Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Truth About Sarah Palin

(with credit to the author)

Sarah Palin's credentials as a "reformer" are nothing but spin. She has sided with Big Oil, lobbied to increase pork spending and abused her public power to carry out personal vendettas. Here's a guide to separating myth from fact.

Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, Oct 02, 2008 9:30 AM

THE MYTH: "She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on eBay. And made a profit!" - John McCain, at a campaign stop in Wisconsin

THE FACTS: No one bought the jet online. It was eventually sold through an aircraft broker - at a loss to taxpayers of nearly $600,000.

THE MYTH: "I told the Congress 'Thanks, but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere." - Sarah Palin, convention speech

THE FACTS: Supported the infamous pork project in her 2006 run for governor, even after Congress had killed the bridge; derided its opponents as "spinmeisters." Reversed her stance a year later - but kept the money, doling out the $223 million in federal funds to other pork projects throughout the state.

THE MYTH: "We ... championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress." - Sarah Palin, convention speech

THE FACTS: As mayor, employed a lobbyist who also worked for Jack Abramoff to secure $27 million in pork spending for Wasilla - more than $4,000 per resident. In her two years as governor, requested $453 million in earmarks. Alaska ranks first in the nation for pork, raking in seven times the national average.

THE MYTH: "I found ... someone who stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money." - John McCain, introducing Palin

THE FACTS: Signature accomplishment as mayor: building a $15 million hockey arena that plunged the city into debt. Broke ground on the project without finalizing the city's purchase of the land; the resulting fiasco cost Wasilla $1.3 million - roughly $200 per resident.

THE MYTH: "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we didn't know that already." - Sarah Palin, convention speech

THE FACTS: "I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem." - Sarah Palin, July 2008

THE MYTH: "We began a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence." - Sarah Palin, convention speech

THE FACTS: With federal approval years away, not a single section of the pipeline has been laid. State could end up paying the pipeline's contractor $500 million - even if it never breaks ground on the project.

THE MYTH: "She's from a small town with small-town values." - Fred Thompson, convention speech

THE FACTS: Wasilla and the surrounding valley recently named the meth capital of Alaska, with 42 meth labs busted in a single year.

THE MYTH: Palin has "taken on the political establishment in the largest state of the union." - Fred Thompson, convention speech

THE FACTS: Served until 2005 as director of fundraising group associated with indicted senator Ted Stevens.

THE MYTH: "She's fought oil companies." - John McCain, introducing Palin

THE FACTS: Collected $13,000 in campaign contributions from oil and gas lobbyists, including Exxon, BP, Shell and Chevron. BP was a sponsor of her inaugural ball.

THE MYTH: "She's been to Kuwait. She's been over there. She has been with her troops. The National Guard that she commands, who have been over there and had the experience." - John McCain, highlighting Palin's national-security credentials

THE FACTS: Never had a passport before 2007, when she made a brief photo-op trip to visit troops in Germany and Kuwait. Has never been to Iraq, and has not met a single foreign head of state.

THE MYTH: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending." - Sarah Palin, convention speech

THE FACTS: As governor, sought travel reimbursement for 312 nights she spent in her own home.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

This Scares the Shit Out of Me...

(with credit to the author)

...And What to do About it...

Mark Crispin Miller, Brad Blog, 9/16/2008

A Guest Editorial by author and NYU media professor, Mark Crispin Miller...

"Strategists say that Mr. McCain can now count on a more motivated social conservative base to help him in areas like southern Ohio, where the 2004 race was settled."
--The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2008, A1

"In investigating the 2004 election in Ohio--examining pollbooks, talking to pollworkers and election officials, as well as reading local newspaper accounts --we could find no data of a late surge to the polls by born-again Christians. What we did find is certified voting totals in areas favoring Bush that didn't match the number of voters who officially signed-in on the poll sign-in sheets."
--Email from Bob Fitrakis of The Columbus Free Press, Sept. 7, 2008

To understand how Team McCain intends to get away with stealing this election, we must recall how Team Bush got away with it four years ago. (Those aren't two different teams.)

The plan for stealing this contest has everything to do with the ostensibly surprising choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP.

Here's why...

1. Election Day, 2004: The Myth of Bush's Christian "Surge"

First, let's recall that, after the 2004 election, everybody said that Bush had won because the true believers of the Christian right had come out--or, rather, poured forth--in unprecedented numbers, often at the last minute, to support him. Of course, by "everybody," I'm referring to the entire commentariate, both mainstream and left/liberal. On TV and in print, in news analyses and op-ed articles, they all said that Bush/Cheney had been re-elected by America's "values voters."

And they said it with a certain awe--as well they should, since Bush's victory was a sort of miracle. He had disapproval ratings in the upper 40's: higher than LBJ's in 1968, higher than Jimmy Carter's in 1980. Nor was he very popular in his own party, as many top Republicans came out against him--including moderates like John Eisenhower, rightists like Bob Barr, and many others such as William Crowe (chair of the Joint Chiefs under Ronald Reagan), General Tony McPeak (former Air Force chief of staff and erstwhile Veteran for Bush), libertarian Doug Bandow, neocon Francis Fukuyama, Lee Iacocca and Jack Matlock, Jr. (Reagan's ambassador to the USSR); and many other, lesser figures in his party also publicly rejected him.

And so did sixty (60) newspapers--all in "red" states--that had endorsed Bush four years earlier: two thirds of them now going for Kerry, the others none of the above. American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's own magazine, ran endorsements of five different candidates, only one of them for Bush. And 169 tenured and emeritus professors from the world's top business schools all signed a full-page ad decrying his economic policies, adducing them as reasons not to vote for him. (The ad was written by top faculty at his own alma mater, Harvard Business School.) The ad ran in the Financial Times, which, like The Economist, endorsed John Kerry.

And still Bush won, despite such big defections, thanks to that enormous turnout by the Christian right, as everybody kept on saying--even though there were good reasons to be very skeptical about that notion.

2. Election Day, 2004: There Was No Christian "Surge"

First of all, that talking point came from the Christian right itself, whose members certainly had every reason to exaggerate their clout. That they thus credited themselves, and that the claim was duly amplified by their own party and its propaganda organs (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, et al.), should have been enough to make all non-believers doubtful.

And non-believers should have been especially suspicious of that claim because there's not a shred of evidence to back it up. On the other hand, there's solid evidence that that immense, last-minute vote for Bush was nothing but a propaganda fiction, cooked up by Karl Rove to mask his party's theft of that election.

To begin with, that fiction is preposterous on its face, since there were nowhere near enough of such right-wing believers to account for the incumbent's staggering advance, as Bush reportedly received 11.5 million more votes than he had won four years before. And how many evangelicals did that surge include? According to Karl Rove himself (among others), there were 4 million evangelicals who had not voted for Bush/Cheney in 2000. So, even if Rove managed to get every single one of them to vote for Bush this time around (and it's unlikely that he did), they could not possibly have made so big a difference--unless, of course, their numbers somehow magically increased inside the polls, like Jesus's loaves and fishes.

In any case, Bush seems to have done worse with evangelicals than he had four years before. Consider how his "base" performed, in fact, on that Election Day, as measured by the National Exit Poll (and scrupulously analyzed by Michael Collins, whose essay, "The Urban Legend," is included in Loser Take All). Close study of the numbers in 2004 reveals that there was no big national surge of "values voters": on the contrary.

First of all, the nation's rural vote declined, dropping from 23% to just 16% of the overall national vote; and Bush's total rural vote went down from 14 million to just under 12 million. And while the nation's small town vote increased substantially--by 88%--those voters did not favor Bush as they had done four years before, but opted in near equal numbers for John Kerry. Of those 9.5 million votes, Bush got 4.9 million, while Kerry got 4.7 million. (In 2000, Bush had won 3.1 million small town votes, to Gore's 2 million.) And then there were the voters in the suburbs, who did come out for Bush in greater numbers than four years before--but hardly by enough to make for a decisive jump of any kind, as Bush won 28.3 million of those votes, to Kerry's 25.6 million.

On Nov. 11, Pew published the results of their most precise survey of the electorate. Having asked Americans to name the issue that most concerned them as they cast their ballots, Pew found that Iraq was Number One, noted by 25 percent, followed by "jobs and the economy," noted by 12 percent, with 9 percent invoking "terrorism." Only 9 percent named "moral values" as their main concern--with only 3 percent of them referring specifically to "gay marriage" (and another 2 percent referring to the candidates' own private lives).

Those numbers tell a very different story from the one hyped proudly by the men atop the Christianist machine. In particular, they said that they helped Bush prevail through their well-managed opposition to gay marriage--which Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, called "the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term." That there was evidently no such wagon did not blunt the impact of such theocratic propaganda, which quickly resonated all throughout "the liberal media," so that it now stands as the truth.

Indeed, it was accepted as the truth so quickly that it went unquestioned even after the dramatic mass reaction to the Terri Schiavo case a few months later, when Bush and the Republicans in Congress intervened in that domestic tragedy, trying to force the very outcome that the Christianists were calling for: "Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case," ABC News reported. The public supported the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube by 63% to 28%, according to the network's polls.

And so it was throughout the media. According to USA Today, 76% disapproved of Congress's handling of the case, while only 20% approved. CBS News found that 82% believed that Bush and Congress should have stayed out of it. And so it went, with poll after poll confirming that the Bush Republicans' attempt to force their "moral values" on the situation was appealing only to a small minority, a/k/a the fringe. "When nearly 70 percent of the American public disagrees with you," wrote Eric Boehlert at the time, "you're out of step with the mainstream."

That strong reaction by (at least) two-thirds of us was far more telling than the press, and most top Democrats, were willing to perceive, and so they couldn't, wouldn't see the awful truth: Either We the People had abruptly given up our "moral values" since Election Day, or our apparent vote for Bush was a deception, based on vote suppression and election fraud committed in Ohio and elsewhere throughout the nation.

Thus the myth of that immense, last-minute Christian turn-out was a rationale concocted to "explain" Bush/Cheney's re-election--and the US press immediately bought it, out of a clear eagerness to close the book on that election right away, and thereby black out all the glaring signs of fraud throughout Ohio (and Florida, and elsewhere). Indeed, the press at once laughed off the "theory" of widespread election fraud, dismissing all the facts as fantasy; and in their place it offered fantasy as fact (as they had done before, and have done since).

And so, because the media never did revisit the 2004 election, that groundless "explanation" quickly hardened into gospel (so to speak)--which brings us to the present, and the strategy for stealing this election, too.

3. Election Day, 2008: Another Christian "Surge"?

The choice of Sarah Palin has been widely and repeatedly assailed as evidence of John McCain's "bad judgement." Certainly that choice was very bad. Indeed, it may prove to be catastrophic. But to take it as a sign of John McCain's mere recklessness is probably a big mistake. First of all, there is no reason to believe that the decision really was McCain's, since Karl Rove's minions are in charge of his campaign, which means that Rove himself is running it (as he evidently has been from the start). And while it surely was a rotten choice in moral and/or civic terms, it certainly was not an instance of "bad judgement" in Rove's moral universe, where winning is the only thing that counts; and Sarah Palin was selected so that (she and) John McCain could "win"--and, even more important, get away with it.

They picked Palin not because she is a woman, and might therefore appeal to diehard Hillary supporters. They picked Palin because she is a theocratic true believer, who has the Christianists all swooning at the prospect of her reign (which will commence as soon as Jesus answers all their prayers for John McCain's quick death). To get some sense of their millennial excitement, read this excerpt from an email recently sent out by one of them, to others of her kind:

I believe you are aware that Dutch Sheets [] was used by the Lord to call prayer before the 2000 election that was so close. He said this morning that this election is perhaps even more critical than 2000 because of the Supreme Court. If the right political posture is not elected, we stand to lose decades of progress and the results could be enormous. Last year Chuck Pierce and Greg Hood prophesied that in 2008 we would not be electing a president but a vice president. Dutch said he could get no release in his heart to back Huckab[ee] even though he was pressured by many in the body of Christ. Huckab[ee] is a good man and a strong believer, but he was not God's choice. Dutch also told us that he knows a man who gave McCain a prophetic word that McCain had made a vow to God when he was at the bottom during his POW days and now God was calling in that vow. McCain was visibly moved by this word.

Dutch was traveling to Texas on Friday and when he landed in the airport his wife called and told him to get to the TV asap. He watched McCain introduce Governor Palin and he said he began to weep, even though he knew nothing about her. He asked God, "What is the significance of this 44-year-old woman?" And he saw the clock said 4:44. He asked the Lord what that was all about and the Lord said, "Ezekiel 44:4." "He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD; and I fell on my face. NKJV ..... North gate representing Alaska [sic].

And so on.

Such fervor, which now unifies the Christianist community, was not stoked merely by the sight of Palin's glowing kisser on TV. More importantly, the governor became the instant darling of the Christianist far right once all the top dogs of the theocratic movement looked at her, and pronounced her good. To some extent, she was their choice--and so it's wrong to claim, as some indignant pundits have, that Sarah Palin "was not vetted." The governor was vetted by the Council for National Policy, the secretive and highly influential steering committee of the Christianist far right, which seeks to junk the Constitution and replace it with Leviticus and other flights of Holy Writ.

They approved this choice, because Sarah Palin is quite willing to promote the Christianists' apocalyptic program with a brazenness, and comprehensiveness, unprecedented in the history of American political campaigning. Her disparate crackpot policies are all expressions of the same extremist creed. There are, of course, all her Levitical sexual proscriptions: no abortions even for those women who've been raped (or raped by their own fathers); no sex education; no condoms. There are her incremental steps to Christianize the public schools: her moves against their secular librarians; her readiness to get Creationism into the curriculum. And then there is her mad anti-environmentalism: her tacit eagerness for further global warming, and, therefore, her passion for oil-drilling everywhere; her opposition to clean water legislation; her willingness to see the polar bears die off; her letting hunters gun down wolves and bears from low-flying planes, etc. All such reckless policies derive from an apocalyptic wish to see the planet die, so that Lord Jesus will come back here, and start kicking ass and taking names. (Palin's pastor holds that He will set up his command post in Alaska.)

None of this insanity appeals to anyone outside the Christianist community, which is no larger than it was when Bush tried to "save" Teri Schiavo from "judicial murder"--or when he was anomalously "re-elected" by those legions of fictitious "values voters." The choice of Sarah Palin, therefore, surely was not based on any rational calculation of some real electoral advantage; for that ferocious bloc is far too small to pull that off, no matter how firm their conviction that God wants them to.

In fact, the only way that Palin and her doddering partner can prevail in this election is by stealing it, as Bush and Cheney did (both times). Certainly the ground has been prepared for yet another stolen race, Bush/Cheney's party having made enormous strides in sabotaging our election system (while the Democrats just sat there, whistling). Now, from coast to coast, it's far more difficult (for Democrats) to register to vote, and far more difficult (for Democrats) to cast their votes, while countless (Democratic) voters have been stricken from the rolls, through purges carried out by the Department of Justice.

Thus Bush's government has legally diminished the electorate (the Roberts Court approving every step). Meanwhile, the regime also continues to suppress the (Democratic) vote illegally, either through voter "caging" prior to Election Day--or, far more effectively, by fiddling with the numbers electronically at every level, and/or simply dumping countless names (of Democrats) from the electronic voter rolls, and/or putting far too few machines in (Democratic) polling places, and/or disinforming (Democratic) voters as to when and where to cast their votes, and/or simply scaring (Democratic) voters into staying home.

That is what it takes to steal elections in America--all of that, and also something else: a quick-'n-easy explanation for the outcome. For if those final numbers are surprising, there must be some rationale that can (apparently) account for them. And that is why the Bush machine put Sarah Palin next to John McCain. By arousing the hard core of vocal Christianists, they prepared the ground for the eventual redeployment of the same canard with which they justified their last unlikely "win": that millions of believers did the trick.

Indeed, it was not just the choice of Sarah Palin, but the whole convention, that was clearly calculated not to pull in undecided and/or independent voters, but to get the fringe alone to stomp and holler for the ticket. The party platform--crafted under the command of Christianist election-rigger J. Kenneth Blackwell--is a (literally) scorched-earth "faith-based" document, calling even for a ban on stem cell research in the private sector. And the convention spectacle itself was basically one long display of cultural resentment, with lots of loud, self-righteous jeering from the stage and on the floor (with an epic show of ridicule by that fine Christian, Rudy Giuliani).

It was strongly reminiscent of the GOP's 1992 convention--a show that very clearly turned the nation off, and helped defeat Bush Sr.'s bid to stay in office. Team McCain decided to revive that model, not because the nation has turned Christianist since then, but as a way to motivate the fringe, and thereby make it possible to tell the pundits, on Nov. 5, that it was those Americans who turned the tide for John McCain.

4. A Word to the Wise

In fact, that claim will be the secondary "explanation" for McCain and Palin's "win." The first, of course, will be Obama's race, and the sad "fact" that America's just not ready to vote for a black man." We will hear endlessly (as we have already) about "the Bradley effect," and how it struck again, with millions of white folks who had openly approved Obama suddenly deciding, in the sanctum of the voting booth, to vote like Klansmen, thereby electing John McCain.

We'll hear from Clinton people that he lost because he didn't put her on the ticket. We'll hear from Michael Moore, Ralph Nader and The Nation that he lost because he ran too corporate-friendly a campaign. We'll also hear from Mark Penn and the Wall Street Journal that he lost because his campaign was too "populist."

George Lakoff will tell us that Obama lost because he failed to frame the issues properly, Thomas Frank will note that all those Kansas-types are still too dim to know what's good for them, and Thomas Friedman (among others) will point out that Obama lost because he never made that crucial "gut" connection with "Joe Six-Pack" (whom Friedman and those others know so well). Meanwhile, many others will ascribe Obama's loss to all the lies and slanders heaped upon him by McCain's campaign and its confederates, who, we'll hear repeatedly, "Swift-boated" him to death, just as they did to Kerry (as if Kerry really lost the last election).

Some of those assertions will be partly true--and all of them are sure to be irrelevant. For if McCain and Palin "win," that victory will either be a miracle (which is, of course, how some of their supporters will explain it) or just another massive rip-off, perpetrated right before our eyes. And no such miracle is likely; for there is still no reason to believe that that old man and his demented running mate have any broad appeal. The polls now putting them ahead are highly dubious, based on a ten-point over-sampling of Republicans, and crafted without any calls to cell phone users (who comprise a large part of Obama's base).

Otherwise there is no evidence of any large-scale movement toward McCain and Palin--who have to trek to theocratic enclaves, like Colorado Springs, in order to draw cheering multitudes, while Obama/Biden draw them everywhere they go. With Democrats all in a panic, let's recall how few Americans turned out to vote in the Republican primaries, and how few new voters the Republicans have registered to date. Compare that feeble record with the vastly larger numbers who came out for Obama (and for Clinton), and all those whom the Democrats have registered to vote. Since then, the prospects for McCain have not improved, regardless of the spin on Sarah Palin--for this economy is in the crapper, and he has said repeatedly that he just doesn't know about such things. That issue, and his wild commitment to a war that most Americans oppose, make his victory in November quite improbable, to say the least.

And there you have the reason why the GOP must, once again, deploy its giant criminal machine: to cut the Democrats' vast popular advantage. And it is happening right now, as you sit reading this, as each day brings in new reports of voters purged, machines "malfunctioning," ballots slyly misdesigned, and other measures meant to benefit McBush's party. (The fraud is not occurring "on both sides.") Such evidence is far more solid than the nervous speculation that Americans might vote on racial grounds--or the fantasy that Sarah Palin's co-religionists could really win it for McCain.

The theft of this next race is only possible because the Democratic Party and the media, and principled Republicans, have shut their eyes to this regime's crusade against American democracy. And now the only way to stop it--or, if it does happen yet again, resist it-- is to face it at long last, and talk about it openly. It's therefore not enough to raise more money for the Democrats, and not enough to get more voters registered, and get them to the polls; and not enough to spread the word about McCain and Palin, or to try to get the media to do a decent job; and not enough to fight the smears and lies about Obama, and to demand that he and/or the Democrats get tougher.

While all of those activities are crucial, they'll amount to nothing if the race is finally rigged, and most Americans don't know a thing about it. And so, whatever else we're doing, we must also speak out loud and clear about that possibility. Otherwise, if that disaster should befall us, we will be as much to blame for it as those Republicans who pulled it off, and all those Democrats who let them get away with it.

Cross-posted at Miller's "News From Underground"...


Mark Crispin Miller is the author of several books, including The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder and Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. A Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, he runs the blog News from Underground. His latest book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, is a collection of 14 essays by the leading figures in the election reform movement, including one by Brad Friedman and Michael Richardson of The BRAD BLOG.

McCain, Palin, and White Privilege

(with credit to the author)

13 ways McCain and Palin have enjoyed preferential treatment in the presidential race.

By Tim Wise, BuzzFlash, 18 Sep 2008

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-size colleges, and then governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. senator, two-term state senator and constitutional law scholar means you're "untested."

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office -- since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s -- while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do -- like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the eight-hour workday, or an end to child labor -- and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small-town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college -- you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women and made them give your party a "second look."

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the United States is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good churchgoing Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then having people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim that your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it, a "light" burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising and the United States is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Monday, September 15, 2008

something from LOL Cats

more animals

US Election and the Shadow Effect

I'm getting pretty freaked out about the US election. I thought Obama had a lock (happy dance) but the idiocy of the dems in general plus the growing awareness of just how ignorant so many Americans are, is making me worry more and more that McCain/Palin might pull it out. And gods help us if that happens.

Just thinking about Palin makes me a bit nauseous. And if I start talking about her I go immediately on life tilt and my blood pressure goes up! So I want to include an article by Depok Chopra that says it all with some calmness...


by Deepak Chopra, Chopra Center, (undated)

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision

Look at what she stands for:

*Small town values - a nostaligic return to simpler times disguises a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.

*Ignorance of world affairs - a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.

*Family values - a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be needed.

*Rigid stands on guns and abortion - a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

*Patriotism - the usual fallback in a failed war.

*"Reform" - an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as it is." The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness

Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow - we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

Thursday, September 11, 2008