"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin Politics Pander To The Culture Wars!

Palin's Speech Tactic: Substitute Cultural Symbols for Actual Policies
Robert Kuttner, AlterNet. September 4, 2008.In this strategy, every Democratic misstep is inflated into a cultural parable, while gaping holes in the Republican story are neatly sidestepped.

So now we understand what John McCain's handlers were up to: Intensify the culture wars, and once again use cultural symbols as substitutes for policies. In particular, use Hockey Mom Sarah Palin to change the subject from why regular Americans are hurting in the pocketbook to why Palin is a more regular American than Barack Obama. Will the Democrats change it back? Whether they do will decide the election.

Last night, we learned once again how Republicans keep managing to turn seemingly weak candidates and weaker economic circumstances into instruments of political victory: They are superb at creating master narratives that make Democrats, liberals, and "the media" into the cultural enemies of ordinary people.

Those who view this as an overly narrow and outmoded Rovian tactic of throwing raw (moose) meat at the conservative base miss the point. The strategy of energizing the base is leveraged into using cultural symbols to reach out to everyone else who is frustrated with how little they get back from the economy and the government--not just hard core right-to-life women in Missouri and Oklahoma, but downwardly mobile white men in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Readers Write: What the Palin Pick Means for America
Tana Ganeva, Isaac Fitzgerald, AlterNet. September 4, 2008.AlterNet readers weigh in on McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin, the many skeletons in her closet, and what it all means for the country.

So far, Republicans have toed the party line on Sarah Palin, obediently parroting the McCain campaign's tenuous claims about her "experience" and "qualifications" to be vice president. At least publicly. A microphone mishap today during an MSNBC news segment revealed what some conservatives really think about the latest addition to the Republican ticket. At the end of the segment the cameras stopped running, but the pundits' microphones stayed on and caught former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan and former McCain adviser Mike Murphy excoriating the McCain campaign for picking Palin. When asked if Palin is the most qualified for the job, Noonan stated in no uncertain terms "No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives." Murphy went on to label the pick "gimmicky" and "cynical."

"It's over," concluded Noonan.

Noonan's prognosis is not surprising considering the alarming information about Palin that has surfaced since her nomination -- not just the soap opera stuff about her family life, but serious issues that call into question her skills, judgment and preparedness for national office.

The past day has brought even more bad news for Palin. Consortium News reports that Palin ran her campaign for lieutenant governor from her mayoral office -- a clear violation of campaign ethics laws.

Over the past two days AlterNet has compiled two lists of revelations about Palin, and our readers, much like Noonan and Murphy, have some pretty strong opinions. Many readers have weighed in on our comment boards, touching on everything from sexism to religion. From those who questioned her preparedness to those who think her nomination is an impressive Rovian tactic, here's what our readers had to say about the GOP's VP pick.

Many point out that Palin makes sense on the Republican ticket, since she shares her party's penchant for inconsistency and hypocrisy on matters of morality and religion.

A Telling Palin Scandal: Her Environmental Record
Leonard Doyle, Independent UK. September 10, 2008.Sarah Palin has an environmental policy so toxic it would make George W. Bush blush.

Seen from the air, Sarah Palin's state is an environmental wonderland. From Anchorage to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there is a vast landscape of snow-capped peaks, fjords, crystal glaciers, coastal lagoons, wide river deltas and tundra.

The guardian of this wilderness -- and Governor of Alaska -- has, this week, become one of the most recognizable faces in the world. But behind her beaming smile and wholesome family values is a woman aligned with the big oil and coal firms that are racing to exploit Alaska's vast energy reserves. In the short term, that has bought her popularity at home.

"I love the woman," the pilot on our flight shouts over the noise of the engine, "especially what she wants to do with oil, we just have to drill more, there is no alternative. What's the point of leaving it all in the ground?"

It is a stance that guaranteed John McCain's new running mate a rapturous reception at the Republican convention this week where the response to the coming energy crisis was a chant of "drill, baby, drill."

But the woman who could soon be a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the United States presidency has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush.

Mr McCain has stressed he is concerned about global warming and has come out against drilling in the Arctic reserve. But, in recent weeks, he has wobbled on the issue. And environmentalists are describing Mrs Palin, who denies climate change is man-made, as "either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading."

She wants to start drilling. She wants to block US moves to list the polar bear as an endangered species. And she has allowed big game hunters to shoot Alaska's bears and wolves from low-flying planes.

The 44-year-old governor says a federal government decision to protect the polar bear will cripple energy development offshore. As a result, she is suing the Bush administration, which ruled the polar bear is endangered and needs protection.

8 More Stories About Palin the Public Needs to Know
AlterNet Staff, AlterNet. September 10, 2008.As she enters her second week as VP candidate, more shocking information emerges about Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin's Big Bad Creationism
Nathan Schneider, AlterNet. September 9, 2008.People are whispering that McCain's VP pick doesn't believe in evolution. But how much would this really affect policy?

When John McCain announced his intention to make a freshman -- and female -- Alaska Governor the next vice president on the eve of the Republican convention, the liberal media conspiracy went predictably haywire. The litany of revelations about Sarah Palin only grows as time goes on. And though it has been overshadowed by teenage pregnancies and doctored photographs, one question has got the lattes shaking in a great many progressive hands: is Sarah Palin a creationist?

The Los Angeles Times called her that outright. Newsweek, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times were more cautious, reporting that Palin supports teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. But even this isn't quite right. While, in a 2006 gubernatorial debate , she may have declared herself "a proponent of teaching both," she backed down somewhat in a subsequent interview: "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum." All she's asking, it seems, is that students not be suspended for asking a question about God.

Palin went on to say that her father was a science teacher and taught her about "his theories of evolution." When pushed for her own conclusions, she admitted only, "I believe we have a creator." Sorting through her equivocations, creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute are still reluctant to declare her one of their own.

In contrast, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made their positions on evolution clear, even while reaching out to religious voters. Clinton is "shocked" by creationism advocates. "One of our gifts from God," she adds, "is the ability to reason." For Obama, "it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry."

Palin, Huckabee and the GOP's 'Hick Factor'
Sarah Posner, AlterNet. September 9, 2008.Why did the GOP choose a political neophyte to appeal to the religious right over a seasoned politico? Fried squirrels and economic populism.

At the heart of the Republican Party's marketing of Palin to the general public is that she is a Real American Mom. Even though she attends deeply conservative evangelical churches with theologies that are alien and even alarming to outsiders, she is portrayed as someone whose life is just like yours, who understands the daily turmoil faced by Real American Families, and who will therefore engage in a pitched battle to save you from unskilled community activists who operate in the nether reaches of Real America doling out government handouts to lazy welfare queens. (Yes, as conservative activist Richard Viguerie was not shy to announce, "cranky conservatives" were responsible for McCain picking "the next Ronald Reagan" as his running mate.)

The heart of Huckabee's appeal also was his regular-ness, with his oft-repeated tales of using scratchy Lava soap as a child, his mother's childhood in a house with a dirt floor, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing and the fact that he was the first one in his family to graduate from high school. He said that his family liked eating fried squirrel. He was, as former Bush adviser Dan Bartlett admitted to the heart of the business base of the Republican Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a hick.

That's part of Real America too, but it's the Real America the GOP wants to hide from public view, because it's the Real America it has so completely screwed. It has cultivated its votes with racist identity politics and phony paeans to Jesus. It has faked a love of cultural habits like NASCAR and disdained arugula-eating elites, all while the corporate lobbyists who wrote the laws that have sunk these Real Americans into further economic despair dine at Washington's finest restaurants. Mooseburgers might even push arugula salads off the menus in those haunts if McCain and Palin are elected, but admitting you've eaten squirrel is probably more embarrassing than having to go to your lesbian sister's wedding.

McCain's Palin Gambit: Are Americans Weary of the Culture Wars?
Sanho Tree, AlterNet. September 6, 2008.Sarah Palin's acceptance speech was heavy on rhetoric but light on substance. But ginning up the culture war may not work this time around.

After Sarah Palin's acceptance of her party's nomination to the GOP ticket, the pundits couldn't stop praising her speech as "red meat" for the Republican base. If that was considered a red meat speech, why am I left feeling so undernourished? It was almost entirely devoid of policy substance and focused instead on character and personality.

This was not an oversight. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis has already clearly announced his strategy for the rest of the campaign: "This election is not about issues. ... This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." In other words, they are going back to the culture war well for more buckets of slime. This kind of red meat, however, offers little protein and suffers from the proverbial Chinese food complaint: An hour later you're hungry again, for something more substantive.

The culture war strategy tends to get better traction when voters are relatively content and prosperous. It's another matter when people realize the treasury has been looted by Republican cronies; their family members have been sent off to a pointless war; their homes are about to be foreclosed; they can't afford the gas to look for a new job; and hurricanes amplified by global warming are backed up across the Atlantic like the landing pattern at O'Hare. At that point, hope is more filling and satisfying than sarcasm and bitterness. When your country is going down the drain, Obama's "happy talk" trumps McCain's (and Karl Rove's) "silly season." Palin's convention afterglow was more of a sugar rush that will wear off quickly than it was a hearty meal that could sustain the party through November.

GOP's Plan for Palin: Reignite the Culture Wars
Jay Rosen, Huffington Post. September 5, 2008.Republicans will try to spin Palin's shortcoming into strengths, by revving up the culture wars.

John McCain's convention gambit is now a culture war strategy. It depends for its execution on conflict with journalists, and with bloggers (the "angry left," Bush called them last night) along with confusion between and among the press, the blogosphere, and the Democratic party. It revives cultural memory: the resentment narrative after Chicago '68 but with the angry left more distributed. It dispenses with issues and seeks a trial of personalities. It bets big time on backlash.

At the center of the strategy is the flashpoint candidacy of Sarah Palin, a charismatic figure around whom the war can be brought to scale, as it were. In fact the Politico is reporting just that: Palin reignites culture wars.

I have no idea if the ignition system will work; nor do I claim that "this is what they were thinking" when they made the decision to nominate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Other interpretations may turn out to be truer than mine. This post is my look at the bets McCain and company seem to be placing. I am not recommending the strategy. I am not predicting it will succeed. I think it was improvised, like my description here ...

The storm around Sarah Palin overtakes the story of the Republican convention and merges with it, like a smaller but stronger company taking over a larger but troubled enterprise. Behind the storm a "wave narrative" builds as her appointment generates headlines on multiple fronts. The irresistible force of fact-fed controversy meets the immovable enthusiasm for Palin as cultural object: charismatic everywoman straight from the imaginary of conservative America.

The basic strategy is: don't fight the "crisis" narrative. Rather, do things that bring it on; and in that crisis re-divide the electorate hoping to grab the bigger half.

The GOP Has Turned a Major Election into an Episode of the Mommy Wars
Judith Warner, The New York Times. September 7, 2008.The Sarah Palin saga has turned an election that should have been about economic and foreign policy into a culture war of the Real vs. the Elites.

It turns out there was something more nauseating than the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate this past week. It was the tone of the acclaim that followed her acceptance speech.

"Drill, baby, drill," clapped John Dickerson, marveling at Palin's ability to speak and smile at the same time as an indication of her unexpected depths and unsuspected strengths. "It was clear Palin was having fun, and it's hard to have fun if you're scared or a lightweight," he wrote in Slate.

The Politico praised her charm and polish as antidotes to her lack of foreign policy experience: "Palin's poised and flawless performance evoked roars of applause from delegates who earlier this week might have worried that the surprise pick and newcomer to the national stage may not be up to the job."

"She had a great night. I thought she had a very skillfully written, and very skillfully delivered speech," Joe Biden said, shades of "articulate and bright and clean" threatening a reappearance. (For a full roundup of these comments go here.)

Thus began the official public launch of our country's now most-prominent female politician. The condescension -- damning with faint praise -- was reminiscent of the more overt misogyny of Samuel Johnson.

"A woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs," the wit once observed. "It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all."

Palin sounded, at times, like she was speaking a foreign language as she gave voice to the beautifully crafted words that had been prepared for her on Wednesday night.

But that wasn't held against her. Thanks to the level of general esteem that greeted her ascent to the podium, it seems we've all got to celebrate the fact that America's Hottest Governor (Princess of the Fur Rendezvous 1983, Miss Wasilla 1984) could speak at all.

Could there be a more thoroughgoing humiliation for America's women?

You are not, I think, supposed now to say this. Just as, I am sure, you are certainly not supposed to feel that having Sarah Palin put forth as the Republicans' first female vice presidential candidate is just about as respectful a gesture toward women as was John McCain's suggestion, last month, that his wife participate in a topless beauty contest.

It's About Time Working Women Get Straight Answers From John McCain
Carole Joffe, Gloria Feldt, AlterNet. September 8, 2008.John McCain's choice of Palin only intensifies concerns about his responsiveness to serious issues facing most working women.

Now that the Republican National Convention balloons have fallen, let's get down to some concrete policy talk with John McCain.

The frenzied media circus surrounding McCain's choice for running mate, Sarah Palin, surfaced many questions, some of an unduly personal nature. But some of those personal matters, like her 17-year old daughter's pregnancy, raise legitimate questions about McCain's policy agenda.

We take seriously Barack Obama's eloquent plea that candidates' families -- and especially their children -- be allowed a zone of privacy. And we feel compassion for the two teenagers whose personal lives are being publicly dissected literally around the globe. But any candidate's positions on policy matters -- some of which in this case bear directly on the issues surrounding sex, pregnancy, childbearing and family well-being -- are most certainly fair game for discussion in this election. They affect every American, after all.

So while we agree that Bristol and Levi should be left in peace, John McCain's choice of Palin only intensifies our concerns about his responsiveness to serious issues facing most working women.

Yes, yes, we know that Sarah Palin is herself a working woman. A working woman on steroids, some might argue -- given that she went back to work three days after giving birth to her son, Trig. We're an advocate and academic, respectively, with long-standing passions for economic and reproductive justice for women. We've come to understand the direct and profound interconnections between the two. There's good reason why the words "barefoot and pregnant" have been so frequently joined together historically.

It's positive news that Palin's candidacy has jettisoned these policy matters squarely into the public eye. For we haven't heard anyone question McCain from that intersection of women's lives during the hours of airtime, barrels of ink and glut of blogposts that have been given over to the Palin family's predicament. So we are asking him these questions now, while the glare of voter interest shines light on them:

First, John McCain, do you think women belong in the paid labor force?

Lipstick on a Wing NutKatha Pollitt Ten tough questions for Sarah Palin. Really tough.

Palin's Ploy for Young VotersCora Currier She's not cool enough to make up for the fact that the GOP has nothing to offer young voters.

Beauty and the BeastJoAnn Wypijewski The old warrior deploys sex as a weapon to recharge his potency and his party's fortunes. Is there a trap here?

Media Skews PollsAri Berman Parts of the media are so obsessed with the 'Palin bounce' that they're ignoring or mislabeling the very facts they claim to cite.

On the September 11 edition of MSNBC Live, Hill contributor and Republican strategist John Feehery claimed that "when the Obama campaign and when the left bloggers attack [Gov.] Sarah Palin, it's kind of attacking motherhood and apple pie and everything good about America." Feehery also asserted that Palin "represents everyday America, normal America."

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the September 11 edition of MSNBC Live:

MITCHELL: But John Feehery, what about Sarah Palin? Is she now giving John McCain opportunities in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan -- well, maybe not Pennsylvania. That would be perhaps too big a stretch for the Republicans. But Michigan and Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, some of these states, holding Virginia. Does she appeal to women and to blue-collar voters and fill in that gap on the Republican side?

FEEHERY: Absolutely. She not only energizes the base, she brings in new voters for Republicans. You've seen the polls. White women are flocking to John McCain and Sarah Palin. They love Sarah Palin because she represents everyday America, normal America. And I -- you know, frankly, when the Obama campaign and when the left bloggers attack Sarah Palin, it's kind of attacking motherhood and apple pie and everything good about America. I think it's a big mistake for Obama to do that.

And that's energizing not only the Republican base, but bringing in Reagan Democrats. It's really good for the McCain campaign, and I do think that Pennsylvania is still within striking distance. Maybe I'm crazy. But I do think that she energizes everywhere in between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in between there, and also in the Pittsburgh suburbs. She's a very appealing candidate.

You Can Guess The Results…2/3s Yes we torture, and Yes its’ Okay!