Gay Marriage Ban Succeeding in California

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 2:27 PM EDT

I'm really unhappy that my home state looks like it will pass a gay marriage ban next month. (California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, is ahead in the polls.) This serves as a reminder that no matter how badly Barack Obama beats John McCain and no matter how many Senate seats the Democrats pick up, this is not a fundamentally progressive country. This is a country fed up with Republicans. I mean for christ's sake, this is California, the one place you would think voters would embrace gay marriage!

The success of Prop 8 supports a theory I have and that I'm sure many share: electing a black man named Barack Hussein Obama was only possible because of just how screwed we are as a country. Let's keep in mind, during the post-election pats on the back we're all going award ourselves because we elected the nation's first black president, that in a test of our tolerance conducted in a vacuum, one of our most progressive states failed.

(Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe I'm overly-pessimistic. Whatever. I'm in a bad mood about this.)

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Sarah's Airplane

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 1:57 PM EDT

SARAH'S AIRPLANE....Alaska's First Dude has finally been forced to give testimony in the Troopergate scandal, and apparently getting ex-brother-in-law Mike Wooten fired from his job as a state trooper became a serious Ahab-like obsession with him:

Todd Palin talked with over a dozen state officials, many of them repeatedly, in his crusade to get a state trooper fired whom he considered to be a bad cop, a dishonest person and a threat to the Palin family, according to his sworn statement given Wednesday to a legislative investigator....Todd Palin's efforts started before his wife became governor and accelerated during the first 19 months of her administration.

...."I had hundreds of conversations and communications about Trooper Wooten over the last several years with my family, with friends, with colleagues, and with just about everyone I could — including government officials," Palin said.

Hundreds! But that's actually not the most interesting part of the story. Todd Palin continues to insist that his anti-Wooten jihad had nothing to do with Sarah Palin's eventual firing of public safety commissioner Walt Monegan, which he says was motivated by an entirely different kind of bad blood: her difficulty getting Monegan to provide her with a plane for official trips:

On the trooper airplane, "It seemed that whenever Sarah needed this plane, it was unavailable," Todd Palin said. "We were concerned that the Department of Public Safety was retaliating against Sarah for selling the Murkowski jet that Department of Public Safety officials enjoyed using." In 2007, the governor sold a jet her predecessor, Frank Murkowski, bought in a controversial defiance of the Legislature.

Please, please, can we hear more about this tussle over airplane use? Apparently Todd Palin thinks that's an entirely proper reason for firing Monegan, and I'm eager to hear Sarah's take on that. Please?

Sarah Palin's Foreign Policy Cred

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 1:16 PM EDT

SARAH PALIN'S FOREIGN POLICY CRED....Interested in learning about Sarah Palin's real foreign policy experience? David Corn has her official calendar for 2007-08 and spills the beans. Bottom line: she's spent an average of 37 minutes per month on foreign-ish activity during her tenure as governor. There were no meetings with Russian officials of any kind, but her schedule did include 30 minutes at a reception held by the Italian embassy, a meeting with foreign exchange students, and a speech at the Eighth Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians. Plus several miscellaneous meetings with Canadians. Exciting stuff!

McCain's Rescue Plan

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:56 PM EDT

McCAIN'S RESCUE PLAN....It's now clear that John McCain's $300 billion homeowner rescue plan really does envision paying mortgage lenders full face value for their subprime loans, even though they've all cratered badly during the housing bust. How do we know? Because his website originally said that mortgage lenders would be required to write down their loans, but that language was removed on Wednesday. It was "a simple mistake," the campaign said.

But here's what I don't get: why? This was plainly a middle class pander, and not one that McCain would have been obligated to follow through on. This kind of stuff changes at the detail level all the time. So why include such a blatant giveaway for Wall Street? Even if you have some technical reason for thinking it's a good idea, it doesn't make any political sense at all. What's going on?

...And Some Growing Increasingly Sane

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:36 PM EDT

While some conservatives grow increasingly batty, some are growing increasingly sane. And by "increasingly sane," I mean increasingly cognizant of some of the Republican Party's troubling undercurrents that have brought it to this point. Here's David Brooks.

Here's the relevant excerpt transcribed:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. . … Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

(Via Think Progress)

On Right-Wingers Going Crazy...

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:14 PM EDT

Two notes on Kevin's observation that right wing writers are descending into hilarious self-caricature as Obama pulls ahead in the polls.

(1) Kevin notes that the right wing blog The Corner is now posting about "Obama being a secret Maoist." He's not kidding. Here's an actual quote, written with high seriousness: "[Obama] fits comfortably with Ayers, who (especially now) is more Maoist than Stalinist." And, no, they aren't kidding. It makes me wonder: as someone who now wants the federal government to own America's bad mortgages, what kind of communist is John McCain?

(2) The right wing isn't just becoming more and more divorced from reality as their electoral prospects worsen. It's also becoming more racist and more susceptible to crazy conspiracy theories. One of them is actually claiming, sans evidence, that Bill Ayers ghost wrote Dreams of My Father.

Like I said yesterday, this is going to get hilarious before it's over.

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Are You Hot or Not?

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

Researchers in Israel have come up with a mathematical formula to answer the question. Using a computer program called the "beautification engine," you can basically feed a picture of yourself into the machine, and it will pop out the new and improved you. (I, for one, would rather not know how much better I could look. I can't see that being any help to my self confidence. But I digress...) The formula is based on 68 responses from men and women in Germany and Israel who were asked to rate the beauty of a set of facial images. Now, this is not the kind of science that will win anyone a Nobel Prize, but at least one revelation seems to have come out of it: James Franco is apparently the most perfect male specimen on the planet. His agent must be busy this morning...

Doonesbury, Cont'd.

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 11:18 AM EDT

Here's yesterday's strip:


And here's a link to today's. The crusade continues.

Calendars Show Gov. Palin's Foreign Policy Experience: About 20 Meetings for About 12 Hours

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 11:17 AM EDT

In her first interview after John McCain picked her to be the GOP's vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claimed that her foreign policy credentials were enhanced because "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." She also pointed out that she had experience dealing with trade delegations. Later, asked by CBS News' Katie Couric if she had ever participated in negotiations with Russia, Palin said, "We have trade missions back and forth. We—we do—it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia ."

But the calendars tracking Palin's official meetings during her tenure as governor contain not one listing indicating she ever met with a Russian official. In fact, the 562 pages of her daily schedules—obtained by Mother Jones under Alaska's Open Records Act—indicate that Palin had few meetings at all with any foreign representatives and rarely dealt with any topic related to foreign policy. The schedules include about 20 meetings, events, or phone calls in which Palin interacted with foreign officials. And in many instances, these interactions were cursory or ceremonial and did not involve policy details. According to the schedules released, Palin spent roughly 12 hours over the course of 19 months on these meetings. (This doesn't count what happened during a four-day trip she took to Kuwait to visit members of the Alaska National Guard. The schedules for those days do not detail whom she met.) The calendars show no meetings between her and a trade delegation from any nation.

It's possible that the calendars are not fully accurate reflections of what happened—perhaps some meetings ran longer (or shorter) than scheduled. And it's possible that in her off hours, Palin pored over Foreign Affairs, held unofficial chats with foreign officials, and sought out foreign policy experts. Also, there is a six-week gap in her calendars—from mid May through the end of June 2007—due to what her office calls a "computer failure." But according to the schedules, throughout her stint as governor, Palin has devoted merely a few hours to anything of a foreign relations nature, and most of her contact with foreign officials came through discussions with Canadian officials about a natural gas pipeline involving a Canadian company.

Here is a complete list of all of Palin's official calendar entries for events or meetings in which she had to interact with a foreign representative. The missing weeks aside, this list represents the sum of the foreign policy experience she obtained while serving as governor.

The Rumble in the Corner

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 2:51 AM EDT

THE RUMBLE IN THE CORNER....As regular readers know, I'm a fan of NRO's The Corner, which I think of as sort of a direct pipeline into the conservative id. Lately, as an Obama victory has become more and more likely, the Cornerites have started going completely around the bend, venting their frustration in lunatic conspiracy theories and manic love notes that are increasingly untethered from the real world. This afternoon, after reading their latest bunch of posts about Obama being a secret Maoist, I thought maybe I should finally write something about it. In the end I was too lazy to do it, but luckily Hilzoy came through with a post that hits all the high points I was going to make anyway. Go check it out to get a sense of how the impending doom of an Obama victory is sending conservatives into cloudcuckooland.

But why are they going so stone batty? My theory is that Obama is driving them crazy the same way that Ali drove Foreman crazy in the Rumble in the Jungle. You remember that fight, don't you? Foreman was the heavy favorite, a brawler who had dropped Joe Frazier in two rounds and seemed likely to beat Ali to a pulp. But Ali won by playing mind games on Foreman. He sat on the ropes, took hit after hit, and then taunted Foreman in the clinches to hit him even harder. An enraged Foreman kept swinging wildly, but nothing worked. Ali took everything he could dish out, and the furnace-like heat finally did Foreman in. In the eighth round, drained and exhausted, he was knocked cold by an Ali combination that ended the fight.

The same thing is happening to McCain and his supporters. They're throwing everything they have at Obama, and he's just taking it. Nothing seems to have an effect, so they keep swinging ever more wildly. But that isn't working either, and it's driving them crazy. Who is this guy? Why won't he go down? It's enraging. They just can't believe they're losing to this punk. And so they become ever more unhinged, making up wilder and wilder stories and becoming more and more enraged when they can't get any traction with them. At this rate, their next stop is a padded cell at Arkham.

Personally, I wish Obama were doing more than playing rope-a-dope: it's going to win him an election, but it might not win him the war. Still, it is pretty likely to win him the election, and it's driving lots of conservatives crackers at the same time. We could do worse, I guess.