Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If Bill Clinton Were Able to Run for a Third Term...

...would you vote for him? Put me down in the yes column.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Death Magnetic

Metallica's new album "Death Magnetic" is, in my humble opinion, their best work since 1991's the Black album. Metallica is my third favorite band EVER (1. Black Sabbath; 2. Pantera), and so for me, this is kind of a big deal. Their late '90s albums Load and ReLoad were case-studies in mediocrity. Their 2003 outing "St. Anger" was just crap. So they've made a good album, their first in 17 years. Excellent. So why am I pissed off?

BECAUSE THE ALBUM WAS NEARLY RUINED IN THE MIXING STAGE. The problem is called "compression": it clips the high and low ends of the signal to create the illusion of volume, thereby distorting the original audio recording and diminishing its crispness and clarity. This is not the "good" kind of distortion that musicians intentionally aim for; it's the bad kind that deprives the music of its complexity and character. 

As it happens, two versions of Death Magnetic were released: the official album and the Guitar Hero 3 version which owners of the game were able to download. Because the GH3 was not unnecessarily FUCKED WITH, it sounds a lot better. To wit, here is the album version of "The Judas Kiss":

And here is the GH3 version:

And just in case you think I am making all this up:

If the music biz wants to use compression techniques to make shit bands like Fall Out Boy sound poppier, so be it. But stay the fuck away from my bands. That is why I signed this petition calling for Death Magnetic to be re-released in the format in which it deserves to be heard.


John McCain is a Low Ranking Monkey

This is funny. But does that make Obama a "high ranking monkey"? What an unfortunate (though I am sure unintended) implicature.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Still waiting

Brief update: should have internet access Wednesday evening.

In the meantime, Jason, thanks for holding down the fort. I've appreciated reading your posts, and I'll respond as soon as I'm able.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Les Misbarack

Just too well done not to share


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anonymous v. Palin

Anonymous, the internet-based group that has recently taken on Scientology, has stepped up its vigilantism by hacking Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account, assumedly to find E-mails containing public office business. Screen shots of the hack were posted on Gawker and Wikileaks (which is the slowest site on the internet right now). The Wikileak angle makes the act look like whistleblowing.

Now, there has been growing talk about whether/how much public business Palin conducted through her personal e-mail. This is a very serious and potentially illegal activity because records of business communication are public records and become very tricky to obtain (legally and technically) from a private account. Yes, Palin is accused of a very serious ethical and legal violation in doing this. However, hacking her E-mail is also a very serious crime because of who she is (hence the involvement of the Secret Service and FBI). What does this indicate about Anonymous' self-conception and direction? Should we be particularly afraid? Should we be happy?

Recent Anonymous activity has focused (very valiantly in my opinion) on protesting Scientology for breaking up families, kidnapping, violating non-profit status through profit-making schemes, and other worse and lesser crimes. Their actions have included protests in front of Scientology buildings, hacking Scientology websites, and publicizing their claims. Nothing at the level of Palin or publishing personal information (recently, as far as I know). They do have a more sordid past, but there's little I can find factually about those times. (Side Note: the Palin incident with the earlier activities may put Anonymous in boiling water.) Now, they've stepped up to one of the most visible political figures in the country with a direct confrontation that involves unabashed criminality. That's a lot of exposure wrapped up in a very starkly defined situation.

The basics driving Anonymous thus far has been pretty clear and well-founded - revealing and stymying the blatantly illegal/abusive use of power. But, some people have questioned their sincerity, veracity, and self-control and a number of boards are lighting up around these notions. I'm not one of those people, I think their motives and information are clear. However, I am concerned about the level of infiltration this time. Following the same principles, they have now launched an attack on a public figure using illegal activity. Yeah, hacking a website and altering its content crosses legal lines, but publicizing stolen personal information is a much clearer crime. Should I be personally afraid? No, I'm not abusing power. I could suffer collateral damage if Anonymous used more viral methods (though they seem, so far conscientious of limiting their troublesomeness to the tyrant). So, I and I think others should be worried about expanding methods and outspokeness. But at the same time, their principles leave us alone and provide us a strong arm against corruption. We have to take Vigilante Ethics much more seriously.

What do I predict? There may be much more information gathered from the hacking which has yet to be released. All of the documentation I've found right now was meant to validate that the account was Palin's (contact list, pictures, confirmed e-mails). The purpose of the breach was probably to find public business and, ideally, dirty business. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that Palin did use her private account for public business, so there is reason to expect that there was some solid evidence gathered. We may see that soon. If that comes out, Anonymous will come under an incredible amount of pressure and it will continue the polarizaiton in the U.S. since Palin was introduced. If there is a real case to be made, the truth may overshadow the hacking. If the evidence is weak, revealing it will feed the prevailing discourse that liberals are out to get Palin.

Keep your eyes and ears open for a bigger scandal


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is Affirmative Action Unneccesary?

NOW, a show on PBS, had a feature on a movement to end affirmative action which has initiatives on the ballots in three states and was successful 10 years ago in California. The video itself is pretty thorough in the issues it covers and makes for a pretty good introduction to some of the contemporary dimensions of the issue. I want to address some of the objections that have been raised to affirmative action because some i believe are foolhardy and others offer some insights into deeper issues that hopefully someone somewhere will find illuminating.

Affirmative Action is Racial Discrimination: Yes, affirmative action does institute polices which distribute resources based on race. It is institutionalized discrimination. Yes, the Civil Rights Act illegalizes discrimination. Yes this appears to be a contradiction. But, let me offer an analogy. Someone steals your wallet. It is against the law to take money from someone without their consent. The police catch the guy and the courts force him to pay damages. You are receiving money from someone without their consent, but we all know there's no legal contradiction because your getting money from the thief is recompensation for a previous legal wrongdoing. Slavery, Jim Crow, and the systematic neglect and exploitation of the black community have set an extremely damaging hindrance on the opportunaties of the black community. When the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, black people did not all of a sudden have the same opportunities. They did not become rich, accepted in any mainstream American culture, get the same treatment by police, or have their schools funded at levels equal to white schools. The civil rights did not offer just compensation. If you don't believe African Americans deserve any recompensation, you either don't have a basic notion of resiprocity or are seriously mistaken about what such laws and social practices do to people. So yes, just as the thief can have money taken from him for stealing, so can race become a factor of discrimination for repaying the debts of discrimination. Should Affirmative Action be a part of social recompensation? That's debatable. However, it is a weak argument to say it should be thrown off the table (at least right now and I'll get to that later) because it's racial discrimination and we illegalized racial discrimination.

Affirmative Action is "Reverse Racism:" I hear this a lot: isn't racism priviliging/exalting or disadvantaging/degrading someone because of race and doesn't affirmative action privilege black people with jobs over whites? Yes. However, privileging an already racially disadvantaged group is not racism, but a mitigation of racism. In a situation where the chances of a black male with standard application material getting a job are the same as a white ex-convict (I'm tired and thus a bit lazy in finding the studies; they interviewed the researchers on CNN's Black in America), we can safely say that discrimination is already in play.

A Black President signifies the end of the need for Affirmative Action?: I never took this too seriously until it was the first segment in the PBS video. I've laughed it off becuase it's the ultimate "Black Friend" argument. "There's a black guy in the White House, this country's totally cool with black people. Oh, that Fiddy Cent." I'm not saying the lack of African Americans in positions of power is because of racism in hiring practices. I don't have to to Jujitsu this idea over the illegitimacy of Tokenization.

Affirmative Action Discriminates against Poor White People: This argument offers a lot of insight into contemporary class politics and the redirection of class struggle. A lot of this is anectdotal stories boiling down to a struggling/poor/small white
business/student trying to land a contract/get into school/get a job and finding that they lost it to Affirmative Action or can only find scholarships for minorities (there's a similar complaint with hispanics). Yes, white people lose spots to blacks because of Affirmative Action and don't have many anti-disadvantage programs. Yes, poor/struggling whites face many of the same barriers as African Americans. Welcome to the F'n United States. Anyone who believes there is universal equal opportunity was not born poor. It's closer to true to say that everyone has an increadibly large range of possibilities. I have the opportunity to be an Astronaut and so does a Black kid from Washington Park. We do not however have the same opportunity as the son of a Air Force General who grew up around jets and has been given every chance to learn how to fly, learn the military ropes, and was essentially born into social connections that can move him up. I did not have the same opportunity to go to Harvard as a graduate from Phillips Academy. And yes, poor, struggling white folks should be feeling miffed about not having those same resources or resources that help you get there. But do not look at African Americans and say "you're taking away my opportunity." You look at the wealthy and say "how can you pretend I have equal opportunity?" You look to government and you say, "where's the help to overcome the disadvantages of being raised poor?" Why aren't there poor scholarships? Why aren't there hiring quotas for the poor? At least in Affirmative Action there is the recognition that poverty is a disadvantage and something is being done. There absolutely should be more done to mitigate those disadvantages, but taking away Affirmative Action is not going to help any poor. Ending hiring quotas will do absolutely nothing to help overcome the disadvantages of a destitute primary and secondary education, of not having parents around because they're working their second job, of not being able to go to afterschool activities because you don't have transportation. The problem of poverty is not black and white. It's rich and poor.

I'm not saying Affirmative Action is the solution or a primary solution, but I am saying that the objections often raised to it are woefully ahistorical, unrealistic, or misdirections away from the real problems


Friday, September 12, 2008

ARC 109: Statement of a Liberal Platform

A coterie of activists in the fields of labor, human rights, feminism, anti-racism and Middle East peace work have come together to create ARC - A Movement Re-imagining Change with a short statement of goals for a post-Bush American Policy. You can find it here at EllasDaughters.org. There is a community forum on the document Saturday the 12th at the Experimental Station 6100. S. Blackstone at 3:00. I plan on going if anyone else is interested.

I'm a bit underwhelmed by the document as it offers nothing really new to the liberal platform (don't confuse liberal with Democrat). I'll discuss some of the basic tenants of the document and why I think they're a necessary part of the contemporary social justice. Hopefully, it'll at least start some substantive discussion of these issues

1. Withdrawal from Iraq and Waging International Peace: The central idea here is that the history of American Foreign policy after Isolationism and WWII is dominated by imperialist ideology which have supported horrendous, anti-democratic regimes (Pinochet, Shah of Iran, Contras, Hussein, etc.), maintained a status of exception to international and United States' law (Guantanamo, Extraordinary rendition, the invasion of Iraq), and propped up profiteering enterprises at the knowing expense of most of the world's population (GATT, Oil for Food, Banana Republics). This history and current policy has directly fed terrorist ideology and sympathy breeding new war and destabilizing the Global South.

I agree with the ARC 109 on the need for a Department of Peace Initiatives directed at developing humanitarian programs nationally and internationally to sow the seeds of good will and mutual respect. Further, democratizing and invigorating the UN by removing veto powers, embracing international law (which we wrote and signed as law over us), and committing our resources to UN causes such as stabilizing Africa and helping provide the basic necessities such as clean water to the third world will actually help us be the City on the Hill that we claim to be.

What I disagree with is the international demobilization of U.S. troops and withdrawal from Iraq. I feel an incoming wave of flack from my liberal brothers and sisters, but hear me out. I'm not arguing for continued hostile operations; but rather, a maintenance of presence and infrastructure to deal with humanitarian issues from natural disasters to genocide. There are some places such as Iraq that are war-weary and mistrustful of the U.S. military given five years of raids, imprisonment, torture, and violence. In Iraq, I suggest a change of strategy that focuses on demilitarization and reemphasizes infrastructural support from police training to helping rebuild roads, communications, energy, and the like. A full pull-out would leave Iraqis to clean up the destruction of our war.

2. Economic Development: The targets of this set of policies are poverty, income inequality, and structural barriers to economic growth in historically poor regions and populations. The key policies are a living wage; guaranteed health care, childcare, housing, parental leave, and college education; public works jobs; and "rejuvenation resources." This stands in stark contrast to current policies which have neglected the minimum wage for almost thirty years, the institutionalization of trickle-down economic policies and wealthy entitlement to decision-making, and a reliance on free market solutions to basic human needs. The key problems are the high cost of
childcare and health care, too expensive for forty million Americans (100 mil if you count dental, much more if you include mental health care); unequal funding for schools and strings of disincentives for helping underachieving schools; regressive taxation and spending (ala the capital gains tax and government bailouts); and an overemphasis on economic interest in community (re)development ignoring the concerns of the local community (e.g. Katrina recovery, Appalachian Mountain-top Removal, Ruralization of prisons, etc. etc.).

On these things I personally agree: School funding is racist and classist because it is directly tied to property values without any reasonable offset. For example, No Child Left Behind stops funding failing (poor, often largely black or latino) schools. The importance and expense of health care and childcare means that people need access to these given to them. The poor simply cannot afford the costs of basic medical or daycare services. The uninsured ill can spread disease, take off from work or even lose their job, suffer long-term effects of treatable illnesses, and be ruined by debt from medical expenses. Without daycare, parents have a harder time making it to work and staying employed, children may have no caretaker or one that's not licensed or properly trained to name a few social and economic costs. The market has already proven it cannot sustain these services for the poor. Medicaid has already proven to be an inefficient public solution.

Lastly, government (re)development initiatives have continuosly demonstrated their preference for including the wealthy and excluding the local. One of Reagan's greatest gits to the U.S. was the Community Development Block Grant which provided a lump sum of development aid to communities, to be used as the community needed it. I'm oversimplifying the strings attached and limitations; but this is comparatively true to other sources of government development funding. There are many "rejuvination resources" in place now. However, many forms of aid and examples of government development projects have followed the path of getting (yes often local) business leaders together to plan economic development as community development. While economics are essential to a community, one cannot be mistaken for the other. A primary example is rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina. The New Orleans natives that have not been able to return are largely the poor, minority home owners whose property has been reclassified and absconded by economic development interests through city planning largely guided by businesses (again, including local business). To counter these kinds of biases in government projects, aid projects need to be implimented which include specific guidelines ensuring more holistic community involvement.

I am less sure about living wage policies for the basic macroeconomic outcomes. Raising incomes will yield more consumer spending which will create inflation further raising the living wage. I doubt it will be a never-ending cylce and the end result will be a flattening of the national income and wealth range, at least at the bottom half (to speak really loosely). Many policies and economic practices can affect this restructuring, who gets squeezed, and how. I haven't heard any plans on how these issues will be addressed.

3. Rights: The last issue I'll address (for what concern I have for length) is aimed at elections and human rights. First is opening voter registration, ending the electoral college, and increasing public campaign financing. Making registration as easy as possible does not compromise vote integrity in the informaiton age. Voter registration and validation can be just as instantaneous as
validating a credit card purchase online and as reliable as matching state ID with government records. The electoral college is skewed democracy which violates the principle of one person, one vote. My vote only counts if my candidate wins the state. Current levels of public finance and resulting limitations ensure that public financing is a hindrance to politcal power. Both McCain and Obama, staunch proponents of public finance, opted not to use public funds because they could not ensure their competitiveness to private funding. With as much political backscratching there is among donors and politicians, how can we allow private financing to continue shutting us out and pork-barreling our money?

Human rights issues have to deal with immigrants and discriminated groups. Our government is beholden to the ensure human rights, transcendent of any nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, marriage/parental status, age, and so on. These are the rights that follow from simply being human beings. Yes, immigrants in this country without documentation may be violating immigration, employment, and other laws just by living in the United States. It does not automatically give us the right or obligation to detain, break up families, deport, or imprison them. No crime is naturalistically linked to any punishment. The question of what to do with undocumented immigrants is a very open one. But we do have an obligation to protect a minimum level of decency. For example, prisons have to provide food and shelter. ICE officials are not legally allowed to torture immigrants or arrest/imprison them without charges. What needs to be done is a specific elaboration of the rights and obligations of undocumented immigrants in this country which both ensure their human rights and punish those who violate those rights and spell out what undocumented immigrants can and cannot do and the resulting legal actions.

Lastly, the government should be more proactive in eliminating discrimination and oppressive activities. For example, there should be more funding to prevent and help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault which perpetuate male physical and sexual dominance and intimidates and socially subjugates women. "The U.S. should ratify and implement the UN’s CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child" as further steps to ensure the
internal and international enforcement of human rights.

There are other issues on the table. Just look up the ARC 109. It's pretty quick and easy to read.


Out for a few days

Hey guys, my internet is down for a few days as I move into a new apartment. If any of you could pick up some of the slack, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!



Monday, September 8, 2008

Hot Woman on Woman Action

Just got this E-mail beginning to be circulated by women for women on Sarah Palin. I personally agree with this one; hence, I'm helping spread the word.


Just in from a friend. Within this message is an invitation to make
your own personal statement and send it along to
Lend your voice, if you wish.

*Friends, compatriots, fellow-lamenters,

We are writing to you because of the fury and dread we have felt
since the announcement of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential
candidate for the Republican Party. We believe that this terrible
decision has surpassed mere partisanship, and that it is a dangerous
farce in the part of a pandering and rudderless Presidential
candidate that has a real possibility of becoming fact.

Perhaps like us, as American women, you share the fear of
what Ms. Palin and her professed beliefs and proven record could lead
to for ourselves and for our present or future daughters. To date, she
is against sex education, birth control, the pro-choice platform,
environmental protection, alternative energy development, freedom
of speech (as mayor she wanted to ban books and attempted to fire
the librarian who stood against her), gun control, the separation of church
and state, and polar bears. To say nothing of her complete lack of real
preparation to become the second-most-powerful person on the planet.

We want to clarify that we are not against Sarah Palin as a woman, a
mother, or, for that matter, a parent of a pregnant teenager, but
solely as a rash, incompetent, and all together devastating choice for
Vice President. Ms. Palin's political views are in every way a slap in
the face to the accomplishments that our mothers and grandmothers and
great-grandmothers so fiercely fought for, and that we've so
demonstrably benefited from.

First and foremost, Ms. Palin does not represent us. She does
not demonstrate or uphold our interests as American women. It is
presumed that the inclusion of a woman on the Republican ticket could
win over women voters. We want to disagree, publicly.

Therefore, we invite you to reply here with
a short, succinct message about why you, as a woman living in this
country, do not support this candidate as second-in-command for our
Please include your name (last initial is fine), age, and place of residence.

We will post your responses on a blog called "Women Against Sarah Palin,"
which we intend to publicize as widely as possible. Please send us your
reply at your earliest convenience the greater the volume of responses
we receive, the stronger our message will be.

Thank you for your time and action.



Quinn Latimer and Lyra Kilston
New York, NY

**PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY! If you send this to your women friends and
acquaintances, you could be blessed with a country that takes your
seriously. Stranger things have happened.
Type rest of the post here


I Don't Like Religious Intrusion

My Catholic-with-a-capital-C roommate literally yelled at me and my girlfriend because he can sometimes hear us engaging in "disgusting" practices when he is trying to study. I need a new apartment.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back to the fronts.

I've been gone for a little while. I know, I'm sorry. I had to take a vacation of sorts. A very good friend came up, and I've been showing her the city for the week. I also needed a break from work. Not in an "oh, I hate my job" sort of way. I love my job. It's just, I've been going pretty much non-stop this whole year, and it was nice to sit down for a week and just have some fun.

So, basically, I took a science vacation. We went to the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. If you're ever in Chicago, get a City Pass and visit these places. Plan on spending about a day on each. Maybe...MAYBE condense the Aquarium and the Planetarium into a single day, but definitely plan on a day (at least) for both the Museums. They're absolutely amazing. Amazing. And full of science.

I highly recommend the "Evolving Planet" exhibit at the Field...absolutely stunning. Standing among all those fossils, all those records of the past is absolutely awe-inspiring. As you hit the Cambrian and the Devonian...well, just keep in mind the accusation by Creationists that "all the major body plans and lifeforms appeared during the Cambrian explosion and haven't changed much since." Right...like...trilobites. And Anomalocaris saron. And Opabinia regalis. And Hallucigenia sparsa. Go check out anything on the Burgess Shale, or any other record from the Cambrian. I guess the question to keep in mind when viewing this, and say, anything like the placoderms of the Devonian is "Okay...well, where are the rabbits? Or the cows? Or the mammals? Or the birds? Or the amphibians (though, granted, by the Devonian, we begin to have ancestors of those), or the reptiles? Dinosaurs?" Nope. None of those. We don't even have tetrapods until the Sarcopterygii in the Devonian. Apparently, tetrapods are not a major body plan or grouping of animals to the more silly Creationists. Oh well. Good job, Discovery Institute.

One of the greatest things in the Evolving Planet display, though, is the hominid fossils. And very clearly, there is a large screen which shows the branching of the hominid tree. Take a glance at the chart on this article on human evolution. Note. It is a not a linear model with each species evolving into the next, as we so often see in cartoons like:

Wrong! The picture is a bit more like this:

The analogous argument of "Well, if we evolved from monkeys, why are their still monkeys around?" is defeated thusly: First, we did not evolve from modern monkeys. Rather, monkeys, apes, and humans all shared a common primate (or proto-primate) ancestor. Second, this is like saying, "If a lot of Americans are descended from Europeans, why are there still Europeans around?" Because we branched off into separate groups that have gone their own ways. Just because your grandparents had one child does not mean that they could not have had another. You can have cousins (trust me), and given enough time and differing environmental and genetic pressures, you can grow to be quite distinct families. If you have cousins, ask yourself if the question "which side of the family really carries on the family line?" makes any sense. It's the same basic story for human evolution, just on a much vaster time scale.

(Short side note - yes, evolution does require vast time scales. Many Creationists want to argue for much shorter time periods. Luckily for us, the evidence is completely against them. Any attempt to show that the universe is a mere 6,000 to 10,000 years old runs into inexplicable problems, unless the Creationist is willing to argue a few things: 1) God miracled away all the problems, which...fine, but it isn't science, and God doesn't spend much time talking about these miracles (which, believe me, would be much more fantastic than feeding a few thousand people) or 2) God is actively trying to deceive us, knowing that we would eventually discover science and reason. If you want to argue for a mischievous and deceiving God, then go right ahead, but please, take it to its logical conclusions.)

Anyway, Field Museum - highly recommended in my book. All the exhibits are fantastic.

As for the Museum of Science and Industry, I could go there every day. First off, their space exhibit is incredible. They also have the real re-entry pod for the Apollo 8 mission. I cannot describe to you the sense of awe and connection with human history that standing in front of it brings, or just touring the exhibit in general. It makes me sad that in the intervening years after the last moon mission (Apollo 17) we have yet to set foot on another world again. As Carl Sagan said, we have waded our toes out into the surf of the cosmic ocean, but have returned to our mother's apron strings and have yet to venture out again. This is not to say that we haven't done some spectacular science in the meantime, nor is it to say that I am not a fan of the robotic missions (each are fascinating and incredibly valuable). It's just...there's that sense of wonder that fills you every time you see these objects of our history and you know, that despite all the problems and dangers (there were many and they were substantial) that we did this. We, as humans, working together, made it to another world and returned safely. And we can do it again.

Another huge bump for the MSI is the U505. Again, words fail me to describe the feeling as you walk through the upper levels of the exhibit, slowly descending and learning about the history of the boat. Finally, you turn a corner into the exhibit hall and...well, there it is. The entire boat. The real thing. The real, smack-the-steel boat sitting in front of you. It's just...it sends shivers down your spine.

Lastly, the Adler Planetarium. The shows are amazing, and the exhibits are great and very informative. If you want to know what we're learning about space, go check it out. If nothing else, go to the "Shoot for the Moon!" exhibit, which details the history of the Gemini (and a bit about the Apollo) missions. And yes, they currently have the Gemini XII re-entry module.

So, all this to say...I've been gone, but now I'm back. I feel better, rejuvenated, and I've spent a lot of time soaking up some quite wonderful science. So, to all you pseudo-scientific and woo-woo masters out there, all I have to say is: "Bring it on."


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Everyone has Religion in the Closet

Found on Richarddawkins.net:

Palin on our God-given Manifest Destiny in Iraq, Gas Pipelines, and Alaska as "the Last Refuge"
(4:00min-7:00, 11:00min-11:45)

There are a lot of other snippets in the article originally published by the Huffington Post. They did link to videos of the pastor's sermons, but the link is now dead and you have to redirect to the .org version of the church's website. The traffic after the VP pick knocked the website out.

The original Huffington Post Report


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pulse: First Swings at Palin

As soon as Palin's name was announced it seems like a number of people have shot off several initial problems. Berkeley Economist Brad DeLong's blog has been buzzing with a short list of problems and a long list of harsh critique. Like the claims being made, I think the bloggers, reporters, and commentary are a bit too quick on the draw for their own confidence; however, the true implications are yet to be seen.

I'll list the issues here and flesh them out below. For your own education, I suggest reading the past week and a half of DeLong's blog. It's okay to skim. Also check out Wikipedia's article on the "Bridge to Nowhere" and Palin's firing of the Public Safety Commissioner. They don't cover everything, but some of the basic, factual issues.

The first big issues is the firing. The claims are that Palin fired the commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law trooper on "trumped up charges." Second, Palin was in support of the "Bridge to Nowhere," one of the biggest porkbarrel fiascos this decade, and is now parading that she was against it. Third and more generally, reports are comming in from Alaskan bloggers and reporters that McCain's campaign did not do any background investigation into Palin. Essentially he's going in blind on the second most important government official and his second in command.

The story on the firing is probably the most well-documented and contentious. There is ample evidence that the commissioner was pressured to fire the trooper. There were complaints lodged against the ex-brother-in-law trooper (by Palin family), and some of them were substantiated (a verbal death threat, illegally shooting a moose, and tasering his son [which he claims his son wanted to know what it felt like and he used the "training setting"]). The trooper was reprimanded and suspended for ten days. Nine months later, Palin is elected governor. In another month, the Palin family and gubernatorial staff began pressuring the new commissioner to have the Trooper fired, despite the fact that the only complaints in his file were those lodged by the Palins. Nothing happened with the Trooper as pressure continued. Six months into it, the commissioner was fired.

The state senate has since started an ongoing investigation which should present its findings before the election. The Attorney General also just finished an investigation into the situation revealing that Palin and her office did "improperly" speak of the trooper in one of the twenty-four instances recorded. Palin denies applying any pressure. The result was a two month paid leave for a gubernatorial official. I'm waiting for the senate's investigation before settling on a full opinion, especially since the timeline and quotes found on DeLong's blog indicate a much more troubling version than Wikipedia and the AG's report.

The second issue is the "Bridge to Nowhere." It was bridge designed to connect a 8,000 person town to the second busiest airport in Alaska (there's now a ferry that runs ever 15-30 minutes). The cost: over $400 million. I haven't looked up the actual value, but $400 million is enough. The Federal Gov. committed to picking up half the bill through Sen Ted Stevens. After the recent outrage over pork-barrel spending, the government gave Alaska the money, but did not earmark it for the bridge. What happened to that money is explained by the story of Palin.

Palin was governor at the time. She supported the bridge until the government pulled its earmark funding. After the pork-barrel outrage and funding changes, she did an about-face and spent the money for the bridge on other highway projects. The issue now is that she parades the fact that she was against the bridge as a part of her responsible government appeal. In my mind, it's riding the political wave and smoothing over inconvenient history through clear lying.

All of this ultimately points, for DeLong and detractors, to McCain's absolutely poor judgement and renegade temperament. During the investigations into Palin's background by bloggers and journalists, it keeps coming up that no one has asked for any of her records. Also, as soon as what has been called (lamely) "Troopergate" started coming out nationally, the McCain team immediately hit the ground in Alaska apparently to do
background research. Even in the reports given by major news outlets, McCain had only met Palin once before (and maybe once during) the Veepstakes and his staff met with her three or four times at most before she was selected. This is not the way to select the most important partner in this country.

The poor judgement has to do with not doing background research and selecting an apparently unvetted and unseasoned politician with little national or international experience. The renegade temperament is lodged for the seemingly hasty, intuitive choice contra the mainstream voices of who were fitting options. DeLong is putting as if McCain is not a maverick, but uncontrollably temperamental.

Like I said in the beginning, the truth of these claims and their import should be fleshed out in the coming weeks. I'll be there with more from the political pulse.