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Don’t Look at Him, He Didn’t Do It!

[ 15 ] September 12, 2008 |

I would add that it would sure be nice if James Carville applied the same charity to fellow Democrats that he does to Saint McCain…

The Palin Interview

[ 21 ] September 11, 2008 |

First, there’s more better journalism here. Among other things we learn that Palin, apparently, “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.” Impressive. McCain’s “I love Maine” panegyrics during the last three minutes are an added bonus. He promises that when he becomes president, he won’t return to Maine to feast on the life-sustaining blood and organs of its fine, fine people. Good to know!

And now, back to Palin’s interview, which was — if you enjoy a towering geyser of cliches and uninformed evasions — awesome. I’d agree that Gibson seems to have been barely conscious in developing the questions, but the good news is that it seems he didn’t actually need to be for Palin to affirm my assessment that her ignorance on foreign policy is peerless among recent vice presidential nominees. This is my favorite part:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Here’s the rest of the interview:

Her own private Idaho

[ 24 ] September 11, 2008 |

Amid all the extremely disturbing tidbits in the Gibson/Palin soupcon of agitprop masquerading as journalism, the most disturbing may be the revelation that the GOP’s VP candidate (on a ticket where the POTUS candidate is an old sick man) had the first passport of her life issued to her this year. For some reason this detail, more than anything else, captures for me the sheer insanity of making Palin vice president, and of the enormous reserve of sexism fueling the insanity. It’s impossible to imagine a man who had never in his life traveled outside of an extremely geographically isolated and sparsely populated (total population less than Columbus Ohio) state being put within a fluttering heartbeat of the presidency of the United States.

But somehow it all makes sense with Palin: in some weird way, the fact that she’s almost literally never been anywhere in her whole life makes her a perfect symbolic representative of all sorts of maximally screwed up ideas of feminine virtue in general, and domesticity in particular.

I need a drink.

Update: McKingford makes a key point in the comments, which is that this goes way beyond the fact she’s never been to another country other than a ceremonial trip to Germany and Kuwait earlier this year (incredibly, she doesn’t appear to have ever been to Canada). How much time has she spent in the rest of the United States? We know she was in Idaho for a couple of years, and in St. Paul last week, but where hasn’t she been? I bet the list would be pretty eye-popping.

Dave wrote recently about how Alaskans tend to think of everything outside the state as “outside,” which is geographically understandable, but all the more reason why we should be concerned about the life experiences of someone from an isolated, very atypical region of the country, especially if she doesn’t appear to have spent much if any time anywhere else in the USA, let alone anywhere across an international border.

Palin speaks! (Hard-hitting journalism, Charlie Gibson edition)

[ 0 ] September 11, 2008 |

ABC has released some transcripts of clips of Charlie Gibson’s interview with Sarah Palin:

Clip 1:

GIBSON: Governor, let me start by asking you a question that I asked John McCain about you, and it is really the central question. Can you look the country in the eye and say “I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?”

PALIN: I do, Charlie, and on January 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, will be ready. I’m ready.

GIBSON: And you didn’t say to yourself, “Am I experienced enough? Am I ready? Do I know enough about international affairs? Do I — will I feel comfortable enough on the national stage to do this?”

PALIN: I didn’t hesitate, no.

OK then.

More:

The Governor advocated the accession of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. When asked by Gibson if under the NATO treaty, the U.S. would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia, Palin responded: “Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.

“And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable,” she told ABC News’ Charles Gibson in an exclusive interview.

Palin advocated the accession of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, meaning that if attacked again in the future, the United States would be bound to go to war. “I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help,” she said.

Palin, who obtained her first passport this year [!!!] and who has served just two years as Alaska’s governor, told Gibson that she was up to the challenge of being Sen. John McCain’s vice president. “I answered [McCain]’yes’ because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can’t blink. Palin sat down with Gibson on a day that was filled with wrenching memories and solemn ceremonies for the nearly 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks.

It was also the day that Palin, the mother of five, attended a deployment ceremony for her oldest son, Track, an Army infantryman whose Stryker unit is being shipped off to Iraq later this month. Palin defended a previous statement in which she reportedly characterized the war in Iraq as “task from God”. Gibson quoted her as saying: “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” But Palin said she was referencing a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln. “I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak God’s words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.” When asked if she believed she was “sending [her] son on a task that is from God,” Palin said: “I don’t know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.”

So there.

Deep Breaths

[ 35 ] September 11, 2008 |

For someone who’s been suffering from what Tim Fernholz describes as “inspired anxiety” for the past week, this is worth reading.

Obama is essentially tied in the polls with McCain, even as the Republican senator experiences his convention bounce. These numbers will change with events, especially with the debates, and as the sheen wears off Palin. (A reminder: She has been known nationally for less than two weeks.) Obama has invested in a much larger field operation than McCain. The press seems to be developing a spine, if these comments criticizing the media’s “outrageous” cowering before the McCain campaign from conventional wisdom apparatchik Mark Halperin are any indication.

But it certainly doesn’t help to have Democrats wringing their hands and complaining about problems Obama doesn’t have. Enthusiasm is the big indicator in an election that will ride on turnout, and Democrats have every reason to be enthusiastic.

Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson during the primary campaign, has made this point on his new blog. During the primary race, many counted Obama out, didn’t understand his campaign’s strategy, didn’t think he could keep himself in the race. Clinton adopted Obama’s change rhetoric and attacked him the same way McCain has — on experience and for his eloquence. But Obama and his team hewed to their strategy and pulled out the win. The senator from Illinois is known as a closer, and there is plenty of time left. Keep the faith.

Sarah Palin: The Greatest Feminist Icon Since Phyllis Schlafly

[ 25 ] September 11, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Camille Paglia: Sarah Palin has “made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.”

Yikes, when I said that their star columnist could write something about Palin even dumber than what Gary Kamiya wrote, I didn’t mean it as a dare.  (Frighteningly, I’m inclined to think that Paglia believes that before Madonna (and, implicitly, Paglia), feminists really were “anti-sex.”)  Bonus: “But what of Palin’s pro-life stand? Creationism taught in schools?…We’ll see how these big issues shake out. Right now, I don’t believe much of what I read or hear about Palin in the media.” Yes, let’s not choose to believe her openly stated policy views — Paglia just knows she’s a feminist deep down!

The only defense of Salon is if this was, as it reads, a parody written by The Editors. Steiger:

Dear Ms. Paglia,

We have received your application to be a leading feminist thinker. Unfortunately, we’re not able to accept you at this time. Best of luck in placing your thoughts elsewhere.

Sincerely,
Real Feminists Everywhere

The Cult of 9/11

[ 38 ] September 11, 2008 |

If someone close to you died in the 9/11 terror attacks this isn’t intended for you. For you, this is a day of legitimate mourning and real grief, and this is about phony mourning and simulated grief.

Phony mourning and simulated grief is what politicians all over America are indulging in today, as they mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attack.

With the benefit of seven years of hindsight and subsequent experience, it’s become clear that a Cult of 9/11 has been built up around the events of that day. The Cult of 9/11 is based on a fundamental principle: that the 9/11 attacks marked the beginning of a new historical era, a so-called “new normal” in which Americans were shaken from their post-Cold War complacency by the realization that we faced an existential threat from Islamic terrorism.

That is false. It was (understandably) difficult to see that the fundamental principle of the Cult of 9/11 was false in the days and weeks immediately after the attacks. The attacks were, among other things, a spectacularly successful manipulation of the contemporary media: the 9/11 terrorists succeeded in hijacking not just four airliners, but the entire news and entertainment complex of the United States.

For days and weeks, we lived in a world in which, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we were bombarded with words and most of all images that drove home the supposed truth that we were now all under living under an existential threat — that the very survival of our nation hung in the balance.

“9/11” in short, became a kind of national horror film, except it was “real,” and (most important) it played on a continuous loop on our televisions and on the Internet and in our newspapers and on our radios and in our magazines until the dread of terror was everywhere.

In other words, our government and media did the main work of the terrorists for them. The primary goal of the terrorists wasn’t to damage America directly – as terrible as the attacks were, they could never do more than comparatively trivial damage to a nation as rich and powerful and secure as ours – but rather to wreck havoc by creating the illusion that they had the power to hurt us. And in this they succeeded beyond Osama bin Laden’s wildest dreams.

The logic of the horror film is this: it takes something that actually exists – for example, serial killers – and then it creates an atmosphere of pervasive dread, by constructing a world in which the audience’s perception of reality is warped to the point where the dread of serial killers becomes the dominant emotion – an emotion that colors our perception of everything in that world.

Consider a film like The Silence of the Lambs. Very few people are killed in the film – more people die, on average, in the opening sequence of a James Bond film than the entire body count in The Silence of the Lambs – but the effectiveness of the movie has nothing to do with “real” risk. Instead, it’s built around creating a pervasive atmosphere of dread, by presenting a world in which Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill — sociopathic killers obsessed with bizarre fetishes that involve desecrating the corpses of their victims – seem, in the mind of the audience, to be lurking on every wooded trail and in every quaint old house, and indeed everywhere.

There’s a great sequence near the beginning of the film, in which Clarice, the young female FBI trainee played by Jodie Foster, gets into an elevator full of (male) FBI agents. This is set at the FBI training center in Quantico Virginia. From a rational perspective, it’s about the safest spot on the planet if you’re worried about being kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer. Yet at that moment, in the mind of the audience, every man in the elevator is perceived to be a real and significant threat to Clarice’s safety, bodily integrity, and life.

There’s nothing “rational” about that perception, but that doesn’t make it less real – as a perception of risk, as opposed to an actual, real-world risk.

The Cult of 9/11 is built up around similarly distorted perceptions. The Cult of 9/11 isn’t about real risk, but rather about creating and maintaining a pervasive cultural atmosphere of dread. It’s a kind of national horror film – one which goes on and on, even as the events of that terrible day fade in both memory and emotional impact.

Here are some basic truths, truths so basic that arguing for them is an insult to the reader’s intelligence:

*Terrorism, Islamic or otherwise, doesn’t pose anything like an existential threat to the United States of America.

*There isn’t a trace of an indigenous Islamic terror threat anywhere in America, or indeed a significant terror threat of any kind.

*With some notable exceptions – if for example you happen to be a poor, and/ or if you don’t have health insurance, and/or if you belong to a demographic that makes up much of the world’s largest prison population – contemporary America is about as low-risk a society as has ever existed on the face of the earth. In particular the contemporary American suburb, although full of often-terrified people, represents as close to a risk-free environment as human ingenuity has yet constructed.

*We’re all going to die one day, but the odds that any particular American will die in a terrorist attack can be estimated as essentially zero.

*The money being spent, and the nations being invaded, and the suspects being tortured, and the laws being broken, in the name of fighting the so-called global war on terror, represent a fantastically out of proportion response to the threat that terrorism actually poses to our nation.

Consider that for every American murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001, fifty have been murdered by ordinary everyday made-in-America violence in the seven years since.

Consider that for every American murdered by terrorists, somewhere between 200 and 600 Iraqis have died as a direct consequence of our invasion of that country: a country which had nothing to do with 9/11, although perhaps 100 million Americans still don’t understand this — a fact which itself is a direct and intended consequence of the Bush administration’s calculated lies.

Consider that the money spent, so far, on the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks would be more than enough to pay off the entire mortgage of every foreclosed home in the United States.

You will hear nothing like this from any national politician today, because the Cult of 9/11 considers any criticism of its central principle to be a horrible heresy.

Instead we will get phony mourning and simulated grief, from our leaders and our media, as they continue to pretend that the events of that terrible day justify the money, and the invasions, and the torture, and the lawbreaking, and all the other very real transformations of our national life that have been undertaken in the name of our dread of a threat that, in all truth, might as well be as imaginary as the killer in a horror film.

The Great Tradition of American Stenography

[ 1 ] September 11, 2008 |

Ye gods, Wiesman is a hack. It’s people like him which make McCain’s disgraceful campaign work.

Earmarks! Get your earmarks!

[ 39 ] September 11, 2008 |

For starters, I’ll simply vow that if the essence of this campaign distills down to earmarks — and if that becomes the McCain-Palin route to victory — I will join the Alaska Independence Party and immediately press for my state’s secession and reabsorption by Canada.

Meantime, in related news, my governor is still a fraud:

Senator John McCain recently told reporters that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has “learned that earmarks are bad.”

But not that bad, apparently. According to a “summary of requests for federal appropriations” posted to her budget office’s website earlier this year, Palin requested millions of federal dollars for everything from improving recreational halibut fishing to studying the mating habits of crabs and the DNA of harbor seals.

I suppose it almost goes without saying that Palin’s office will be requesting funds to study how a successful abstinence-only curriculum can be incorporated into the education of crabs. I suppose it also goes nearly without saying that the harbor seals will have to pay for their own DNA kits.

Admiral Nakhimov…

[ 9 ] September 10, 2008 |

Time to reactivate Iowa and Wisconsin!!!!1!!!!1!

Lose your house, lose your vote

[ 21 ] September 10, 2008 |

I’m shocked that this tactic disproportinately affects poor voters, who in even more shocking news are disproportinately black.

“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. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed. State election rules allow parties to assign
“election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township. . . .

David Lagstein, head organizer with the Michigan Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), described the plans of the Macomb GOP as “crazy.”

“You would think they would think, ‘This is going to look too heartless,’” said Lagstein, whose group has registered 200,000 new voters statewide this year and
also runs a foreclosure avoidance program. “The Republican-led state Senate has not moved on the anti-predatory lending bill for over a year and yet [Republicans] have time to prey on those who have fallen victim to foreclosure to suppress the vote.”

You would think . . . and you would be wrong.

In poker they call this coming over the top

[ 17 ] September 10, 2008 |

Somebody calls your bluff? Double your bet.

“Mrs. Palin also killed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in her own state. Yes, she once supported the project: But after witnessing the problems created by earmarks for her state and for the nation’s budget, she did what others like me have done: She changed her position and saved taxpayers millions.”

The bet here is when somebody calls you out for an unambiguous lie, you follow a two-pronged strategy: To tickle the fancy of political sophisticates you depend on people like Marc Ambinder to fuzz up the situation with disingenuous musings about how this is sort of not untrue if you look at it a certain way but isn’t sad that “politics” works like this (meaning that everybody is just as guilty as everybody else so in a sense everyone is innocent, so let’s just move on.)

Of course for the eventual benefit of what are so tactfully referred to as “low information voters” you just do what Sen. DeMint does on the op-ed page of the WSJ and repeat the lie at a higher volume. Needless to say the average reader of the WSJ op-ed page probably isn’t fooled, but that’s not really the point. The point is to create a media narrative of the “some say the earth is flat some say it’s round the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle” variety.