Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is it Live or is it Memorex? No, It's Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on SNL!

When you have a hard time telling the difference between the real thing and the satire -- well, lets just say, that's not a good sign. Even folks in Palin's own party are getting a little nervous. Listen to this from conservative columnist Kathleen Parker:
"Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first."
Ouch. And that's from someone who liked her. Thursday night oughta be interesting, folks. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sarah Silverman and the Great Schlep

Beware: some of the language in this video is more than a little off color and also potentially offensive. It is Sarah Silverman, after all. So why am I sharing it? Well, it illustrates the lengths to which many people are going in order to elect Barack Obama. After tonight's debate, you may also be feeling like you'd go the extra mile to ensure that passive-aggressive windbag -- aka, The Maverick -- doesn't get into the White House.

Speaking of travel -- the point of The Great Schlep is for younger Jewish voters to convince their grandparents and other elders to vote for Barack Obama -- and convince them by any means necessary, as Silverman off-colorfully discusses in this video. I would submit, however, it's not just older Jewish voters that need to be convinced that Obama's the Man -- the polls tell us old white folks in general are proving alarmingly recalcitrant to Change. I'm stunned, of course. As such, even us gentiles should think about making The Great Schlep. Here are the basics about The Great Schlep campaign:

When is the The Great Schlep?
Columbus Day weekend from October 11–13, 2008.

How do I go?

Call up your grandparents and tell them to get the couch ready.

How do I coordinate with other Schleppers?
Use the message board on Facebook. Join our group now!

What if I can’t travel, how can I still take part in The Great Schlep?
Download the PDF and give your grandparents a call. Or head over to JewsVote.org where you can send pre-written grandparent-friendly Obama emails and more.

Copyright 2008 (original text only). The Zaftig Redhead.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letterman Rips into McCain for Suspending Campaign

John McCain was supposed to appear on The David Letterman Show last night. But, Mr. Straight Talk skipped the late night venue because he "was racing back to Washington" immediately to deal with the economic crisis. Dave apparently took the cancellation with his usual aplomb -- until he found out the Maverick was still in the building -- with Katie Couric. Trust me, after Wednesday's program, it's become very clear Mr. Letterman does not appreciate being dissed as part of transparent political gambit. Yes, folks, Dave is not the man with whom to f#$k. Here are just a few of Dave's zingers from last night -- sprinkled throughout the show.

"When you call up at the last minute and you cancel a show, ladies and gentleman, that's startin' to smell. I mean, this is not the John McCain I know, by God. It makes me believe something is going haywire with the campaign."

"I'm more than a little disappointed by this behavior. ... are we suspending it [the campaign] because there's an economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding?"

"Here's what you do if you're running a campaign in the middle of an economic crisis. Here's what you do ... you're a fourth-term senator from Arizona. You go back to Washington, you handle what you need to handle. Don't suspend your campaign. You let your campaign go on, shouldered by your vice presidential nominee, that's what you do. You don't quit! Or is that really a good thing to do?"

"You heard it here first. This just doesn't smell right. This is not the way a tested hero behaves."

Here's the only thing I can say, folks: McCain disses Letterman and cancels appearance? Dave excoriates McCain, his running mate, and his campaign. Keith Olbermann is called in as a last minute replacement for McCain? Priceless!

Copyright 2008 (original text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bill Maher's Religulous: In Theaters October 3rd

Anyone else concerned about the encroachment of religion into politics, especially in a country where there is supposed to be a bright line separation between church and state? Well, it looks like comedian Bill Maher has taken on the subject in his film, Religulous. Also, if you are looking for an organization that's fighting the good fight on this issue, try Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; their big project now is to stop illegal church electioneering. AU's efforts are particularly important given the Alliance Defense Fund's efforts to politicize the issue and force a court showdown over the separation of church and state. This weekend, more than 200 pastors plan to endorse candidates from the pulpit; if the IRS threatens their non-profit status as a result they have vowed to file lawsuits as part of the Pulpit Initiative. And, given how the Bush Administration has tipped the scales in the judiciary, I am more than a little nervous about the outcome of such challenges. Maybe Maher's movie -- well timed given the Pulpit Initiative's big day -- will help to stem the tide.

Copyright 2008 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

A Debate Idea as the Republicans Try Their Hand at Triangulation

The latest example of the McCain campaign's calculating tactics surfaced today, when Mr. Deregulation himself unilaterally suspended his campaign and declared that the first presidential debate -- scheduled for Friday night -- should be postponed until Congress has come up with a solution to the financial crisis. Blindsided, Barack Obama responded that he was perfectly skilled at multi-tasking, thank you very much -- in fact, as president it's required. Obama also tried to say that presidential politics should not muddy the waters of Congressional work on the bailout (yeah, nice try). However, John McCain has said if Congress has not approved legislation by Friday night, he'll be a no-show at the debate. Hmmm. Is this just more grandstanding or are you perhaps carrying more water for Dubya, Maverick?

Well , I have an idea for both of campaigns: how about we simply change the topic of the debate? Move away from the scheduled issue of international relations to the now paramount issue of the economy. It seems quite apropos and -- dare I say -- even logical. But, it doesn't allow McCain to utilize this transparent gambit and somehow try to paint Obama as indecisive on the issue, so I can't imagine McCain going for it. I do think Obama should throw it out there -- let McCain tap dance his way out of that one. Yeah, I know, we don't want Barack to look like he's avoiding an IR discussion, where he's perceived as less experienced -- but McCain's opened the door, so I think Barack could walk through pretty much unscathed.

Meanwhile, as Congress debates the issue this week, its become clear that they are not even remotely enamored of the Bush Administration's bailout plan -- the blank check and lack of checks and balances on the Treasury Department, the court stripping, not to mention the lack of accountability for Wall Street -- are indeed deplorable. I think Congress and the American people are soooo over giving this Administration any kind of carte blanche -- we've all seen where that has gotten us.

Indeed, Republicans appear to be just as skeptical of the Administration's latest transparent power grab as the Democrats. Perhaps they have decided to follow the advice of a Republican strategist, which goes something like this: triangulate, triangulate, triangulate. Stand up to the unpopular Bushies and their latest rip off for the rich, and blame the Democrats for muscling through this "must pass" bill. Then, publicly pat yourself on the back for being the only ones who care about Main Street. Hmmm. Interesting ploy -- smart, even. Bullshit, of course. Republicans are too tied to Wall Street and this entire mess, and rightly so. Of course, the Republicans are also great at revisionist history, and the McCain camp just simply lies when the truth doesn't suit them.

Or, perhaps Congress' skepticism can be explained by the fact that they, too, also received this email -- which landed in my inbox earlier this week.

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion USD. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who (God willing) will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a former U.S. congressional leader and the architect of the PALIN / McCain Financial Doctrine, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. As such, you can be assured that this transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully
Minister of Treasury Paulson

Hmmmm. Is Congress working on a Wall Street Bailout or have they fallen for a SPAM scam. You make the call.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 22, 2008

60th Annual Emmy Awards: Josh Groban's Theme Song Medley ROCKS!

Yeah, you read the headline right. I said Josh Groban ROCKS. Really. Never thought I would use that description for Mr. Groban, but stranger things have happened. You gotta watch this medley he put together of our favorite television theme songs -- from Rawhide to Southpark, from Friends to COPS and everything in between. Groban even manages to work in the theme from "The X Files," which has no words. It's hilarious and creative, because he also kinda acts out each theme song in addition to singing the notes -- I especially love the slow motion run during the theme from "Baywatch," and how he becomes a cheesey lounge singer for "The Love Boat." Anyway, take a break from your busy lives, and enjoy the talents of Josh Groban. Who knew he was so versatile? Way to get outta the elevator, Josh!

Just What Every Woman Needs: A Wild Cherry Steam Thing

In this critical election year, women will most likely be the deciding vote. It's quite a responsibility, really -- the direction, indeed the future of a nation rests in our hands. As such, women are more engaged than ever -- 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling don't lie; neither does the fact that pay equity is front and center this election season.

In many ways, this decision-making power rests well with women. We're comfortable with it. We have long been the primary family economic and social decision makers -- whether it's buying the family home, choosing a car, when to go to the doctor, or what laundry detergent or mustard to buy. Marketers have long known this, and therefore target women directly. Unfortunately, their advertising has not necessarily caught up with women's key roles and critical decision-making positions. Take this ad... "A woman has needs. And right now I need this wild cherry steam thing." All this shit happening in the world today, and all they think women can think about is a snappy new red washer/dryer set? Now, as you all know, I am not without humor, and I appreciate clean clothes as much as the next person -- perhaps more. But this ad is whacked. All I could think when I read it was "Huh? WTF?"

Personally, I think women have more important needs. In fact, I am quite confident we do. Let me enumerate -- for the benefit of the manufacturers of the LG steam washer and dryer and their marketing "gurus" -- just a few of the things that I need, in no particular order.

1) Got equal pay? Um, no. Well, women did just get a one cent raise -- the average went from 77 cents on the male dollar to 78 cents. Woo Hoo. So let's start there -- pay us fairly, and I can buy your fancy appliances.

2) How about a fair and balanced judiciary? So the precious few civil rights and liberties women do have are protected. And so when I sue your ass for sexual harassment and pay discrimination, I have a better than 5 percent chance of winning -- which are the current odds, by the way.

3) While I'm on the subject of the judiciary, hands off my reproductive rights, okay? And let's make them real -- ensure docs are trained in abortion techniques and women's health; make sure hospitals have to offer emergency contraception (even the Catholic hospitals); ensure Rx drug plans cover birth control, especially if they cover Viagra; teach comprehensive, age-appropriate comprehensive sex education in our schools; repeal the global gag rule and increase national and international family planning funding. Course, the more kids I have the more I'm gonna want your fancy washing machine, I guess.

4) How about a basic guarantee of paid family and medical leave, and paid sick days while I'm at it. Yes, we have a federal FMLA law now, but lots of folks don't take advantage of the protections because it's unpaid. If you work in a job with no vacation or paid sick time, then you're shit outta luck. This country's work/family policies are the joke of the developed world -- hell, lots of "underdeveloped" countries do better than we do. Gimme some time off, and I can do my laundry in your super dupper machines.

5) Can you say health care? I knew you could. We need comprehensive, universal, affordable, high quality health care. End of story. 'Nuf said.

6) How about the best public schools on the planet? And affordable colleges so that everyone can explore and reach their full potential. This isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do -- it's about global competitiveness and national security. You want smart workers who can build your washing machines? Then we need to do a lot better by our K-12 system and make college more accessible. Oh, wait, you probably outsourced those factory jobs overseas, didn't you? Made in China? Or maybe you just outsourced your advertising efforts -- which would explain your piss-poor ability to relate to American women in this particular ad.

7) Stop violence against women and children -- rape, incest, domestic violence. We need better enforcement of current laws, more funding for prevention and victim support programs, and fundamental social change that tips in favor of simply not tolerating this crap. Can your washing machine, which you seem to think is what women really long for, take care of that problem, please?

8) I hope your cherry red washer/dryer set is energy efficient, 'cuz our environment is in a world of hurt. We need more research and federal support for alternative energy sources, more recycling, environmental education in the schools, better public transportation, etc.

Okay, so I'm on a rant, but damn! These ridiculous ads make me a little crazy. So tell me, what do you really need this election season? Do tell....

Copyright 2008 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Good Week with Women Voters for the Democrats: The Face of Pay Equity Endorses Obama

Barack Obama has just had a particularly good week with the ladies. In fact, it was a noticeably big week for women's endorsements for the Obama campaign. Can you say "gender gap?" I knew you could. :) In a week that saw Republican VEEP candidate Sarah Palin's approval rating drop precipitously, these actvities aimed at women voters well timed.

First, a group of women's organizations -- those few that have PACs and thus can endorse without jeopardizing their precious non-profit status -- endorsed the junior senator from Illinois. Prominently featured was the still-not-as-happy-as-they-could-be NOW, who joined their shero Hillary Clinton in saying "no way, no how, no McCain." Other groups included the Feminist Majority with the ever colorful Ellie Smeal, the Business & Professional Women/USA, the National Congress of Black Women, and the National Association of Social Workers. Watch portions of the press event here:

But the real coup de grace in my mind was this week's Obama endorsement from Lilly Ledbetter. The plaintiff of Ledbetter v. Goodyear fame headlined the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and on September 18 made it official -- she's for Obama, in a big way. Ledbetter made the announcement at a series of events in the critical state of Virginia, and was treated like a rock star by adoring crowds. The New York Times has referred to Ledbetter as "the Democrats secret weapon," and they may be right.

Take a look at this ad featuring Ledbetter, below, just released this past week -- she's a humble grandmother from Alabama who packs a punch, and women nationwide are cheering her on. Why? Because her experiences are so familiar, so universal to us all, and she's speaking up and trying to change things for future generations -- despite the fact that her own case is closed. Now, the Democratic Senate needs to do the right thing by Ledbetter's vocal support and national advocacy and pass the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The House has already passed this critical bill that would right the Supreme Court's FUBAR handling of the Ledbetter case. However, the legislation is currently stuck in a defacto Senate filibuster on the more pompous, ponderous side of the Hill. But if we can get more Dems elected to the Senate -- and inch our way closer to that magic number of 60 -- I predict the Ledbetter bill will be one of the first bills signed by an Obama Administration.

The Democratic women of Congress also had a press conference cheering on Obama this week, touting an earlier equal pay ad put out by the Obama campaign (below). Pay equity champion Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is especially worth a listen at this particular dog and pony show, although the women members also talk about critical issues such as health care and retirement security.

The Democrats have finally gotten religion on the pay equity issue -- and about time, too. I'm sure the fact that the issue is a vote driver for women helps a lot -- but that touch of cynicism aside, the Democratic party is the only party that is collectively and actively working to improve women's economic equity -- that, in fact, recognizes the problem of pay equity at all. That, my friends, is just one of a million reasons why Obama's the better candidate for women and their families.

Copyright 2008 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Olbermann Donates $100 per Palin Lie to Alaska Special Olympics

I love Keith Olbermann. Yeah, sure, he's a great sportscaster, and he wears great ties. But those are just some ancillary reasons why I have monster-sized media crush on the man. My devotion is mostly a result of his wonderful performance in his true calling, which is speaking truth to power via his MSNBC show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann. His special comments have become the stuff of legend, and his regular skewering of Bill O'Reilly and Fixed -- I mean Fox -- News are well overdue in the mainstream media. And, his nightly sign off of "good night and good luck" -- Edward R. Murrow-style -- is a constant reminder of the power of the press when government has gone awry. If you aren't watching Olbermann, you should be -- weeknights at 8pm, with a repeat at 10pm for those of you must have your Jon Stewart/Daily Show repeat fix at 8pm. You won't regret an hour with Keith -- it's time well spent.

Olbermann's latest inspiration was to draw attention to the lies of VEEP candidate Sarah Palin by offering up $100 bucks of his own cash each time her nose grows an inch. Better still, he is writing the checks directly to the Alaskan Special Olympics, a fund Palin cut while she was governor -- despite all her talk about supporting efforts to help special needs kids. Anyway, take a look at this great video -- beware, it might make you a Keith-a-holic like me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Insanely Useful Websites for Government Transparancy"

Ever heard of The Sunlight Foundation? It's a great organization, essentially a group to empower watchdogs — uh, that would be us, folks, the voters! The foundation is using the power of the Internet to "shine a light on the interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible." They have compiled a great list of helpful sites for those of us wanting the insider's scoop on all things government and politics.

As their website says: “The following sites and resources are 'insanely useful Web sites' for government transparency. They provide a broad range of information available to track government and legislative information, campaign contributions and the role of money in politics. Many of these resources apply the Web 2.0 ethos to sift, share and combine this information in innovative ways — often times by mashing data together from disparate sources to maximize the usability of that information.”

Just a few of the sites that the Sunlight Foundation features — and in some cases, funds — include:

Congresspedia.org — The “online wiki-based citizens’ encyclopedia on Congress” from the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media & Democracy.

Contractor Misconduct Database — The government awards contracts to companies with histories of misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is providing such data about the top 50 contractors.

EarmarkWatch.org — Ever wanted to be an investigative reporter? Want to follow the money? This site is a user-friendly, online investigative tool that lets citizens determine "if earmarks address pressing needs, favor political contributors or are simply pure pork." The unique site guides users step by step through the process that an investigative reporter would follow — associating different kinds of political information with each earmark, and also guides users about how to use online resources on campaign finance, lobbying and federal spending for their research — tying the pork to the source. Users can also comment on and fact-check one each other's work, or send messages — including tips and suggestions — to others.

Fedspending.org — OMB Watch’s combination of data from the Federal Procurement Data System and the Federal Assistance Award Data System has created a free, searchable database of federal government contracting and spending. The database allows you to search contracts and grants by state, congressional district, contracting agency or type of award, and shows where the money is being spent and — very important — whether it was competitively bid or just given to Haliburton.

GovTrack.us — This site uses THOMAS data and others to provide Congressional profiles and searchable legislative data. Users can sign up for email alerts to track Members, legislation and votes.

LOUIS — Sunlight Foundation’s Library of Unified Information Sources – “a search engine that combs through seven different sets of government documents. The seven sets of documents are Congressional Reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, the Federal Register, Presidential Documents, GAO Reports, and Congressional Bills and Resolutions.”

OpenSecrets.org — This site is the premiere source of data on money in national politics. The user is able to search by member of Congress, by donor, or by industry sector. The site also contains four separate databases: lobbying, personal financial disclosures, congressional travel and revolving door.

VoterWatch — “...combines C-SPAN video of Congress with the accompanying text from the Congressional Record to allow viewers to search the video for comments made by a member of Congress.”

WashingtonWatch — This site determines the average cost, or savings, per individual of each bill introduced in Congress by performing calculations on government estimates compared to the US population. The Web site provides users with pro and con arguments for each bill, allows comments on each bill, allows users to vote “yes” or “no” on the bills and provides a “write your rep” function.

Watchdog.net — "...is a hub for data about politics. The site brings together census data, voting records, lobbying forms, campaign finance reports, and much more in one easy-to-understand place. And then it gives you the tools to actually do something about it."

To this list, The Information Knot — where I found some of the sites on this list — also added this resource:

Washington Post’s U.S. Congress Votes Database
From the Washington Post; provides House and Senate roll call votes from the 102nd Congress (1991) to the present. Also groups vote results by state, gender or zodiac sign of the Members. A convenient way for constituents to compile a Member’s entire floor voting record for recent Congresses or track missed votes or voting with one’s party.

Use these sites in good health, my friends. And please, use them to speak your minds, or better yet, speak truth to power.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

SNL's Clinton/Palin Press Conference ... Not to be Missed!

The Conservative Palinguage Guide, Vol. 1

I found this article on That Minority Thing, and it gives a wonderfully fresh perspective on the whole "Palin Effect," not to mention an intelligent way to reframe the crap the McCain spinmeisters are trying to sell us. Does anyone else find it ironic that the Maverick is now afraid to campaign on his own, because he can't draw the kinds of crowds his running mate inspires? Serves him right for mocking Barack Obama's "rock star" appeal. Anyway, read this thought-provoking list for yourself, and let me know what you think.

If you’re a minority and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates you’re a “token hire.”

If you’re a conservative and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates you’re a “game changer.”

If you live in an Urban area and you get a girl pregnant you’re a “baby daddy.”

If you’re the same in Alaska you’re a “teen father.” (Actually, according to your own MySpace page you’re an F’n redneck that don’t want any kids, but that’s too long a phrase for the evil liberal media to take out of context and flog morning noon and night).

Black teen pregnancies? A “crisis” in black America.

White teen pregnancies? A “blessed event.”

If you grow up in Hawaii you’re “exotic.”

Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, you’re the quintessential “American story.”

Similarly, if you name you kid Barack you’re “unpatriotic.”

Name your kid Track, you’re “colorful.”

If you’re a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fulling vetting the individual you’re “reckless.”

A Republican who doesn’t fully vet is a “maverick.”

If you say that for the “first time in my adult lifetime I’m really proud of my country” it makes you “unfit” to be First Lady.

If you are a registered member of a fringe political group that advocates secession that makes you “First Dude.”

A DUI from twenty years ago is “old news.”

A speech given without proper citation from twenty years ago is “relevant information.”

And, finally, if you’re a man and you decide to run for office despite your wife’s reoccurrence of cancer you’re a “questionable spouse.”

If you’re a woman and you decide to run for office despite having five kids including a newborn with Downs Syndrome… Well, we don’t know what that is ‘cause THAT’S NOT A FAIR QUESTION TO ASK!

There are even more examples of the hypocritical spin into which this presidential campaign has suddenly devolved. Visit That Minority Thing for Vol. 2, which includes some insightful reader comments that make great food for thought.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'd Like a Little Cheese with My Whine, Please

A while back, I decided to take advantage of former Sen. Phil Gramm's portrayal of Americans as "whiners" and gripe about a few things myself. I'm feeling the need to whine again -- trust me, there's plenty of stuff to bitch about. So, here we go, the Redhead whines again.

-- I must whine about the politics of ... lipstick. Yes, lipstick. Or should I say swiftboating by cosmetics? Seriously, does anyone think Sen. Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment was an indirect way of calling Gov. Sarah Palin a nasty name? Come on. He was talking about the McCain-Palin campaign's cheap peddling of a pale version of change, indeed the entire Republican party's breathtakingly overt and unapologetic co-optation of Obama's change message. Trust me, if I thought it was a sexist comment, I'd say so -- I wouldn't spare the junior senator from Illinois just because he's the Great Democratic Hope. But the comment clearly was not intended in the way some are characterizing it -- and to try to pin that particular tail on this particular donkey is a deliberate and disingenuous misunderstanding of the context.

-- While I'm on the topic of sexism in the media, I agree that a fair amount of the press coverage of Gov. Palin has been imbued with sexist stereotypes, both overt and covert. The very idea that a woman should be excluded from consideration for any job simply because she is a mother is fundamentally problematic and offensive. We don't do that to men, and we shouldn't do it to women. But, I also have to say, the Republicans suddenly getting religion on the topic of sexist media coverage is disingenuous and transparent. Where the hell were they when Hillary was being excoriated? When Hillary nutcrackers were the hottest holiday gift? Yes, the coverage of Palin has been problematic in some ways. But don't conveniently get a conscience about media sexism as a way to self-righteously sidestep the tough and entirely valid questions about experience and qualifications.

-- I need to loudly whine about the disparaging comments being made about community organizers. At the Republican Convention, which I had the misfortune to attend (being a fly on the wall is not all it's cracked up to be, but I digress), one speaker after another denigrated Obama's work as a community organizer. Clearly, these folks have no idea what the hell that is or the good such work can do -- which is especially ironic since so much community organizing takes the place of programs the Republicans have axed, or addresses problems their lousy, short-sighted, care-only-about-the-rich polices have produced. And, as Gov. David Patterson (D-NY) said, it also smacks of "racial coding." Insulting and offensive.

-- I must join the chorus of loud, vociferous whining about Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT). Hell, I want to lead it. I'm pissed he kept calling himself a Democrat during his speech at the Republican National Convention. He is not a Democrat. In fact, he is listed as an "Independent Democrat" on Senate rolls -- whatever the hell that is -- at his own behest. Listen, Joe, you don't get to use our party label just when it's politically expedient. You certainly don't get to use the label in the same breath as you endorse the other party's candidate, in a speech that's the rhetorical equivalent of a slap in the face to the Blue Nation that once nominated you for vice president. Never mind that Independent Joe caucuses with the Democrats or that it's our majority which provides him with the committee chairmanship (aka, bully pulpit) that he loves so much. It's about time he stopped attending the weekly Democratic Caucus luncheons -- good riddance. Stick a fork in Joe. He's done.

-- Are the House Democrats really going to cave on the issue of off-shore drilling? Really? Are they going to roll over in the face of that ridiculous Republican convention chant, "drill, baby, drill!"? Are they going to let a rag tag group of House Republicans in plaid Bermuda shorts and golf shirts, loitering on the House floor during the August recess talking to each other about their oil well wish lists, force their hand? Apparently so. Now, I'm the first to admit that energy policy is not my expertise, but even I know that we can't drill our way out of this mess. I know this proposal has more to it than off-shore drilling rights -- I just hope it's worth the trade off.

-- Okay, this is a pre-whine -- about Charlie Gibson getting the first Palin interview. Please, Charlie... don't disappoint. Ask some tough questions. And don't let Palin get away with just repeating zingers from her acceptance speech
-- over and over and over again -- like she's been doing all week at various campaign stops throughout the country. Ask her the hard questions. And don't let her get away with the old bait and switch -- make it clear when she's dodged your questions, and bring Palin and the viewers face to face with her lies.

I tell you what, friends -- whining really can be so cathartic. Please, join me. You'll feel ever so much better.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 5, 2008

An Open Letter from Someone Who Knows Gov. Sarah Palin

This letter from Wasilla, AK resident Anne Kilkenny is making the rounds, and I thought I would post it here as well for your reading pleasure. I found it on the blog Mudflats: Tiptoeing through the Muck of Alaskan Politics, but its also been posted on The Nation and other sites. The validity of the Kilkenny letter was also confirmed by the blog Fairly Conservative, which had at first claimed it was a fake. The letter is a compelling read, for anyone who wants to know about the woman who could be president.

I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because she is a “babe”.

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a
regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the
Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal–loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the
structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a
gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects–which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance–but with the unobservant
she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiative that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s
lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

•“Hockey mom”: true for a few years
•“PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
•“NRA supporter”: absolutely true
•social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconstitutional).
•pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
•“Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
•“Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
•political maverick: not at all
•gutsy: absolutely!
•open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
•has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
•”a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
•fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
•pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
•pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
•pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
•pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.


First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall–they are
swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000″, up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

Anne Kilkenny

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Denver's Inclusiveness versus St. Paul's Police State

I'm on my way back from St. Paul, leaving behind the 2008 Republican National Convention and all its sarcasm and right wingnuts, half truths and outright lies. Phew! But as I leave, there are a few observations I need to make that go beyond the typical speech analysis and punditry. Bear with me. :)

-- It's become clear to me that Democrats are liberal arts majors (I know I am) and Republicans are business majors -- and there is a big difference in how the two types run a convention. Denver was one long line after another, and getting into the Pepsi Center each night was a bloody nightmare. St. Paul went like clockwork, logistically speaking -- even Hurricane Gustav didn't trip 'em up. I never waited in line to get into St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, even though security was scarily tight. I guess such narrow-minded focus (and I do mean narrow) pays off sometimes.

-- Denver's 16th Street Mall witnessed peaceful protests every day, with little problem or fuss. St. Paul was a police state with troops in full riot gear lining the streets, tear-gassing and scatter bombing protesters who had not, by and large, done much to deserve it. In fact, the riot patrols were everywhere, and actually discouraged me from attending some events -- I'm guessing that was most likely their intent. I am mad that I allowed my civil liberties to be infringed upon in that way, but rather than making me feel safe all those cops wearing splash shields, guns and billy clubs just scared the shit out of me. I decided to stay as far away from them as possible -- and I'm glad I did. Hell, I'm lucky they didn't arrest me as a spy, for being a stranger in a strange land and all that. I clearly had not drunk the Kool-aid.

-- There are depressingly few Republican women elected to Congress, and fewer still in leadership positions. And lots of moderates -- particularly the women -- stayed away from the convention altogether, not wanting to be tainted by the right wing spectacle and the Bushies in their tough re-election fights. While Denver was Diversity Central, St. Paul was absolutely the domain of straight white men. That explains the word on the street that the hookers were hopping in St. Paul. In Denver there was only a slight uptick in johns looking for dates -- but nothing like the Twin Cities bonanza. Apparently "they" had to bus in more prostitutes to meet the demand. Some family values, huh?

-- In Denver, just about every speaker had sincere, good things to say about John McCain. They disagreed politically with the Maverick, usually vociferously, but none of the speakers doubted his patriotism or courage, and they lauded his amazing personal story. In St. Paul, the only speaker I heard say something nice about Sen. Barack Obama was former Gov. Mike Huckabee (bear in mind I was traveling during McCain's big night, so maybe when I watch the replay he'll surprise me and have said good things as well). The rest of the Republicans at the podium? Well, they were just mean. Sarcastic. If all you watched of the convention was Gov. Sarah Palin, they were all like that -- condescending and nasty.

-- I agree that a good amount of the press coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin has been imbued with sexist stereotypes, both overt and covert. The very idea that a woman should be excluded from consideration for any job simply because she is a mother is fundamentally offensive. But, I also have to say, the Republicans suddenly getting religion on the topic of sexist media coverage is disingenuous and transparent. Where the hell were they when Hillary was being excoriated? When Hillary nutcrackers were the hottest holiday gift? Yes, the coverage of Palin has been problematic in some ways. But don't conveniently get a conscience about media sexism as a way to self-righteously sidestep the tough and entirely valid questions about experience and qualifications.

-- Wednesday night pissed me off for all kinds of reasons -- but it really pissed me off when one speaker after another disparaged Obama's work as a community organizer. Clearly, these folks have no idea what the hell that is or the good such work can do -- which is especially ironic since so much community organizing takes the place of programs the Republicans have axed, or addresses problems their lousy, short-sighted, care-only-about-the-rich polices have produced.

I am so glad to be home. Seriously. The entire atmosphere in St. Paul was oppressive, but it was also eye opening. I was submerged in the opposition's camp, and I certainly wasn't in Obama's Kansas anymore. After this experience, I sure as hell do not want to live the next four years in McCain-Palin Land, with the the Stepford delegates and evangelical automatons. While the walk on the Red Side was an education, it's good be back in my Blue life. Damn straight, Toto, there is no place like home.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.