How to tell the Republican Party is not serious about fixing America’s problems

June 9, 2011

If Republicans were serious about looking for a candidate for president who could fix some of America’s tougher problems, they’d have an official delegation go see Robert Gates.

Actually, there is a tour underway that highlights the great things about America, but it isn’t Palin’s. It’s the farewell tour of Robert Gates, defense secretary to presidents George W. Bush and Obama, whose work over the past 41 /2 years has dramatically improved the state of the U.S. military. While Palin played cat-and-mouse with the press corps on Interstate 95, Gates set off on a tour of Asia and Europe, where he is receiving the gratitude of soldiers and the acclaim of allies.

Gates, who remained on the job at Obama’s request, took on sacred weapons programs at the Pentagon, fired ineffective generals, won the surge in Iraq, revived a crumbling war effort in Afghanistan and got Osama bin Laden.

During that same time, Palin quit midway through her term as Alaska governor, then went on to a life of $100,000 speaking fees, reality TV shows and incendiary political speech.

There is no such delegation from the Republican Party on the way to Gates’s house, and there probably will not be.   We are afflicted with Palin from the Republicans, even while Robert Gates affects us.  Why can’t they figure that out?

The Sarah Palin History Network 06/07/11

June 9, 2011

The Sarah Palin History Network explains the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Sarah Palin History Network 06/07/11, posted with vodpod

Is any comment really necessary?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Joan Samuels Kaiser.

Palin can’t tell satellites from doughnuts

February 1, 2011

You can tell by the dates I’m not following this closely — it’s a Sarah Palin thing, after all, and we all hope it will go away.

Spudnut Shop, Richland Washington, Tri-City Herald photo by Kai-Huei Yau

Baking doughnuts before dawn at the Spudnut Shop, Richland Washington, Tri-City Herald photo by Kai-Huei Yau

Palin wasn’t content to just screw up the history of the phrase “Sputnik moment,” as noted earlier.  Oh, no, she had to go deeper in dumb, and talk about Spudnut shops.  If you’re not from Salt Lake City where the Spudnut HQ sign adorned Interstate 15 for many years, you may never have heard of Spudnuts, doughnuts made with potato dough.

If you’re wondering what in the world Spudnuts have to do with Sputnik, you’ve got more sense than Sarah Palin.

After screwing up the history, like a blind squirrel, Palin blundered on to talk about a vestige Spudnut shop in Richland, Washington.  She found something we all applaud, a good doughnut shop.   On one hand fans of the doughnut are happy to know of one of a tiny handful of such shops left.  Plus, it’s great to boost a small shop in a small Washington town.

On the other hand, doughnuts, even Spudnuts, don’t come close to the movement to improve American education inspired by the Soviet launch of Sputnik.  From just getting history horribly in error, Palin came close to ridiculing American business with her idea of meeting the challenges like space exploration, with doughnuts and coffee.  Doughnuts and coffee will not lift student test scores, nor are they the answer to lifting our economy today and keeping the U.S. competitive and on top, in the future.

Others covered the topic better than I.

Yes, that is what we need to get the economy back on track.

A bakery.

Not more expertise in math and science, engineering, technology, and developing enterprises that will allow us to compete with the rest of the world. A bakery, full of Real Americans.

Do you realize how this sounds? This is like if I were to say, “Hey, I think we need to take a course to familiarize ourselves with what actually caused the Soviet Union to collapse!” and you were to respond, “Anything can be solved with Hard Work, donuts, and the American Way!” It’s as if I were to say, “Let’s study geometry!” and you were to respond, “Let’s study Gia Spumanti, the red-blooded American protagonist of ‘A Shore Thing.'” “Those two sound similar, but are in no way comparable,” I would point out. And that’s what this is. It’s the kind of bizarre semi-sequitur that has always been a hallmark of your speaking style.

Stromberg got serious for a moment, and makes the case against Palin’s claims:

But in claiming that the Soviets incurred their consequential debts long before Reagan was president, Palin ends up arguing that the Gipper wasn’t nearly that responsible for the USSR spending itself to death. If a reverence for Reagan’s anti-Soviet spending inspired her narrative in the first place, then this is incoherent. If she’s just making this all up, then she’s really also claiming that the Reagan-brought-down-the-USSR narrative is overstated.

Palin appears to be lazily checking a lot of Fox News boxes. She wants to criticize Obama’s State of the Union address, so she grabs hold of the Sputnik line. She wants to make a point about debt, so she invents a history in which the USSR had a debt crisis decades before this inference could have made much sense. Even better — her argument sounds like an implicit vindication of Reagan, but that really just makes it either self-contradictory or hostile to Reagan’s legacy.

Even worse, it seems that Palin planned her rhetorical disaster, as she goes on to discuss the “Spudnut Shop,” a bakery in Washington State that’s succeeding without government support. Yet more evidence that her judgment in both what she says and who she has vetting it is pathetic. It’s not even cleverly manipulative. It’s just dreck.

Zeno provides the horrifying evidence that Palin’s stupid is leaking out, and may be contagious.  Zeno caught Brian Sussman at the formerly-august KSFO talking to a woman who would fail the Sputnik issue even by Texas standards.  In Texas, in 11th grade U.S. history, students need to know a half-dozen dates, turning points in U.S. history.  1957 is one of those dates, for the launch of Sputnik.  Oy, what does it say when a San Francisco radio station is dumber than Texas’s weak and skewed social studies standards?


Tip of the old scrub brush to Oh, For Goodness Sake.

“WTF?” Palin completely misunderstands what “Sputnik Moment” means

January 28, 2011

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“WTF?” Palin completely misunderstands what “S…, posted with vodpod

Some bloggers have sworn off comments on Sarah Palin. Good on them.

This fruit is too low-hanging.

Palin doesn’t appear to have a clue about what the phrase “Sputnik moment” refers to — and mistakes it with the much later financial difficulties of the Soviet Union.  You’d think, since she was so close to the U.S.S.R. in Alaska, she’d know something about Sputnik.

And what’s with the “WTF” on television?  Has she no composure, no decency?

Here, Sarah; a primer:

Sputnik was the first artificial satellite launched from Earth, in October 1957.  (Palin wasn’t born for another seven years . . . arguments about teaching history, anyone?)

Please note that the launch of the satellite scared the bejeebers out of Americans.  Most people thought — without knowing anything about how heavy a nuclear device might be, nor how hard it might be to target one — that if the Russians could orbit a satellite the size of a beach ball, they could certainly launch missiles with nuclear warheads to rain down on America.  Maybe, some thought, Russians had already orbited such nukes, which could just fall from space without warning.

That was the spooky, red scary part.  Then there was the kick-American-science-in-the-pants part.  A lot of policy makers asked how the Russians could surpass the U.S. in the race for space (wholly apart from the imported German rocket scientists used by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.).  Looking around, they found science and technology education in America sadly lacking.  Congress passed a law that called science education necessary for our defense, and appropriated money to help boost science education — the National Defense Education Act.

The Cold War stimulated the first example of comprehensive Federal education legislation, when in 1958 Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik. To help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields, the NDEA included support for loans to college students, the improvement of science, mathematics, and foreign language instruction in elementary and secondary schools, graduate fellowships, foreign language and area studies, and vocational-technical training.

(See the Wikipedia entry on NDEA, too.)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) history points to the genuine advances in science the Soviets had made, and the need for the U.S. to quickly catch up:

Sputnik once again elevated the word “competition” in the language of government officials and the American public. Sputnik threatened the American national interest even more than the Soviet Union’s breaking of America’s atomic monopoly in 1949; indeed it rocked the very defense of the United States because Russia’s ability to place a satellite into orbit meant that it could build rockets powerful enough to propel hydrogen bomb warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles.  Perhaps more importantly, however, Sputnik forced a national self-appraisal that questioned American education, scientific, technical and industrial strength, and even the moral fiber of the nation. What had gone wrong, questioned the pundits as well as the man in the street. They saw the nation’s tradition of being “Number One” facing its toughest competition, particularly in the areas of science and technology and in science education.

With its ties to the nation’s research universities, the Foundation of course became a key player in the unfolding events during this trying time. An indication is shown by the large increase in Foundation monies for programs already in place and for new programs. In fiscal year 1958, the year before Sputnik, the Foundation’s appropriation had leveled at $40 million. In fiscal 1959, it more than tripled at $134 million, and by 1968 the Foundation budget stood at nearly $500 million. Highlights of this phase of the agency’s history cannot be told in a vacuum, however, but must be placed within the broad context of American political happenings.

The Congress reacted to Sputnik with important pieces of legislation and an internal reorganization of its own committees. Taken together, the action announced that America would meet the Soviet competition.  The National Aeronautics and Space Act, more than any other post-Sputnik law, had great impact on increasing federal funding of scientific research and development. Signed by the president in July 1958, the law created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and gave it responsibility for the technological advancement of the space program. NASA became a major contracting agency and boosted tremendously the extra mural research support of the federal government. NASA not only symbolized America’s response to the Soviet challenge, but also dramatized the federal role in support of science and technology.

Among other things, the National Science Foundation looked at science textbooks used in elementary and secondary schools, and found them badly outdated.  NSF and other organizations spurred the development of new, up-to-date books, and tougher academic curricula in all sciences.

So, when President Obama refers to a “Sputnik moment,” he isn’t referring to a foolish expenditure of money for space junk that bankrupts the nation.  He’s referring to that time in 1957 when America woke up to the fact that education is important to defense, and to preparing for the future, and did a lot about improving education.  Between the G.I. Bill’s education benefits and the NDEA, the U.S. became the world’s leader in science and technology for the latter half of the 20th century.

But we’ve coasted on that 1958 law for too long.  Now we are being lapped by others — India, China, France, Japan, and others — and it’s time to spur progress in education again, to spur progress and great leaps in science.

One gets the impression Palin does not think much of science, nor education, nor especially science education.  She could use some lessons in history, too.  Sputnik didn’t bankrupt the Soviet Union.  Ignoring Sputnik might have bankrupted the U.S.

Santayana’s Ghost is shaking his head in sad disbelief.  And he has a question for Sarah Palin:  Santayana’s Ghost wants to know from Ms. Palin, can the U.S. compete with the Russians?

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers and Pharyngula, and another shake to DailyKos.

More, resources:

Secession? Matthews sounds off, appropriately

December 22, 2010

All that talk about secession, and nullification, and states’ rights? Matthews calls it for what it is.

Maybe we should say he calls it out for what it is.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Secession? Matthews sounds off, appropriately, posted with vodpod

It’s time to stop the talk of tearing our nation apart. If you’ve been talking this smack, stop it.

Santayana’s Ghost keeps a wary eye on all such discussion.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mike Heath sitting in for Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Is this a hoax? Sarah Palin works to make Alan Grayson a legend

March 16, 2010

Here in Texas we haven’t gotten over the loss of Charlie Wilson.  Wilson’s exploits fairly told themselves — you didn’t even need Molly Ivins to write it up for you to make it clear just how funny it was.  And patriotic.

Sarah Palin visited Florida recently, and to hear this account, she’s doing her best to make Alan Grayson, the genuinely-sometimes-rogue Democratic Member of Congress, a legend.

Whose side is she on, again?

Of course, according to this account in Buzz, the blog of the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, the chief author of Grayson’s legend status is Grayson himself.  Do you think Grayson actually wrote this?  Can this account possibly be accurate?

March 14, 2010

Ever outlandish, Alan Grayson tops himself with Sarah Palin rant

Actual campaign e-mail from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando.

Subject: Palin Attacks Grayson; Grayson Applies Calamine Lotion to the Resulting Reddish Skin

On Friday night, Sarah Palin came to Orlando, and attacked Rep. Alan Grayson. This is what she said:

“I got to meet quite a few candidates who are lining up in a contested primary who want to take out Alan Grayson. And I think Alan Grayson — what can you say about Alan Grayson? Piper is with me tonight, so I won’t say anything about Alan Grayson that can’t be said around children. [Good one, Sarah!] But thank you, Florida, for allowing candidates in a contested primary to duke it out over ideas and principles and values, all with the same goal, and that is unseating those who have such a disconnect from the people of America. That’s what the goal is here in this race against Alan Grayson. Please fight hard, and do this for the rest of the country. Fight hard, and send a conservative to Washington, DC.”

Palin, the former half-term Governor, current-nothing and future-even-less, charmed the all-Republican audience with her folksy folksiness and her homespun homespunnery. Atypically, Palin was wearing clothes that she had paid for herself. At the end of the event, she shared her recipe for mooseface pie.In response to Palin’s attack on Rep Grayson, Grayson actually complimented Palin. Grayson praised Palin for having a hand large enough to fit Grayson’s entire name on it. He thanked Palin for alleviating the growing shortage of platitudes in Central Florida.

Grayson added that Palin deserved credit for getting through the entire hour-long program without quitting. Grayson also said that Palin really had mastered Palin’s imitation of Tina Fey imitating Palin. Grayson observed that Palin is the most-intelligent leader that the Republican Party has produced since George W. Bush.

When asked to comment about what effect Palin’s criticism might have, Grayson pointed out, “As the Knave’s horse says in Alice in Wonderland, ‘dogs will believe anything.'” Earlier, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, Grayson said, “I’m sure Palin knows all about politics in Central Florida, since from her porch she can see Winter Park,” which is part of Grayson’s district.

Grayson said that the Alaskan chillbilly was welcome to return to Central Florida anytime, as long as she brings lots of money with her, and spends it. “I look forward to an honest debate with Governor Palin on the issues, in the unlikely event that she ever learns anything about them,” Grayson added, alluding to Politifact’s “liar, liar, pants on fire” evaluation of much of what Palin has said.

Scientists are studying Sarah Palin’s travel between Alaska and Florida carefully. They hope to learn more about the flight patterns of that elusive migratory species, the wild Alaskan dingbat.

Posted by Alex Leary at 07:27:56 PM on March 14, 2010

Dick Tuck’s ghost rubs his hands with glee (and Tuck isn’t even dead yet).  Thousands of Americans outside of Florida wish they could vote for him, or someone very much like him.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sarah Ann Maxwell.

Crib notes

February 10, 2010

Frank Cornish has some thoughts about the issue:

Sarah Palin's notes at the Tea Party convention

Photo from The Guardian

If she [Sarah Palin] wants to be president, fine, it’s a Republic not a monarchy and anyone who wants to throw his or her hat in the ring is welcome to do so.  They just need to raise money, get the supporters, convince the base of her party that if they nominate her then she will be able to push Obama out of the White House on a wave of popular support.  But then, once she is in office she will actually need to do something constructive for the country.  She will need to negotiate, and she will need to know what she is doing and what she is saying and she won’t be able to prepare for the negotiation session by putting a few phrases on her palm to remember  that “Cutting taxes good.”

The President will not be able to sit at a table in Geneva, or a summit in Rejkjavik with the leader of a Muslim nation with crib notes that say “Islam is Terrorism.”  The President will  not be able to sit with the Secretary of Education and say “We need to teach more Bible in Science Class because” (reading palm) “Genesis is the literal word of God.”

Santayana’s Ghost shifts uneasily.

The unbearable lightness of Palin groupies

November 24, 2009

I’m not sure what to make of this.  No amount of dopeslapping or head:desk banging is going to help these people get a clue.

And while I haven’t read Sarah Palin’s book, I’ll wager they won’t get a clue there, either.  Listening to the interviews one wonders whether they would be able to read Palin’s book.  Most of the kids who work hard to fail my classes look like geniuses next to these people.

And then a horrifying thought bubbles up:  Dear God, these people might actually vote!  They probably view Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” sequences with astonished looks and great confusion.  They can’t tell what’s wrong with the answers, and they miss the humor.

I found this piece at Canadian Cynic (from whom I stole the headline) — he confessed he could only stand just under two minutes of this torture.

For Palin groupies, here are a couple of issues to consider while watching this video:

  1. While it’s done by New Left Media, it’s astonishing that anyone could find so many babbling idiots at one gathering, anywhere in America.  This was Ohio?   Yeah, Columbus; I know people in Columbus.  I fear for their lives, now.
  2. Palin has never made any particular defense of the First Amendment, nor of any of the five freedoms it enumerates.  When people say she stands for “freedom to speak,” or “freedom of religion,” they are making stuff up.
  3. “Realness” is not a policy.
  4. Tax cutting isn’t generally a great policy when people aren’t making enough to pay any taxes at all.  Tax cutting contributed to our current mess.
  5. Socialism is not “giving away money.”
  6. Obama’s two books do not portray Marxism in a good light.  They don’t mention Marxism as a potential path for any American, anywhere.
  7. “Czar” is a shorter word for a headline than “Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” or “Special Assistant to the President for Energy Policy.”  People who are called “czars” by headline writers do not have any special powers beyond being right when they speak to the president (among many other advisors).  The real power is held by agency heads, like the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Treasury.  The President’s Cabinet is not a wooden device in which he keeps his dinnerware.
  8. One may always question motives, but on the issue of Obama’s “liking” the military, consider:  He’s appointed many former military people to important positions, including U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, to get good advice from people who know the military well; Obama is the only president since Johnson, maybe since Lincoln, to go meet victims of war as their caskets come back to their families; Obama is the only sitting president ever to visit the graves of victims of a current conflict at Arlington National CemeteryThe lives and welfare of our men and women in uniform has been a singular focus of this president.
  9. Talk of martial law?  Not from Obama.  Not in the administration.  Not in any agency.  Not in Congress.  Only in wingnut dens.
  10. Illegal aliens cannot be naturalized under current law.  No illegal aliens are being naturalized.  When found, they are being deported.
  11. Obama is an American citizen; even the courts are getting testy about that, tossing the crazy lawsuits out with harsh comments for people who are so gullibly dumb.
  12. It’s 700 miles from Sarah Palin’s home to the nearest point in Russia.  “Seeing Russia from the backyard” is a figure of speech, and not accurate in any way.
  13. The Governor of Alaska is not the first defense against any attack from a foreign nation on the U.S., coming through Alaska.  The U.S. Air Force has jurisdiction, and still patrols that area, along with satellite and radar surveillance.  In an attack, the official role of the Governor of Alaska is to duck and stay out of the way.
  14. The Governor of Alaska has no special security clearance that no other governor has.  I’m not sure that any governor has a security clearance as governor.
  15. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is not a player in the protection of polar bears, nor any other animal on listed as threatened or endangered.
  16. No proposal is before Congress to change current law on “partial birth” abortion.  Since there is a law on the topic, it would take a new law, passed by Congress, to change current law.  Obama can’t touch it without Congressional action.  (This is basic civics, you know?)
  17. Are you afraid of what’s happening in America?  After you listen to these yahoos, you may have cause to fear what would happen if their views were to carry an election.

Are people still lining up for lobotomies?  Do they directly from the operating table to a Sarah Palin book signing?

We can hope New Left Media edited out all the cogent, intelligent remarks.  I have this nagging fear that they didn’t have to edit at all.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Palin proposes “death panels”

August 11, 2009

Isn’t that a fair headline?

She must be proposing them — they don’t show up in the health care bill before Congress.

Update: Over at Le-gal Ins-ur-rec-tion, Cornell Law prof William A. Jacobson dug out an article by Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ezekial, a respected bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, and suggests strongly that Palin is just contributing to the the debate.  In the paper (at Lancet, subscription required, but access to this paper is free because it’s so important), Dr. Emanuel and others discuss how to allocate health care resources to provide the greatest healing among many competing, worthy patients, when resources cannot be allocated to all of the worthy patients.  Jacobson said:

Put together the concepts of prognosis and age, and Dr. Emanuel’s proposal reasonably could be construed as advocating the withholding of some level of medical treatment (probably not basic care, but likely expensive advanced care) to a baby born with Down Syndrome. You may not like this implication, but it is Dr. Emanuel’s implication not Palin’s.

Jacobson misses the greater point here, the part the sticks in the craw of those of us who have lived with these issues for 20 years, or 30 or 40:  Dr. Emanuel’s paper discusses how to improve the current system of allocation of resources.

We aren’t debating whether to have “death panels.”  The discussion is on how to make them work more equitably, and how to expand health care resources to make the need for such decisions less frequent. Palin’s point is to defend unfair death panels used often.  She doesn’t know that, and Jacobson should realize that and not defend it.

Here’s the summary at Lancet:

Allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines is a persistent ethical challenge. We evaluate eight simple allocation principles that can be classified into four categories: treating people equally, favouring the worst-off, maximising total benefits, and promoting and rewarding social usefulness. No single principle is sufficient to incorporate all morally relevant considerations and therefore individual principles must be combined into multiprinciple allocation systems. We evaluate three systems: the United Network for Organ Sharing points systems, quality-adjusted life-years, and disability-adjusted life-years. We recommend an alternative system—the complete lives system—which prioritises younger people who have not yet lived a complete life, and also incorporates prognosis, save the most lives, lottery, and instrumental value principles.

He’s working to make the death panels more fair, more accurate, more beneficial.  Palin suggests we should leave the current system in place where Palin’s death panels, though working hard, often are unfair and inaccurate, and waste resources.

In the present system, resources generally are allocated first on the basis of who has money.  De facto, the system writes off to death anyone with a serious disease who is poor.  “Poor” in this case doesn’t mean destitute.  An annual income of $60,000 would put one into the category of “poor” I’m talking about here.

Jacobson said:

These critics, however, didn’t take the time to find out to what Palin was referring when she used the term “level of productivity in society” as being the basis for determining access to medical care. If the critics, who hold themselves in the highest of intellectual esteem, had bothered to do something other than react, they would have realized that the approach to health care to which Palin was referring was none other than that espoused by key Obama health care adviser Dr. Ezekial Emanuel (brother of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel).

I took the time to find out.  I knew in advance.  I’ve sat through hours of legislative hearings on this issue.  In my opinion, Sarah Palin is still a carbuncle on the face of this debate.  Her calling these panels “death panels” is designed to obfuscate the issues and deny the debate Jacobson says we need to have.  She’s providing heat for cheap political gain, not light.  She’s defending death, not life.

Shame on her.  Jacobson should know better, too.  I can all but guarantee that Palin didn’t read Dr. Emanuel’s paper, and didn’t consider the issues at all.  I’ll wager she does not know that hospitals in her state make these decisions regularly.

Under Palin’s way, death panels already exist. Death panels make decisions on life or death every day, and the poor and uninsured are at the bottom of the scale of who gets to live, top of the list of who gets to die.  Uninsured people often get shut out of the process, allocated pain and death from the start, because they lack insurance.

H.R. 3200 doesn’t do much to change this equation, the authors and legislators hoping to avoid cyanide politics like Palin plays; instead the bill encourages programs to help patients be on the “live if I want to live” side of the equation.  These encouraged programs should be bread and butter to legal clinics at most law schools, by the way — great help to the poor in anticipating what to do in life-threatening emergencies.  (I mention that because Jacobson is a clinical law professor — I don’t know which end of the legal clinics he works in, but he should know better anyway.)

We’ve already got the debate, and we already know that Palin’s trying to poison the well and fog up the lecturn, so that health care resources are misallocated.  In reality, this leads to more unnecessary and preventable deaths.

Yes, let’s have the debate:  Palin’s wrong to stand with unfair death decisions.  She’s had her say, and she should be held accountable.

Agree or disagree, invite others to join the discussion:

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Unintentional climate change humor at the Washington Post

July 15, 2009

Despite the woes afflicing the daily press, The Washington Post still makes space for humor, even on its opposite-editorial page.  Here’s a humorous piece on cap-and-trade legislation to fight climate change, published I would guess with an eye to the date of July 14, the anniversary of Bastille Day.  Is it unintentional humor?

Unemployed?  Let ’em eat airplane-hunted caribou soaked in petroleum, eh, Sarah?

Palin’s piece doesn’t ramble as much as her press conference on quitting the governor’s chair, but it makes about an equal amount of sense.  While whining that the current legislative proposal is the wrong way to go, Palin doesn’t hint at what might be the right way to go to reduce air pollution, help prevent global warming, and keep energy available.

Churchill noted that democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by men, except, of course, for all the others.  Obama supports cap-and-trade legislation that is the worst thing we could do, except for anything else proposed, and especially except for doing nothing at all.


Sarah Palin will resign?

July 3, 2009

The only thing that comes to my mind is the old saw about how to survive in a tough neighborhood — act crazier than a hopped-up loon.  No one wants to cross the crazy guy.

Of course, neither will the neighborhood generally unite to elect the crazy guy to the city council.

Palin will resign, she says, at the end of the month.  Yeah, Larry Craig promised to resign, too.

Grandmother’s ghost said I should  check to see whether she’s been to Argentina lately.  Now she’s quietly singing “Don’t cry for me, Wasilla.”

At least she didn’t say “You won’t have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore.”  Since Richard Nixon, that line’s been better reserved for zombie movies.

Say what?

High cost of lipstick

October 24, 2008

Now we know why the McCain campaign has been so sensitive about mentions of lipstick.

At more than $600 a day for what Delbert McClinton would call lipstick, powder and paint, can the U.S. afford Sarah Palin?

Quote of the moment: Book of Proverbs, on winking

October 12, 2008

12 A scoundrel and villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

13 who winks with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,

14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up dissension.

15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

Proverbs 6 (New King James Version)

9 The man of integrity walks securely,
but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

10 He who winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked

Proverbs 10

29 A violent man entices his neighbor
and leads him down a path that is not good.

30 He who winks with his eye is plotting perversity;
he who purses his lips is bent on evil.

Proverbs 16

‘We don’t got no stinkin’ education. We don’t need no stinkin’ education!’

October 12, 2008

My family’s heritages are migrant and education. By that I mean that moving someplace else for a better life, and getting the kids into better schools, has been a tradition running back at least 6 generations. My paternal grandfather was a seaman in the British merchant marine. He married a woman in Guyana, then moved the family for a job in the stockyards in Kansas City, a better place to raise kids. His children became nurses, politicians, law enforcement officers, successful trucking magnates; his grandchildren are doctors, lawyers, nurses, business executives, and teachers — one Rhodes Scholar. I am second-generation American on my father’s side.

My maternal grandfather was a farmer of great skill. He moved from Provo, Utah, to the frontier town of Manila, Utah, then to Delta, then to Salt Lake City, in a quest for riches from farming. Deciding that wouldn’t work, he took a job with Utah Oil Co., a company that was eventually merged into Standard of Indiana and now, British Petroleum. His children all graduated from high school, except for the daughter lost in infancy. Several went on to college. They became construction company owners, contractors and engineers, railroad engineers, small company entrepreneurs and retailers. His grandchildren are physicians, lawyers, business executives, successful salesman, investors — and a couple of good old boys who scrape by (every family has some). My grandfather was second-generation from pioneers, people who moved their families west in wagons, or if necessary, on foot and pushcart. They were people who fought Indians sometimes, and died in those fights and in the migrations. They left legacies in the towns named after them, and in their records as educators — both my maternal grandparents were schoolteachers early on, many of their cousins were college professors, one a college president.

Education in our family was always viewed as a ladder to personal success, to a good life, if not always a key to economic well-being. Especially in the case of my maternal grandparents, there was great assistance from the Latter-day Saint emphasis on education.

If I had to typify their version of the American dream, certainly a huge part of that dream involved the kids getting educated well beyond their parents, and getting a better life as a result.

Education was a part of the American dream from pre-Revolution days. Foreign visitors often commented that in America the crudest of men read the newspapers and discussed politics with vigor and earnestness absent in other nations. Education was the cornerstone of freedom, in the view of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and as demonstrated by Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington.

Sometime in the 1980s, I think, the tide changed. Certainly the Reagan Revolution had something to do with it. Cuts in Pell Grants, the grants that got thousands of kids into college, were a signal that education was no longer valued as it once was. One by one the federal government stripped away some of the most important building blocks of our modern society, things like the GI Bill, which had provided America with a highly-trained, highly-skilled corps of engineers in the 1950s. Those engineers invented the infrastructure to our nation that now crumbles, and they invented the industrial processes, and sometimes the industries, that we now use daily. Transistors, which make computers possible on the scale we have today, were invented and developed into powerful “cogs” for machines that do what had not even been dreamed of 40 years earlier.

I can’t tell you exactly when the tide turned, but I can tell you when I first realized it had. After staffing the Senate Labor Committee for most of a decade, I escaped to the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, a good place for a budding environmental lawyer to work, I thought at the time. The chairman of the commission was Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander (now senator from Tennessee). Lamar had two big projects in Tennessee that he pinned his hopes for the state upon. Both were influenced in no small part by his work trying to recruit auto manufacturers to build production facilities in Tennessee.

Nissan and Toyota had levelled with him: Tennessee looked good, but for two things. First, there were few good ways to get products like automobiles out of the state to markets they needed to be sold in. Second, Tennessee’s education system wasn’t providing the highly-educated workers the car makers needed to run highly-sophisticated machinery in a fast-moving, just-in-time inventory system that produced high quality products at lowest cost.

Alexander responded with one initiative to build good roads out of Tennessee to major markets. He called that initiative “Good Roads.” He responded to the education needs with a program designed to plug money and support into Tennessee schools to improve education, bolstered by the report of the Excellence in Education Committee in 1983. He called that initiative “Good Schools.” In retrospect, those were good places to focus development efforts. Tennessee got at least one Japanese company to locate a plant there, and snagged the much-desired Saturn production plant of General Motors.

The Commission had some hearings in Tennessee. I was along on one of those hearings, and I was with Alexander when he was met by a Tennessee constituent who just wanted to talk to the governor. Alexander, being from Tennessee, hoping to keep his election chances good, and being a good governor, agreed to give the man and his wife a few minutes — I watched. The constituent complained about all the changes coming to Tennessee. He complained about the costs of the roads, and the costs of improving the schools. He worried about taxes, because, he said, he didn’t make a lot of money. Alexander assured him that his taxes would not rise much if any at all, and that especially the education part of the program would benefit all Tennesseans. “Do you have children?” Alexander asked the man.

He responded that he had two kids, both in their early teens. And then he said something that just stunned me: “You know, I’ve gotten by pretty good with my 8th grade education all these years, and I don’t see why my kids need to have any more than that. I’m not sure we need Good Schools.”

To Lamar Alexander’s everlasting credit — or shame, if you’re very cynical — he didn’t strike the man down. Alexander spent a few more minutes explaining the benefits the man’s children would have from better education, and he closed off telling about his meetings with car company executives who made it clear that they wanted to hire only good students who had graduated from good high schools, and maybe who had enough college that they could do the complex mathematics to run big machines. Alexander asked the man for his name and address, said his opinion was very important to him, and promised to get back in touch.

I suspect Alexander did contact the man later. His office tended to work very well on such matters as constituent contacts.

But I’ll wager he didn’t change the man’s opinion about education.

Sometime in the mid-1980s many Americans began to look on education as unnecessary, as expensive, and as “elitist” in a new, derogatory sense. Instead of education being something blue-collar workers hoped their children would earn, it became something blue collar workers felt oppressed by, somehow.

From that commission, I moved to the U.S. Department of Education, in Bill Bennett’s regime. Over the next few months I observed the same anti-education phenomenon playing out in debates about school reform in dozens of states. Then I got out of government and into private business, where education was demanded, and I only occasionally worried about the drama I had seen.

The past few weeks, especially since the nomination of Sarah Palin, have heightened my fears about the loss of the shared dream of better education for our children. It was part of the American psyche, woven into the fabric of our government from the “Old Deluder Satan” law in Massachusetts, which required towns of any size to set up some kind of school, through the Northwest Ordinances, which set aside sections of every township to be used for the benefit of public education, through the settlement of the west where nearly every town with a kid in it built a school — schools were built in Utah before many pioneers had houses to get them through the winter — through the dramatic rise of public education that helped knock out child labor, and that provided us with truly American armies and navies to get us out on top of two world wars.

Now comes conservative columnist David Brooks to explain how this process has been aided and abetted, if not intended, by the Republican Party, “The Class War Before Palin.”

In 1976, in a close election, Gerald Ford won the entire West Coast along with northeastern states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. In 1984, Reagan won every state but Minnesota.

But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.

Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.

What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.

It’s a sobering piece. Please read it.

We remain a nation of migrants, a nation that migrates. We remain a nation that desires economic success and is willing to move to get it. Have we lost the good sense to remember that education improves our chances at success? Does Brooks explain the entire motivation for the War on Education?

What do you think?

Palin slashes Special Olympics Budget: Accurate statement still unfair?

September 24, 2008

This is how bad it is:  Even accurate statements about Gov. Sarah Palin are called unfair by McCain campaign operatives and hard-shell, stiff-necked partisans.

Conservatives are complaining about media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin.  For example, they say, she is accused of cutting funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics in half.  Not fair they say, and they offer the actual figures:  The budget for Special Olympics for 2007 from the Alaska legislature was $650,000.  Palin used her line-item veto, and cut the funding to $275,000.

Hello?  Half of $650,000 would be $325,000.  Palin cut the Special Olympics budget by 58%. Last time I looked at the math tables, 58% was more than half of 100%.

So, why would it not be fair to say that Palin cut the funding by half?  She cut it by more than half.

Oh, no, the conservatives say:  ‘You have to let us jigger the numbers first — the final total, after Palin cut it, was still more than the previous year’s allocation from the state.’

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media takes up the conservatives’ cudgel, that it’s unfair to Sarah Palin to report her budget cuts accurately (you know, not even Dave Barry could make this stuff up).

And then Glenn Reynolds joins the morning howl, complaining that “main stream media” isn’t interested in debunking the “rumor.”

Excuse me?  Why should anyone be interested in “debunking” a “rumor” which is, as the sources indicate and the conservatives’ own research demonstrates, neither rumor nor error, but hard fact?

If you needed a demonstration that conservatives cannot count, or that they will not count accurately when only honor is at stake, these sorts of stories will do.

Below the fold, for the sake of accuracy, you’ll find a longish excerpt from Charlie Martin’s analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: