Glen Beck, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Sarah Palin, Village Idiots, Violence

A Minor Note on Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel” Speech of January 12, 2011

In her speech earlier today, Sarah Palin seemed to be arguing that the inflamed and violent rhetoric of politicians and pundits cannot be legitimately seen as ever encouraging or provoking violence.

At least, something like that would need to be true if it were also true — as Palin states — that:  “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them.”  If such acts truly stand entirely on their own, then it can only be because nothing — nor anyone — has meaningfully influenced the criminals who commit them.  Otherwise, there is more than one cause of the acts, and thus more than one thing to blame.

The trouble with Palin’s suggestion that political speech has no meaningful influence on anyone’s actions is that almost every politician, pundit, and preacher in the world knows that she’s wrong.  What a public figure says can and often does significantly influence the behavior of others.

Ironically, if speeches were powerless to influence people’s behavior, then Sarah Palin would not have given her speech today — for it is clearly an attempt to influence people’s behavior.

No one that I know of is arguing that the entire responsibility for every politically motivated shooting in this country over the past ten years or so is wholly or completely borne by the inflamed and violent rhetoric of folks like Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and many, many others.   But to suggest, as Sarah Palin does, that such rhetoric has no meaningful influence at all on anyone’s behavior seems sheer bonkers.


News and Current Events, People, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Sarah Palin

Sarah’s Style


I’m curious what you make of the above graphic?  I really haven’t made up my mind about it at this point except to think it pretty much fits in with the rest of Palin.  That is, it’s her style.

Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Elections, George W. Bush, Joe Biden, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

What Happens if Obama Looses?

I don’t know whether Obama will win or loose in two days.  I don’t think anyone really knows.  He’s got every chance of winning, but strange things happen in politics.  So we can’t be certain what’s going to happen.  We can only do our best to achieve the outcome many of us hope for.  But what happens if he does loose?

I know people who would be devasted.  I suspect millions of people would be.  I think most of them would be shocked.  I think many of them would mourn.  And I wonder whether their shock and grief would turn into anger?  I wonder about that because I think, if Obama looses, just about anything could happen in the aftermath.  I imagine it would be as dangerous a moment in American politics as any moment in our history.

It does not reassure me Bush and Cheney would be still be in power during that most difficult event.  Bush and Cheney are screw ups.  It’s not too hard to imagine them doing something that would dreadfully worsen the situation for everyone.  The Nation would need a peacemaker, but those two buffoons are not peacemakers but dividers.

Could McCain govern if he won?  I think up to half the Nation would feel in their hearts he did not deserve to lead them.  He would need to overcome that to govern, but could he?

Frankly, I don’t think he has the political skill to pull it off.

So, ironically, if Obama looses, the nation is likely to look to him for guidance on how to handle the loss.  Upon how he chose to handle the situation, all else would turn.

On the other hand, if McCain looses, I’m guessing that far fewer people will be actually devastated.  A few, of course, but most McCain supporters will pick themselves up and get on with their lives.  So, I don’t think a McCain loss will create a moment in American history nearly as dangerous as an Obama loss could create.

At least, those are my hunches.

Barack Obama, Elections, Joe Biden, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

What I’m Fixing to do Come Election Night

On election night, I plan to post six live election maps on my blog.

One map will show state by state results in the presidential race for the entire country.  The other five maps will show county by county results in the presidential race for these five battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  If all goes well, all the maps should update in real time.

I’m doing it to help me keep track of the election, but anyone who is interested is invited to drop by, look over what’s happening, and leave comments on the election.

Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Are the Smears Sticking?

I could be very wrong, but I get the sense most Americans are not listening to McCain and Palin’s desperate and hysterical smears.  The notion Obama is a socialist, a friend of terrorists, anti-American, and so forth, just doesn’t seem to be resonating outside the Republican base.  That’s my impression, but I wonder if I’m right?

Barack Obama, Citizenship, Economic Crisis, Elections, Joe Biden, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

McCain: The Experience to Mislead a Great Nation

Somehow I must have pissed off my mail carrier because all he left me this morning were two campaign flyers.  Both from the McCain Campaign.  One calls Obama a liar and the other says Obama is “dangerously inexperienced.”

I don’t know whether Obama is anymore of a liar than the rest of us folks, but I suspect the McCain Campaign isn’t the most reputable source I can find to answer that question.

The other flyer — the “dangerously inexperienced” one — makes me grin.  It wasn’t too long ago that Mr. McExperience himself looked like a reckless drunk emptying a hair trigger pistol when he was confronting the first days of the economic crisis, while Obama came across calm, in command of himself, and calling his shots.  So, I’m thinking McCain has never studied economics.  And that makes me wonder what McCain did with all those years he was gaining the experience to mislead a great nation.

I used to be kind of fond of John McCain.  That was before I noticed he runs an unusually dishonest, reckless, and mean spirited campaign.  Who wants a country governed like that?

Barack Obama, Elections, George W. Bush, Joe Biden, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Republicans Trying to Suppress Vote — Again

It seems to me the Republicans are up to their old tricks again. They are charging registration and voter fraud in an effort to suppress Democratic voters — just like they did in 2000 and 2004.

The idea is first to charge registration and voter fraud, which the Republicans are doing with ACORN as the target. Then the next step is to leak news that the Government is investigating the charges, which the Republicans did 24 hours after the last presidential debate. Last, the Republicans then spread rumors among the voters they don’t want voting that they might become the target of investigators if they vote in the election. That’s the pattern from 2000 through the present.

This time the Democrats are doing more than expressing alarm, though. Last night, they went on record demanding a special prosecutor investigate the matter to discover if there are any links or criminal coordination between the McCain Campaign and the Federal Government.

This could get nasty. Is that Republican butt steak I smell on the grill?

Culture, Education, Ethics, Intellectual Honesty, Late Night Thoughts, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, People, Politics, Sarah Palin, Society, Truth, Values

Is a Decent Respect for Truth Essential to a Free Society?

Yesterday, I spent some time with a friend who, now and then, likes to remind me that America is in an across the board moral decline.  Of course, I don’t buy that, but she is devoted to watching Fox News and, consequently, is certain every thing’s going to hell except the righteous and eternal principles of trailer park conservatism.

Her mind is fully made up, and so I don’t trouble myself arguing with her.  Yet, so far as I know, some values are in decline while others are on the rise.  For instance, compared with the society of a hundred years ago, Americans nowadays seem much less tolerant of such things as spousal and child abuse, racism, violence, sexism, xenophobia, police brutality, and a host of other social ills.  On the other hand, there’s good evidence we are more tolerant of some things — such as lying and cheating.

Today, you see Americans of all classes habitually lie and cheat in ways that would have astonished a respectable middle-class citizen of circa 1900.  The Robber Barons of that day would not be too shocked by today’s mainstream values, but I think the middle-class folk would be appalled.  Remember, that was an age in which people went to amazing lengths to be technically truthful even on those occasions when they felt a need to lie. That is, when lying, the people of that generation would typically state the truth, but phrase it in a misleading way.  Reputation mattered, and word that a man or woman was dishonest could ruin them both socially and financially.

Americans have by and large lost that ancient respect for the truth.  When compared with 1900s America, we are today a nation of liars and cheats.  It would be interesting to speculate on the causes of that sea-change, but I don’t think I have the space to do that here beyond rapidly mentioning four possible factors — the decimation of the old middle class (and its values) during the world wars, the rise of the advertising and public relations industries, the decline of genuine communities, and the abandonment of the old values by new political and social elites.   I’m sure other factors have played a role too.  Instead of addressing the causes, though, I will address what could be the consequences.

Let’s begin with the most current examples I could find of how lying is done by our leaders these days: The lies told only yesterday by Rick Davis and Sarah Palin.  These are two people who not only occupy positions of leadership in our society, but who are also routine liars, and their morals may be presumed acceptable to large numbers of Americans.

Sunday morning, McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis appeared on Fox News to discuss the Troopergate Report, which was released Friday.  When asked a question by Chris Wallace, Davis replied (5:00):

“The reality is there was absolutely no wrongdoing found in the report — 1,000 pages — an enormous waste of time — and the best they could come up with was: no violations of any kinds of laws or ethics rules.”

However, the very first finding of the Report — on page 8 (.pdf) — states:

“For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.  Alaska statute 39.52.110(a) provides

‘The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.'”

Rick Davis, then, was lying.  Moreover, he did not cease lying when Chris Wallace confronted him with the truth, saying, “No.  It [the Report] said she violated the state ethics laws.”  Instead, Davis persisted in his lie that the Report found, “no violations of any kinds of laws or ethics rules.”  And he characterized and dismissed (3:50) the Report as, “kangaroo court” — “big public circus” — “this now drops dead and there’ll be no follow-up at all”.

Of course, what’s interesting here is the lack of an effort by Davis to wrap his lies in an appearance of truth.  That is, he’s not trying to persuade anyone he’s telling the truth.  Instead, he is almost entirely relying on his audience to faithfully persuade themselves he’s telling the truth.   That is also what Sarah Palin did yesterday:

“In a Saturday conference call with Alaska journalists, Palin said she was ‘pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there.’ She denounced the investigation, calling it ‘a partisan circus.'”

I think it’s significant Davis and Palin are lying in a brazen manner, instead of lying in a way that would be difficult to discover and prove mendacious.  That seems to indicate they are relying on the willingness of their audience to dupe itself into believing their lies.  And I don’t think they could be so confident their audience would do that for them if it were routine for audiences these days to (1) think critically and (2) exercise intellectual honesty.  Perhaps critical thinking and intellectual honesty are diligently cultivated only if there’s a high regard for truth.

Why, though, would anyone dupe themselves into believing a transparent lie?  I think that might happen when someone values whatever gives them hope more than they value truth.  If, for instance, we hope that Sarah Palin is innocent, and we lack a well developed skill for critical thinking along with a decent respect for intellectual honesty, we might clutch at any lie — no matter how insubstantial — that “proves” her innocence.  Hope is the great deceiver.

What are the consequences to our society of this rise in tolerance for lies and lying?  This devaluation of critical thinking, intellectual honesty and — ultimately — truth?

In one sense, we see the consequences daily in such things as the irrational denial of the theory of evolution, the similar denial of global warming, the unreasonable promotion of abstinence-only sex education, the groundless opposition to gay marriage, and so on.  Yet, as important as the truth is in such cases, there is still a far greater consequence of our society’s whimsical devaluation of truth.

Now, I am not usually sympathetic to the notion morals have much to do with the rise and fall of nations.  There seem to me many stronger causes than morals for their rise and fall.  But in this one case, I believe I can see how it makes a significant difference what morals a people have.

So far as I can see, truth is the least oppressive basis for building consensus and unity in a society.  Other means of building consensus and unity — such as on the basis of civil or religious authority — have historically proved to be much more oppressive to liberty and freedom than building consensus and unity on the basis of truth.

If that is indeed the case, then a society that treats truth as a mere consumer choice cannot for long hope to remain free.  Sooner or later, such a society will have so little respect for truth that only other means — much more oppressive means — of building consensus and unity will be the means available to it.  A nation of habitual liars will someday become a nation enslaved.

Attachment, Elections, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Quotes, Sarah Palin

Roger Ebert on Sarah Palin’s Popularity

“I think I might be able to explain some of Sarah Palin’s appeal. She’s the ‘American Idol’ candidate. Consider. What defines an ‘American Idol’ finalist? They’re good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they’re darned near the real thing. There’s a reason ‘American Idol’ gets such high ratings. People identify with the contestants. They think, Hey, that could be me up there on that show!”

Roger Ebert

(H/T Decrepit Old Fool)

Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Who’s Lying More About Obama? McCain or Palin?

I’ve lost track.  About a week ago, Palin was in the lead.  But McCain has been doing some pretty heavy catching up.  So, as it stands, which one of them is now lying more about Barack Obama?

Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, Obligations to Society, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Notes on the Second Presidential Debate Between Obama and McCain

I don’t like the smear campaign John McCain has decided to run in the last weeks of the election, so I found myself a bit irked with him going into last night’s debate.  (If things were turned around and Barack Obama had been the first to resort to smears, I would probably drop my support for him and vote third party — which indicates how strongly I believe starting a smear campaign reflects poorly on a candidate’s character and qualifications.)  So, McCain didn’t have a chance with me last night.  Nevertheless, he did make one proposal I liked.

I don’t know what McCain would do to pay for it, but I liked his idea of buying up old folks mortgages and then refinancing them at rates the people can afford to pay in order to keep old folks in their homes.  If McCain would only come up with more ideas like that one — and show us how he’s going to pay for them — he could run on the issues, rather than run a Karl Rovian smear campaign.  Maybe he’d still loose.  But maybe he’d win.  And at least he’d be doing his civic duty to give the American people a real choice in November.

The only other thing I greatly liked about McCain’s performance last night was he didn’t indulge himself — as he and Sarah Palin have while campaigning these last few days — in flinging feces at Obama as if he (McCain) were some kind of chimpanzee rather than a presidential candidate.  McCain was on the offensive, but he didn’t stoop to flinging crap about Ayers or Wright, etc.  Consequently, he didn’t look nearly as desperate, needy and panicked as he has to me on the campaign trail these past few days.

The thing that makes me most proud of this election is the American people.  By and large, we Americans seem to understand the importance of this election and we are locked on and tracking it in large numbers.

Obama impressed me as authentic, knowledgable, even-tempered, and in touch with the people last night.  In deciding who to vote for, I go with what I know and my gut response to it.  That is, I gather as much information as I can, analyse it, and then figure out what my gut has decided.  I do that over and over until the day comes when I actually vote.  Right now, my gut is for Obama.  That might change between now and my vote, but I don’t know of any other way to do it that leaves me as happy with my final decision.  In the past, when I’ve made purely intellectual decisions, I’ve lived to regret them.  Likewise, when I’ve made purely gut decisions, I’ve lived to regret some of them too.  But this mix of head and gut seems to work for me.

As usual, the CBS/Knowledge Networks poll (.pdf) came out shortly after the debate.  According to the poll, 40 percent of uncommitted voters watching the debate believed Obama won.  That’s compared to 26 percent who thought McCain won, and another 34 percent who thought it was a tie.  The margin of error was 4 percentage points, so there is no statistically significant difference between the size of the group that thought Obama won and the size of the group that thought the debate was a tie.  However, there is a statistically significant difference between those two groups and the size of the smaller group that thought McCain won.

When asked who would make the right decisions about the economy, Obama made statistically significant gains among the uncommitted voters during the debate, but McCain didn’t.  For all practical purposes, the same percentage of people thought McCain would make the right economic decisions before the debate as after it.

When the voters were asked who would make the right decisions about the war in Iraq, neither Obama nor McCain picked up statistically significant support during the debate.  That means the debate did little to help Obama close the gap between himself and McCain on that question.

Yet, when the uncommitted voters were asked who understood their needs and problems, Obama’s support lept 21 percentage points, while McCain’s went up a mere 11 percentage points.  Obama was already ahead on that question, but he widened his lead last night.

Overall, the debate moved as many people into one camp as it did into the other.  Fifteen percent committed to Obama, 12 percent committed to McCain (a statistically insignificant difference), and 72 percent remained uncommitted.

Some of us complain about these polls, but I find the scientific ones infinitely more valuable than the frequently biased guesses of our nation’s pundits.  If you were laying money on it, it would be foolish to bet that a spin-puppy knows more about what people are thinking than a good poll reveals.

Well, those are my thoughts this morning on the debate.  Now I’m curious how you saw it?

Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Economic Crisis, Elections, George W. Bush, Joe Biden, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin, Values

Sarah Palin is Lying about Barack Obama and Bill Ayers — But Why?

Yesterday, Sarah Palin gave a speech in which she decided, perhaps of her own volition, to lie about Barack Obama.  Yet, for some bizarre reason she screwed herself over by citing the source (i.e. The New York Times) on which her lie was based.

Thus she made it easy for even an intelligent child to compare the lie she told with what The New York Times actually published.  And I think any fair comparison between her lie and the Times article reveals Palin to be a foolish liar.

First, here’s what Palin said in her speech, which I transcribed from a video:

“I was reading today a copy of The New York Times.  And I was really interested to read in there about Barack Obama’s friends from Chicago.  It turns out one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to The New York Times, was a domestic terrorist, and part of the group — part of the group that, quote, launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the US Capitol.  Man!  These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes.  Remember that’s what Joe Biden said.”

“Now, this is not a man who sees America as you and I see America.  We see America as a force for good in this world.  We see an America of exceptionalism.  Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.”

The former domestic terrorist Palin refers to is Bill Ayers, who was long ago a member of the Weather Underground, and who currently lives in the same middle class Chicago neighborhood as Barack Obama.

In her speech, Palin does everything she can to paint Obama and Ayers as close to each other.  But that happens not to be the case.  The New York Times article makes it very clear Obama and Ayers have only a chance relationship with one another:

“At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.”

“Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.”


“…the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called ‘somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'”

So Palin is blatantly — and I think viciously — lying when she says Obama and Ayers are “pals”.  What makes her lying especially bizarre is she cites her source — which allows anyone to easily discover for themselves that she is lying.  That makes her not just a liar, but a foolish liar.

Yet, why is she lying in the first place?  Is she merely a compulsive or pathological liar?  Or are there strategic reasons for her deceptions?

I would suggest Palin is lying for at least three entwined reasons, each having to do with flaws in her ticket.  First, the ticket she’s running on supports policies that are for the most part indistinguishable from the failed policies of the Bush / Cheney Administration.  Consequently, neither she nor John McCain can realistically run on the strength of their policies without trapping themselves.  Without that option, however, what do they have left to run on?

I don’t think Palin and McCain any longer have the option of running on the strength of their characters.  Both have demonstrated themselves to be very flawed people, and perhaps even inferior to their opponents.

Yet, if you cannot run on the strength either of your policies or your character, you are left with only one option — attack your opponent, demonize him, and hope you frighten enough voters away from him to you.

Consequently, they are trying to make Obama’s character the issue in the race.  Unfortunately, Obama has a pretty solid and respectable character, so their desire to make his character the issue requires them to lie about him.

And that I think is why Sarah Palin and John McCain will tell one lie after another about Barack Obama until election day.

But what do you think?