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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


By George Friedman
Oct. 1, 2008

Classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo referred to their discipline as "political economy." Smith's great work, "The Wealth of Nations," was written by the man who held the chair in moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. This did not seem odd at the time and is not odd now. Economics is not a freestanding discipline, regardless of how it is regarded today. It is a discipline that can only be understood when linked to politics, since the wealth of a nation rests on both these foundations, and it can best be understood by someone who approaches it from a moral standpoint, since economics makes significant assumptions about both human nature and proper behavior.

The modern penchant to regard economics as a discrete science parallels the belief that economics is a distinct sphere of existence -- at its best when it is divorced from political and even moral considerations. Our view has always been that the economy can only be understood and forecast in the context of politics, and that the desire to separate the two derives from a moral teaching that Smith would not embrace. Smith understood that the word "economy" without the adjective "political" did not describe reality. We need to bear Smith in mind when we try to understand the current crisis.

Societies have two sorts of financial crises. The first sort is so large it overwhelms a society's ability to overcome it, and the ociety sinks deeper into dysfunction and poverty. In the second sort, the society has the resources to manage the situation -- albeit at a collective price. Societies that can manage the crisis have two broad strategies. The first strategy is to allow the market to solve the problem over time. The second strategy is to have the state organize the resources of society to speed up the resolution. The market solution is more efficient over time, producing better outcomes and disciplining financial decision-making in the long run. But the market solution can create massive collateral damage, such as high unemployment, on the way to the superior resolution. The state-organized resolution creates inequities by not sufficiently punishing poor economic decisions, and creates long-term inefficiencies that are costly. But it has the virtue of being quicker and mitigating collateral damage.

Three Views of the Financial Crisis

There is a first group that argues the current financial crisis already has outstripped available social resources, so that there is no market or state solution. This group asserts that the imbalances created in the financial markets are so vast that the market solution must consist of an extended period of depression. Any attempt by the state to appropriate social resources to solve the financial imbalance not only will be ineffective, it will prolong the crisis even further, although perhaps buying some minor alleviation up front. The thinking goes that the financial crisis has been building for years and the economy can no longer be protected from it, and that therefore an extended period of discipline and austerity -- beginning with severe economic dislocations -- is inevitable. This is not a majority view, but it is widespread; it opposes government action on the grounds that the government will make a terrible situation worse.

A second group argues that the financial crisis has not outstripped the ability of society -- organized by the state -- to manage, but that it has outstripped the market's ability to manage it. The financial markets have been the problem, according to this view, and have created a massive liquidity crisis. The economy -- as distinct from the financial markets -- is relatively sound, but if the liquidity crisis is left unsolved, it will begin to affect the economy as a whole.

Since the financial markets are unable to solve the problem in a time frame that will not dramatically affect the economy, the state must mobilize resources to impose a solution on the financial markets, introducing liquidity as the preface to any further solutions. This group believes, like the first group, that the financial crisis could have profound economic ramifications.

But the second group also believes it is possible to contain the consequences. This is the view of the Bush administration, the congressional leadership, the Federal Reserve Board and most economic leaders.

There is a third group that argues that the state mobilization of resources to save the financial system is in fact an attempt to save financial institutions, including many of those whose imprudence and avarice caused the current crisis. This group divides in two. The first subgroup agrees the current financial crisis could have profound economic consequences, but believes a solution exists that would bring liquidity to the financial markets without rescuing the culpable.

The second subgroup argues that the threat to the economic system is overblown, and that the financial crisis will correct itself without major state intervention but with some limited implementation of new regulations.

The first group thus views the situation as beyond salvation, and certainly rejects any political solution as incapable of addressing the issues from the standpoint of magnitude or competence.

This group is out of the political game by its own rules, since for it the situation is beyond the ability of politics to make a difference -- except perhaps to make the situation worse.

The second group represents the establishment consensus, which is that the markets cannot solve the problem but the federal government can -- provided it acts quickly and decisively enough.

The third group spoke Sept. 29, when a coalition of Democrats and Republicans defeated the establishment proposal. For a myriad of reasons, some contradictory, this group opposed the bailout. The reasons ranged from moral outrage at protecting the interests of the perpetrators of this crisis to distrust of a plan implemented by this presidential administration, from distrust of the amount of power ceded the Treasury Department of any administration to a feeling the problem could be managed. It was a diverse group that focused on one premise -- namely, that delay would not lead to economic catastrophe.

From Economic to Political Problem

The problem ceased to be an economic problem months ago. More precisely, the economic problem has transformed into a political problem. Ever since the collapse of Bear Stearns, the primary actor in the drama has been the federal government and the Federal Reserve, with its powers increasing as the nature of potential market outcomes became more and more unsettling. At a certain point, the size of the problem outstripped the legislated resources of the Treasury and the Fed, so they went to Congress for more power and money. This time, they were blocked.

It is useful to reflect on the nature of the crisis. It is a tale that can be as complicated as you wish to make it, but it is in essence simple and elegant. As interest rates declined in recent years, investors -- particularly conservative ones -- sought to increase their return without giving up safety and liquidity. They wanted something for nothing, and the market obliged. They were given instruments ultimately based on mortgages on private homes. They therefore had a very real asset base -- a house -- and therefore had collateral. The value of homes historically had risen, and therefore the value of the assets appeared secured. Financial instruments of increasing complexity eventually were devised, which were bought by conservative investors. In due course, these instruments were bought by less conservative investors, who used them as collateral for borrowing money. They used this money to buy other instruments in a pyramiding scheme that rested on one premise: the existence of houses whose value remained stable or grew.

Unfortunately, housing prices declined. A period of uncertainty about the value of the paper based on home mortgages followed. People claimed to be confused as to what the real value of the paper was. In fact, they were not so much confused as deceptive. They didn't want to reveal that the value of the paper had declined dramatically. At a certain point, the facts could no longer be hidden, and vast amounts of value evaporated -- taking with them not only the vast pyramids of those who first created the instruments and then borrowed heavily against them, but also the more conservative investors trying to put their money in a secure space while squeezing out a few extra points of interest. The decline in housing prices triggered massive losses of money in the financial markets, as well as reluctance to lend based on uncertainty of values. The result was a liquidity crisis, which simply meant that a lot of people had gone broke and that those who still had money weren't lending it -- certainly not to financial institutions.

The S&L Precedent

Such financial meltdowns based on shifts in real estate prices are not new. In the 1970s, regulations on savings and loans (S&L's) had changed. Previously, S&Ls had been limited to lending in the consumer market, primarily in mortgages for homes. But the regulations shifted, and they became allowed to invest more broadly. The assets of these small banks, of which there were thousands, were attractive in that they were a pool of cash available for investment. The S&Ls subsequently went into commercial real estate, sometimes with their old management, sometimes with new management who had bought them, as their depositors no longer held them.

The infusion of money from the S&Ls drove up the price of commercial real estate, which the institutions regarded as stable and conservative investments, not unlike private homes. They did not take into account that their presence in the market was driving up the price of commercial real estate irrationally, however, or that commercial real estate prices fluctuate dramatically. As commercial real estate values started to fall, the assets of the S&L's contracted until most failed. An entire sector of the financial system simply imploded, crushing shareholders and threatening a massive liquidity crisis. By the late 1980s, the entire sector had melted down, and in 1989 the federal government intervened.

The federal government intervened in that crisis as it had in several crises large and small since 1929. Using the resources at its disposal, the federal government took over failed S&L's and their real estate investments, creating the Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC). The amount of assets acquired was about $394 billion dollars in 1989 -- or 6.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) -- making it larger than the $700 billion dollars -- or 5 percent of GDP -- being discussed now. Rather than flooding the markets with foreclosed commercial property, creating havoc in the market and further destroying assets, the RTC held the commercial properties off the market, maintaining their price artificially. They then sold off the foreclosed properties in a multiyear sequence that recovered much of what had been spent acquiring the properties. More important, it prevented the decline in commercial real estate from accelerating and creating liquidity crises throughout the entire economy.

Many of those involved in S&Ls were ruined. Others managed to use the RTC system to recover real estate and to profit. Still others came in from the outside and used the RTC system to build fortunes. The RTC is not something to use as moral lesson for your children. But the RTC managed to prevent the transformation of a financial crisis into an economic meltdown. It disrupted market operations by introducing large amounts of federal money to bring liquidity to the system, then used the ability of the federal government -- not shared by individuals -- to hold on to properties. The disruption of the market's normal operations was designed to avoid a market outcome. By holding on to the assets, the federal government was able to create an artificial market in real estate, one in which supply was constrained by the government to manage the value of commercial real estate. It did not work perfectly -- far from it. But it managed to avoid the most feared outcome, which was a depression.

There have been many other federal interventions in the markets, such as the bailout of Chrysler in the 1970s or the intervention into failed Third World bonds in the 1980s. Political interventions in the American (or global) marketplace are hardly novel. They are used to control the consequences of bad decisions in the marketplace. Though they introduce inefficiencies and frequently reward foolish decisions, they achieve a single end: limiting the economic consequences of these decisions on the economy as a whole. Good idea or not, these interventions are institutionalized in American economic life and culture. The ability of Americans to be shocked at the thought of bailouts is interesting, since they are not all that rare, as judged historically.

The RTC showed the ability of federal resources -- using taxpayer dollars -- to control financial processes. In the end, the S&L story was simply one of bad decisions resulting in a shortage of dollars. On top of a vast economy, the U.S. government can mobilize large amounts of dollars as needed. It therefore can redefine the market for money. It did so in 1989 during the S&L crisis, and there was a general acceptance it would do so again Sept. 29.

The RTC Model and the Road Ahead

As discussed above, the first group argues the current crisis is so large that it is beyond the federal government's ability to redefine. More precisely, it would argue that the attempt at intervention would unleash other consequences -- such as weakening dollars and inflation -- meaning the cure would be worse than the disease. That may be the case this time, but it is difficult to see why the consequences of this bailout would be profoundly different from the RTC bailout -- namely, a normal recession that would probably happen anyway.

The debate between the political leadership and those opposing its plan is more interesting. The fundamental difference between the RTC and the current bailout was institutional. Congress created a semi-independent agency operating under guidelines to administer the S&L bailout.

The proposal that was defeated Sept. 29 would have given the secretary of the Treasury extraordinary personal powers to dispense the money. Some also argued that the return on the federal investment was unclear, whereas in the RTC case it was fairly clear. In the end, all of this turned on the question of urgency. The establishment group argued that time was running out and the financial crisis was about to morph into an economic crisis. Those voting against the proposal argued there was enough time to have a more defined solution.

There was obviously a more direct political dimension to all this. Elections are just more than a month a way, and the seat of every U.S. representative is in contest. The public is deeply distrustful of the establishment, and particularly of the idea that the people who caused the crisis might benefit from the bailout. The congressional opponents of the plan needed to demonstrate sensitivity to public opinion. Having done so, if they force a redefinition of the bailout plan, an additional 13 votes can likely be found to pass the measure.

But the key issue is this: Are the resources of the United States sufficient to redefine financial markets in such a way as to manage the outcome of this crisis, or has the crisis become so large that even the resources of a $14 trillion economy mobilized by the state can't do the job? If the latter is true, then all other discussions are irrelevant. Events will take their course, and nothing can be done. But if that is not true, that means that politics defines the crisis, as it has other crisis. In that case, the federal overnment can marshal the resources needed to redefine the markets and the key decision-makers are not on Wall Street, but in Washington. Thus, when the chips are down, the state trumps the markets.

All of this may not be desirable, efficient or wise, but as an empirical fact, it is the way American society works and has worked for a long time. We are seeing a case study in it -- including the possibility the state will refuse to act, creating an interesting and profound situation. This would allow the market alone to define the outcome of the crisis. This has not been allowed in extreme crises in 75 years, and we suspect this tradition of intervention will not be broken now. The federal government will act in due course, and an institutional resolution taking power from the Treasury and placing it in the equivalent of the RTC will emerge. The question is how much time remains before massive damage is done to the economy.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Copyright 2008 Stratfor.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back In the U.S.S.R.

by David Sirota
Creators Syndicate
Sept. 26, 2008

When I worked for then-Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the late 1990s, Washington was in the panting throes of a deregulatory orgy. Many lampooned my boss's opposition to the grotesquerie, and his notoriety as the only self-described socialist in Congress. Nobody guessed that a few years later, our country would become the globe's newest U.S.S.R.: The United States' Socialist Republic.

Yes, a red flag is rising over the Capitol, only the laborer's hammer and sickle has been replaced by a baron's top hat and monocle. America is Amerika, and throughout Washington a socialist rallying cry echoes: Politicians and lobbyists of the world unite! — unite to rescue Wall Street capitalists with a $700 billion taxpayer bailout.

Though socialism seems new in the U.S., it isn't. Using public resources and government power to control the economy is as Amerikan as the Pentagon and the Patent Office. And the problem is not socialism itself, but our uniquely destructive version of it. Amerika's is not the democratic socialism of many countries. Ours is kleptocratic socialism — the objective is theft.

Unlike European comrades, our socialists rarely mandate returns on taxpayer investments. The same 19th century socialism that gave the Mountain West to railroad companies became a 20th century socialism subsidizing oil and drug industry profits. Now, our 21st century socialists propose giving financial industry con men the national credit card, confirming Marx's theory that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.

Bolivian socialists nationalize to combat wealth stratification, remove greed from human necessities like energy, and allow the public to own the means of producing valuable commodities. Amerika's socialists nationalize to preserve inequality and force the public to own the means of worthless production. Most recently, taxpayers' $85 billion will purchase bankrupt AIG and its means of producing paper, all to let speculators continue profiteering off the human need for housing.

Close a factory in socialist Denmark, and workers get immediate government help, along with their free health care.

Shutter one in Ohio, and workers get nothing, except politicians saying their jobs are never returning and national health care is "unaffordable." But if investment banks teeter, those same politicians quickly find billions for bailouts.

Of course, socialist revolutions can share key traits.

Many feature aspiring dictators like Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Goldman Sachs banker. He is pushing Hugo Chavez-style legislation demanding totalitarian authority to spend the $700 billion "without limitation" or "review by any court of law or any administrative agency." And surprise — Paulson's scheme would enrich his Goldman Sachs pals.

Amerika, like other socialist nations, also has its share of faux converts and unconvincing agitprop.

John "I am fundamentally a deregulator" McCain has suddenly gone French, embracing regulation with the zeal of a beret-wearing Parisian reciting "Das Kapital" in a left bank coffeehouse (call him Monsieur Jean McCain, s'il vous plait).

CNBC's Larry Kudlow justifies kleptocratic socialism by absolving the financial elite and blaming the meltdown on that all-powerful Poor People Lobby, which he claims is "forcing banks to make low-income loans." And New York Times' columnist David Brooks, long the ruling class's Minister of Propaganda, applauds the "public spiritedness" of Paulson's "Progressive Corporatism."

As this socialist uprising intensifies, the most prominent counterrevolutionary is none other than Sanders. Now a senator, he is calling for both re-regulation and a millionaire surtax to pay for the bailout and avoid adding its full cost to the national debt.

"The people who can best afford to pay and the people who have benefited most from Bush's economic policies are the people who should provide the funds for the bailout," he said.
Once the federal government’s only (admitted) socialist, Sanders is evidently its only fiscal conservative, too. It's time Amerika listened to this original visionary.

David Sirota is a bestselling author whose newest book, "The Uprising," was just released in June of 2008. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network — both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at


Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Answer to the President

Ron Paul
Sept. 25, 2008

Dear Friends:

The financial meltdown the economists of the Austrian School predicted has arrived.We are in this crisis because of an excess of artificially created credit at the hands of the Federal Reserve System. The solution being proposed? More artificial credit by the Federal Reserve. No liquidation of bad debt and malinvestment is to be allowed. By doing more of the same, we will only continue and intensify the distortions in our economy - all the capital misallocation, all the malinvestment - and prevent the market's attempt to re-establish rational pricing of houses and other assets.

Last night the president addressed the nation about the financial crisis. There is no point in going through his remarks line by line, since I'd only be repeating what I've been saying over and over - not just for the past several days, but for years and even decades.

Still, at least a few observations are necessary.

The president assures us that his administration "is working with Congress to address the root cause behind much of the instability in our markets." Care to take a guess at whether the Federal Reserve and its money creation spree were even mentioned?

We are told that "low interest rates" led to excessive borrowing, but we are not told how these low interest rates came about. They were a deliberate policy of the Federal Reserve. As always, artificially low interest rates distort the market. Entrepreneurs engage in malinvestments - investments that do not make sense in light of current resource availability, that occur in more temporally remote stages of the capital structure than the pattern of consumer demand can support, and that would not have been made at all if the interest rate had been permitted to tell the truth instead of being toyed with by the Fed.

Not a word about any of that, of course, because Americans might then discover how the great wise men in Washington caused this great debacle. Better to keep scapegoating the mortgage industry or "wildcat capitalism" (as if we actually have a pure free market!).

Speaking about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the president said: "Because these companies were chartered by Congress, many believed they were guaranteed by the federal government.
This allowed them to borrow enormous sums of money, fuel the market for questionable investments, and put our financial system at risk."

Doesn't that prove the foolishness of chartering Fannie and Freddie in the first place? Doesn't that suggest that maybe, just maybe, government may have contributed to this mess? And of course, by bailing out Fannie and Freddie, hasn't the federal government shown that the "many" who "believed they were guaranteed by the federal government" were in fact correct?

Then come the scare tactics.

If we don't give dictatorial powers to the Treasury Secretary "the stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet." Left unsaid, naturally, is that with the bailout and all the money and credit that must be produced out of thin air to fund it, the value of your retirement account will drop anyway, because the value of the dollar will suffer a precipitous decline. As for home prices, they are obviously much too high, and supply and demand cannot equilibrate if government insists on propping them up.

It's the same destructive strategy that government tried during the Great Depression: prop up prices at all costs. The Depression went on for over a decade. On the other hand, when liquidation was allowed to occur in the equally devastating downturn of 1921, the economy recovered within less than a year.

The president also tells us that Senators McCain and Obama will join him at the White House today in order to figure out how to get the bipartisan bailout passed. The two senators would do their country much more good if they stayed on the campaign trail debating who the bigger celebrity is, or whatever it is that occupies their attention these days.

F.A. Hayek won the Nobel Prize for showing how central banks' manipulation of interest rates creates the boom-bust cycle with which we are sadly familiar. In 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, he described the foolish policies being pursued in his day - and which are being proposed, just as destructively, in our own:

Instead of furthering the inevitable liquidation of the maladjustments brought about by the boom during the last three years, all conceivable means have been used to prevent that readjustment from taking place; and one of these means, which has been repeatedly tried though without success, from the earliest to the most recent stages of depression, has been this deliberate policy of credit expansion.

To combat the depression by a forced credit expansion is to attempt to cure the evil by the very means which brought it about; because we are suffering from a misdirection of production, we want to create further misdirection - a procedure that can only lead to a much more severe crisis as soon as the credit expansion comes to an end... It is probably to this experiment, together with the attempts to prevent liquidation once the crisis had come, that we owe the exceptional severity and duration of the depression.

The only thing we learn from history, I am afraid, is that we do not learn from history.

The very people who have spent the past several years assuring us that the economy is fundamentally sound, and who themselves foolishly cheered the extension of all these novel kinds of mortgages, are the ones who now claim to be the experts who will restore prosperity! Just how spectacularly wrong, how utterly without a clue, does someone have to be before his expert status is called into question?

Oh, and did you notice that the bailout is now being called a "rescue plan"? I guess "bailout" wasn't sitting too well with the American people.

The very people who with somber faces tell us of their deep concern for the spread of democracy around the world are the ones most insistent on forcing a bill through Congress that the American people overwhelmingly oppose. The very fact that some of you seem to think you're supposed to have a voice in all this actually seems to annoy them.

I continue to urge you to contact your representatives and give them a piece of your mind.

I myself am doing everything I can to promote the correct point of view on the crisis. Be sure also to educate yourselves on these subjects - the Campaign for Liberty blog is an excellent place to start. Read the posts, ask questions in the comment section, and learn.

H.G. Wells once said that civilization was in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.

In liberty,

Ron Paul


The $700 Billion Bailout Plan's Fine Print

A reformed Wall Streeter sifts through the details of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

By Nomi Prins
Sept. 24 , 2008

Treasury Sec. Hank Paulson's $700 billion bailout plan now has a name: the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

But even as Capitol Hill debates TARP, few seem to have noticed the proposal item that puts taxpayers on the hook for future bailouts. It's in Section 6, and the key phrase is this: "The Secretary's authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time."

What does "at any one time" actually mean to economists?

It means that if everything we American taxpayers buy re-evaluates down to zero, we get to buy more. That's hardly taxpayer "protection." With several hundred billion dollars of write-downs already announced this year by the part of the industry compelled to post their losses, it's a safe bet that $700 billion worth of the junkiest assets in existence will be heading to zero the second they are purchased.

But that's not all the bad news. With Sunday's announcement that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have decided to become bank holding companies, the last pretense of respect for the Glass-Steagall was dropped.

The Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 prevented bank holding companies from engaging in non-consumer oriented banking activities, like investment banking. It also prohibited such entities headquartered in one state from acquiring banks in another state. The interstate restrictions were gutted in 1994, and the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act took care of the rest.

At first this meant that commercial banks could buy investment banks and insurance companies, hence Citigroup (which is a combination of Citibank, Travelers Insurance and Salomon Brothers investment bank), and the latest incarnation waiting to post lots of losses, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. But even with a new name, Goldman Sachs is still an investment bank, in the same way that a horse by another color is still a horse. Changing its status to bank holding company will mean access to the bailout fund, and give it the ability to buy any commercial bank out there.

Which it likely will.

Nonetheless, that looming problem wasn't addressed by Congress Tuesday. Instead, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded to TARP with THOR (Taxpayer Protection, Housing, Oversight and Regulation) and warned, "the financial system is clogged, and if we don't react the patient will suffer a heart attack. So we must act and must act soon…"

Somewhere, Former Treasury Secretary Carter Glass, the co-author of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that separated speculative investment banks from consumer-oriented commercial ones, is turning in his grave.

As much press as the TARP vs. THOR discussion is getting, one voice of reason deserves more attention: Sen. Byron Dorgan's. As he has said, "this proposal looks to me like a stampede in the wrong direction…to reward the very people on Wall Street who created this mess, and who pocketed more than $100 billion over the last several years making it."

In 1999, Dorgan had the foresight to vote against the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that repealed the financial protections put in place following the Great Depression. He warned then that a 'financial swamp' would result from "the casino-like prospect of merging banking with the speculative activity of real estate and securities, and that the bill will raise the likelihood of future massive taxpayer bailouts."

Dorgan was spot on. Not only are we trapped in the complex deregulated financial system that resulted, but the bailouts are just beginning.

In advocating new protections similar to the Glass-Steagall Act and the need to address this crisis not just quickly, but correctly, he's likely spot on again. If only the rest of Congress felt the same way.

Nomi Prins is an economist and Mother Jones writer.

© 2008 The Foundation for National Progress


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

By Tim Wise
Red Room
Sept. 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while if you're black and believe in reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), you're a dangerous and mushy liberal who isn't fit to safeguard American institutions.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto is “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college and the fact that she lives near Russia, you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

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

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

White privilege is when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose "next door neighbor" qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you're a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you're irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36-minute speech in which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague about what he would do if elected.

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

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

White privilege is being able to go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and Harvard Business School (George W. Bush), and still be seen as an "average guy," while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then Harvard Law, makes you "uppity" and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.), and that's OK, and you're still cut out to be president, but if you're black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can't be trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she's disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you then go on to call the c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you're black and married for nearly 20 years to the same woman, your family is viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other are called "terrorist fist bumps."

White privilege is when you can develop a pain-killer addiction, having obtained your drug of choice illegally like Cindy McCain, go on to beat that addiction, and everyone praises you for being so strong, while being a black guy who smoked pot a few times in college and never became an addict means people will wonder if perhaps you still get high, and even ask whether or not you may have sold drugs at some point.

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them, makes you dangerously naive and immature.

White privilege is being able to say that you hate "gooks" and "will always hate them," and yet, you aren't a racist because, ya know, you were a POW, so you're entitled to your hatred, while being black and noting that black anger about racism is understandable, given the history of your country, makes you a dangerous bigot.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism and an absent father is apparently among the "lesser adversities" faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin explained in her convention speech.

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

White privilege is, in short, the problem.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why DC Lobbyists Fear 'White Spaces'

What if I told you we could use empty TV channels to connect millions of people to the Internet?

By Timothy Karr
Huffington Post
Sept. 23, 2008

The technology exists to do just that. But a powerful corporate lobby is standing in the way with a multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign aimed at Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.

This month and next Washington will face a critical choice: Use new technology to open the Internet for everyone, or side with the lobbyists and prevent millions from getting connected.

This latest front in the battle over the future of the Internet is about "white spaces" -- empty frequencies between TV channels on the public airwaves.

If you remember the days of rabbit ears on your set, white spaces are the static between the network channels as you turned the dial.

New technology can open this unused spectrum to powerful high-speed Internet services -- sending open and ubiquitous broadband signals over mountains and through buildings, potentially connecting tens of millions of Americans now left off the grid.

Washington Smoke Screens

Here's the problem: The National Association of Broadcasters and cell phone companies want to hoard this publicly owned resource. Their lobbyists have been blitzing Washington with misinformation to prevent white spaces from being used to benefit millions of people.

Unfortunately, many key decision makers in simply lack the bandwidth to look into white spaces technology and decide for themselves. Instead they rely upon the lobbyists who come knocking with lies and spin meant to paint this technology as a danger to mankind.

But broadcasters are simply blowing smoke to protect their FCC granted broadcast fiefdoms. As a result, we're being kept from using airwaves that could help fill one of the biggest holes in our national infrastructure.

Spanning the Divide

Too many Americans have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide -- sidelined in a nation that increasingly demands high-speed Internet access to get things done, keep up in school and find out what's happening in the world. The answer to this problem is right in front of us.

This week tens of thousands of people have signed a letter urging Congress and the FCC to skewer the industry spin and serve the public by opening white spaces to unlicensed, high speed Internet services.

Members of the Wireless Innovation Alliance (including Free Press) have declared this Thursday "White Spaces Day." We will bring your letters to the Hill and deliver them to your member of Congress.

Unless we urge Congress and the FCC to push back against industry and open up white spaces, Washington could side with the lobbyists and deny us one of our last, best opportunities to build a better Internet.

It's a familiar story. Big media companies use any means possible to squash new ideas that threaten their control over information.

It's time we changed that status quo and opened up white spaces for everyone.

Open White Spaces for Everyone


Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Open Letter To The Next President of the United States

In just fifty days you will be, in theory, the most powerful man in the world.

By Bernard-Henri Lévy
Sept. 14, 2008

I say "in theory" because your first challenge will in fact be your country's decline in power. It's been so long that we have been hearing about this decline -- and now it has finally happened.

Asia's rise in strength, the awakening of India and especially of China have indeed created a New Deal, this time for the planet. So, what is your response to that? What is the reaction of a new America to this new world order?

The ground that was lost in the factories of Ohio and Michigan will never be recovered. But an ambitious America is still capable of accomplishing three things, which in tomorrow's world will be just as valuable, if not more so.

First, make sure that the patents the new capitalists in Asia are working on -- continue to be "made in the USA."

Second, make sure that people in Asia and elsewhere continue to think that Yale and Princeton offer the best possible education for the movers and shakers of the world.

And third, ensure that American banks continue to offer the most sophisticated and secure financial services to those in possession of the world's accrued profits. As long as America retains full control of these three sectors, it will continue to hold the keys to real power. As long as the world continues to rely on America in the areas of scientific innovation, training the elite and allocating its assets, the important elements will be safe. This from now on will be your task. And your very first priority.

Either the United States under your administration sets in place a true research policy, helping its universities retain their lead and reforming in depth its stricken financial system. Or it doesn't do anything, lets the market play itself out, and delays the implementation of the intellectual, moral and technical reforms its banking system needs - and it will be replaced by others. In a word, Mr. Future President, it will be by using the intangible and in the wider sense culture that you must begin.

The second challenge you will be confronting will be in international relations - dealing with Russia's ambitions as they were just revealed during the crisis in Georgia.

There again, your predecessor did not fully understand what is at stake. He did not heed the clear warning he received from Vladimir Putin in April of 2005, when, in an address to the Russian Federal Assembly, Putin declared that the collapse of the Soviet empire had been "the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century."

The greatest, really?

Greater than the two World Wars?

Than Auschwitz?

Than Hiroshima?

Than the genocides of Cambodia, of Rwanda, of Darfur?

Yes, that's right. He actually said that. And it will be up to you, once you are elected, to evaluate the consequences. Because a man who can say this will not stop there. A man who thinks, in his heart and soul, that the emancipation of the former Russian colonies is a cataclysm greater than that of Auschwitz cannot, if he is logical, NOT do all that is required to repair the damages of that cataclysm.

For example, in Georgia. But also in Moldavia. In the Ukraine. Perhaps one day in the Baltic countries. And this without mentioning Europe's dependence on Kazakhstan or Azerbaidjan for the security of its energy supply - having observed the flaccidness of our reaction to the coup in Tbilisi, the two countries will choose their camp themselves and will go off on their own, before being forced to do so under the protection of the post-Soviet mafiosos.

A new Cold War, in other words.

The new face of a partner we must learn to treat also as an adversary. We are going to need new codes, new signals and a new language of pressures and sanctions. For example, the outgoing President apparently thought that making vague military gestures off the coast of Sotchi would scare off the oligarchs of the Kremlin. The new President will have to understand that in the new order of things, the only language these people understand is the language of commercial intimidation, of economic blackmail, or pressure using the mechanisms of the market.

Going beyond the situation in Russia, the battle to promote democratic values and actions in the world will be another key issue during your term. It isn't that your predecessor didn't also fight this battle.

He just didn't do it very well. He seized upon the fine theme of the exceptionalism of a nation which had received a mandate encouraging the people to get rid of its tyrants, as it once had done - but only to offer, notably in Iraq, a caricatural and inept version of that theme. Your task will be to take up this theme again, to set it straight, to return to it its sense, its honor - your responsibility will be, in correcting Bush's errors, to NOT be tempted to take the other, symmetrical path, that of isolationism, which has too often been the dominant inclination of American politics.

How, then?

What is the difference between the "neocon" approach to exceptionalism and yours?

Ultimately, it is rather simple. The neocon thinks that democracy can be decreed; you will explain that it must be constructed. The neocon thought it was enough to say, "let there be -- democratic -- light" for that light to shine; you will answer that democracy is a matter of time, will and patience.

Deep down, the neocon never broke with the messianic prejudice which the pioneers of the movement had themselves inherited from their far Left pasts (the rather lazy belief that History would produce on its own, without effort or the intervention of men, initially a classless society, now a democracy); you will retain the objective while also addressing the question of the means to achieve that objective, which are political, frankly and clearly political (your future Secretary of State will be dealing with a certain Bernard Kouchner in France, who happens to be one of the world's best experts in democratic nation building - in fact I recommend that you contact him as soon as possible ...).

Let's look at the question from the other end. What was, at bottom, the source of the neocons' illusion? Politics. Under their reign the very concern for politics has fallen into disrepute. The fact, to be precise, that a man who doesn't believe in something at home cannot believe in it abroad either. Or to be even more precise, the fact that by repeating that if on its own United States territory the State has nothing to say about social inequities, great poverty or public health problems, one may also logically think that it has nothing to say about building armies, an administration or schools in Iraq.

Let us suppose for an instant that you listen to my recommendation, that you take seriously the causal chain of events I am describing. You will choose the same path, but in reverse. You will draw the same conclusions, but in the opposite direction. Instead of thinking, "because I do not want a health policy in the inner cities of Buffalo or Los Angeles, I am taking an expeditionary force to Baghdad without having any idea of what I will be doing there the next day," you will say, "because I no longer want to send troops anywhere without having a clear image of the nation we intend to build there, I am beginning to understand that my role is also, in Buffalo, to protect the poor, or in New Orleans, to repair the levees without waiting for the next hurricane."

In so doing you will break with a diminution of "government" which began well before the Bush years. You will slide, imperceptibly but inexorably, from a sort of adjusted Wilsonism toward a revisited Rooseveltism. Be you Democrat or Republican, you will be a political President, reconnecting -- another of my recommendations -- with those Founding Fathers who without renouncing the sacrosanct principle of individual freedom nonetheless posited that the role of those who govern is also to help, protect, and rescue those they rule.

Finally you will have to define a position on the Muslim world which has, since September 11, become the locus of all the quandaries.

I will overlook the often liberticide nature of the "war on terror," Guantanamo, torture and certain clauses of the Patriot Act which you should abolish as soon as you take office.

I will also overlook the colossal strategic error -- also to be corrected as soon as you step on the world stage -- of choosing to ally with a Pakistan which pretended to be the best student in the anti-terrorist class, while at the same time providing the murderers with their most solid sanctuaries.

When it comes down to it there are two possible attitudes, and only two. There is the negative, warrior attitude more or less inspired by the bad prophets of the clash of civilizations between the West in its entirety and a world of Islam also perceived as a single block: impasse and disaster.

Then there is another attitude which begins with the principle that the only true clash, the only serious confrontation that counts, is the one dividing Islam with itself, opposing, in Islam, the partisans of fanaticism and the apostles of Islamic enlightenment: no one has really tried it. Why not you?

No one doubts that we will have to fight the first group, and do it without excuses or attenuating circumstances. But you will also need to speak to the second group, to tell them and show them that they are not as alone as they think they are. We must help them, finance them, salute them and give them the courage to prevail, to fight.

That is what we did in the 70s and 80s with the dissidents of Sovietism. Why not do the same thing with these women, these free thinkers, these persecuted intellectuals, who are to totalitarian Islam what those dissidents were to Red fascism?

Why not create for these new heroes of democracy the same kinds of support networks which once formed around the friends of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov?

Anti-Americanism, Mr. Future President, has become a new planetary religion. And unfortunately it will take more than four or even eight years to get rid of this kind of religion. But if you did try, if you agree, on these sensitive matters, to speak with the language of truth and courage, you would right away give your country a face that would already no longer be quite the same. That too is exceptionalism. And that too is what the world expects from that "shining city upon the hill."

Translated from the French by Sara Sugihara


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes

Gov. Sarah Palin lives by the maxim that all politics is local, not to mention personal.

By Jo Becker, Peter S. Goodman & Michael Powell
The New York Times
Sept. 14, 2008

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.

When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.

And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.

“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”

Ms. Palin walks the national stage as a small-town foe of “good old boy” politics and a champion of ethics reform. The charismatic 44-year-old governor draws enthusiastic audiences and high approval ratings. And as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, she points to her management experience while deriding her Democratic rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr., as speechmakers who never have run anything.

But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.

Still, Ms. Palin has many supporters. As a two-term mayor she paved roads and built an ice rink, and as governor she has pushed through higher taxes on the oil companies that dominate one-third of the state’s economy. She stirs deep emotions. In Wasilla, many residents display unflagging affection, cheering “our Sarah” and hissing at her critics.

“She is bright and has unfailing political instincts,” said Steve Haycox, a history professor at the University of Alaska. “She taps very directly into anxieties about the economic future.”

“But,” he added, “her governing style raises a lot of hard questions.”

Ms. Palin declined to grant an interview for this article. The McCain-Palin campaign responded to some questions on her behalf and that of her husband, while referring others to the governor’s spokespeople, who did not respond.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell said Ms. Palin had conducted an accessible and effective administration in the public’s interest. “Everything she does is for the ordinary working people of Alaska,” he said.

In Wasilla, a builder said he complained to Mayor Palin when the city attorney put a stop-work order on his housing project. She responded, he said, by engineering the attorney’s firing.

Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy.

The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

State legislators are investigating accusations that Ms. Palin and her husband pressured officials to fire a state trooper who had gone through a messy divorce with her sister, charges that she denies. But interviews make clear that the Palins draw few distinctions between the personal and the political.

Last summer State Representative John Harris, the Republican speaker of the House, picked up his phone and heard Mr. Palin’s voice. The governor’s husband sounded edgy. He said he was unhappy that Mr. Harris had hired John Bitney as his chief of staff, the speaker recalled. Mr. Bitney was a high school classmate of the Palins and had worked for Ms. Palin. But she fired Mr. Bitney after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.

“I understood from the call that Todd wasn’t happy with me hiring John and he’d like to see him not there,” Mr. Harris said.

“The Palin family gets upset at personal issues,” he added. “And at our level, they want to strike back.”

Through a campaign spokesman, Mr. Palin said he “did not recall” referring to Mr. Bitney in the conversation.

Hometown Mayor

Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Ms. Palin’s first run for mayor in 1996, recalled the night the two women chatted about her ambitions.

I said, ‘You know, Sarah, within 10 years you could be governor,’ ” Ms. Chase recalled. “She replied, ‘I want to be president.’ ”

Ms. Palin grew up in Wasilla, an old fur trader’s outpost and now a fast-growing exurb of Anchorage. The town sits in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, edged by jagged mountains and birch forests. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration took farmers from the Dust Bowl area and resettled them here; their Democratic allegiances defined the valley for half a century.

In the past three decades, socially conservative Oklahomans and Texans have flocked north to the oil fields of Alaska. They filled evangelical churches around Wasilla and revived the Republican Party. Many of these working-class residents formed the electoral backbone for Ms. Palin, who ran for mayor on a platform of gun rights, opposition to abortion and the ouster of the “complacent” old guard.

After winning the mayoral election in 1996, Ms. Palin presided over a city rapidly outgrowing itself. Septic tanks had begun to pollute lakes, and residential lots were carved willy-nilly out of the woods. She passed road and sewer bonds, cut property taxes but raised the sales tax.

And, her supporters say, she cleaned out the municipal closet, firing veteran officials to make way for her own team. “She had an agenda for change and for doing things differently,” said Judy Patrick, a City Council member at the time.

But careers were turned upside down. The mayor quickly fired the town’s museum director, John Cooper. Later, she sent an aide to the museum to talk to the three remaining employees.

“He told us they only wanted two,” recalled Esther West, one of the three, “and we had to pick who was going to be laid off.” The three quit as one.

Ms. Palin cited budget difficulties for the museum cuts. Mr. Cooper thought differently, saying the museum had become a microcosm of class and cultural conflicts in town. “It represented that the town was becoming more progressive, and they didn’t want that,” he said.

Days later, Mr. Cooper recalled, a vocal conservative, Steve Stoll, sidled up to him. Mr. Stoll had supported Ms. Palin and had a long-running feud with Mr. Cooper. “He said: ‘Gotcha, Cooper,’ ” Mr. Cooper said.

Mr. Stoll did not recall that conversation, although he said he supported Ms. Palin’s campaign and was pleased when she fired Mr. Cooper.

In 1997, Ms. Palin fired the longtime city attorney, Richard Deuser, after he issued the stop-work order on a home being built by Don Showers, another of her campaign supporters.

Your attorney, Mr. Showers told Ms. Palin, is costing me lots of money.

She told me she’d like to see him fired,” Mr. Showers recalled. “But she couldn’t do it herself because the City Council hires the city attorney.” Ms. Palin told him to write the council members to complain.

Meanwhile, Ms. Palin pushed the issue from the inside. “She started the ball rolling,” said Ms. Patrick, who also favored the firing. Mr. Deuser was soon replaced by Ken Jacobus, then the State Republican Party’s general counsel.

“Professionals were either forced out or fired,” Mr. Deuser said.

Ms. Palin ordered city employees not to talk to the press. And she used city money to buy a white Suburban for the mayor’s use — employees sarcastically called it the mayor-mobile.

The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”

Reform Crucible

Restless ambition defined Ms. Palin in the early years of this decade. She raised money for Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican from the state; finished second in the 2002 Republican primary for lieutenant governor; and sought to fill the seat of Senator Frank H. Murkowski when he ran for governor.

Mr. Murkowski appointed his daughter to the seat, but as a consolation prize, he gave Ms. Palin the $125,000-a-year chairmanship of a state commission overseeing oil and gas drilling.

Ms. Palin discovered that the state Republican leader, Randy Ruedrich, a commission member, was conducting party business on state time and favoring regulated companies. When Mr. Murkowski failed to act on her complaints, she quit and went public.

The Republican establishment shunned her. But her break with the gentlemen’s club of oil producers and political power catapulted her into the public eye.

“She was honest and forthright,” said Jay Kerttula, a former Democratic state senator from Palmer.

Ms. Palin entered the 2006 primary for governor as a formidable candidate.

In the middle of the primary, a conservative columnist in the state, Paul Jenkins, unearthed e-mail messages showing that Ms. Palin had conducted campaign business from the mayor’s office. Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.

“I told her it looks like she did the same thing that Randy Ruedrich did,” Mr. Jenkins recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, what I did was wrong.’ ”

Mr. Jenkins hung up and decided to forgo writing about it. His phone rang soon after.

Mr. Jenkins said a reporter from Fairbanks, reading from a Palin news release, demanded to know why he was “smearing” her. “Now I look at her and think: ‘Man, you’re slick,’ ” he said.

Ms. Palin won the primary, and in the general election she faced Tony Knowles, the former two-term Democratic governor, and Andrew Halcro, an independent.

Not deeply versed in policy, Ms. Palin skipped some candidate forums; at others, she flipped through hand-written, color-coded index cards strategically placed behind her nameplate.

Before one forum, Mr. Halcro said he saw aides shovel reports at Ms. Palin as she crammed. Her showman’s instincts rarely failed. She put the pile of reports on the lectern. Asked what she would do about health care policy, she patted the stack and said she would find an answer in the pile of solutions.

“She was fresh, and she was tomorrow,” said Michael Carey, a former editorial page editor for The Anchorage Daily News. “She just floated along like Mary Poppins.”


Half a century after Alaska became a state, Ms. Palin was inaugurated as governor in Fairbanks and took up the reformer’s sword.

As she assembled her cabinet and made other state appointments, those with insider credentials were now on the outs. But a new pattern became clear. She surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.

Mr. Parnell, the lieutenant governor, praised Ms. Palin’s appointments. “The people she hires are competent, qualified, top-notch people,” he said.

Ms. Palin chose Talis Colberg, a borough assemblyman from the Matanuska valley, as her attorney general, provoking a bewildered question from the legal community: “Who?” Mr. Colberg, who did not return calls, moved from a one-room building in the valley to one of the most powerful offices in the state, supervising some 500 people.

“I called him and asked, ‘Do you know how to supervise people?’ ” said a family friend, Kathy Wells. “He said, ‘No, but I think I’ll get some help.’

The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government. Ms. Palin appointed Mr. Bitney, her former junior high school band-mate, as her legislative director and chose another classmate, Joe Austerman, to manage the economic development office for $82,908 a year. Mr. Austerman had established an Alaska franchise for Mailboxes Etc.

To her supporters — and with an 80 percent approval rating, she has plenty — Ms. Palin has lifted Alaska out of a mire of corruption. She gained the passage of a bill that tightens the rules covering lobbyists. And she rewrote the tax code to capture a greater share of oil

“Does anybody doubt that she’s a tough negotiator?” said State Representative Carl Gatto, Republican of Palmer.

Yet recent controversy has marred Ms. Palin’s reform credentials. In addition to the trooper investigation, lawmakers in April accused her of improperly culling thousands of e-mail addresses from a state database for a mass mailing to rally support for a policy initiative.

While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses.

An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”

Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”

On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”

Mr. Bailey responded: “Whoops~!”

Mr. Bailey, a former midlevel manager at Alaska Airlines who worked on Ms. Palin’s campaign, has been placed on paid leave; he has emerged as a central figure in the trooper investigation.

Another confidante of Ms. Palin’s is Ms. Frye, 27. She worked as a receptionist for State Senator Lyda Green before she joined Ms. Palin’s campaign for governor. Now Ms. Frye earns $68,664 as a special assistant to the governor. Her frequent interactions with Ms. Palin’s children have prompted some lawmakers to refer to her as “the babysitter,” a title that Ms. Frye disavows.

Like Mr. Bailey, she is an effusive cheerleader for her boss.

“YOU ARE SO AWESOME!” Ms. Frye typed in an e-mail message to Ms. Palin in March.

Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated. Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action. Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.

During the last legislative session, some lawmakers became so frustrated with her absences that they took to wearing “Where’s Sarah?” pins.

Many politicians say they typically learn of her initiatives — and vetoes — from news releases.

Mayors across the state, from the larger cities to tiny municipalities along the southeastern fiords, are even more frustrated. Often, their letters go unanswered and their pleas ignored, records and interviews show.

Last summer, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, a Democrat, pressed Ms. Palin to meet with him because the state had failed to deliver money needed to operate city traffic lights. At one point, records show, state officials told him to just turn off a dozen of them. Ms. Palin agreed to meet with Mr. Begich when he threatened to go public with his anger, according to city officials.

At an Alaska Municipal League gathering in Juneau in January, mayors across the political spectrum swapped stories of the governor’s remoteness. How many of you, someone asked, have tried to meet with her? Every hand went up, recalled Mayor Fred Shields of Haines Borough. And how many met with her? Just a few hands rose. Ms. Palin soon walked in, delivered a few remarks and left for an anti-abortion rally.

The administration’s e-mail correspondence reveals a siege-like atmosphere. Top aides keep score, demean enemies and gloat over successes. Even some who helped engineer her rise have felt her wrath.

Dan Fagan, a prominent conservative radio host and longtime friend of Ms. Palin, urged his listeners to vote for her in 2006. But when he took her to task for raising taxes on oil companies, he said, he found himself branded a “hater.”

It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as “bad people who are anti-Alaska.”

As Ms. Palin’s star ascends, the McCain campaign, as often happens in national races, is controlling the words of those who know her well. Her mother-in-law, Faye Palin, has been asked not to speak to reporters, and aides sit in on interviews with old friends.

At a recent lunch gathering, an official with the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce asked its members to refer all calls from reporters to the governor’s office. Dianne Woodruff, a city councilwoman, shook her head.

“I was thinking, I don’t remember giving up my First Amendment rights,” Ms. Woodruff said. “Just because you’re not going gaga over Sarah doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind.”


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) raised spirits as his speech, given to wild cheers and shouts of “Go! Dennis!” lifted participants out of their seats at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008.


Hello fellow Democrats! Are you ready for November?

Fellow Democrats, lets go to Election Day … its Election Day, 2008.

And we Democrats are giving America a wake-up call.

Wake up, America!

In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neo con-artists seized the economy and added 4 trillion dollars of unproductive spending to the national debt. We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil, and twice what we paid for health care. 

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, their pensions. Trillions of dollars for an unnecessary war paid for with borrowed money.

Tens of billions of dollars in cash and weapons disappeared into thin air, at the cost of the lives of our troops and innocent Iraqis, while all the president's oilmen are maneuvering to grab Iraq's oil. 

Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan—no money to rebuild bridges in America.

Money to start a hot war with Iran—now we have another cold war with Russia,
And the American economy has become a game of Russian roulette. 

Now, if there were an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging and misappropriating, this administration would take the gold!

World records for violations of national and international laws.

They want another four-year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children's inheritance, and hollow out the economy. We cannot afford another Republican administration.

Wake up, America!

The insurance companies took over health care.

Wake up, America!

The pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing. 

Wake up, America!

The speculators took over Wall Street!

Wake up, America!

They want your Social Security.

Wake up, America.

Multinational corporations took over our trade policies, factories are closing, good paying jobs are being lost. 

Wake up, America!

We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more! War against Iran will mean $10-a-gallon gasoline. The oil administration, they want to drill more, into your wallet.

Wake up, America!

Those war contractors want more. An Iran war will cost $5-10 trillion. 

Now, this administration can tap our phones—but they can't tap our creative spirit.

They can open our mail, but they can't open economic opportunities.

They can track our every move, but they lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline and electricity skyrockets.

Now, they have skillfully played our post-9/11 fears, and they’ve allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many.

Every day we get the color orange—while the oil companies, the insurance companies, the speculators, the war contractors—get the color green.

Wake up, America!

Now, this is not a call for you to take a new direction from right to left.

This is call for you to go from down to up!

Up with the rights of workers!

Up with wages!

Up with fair trade!

Up with creating millions of good paying jobs, rebuilding our bridges, our water systems, our sewer systems, our ports.

Up with creating millions of sustainable energy jobs to lower the cost of energy, lower carbon emission, and protect the environment! 

Up with health care for all!
Up with education for all!
Up with home ownership!
Up with guaranteed retirement benefits!
Up with peace!
Up with prosperity!
Up with the Democratic Party!

Up with Obama-Biden!

Wake up, America! Wake up, America! Wake up, America!


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sister Sarah’s Traveling Salvation Show

Guest Commentator
Sept. 9 2008

Do we really know What kind of religion will come to the White House if Palin should become President, were elected McCain to pass while in Office?

The stamp of Christian fundamentalism heard lately in the news reports hardly describes the religious beliefs of Gov. Palin. Many probably do not know that the Assembly of God church members around the US have historically been known as "pentacostals,"holy rollers” or “charismatics.”

Beliefs in the Bible are taken as holy writ and that “if God said it, then that is that” or “if it’s in the Bible its true.” Charismatic church services may include healing services, “laying on of hands” for spiritual induction, “dancing in the spirit,” “foot washing,” “speaking in tongues,” and the requisite “interpretation of the message of the tongues" speaker.

Make no mistake about it; this is Not a normal Christian or traditional Protestant religion. It is very much a fringe, zealous group of fanatic religious devotees, not unlike fundamentalist believers in any of the other world’s religions.

Should Sarah take up residence in the White House, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Paul and Jan Crouch, Benny Hind, or even Jim Baker could become advisers to the new President. We might hear of Sarah exhorting the sins of “Senate Appropriations” or “medical necessity” to the tune of “I am the Change we need!”

Prayer breakfasts could begin each morning workday, while she prostrates herself to plead for the day’s guidance. We could also see Sarah’s events schedule prefaced by days of fasting and repentance, seeking God’s face for spiritual direction. She would usher in a new era of Repentance and Revival.

Casting out demons in the name of reform would be the order of the day as she plays out her new role of reformer. The mantle placed on her shoulders would liken her to the historic Biblical Sarah, as she births a new righteousness into the barren American wilderness or as Deborah, the Old Testament female prophet.

One crucial theme central to Sarah’s church exists in the importance of financial endeavors. Collections will likely be presented to the populace as performed in the church service. When the plates are passed, the elders return to the altar to count the money. If enough funds haven’t been raised, the collection plates go around again (and again) until the amount has joyfully been raised. This process will often be repeated as needed for all the normal obligations, while special services and missions require additional appeals for “love gifts.” Many times members are admonished to give until it hurts.

And about that 3AM call - an urgent appeal in the struggle against evil. Sarah would slide her legs over the side of her Chief Executive bed, and kneel on the floor with her prayer cloths in hand. Calling up her prayer warriors and prayer-chain partners to enter into spiritual battle, they would cry to the Almighty for victory over the enemy. Then, the first Husband would annoint her head in oil and rejoice, for surely she is Most Blessed among women!


We all thought Mitt Romney being a Mormon was too extreme for the White House, but American Pentecostals or Assembly of God believers also believe that the government of the United States should take steps to make this country a Christian nation by almost 52%, far higher than the 22% of other Christian groups. Is Sarah Palin too extreme?

An they also believe these basic tenents

Salvation Through Jesus ChristSalvation is deliverance from spiritual death and enslavement by sin. God provides salvation for all who believe and accept His free offer of forgiveness. Mankind’s only hope of redemption from the fallen sinful state is through the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son–blood that was shed as Jesus died on the cross. [The account of the crucifixion of Jesus is recounted by four of His contemporaries: Matthew (chapter 27), Mark (chapter 15), Luke (chapter 23), and John (chapter 19).] (Luke 24:47; John 3:3,16,17; Rom. 8:16; 10:13-15; Ephesians 2:8,9; 4:24; Titus 2:11-12; 3:5-7)

Divine Healing

Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers. (Isa. 53:4,5; Matt. 8:16,17; James 5:14-16)

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

All believers are entitled to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and therefore should expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all believers in the early Christian church. With the experience comes the provision of power for victorious Christian living and productive service. It also provides believers with specific spiritual gifts for more effective ministry. The baptism of Christians in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking in other tongues (unlearned languages) as the Spirit of God gives them audible expression. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8; 2:4; 8:12-17; 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9; 1 Cor. 12:1-31)

The Second Coming of Christ

All Christians who have died will one day rise from their graves and will meet the Lord in the air. Christians who have not yet died will be raptured or caught up with them, to be with the Lord. Then Christians of all ages will live with God forever. The scriptural truth of the Lord’s soon return is "the blessed hope". (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessa­lonians 4:16-17; Titus 2:13)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Secretive Right-Wing Group Vetted McCain’s VP Candidate Sarah Palin

Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
Sept. 02, 2008

Max Blumenthal of The Nation reports last week, while the media focused almost obsessively on the DNC’s spectacle in Denver, the country’s most influential conservatives met quietly at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis to get to know Sarah Palin. The assembled were members of the Council for National Policy, an ultra-secretive cabal that networks wealthy right-wing donors together with top conservative operatives to plan long-term movement strategy.

Max Blumenthal, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute. His work has appeared in The Nation, Salon and many other publications. His latest article, Secretive Right-Wing Group Vetted Palin’

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who has confirmed internet rumors that her teenage daughter is pregnant. Palin says the seventeen-year-old daughter, Bristol Palin, will have the baby and marry the father. Aides to Palin’s running mate, Senator John McCain, say they made the announcement to quell speculation that Palin had faked her own recent pregnancy. Rumors had spread this weekend that Palin had claimed the baby as her own to disguise the fact her daughter is actually the baby’s mother.

The announcement raised new questions about how thoroughly the McCain campaign vetted Palin before selecting her as his running mate. But it also appears likely to bolster McCain’s standing amongst anti-abortion Republicans.

The Nation magazine contributor Max Blumenthal has been extensively covering the right-wing movement. He went to the Republican National Convention Monday following Palin’s announcement.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: The official Republican Party plank rejects sex education and the distribution of condoms. Do you think Sarah Palin’s seventeen-year-old daughter could have benefited from sex education?

REP. ROY BLOUNT: I think what you have with that family issue, I think Senator Obama responded to that appropriately. More importantly, I think to most Americans, this is another welcome to everybody’s kitchen table. Everybody has challenges that are challenges to their family. Some challenges are exactly like this one. Generally, you don’t want this to be a challenge in your family. But I think moms and dads who have to deal with questions like this, who have to figure out how to pay their bills, who have to figure out how to make a small business work, I think that is something that the American people understand and appreciate. And I also think they appreciated the way Senator Obama responded to that.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Do you think they should understand more about contraception in public schools, like the school that Sarah Palin’s daughter went to? And do you think the Republican Party is being helpful by opposing that sort of education?

REP. ROY BLOUNT: I was actually real happy with the answer I gave.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I wasn’t. Do you think Sarah Palin’s seventeen-year-old daughter could have benefited from more sex education, which the Republican Party plank rejects?

MEGHAN McCAIN: We’re just here to enjoy the convention, and we’re sitting in the box, so, you know.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Do you think they should teach it in public schools?

MEGHAN McCAIN: You know what? We’re just here to enjoy the convention and to watch my mom speak. So I prefer not to do an interview. We’re just trying to enjoy the moment.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Alright, thank you.

On the life issue?

ALASKA DELEGATE: Right to life. Right—

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Reject abortion in cases of rape and incest, even.

ALASKA DELEGATE: Yes, we do, because there’s a lot of families that don’t have children who would love to have children. And they could put those babies up for adoption, and those families can have a family.

RON WARNER: Most Alaskans have a strict interpretation of abortion: life begins at conception, and there is no reason to kill a baby, you know, whether you consider him unborn or born. You know, a baby happens whenever you conceive it, so…

GRACE VAN DIEST: I believe in the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death. And we, as a Alaskan Republican Party, voted for that, too, to be a part of our platform.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: And an abstinence-only education, do you think that should be the rule in public schools?

GRACE VAN DIEST: I think that it should be taught, yes. Yes, I think that abstinence should be a priority. We have taught our own daughters. We have three daughters and a son, and we home-school them, and we’ve taught them to not even date until they’re more ready to be married. They go out in groups from our—like our church youth group, but they don’t date individually. Each one of the daughters have gone out on a date with their dad and talked about keeping themselves pure until marriage. They each have had a little promise ring, a little tiny diamond that they wear constantly to remind them about their promise that they will keep pure, so…

AMY GOODMAN: That piece produced by Nation magazine’s Max Blumenthal. We’ll go to break now. When we come back, he joins us live here at SPNN, at Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, public access in the Twin Cities. We’re breaking with convention. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: What you just listened to before the break was interviews by Nation magazine’s Max Blumenthal at the Republican National Convention. Max joins us here now in St. Paul at Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, SPNN, where Democracy Now! broadcasts in the area.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Max.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: It’s great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about being on the convention floor, the people you talked to, the Republican platform.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, I was on the floor at a really unusual time for the Republican Party. You know, the Republicans had cut short the convention program because of Hurricane Gustav battering New Orleans. And at the same time, there was a lot of buzz about this scandal, which has enveloped the party because of Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol, who has become pregnant at the age of seventeen and has decided to, to paraphrase Madonna, keep her baby.

And this is a really exceptional Republican scandal, partly because it doesn’t involve a closeted preacher, but also because it speaks to the larger issue of the Republican program, the Republican program on social issues.

And right now, a lot of bloggers and Democratic operatives are debating how to handle this. You know, should we just ignore it and let it play itself out?

And what I did with my video is frame it within the context of the Republican National Convention’s party platform, which explicitly endorses abstinence-only education and rejects the distribution of contraception. So you saw me asking Roy Blount, who is one of the most powerful Republicans in the House, about whether Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin’s daughter, could have benefited from the sex education that the Republican Party rejects in its platform and that the Alaska Republican Party, which is one of the most radical Republican parties in the country, rejects.

And I also spoke to members of the Alaska delegation to show, you know, the ideological tilt, how radical, you know, the Republican Party is in Alaska, because this is the soil from which Sarah Palin emerged and grew into an excessively socially conservative figure in Alaska, who, for instance, rejects—who would illegalize abortion in cases of rape and incest.

So, her daughter, in a sense—there’s no way anyone could say Sarah Palin is a bad mother or she doesn’t embrace family values, because, in a sense, she does practice what she preaches. But her daughter, at the same time, is a casualty of Republican policies. So the chickens are kind of coming home to roost here.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this was very odd, as this—and Democracy Now! doesn’t usually deal with these kind of issues—as all of this stuff was swirling around, all the photographs on the internet showing her daughter getting larger and saying she was pregnant, and so they were trying to prove that Sarah Palin’s youngest child, who is just a few months old, was actually her oldest daughter’s child. And this forced—according to the Palin campaign, this is why she released the information yesterday saying, in fact, her daughter is pregnant.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: And actually, when the McCain campaign vetted Sarah Palin, they knew about this in advance, which may seem unusual on the surface.

But if you go back to the video I produced, the third woman in the Alaska delegation, whose name slips my mind, who’s talking about how her daughters go on dates with their father and discuss staying pure. And it seems like an unusual phenomenon to a lot of secular people. In the Christian right, you know, it’s almost a—the Christian right is almost a counterculture. And they have what’s called purity balls, where daughters will go like a prom-style to a ball with their father, dressed up in a dress, and their fathers will put on purity rings that signify that they’re going to stay pure until marriage. And so, the culture is totally different.

And I asked this woman, you know, “Your daughters have pledged to stay pure until marriage, but what about Sarah Palin’s daughter?” And she said, “Well, this happens a lot, you know, in our communities. And Sarah Palin is at least practicing what she preaches by not having an abortion.” And so many of the people I speak—I talked to in the Christian right, they have a born-again experience, where they go through a personal crisis, and they use this evangelical religion to medicate their crisis. So, in a sense, this scandal could actually be an asset for Sarah Palin.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about, Max, the Council for National Policy, the story that you broke.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this is the larger issue, which is, you know, what role Sarah Palin would play in a potential McCain administration? And last week in Minneapolis at the Radisson Hotel, without any media present, the most powerful power brokers of the Christian right met and essentially vetted Sarah Palin. They were there to watch her speech accepting her selection as the vice-presidential candidate. And they were delighted.

The only way I found out about this meeting is through a web video posted by the Christian right organization Focus on the Family, in which they discussed attending the meeting. One of James Dobson’s spokesmen discussed attending the meeting and being electrified by the selection of Sarah Palin. The Christian right absolutely loves this woman. And so—and what I wrote in my article is that the Council for National Policy is sort of the hidden hand behind the selection.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain who is in this council.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. And it’s hard to know who is in this Council for National Policy. What it is is an umbrella group of the most powerful figures in the Christian right; the biggest donors of the right wing; the activists, like Grover Norquist, anti-tax activist; people like Erik Prince from Blackwater and his family; people—

AMY GOODMAN: He’s a part of the council.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yes. Paul Weyrich, the Catholic right organizer; Tim LaHaye, author of the best—“Left Behind” series; James Dobson and his entire family are in this. You know—

AMY GOODMAN: James Dobson, who said pray for rain during the Democratic convention.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Exactly, exactly, and who thinks SpongeBob is gay, and who I consider the most powerful figure in the Christian right, by the way. And—but remember—

AMY GOODMAN: So they all met, as the Democrats were in Denver, in Minneapolis.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. They all met—exactly. And the point of meeting while the media was focusing on the Democrats was so that the media wouldn’t, you know, detect this meeting, because they want to make—they want to plan for the long term without any—you know, outside of the spotlight. Their membership rolls are completely secret.

And so, that’s part of the reason why the selection of Sarah Palin caught people off guard, because John McCain had always been seen as a maverick who defied right-wing orthodoxy, and it was hard for the media to imagine that he would make such a radical selection for vice president, someone who would actually be the liaison to the Christian right in his administration.

She wouldn’t play a role like Dick Cheney, where she, you know, has any influence over foreign policy. She would control the agencies like Health and Human Services and block condom distribution to Africa, block sex education in public schools, things like that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, are you saying that this whole questioning of, oh, is this really being done to attract Hillary delegates, is way off base, that this is about shoring up the evangelical base?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this never would have happened if Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton as his vice president, that’s for sure. He would have selected Romney or Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor. And if McCain is elected president, you’re going to have another radical administration, in part because Barack Obama was afraid of being overshadowed by the Clintons.

But this has nothing to do with attracting Hillary supporters. And the Hillary supporters I’ve spoken to are actually offended by this pick, because most of them are feminists who are pro-choice.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn of this secret gathering?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. I saw a web video posted on Focus on the Family, where they mentioned in—where the spokesman for James Dobson, Tom Minnery, mentioned in passing that he had attended this gathering the week prior and that all of these power brokers—I don’t know who was there, because they kept it secret—had watched—you know, had met to watch Sarah Palin and discuss her and that they were electrified by her selection. And they feel now that they can support a McCain administration.

So James Dobson, the most powerful figure in the Christian right, who had said—who had earlier vowed that he could never vote for John McCain, I expect to endorse John McCain and to play an enormous role in this campaign. He has 3.5 million members. He has thirty-six policy councils in the States. His organization has a $150 million budget.

So, McCain is doing this in part to get the—to channel the grassroots muscle of the Christian right into an electoral victory over Barack Obama. And I think, you know, anyone who dismisses Sarah Palin’s lack of experience or her seeming shallowness on policy, you know, should not underestimate her, because this is—there’s a larger story here, and it’s about, you know, winning this election by pandering to the Christian right.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the Alaska delegation in the context of—in the political spectrum in comparison with all the Republican delegations that are here this week?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. Well, I mean, you can clearly see how radical most of the members of this delegation are through my video. Those three people I spoke to were indicative of, you know, the—you know, all of the interviews I did. Many of them are Buchananites, people who identify with the far fringes of the radical right.

And Sarah Palin, herself, is a member of a party called the Alaska Independence Party, which has endorsed seceding from the union and may have ties to other neosecessionist groups, like the Independence Party, which themselves have ties to neo-Confederate groups. So you’re talking about, you know, a state far off in the hinterlands, where people deeply mistrust government, where they—you know, where they have a, you know, very radical ideology on social policy. And we’ve never had a candidate from that state elevated to this position. So I think this is unique, and at the same time it’s typical, because the Republican Party, through John McCain, is intent on continuing the social policies of George W. Bush, which have been disastrous.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, James Dobson said he would never support John McCain—


AMY GOODMAN: —has reversed his position.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, he said he may support him. And now I expect him to actually support him and throw the full weight of his organization behind John McCain.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Of course, people can watch that video on our website, and we’ll link to yours. Max Blumenthal of The Nation magazine.


Deep Palin

Sept. 05, 2008

You know you are deep in conspiracy land when the people who are supposed to know things pronounce themselves dazed and confused.

The two Palin questions:
where the hell did she come from?; and
how could McCain have made such an awful choice?are starting to be answered, leading us to some amazing conclusions.

Remember that it was Israel that started the renaissance of the Right in the late 70s. At the same time, the Israeli government was actively courting the new 'religion' called Christian Zionism, an unlikely alliance as the Christian Zionists were profound anti-Semites. The big plan was that the moribund Right would revitalize itself with the spice of Christian religious outrage, and the Christian Zionists would be turned into temporary supporters of Israel as Israeli strength was needed to lead to the 'rapture', an old idea brought to the forefront by a lousy and obscure novelist named Tim LaHaye. The 'war on terror' was added to the mix later to give the Americans a reason to continue to support Israel after the fall of the Soviet Union (the recent revitalization of the Cold War is another front in the same quest).

Palin was secretly chosen by a cabal of Christian Zionists called the Council for National Policy. Its members include . . . Tim LeHaye (I wonder who paid him to write his books?). McCain, who didn't even know Palin before she was picked, had nothing to do with it. Rove told him he couldn't pick his old pals Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge as they were too 'liberal', and the only way to ensure the Christians would accept the pick was to let them make it. The Christian Zionists, who were only supposed to be an 'add-on' to allow the Republicans to play identity politics, have now taken over the whole party. The old party establishment has been completely excluded, and Wall Street is sending its money to Obama. The Republicans are very close to turning into the bunch of unelectable cranks that everyone accused the Democrats of turning into.

The downside is that the Democrats, already an extreme right-wing party, will become even more dominated by big business (that's the message they sent making Biden, a man who loves big corporations, the VP nominee). The Democrat platform: fascism plus abortion rights. The irony is that the Christian Zionist genie has escaped the Zionist bottle, thus denying the Zionists their most profound dream of Lieberman as VP, and a rabid Zionist President of the United States when McCain croaks.