Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Someone, Please, Tell Dick Cheney To Shut The F*ck Up

In a statement released Tuesday, former Vice-Presidentn Cheney once again lambasts President Obama for doing his job in a manner differently than he would have done. In its entirety, Mr. Cheney said,

"As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

“He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."

Since the incident of Christmas Day, I have heard various right-wing pundits and politicians state that the perpetrator absolutely must be made to tell all that he knows about Al Qaeda; its locations, future plans, plots, and American targets. What they are refusing to say in so many words, is that this man must be tortured to release information that he obviously must have.

What is equally obvious to others - as by all reports, the individual arrested after the incident has freely claimed responsibility and given up all kinds of information - this young man is a disaffected, isolated, and angry young man who is unlikely to be in possession of any information useful to government intelligence services. Al Qaeda may not be very successful, but so far, they have not shown themselves to be stupid.

Mr. Cheney, however, forgets--as usual--that Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" was arrested, read his Miranda rights, tried in federal court, and is currently being held in a federal prison. Mr. Cheney seems to forget that it was the Bush Administration that released a number of Guantanamo detainees who then returned home and later engaged in terrorist activities (not that I am suggesting that we should keep Guantanamo open). Mr. Cheney forgets that it is his own Defense Department that has said that it is Guantanamo and "enhanced interrogation" techniques that have made us less safe from terrorists by creating terrorists. And finally, Mr. Cheney forgets that a majority of Americans replaced Congress with Democrats because they reject the social philosophy of the Republican Party, the practices of the Bush Administration, the exorbitant deficit that Bush created by starting two unnecessary wars,  a desire for reform on Wall Street, health care, and other social programs. America did not just vote for a Democratic president. We voted for a Democratic Congress.

Interesting how Mr. Cheney attempts to re-write history to make himself look good and is as usual, unable to accept even a scintilla of responsibility for any mistakes made during the previous eight years.

I wonder how long before we will have Liz inflicted on us? I would bet she will be on the Sunday talks if not before.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Why the Media Caters to Sarah Palin

I am still away from home dealing with family issues, but wondered if you all caught Ezra Klein's excellent article in the Washington Post of Dec. 23. Remarking on Dave Weigel's post in the Washington Independent "Why I Don't Write About Sarah Palin," Klein discusses the media's choices in what to cover, and why.

The article talks about the media need to publish and air news that is both true and interesting, often leaving its audience with a false impression. He uses as an example, stories about shark attacks. The frequent use of stories about shark attacks while interesting, might lead readers or viewers with the impression that such attacks are common when they are not, just as reporting on Palin's use of the term "death panel" while true (she did say it), suggested problems in the health care bill that were not there.

Klein says that,

"...Palin sneaks onto the front page because she seems to square that circle: Her utterances seem like news (former vice presidential candidate and 2012 hopeful Sarah Palin says ...) but actually aren't."
 The tension occurs, he says, when the need to sell papers and add viewers to cable news shows is looked at against the fact that news is sometimes boring, concluding by saying that,

"The continuing irony of all this is that for all the enmity between Palin and the press, no one has a closer and more mutually beneficial relationship than Palin has with the media, and no equivalently powerless political figure receives anything near the free coverage that the media lavishes on her."
 I continue to wonder why Sarah Palin receives so much attention with so little accountability and how she is able to set the terms in a way that no political figure has ever achieved before, and I believe that these two articles go a long way towards answering those questions.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope that 2010 sees progress for us all and I wish you my best.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Housekeeping and Personal Business

Just wanted to thank people for their interest and comments. I am coping with learning Windows 7 (grrr) after having to unexpectedly research and purchase a new computer, transfer files, and prepare to fly north to help family cope with a health emergency. As far as the computer goes, the most difficult has been transferring my iTunes files! I now have enough space to no longer need a separate external drive except for backup, but iTunes only recognizes music and videos that you get from them. Silly, as it is set up for you to import your own music and videos, and when I got my iPod, I put our entire music library onto it (3,000+ songs) as a way to backup our CD's. Sigh. Anyhoo, except for a bunch of videos, I seem to be up and running. Although I'm sure I will at some point love 7, I must say that I really want my Windows XP back!

So, sorry for no recent posts. I had planned to use my several hour layover on Wednesday to get some writing done, but just scheduled a phone interview (fingers crossed please! do you know how few responses I get to God knows how many applications I send out?) for that time slot with the expectation that I can find a quiet corner somewhere. So, posts will be infrequent until I get north and the family situation is stabilized.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sarah Palin is Really Saying, I Got Mine As She Conflates Weather and Climate

Sarah Palin's recent Facebook post has been published in the Washington Post as an editorial. This is the newspaper that at one time employed two investigative reporters named Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Their reporting led to Watergate and ultimately, the resignation of Richard Nixon. More recently, the Post has been caught selling "face time" with its reporters, via elegant dinner parties, to political insiders and lobbyists, fired one of the finest political analysts on its staff (Dan Froomkin), and is happy to print whatever garbage Sarah Palin has written for her (come on, you heard her resignation speech not six months ago, you don't actually think she has actually learned spelling and grammar in that period of time, do you?) on its editorial page.

Staying true to form, Palin inserts herself into the issue of the day, and offers President Obama policy advise based, no doubt, on her depth of experience that as she said to Bill O'Reilly last week, is so much greater than Obama's and even Vice President Biden's. After all, she was a city council member, a mayor, served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (for a whole year), and Governor of Alaska for two years. She also claims business experience, although she claims that her qualifications for higher office (and the reason that she is better than Obama or Biden) are her executive experience, so her work fishing likely does not count as she has never included it herself.

Seriously, when did it become about executive experience anyway? Who cares? We need political experience, foreign affairs experience (Biden has decades), experience dealing with politics at the national level (Obama and Biden), experience with working hard for what they've got (Obama and Biden - both worked damn hard for what they've got - where on earth did she get this elite nonsense about them? So Obama went to Harvard. How does she think he got there? And Biden is as blue-collar as they come.) All Palin has is city council and mayor of a town of 7,000, one year on a commission (quit), two years as governor (quit), and a failed national campaign in which she couldn't even handle the media. After three interviews, she had to bring McCain with her, then after that, no more interviews. No press conferences. Her behavior since and her book only serve to demonstrate how thin her skin is and her inability to deal with the slings and arrows that are inevitable at the national political level. Rumors? Threaten a lawsuit. Innuendo? Threaten a lawsuit.

As a brief aside, O'Reilly actually asked her some of the more difficult questions of any I've seen, asking her if she thought she was smart enough, and she promptly equated intelligence with common sense (which she says she has) to elite ivy league educations that produce spineless weakness (implication being that is what Obama has) and a resume that is based on anything but hard work and free-market principles (?!?).

Back to the Post post.

In that post, Palin suggests that Obama cancel his trip to Copenhagen as the email "scandal" has revealed the

"...appalling actions by so-called climate change experts [that] allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue."

"Climate-gate," as the e-mails and other documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have become known, exposes a highly politicized scientific circle -- the same circle whose work underlies efforts at the Copenhagen climate change conference. The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won't change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse."

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. You don't get to conflate weather and climate. Conflate means to combine the two because you don't know any better. Weather is today. Weather is what happens now. Sunshine, rain, snow, sleet, what the weatherperson talks about on the five o'clock news. The day to day, immediate happenings around us that absolutely, we cannot change. Weather is whether or not it is going to be an early or late fall, or whether or not Punxsutawney Phil is going to see his shadow or not. Climate, however, is the cumulative effects of weather. Climate is usually looked at in increments of thirty years or more and is regional rather than local as weather is. Climate is important because it can take years before we see changes and patterns and if there is damage, can take years before we can correct it. The one positive aspect of climate, is that we know that man has an impact on it, and because we do, we can change it.

"The e-mails reveal that leading climate "experts" deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to "hide the decline" in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals ...This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen. I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics."

I note that Sarah Palin has not included in her diatribe that the emails were 1) hacked (stolen), and were between a few scientists, meaning that, 2) they were not even the complete record of the communications between the scientists involved. The emails have "proven" that all of the data regarding climate change must somehow be false because included in these emails is the use of the term "decline" in referencing data patterns, and instructions on use of a "trick" to manipulate data.

What has been explained, several times, and Sarah Palin and the talking heads at Fox News refuse to acknowledge, is that scientists use the term "decline" to refer to the fact that the tree-ring density patterns used to record temperature are no longer valid after 1960 and after that date, recorded temperatures are used instead. This is a "trick" or "trick of the trade." Palin and others have instead chosen to see the use of the word "trick" as trick to fool us, pull the wool over our eyes, cheat us, manipulate us for some reason.

Not being a scientist, I can't explain the specifics of their data, but I am trained in scientific methods of research as they are the same for any field. To be valid, results must be repeatable, and the data must be collected according to standards set forth within that field. For example, in sociology, we study people. Once we have a hypothesis (the question we want to prove false), we decide the sample needed to collect valid data to reflect that population. Obviously there will be variations, but over time and with enough replications, if your sample is truly random and properly drawn, and you have shown cause and effect, then eventually you or anyone can repeat the results. That is what the bell curve is all about. In the case of climate change, thousands and thousands of scientists from around the world contribute data that is collected according to the same standards, collated according to the same standards, and produces results according to the same standards. A few (relatively) emails taken out of context read by people who do not understand the jargon (language unique to a specific field) prove absolutely nothing.

This brings me to the point of Sarah's comment about trying to silence their critics by preventing their publication in peer-reviewed journals. I'm not sure Sarah understands what peer-reviewed means, but in the academic world, it means exactly that. Unlike the Washington Post, which has apparently lost all journalistic ethics and standards, academic journals publish academic papers. Academics do research. A lot of people outside the university world think universities are all about teaching, but they're not. They're all about research. The teaching is to produce more researchers and money to fund research, at least at the higher level universities. Research, to be valid, has to be repeatable (see above). To prove that your research is valid, you share it with your peers. To do this, you submit your research in the form of a paper at conferences, and to journals. There, your peers analyze your research methods and your data. They try to replicate your results. They make sure that you are using sound science. They make sure that you haven't cut any corners. They argue, they discuss. They review. Sometimes they make you go back and rework some of your conclusions and rewrite your paper. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, your work is accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Think about it. There are a lot of journals, but there a lot more academics out there doing research (this includes graduate students and even some undergraduates if they have a professor who thinks they have done good work). Academic journals are not like magazines; they do not publish every month. Typically, they publish at most, four times per year. But. Here is a big one. Not all journals are created equal. If a journal has a sloppy peer-review process, then other researchers will not value the work published in it or the researchers whose work is accepted for publication. Sort of like a degree from U of I vs. Harvard.

In the case that Sarah Palin cites, research was published in a journal that had sloppy peer-review and other scientists did not use the results cited in that journal and recommended that others do the same. Some scientists had built their own work on data published in a journal whose work had been found to be faulty, thus making the entirety of that work faulty whether it was or not. Sort of like building an excellent house on a cardboard foundation. First time it rains, there goes your house. Not political, just sound science.

"Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits -- not pursuing a political agenda. That's not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate -- far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state ...But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs..." [emphasis added]

"...What Obama really hopes to bring home from Copenhagen is more pressure to pass the Democrats' cap-and-tax proposal. This is a political move. The last thing America needs is misguided legislation that will raise taxes and cost jobs -- particularly when the push for such legislation rests on agenda-driven science."

"Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference. The president should boycott Copenhagen."

I think I have satisfactorily debunked Sarah Palin's Facebook post, reprinted in the Washington Post. Who has a political agenda? Of course President Obama has a polical agenda. He is a politician. He also listens to his advisors. Climate change has been supported as fact by 95% of the world's scientists for years. The fact that some years are colder than others means nothing (ever heard of El Nino or La Nina?). Climate is completely different.

As I read somewhere the other day, conservatives like to drive SUV's because it drives liberals crazy. Because they don't care. Even if there is climate change, the attitude of the Sarah Palin's of the world, the GOPhers and other bots, I got mine. And that is about as political as you can get.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

David Frum on Obama's Speech False Equivalency

Although this post is about David Frum and a column he wrote today, my post is actually longer than his column. As I read it over, I realize that I am actually responding to many of the conservative pundits I have been listening to in the past couple of days, especially on the subject of President Obama's speech about Afghanistan. So, although specifically about Frum in many ways, I will leave its length because I believe it can be extrapolated to many of the villagers instructing us progressives on appropriate political behavior.

Conservative columnist David Frum writes about President Obama's speech last night from his usual pedantic pillar of certitude, always taking the high road, instructing us in the appropriateness of our political intercourse. Frum is often as concerned with style as with substance, something he made clear when he presented us with the conclusion he reached last night after hearing the speech, and the conclusion he reached this morning after reading it. One wonders if he reads his own writing before submitting it for publication. If so, he might have realized that the equivalency he reached between Bush and Obama is false.

In his commentary, Frum analyzes the decision Obama made and approved the clearness of purpose, mission, and strategy, but like many others, argued against the decision to set a deadline for withdrawal. Interestingly, like many other conservative pundits and the Republican leadership, he falls into the fatal lockstep of believing that being a good American and supporting the troops means supporting the President. Period. Had others been a little less eager to support President Bush, perhaps been a tad more deliberative and asked that he spend more time considering his options, we might have avoided President Obama's need to speak last night.

In his column, Frum said: [emphasis added]

"Having urged the president to honor his commitment to the Afghan war, we Republicans must honor our commitment to support him as he fights it ... I know many Republicans and conservatives will say: “Hey – the Democrats did not give President Bush support when he most needed it.” Correct. They didn’t. And the country suffered for it. The right way to react to that dereliction of duty is not by emulating it, but by repudiating it..."
For weeks, conservatives have been lambasting President Obama for not making a decision fast enough. They have cited his lack of military experience, his supposed lack of concern for the troops, evidenced, they say, by not immediately giving General McChrystal everything he asks for (ignoring that McChrystal's mission and concern is Afghanistan, only, while Obama must consider the military in its entirety - two wars, potential hot spots, recruitment, etc.), his traveling the world apologizing for past U.S. actions (a total mischaracterization as they know full well). Instead of appreciating the calm, deliberative process he was undertaking, he was accused of "dithering."

What Frum has completely missed as he criticizes Democrats of failing to support Bush, is that Democrats did not support Bush because they did not agree with what he was doing. Bush had almost universal support for his actions in Afghanistan. Had he actually stayed there and finished the job, he most likely would have enjoyed continued support - even from Democrats/ He lost support because he made poor decisions. Republicans should support Obama's decision because it is the one they have been demanding that he make. Should they now object, it will be just one more example of the Republican agenda of making sure that there are no successes on the Obama ledger, regardless of the needs of the American people (or our troops).

Frum then goes on to discuss Obama's treatment of Republicans and what they should be able to expect for their support: [emphasis added]

"...Republican leaders are entitled to close consultation on war policy and the larger national security strategy – and to more attention and respect generally than they have received from this administration to date..."
I find this last comment somewhat astounding myself. The progressive side of the Democratic Party has been quite vocal over the last year over Obama's penchant for bending over backwards to accommodate the Republicans and conservatives in general. His first social engagement with the media was with conservative pundits. He risked the wrath of a large segment of his base by inviting Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

The healthcare bill was held hostage at length by Senator Snowe, at Obama's wish. The discussions began in a committee that gave Republicans an equal voice, ensuring that the bill that made it to the floor will be essentially worthless before any votes are ever taken. Many other decisions have been made that have been frustrating and incomprehensible to members of his own party in his desire for bipartisanship.

The response from the Republican Party? Obstruction, back-stabbing, name calling, smears, lies and distortions, and when it came down to it, 100% party line votes against anything on the Obama agenda. I believe that people are to be respected because they are human, but in the context of Frum's statement that the Republican leaders deserve more attention and respect than they have received from this administration to date, his words are simply ludicrous. He has crafted a column that shows himself as the arbiter of political style, and is condescending to show President Obama, most likely because he is new in town and all, the way it is done, what is expected, and how to get along.

As anyone who has ever written a college term paper knows, you cannot count on spell check. You need to re-read what you wrote to ensure that it makes sense. Frum's column simply does not.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Umm Sarah Palin - Media Priorities Not Bizarre. You Are

This from Sarah Palin's Facebook page (h/t Palingates) emphasis added. This is bizarre.

"Media's Priorities Shine Bright, Again! :)"
Today at 1:40pm

"It’s really comical at this point! Despite all of the important events happening in the world today – the president’s speech tonight on the strategy in Afghanistan, the Senate debate over health care reform, the disturbing details of the “Climategate” scandal, the continuing challenges facing the world economy – the media is concerned about my travel and lodging arrangements on my book tour?! Does this sound familiar? It should. The media showed the same out-of-proportion obsession with my personal arrangements, clothes, and hairstyles last year instead of focusing on the crucial issues involving the election."

"So what is this news “story”? That I fly on an airplane to complete some of the stops on my book tour when it’s impractical or physically impossible to reach the next event on time by bus. Some news outlets are behaving as if my travel was a secret that they didn’t know about – despite the fact that I’ve tweeted about my flights and at least one local newspaper reported on the arrival of my flight into Rochester, NY. [...]"

"If you’re scratching your head wondering why my flight and hotel logistics warrant news coverage, join the club. They can, of course, report on whatever they like, but in my opinion CBS loses whatever professional integrity it still has when it links in its report to a website devoted to the bizarre conspiracy theory that I’m not the real mother of my son Trig."


-Sarah Palin"

Does she ever go back and read what she's written? Watch herself on TV? Listen to family and aides who might critique her performances and offer suggestions for future events? Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.? These are all things that people in the public eye - especially politicians - do to ensure that they make the best impression possible. Clearly, Ms. Palin sees no reason to fine tune herself as I see no change since she first burst upon the national stage.

Did you catch her comment (I bolded it) about "when it's impractical or physically impossible to reach the next event by bus"? Granted, I am not watching the tour on an event by event basis, but my impression, is that she gets off the bus, waves, makes a few remarks, then sits down and starts signing. When has it been reported that she does not get off the bus at one of her stops? We all know about the Franklin Graham loan to visit Billy, but routinely, part of her schtick is stepping off the bus. So, that comments is clearly disingenuous and makes no sense.

Yes Sarah, the media is concerned about all of the above issues you mention not because they are not concerned about the other issues, including Afghanistan and President Obama's speech, but because you appear to have some relevance to the Republican Party plans for the future, other Republicans seem to value (why escapes me) your support, and you don't look like you are going away. So, these issues become important because they speak to ethics, integrity, values, and, you know, whether or not people should or should not trust you in elected office. It sort of speaks to your priorities. Personal comfort and appearances, or others. Think of two hands, palms up, weighing something, true, false. That is why the media focuses on those irrelevant little things like clothes ($150,000 in campaign funds on clothing, $20,000 in children's travel you had to retroactively change disclosure forms to 'fix'...) because they tell us more about you than what you say at a podium when you mouth words someone else has written for you.

Oh, and as far as relevant in relation to all the important events happening in the world like President Obama's speech? Don't worry, the people that matter are attending to those issues, his speech, the wars, the economy, legislation, etc. Your continued attempts to place yourself on an equal plane are somewhat humorous, as if your advice to him, or Hillary could ever be considered as anything but laughable from someone who doesn't even know what the Bush Doctrine is (extremely relevant to Obama's speech last night by the way).

And CBS's integrity? Why is it bizarre to report on what is being said out there? That's what the media does. I think that much of what you have said is bizarre, but hey, that is what free speech is all about. And Sarah, contrary to your own bizarre beliefs, the 1st Amendment is not there to protect you from the media, the 1st Amendment is there to protect the media from government. Period. Sorry.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Sarah Palin: Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, My Thoughts

I just received my copy of “Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare” and have been skimming through it. The entries are a collection of articles, essays, and blog posts written over the past year or so about Sarah Palin that I have already read but there are several that I missed the first time around and most are well worth another read. I know that some of my friends and relatives, or perhaps I should say friendly acquaintances, are fans of Sarah Palin (I find that I am becoming less and less tolerant of stupid people as friends, and frankly, am finding it difficult to comprehend how, in the face of all the evidence, people can continue to support Sarah Palin).

Checking my Facebook page, which I do once or twice a week, I noticed that a friend in the Tri-Cities of Washington State posted that her husband had gotten her not one, but two (adding three exclamation points) signed copies of Sarah Palin’s book, having obviously loved her so much as to have stood in line so long (and spent the money for) to score (in her words) so many points. My sister and I message each other back and forth giving each other support in our efforts not to engage our relatives in debate over Glenn Beck, or politics generally, when the desire to respond to some inane comment becomes almost too much to resist. Sort of like an AA sponsor. We do this for the sake of family harmony. I am still clenching my fists, fighting my desire to post a comment saying something along the lines of ‘just received my copy of Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, so excited to see all my favorite Sarah Palin articles and blog posts in one collection!!!” Spouse tells me that most people will simply read my comment it as saying Rogue, not Rouge, reminding me that most of us see what we expect to see. Knowing he is right, I desist.

Over the years, one of my favorite comments regarding elections has been that people get what they deserve, and the rest of us pay for it. Following in that vein, my belief about the base of the Republican Party has been that it’s middle-America, family-values voters are exactly those most harmed by the policies of the party. Most of this base is composed of hard-working people who depend on a “traditional” economy for their livelihood. Farming, manufacturing, and the services that support them. The small businesses that fill every town; the printer, the accountant, the mechanics, the office supply store, the plumbers, lumber yard, the laborers and professionals that depend on others to purchase the products they sell and the services they provide in order to generate their own paychecks. This base is made up of workers who have perhaps gone to college, but often have depended on work in factories or on farms, or jobs in cities manning the millions of cubicles processing the paperwork that keeps those factories running, those supplies shipping, and every other facet of the economy functioning. This base is conservative in values, believes in church, and community, and supporting our troops. They are raised to believe in authority and the institutions of our society. The police are there to protect us, the courts are there to lock up criminals, and Democrats want to steal their money. They believe that the best government is one that is small, infinitesimal, and consists only of the military.

The paradox is that while believing unquestioningly in authority, government is bad. The Constitution has become an almost sacred document, but its contents—the formulation and structure of government—are subjects of attack. The Republican mantra of a free-market economy that insists on deregulation has resulted on the widest margin between the rich and the poor in history. After teetering on the edge of an almost epic disaster requiring government intervention (or so they insisted), Wall Street’s finest are raking in record-breaking bonuses while credit card interest rates for those with excellent credit scores are reaching 30% and foreclosures are at all-time highs as are unemployment rates. TARP funds, intended to ease credit to allow businesses to purchase the goods and services needed to re-hire laid-off workers instead were spent on acquiring banks and businesses not so fortunate as to receive government assistance. A small sidebar over the weekend noted that luxury spending on Wall Street was almost back to normal, but more discreetly as bankers are more aware of perception this time around. The Republicans complain about the size of the health care reform bill, but the TARP bill, under George W. Bush (as so many are quick to forget) was all of 3 pages.

The ripple effect is one that appears to be beyond the comprehension of the average American voter as I watch polling numbers. I talk informally to people who cannot fathom my fascination for politics, especially outside of presidential election years, and wonder why I would maintain my interest in Sarah Palin when she is so clearly “old news” (if talking to a Democrat). The election of President Obama was the first time since Bobby Kennedy when we have seen true excitement for a candidate as a movement, as a beacon for hope (and because of that, and only because of that, he should fear for his re-election chances if he continues with his course of strictly political calculations – you cannot be elected on the basis of an emotional wave and hope to keep those voters if you then govern from pure political calculations). In Sarah Palin, her supporters see “Everywoman.” She touts herself as a hockey mom, middle-class (we should all have a million dollar lakeside middle-class home like hers), hunting, fishing, church-going, just like you and me, mom. She trades on her looks yet is not so beautiful that women cannot see themselves in her, she has the Christmas card family, but with enough flaws – unmarried teenage daughter with an out of wedlock child, a special needs child of her own, the challenges of raising five children as a working mother – that every mother in the country can relate, she talks in magnets which aligns with the sound-bite culture which our TV society has become accustomed to, and is just “mavericky” enough to rebel against “headquarters” while campaigning that all those who never liked McCain’s less than true-blue style of conservatism would accept her dropping him when she was ready.

Americans for the most part are bored with politics and have no more understanding of why Pakistan is important (they have nuclear weapons which Al Qaeda would very much like to have, plus they are in a state of constant conflict with India), why the Republicans are so against health care reform (so Obama will have on successes come re-election time amongst other reasons), or why they should listen to something other than Fox News. The concept of critical thinking is foreign to Christian conservatives – in fact, a Christian friend once told me, several years ago when I was complaining that the schools did not teach our children how to question or to think critically, that she did not want them to, that as a Christian, the church and the parents were responsible for teaching children what to think and they did not want them to question ideas or think critically. I seriously thought she was joking, but she was not.

In Sarah Palin, the middle-American, Christian conservative sees someone to whom they can relate. The fact-checking is simply an attack, the lack of any clear policy goals is unimportant, and her ignorance of history or world affairs is irrelevant as long as she knows her Bible (it is, after all, the only book that matters). The base is content to disengage, as usual, content to bask in the star-power of this woman who believes in beauty pageants and sees elections as winning a title rather than earning a political office (one you preen, the other you work). The Republicans can continue to serve their corporate masters, convince their base that government is bad; taxes are bad, all the while funneling all the money into their own pockets until there is nothing left for the corporations to glean from the American pocketbook because they will have it all. Come election time, the electorate will, perhaps, listen to the Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palins and vote the sound bites and their ignorance, ignoring the responsibility that comes with adulthood and democracy, before crawling back onto the couch to watch Dancing With the Stars and Fox News to complain about those Democrats wanting to steal their taxes while bitching about all the potholes in the streets and the number of homeless and their inability to get a job, pay their medical bills, or feed their kids. They will get what they deserve, and the rest of us will pay for it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.