflection; no capacity even to think how to appeal to the half of Americans who are already so appalled by her trashy behavior and cheap publicity stunts. There is a meanness, a disrespect, a vicious partisanship that, if allowed to gain more power, would split this country more deeply and more rancorously than at any time in recent years. And that's saying something.

America, simply, cannot afford Sarah Palin. Behind the smirky smile, behind the glittering winks, behind the phony all-American facade lurks an ugliness that is rotten to the core. She may try to keep it hidden and she may not even acknowledge its existence, but she just can't hide it. It's who she is.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving turkey

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes it's just what it looks like. Sometimes, when the fat man sucks on it, all hell is smiling. 

The true story of Thanksgiving is how socialism failed,

said Rush to a caller, and President Obama is hiding that fact behind an honest account of history. No, that's not just a cigar, and of course we didn't get tobacco from the Indians -- what are you anyway, a communist? 

Rush Limbaugh has long since run out of relevance, run out of ways to prove that president Obama is a Kenyan, anti-colonial (would he rather have him be a pro-colonial?), Muslim-Christian extremist who hates white people and is an avowed communist, atheist, trotskyite, racist, anti-Christ, ultra-liberal fascist. He's exhausted every epithet of every stripe -- and it seems he's now reduced to the even more pathetic state of turning the most mundane acts of traditional presidential sentiments and statements into fuel for his bonfires.

Lapel pins, terrorist fist bumps, leave that to the Girl Scouts. Rush Limbaugh is the Big League. What would have been, to anyone else and by anyone else, a tepid, ritual recognition of the long-standing American myth that the Plymouth colony was helped in adapting to the harsh climate and unfamiliar environment of 17th-century Wampanoag territory by some of the native people living there, the myth taught to schoolchildren for at least a century, filled with inaccuracies, and covered with a sloppy whitewash, turns in the cigar-sucking mind of Mr. Limbaugh from a third-grade pageant into a damnation of Mr. Obama. In the White House thanksgiving proclamation, the president says: 

A beloved American tradition, Thanksgiving Day offers us the opportunity to focus our thoughts on the grace that has been extended to our people and our country. This spirit brought together the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe -- who had been living and thriving around Plymouth, Massachusetts for thousands of years -- in an autumn harvest feast centuries ago. This Thanksgiving Day, we reflect on the compassion and contributions of Native Americans, whose skill in agriculture helped the early colonists survive, and whose rich culture continues to add to our Nation's heritage. We also pause our normal pursuits on this day and join in a spirit of fellowship and gratitude for the year's bounties and blessings.

Jesus Christ. No, really -- Jesus Christ. this could be a Sunday Sermon preached somewhere in Middle America to a pastel congregation painted by Norman Rockwell. To the Palm Beach tycoon, however, it's occasion for a racist sneer about Indian casinos:

So, we were the invaders, we were incompetent idiots. We didn't know how to feed ourselves so they came along and showed us how and that's what Thanksgiving is all about.

Tell that to every school kid who had to make Pilgrim and Indian costumes complete with anachronistic flintlock blunderbusses and buckled shoes -- the America hating little bastards. 

He says nothing about the Constitution in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation because he's got a problem with it,

Limbaugh continued to rant, and in the absence of any supporting information for it, failed also to tell us how a document written nearly 170 years afterward would be have any relevance to the Thanksgiving holiday other than one only obvious to a malicious, neurotic saboteur grasping for any wrench he can toss into the works of truth, honesty, and human decency. 

But, of course, thanking a long-ago vanished tribe, acknowledging the cultural tributaries of our nation, and being grateful to whatever name one attaches to providence that our country ever came to be, is no more a qualification for venomous condemnation than saying good morning or asking what time it is. Failing to mention the Constitution of 1789 means no more than failing to mention the Emancipation Proclamation, and it says nothing about Obama or the United States of America founded so many years later and mostly by other people.

The only uniting element in this or any Limbaughean argument is the desperate attempt to make Obama an "America-hating" alien in order to make sure we continue making the same arrogant, ignorant mistakes we pridefully ignore. If the president came out against slavery and wife-beating we could be sure Rush would show us just how this was the one-way door to communism and the terrifying notion that Rush may have to earn an honest living. But Rush reveals so much with every word:

Somebody is toying with me. Somebody is seeing if they can get one past me. Somebody is trying to take advantage of me being not as focused on the day before Thanksgiving and falling for this prank.

That's right, it's not about an alliance of convenience between the Wampanoag and a ragged group of Englishmen who had suffered serious losses in the previous winter, it's about Rush. The president isn't following tradition, isn't being aware of history, isn't telling the truth, isn't being a general good guy in that love thy neighbor and let's work together and can't we all get along mold. He's trying to trick Rush, take advantage of Rush, and interfere with Rush's millions, with the profits of his betrayal of my country, the malignant, hyperbolic fabrications intended to sabotage everything good and decent and true. 

No, it's true, Rush. You're right. The long, slow, and erratic movement toward freedom and responsibility and justice you're trying to retard is only something designed to get around you and your mission. There's nothing else behind it but an attempt to "get around" you, and Obama's not the only one. We're all trying to trick you, and in fact history is trying to trick you, the truth is trying to trick you, and, come to think of it, Satan himself is trying to trick you into thinking that's just a cigar.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Elephant Dung #5: Palin attacks elitist Bush "blue-bloods"

Tracking the GOP Civil War

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

It's one thing to go after those Times-readin', Volvo-drivin', latte-sippin' liberal Democratic coastal elites, whether they exist or not, quite another to go after the plutocratic Republican elite, whether coastal or Texan, and, say what you will about the Bushes, they're a veritable Republican dynasty with two ex-presidents, a pile of up-and-coming relatives, and Jeb waiting in the wings for the right time to run. 
That's an awful lot more than you can say about the Palins.

So it doesn't make much sense for less-then-one-term-governor Sarah Palin to target the Bushes, however much she may object to Barbara's suggestion that she "stay in Alaska." As she told Laura Ingraham in another friendly interview that allowed her to avoid having to face anything resembling a tough question that might require her to think (and fail):

I don't want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I don't think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods -- and I want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes -- the blue-bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition.

Right, with all due respect.

Now, to be fair (and balanced), there's certainly something to be said for an anti-establishmentarian approach to party politics, and, here, Palin is merely expressing the view of much of the grassroots Tea Party base of the GOP. Obviously, it's not necessarily for the best when a party adopts a next-in-line approach to selecting nominees, or when a few dynasties dominate.

But one imagines that many in the pro-Bush Republican establishment are none too pleased than an upstart with little experience and a whole lotta ignorance, even a star like Palin, is challenging their authority. 

Look for the establishment, such as it is, to continue to do everything it can to block Palin's ascendancy. Much of the country finds her repugnant, but it's the "blue-bloods" in her own party who really have it in for her.

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(American) Thanksgiving 2010

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We had ours. Now, by all means, go have yours.

To my American friends and family, to all of you Americans out there, and especially to my American editors, co-bloggers, and contributors here at The Reaction, as well as to my many American friends and acquaintances throughout the blogosphere, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you're all having a wonderful day.

Go Lions. (The Patriots are a key Steelers rival.)

Go Saints. (I despise the Cowboys.)

Go... oh, the Bengals, I guess. (I despise both them and the Jets, but the Jets are another AFC rival for the Steelers this year and are ahead of them in the standings.)

-- Michael

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Sarah Palin: "We've got to stand with our North Korean allies."

I'm sorry for not blogging the past few days. I've been a bit under the weather.

But I can always count on Sarah Palin to pull me back in...

Yes, Sarah Palin, the most amazing living American, who, appearing on Glenn Beck's radio show today -- where she knows she won't be asked any tough questions and where she can pretty much say whatever she wants without being challenged -- made a rather significant gaffe:

Co-host: How would you handle a situation like the one that just developed in North Korea? [...]

Palin: But obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies. We're bound to by treaty –

Co-host: South Korean.

Palin: Eh, yeah. And we're also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes.

Now, Think Progress's Alex Seitz-Wald is right that "malapropisms can and should be forgiven for frequent public speakers." Everyone makes mistakes. Think about Joe Biden, for example, who frequently needs to extract his foot from his mouth.

But Biden's problem is that he is sometimes too honest (for a politician) or just says embarrassing things. In Palin's case, her problem is that she's lazy and unserious. Time and time again, what she reveals is that she doesn't think, let alone think seriously, about... well, about pretty much anything other than the marketing of the Palin brand.

Think back, for example, to that Katie Couric interview during the '08 campaign. As I put it back then, "[h]ere's Palin, running for vice president, on the national stage, saying silly and stupid things and at times unable even to answer Couric's questions in any coherent, let alone meaningful, way, and showing a complete lack of experience, engagement, expertise, and even basic understanding of the issues." Whether it was her comment that she had foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia, her general incoherence in response any and every policy question, her inability to name a single Supreme Court case, her cluelessness on the separation of church and state, her ridiculous claim that she'd been "hearing about" Biden's speeches since she was in the second grade, or her inability to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads, she exhibited not a tendency to commit malapropisms but a general ignorance about policy, politics, and, well, pretty much the entirety of the world around her.

Is it any wonder that Palin later accused of Couric "badgering" her, even though all Couric did was ask some fairly innocuous questions and, treading softly, give Palin every opportunity not to embarrass herself? Is it any wonder Palin recently said won't "waste time" with Couric if she runs in '12?

Nothing has changed. The Sarah Palin of '08 is the Sarah Palin of '10. The only difference is that her brand is bigger -- with a couple of best-selling (ghost-written) books, a (phony) reality TV show, an even bigger ego, a place of prominence in the Republican Party, and the tantalizing allure of a presidential run.

So back to her latest gaffe. Should we make anything of it? On its own, maybe not -- I suppose anyone can confuse North and South Korea in this context, and she probably knows that the North is the totalitarian one (surely she knows at least that?) -- but it's just one more piece of evidence that her public utterances are really just a string of talking points and ignorant assertions, that is, that she speaks without thinking, and without ever having thought about what she's talking about (including on rather serious issues like this one).

Is it any wonder the vast majority of Americans, including no less an authority than George W. Bush himself, think she's unqualified to be president?

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New START, modernization, and Thanksgiving

by Peter Henne

Today I am thankful for many things, but #1 on the list is the fact that I am in no way responsible for getting GOP Senators to sign on to the New START treaty. Senator Jon Kyl's recent objections to the treaty made its ratification--in my opinion--rather unlikely, but he has graciously outlined his objections to the treaty in a recent memo to Senate Republicans. In it, Kyl expresses concerns over the modernization of the US nuclear weapons infrastructure, while barely mentioning New START itself.

Modernization is all fine and good, but it's unclear whether our nuclear weapons are really at risk of being made obsolete. As Page van der Linden wrote in a September piece in Foreign Policy, the Obama Administration has directed significant resources towards maintaining and modernizing our nuclear weapons. And as Cato's Benjamin Friedman and Christopher Preble argued recently, the United States could likely get away with significant cuts in our nuclear stockpiles and still protect our vital interests.

Beyond that, it's really unclear what this has to do with New START ratification. The issues are certainly related, but negotiating bilateral arms reductions does not inherently threaten US nuclear capabilities. The answer, I think, lies in the perverse effects of the contemporary Senate on US foreign policy.

As I argued early in the Obama Administration, debates in the Senate--then involving spurious GOP objections to political appointees--could have pathological consequences for US foreign policy. This is the case with the New START debates as well. If opposition to the treaty represented a broad consensus over the dangers of arms limitations, that would be one thing. That they are driven by a separate issue that is already being addressed indicates either irrational approaches to crucial foreign policy issues or the hijacking of national security by petty partisan squabbles.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Hatemongering Family Research Council designated a "hate group"

As TPM is reporting, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated the Family Research Council, the high-profile conservative group that hosts the annual Value Voters Summit (a must for Republicans), a "hate group."

The SPLC profiles 18 anti-gay groups here, of which 13 will be listed as hate groups next year, up from eight. It currently identifies "932 known hate groups operating across the country."

You won't find an argument here. Anti-gay bigots belong on the list, and the Family Research Council is among the worst offenders.

And Republicans -- well, we already knew many of them were enablers of hate, if not outright purveyors of hate themselves. Now they're even more prominently on notice.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tom DeLay: Guilty!

(Make sure to watch Distributorcap's fantastic mashup, posted earlier this evening.)

Here's the good news:

AUSTIN, Tex. — Tom DeLay, one of the most powerful and divisive Republican lawmakers ever to come out of Texas, was convicted Wednesday of money-laundering charges in a state trial, five years after his indictment here forced him to resign as majority leader in the House of Representatives.

After 19 hours of deliberation, a jury of six men and six women decided that Mr. DeLay was guilty of conspiring with two associates in 2002 to circumvent a state law against corporate contributions to political campaigns. He was convicted of one charge of money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

As the verdict was read, Mr. DeLay, 63, sat stone-faced at the defense table. Then he rose, turned, smiled and hugged his wife and then his weeping daughter in the first row of spectators. He faces between 5 and 99 years in prison, though the judge may choose probation.

A few minutes later, Mr. DeLay said outside the courtroom that he would appeal the decision. He called the prosecution a political vendetta by Democrats in the local district attorney's office, and revenge for his role in orchestrating the 2003 redrawing of Congressional districts to elect more Republicans.

"This is an abuse of power," he said. "It's a miscarriage of justice. I still maintain my innocence. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system."

Actually, no, it's what DeLay himself did that undermines American democracy, not a fair trial that resulted in a guilty verdict.

And while I would bet on probation, and while it's not surprising that DeLay will appeal and continues to protest his innocence -- he probably can't even fathom that he did anything wrong, so criminally corrupt is he -- I would just note that he was found guilty by a jury in Texas, where DeLay is likely to find more sympathy than anywhere else, and that there's nothing to suggest that this trial was in any way a "vendetta." 

It's called the rule of law, Tom. It's supposedly the American way, however much you may wish to exempt yourself, and your party, from its application.

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Prisoner of love

The new best seller:

Already made into a major motion picture:

Sometimes even the biggest scumbags get nailed.

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By Carl 

Every so often, I start down this odd path of thinking about stuff that's piled up in my mind. Today is one of those.

First, to the people who have made my blog, Simply Left Behind, as moderately successful as it is, thank you. It's been over six years since I first put fingers to keyboard in anger. I have Katrina to blame.

Not the hurricane, the writer.

Thanks, Kat. A bigger drain of energy I've never experienced.

To my friends at The Reaction, thank you for welcoming my words on an almost daily basis. Whether I agree with my co-bloggers and readers or not, I've enjoyed the chance to develop my thinking and to be challenged on my positions. I may not always come away with a changed mind... OK, I'm almost always right, so hardly ever... it is in these discussions that I learn the flaws in my arguments.

It's Thanksgiving in America, so it feels right to acknowledge how important this part of my life has become. I vowed in January of this year to work harder at being right on a story and to work less hard on being someone who grabs eyeballs. I felt like I was selling out in 2008 and 2009. This year, not so much.

To you all, I wish a happy and healthy and safe Thanksgiving, and to my international readers, well, have a good Thursday tomorrow.

The beauty of the Internet is that I can speak with people from Colorado to Colombia to Canton. The fact that always amazes me is how much people outside the US know and even understand about America, and how little we know of them. OK, there's a law of large numbers involved: if you live in Spain and focus on America, that's different than living in Spain and trying to understand America AND Sweden AND Dubai AND Malaysia, all at the same time.

Still, I'm really impressed by people who post things like "Well, I live in Clapham, and..."

Doubly so as a New Yorker. I've lived here all my life, and am a child of the streets (as anyone who's followed my Flickr account can tell you), and just when I think I know it all, I'm surprised by what I find. I envy tourists one thing: the first impression. I walk the streets near my office and am jealous of the folks who pull out a camera and snap a photo of Grand Central Terminal or the Chrysler Building. For them, that's a lifetime story to tell people.

For me, it's another building that I have to walk around to get from A to B.

Every so often, I get that same thrill, though. I rode my bike in Red Hook this summer and found these little vest pocket parks with these adorable little names, and marveled. And then I started to notice that parks all over the city started these cutesy names.

It got a little annoying, in fact. Maybe it's because I've become so feminized.

I realized that this morning when I was catching up on Time magazine, and found this article on the "Sheconomy". Women, you see, make or are involved in 85% of the purchases around the house, including some surprising things, like home theatre systems. Companies are only starting to notice this in a way that is meaningful. Marketing designed for women has finally gotten past "paint it pink and slap a flower on it," to understanding better how women buy something.

In the course of the article, the Midas corporation example was brought up. It turns out, Midas markets to women not by selling them a service, but by making them a customer, getting them to buy into a process by explaining things to them.

You know, you need a new alternator. Rather than gruffily say that, the technician will sit down with the customer, pull out a diagram and explain what the alternator does, how it charges the battery as the car moves, and explain precisely what broke down.

As they tell their technicians, "Explain it to your customers like you have to explain it to your mother."

And so here I am, thinking, "Wow, that's how I would have done it!"

And that's when I realized just how feminized I had become. See, men -- or rather as I term them in my next book, "guys"-- walk into a repair shop and presume that they have to have the appearance of knowing everything there is to know about cars. so the mechanic sizes them up, looks at the car, and pronounces his judgement that the car needs an new alternator.

The guy nods in agreement, grunts, and pulls out his wallet.

There was a time when this might have been the case, back before fuel injection and computers. Hell, I used to do all sorts of repairs to my engine as a kid. Now, I open the hood and go all Tim Allen, grunting and bug-eyed like one of the monkeys in front of the monolith in 2001.

And I've done that, to be sure. For whatever male vanity reason, letting a mechanic know I have no clue what he's talking about seems comforting.

Maybe to him, but why is it comforting me? 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is what Jon Stewart was talking about

By Edward Copeland

To paraphrase the old Clinton campaign battle cry, "It's the media, stupid."

When the whole TSA media explosion began, it was one of those rare stories where all sides of the political spectrum seemed to agree from the likes of Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake to an assortment of conservative talking heads. It even had its own variation of "Don't tase me, bro" with "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested" before true horror stories came out of passengers who had colostomy bags broken and urine collection bags ruptured, women who had their prosthetic breasts which they got after cancer surgery moved around as if they were puzzle pieces, etc. (Read Capt. Fogg's post for some of the examples.) It all pointed to improper training. Well, cable can't stand something like that, so they had to find political sides.

Suddenly, the left decided the whole issue was raised by neocons and the right to try to use racial profiling, even though days earlier they agreed with some of the ridiculousness of the system that still doesn't really add to protecting our skies nine years after 9/11. What makes this completely nonsensical and infuriating is that there is real news going on.

North Korea attacks a South Korean island in the most serious engagement between the two countries since 1953 in the same week we learn that North Korea has built another uranium enrichment facility. Do cable news shows want to discuss the serious implications of this? They could even put a political spin on it, if they wanted, as Jon Kyl continues to oppose the latest START treaty for no apparent reason.

I just watched Ed Schultz throwing a conniption fit about racial profiling and the TSA and Rush Limbaugh and I just couldn't take it anymore and I did what I do more and more when I need reasonable news coverage: I watched PBS' the NewsHour. They, of course, had in-depth coverage of the Korean situation as well as the fake Taliban negotiator, a promising drug that might actually prevent HIV infection and details of the financial reform. In fact, they went an entire hour without mentioning the TSA or what the cable channels would have you believe is today's other story of monumental importance: Prince William and Kate Middleton have set a wedding date!

Of course, I'm not even mentioning MSNBC's corporate synergy with NBC by using its nonstop coverage of the TSA imbroglio to play the Saturday Night Live skit about it from last weekend about it (which they do every time there is a new SNL on) as if it's an essential part of illustrating the story. Chris Matthews went as far as calling it the greatest SNL sketch ever. It aired on Olbermann, Maddow and O'Donnell last night and Morning Joe, Hardball and Schultz today.

Politico's Mike Allen had a funny tweet earlier today pointing out that Good Morning America actually did lead with the North Korean situation, but the Today show actually chose to go with the wedding date. As Fran Lebowitz said in the wonderful documentary about her that premiered on HBO last night, Public Speaking, I remember when news used to mean information.

It's like Jon Stewart said during his interview with Rachel Maddow. Was the Juan Williams story really as important as cable news made it out to be? No, but it fit their narrative and their template. There are far too many important things going on both domestically and overseas to waste our times on this nonsense anymore. Our "leaders" in D.C. can play politics, but they've lost the ability and the interest to govern and none of the talking heads on either side have any role in governance. Enough.

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Don't touch my junk!

I remember once, long ago, arriving at O'Hare airport well after midnight with a pair of hungry, thirsty, overtired and near hysterical pre-schoolers following a full day of airport delays and stormy air travel that began in Jamaica. The agony of enduring hours of waiting and seemingly microscopic baggage inspection is impossible to forget as was the large Orwellian banner demanding "PATIENCE - A DRUG FREE AMERICA COMES FIRST." From my point of view, it sure as hell didn't justify the trauma and I don't have to add that it wasn't and still isn't 'drug-free;' but those were the good old days. They didn't strip search my five-year old.

Yes, sure, a majority of Americans are willing to put up with the ritual humiliations that now accompany air travel; those same people that don't worry much about driving their luxury trucks at 100 while talking on the phone -- at night -- in the rain. Odds are they haven't had to experience more than being asked to remove a belt or their shoes or having been chastised by someone in a too-tight polyester uniform and rubber gloves about which size Zip-Loc they put their shampoo and toothpaste in or even having 'terrorist tool' nail clippers confiscated. Of course many of us still haven't been through the full-body cameras and the rude, abrupt, "up against the wall" attitudes of TSA tyrants. Many have been and many are now fed up with what's being mocked as Security Theater. Fed up is a euphemism here of course but in this week of peak air travel, some of us will undergo an attitude adjustment and begin to use more direct words.

Some will elect to deprive some unseen gnome of viewing their nakedness, or that of their spouses and children and choose a "manual" search. It may be more 'manual' then they expected. ABC News producer Carolyn Durand claims that:

The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around. It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist.

The Raw Story reports that women have had to remove prosthetic breasts for "inspection." One man had a urostomy bag ruptured by TSA's claws and had to board an airplane while soaked with public humiliation and urine. Keep in mind, that no probable cause is involved here since profiling would be insulting. Keep in mind that you probably can't get there by Amtrak and driving to grandma's house may be more dangerous than flying.

Of course, to me, the government's power to stick their fingers in your hooha is far more offensive than its power to prevent the bus company from making some of my friends sit in the back seats and expel them from the Woolworths lunch counter, but then I'm not a Tea Party "Patriot," I don't support Rand Paul's discomfort with anything infringing on absolute property rights, and I'm not an oil company either. Neither am I like the troll who used Raw Story's comment section to rave about supporting the "Terrorist State of Israel." I'm just sick of arguable ends being used to sanctify extreme and offensive methods. I'm tired of losing my freedom to other people's fear and my country to the neurotic and fearful mob.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Clean your own muddy house first, Mrs. Palin

By Carl 

Item: Palin says she will "clean up" journalism

Pardon me for a second, k?

*smirk* *grin* *hand to mouth* *giggle*


Ok, now that I got that out of my system...

Here's the funiest bit: 

I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.

"And I can see Russia from my front porch!"

Now, here we have Sarah Palin. She attended five colleges to get that "degree" in communications, something they ought to revoke retroactively given her complete inability to construct a sentence that doesn't contain either a syntatical error or a neologism that, well, reeks of plagiarism.

We have Sarah "Half-Term" Palin. We have a mother who isn't, a governor who isn't, and a college graduate who barely is. And if rumour is accurate, we have a wife who isn't.

I don't expect scintillating conversation from a political figure, but it would be nice if I could read a speech without Google Translate, or the same feeling I get trying to understand a credit card agreement.

If she truly understood reporting, the way she claims to, then Katie Couric would have been praised by Palin, instead of basically called a heartless bitch, saying she will not speak to Couric again, calling her "biased" and won't "waste my time."

Because, you know, Couric dared be a journalist! OMG! Imagine! 

Her reasons?

She added: "So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him."


In an interview later tonight on Fox News... 

Where, of course, she's an analyst. 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.) 

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Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963

By Mustang Bobby

Friday, November 22, 1963. I was in the sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio. I had to skip phys. ed. because I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was in a study hall when a classmate came up from the locker room in the school basement to say, "Kennedy's dead." We had a boy in our class named Kennedy, and I wondered what had happened -- an errant fatal blow with a dodgeball? A few minutes later, though, it was made clear to us at a hastily-summoned assembly, and we were soon put on the buses and sent home. Girls were crying.

There was a newspaper strike at The Blade, so the only papers we could get were either from Detroit or Cleveland. (The union at The Blade, realizing they were missing the story of the century, agreed to immediately resume publication and settle their differences in other ways.) Television, though, was the medium of choice, and I remember the black-and-white images of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, the casket being lowered, President Johnson speaking on the tarmac, and the events of the weekend -- Oswald, Ruby, the long slow funeral parade, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" -- merging into one long black-and-white flicker, finally closing on Monday night with the eternal flame guttering in the cold breeze.

I suspect that John F. Kennedy would be bitterly disappointed that the only thing remembered about his life was how he left it and how it colored everything he did leading up to it. The Bay of Pigs, the steel crisis, the Cuban missle crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, even the space program are dramatized by his death. They became the stuff of legend, not governing, and history should not be preserved as fable.

I never thought I'd be old enough to look back forty-seven years to that time. And according to NPR, sixty percent of Americans alive today were not yet born on that day. Today the question is not do you remember JFK, but what did his brief time leave behind. Speculation is rife as to what he did or did not accomplish. Would we have gone in deeper in Vietnam? Would he have pushed civil rights? Would the Cold War have lasted? We'll never know, and frankly, pursuing such questions is a waste of time. Had JFK never been assassinated, chances are he would have been re-elected in 1964, crushing Barry Goldwater, but leading an administration that was more style than substance, battling with his own party as much as with the Republicans, much like Clinton did in the 1990s. According to medical records, he would have been lucky to live into his sixties, dying from natural causes in the 1980s, and he would have been remembered fondly for his charm and wit -- and his beautiful wife -- more than what he accomplished in eight years of an average presidency.

But it was those six seconds in Dealy Plaza that defined him. Each generation has one of those moments. For my parents it was Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the flash from Warm Springs in April 1945. Today it is Challenger in 1986 and of course September 11, 2001. And in all cases, it is what the moment means to us. It is the play, not the players. We see things as they were, contrast to how they are, and measure the differences, and by that, we measure ourselves.

(Previously published, with minor edits, at Bark Bark Woof Woof on November 22, 2003.)

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Jimmy Carter vs. Fox News (and MSNBC)

I like Jimmy Carter, I really do. But:

Jimmy Carter said Sunday that Fox News commentators including Glenn Beck have "deliberately distorted" the news.

Speaking on CNN’s "Reliable Sources" Sunday, the former Democratic president took aim at the cable news channel climate, often a target for President Obama as well who says he tries to avoid the cable chatter.

"The talk shows with Glenn Beck and others on Fox News, I think, have deliberately distorted the news. And it's become highly competitive," Carter said. "And my Republican friends say that MSNBC might be just as biased on the other side in supporting the Democratic Party, the liberal element."

The ex-president said opinions about the two channels was "part of give and take" in politics in the United States. Carter also believes CNN has suffered from trying to remain nonpartisan in comparison to Fox and MSNBC. 

"And I think CNN, more than others, has kind of tried to play the middle to their detriment as far as viewership is concerned and profits are concerned," Carter said.  

First, it doesn't take an ex-president to realize that Fox News deliberately distorts the news. Thanks for stating the obvious.

Second, Carter shouldn't say anything at all about MSNBC if he doesn't know what he's talking about, which would seem to be the case. MSNBC is not the Fox News of the left. There are liberal opinions expressed on MSNBC, just as there are conservative opinions expressed on Fox News, but MSNBC does not distort the news and is not the propagandistic mouthpiece for the Democratic Party as Fox News is for the Republican Party.

Third, CNN is an appallingly crappy network. And if you think it "plays the middle" by trying to be objective, you haven't been paying attention. CNN regularly pushes Republican narratives and talking points and allows the extremism of the Republican right to be presented as equal to the centrism of the Democratic right, as if the "center" is somewhere in between, while ignoring (or treating as extreme and unworthy of consideration) the progressivism of the left altogether.

But thanks for coming out, Mr. President.

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Marines would comply fully with DADT repeal

From CNN:

The head of the U.S. Marine Corps will fully cooperate with a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday.

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Mullen said there was "no question" that Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, an opponent of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy at this time, would implement all necessary changes to allow openly gay Marines to serve if Congress passes a repeal measure.

"He basically said that if this law changes, we are going to implement it, and we are going to implement it better than anybody else," Mullen said of comments Amos recently made at a townhall-style meeting with Marines.

I'm sure conservatives will still make their bigoted case for DADT, however, and that John McCain, who keeps finding new reasons to keep the policy in place, basically by putting new hurdles in place, flipping and flopping and moving the goalposts, will argue that even this isn't enough -- because nothing is ever enough.

Remember this the next time a Republican, McCain or otherwise, waves the flag and claims to be oh-so-pro-military.

It's not just that Republicans are trying to keep in place a bigoted policy that weakens the military, it's that they're completely full of shit in doing so.

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"We, The People..."

By Carl
...ain't half as dumb as we look.
A few Sundays ago, the NY Times published an interactive US budgeting webpage. There, you could personalize your own 2011 Federal budget and try to reduce the deficit.
(For the record, I scored an $800 billion surplus by the year 2015, and a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus by 2030, all without major cuts to social programs or tax hikes on the middle class and working poor. But I digress...)
Well, over the weekend, the Times followed up with some startling, eye-opening statistics:

Reduce the size of the military rather than reduce pay for noncombat members of the military. Impose a millionaire’s tax rather than cut deductions for high-income households. Cap the growth of Medicare spending rather than raise the eligibility age...

The single least popular choice was allowing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on income below $250,000 a year. Fewer than 10 percent of the solutions included that option. But when it came to tax cuts for incomes above $250,000, people’s opinions appeared to diverge according to their political views. Those who preferred spending cuts — a conservative group, in all likelihood — generally wanted this tax cut to remain in place. Among those who closed the deficit mostly with tax increases — probably a liberal group — the expiration was the single most selected policy.

The most popular option among all respondents? Reducing the military to less than its size before the Iraq war — included in about 80 percent of the solutions posted to Twitter. But cutting pay and benefits for the military was a choice of only 40 percent.

It seems I was not alone.

Admittedly, this is not a scientific sample. Altho there were over one million page views, the Times was only able to analyze those people who either tweeted (ugh!) or posted links to their solutions. Furthermore, they culled only those solutions that saved at least $1.345 trillion from the 2030 projected deficit, thus creating a balanced budget. This cut the total size of the analysis to a population of about 7,000 people, from which only a thousand or so were able to successfully balance the budget by 2030. (Results here)

Twitter and, say, Facebook postings tend to skew younger, and younger usually means more liberal.

But check out the agreement with regards to taxes: a full 73% of respondents believed that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy ought to expire, and nearly the same percentage believed a new "millionaire's tax" should be imposed (by the way, great little piece of neurolingsuitic programming, that. A "millionaire's tax"...who could possibly object?)

Even the carbon tax saw a 6 out of ten choice. This means that not only did liberals choose these taxes, but that many conservatives did as well!

There's hope yet for this nation.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Warren Buffett: Rich people should pay higher taxes

From Bloomberg:

Billionaire Warren Buffett said that rich people should pay more in taxes and that Bush-era tax cuts for top earners should be allowed to expire at the end of December.

"If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further," Buffett said in an interview with ABC's 'This Week With Christiane Amanpour' that is scheduled to air on Nov. 28. "But I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it."

Of course, Buffett is a socialist, so what does he know?

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Truth in Comics

By Creature

If it's Sunday, it's Truth in Comics.

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Vienna Teng & Alex Wong: "No Gringo"

It's 2:45 am. How about some music?

You may know how much I love Vienna Teng. (I've previously posted two clips, here and here, of her performing a couple of her best songs, "Pontchartrain" and "Recessional," both off Dreaming Through the Noise (2006). Check them out. She's amazing.)

Well, here she is, with Alex Wong, performing "No Gringo," perhaps the best song off her last studio album, Inland Territory (2009). (A live version is on The Moment Always Vanishing, released earlier this year.)

It's a song about illegal immigration, reversed, imagining a time when an American family might try to get into Mexico.

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