Friday, September 05, 2008

Post convention thoughts

The Republican convention seemed to be going really well until they brought out the wrinkly old white-haired guy.
And what was that greenscreen he was standing in front of?
As it turns out, it was a picture of Walter Reed Middle School in California.
Why? It was supposed to be Walter Reed Medical Center in D.C., but somebody screwed up and Googled the wrong picture.
How incompetent can you get?

And then they went and ignored copyright law for the 5th time by playing the Heart song “Barracuda” afterwards without permission. I swear, the Republicans are just as bad as the Chinese when it comes to ignoring copyright laws.

And now it looks like Sarah Palin is such a HUGE asset for the Republican ticket that they’ve decided to hole her up in Alaska and not let her talk to the media for the duration of the campaign.

Meanwhile, it looks like the “bounce” from the Palin pick fell a bit short.

Finally, Karl Rove is a raging hypocrite.
But then, you probably already knew that.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gurwitz finds needle in haystack

Poor Jonathan Gurwitz is having to write a column every day during the Republican National Convention and it’s obvious that he’s having a difficult time coming up with things to write about. Yesterday he went after the Ron Paul supporters who are refusing to fall in line and kiss John McCain’s ring. And now today we get this: Blacks in GOP reject ‘identity politics’
Yeah, all two of them.
Interestingly enough, on the same page as Gurwitz’ column, the E-N runs this interesting news brief:
Black delegates are rare this year
Only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor are black, the lowest number since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies began tracking diversity at political conventions 40 years ago.

But Gurwitz still manages to find a few black delegates to interview for his column and all say they reject identity politics. Gasp! Imagine that!
Meanwhile, Gurwitz conveniently ignores the fact that last night’s convention was all about trying to encourage women across America to embrace identity politics. Vote for the Soccer Mom!

Who Sarah Palin reminds me of

When I was covering politics in Lubbock in the late ‘90s, there was a woman named Mikel Ward who was the leader of a conservative anti-tax group that was always at odds with everything the city tried to do. Ward could always be found at every City Council meeting and even ran for mayor one year.
Understand that Lubbock is a very conservative city almost entirely dominated by Republicans. The person that Ward ran against that year was a woman named Windy Sitton who was a prominent Republican and held a fundraiser at her home for (and attended by) Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison).
Ward was a hardline conservative who supported Pat Buchanan in 2000, not unlike Palin (who flirted with support for Buchanan before ultimately backing Steve Forbes). At the time, Ward was about 10 years older than Palin is now. So with that taken into consideration, you can even see a physical resemblance between them.

But whereas Palin was able to break into mainstream politics, Ward remained marginalized on the fringes. Her biggest success was in leading the opposition to an economic development sales tax initiative in 1998 that was going to fund a new sports and entertainment arena. The city eventually got its arena anyway with the strong support of Texas Tech University.
Ward’s group, known as SPARTAN, could always be depended on to oppose any and all tax initiatives, which is why they were often referred to as the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).
The defeat of the sales tax initiative was a blow to the city’s leadership and made a lot of powerful enemies for Ward. That is probably a big reason why her mayoral candidacy had so much trouble. But I could easily see someone like Ward winning election in a town smaller than Lubbock (Wasilla, pop. 6,000 compared to Lubbock, pop. 200,000).
Perhaps the biggest difference between Ward and Palin is that Ward stayed more true to her ultra-conservative roots, whereas Palin did not hesitate to push for an economic development sales tax when she was mayor of her town. But somehow this record of supporting tax increases seems to have been overlooked by the Republicans who would no doubt lash out at a Democrat who did the exact same thing.


It’s good to see Ciro out with a strong ad:

Fact-checking Palin

For those who suffered through the mocking, pit-bull-with-lipstick speech from Sarah Palin last night, you can find excellent fact checks here and here.
I didn’t watch the speech myself. But I was surprised to learn that they skipped the video introduction for Palin which is pretty much a standard thing at conventions nowadays. They blamed it on Rudy Giuliani’s speech running too long, but I think they just didn’t have time to throw together any kind of decent video.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin wields the veto pen

Sarah Palin, having served as governor less than two years, probably didn’t have many opportunities to use her veto pen. But when she did, ironically, she went after funding for a group that provides shelter and support for unwed teenage mothers. How ironic. And how typical of a radical rightwing culture warrior.
Keep in mind, too, that this came at a time when Alaska was rolling in dough because of the huge increase in oil prices and was running a large surplus.

Michelle Cottle from TNR spells it out here:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.

After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation -- "SP" -- Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers.

According to Passage House's web site, its purpose is to provide "young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives" and help teen moms "become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families."

I'm sorry, but a politician who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and who opposes comprehensive sex education should be at the forefront of championing support systems that make it easier for young mothers to keep their babies. 

I would have assumed Palin herself felt this way. After all, she is a proud member of Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion nonprofit whose stated aim is to give women a real choice--that is, to make certain that women faced with unplanned pregnancies have access to the information and support systems that will enable/encourage them not to have an abortion. Surely a program aimed at assisting the most desperate of young mothers--those whose boyfriends aren't amenable to a shotgun wedding or who don't have a strong family support system--would be something a pro-life feminist such as Palin would work to expand not destroy. 

Pro-life conservatives have for years faced accusations by abortion-rights activists that they only give a damn about a woman and her baby until the moment that baby is born. After that: Best of luck! Don't come looking to us for any help! Palin's rough handling of Passage House does nothing to combat that unfortunate image.

Remember that this is one of the few examples we have of Palin exercising her “executive” powers that, according to Republicans, are supposed to make her MORE qualified to be president than Barack Obama.
Perhaps in the next few weeks she will explain her reasoning for this veto. But right now she is not making herself available to the media for interviews.

Couldn’t have said it better myself...

From the NYTimes:

Candidate McCain’s Big Decision

More often than not, the role of a vice president is a minor one, unless some tragedy occurs. But a presidential nominee’s choice of a running mate is vitally important. It is his first executive decision and offers an important insight into how that nominee would lead the nation.

If John McCain wants voters to conclude, as he argues, that he has more independence and experience and better judgment than Barack Obama, he made a bad start by choosing Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Mr. McCain’s supporters are valiantly trying to argue that the selection was a bold stroke that shows their candidate is a risk-taking maverick who — we can believe — will change Washington. (Mr. Obama’s call for change — now “the change we need” — has become all the rage in St. Paul.)

To us, it says the opposite. Mr. McCain’s snap choice of Ms. Palin reflects his impulsive streak: a wild play that he made after conservative activists warned him that he would face an all-out revolt in the party if he chose who he really wanted — Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Why Mr. McCain would want to pander to right-wing activists — who helped George W. Bush kill off his candidacy in the 2000 primaries in a particularly ugly way — is baffling. Frankly, they have no place to go. Mr. McCain would have a lot more success demonstrating his independence, and his courage, if he stood up to them the way he did in 2000.

As far as we can tell, Mr. McCain and his aides did almost no due diligence before choosing Ms. Palin, raising serious questions about his management skills. The fact that Ms. Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant is irrelevant to her candidacy. There are, however, very serious questions about her political past and her ideology.

If Mr. McCain wanted to break with his party’s past and choose the Republicans’ first female vice presidential candidate, there are a number of politicians out there with far greater experience and stature than Ms. Palin, who has been in Alaska’s Statehouse for less than two years.

Before she was elected governor, she was mayor of a tiny Anchorage suburb, where her greatest accomplishment was raising the sales tax to build a hockey rink. According to Time magazine, she also sought to have books banned from the local library and threatened to fire the librarian.

For Mr. McCain to go on claiming that Mr. Obama has too little experience to be president after almost four years in the United States Senate is laughable now that he has announced that someone with no national or foreign policy experience is qualified to replace him, if necessary.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has been one of Mr. McCain’s most loyal friends, said Tuesday that he was certain that Ms. Palin would take the right positions on issues like Iraq, Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. That seemed based largely on his repeated assertion that Ms. Palin would be tended by Mr. McCain’s foreign policy advisers. That was not much of an endorsement.

Some of the things Ms. Palin has had to say in the recent past about foreign policy are especially worrisome. In a speech last June to her former church in Wasilla, Ms. Palin said the war in Iraq was “a task that is from God.” Mr. Bush made similar claims as he rejected all sound mortal advice on how to conduct the war.

Mr. McCain, Mr. Graham and others also claim that Ms. Palin is a fearless reformer who is committed to fighting waste, fraud and earmarks. Ms. Palin did show courage taking on some of the Alaska Republican Party’s most sleazy politicians. But she also was an eager recipient of earmarked money as a mayor and governor.

Mayor Palin gathered up $27 million in subsidies from Washington, $15 million of it for a railroad from her town to the ski resort hometown of Senator Ted Stevens, now under indictment for failing to report gifts.

The Republicans are presenting Ms. Palin as a crusader against Mr. Stevens’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” The record says otherwise; she initially supported Mr. Stevens’s boondoggle, diverting the money to other projects when the bridge became a political disaster. In her speech to the Wasilla Assembly of God in June, Ms. Palin said it was “God’s will” that the federal government contribute to a $30 billion gas pipeline she wants built in Alaska.

Mr. McCain will make his acceptance speech on Thursday, and Ms. Palin will speak on Wednesday. Those two appearances will go a long way to forming voters’ views of this Republican ticket.

As Senator Graham noted, Mr. McCain has to reach out beyond the party’s loyal base. “We’re going to have to win this thing,” he said. “This is not our race to lose.”

Mr. McCain’s hurdles are substantial. To start, he has to overcome Mr. Bush’s record of failures. (The president addressed the convention Tuesday night and now, McCain strategists fervently hope, will retire quietly to the Rose Garden.) That record includes the disastrous war in Iraq, a ballooning deficit, the mortgage crisis — and the list goes on.

To address those many problems, this country needs a leader with sound judgment and strong leadership skills. Choosing Ms. Palin raises serious questions about Mr. McCain’s qualifications.

Zombie comics

Last week Lynn Johnston brought her long-running “For Better or For Worse” comic strip saga to a satisfying conclusion with the marriage of the eldest daughter to her old high school sweetheart.
But Johnston did not end the comic strip, choosing instead to run repeats going back to the beginnings of the strip with some occasional new materials and commentary added in.
Unfortunatley, the Express-News editors decided to ditch the strip anyway and have replaced it with a creepy, gag-a-day strip by Mark Tatulli called Lio.
Lio is not a bad strip. It’s just not the best one that they could have replaced “For Better or For Worse” with. It’s not even the best strip written by Tatulli. That would be his delightful “Heart of the City” which the Express-News has inexplicably ignored and passed over.
My biggest problem with canning Johnston’s strip is that it is unfair in light of their past decisions to continue running other comic strips long after the original artist/author is dead.
Here are the 11 comic strips currently running daily in the E-N that live on under the direction of different artists (except in the case of Peanuts which is in reruns).

Hagar the Horrible
Hi and Lois
Born Loser
Frank and Ernest
Wizard of Id
Dennis the Menace
The Lockhorns
Fred Basset

So the question remains, why is Lynn Johnston, who is not even dead yet, being singled out for special mistreatment?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin = Richard McLaren

One of the things that John McCain’s Google search vetting process failed to turn up about Sarah Palin was her past membership and close affiliation with a radical seccessionist group in Alaska.
The Alaskan Independence Party which is apparently affiliated with the radical Constitution Party wants to secede from the union and form their own country.
It brings to mind the nutjobs in the Republic of Texas movement here in Texas who claim that Texas was never properly made a state and deny the authority of the U.S. government.
This isn’t just something out of Palin’s distant past either. Here is a video message she made for the group for their most recent convention:

Good luck, indeed. Why are their only 49 stars on your flag lapel pin, Gov. Palin?

Here is a quote from Joe Vogler, founder of the Alaska Independence Party that Sarah Palin has courted throughout her political career:

The fires of Hell are glaciers compared to my hate for the American Government, and I won't be buried under their damn flag.

It is really shocking that the Republican vice presidential candidate would have ever associated with such a radical, America-hating group.

Sarah Palin = Robert Byrd

Sarah Palin reportedly secured $27 million in federal earmarks for her tiny little town of Wasilla during the four years that she was mayor.
I guess this is the kind of “executive” experience that Republicans are harping about that should qualify her for the highest office in the land. That’s a per capita rate that put’s Sen. Robert Byrd to shame!
I went to high school in Premont, a small town in South Texas, and I am not aware of any federal earmarks they have ever received for anything. Boy, what the folks in Premont could have done with just a smidgen of that pork that Palin was pigging out on!!

As Kevin Drum notes, she’s the Earmark Queen.

Sarah Palin = Harriet Miers?

The only thing the media is going to talk about for the next week or two is the revelation that Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old unwed daughter is five months pregnant with a shotgun wedding in her immediate future.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg. You would need a flowchart to keep up with the avalanche of bad news coming out about John McCain’s VP pick.
I tend to agree with Barack Obama that Palin’s family should be off limits. But I think it is fair to point out that this is yet another example of failed Republican policies at work.
It would be different if Palin wasn’t an outspoken advocate for religious right social conservatives, but she is and now her outspoken opposition to birth control and sex education stands out very loudly.

But I think there are many other problems with Palin that surfaced over the weekend that will take prominence as they sink in, such as her affiliation with a radical right seccessionist group in Alaska during the 1990s. Or her blatant hypocrisy on earmarks and 527 groups. Or her vast lack of knowledge on any number of issues that will come up during the campaign.

Hilzoy sums it up thusly:
Sarah Palin's record speaks for itself. She is a far rightwing nut who has abused government power for personal reasons. Repeatedly. She was a member of a group calling for secession from the very country she now wants to lead. She is a bald-faced liar. She is as ignorant of science as she is of American history. She may be well-liked in Alaska, but even there they think it's ridiculous to imagine her a heartbeat from the presidency.

There is already speculation that Palin will be forced off of the ticket before the GOP convention is over, like Harriet Miers was pitched over the side for a Supreme Court nomination. I’m not sure that will happen, but I won’t be surprised if it does.