Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain


The controversy over the poor taste of a few of David Letterman’s recent jokes continues to receive attention in the media and blogosphere, but the actual jokes have become overshadowed by the manner in which Sarah Palin has decided to sacrifice the good of her children for political gain, along with the mob mentality expressed by many on the right wing.

In the most benign reaction from the right, ditto heads repeat endlessly how Letterman’s jokes were in poor taste. True, but this is hardly worth spending any more time on. Everyone agrees that the jokes were in poor taste. Even Letterman agrees that he should not have told the ones about Bristol Palin (but he sticks by the reference to Sarah Palin as looking like a slutty flight attendant).

The controversy began over the slutty flight attendant joke and it wasn’t until later in the night that some dishonest right wing bloggers realized they could get millage from a joke about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy.  They realized the benefit from whining about a joke about Bristol was limited. While it might not be in good taste, tasteless jokes are commonplace on late night television. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson have all told jokes about Sarah Palin and about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. With Bristol Palin now appearing in public, including at a recent public event in New York, right or wrong she will be considered fair game by the late night comics. The bloggers came up with a way to smear Letterman over this with blatantly untrue claims that the joke about a daughter getting knocked up was not about the daughter who had actually been pregnant but about Palin’s 14 year old daughter Willow.

The right wing bloggers who started this smear campaign have no interest in either feminism or in defending a child such as Willow Palin. In actuality they are doing the opposite as it is the right wing bloggers, not David Letterman, who are responsible for dragging Willow Palin through the mud. Letterman did not mention Willow Palin, did not tell a joke about a 14 year old, and did not tell a joke about rape as the right wingers are claiming. If it is wrong to tell a joke about a 14 year old being raped, it is also wrong to make false accusations that Letterman did this.

The whole issue could have died when Letterman explained the jokes and invited Sarah and Todd Palin onto the show. Instead Sarah Palin decided to sacrifice the good of her children by continuing to drag Willow Palin through the mud in order to gain politically. While David Letterman never told a joke about raping a fourteen year old, Sarah Palin told such a joke about raping her own daughter.

Perhaps Palin’s initial bizarre reaction could be overlooked as the reaction of a mother who was mislead by the right wing bloggers into thinking that her daughter was under attack. Her behavior is even harder to justify after she went on television today to continue to both attack Letterman and repeat the false claims about what he said, again showing that she places her political gain over the best interests of her children (video above). I would think that Willow would prefer that her own mother stopped talking about her being raped on national television.

This is no longer a matter of the inappropriateness of Letterman’s jokes. It has become a prime example of the mob mentality of the authoritarian right as they attempt to shout down anyone who attempts to criticize or joke about their reactionary views.

Sarah Palin has no qualms about spreading lies which keep her 14 year old daughter in the news, or even joking about her, if she thinks it will help her politically. We know that relations between Palin and the McCain camp were not very good by election day, but perhaps she should listen to the advice of  a couple of McCain advisers:

“If the right goes after Letterman they make him look big and themselves small,” says Mark McKinnon, a campaign advisor to George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It’s win-win for Letterman.”

Republican media consultant Fred Davis, a chief ad-maker for the McCain campaign, added: “I think it’s a mistake too many conservatives are making right now. They are trying to find anything to attack.”

Davis sought to downplay the egregiousness of the offending Letterman cracks, saying, “David apologized. He said it was over the line. He is a funny guy and his job is to do sarcastic humor. That’s his thing.”

James Walcott puts the reaction of the right into perspective:

Here it is Friday and outraged conservatives are hanging on to their outrage against David Letterman’s Palin mockery as if it were a mountain-climbing rope, hoping to get as much traction and leverage out of it as possible while the rest of the media, perversely, refuses to join in and ramp this up into another Imus pillorying. As mentioned before, I didn’t think much of Letterman’s (writers’) jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter visiting Yankee Stadium, but I take Letterman at his word that the “knocked up” line about Alex Rodriguez and the daughter didn’t refer to 14-year-old Willow, and the followup crack was clearly directed at Elliot Spitzer’s libido, not the Palin girl’s wanton attractions. I agree with Margaret Carlson, even though it gives me an itchy sensation, that Sarah Palin is badly misplaying this by refusing to accept Letterman’s apology and invitation to appear on the show, instead calling for a torch-carrying peasant uprising to besiege Frankenstein’s castle (with Paul Shaffer lurching to one side in the role of Igor). Unless Obama appoints a Comedy Czar to reprimand and restrict Inappropriate Punchlines, humor is going slop over into bad taste or cheap stereotype, and making an immoderate to-do over this is comes across as opportunistic grandstanding–reveling in your own ire. There are comments sections in righty blogs where the posters vent their fantasies on how Todd Palin ought to violently handle this to defend Willow and Bristol’s honor–variations on smashing Letterman’s teeth down his throat or all over sidewalk, or busting him in the ‘nads–and pound home the word “rape” in their indictment of Letterman, accusing the host of condoning/promoting/making light of statutory rape, hitting the word hard over and over again as if hammering their fist into their palm. It’s clear they get off on the mental impact of what they insist their denouncing, like anti-porn advocates who wallow in every detail to make their case.

He does have some reasonable advice for Sarah Palin:

If I were Sarah Palin I’d get myself booked on Conan O’Brien’s marionette show, giving his ratings a surefire jolt at Dave’s expense, and then behave like Graciousness Itself, all smiles and tight-skirted sexpot dignity, not even deigning to mention Letterman by name. If Palin wants to be Madame Prez someday, she’s got to get out of that comfort zone known as the Fox News ghetto anywho.

Steve Benen points out that Palin gets into too many feuds:

Palin is in a feud with Letterman. She was in a feud with the organizers of the fundraising dinner for the Senate and House Republican campaign committees. When beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean made headlines, Palin decided to jump into the argument. The governor has been in a feud with her teenage daughter’s ex-fiance. Palin has even been in a feud with actress Ashley Judd.

Far be it for me to offer Sarah Palin advice, but I have a radical idea: maybe the governor can try an “above the fray” approach for a while?

Margaret Carlson also advises Palin against getting into a feud with Letterman:

Palin has spent much of her public life in feuds with the state legislature, with her ex-brother-in-law, with John McCain’s staff, with Levi Johnston’s family. An early fight with the chairman of Alaska’s Oil & Gas Commission paved the way to the governor’s office. She mostly wins, especially when the target is as easy, say, as a high-school dropout whose mother is under federal indictment. The Johnstons make the Palins look like Rockefellers.

But picking a fight with a trained comedian, refusing to accept his apology, and continuing to battle after the white flag is shown reveals a complete lack of political sophistication.

Letterman apologized at unprecedented length for a comment about Palin’s recent trip to New York. There was, he said, “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankees, during the seventh-inning stretch, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.” To which the Palins shot back: “Laughter incited by sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is… disgusting.”

Who said anything about a 14-year-old girl? Not Letterman. That would be… the Palins. It turns out it was Willow, not Bristol, who went to the baseball game. But who knew that until the Palins brought this “disgusting” comment so painful to their younger daughter to the attention of the 300 million people not tuned into David Letterman?

Letterman’s joke was indeed tasteless—he even owed A-Rod an apology. But I doubt there was another soul in the world who didn’t understand the joke to be about the older Palin daughter, who lapped Jamie Lynn Spears as the most famous pregnant teen in the world once she was trotted out at the Republican National Convention in August. Not that Bristol should have been left at home in the dark, but if you want a “zone of privacy” around your daughter, do you have her appear on stage with her then-fiancé hinting at prospects of a White House wedding waving to the crowd like Charles and Diana of the Klondike?

And exploiting Bristol as an unwed teen mother didn’t stop with the campaign. Back in Wasilla, where Bristol could have been sheltered and given space to rebuild her life, the Palins arranged to send her out like a vaudeville act, traveling the country to talk about teenage pregnancy under the sponsorship of Candie’s, a clothing company known for sexually provocative outfits for tweens…

Palin appears to be squandering her leftover fame from the campaign on staying famous, settling scores, making headlines over petty concerns, securing the cover of People magazine for Bristol. She could have been the keynoter at the Republicans’ biggest fundraiser of the year on Monday night but instead played a coy, will-she-or-won’t-she game for weeks.

So in the end, Palin spent a week when she could have given a substantive speech, laid out a political philosophy, or choosing the issues she wants to run on, deliberately misinterpreting a bad joke, in the process dragging yet another child into the celebrity scrum.

And by the way, isn’t making a federal case out of a tasteless joke exactly what the right wing loves to ridicule feminists for doing?

Michelle Renee saw the irony in Palin’s overreaction:

I sat back in my chair after reading this and thought, “Isn’t part of the problem 16 year olds getting pregnant?” Comedians joke around. They make fun. They find a hot button and push it. That is what they do and I personally love that they can take almost any topic, serious or not, and make me laugh about it.

Palin, on the other hand, is a comedian of a whole other kind. She doesn’t even know that what she is saying about Letterman while she herself is the one needing to apologize to young girls for her and her daughter’s example has many of us in stitches.

If anyone needs to look at what they have said that is a problem and has been a poor example to young girls, how about “I can see Russia from my house” or “My 16 year old daughter is pregnant”. I am not perfect and have made some really stupid choices in my lifetime. But to sit back, film an interview while a turkey is being slaughtered behind you, throw a baby shower for your teen daughter, babble on television trying to pretend you know anything about foreign policy like a badly operated puppet and then point fingers at Letterman and say he is the problem and needs to apologize…wow.

That is ignorance and denial I can’t help but laugh at while scratching my head wondering how the hell this women ever got on the McCain ticket in the first place.

We are still waiting for you to apologize, Ms. Palin. But we are not holding our breath.

While the primary motivation of the right wingers is to silence opposition to their views, as usual their arguments only resonate in the echo chamber of the far right. There is the danger that Letterman could suffer if those who are unaware of the facts believe the false claims being made about him. Fortunately the 2006 and 2008 elections showed that most Americans are no longer fooled by the endless string of distortions from the right wing. While conservatives are waging a fatwa and calling for the firing of Letterman (if not for more violent solutions), Letterman is beating The Tonight Show in the ratings for the first time in eight months. His unusual response of talking about the controversy demonstrated that, even if his act includes jokes which sometimes cross the line, he is basically a class act and the king of late night. The Scoop summarized why Letterman is on top and ended with a comment on his response to Sarah Palin:

Without going into laborious detail, regardless of your stance on his original inflammatory remarks, Letterman’s response to Palin can be categorized as deft and well-executed. It won’t hurt him. If nothing else, the summit just came into clearer view. The race to the top is really on, and in the end, the competition will be good for all involved.

The right wing smear campaigns are likely to “hurt” David Letterman about as much as repeated smears from the right hurt Barack Obama.

The HDMI Cable Ripoff

Marginal Revolution points out an important economic fact: the big box stores might give decent prices on electronic such as blu-ray players but they overcharge considerably for the HDMI cables.  You can pay whatever price you want for an HDMI cable and it is doubtful you will see any difference in quality. The big box stores often charge over $100 for premium brand names, making a huge profit. Many stores sell the cables for a much more reasonable price, typically closer to $20. On line the same types of cables frequently sell for under $5 and they can be found for under $1.As I said, you can chose the price you pay.

The stores profit from the fact that people spend far more time researching which HD television or blu-ray player to buy than the price of cables. Once someone buys an expensive toy they are eager to use it and will want the cable immediately.

To avoid winding up in such a situation I have often purchased an extra HDMI cable when ordering other merchandise on line to ensure I always have a few extra sitting around in case I should decide to pick up a new component. If you ever wind up with a new HD device but no extra cables, I’d suggest using a component cable if you have an extra around. It is debatable whether you will see a difference in quality, but component cables are definitely sufficient until you can get an inexpensive HDMI cable.

I have never wasted money on HDMI cables but last year I did waste some money on another cable. I have a digital camera which takes high definition video (which is excellent on a large screen tv, even if not as good as from a HD camcorder). It takes a proprietary cable which I was stuck paying around $70 for. Making matters worse, we got a new dog around the same time as the new camera and the dog developed a taste for cables…

Update: This seems like a good time to remind people ordering things on line to make sure you are buying from honest companies. Do not buy from The pennies you save will quickly be lost the first time they fail to give a refund for the defective merchandise they send out.

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Stoking The Flames of Extremist Violence

The shootings at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has raised more attention towards the problem of right wing extremism and has verified the legitimacy of a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security on the problem. Judith Warner has summarized the problem. The actual violence is committed by extremists who are correctly described as outliers. The line is often blurred with extremist radio and television personalities of the right who are considered part of the mainstream conservative movement while stoking the flames which contribute to the problem. Warner writes:

And though he’s an outlier — disturbed, deranged, disavowed now by many who share his core views — his actions really can’t be viewed in isolation. As was the case with Tiller’s murder, which followed months of escalating harassment and intimidation at abortion clinics, von Brunn’s attack on the Holocaust museum has to be viewed as an extreme manifestation of a moment when racist, anti-Semitic agitation is rapidly percolating. White supremacist groups are vastly expanding. And right-wing TV rhetoric, thoughtless in its cruelty and ratings-hungry demagoguery, is helping feed the paranoia and rage that for some Americans now bubbles just beneath the surface.

Hate group membership had been expanding steadily over the course of the past decade — fueled largely by anti-immigrant sentiment. But after Barack Obama’s election, it spiked. The day after the election, the computer servers of two major white supremacist groups crashed, because their traffic went through the roof, Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks right-wing extremists and hate groups, told me this week.

As the former Klansman and Louisiana state representative David Duke predicted last June, the face of the first black man in the White House was a “visual aid” for white supremacists, spurring a rapid rise in recruitment and radicalization.

“Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported this past April.

I wrote last week about the rising threats to and vandalism at abortion clinics that followed the election of our first pro-choice president in eight years. A similar increase in intimidating activism has been observed over the past seven months among hate groups — and simply hateful individuals. In November, a predominantly black church under construction in Springfield, Mass. was burned to the ground by three men who bragged of doing so in protest of the election. A cross was burned outside the home of a family of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J.

As was the case with increasing clinic vandalism and verbally violent protest, it was only a matter of time before this racially motivated destruction and intimidation turned to physical violence. And there’s one additional, highly disturbing parallel between von Brunn’s intended white supremacist shooting rampage and Scott Roeder’s “pro-life” killing of George Tiller: In both cases, at least some of the core beliefs of extremists were echoed, albeit in more socially acceptable language, by right wing news commentators.

Bill O’Reilly had routinely talked in recent years about “Tiller the baby killer.” Other right-wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh have similarly tapped into — in somewhat coded form — some of the key concerns of extremist hate groups: that the economy has been destroyed by government-proffered “bad” loans to illegal immigrants, for example, or that FEMA may or may not — Beck equivocated for an awfully long time — be running “concentration camps” for U.S. citizens, or that the Obama administration is declaring war on decent Americans by labeling them as “extremists.”

(“So you have a report from Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security, portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than Al-Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong Il,” is what Limbaugh had to say about Homeland Security’s April report.)

The result of this wink-wink anti-immigrant and anti-government rhetoric has been “a kind of mainstreaming of hate propaganda,” Potok said. “The white supremacist propaganda agenda is being expressed by pundits, politicians, and preachers. Criminal violence by members of this movement is a tiny danger to most Americans. The larger danger is the mainstreaming of these very vile and provably false ideas that do lead to violence.”

You can’t accuse Beck or Limbaugh of inciting violence. But they almost certainly do stoke the flames. They may give people who are just about to go over the edge — the sort of “guy that could not take it anymore” as one poster on the white supremacist forum, described von Brunn — some sort of validation for their rage.

“The pot in America is boiling,” Beck said this week, in the wake of the Holocaust museum killing. “And this is just yet another warning to all Americans of things to come.”

That creepy schadenfreude just about says it all.

WHO Declares Influenza Pandemic

The H1N1 influenza (Swine flu) has not received as much attention here lately as it turned out to be less lethal than suggested in initial reports, and the spread has diminished as influenza season ended in North America. That doesn’t mean it can be forgotten. The World Health Organization has now declared it to be a pandemic:

The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread to 74 countries.

Official reports say there have been nearly 30,000 cases globally and 141 deaths, with figures rising daily.

Hong Kong said it was closing all its nurseries and primary schools for two weeks following 12 school cases.

It is the first flu pandemic in 40 years – the last in 1968 killed about one million people.

However, the current pandemic seems to be moderate and causing mild illness in most people.

Most cases are occurring in young working age adults and a third to a half of complications are presenting in otherwise healthy people.

Dr Chan said: “We have evidence to suggest we are seeing the first pandemic of the 21st Century.

While there remains no reason for panic, there is the danger that the virus can evolve and potentially become more dangerous and could become a more serious problem in the United States when we get into the next flu season. I previously discussed the H1Ni influenza in posts including here.