Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yet More Reasons Why We Can't Let Sarah Palin Get Close to the White House

I'm beginning to feel a bit like this is SNN - the Sarah News Network. But the nomination of Gov. Palin has (in case you haven't figured it out yet) got me steaming mad at Sen. McCain. I used to like the guy, I really did. I disagreed with him on some issues, but I always felt that he was a straight shooter. Unfortunately, when he decided to cozy up to the evangelical right wing of the Republican party my respect for Sen. McCain began to wane. When he selected Gov. Palin I lost what little respect I had left. And now the Straight Talk Express wouldn't know the truth if it hit him in the head.

Part of the reason for focusing so much attention on Gov. Palin is to counter the ridiculous positive attention that she has been getting and the support that she has been able to build for Sen. McCain. But query whether that support is for Sen. McCain at all. News reports talk of people chanting "Sarah" while Sen. McCain tries to give his stump speeches. And campaign rallies without Gov. Palin are very poorly attended. Gov. Palin has become the Republican superstar (wasn't Sen. Obama's superstardom "bad"?) and appears to have eclipsed the man at the top of the ticket. Thus, I think that it is critical that people learn more about Gov. Palin and her ideas (especially given that the national media is practically giving her a free pass) so that they aren't fooled by the constant stream of lies coming out of the McCain campaign.

One of the most important tasks for a person elected to an executive branch office is to surround themself with intelligent, articulate people who have expertise that can be drawn upon. One of President Bush's greatest failings is that he surrounded himself with people who told him what he wanted to hear rather than telling him the truth (and if people didn't tell him what he wanted to hear, they didn't stick around for long). Compare the choices made by Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain for their respective Vice Presidential candidates. Is Gov. Palin really the best person to help Sen. McCain? I trust the advice the a Vice President Biden would give to a President Obama. But I don't trust that a Vice President Palin would be able to give sound advice to a President McCain. And, let's consider how Gov. Palin selects the people to surround her. According to The New York Times:

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.


Ms. Palin chose Talis Colberg, a borough assemblyman from the Matanuska valley, as her attorney general, provoking a bewildered question from the legal community: “Who?” Mr. Colberg, who did not return calls, moved from a one-room building in the valley to one of the most powerful offices in the state, supervising some 500 people.

“I called him and asked, ‘Do you know how to supervise people?’ ” said a family friend, Kathy Wells. “He said, ‘No, but I think I’ll get some help.’”

The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government. Ms. Palin appointed Mr. Bitney, her former junior high school band-mate, as her legislative director and chose another classmate, Joe Austerman, to manage the economic development office for $82,908 a year. Mr. Austerman had established an Alaska franchise for Mailboxes Etc.

Just to be sure that you read that correctly, Alaska's State Division of Agriculture is headed by a former real estate agent who cites her "childhood love of cows" as the reason that she is qualified to run the agency. And the qualifications of the manager of Alaska's economic development office? He established a franchise for Mailboxes Etc. Think of yourself and your own business experiences and skills. Are you qualified to be the head of a state's division of agriculture or economic development office, even if you did love animals as a kid or start up your own business as an adult? What do these selections tell us about Gov. Palin's judgment?

And while Gov. Palin stocks her administration with unqualified people, she refuses to meet with other elected officials:
Last summer, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, a Democrat, pressed Ms. Palin to meet with him because the state had failed to deliver money needed to operate city traffic lights. At one point, records show, state officials told him to just turn off a dozen of them. Ms. Palin agreed to meet with Mr. Begich when he threatened to go public with his anger, according to city officials.

At an Alaska Municipal League gathering in Juneau in January, mayors across the political spectrum swapped stories of the governor’s remoteness. How many of you, someone asked, have tried to meet with her? Every hand went up, recalled Mayor Fred Shields of Haines Borough. And how many met with her? Just a few hands rose. Ms. Palin soon walked in, delivered a few remarks and left for an anti-abortion rally.

An anti-abortion rally was more important than meeting and talking to the mayors of Alaska's cities. You'd think that Gov. Palin, a former mayor herself, would value the input that the state's mayors could provide. Obviously, she does not.

Does any of this make you think that Gov. Palin is qualified to be Governor, let alone Vice President, or, heaven help us, President? That Sen. McCain selected Gov. Palin demonstrates how irresponsible Sen. McCain is and what a poor judge he would be of those he would selecte to advise him (and don't forget that 7 of Sen. McCain's top campaign advisers are lobbyists...).

And it just keeps coming...

For the past 8 years, we've had a Vice President who doesn't seem to think that people deserve to know what he's doing. He won't release information about meetings he's held (recall that Vice President Cheney went all the way to the Supreme Court to keep from divulging information about his energy policy meetings) and won't release information that the law requires him to release (claiming, incredibly, that the Vice President is not part of the Executive Branch). Unfortunately, it looks like Gov. Palin comes from the Cheney school of secretive government. Again, according to The New York Times:

Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

Elsewhere in that same article:
While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”

Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”

On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”

Mr. Bailey responded: “Whoops~!

Nothing like having your staff work to find ways to be sure that you never have to disclose information to voters. Ah, yes, transparent government by and for the people!

Finally, one more charming piece of information about Gov. Palin's policies. As you've no doubt read, Gov. Palin opposes abortion unless a doctor determines that the woman's life is in danger. That opposition extends to cases of rape or incest. In other words, Gov. Palin believes that a woman who is raped should be forced to have the child. You would think that, despite her views on abortion, that Gov. Palin would be otherwise sympathetic to rape victims. Think again. Gov. Palin apparently believes that after a rape victim has been assaulted by the perpetrator she should be fucked by the police as well. In 2000, Alaska's legislature passed a law to prevent police departments from charging a rape victim for the rape kit used by the police to obtain DNA evidence. Gov. Palin has since said that she did not "believe" that rape victims should be forced to pay for the kit, but it was her appointed police chief Charlie Fannon (remember that she fired the police chief when she took office and appointed Fannon in his place) who enforced the policy (noting that he didn't want to see any more burdens placed on taxpayers). It seems to me that if then-Mayor Palin really opposed this policy, it would have been easy for her to pick up the phone and tell her appointed police chief to change the policy. But she didn't; not even when Alaska's legislature was discussing legislation to end the practice. No. Mayor Palin had a chance to show that she supported rape victims; instead, she allowed her town to fuck 'em again, just in case the first time wasn't enough. Her cries of innocence and lack of "belief" in the policy are meaningless because she missed the opportunity to actually do something.

An additional point that is particularly notable about this whole sickening episode: In order to qualify to receive federal funds under the federal Violence Against Women Act, states are supposed to pay the costs for these rape kits. The Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress in 1994. Its author? Joe Biden, who has said:
I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I’ve crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate. Indeed, the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 was the beginning of a historic commitment to women and children victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. Our nation has been rewarded for this commitment. Since the Act’s passage in 1994, domestic violence has dropped by almost 50%, incidents of rape are down by 60%, and the number of women killed by an abusive husband or boyfriend is down by 22%. Today, more than half of all rape victims are stepping forward to report the crime. And since we passed the Act in 1994 over a million women have found justice in our courtrooms and obtained domestic violence protective orders.

Yet sexual violence in Alaska remains a major problem. According to ABC News:
Evangelicals and social conservatives have embraced McCain's vice
presidential pick for what they call her "pro-family," "pro-woman" values. But
in Alaska, critics say Gov. Sarah Palin has not addressed the rampant sexual
abuse, rape, domestic violence and murder that make her state one of the most
dangerous places in the country for women and children.

Alaska leads the nation in reported forcible rapes per capita, according to the FBI, with a rate two and a half times the national average – a ranking it has held for many years. Children are no safer: Public safety experts believe that the prevalence of rape and sexual assault of minors in Alaska makes the state's record one of the worst in the U.S. And while solid statistics on domestic violence are hard to come by, most – including Gov. Palin – agree it is an "epidemic."


Some members of Palin's administration were focused on the issue of sexual violence. Officials in the Department of Public Safety were devising an ambitious, multi-million-dollar initiative to seriously tackle sex crimes in the state, but Palin's office put the plan on hold in July.

Days later, Palin fired its chief proponent, Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, after he declined to dismiss a state trooper Palin accused of threatening her own family members. Palin has said she fired Monegan because she wanted to move his department in a "new direction," and he was not being "a team player on budgeting issues." The dismissal is now at the center of a hotly-contested investigation by the state legislature.

I wonder whether all of these women that Republicans are counting on to be swayed by the inclusion of Gov. Palin on their ticket will really be comfortable voting for Sen. McCain when they learn some of Gov. Palin's real thoughts on "women's issues" (I put that last in quotes because I believe that rape or sexual violence are human issues).

In case I haven't made myself clear, I think that it will be very, very bad for our country if Gov. Palin is elected to a higher office. Even if you are a supporter of Sen. McCain, his choice of Gov. Palin should put enough doubts in your mind as to his judgment to make you reconsider your choice in November.


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