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Michael Kinsley has written a brilliant column on Sarah Palin which guts any argument about whether she is a fiscal conservative.  Moreover, Kinsley has provided a roadmap by which Obama and Biden can attack her credentials as a reformer while avoiding bogus charges of sexism.  I would strongly suggest you stop reading this post and read Kinsley's column in its entirety here.  Some excerpts:

Sarah Palin thinks she is a better American than you because she comes from a small town, and a superior human being because she isn't a journalist and has never lived in Washington and likes to watch her kids play hockey. Although Palin praised John McCain in her acceptance speech as a man who puts the good of his country ahead of partisan politics, McCain pretty much proved the opposite with his selection of a running mate whose main asset is her ability to reignite the culture wars. So maybe Governor Palin does represent everything that is good and fine about America, as she herself maintains. But spare us, please, any talk about how she is a tough fiscal conservative.

Next up…Alaskans are doing pretty well:

Alaska residents each get a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Any sympathy the governor of Alaska expresses for folks in the lower 48 who are suffering from high gas prices or can't afford to heat their homes is strictly crocodile tears.

So Palin thinks it's Ok for the oil companies to gouge Americans in the lower 48 states, as long as she can return a windfall profits tax to Alaskans only.  Now I know what she means by Alaska First.  Furthermore:

As if it couldn't support itself, Alaska also ranks No. 1, year after year, in money it sucks in from Washington. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Its ratio of federal spending received to federal taxes paid ranks third among the 50 states, and in the absolute amount it receives from Washington over and above the amount it sends to Washington, Alaska ranks No. 1. 

Here is a copy of the Tax Foundation Report.  North Carolina is ranked 27th in the amount of federal funding we receive vs. federal taxes paid.  Most of the key battleground states are in the lower half: Colorado (41), Michigan (37), Florida (34), Ohio (31), Pennsylvania (28).  Do you think the residents of those states (even the ones who live in small towns!) know that they pay higher prices for Alaskan oil so Governor Palin can keep the residents of her welfare state on the dole?

Kinsley concludes:

Why is a windfall-profits tax good for Alaska but not for the U.S.? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? People in Alaska are better than people in the rest of the U.S. They're more American. Although there are small towns and farms and high school hockey teams in the lower 48, there are fewer down here, per capita, than in Alaska. And there are many more journalists and pollsters and city dwellers and other undesirables who might benefit if every American had the same right to leech off the government as do the good citizens of Sarah Palin's Alaska.

Sarah Palin is alot of things: Welfare Queen and Pork Queen come to mind.  What she isn't is fiscally conservative, a reformer, mavericky, or truthful.

But she is from a small town and John McCain was a POW.

Jon Ham is a nasty piece of work, alright.  He is a right wing blogger at the John Locke Foundation who I have discussed previously here.  Ever wonder who Ronald Reagan had in mind when he would embed in his speeches racist code like "Cadillac driving welfare queen" or "a strapping young buck buying T-bone steaks with food stamps?"  John Ham, that's who…and unfortunately he has access to a keyboard.  His latest smear involves Michelle Obama.  Ham got all lathered up over a promotional video of Cindy McCain before her speech at the Republican convention.    Here is his post:

The film bio just shown shows she’s much more than that. Her humanitarian work has been ignored by the mainstream media, and probably came as a big surprise to many TV viewers. And she’s doing a very good job with her speech. Much better than Lindsay Graham and Tom Ridge, who preceded her.

It makes you wonder what Michelle Obama was doing when Cindy McCain was bringing food and medical care to poor people in Africa. Applying for grants, I suspect.

Why bring Michelle Obama into this at all?  What nasty sterotypes do you think the nasty man meant to imply with his last statement about Michelle Obama "applying for grants?"**  That she somehow got a "free ride" from the government because she attended Princeton (graduated cum laude) and then Harvard Law School on student loans?  Is Ham dog-whistling to any Birchers who lurk on his website that Michelle Obama is somehow an affirmative action "quota-hire" because she is African American?

So clearly, in my opinion, Ham wants to smear Michelle Obama.  Ham is also eager to compare Cindy McCain to Michelle Obama.  By all means, Mr. Ham…we'll go down that road if you insist.  But I'll use facts, if you don't mind.  I'll leave the smears and innuendo to you and President Reagan.  Here we go: 

When Cindy McCain set up her humanitarian charity in 1988 Michelle Obama, from a middle-class family on the South Side of Chicago, had already graduated from Princeton with honors and had completed Harvard Law School.  She went to work at a Chicago law firm, where she met Barack Obama, and they married in 1992.  Meanwhile, here is what Jon Ham's favorite film bio did not say about Cindy McCain.  Cindy Hensley, a trust-fund heiress, started an adulterous relationship with John McCain in 1979.  He divorced his injured wife in 1980, and he and Cindy married immediately thereafter.    She became addicted to prescription pain-killers (10 – 15 Vicodin and/or Percocet daily) in 1989 (partly due to the stress of the Keating Five Scandal involving she and Sen. McCain) and would remain so until 1992.  She stole narcotics from her charity and also obtained narcotic prescriptions illegally under employee's names from the volunteer doctors (one of whom had to surrender his license).  She went public with the story in 1994 as a pre-emptive move since she was about to be outed by a disgruntled employee.  She was enrolled in a federal diversion program.  The charitable organization was discontinued the following year.  The facts of Mrs. McCain's story, easily found with 5 minutes of "Well, basically a google", can be found here, here, here, and here.

Progressives should restrict the debate to issues and policy whenever possible.  Having said that, I know Ham and the Republicans want to make this election about smears and personalities.  I wouldn't want to talk issues either if my party had an 8 year history of disaster like this wrecking crew.  I would prefer to leave the families out of it, but if Republicans are going to use Swift Boat tactics again…well, Democrats ought to be better prepared than we were in 2004.  If need be, the Obama and Biden families will stack up pretty well against the McCain and Palin families. 

**I commented on Ham's post asking him to explain the statement about "applying for grants."  Even though he had six posts over the next 24 hours, he did not reply to my question.  I have never met Ham.  The opinions expressed are mine alone, and are based solely on his work.

Bonus quote from Ham:  "I’ve caught a lot of flack over the years for alleging that for too many liberals and Democrats politics is about killing babies."

This man is an embarrassment.  In fact, I'll call out John Hood on this one.  Baby killers, Mr. Hood?  Does employing a writer like this say anything about the character of your organization?  Since your employee won't, do you care to defend his statements about Michelle Obama?

Now we know that John McCain has been lying to us all along.  As the Sarah Palin nomination for Vice-President makes obvious, John McCain has no interest in putting "Country First."  Unless, I suppose, that you think McCain actually believes that the barely removed mayor of a hamlet in Alaska is the most qualified Republican to be one beat away from his 72 year old heart and the presidency.

The issue is not Governor Palin's (lack of) qualifications to be Vice-President.  The issue is about McCain's judgement.  For more on that, there are three excellent posts here, here, and here.)    The Palin nomination is dishonest, reckless, arrogant, selfish, and insulting (particularly to women and military families).  Obama and Biden would be wise to keep the focus on McCain's judgement rather than attacking Sarah Palin.  Frankly, I think Palin is being used by McCain.

One other thing…with the Palin nomination McCain has made it perfectly clear that he is not interested in the issues that effect the American people or in discussing the policies to address those issues.  Here is an August Rasmussen poll on the top 10 issues that interest voters.  The top 5 issues are: Economy, National Security/War on Terror, Government Ethics and Corruption, Iraq, and Healthcare.  Does anybody really think that Sarah Palin has anything to add to the national dialogue on these issues?  Well nobody knows, I guess.  Particularly McCain, since he met her just once before offering her a place on the ticket.

Can we finally stop talking about McCain being a straight-talking maverick?  He is a selfish, desperate politician who will do or say anything to get elected.  And he does not mind putting our country at risk to get what he wants.

UPDATE: The McCain campaign just announced that Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter is 5 months pregnant.  Here is Barack Obama's response from a press conference:

I have heard some of the news on this and so let me be as clear as possible. I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off limits, and people's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics, it has no relevance to governor Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18. And how family deals with issues and teenage children that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that is off limits.

Now that's something we can all agree on.

Now that the right-wing hive mind has decided that today's free-market mantra is "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less!"…resistance is futile.   It's as if the Borg has directed the think tank drones to signal that their assimilation is complete by embedding the moronic meme in their blogs.  Like other examples of right-wing GroupThink ("Lower Taxes, Increase Revenue!"), this one is embarrassingly and demonstrably false.  But why take my word for it…let the Bush Administration summarize their findings from the EIA (Energy Information Administration…The Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government).  Completed in early 2008, the EIA study concluded:

The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.  Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant. 

Got that, wingnuts?  Nancy Pelosi can agree to allow drilling from here to eternity, and the effects on the price of gas at the pump will be insignificant

But the most ridiculous claim from market fundamentalists is that the recent decrease in crude oil prices is due to merely discussing whether to allow more offshore drilling.  (Go here and here to see examples from local right-wingers.)  The Law of Supply and Demand is immutable, we are told by the drilling dilettantes at Pope, Inc.  Of course, there is plenty of evidence to show that the recent decrease in the cost of crude is due to less demand (ie. conservation, recession), not the potential for increased supply…in 2017.  You have to ask yourself why these guys never talk about decreasing demand (hint: conservation does not increase corporate profits). 

Speaking of the Law of Supply and Demand, what sort of madcap speculator in Freedomworld would decrease prices more than 20% ($140 per barrel to $110) because of the potential for an increase in supply in 2017 of less than one quarter of 1% (200,000 more barrels per day in addition to worldwide production of 85 million per day)?  Geez…hasn't the Law of Supply and Demand ever heard of the Law of Proportionality? 

Using this sort of crazy calculus, inflating our tires and driving the speed limit (measures which truly would decrease demand and lower the amount you spend on gas) should drop crude oil to $30 per barrel.  Which, coincidentally, was about what it was when Bill Clinton left office.  

Drilling Here, Now, and Everywhere will do nothing to ease the pain at the pump for Americans, although it will help fuel the growth of China, India, and Japan.  There are better ways to achieve energy independence.

Just so we're clear on this, I hope everybody understands that the current debate on off shore drilling is nothing more than exploitation of fears by the Republicans and the right wing market fundamentalists.  They are using the fear and pain of high gas prices to ram their agenda down your throat.  How do I know this?  Because they did the same thing in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.   As outlined by author Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine p. 410:

Even neocon stalwarts like Jonah Goldberg were begging "big government" to ride to the rescue: "When a city is sinking into the sea and rioting runs rampant, government should saddle-up"

No such soul-searching was in evidence at the Heritage Foundation, where the true disciples of Friedmanism can always be found.  Katrina was a tragedy, but, as Milton Friedman wrote in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, it was "also an opportunity." 

An opportunity to help the besieged residents of New Orleans, you ask?  Well, not exactly… 

On September 13, 2005–fourteen days after the levees were breached–the Heritage Foundation hosted a meeting of like-minded ideologues and Republican lawmakers.  They came up with a list of "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices"–thirty two policies in all, each one straight out of the Chicago School playbook, and all of them packaged as "hurricane relief."  The first three items were "automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas," a reference to the law that required federal contractors to pay a living wage; "make the entire area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone"; and "make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations)."  Another demand called for giving parents vouchers to use at charter schools.  All these measures were announced by President Bush within the week.

Here is the link to the e-mail memo "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices" from the meeting at the Heritage Foundation.  Number 24 is "Allow More Off Shore Drilling" while Number 26 is "Allow Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)."  Neither seems a likely "hurricane relief" remedy to get Gulf Coast residents back on their feet and in their homes.  ANWR and OCS were eventually junked in committee for other rollbacks in the so-called Clean Air Act.  Aaah…democracy at work. 

My absolute favorite, though, has nothing to do with drilling for oil. It is Number 8: "Waive the death tax for any deaths in the affected area from August 20, 2005 to December 31, 2005."  Now, how many of the bodies floating belly up in the Lower 9th Ward in the aftermath of Katrina do you think had estates valued at greater than 1.5 million dollars (the threshold at which the inheritance tax would be applicable)?  I'm guessing none.

The point here is to not be blinded by a crisis, so the right wingers can trot out their laundry list of industry wishes.  It is absurd to consider, urgently, off shore drilling as an election year issue because of high gas prices.  Debate off shore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy bill?  Sure.  Next year.

Finally, here is what I would do with the 32 point essay of "Pro-Free-Market Ideas" if I were Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi.  Like Martin Luther in 1517 nailing his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, I would nail the Republicans 32 theses to the Capitol Building door.   Know that whenever America is threatened, whether perceived or real, the Republicans "relief package" will undoubtedly require "urgent action" from their corporate grab bag.  Pre-empt their attempt to exploit a "crisis"…and then propose legitimate policy solutions.

Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation by showing that the Catholic Church was corrupted by the sale of indulgences.  Maybe it is time for a Democratic Reformation by showing how our democracy has been corrupted by the Republican Party's indulgence of their corporate benefactors.  Americans are ready for change and this could be the start of it.