2008 - %3, September

The Inflation Conspiracy

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

THE INFLATION CONSPIRACY....The Republican party is officially opposed to acknowledging inflation? Really? That's.....novel. But at the same time, not really unexpected, somehow. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I'd be surprised if the tinfoil hat crowd that dominates the GOP plaform writing process did believe in inflation. They probably think it's all part of a Trilateral Commission scheme for domination of world financial markets or something.

Of course, there's a sliding scale at work here: apparently sometimes it's OK to account for inflation and sometimes it's not. Which is fair enough. You don't want to be prisoner of rigid ideology, after all. And this does, finally, answer my ancient question about why financial writers insist on reporting that, for example, wages are up even if they're actually down in inflation-adjusted terms. Answer: because the Republican Party platform says so. Another mystery solved.

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Drilling for McCain

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 2:58 AM EDT

DRILLING FOR McCAIN....Tom Friedman on John McCain's election-year journey from environmental maverick to standard issue GOP shill for the energy industry:

Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two "green" candidates. That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

As recently as six months ago McCain had a halfway decent energy plan. Not great, perhaps, but certainly courageous by Republican standards. But then he realized that he had an election to win and his energy plan was quickly replaced with "drill drill drill" — a slogan more suited to a cash-only storefront dentist than a serious presidential candidate. Straight talk indeed.

Hiding From the Press

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:58 AM EDT

HIDING FROM THE PRESS....The Wall Street Journal tells us about the McCain campaign's coordinated effort to keep their vice presidential nominee safely hidden from the public eye:

The McCain campaign scrambled to take control of the public debate over vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin, canceling her public appearances and teaming her with high-powered Republican operatives as she prepared for a speech Wednesday night that will be her first, and perhaps most important, chance to define herself to the American public.

....In Minnesota she has stayed out of the public eye, a contrast with Democratic vice-presidential pick Sen. Joe Biden, who milled about the convention in Denver last week. Gov. Palin refused media interviews and canceled plans to appear at the Republican National Coalition for Life Tuesday.

....In Alaska, the McCain campaign has tried to control the flow of information as liberal bloggers and the media mine her past. A team of public-relations aides has settled into the state and asked Gov. Palin's friends and family to avoid speaking to the media.

This certainly demonstrates boundless confidence in Palin, doesn't it? She's great! But, um, no, nobody can talk to her. And of course that goes for John McCain too, who cancelled his scheduled appearance on Larry King tonight. His excuse: CNN's Campbell Brown had gone "over the line" in an interview with McCain flack Tucker Bounds and he was mad about it. Anybody buying that? Normally I might just write it off to McCain's famous sense of self-righteousness, but in this case it's pretty obvious he cancelled his appearance because he doesn't want to face the press either until he learns a little bit more about his "soulmate." Not to worry, though. I'm sure the vetting will be done any day now.

Family Values

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:34 AM EDT

FAMILY VALUES....OK, that's long enough. Here's William Yardley on how Sarah Palin introduced the culture wars to Wasilla:

The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people — Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? — seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.

Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin's behalf.

...."Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, 'Whoa,' " said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. "But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I'm not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: 'We will have our first Christian mayor.' "

No wonder James Dobson fell in love with her.

GOP Convention Opens: Did You Know McCain Was a POW?

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:30 AM EDT

The first night of the Republican's hurricane-delayed convention didn't matter--thanks to John McCain's decision to place Sarah Palin on his ticket. By choosing the little-known Alaska governor, who a short while ago was mayor of a small town and who has come to the national stage with soap opera in tow, McCain made Palin the story of this shortened week. There's more anticipation for her acceptance speech (on Wednesday night) than for his (Thursday night). George W. Bush, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani—forget about 'em, only Palin truly counts.

But the first night did reveal what McCain's strategists are thinking—or worrying—about. The speakers focused over and over on McCain's experience as a Vietnam prisoner of war and devoted little time to his 21 years in the Senate. It was almost as if McCain's two-and-a-half decades in Congress were a dirty secret. And one of the main speeches of the night—delivered by former Senator Fred Thompson—was full of 1980s-styled Republican red meat. (Democrats support abortion rights and will raise YOUR taxes.) It seemed as if the convention planners were so concerned about the Republican base that they had to go back to the future and plagiarize the Reagan playbook. And throughout the night, there was practically no acknowledgment there's any economic pain in the world outside the Xcel Energy Center. The McCain people say, this election is about character, not issues. Tonight really proved that: McCain doesn't need to feel voters' pain; they need to feel his.

The Republicans were somewhat fortunate they only have three evenings to program, due to Hurricane Gustav. How many times can McCain's "service" be praised before a well-behaved, not-very-excited crowd of well-dressed, older and predominantly white Americans who sit in neat rows beneath an electronic billboard bearing the phrase "Country First" and who hold on their laps placards that proclaim, "Service"? And how many Teddy Roosevelt references?

McCain may be the top of the ticket, but Palin has been the main attraction. After the news of her teenage daughter's pregnancy emerged—and smothered rumors that Palin had faked a pregnancy to cover up a supposed earlier pregnancy—the convention seemed to freeze. At receptions, during panel discussions, and in hotel lobbies, there was no talk of Bush's speech, which was first canceled and then rescheduled (as a video address on Tuesday). And no talk of what would be in McCain's speech. The one question is, how will she do?

Fred and Joe

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 11:54 PM EDT

FRED AND JOE....In case you're wondering where I've been for the past few hours, the answer is: I took the afternoon off. I really felt like I had to get away from Palin-mania for a few hours and clear my head. I'm sure I'll get back into the mix by tomorrow, though. In fact, maybe I'll even tell you about my Sarah Palin nightmare. Maybe.

But not right now. How about some reaction to Fred Thompson's keynote address instead? Do you think it was a good idea to dump Giuliani in his favor? Doesn't seem like it to me. I sat there waiting and waiting for Fred to deliver some red meat, and it almost never came. Finally, when it did, it seemed....sort of....blah. All the usual phrases were there, but Fred is so droopy sounding that it just didn't seem very rousing. The CNN talking heads seemed to think that it really energized the crowd on the convention floor, but I'm not so sure about that. They didn't look all that energized to me.

Still, this is the kind of thing that's almost impossible to judge if you're not the audience for the red meat. So maybe Fred did better than I thought. But my take, for what it's worth, is that they should have stuck with Rudy.

Joe Lieberman, on the other hand, who's speaking right now, strikes me as fairly effective. No red meat (yet), but that's not what he's there for. His flat, droning speaking style is probably just the ticket for this particular message, and he's doing a pretty good job of talking to the home audience and sounding oozingly sincere in his appointed role as bipartisan truth teller. His speech is a clear plus for McCain.

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Bush Addresses the RNC, Insults the "Angry Left," Himself

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 11:09 PM EDT

Two "really?" moments from Bush's address via satellite to the Party tonight:

1. Describing McCain's five and a half years as a POW: "If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain's resolve, you can be sure the Angry Left never will."

Wow, not nice.

2. Describing McCain's support of the surge during his presidential bid, risking unpopularity with the voters: "John McCain said he cared more about the United States not losing a war than he did about losing an election."

Well, duh. Oh yeah, if only you'd felt that way in 2004...

Key Source for Palin's Connection to Alaskan Independence Party Backs Off Account

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 7:58 PM EDT

In the past few days, during Sarah Palin's rough introduction to the American public, it has been reported (first by ABC News) that Palin, the governor of Alaska tapped by John McCain to be his running mate, was once a member of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP). This minor third party advocates for the secession of Alaska from the United States. It is affiliated with the Constitution Party, which supports the reign of Biblical common law. If Palin has indeed been an AIP true-believer, it would be rather curious: she would be a vice presidential candidate who favored reducing the size of the United States.

But it is getting harder to make that case. The McCain-Palin campaign on Tuesday released voter registration to show she was never registered to vote in Alaska as a member of the party. And a key source for the stories about Palin and the AIP backed off his account in an interview with Mother Jones. Palin's husband has been a long-time AIP member, but ascertaining her true association with the party has been difficult.

In recent press reports, Lynette Clark, the AIP's chairman, has been quoted as saying Palin was at an AIP convention in 1994 and was an official party member at the time. Other sources within the party tell Mother Jones that the only way to become a member of the AIP is to register to vote with the AIP. Yet the state of Alaska released records confirming what the McCain-Palin campaign had maintained: Palin never registered as an AIP member.

What explains the contradiction between Clark's claim and the records? Dexter Clark, husband of Lynette and a vice chairman of the Alaska Independence Party, said that when his wife told reporters that Palin had been an AIP member she was "acting on information from Mark Chryson," the party's regional chair for Wasilla, Palin's hometown. The 1994 convention was held in Wasilla, where Palin was a city councilmember at the time. Chryson "has repeatedly said to me personally and my wife, Lynette, and groups of party members at large, that at that 1994 convention, Sarah and Todd Palin attended and registered as members," Dexter Clark told Mother Jones.

Asked how Palin could have been a member, when state records did not indicate Palin ever registered as an AIP member, Chyrson, in an interview with Mother Jones, backed off his account. "What could have been the confusion—her husband was a member of the party. He was at the convention. She could have been considered—it might have been thought she was a member then." Talking Points Memo has reported that Todd Palin was a member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002, with the exception of a short period in 2000 when he was undeclared.

Tigh/Roslin Ticket Will Provide Strength and Purpose in Defeating Democrats Cylons

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 7:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-caprica.jpgThe presidential campaign has officially headed for outer space. As all of MoJoBlog as well as everyone everywhere is currently discussing, John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for VP was kind of kooky. But it all makes sense if you're deep in Battlestar Galactica fantasyland: sci-fi blog io9 has a breakdown of the McCain=Colonel Tigh/Palin=President Roslin "meme," as they call it, noting the similarities aren't just physical: Col. Tigh was tortured by the Cylons, and Roslin was Secretary of Education (I guess that equals PTA).

Now we already have a Tigh/Roslin campaign website, which is mostly amusing just for its visual nose-thumb at McCain's site, although the idea of Roslin winning "Most Likely to Airlock a Cylon" in the Miss Caprica beauty pageant is pretty amusing. Unfortunately, io9 says we can't laugh about it any more, since "it took less than five hours for the meme to go from funny to tired." Gods damn it! Can we still be amused by Palin's resemblance to Tina Fey?

Palin Will Indeed Bring The Breast Pump

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Lots of our commenters seem incensed that I questioned whether Sarah Palin will be campaigning with a breast pump in tow. But clearly she doesn't think that's a taboo subject herself. In an interview with People magazine last week, Palin said:

We don't sleep much. Too much to do. What I've had to do, though, is in the middle of the night, put down the BlackBerries and pick up the breast pump.

If Palin really wants to be a trailblazer she should truck that thing out in public, so that at least all TSA screeners will finally be able to distinguish them from bombs. And for those who think pumping breast milk is solely a private matter, you couldn't be more wrong. Legislation is pending in several states (as is litigation), to give women the right to pump on the job. Last year, New Mexico passed a bill that requires employers to give women breaks and a clean, private space in which they can pump breast milk. That bill was signed by Gov. Bill Richardson, a man who happens to be a Democrat, but who in one stroke of a pen seems to have done a lot more for the women and children in his state than Palin has done for hers.