Posted tagged ‘Sarah Palin’


December 15, 2010



I was thinking last night about past topics/obsessions of this blog.  Two came to mind:  Sarah Palin and Robert Pattinson (who, for the non-cognoscienti, plays Edward Cullen, star vampire, in the movies based on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight.)

So, what do Palin and Pattinson have in common?

  1. Big hair.
  2. Careers in which they act out the part of  ordinary Americans.   (Rob, of course, pretends to be a blood-sucking ordinary American, Sarah to be a non-money and celebrity-sucking ordinary American.)
  3. Close relationships with dark-haired teenage girls (or just past teenage), which have somehow augmented their celebrity.  (Okay, that one’s a bit silly.)
  4. Media vehicles that promote fantasy, the bare suppression (or not) of intense (seeming) passion, and (ahem) abstinence.  (Twilight/Fox).
  5. Fortunes that have been made from such media vehicles.
  6. Exuberant fans who do not seem to question what skeptics view as possible deficiencies–Rob’s acting, Sarah’s governing.   (Query–is it the hair?  Or the fantasy?)

Legally Blonde- Legally Brunette? Palin and Popular Culture

November 7, 2010

Legally Brunette?

Taking a brief break from Nanowrimo with some thoughts re the mid-term election and the seeming ascendency of Sarah Palin.   (I say, seeming ascendency because the failure of Palin-picks, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, would indicate some question about Palin’s  influence.)

Commentators have given all kinds of reasons for the “tsunami” of Republican/Tea Party victories: Obama’s failure to communicate, resistance to health care legislation, a still-faltering economy.

To me, part of the appeal of Palin and certain Republicans, and the corresponding disaffection from Obama, comes from the popularity of a “Legally Blonde” approach to the world; the triumph of the cutesy outsider over the elitist professorial.

Now I liked Legally Blonde as much as the next person.  (As an unlikely blonde female matriculant at an Ivy League law school, who roomed with a top-notch though even more unlikely blonde female matriculant, I probably liked the movie even more than the next person.)

But the movie’s immediate lessons that (i) a thorough knowledge of hair care, (ii) shoes, and (iii) sassy toe-tapping combined with (iv) a fervant belief in one’s client/cause are sure tools not only to success but to justice should not, in my view, be taken as perfect paradigms for modern governance.

Of course, good hair helps everything.   (I say this as a person who does not have it.  Thankfully, unlike certain politicians, a/k/a/ John Edwards, I don’t obsess over it. )

But there is a big tendency in popular culture to label any deliberate thoughtfulness, balancing and expertise, as narcissim, obfuscation, and venal elitism.  Such qualities are only truly acceptable in the fictional world if they are coupled with a great body or a hyperbolic ability to inflict corner-cutting violence; see e.g. Lizbeth Salander, Bones, Robert Downey as Sherlock Holmes, any of a whole host of movies I’ve not actually seen (due to my dislike of violence.)

To be fair to “Legally Blonde”, the movie does show Belle balancing big books on her stairmaster, but what ultimately saves the day is her knowledge of permanent waves and, oh yes, Pradas.

Great for the silver screen.

Questions of the Placement of Man (And Woman) In the Grand (or not so grand) Scheme of Things – Tea Party/Here and Now

October 23, 2010

At a kind of center

Dashing across Broadway to the corner of Fulton, late for work, and thinking about my next blog post–an off-shoot of “Lord Help Us!”, about the Tea Party’s doubts in man-made climate change.

One major distinction between Tea Party types and students of science and history is their view of Man’s place (especially the place of American Man) in the whole big scheme of things.

Swing past the thick green posts at the top of the train entrance, the heavy iron scrollwork now muted by a zillion and one paint jobs; to my left, a T-Mobile (I think) store, petals of yellow ad flash in the darkly reflective glass.

Tea Partiers, pattering down the stairs, especially those who identify themselves as Christians (with a capital “C”), believe that Man (particularly American Man) is made in God’s image, the apple (only not the apple) of His eye.  As a result, creation revolves around Man; the Earth is at his disposal.

By American Man, I also mean Woman. I grimace in frustration as I slow for one carrying a baby carriage.  (I usually do offer to help women with carriages but this one is already mid-stairs, and taking up the whole stairs too–no way will I get past her.)

Few serious students of science or history can truly believe this.   Scientists tend to be conscious of the fact that the Universe (and even the Earth) have had a long life span that didn’t include Man in a starring role, and also that it’s possible for Man to write him/herself out of the future script.  Serious historians, for their part, cannot truly believe that all of human history has been one big build-up to Sarah Palin.

I chuckle inside, feeling suddenly energized by snarkiness.  But now I see with absolute certainty, even though just from the corner of my eye, the dull sliding silver of the train.  Still moving, meaning it’s pulling in, but there’s that baby carriage and mother, and now an older lady too, and it’s a narrow entrance, but there are three turnstiles–THREE!–the rectangular lights of the train windows slow–

If all of the Earth is supposed to be FOR man, how can we wreck it, thinks the Tea Party–

I really don’t want to be rude, but oh come on–train doors opening–I jog to the left of the baby carriage, the mother, the older lady in black wool coat, slightly bent, carrying a bag, Christ–got to get around that too–determined not to discombobulate them,veering to the farthest turnstile that I never use–what did someone say the other day?–that that turnstile didn’t work, no, that the closer one didn’t work?  Random notes of random sentences depress the fervor of my Metrocard slide until the green “GO” magically appears and I push the heavy slots (it’s one of those floor to ceiling turnstiles), galloping towards the bright rectangular squares at the end of the dim concrete–

Ohnoohnoohdamn.  On hands, ouch, knees, face burning–I really should never wear a scarf–this purse–did I break anything?  The older bent lady in the black coat alarmed–I try not to think about how my hands sting and what kind of germs are crawling onto them, looking up  around tangle of neck–

The doors are still–open–I scramble upright, lunging stiffly, mumbling apologies to the old lady–oh no, my necklace unclasped, my lucky necklace, about to fling itself–grab it with one hand as I stumble into the white light of the car, the other holding open the door, turning back to those left behind.   The mother with the carriage hasn’t yet gotten through the turnstile, the old lady at the far edge of the platform–

“No no.”  She shakes her head with a smile.  I can’t tell if she’s wise, or heading for a whole different line.

I let go of the door, reclasp my necklace, resettle my scarf, wipe my hands on my pants, then don’t wipe my hands, then–ah–sit down, pretending that no one is looking at me.

Head in the clouds, theories, egocentric snarkiness, leads to–scraped knees, stinging hands, I bend down over my notebook.

Wait–that’s my stop!  Already??!!!

(Isn’t the “here and now” part of what science is all about?)

Hurry hurry hurry out the door.

I Know I Should Be Happy About All the Women Candidates

October 17, 2010

Maureen Dowd today compared some of the “new” women candidates to the mean girls at school, the ones that painted your locker and made up stories that you were pregnant.

I am lucky not to remember a a big contingent of “mean girls” at my high school.  (The minute that I write this the fear arises that someone from my high school will post a comment saying that the reason I don’t remember the mean girls is because I was one of them.  I really really hope that’s not true.)

My high school, an all-girls’ school, was not a social Shangri-la.  There were girls that were more popular than others, more sophisticated, more cool.  But it was a relatively small school, and during the time I was there (the early 70’s), most of our emnity seemed focus on an external rival–the boys’ school, our brother school, which was only about a block away, but infinitely richer, with more land, buildings, more equipment, and far more edible food.  (Male alumni had money and power, women didn’t.)

The boys’ school, an in-our-face symbol of societal unfairness, not only quelled our internal bickering, but also made us conscious of a certain kind of responsibility.   If we wanted to get to the very same places as those boys across the green, we couldn’t afford to be just as good as they were, we were going to have to be better.

I don’t know if this turned out to be true.  When we first graduated, it was probably harder to progress as a women–to get a coveted place at certain Ivy League institutions, or, let’s say, the Supreme Court.  Later, as things burst open in certain ways, women were probably sought after.

Even so, politics has been a particularly difficult field.  There the narrow range of what is deemed acceptable in the female, and too, the demands of biology and family life have seemed particular obstacles.  Even women that got boosts from spousal connections (e.g. Hilary Clinton and Elizabeth Dole) traditionally felt bound to develop strong policy expertise and a reputation for an extremely solid work ethic.

And then came Sarah Palin, and this current host of female politicians.

Their success seems to illustrate that women have advanced to the point where they are as free as men to be idiotic, mean-spirited, uninformed.

I know I should feel happy.

R U Really Talking of Orwell This Labor Day Weekend?

September 5, 2010

Some Animals Are More Equal than Others (And Some Don't Want to Hear About It)

Sarah Palin tweeted, after Obama’s Iraq speech, something to the effect that ‘u should get out ur old Orwell books.’  She was implying, I guess, that Obama was trying to steal Bush’s credit for the invasion of Iraq.

I, for one, am happy to give Bush credit for Iraq.  If Obama was trying to claim credit for anyone else, I think it was mainly U.S. troops and commanders.

But my real interest in Palin’s tweet–aside from the “u’s” and “ur’s” (how can someone make any claim to thoughtfulness with “u’s” and “ur’s”?)–is the mention of Orwell.

On a Labor Day weekend, the Orwellian phrase which most comes to my mind is the modified commandment from the Stalinist-type commune satirized in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

We live in a society that is increasingly stratified.  While equality is touted, and each human life is (on a speechifying level) deemed equally priceless, the fact is that some people’s lives are valued exponentially much more highly than others.  Some people’s work, for example, is deemed to be worth millions, others less than minimum wage.  These values don’t seem to always correlate to talent, effort, difficulty==sometimes they simply arise from the luck of being in a job that generates cash.

The ability of certain people to make stupefyingly large amounts of money in our culture seems to be viewed by Palin and other Tea Party types as a sign of our freedom.  But it’s unclear to me that the rank and file American, especially those angered by what they view as handouts to the poor and underserving, fully understands the level of wealth of some in this country and the increasing disparity between classes.   It’s also unclear whether the damage such disparity inflicts on both a society and an economy has been much thought through.  (Both Robert Reich and Bob Herbert have interesting articles about this in the last day’s NY Times.)

Another new mantra appears to be “Taxes Bad–Any Business Good”.    People seem to forget that taxes fund street lights, firemen, schools, police, our national defense–all those troops everyone wants to support–parks, clean food, clean water, help for the handicapped, Social security, Medicare;  taxes also give people access to such services.     And, of course, a progressive tax system is one means of redressing some of the issues of wage and access imbalance, i.e.  the differences between the equal and more equal.   But woe (or should I spell it, WO) to any politician who dares mention such an idea – U R risking instant Orwellization.  (Or worse.)

Mosque Near Ground Zero – Really? (Park51)

August 10, 2010

What's Going On Now at WTC Site

I’m not a huge fan of Islam–I don’t know enough about it to have a position of any substance.  I admit that I am suspicious of any faith which seems to keep women in a subordinate position (but that makes me suspicious of many orthodox faiths).

As a result, perhaps, I haven’t much followed the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate, even though I live in downtown Manhattan.  Based on the extent of emotion stirred up, I thought the mosque was planned for the actual Ground Zero site; that it was somehow, with other shrines, to be on one of the memorial “footprints” of the two towers.   Despite my own strong bed towards religious tolerance, I could understand why this might upset some.

After actually reading more, however, I’ve realized how misguided I’ve been; that the whole issue is another tempest based on stewpot of misrepresentation.  The planned Mosque isn’t to be at the Ground Zero site at all; but on Park Place (Park51) , a couple of blocks away.

Okay, Park Place is near Ground Zero in the same way that anything in downtown Manhattan is near Ground Zero.  Downtown Manhattan is the thinnest part of the island; the World Trade Center site is large.

If you live down here, you quickly realize that everything (especially the subway stations) is both close and far – that is, technically, just a few blocks away, but a long frigging walk.  Blocks are big, and the differentials in blocks–in cityscape, tenor, view, even in weather (wind shear)– are consequential.

The news accounts highlight factors such as “500 yards” and “13 stories” in a way that gives one the  vision of a face-off–  Ground Zero on one side, the Mosque (whose visitors will surely be tittering inside) on the other.   These terms are just ridiculous in the context of downtown Manhattan.  500 yards = if that’s even accurate–is many buildings away;   13 stories is a shrimp.

What makes the debate stranger – setting aside the whole issue of what this country and city stand for – are the facts of what is currently happening at Ground Zero:

Hawking.  People selling ghoulish photo albums and NYFD hats and cheap American flags with the names of victims stenciled in.


Shopping.  Right opposite the site stands a true world trade center – Century 21.

And, on the site itself,  which, as some 9/11 families have pointed out, is a de facto burial ground due to the impossibility of recovering ashen remains, a large building is rapidly rising, destined to lease commercial and office space.

(THIS POST HAS BEEN CORRECTED; An earlier version mistakenly referred to the location of the proposed mosque as Park Row – a couple of blocks east of the WTC, rather than Park Place, a couple of blocks north.)

More Pants on Fire – Palin on Taxes; Ahmadinejad on 9/11

August 7, 2010

Pants On Fire

I had been planning to write about Sarah Palin today –  I dreamt last night of her scoffing at Copernicus with an aw-shucks smile and a “now, don’t go all helio-what’s-it on me.”

Only that didn’t seem truly apt.   Copernicus’s theory of a sun-centered universe, as set forth in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, was, in fact, revolutionary, hard for many to accept.   (See e.g. what happened to Galileo.)

A better illustration of what I’m trying to get at would be Palin saying that the sky isn’t blue.  (But even that’s not a great example – some could say that color is just an illusion of refracted light.)

What I’m looking for a flat-out lie.  How about focusing on Palin’s statements that Democrats are now pushing the largest tax increase in history and that it will have an effect on every American who pays income taxes.

The Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact characterized this as a “pants on fire” statement.  Poltifact details the various inaccuracies,  but one of the basic points is that the Bush tax cuts expire on their own in 2010; the Democrats are not terminating them.  If no one does anything – something this Congress is quite good at – the cuts will simply end.

More importantly, if Congress were to follow Obama’s and the Democrat’s plan – Palin says they don’t have one but that’s another flat-out lie – only the Bush tax cuts for high earners would be allowed to expire.  This would result in a tax increase smaller than one passed by (hero of heroes) Ronald Reagan.  Even if all the Bush tax cuts expire, and not simply those on high earners, the increase would not be the greatest in American History.  (It’s also worth noting that the expiration of the cuts returns the country to the pre-Bush tax regime; it does not push it to totally new tax altitudes.)

My concern here, however, is not  taxes, but political dialogue; the popularity of the flat-out lie.  One would think that speaking in front of a camera would discourage lying, but the cameras just spread the lie farther, faster, even endowing it with a kind of authority, something Sarah well (shucks) knows.

So, I was going to write about Palin.  And then I opened up the online Times to see Ahmadinejad denying the death toll of 9/11.  “They announced that 3,000 people were killed in this incident, but there were no reports that reveal their names. Maybe you saw that, but I did not,” he blithely announced.  (Where was he?)

I’m not comparing the substance of Ahmadinejad and Palin, or their general truthfulness.   I hesitate to even put them in the same post because I don’t wish to imply that their aims or world view are in anyway comparable.   I am struck though by the similarity of political tactic in this instance–the technique of just saying something that you think will resonate with supporters, even though you must know it’s untrue;  an audacity of cynicism rather than hope.

Palin DeFicted as Shakespeare (In Watercolor!)

July 19, 2010

The Newbie Bard?

To refudiate or not to refudiate, that is the question.

Uh…what is the question?

(Unfortunately, no one who likes her will care.)

Further To….

February 20, 2010

One of the good and bad features of a daily blog (especially for a blogger with a daily job) is that it requires the blogger to get posts out quickly, sometimes before an issue is very well understood.  (Sorry!)  In such cases. the post is really a reaction (perhaps premature) to an issue, rather than any kind of cogent analysis.  Sometimes the post doesn’t even reflect the blogger’s longer-term, or considered, reaction to an issue,  but, at best, is simply a snapshot of the moments in which it was written.

Here is further information about the topics of two recent posting:   the first relates to The Line Between Satire and Sneer (illustrated by the teapot surrounded by UFOs), which expressed my wish that the TV show Family Guy hadn’t joked about  the mother of a character with Down’s Syndrome being the former governor of Alaska.    Palin and her daughter Bristol interpreted the program as a cruel jab at Palin’s son Trig (with Down’s Syndrome).  An article in today’s New York Times describes the reaction to Palin’s outrage of the actress,  Andrea Fay Friedman, who did the voice-over for the Down’s Syndrome character and who herself has Down’s Syndrome.  Ms. Friedman accuses Sarah Palin of not having a sense of humor, and of misunderstanding the episode, which presents the Down’s Syndrome character as an obnoxious but strong figure:   “I’m like ‘I’m not Trig. This is my life, ” Ms. Friedman said in a telephone interview with the Times, “I was making fun of Sarah Palin, but not her son.”

I still don’t like Family Guy.  (It’s the crassness.)  And I still wish that the show had not given Palin further “mileage”.  But the article, which gives more information about both the episode and Ms. Friedman,  certainly clarifies another perspective.

The second story which is subject to increasing illumination as the days go by is about Joe Stack, the man who ran a plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building (and whose disgruntlement with the IRS apparently began when the IRS refused to give him a tax exemption as a church.)   Gail Collins has a great article today, The Wages of Rages, about Stack, but also various lame-brained attempts of Republican politicians to expropriate Tea Party rage for political capital.   Yes, she manages to include a reference to Mitt Romney tying his dog to the roof of his car.

The Line Between Satire and Sneer–UFO’s and Palin, Tea Partyers and Obama

February 16, 2010

Tea Pot and UFOs

I freely confess that I’m not a Family Guy kind of gal.  I just don’t care for crass.

Even my beloved Robert Pattinson has really turned me off lately with his gross and negative remarks concerning female private parts.   (Better watch out for your constituency, Rob.  You haven’t exactly shown yourself to be Laurence Olivier, after all.)

Because of my dislike of crudity, I haven’t watched the Family Guy clip of the Down’s Syndrome character whose mother is the Governor of Alaska.  I  just wish it hadn’t been aired.   Mainly because I personally think it is wrong and offensive to make jokes at the expense of little children with disabilities.

Secondly (and I’m sorry if I’m being crass here myself), it feeds Palin’s mantle of media martyrdom, consequently diminishing the impact of jokes and criticism justifiably aimed at instances of her hypocrisy and untruth  (that is, meaningful satire.)

How to distinguish between mindless stupid crass jokes and meaningful satire?  I feel a little bit like Stephen Colbert here, who recently tried to use Palin’s calculus for acceptable uses of the word “retard”, distinguishing between what Palin called Rush Limbaugh’s acceptable use of the word as “satire”, and Rahm Emanuel’s unacceptable use (to characterize certain Democrats) .

(Yes, even as I write that, I’m conscious that I’m jumping onto the whole “making fun of Sarah Palin” boat.)

But here’s one of the problems with jumping on to that boat.  There are a lot of frustrated, fearful, angry people in this country who feel that Palin speaks to and for them.

Some of these people, the Tea Partyers, are relatively easy to mock.  They tend not to be “hip”;   they sometimes seem ignorant; some of their views (seccession!) seem pretty outlandish.

I especially cannot understand these people’s take on Obama.  (Some of them view him not only as  a non-U.S. citizen, but terrorist witch doctor).   The people who espouse such views  seem to me like the kind of people who believe in UFOs.  (Particularly UFOs sent into space by the Federal Government.)

But these people are not truly crazy;  they drive cars, hold jobs, pay taxes (reluctantly), raise children, take care of the elderly, work.    But they feel that they/we are in terrible trouble, and they act like people both steaming mad and desperately seeking a cure.  (They make me think of those books that advocate eating nothing but garlic or watermelon.)    The cure they want is to go back to a past that never actually was; to a simplicity that never was.

Making stupid jokes at their expense, sneering at them (and at Palin), is not a good way to quell fears,  ease resentments.

While Obama can be professorial, he is also extremely good at explaining complicated issues in simple, but not reductive, ways.    He needs to use that skill more to remind Americans of how the country arrived at this economic downturn, of why the banking system was saved, of how the Republicans in Congress (and in the White House) both contributed to the current crisis and are now blocking its repair.   He needs to keep it simple, make it direct.

And while hypocrisy may deserve satire, Obama (and his supporters) should avoid the side of the sneer.