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September 16, 2008

Mmm, “good people”
Posted by Patrick at 10:00 AM *

Sarah Palin, accepting the nomination of the Republican Party for Vice President of the United States:

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman.”
Who was this anonymous “writer”? Funny you should ask. Evidently, as Thomas Frank points out, it was the avowed anti-Semite Westbrook Pegler, a newspaper columnist popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, whose many distinguished accomplishments included publicly regretting that would-be FDR assassin Giuseppe Zangara “hit the wrong man,” writing in 1963 that it is “clearly the bounden duty of all intelligent Americans to proclaim and practice bigotry,” and, when Robert F. Kennedy first began considering a run for President, expressing his hope that “some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.”

Honesty! Sincerity! Dignity! Good people!

(Thanks to Stephen Leigh for pointing out this story, which I missed entirely while falling behind on the news.)

(Oh, and for what it’s worth, Harry Truman regarded Pegler as a “guttersnipe.”)

Comments on Mmm, "good people":
#1 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:08 AM:

" brought to you by Soylent red and Soylent yellow, high energy vegetable concentrates, and new, delicious, Soylent green. The miracle food of high-energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world..."

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:17 AM:

My father said of those who praised the good old days, 'Yu will neva hear me talk bout did good ol days, dem was neva good.' The older I get, the wiser he seems in several respects.

#3 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:22 AM:

What a repellant person - looks like some speech writer out there is going to be out of a job, and Palin will have some explaining to do, when this story is picked up by the mainstream press. (I'll be holding my breath . . .)

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:24 AM:

#3, surely you're joking. The shoutout to Pegler was certainly deliberate; he's a hero to the hard right.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Palibn is giving me the impression she's living her very own Mary-Sue, one where McCain dies dramatically on the inaugural podium and Sarah is forced to take the oath of office. There are probably people in the GOP who think that's a good idea.

#6 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Pegler called Harry Truman "a thin-lipped hater."

#7 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:43 AM:

It wasn't meant to be a joke - I guess it shows my ignorance about certain subjects.

#8 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:55 AM:

'Salright to be ignorant. The sin is to take *pride* in it.

#9 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:02 PM:

How hard right are we talking? I can't believe anyone would align themselves with this gorilla.

#10 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:02 PM:

How hard right are we talking? I can't believe anyone would align themselves with this gorilla.

#11 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:04 PM:

Patrick #4:

Huh? What fraction of Americans, or far-right-wingers, have ever heard his name, or know anything about him? Do you think Palin or her speechwriter knew that much about the guy?

Would you accept an attack on Biden which used the same kind of reasoning? Say, if he quoted an article by a guy who'd also supported the Soviet Union in crushing the uprising in Hungary, would that be a reason to attack him, and evidence that he was playing to a far-left base?

#12 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:15 PM:

albatross @11: you know very well that Democratic candidates usually are very careful not to do this, in fear that mainstream news companies will call them out. When you quote a public figure, it's clear that you are making a connection to the values and policies championed by that figure; it's why everyone quotes old Presidents, not because they were writing such fantastic essays. So when somebody, at a political rally, quotes a person outrageously out of the mainstream, the mainstream media should call him out.

But hey, IOKIYAR...

#13 ::: Shem ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:20 PM:

PJ Evans @ #5:

In fact, some of our more, um, serious Christian friends are already praying for John McCain's election and death, in that order:

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:21 PM:

TomB @ 6... Harry Truman "a thin-lipped hater."

Does that mean that Harry, were he still around, wouldn't be a fan of Sean Bean?

#15 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:31 PM:

All of which sidesteps the weird *message* in the quote. (Some bloggers have asserted 'small-town' is code for 'white'.)

Doesn't this country grow good people on its farms, in its cities, in its suburbs? Aren't people, you know, basically good?

Oh sure, some of them are *especially* good. We can tell from just looking at them.

#16 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:33 PM:

@ JJ Fozz #10

Well... I know it's possible for seemingly normal people to align themselves with "gorillas" because my father did. And of course there was the whole Nazi thing in the 40's. My father... supported the Holocaust. These people exist and are real and they exist today. They are disgusting worms.

Palin is a nasty, nasty conservative. Her allegiance doesn't surprise me. For instance, even though she's a woman, she believes that rape victims are responsible for paying for the evidence tests they must go through. And that's not the worst thing she's ever supported.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:33 PM:

Deliberate dogwhistle to bring racists on board too. Gods, I hate that woman.

What's the difference between a pig, and a pig with lipstick? Not a whole fuck of a lot.

#18 ::: JanetM ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:34 PM:

albatross at #11: I've heard of Pegler, in the context of the 1954 libel lawsuit filed by Quentin Reynolds against Pegler and his publishers, the Hearst Company. Pegler and Hearst lost, to the tune of $1 in actual damages and $175,000 in punitive damages. The defendants argued that if Reynolds's reputation was so strong that they had been able to cause only $1 in actual damages, the punitive damage award was unreasonable; the judge (and, I think, an appeals court, but I'd have to double-check that) denied that motion.

Of course, I only know about that because my parents owned a copy of Louis Nizer's book My Life in Court (ISBN 978-0515027648).

Interestingly, this 2004 article in the New Yorker says that it was only after the lawsuit that Pegler became an avowed anti-Semite; Nizer was Jewish, and, according to the article, Pegler "interpreted what had happened as the Jewish world vs. Pegler."

I would not have recognized the quote, though.

#19 ::: JanetM ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:37 PM:

Xopher at #17: Did you catch Obama on Letterman the other night (I didn't, but someone posted a couple of YouTube clips)?

Letterman asked about the "lipstick on a pig" quote and whether it was about Palin. Obama replied (quoting approximately, here), "No, of course not, it was about McCain's failed economic policies. Technically, she'd have been the lipstick."

#20 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Move over, Palin! There's an even folksier, more family-valuesy, plain-speaking candidate in town:

It's Nurglon (r)!

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:42 PM:

JanetM 19: Yep, and of course he's the candidate, and I believe that's what he meant. He didn't intend to call her a pig.

But I do. She's a pig. As in book banning, forced-pregnancy advocating, homophobic, racist, fascist PIG. Whether she wears lipstick or not.

#22 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:45 PM:

@ Xopher #21

It's an old chestnut, but I believe you are insulting pigs.

#23 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:48 PM:

She's a book banning, forced-pregnancy advocating, homophobic, racist, fascist PERSON. That's bad enough.

#24 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 12:55 PM:

albatross, for some of us, especially those of us who've had brushes with the John Birch Society and other old line far right extremists, the name Westbrook Pegler is enough to cause the beginnings of a panic attack.

It is unfortunately true that most people don't know his name. Most people aren't entirely sure exactly who Joseph McCarthy was, either, or conflate him with Eugene McCarthy. (And wouldn't that have been a legendary case of enlightenment and redemption?) This is why, in threads such as this, the appropriate response is not "nobody knows, who cares, yawn" but rather "I didn't know before, I did some reading, YOW!"

#25 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:00 PM:

In regard to Pali's book banning, does anyone have a link to a story about that, from a news source that is vaguely unbiased?

I have been going back and forth with a family member and I need evidence. A list of the books she requested would be a help.

So, this guy becomes an avowed anti-Semite, and endorses racism, and the Republican Party has no problem identifying with him?

Here's hoping Palin gets a yeast infection so gnarly that she turns into the Pillsbury Dough Woman.

#26 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Does anyone know if Matthew Scully is still writing Palin's speeches, or if that was a one-time thing? How would one go about finding out?

If he wrote that one, I would find it... interesting. (I do hope the media jump all over it, regardless.)

#27 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Growing people in small towns? It's gotta be...

Pod People!

Pod People got no reason
Pod People got no reason
Pod People got no reason
To live

They got leafy hands
And seedy eyes
And they walk around
Tellin' great big lies
They got leafy noses
And sharp pointy teeth
They wear hobnail boots
On their nasty smelly feet

Well, I don't want no Pod People
Don't want no Pod People
Don't want no Pod People
Round here

#28 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:09 PM:

As far as I've heard, Palin is a mere wannabe book banner, foiled in her dastardly plans by a heroic town librarian's defiance. The book lists floating around that purport to be her banned books are either fakes or deliberate parodies.

#29 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:10 PM:

Giacomo (12), Democratic candidates didn't start being "usually very careful" to restrict their quotations to people who had never said anything that might be regarded as objectionable until a few years ago, when Kerry was so thoroughly attacked for quoting Langston Hughes. Before that, I think the custom for politicians on both sides was to make sure they agreed with the politics of politicians they quoted. If a politician quoted Shakespeare, the response was not automatically, "Gotcha! What do you mean, allying yourself with that monarchist?"

Westbrook Pegler seems like a real piece of work. Ick. Yet even if the words Sarah Palin quoted could be divorced from the character of the man who first said them, they would be ugly and wrong. It's trying to drum up resentment of city people. Hating and fearing city people can be a different thing from racism (I think some relates to several kinds of classism), some relates to problems with geographic mobility as more mobile families concentrate in cities), but it's another kind of destructive force.

#30 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:23 PM:

@ JJ Fozz #25

Snopes is very unbiased (they're based on debunking any and all myths, urban or not). And this is the first Google hit, so... why not Google.

Books Banned by Sarah Palin

There is no list of such books. She only thought about banning them, but no list was ever materialized---mostly because she never got around to firing the librarian because of the swell of support for said librarian. She didn't feel the librarian supported her cause. That bit of information is also present on the Snopes article above. (Told you they weren't biased, but very truth-dedicated.)

So basically... yes, she would have, but people managed to stop her. If they hadn't, there *would* have been a list.

#31 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Also also, why does the rural elite always get to define itself as the "good people" of America? This has been bugging me a lot lately. It's like, what, four of us hardworking city folk to each one of those scenic-vista-viewing, clean-air-breathing porch sitters?

#32 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Palin may not have named any books she wanted banned, but there is a pastor up there who believes she was behind the efforts to ban his book on homosexuality from both bookstores and the library.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:33 PM:

Is it really appropriate to deride rural areas? Some ML people live there, after all.

#34 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:35 PM:

JJ Fozz at #25:

Here's hoping Palin gets a yeast infection so gnarly that she turns into the Pillsbury Dough Woman.

Seriously? I'm sorry, but I find that really offensive. I loathe everything that woman stands for, and as this thread shows there is *plenty* to criticize her for, but if we must wish disease upon her, could we please try a little harder to do so with imagery a bit less misogynistic?

#35 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:40 PM:

I agree with punkrockhockeymom about the insult... it's a bit much (with a British understatement leaning on "a bit").

I would have said something about it, but I grew up filtering out more objectionable bits of conversation and not mentioning them.

#36 ::: Rulial ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:41 PM:

Adrian @ 29: I completely agree. I also think it's based on a completely inaccurate perception of small towns as completely full of wholesome, honest, unsophisticated people. The reality is that small towns have their share of dishonest, conniving, Machiavellian people.

#37 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:55 PM:

The reality is that small towns have their share of dishonest, conniving, Machiavellian people.

And in small towns, it's impossible to get away from them.

#38 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:03 PM:

One of their signal virtues, to Pegler, would have been marksmanship.

#39 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Serge@33: Speaking as a small (very small) town Fluorospherian: Thanks.

I'm currently scratching my head, hayseed-wise, and looking about me trying to figure out just who around me here in meatspace counts as a member of the "rural elite." (Maybe they're talking about the moose?)

#40 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:23 PM:

Cat @ 31, please to be making sure the field of fire is clear of allies before opening up with that one.

While I may in fact be sitting on my porch in a small town at this very moment, it is a porch attached to a lefty academic/sf professional household. Here on my porch with me is my big ol' Obama sign and the laptop on which I'm writing a fantasy novel inspired by how appalled I've been with the Bush administration and the way it conducts foreign and military policy.

I did used to be a city person, though before that I must admit I was a North Dakotan and not so very urban. I live in small town America because my wife is one of those darned lefty academics (a physicist actually) and this small town has a university loaded with more lefty academics including a genre friendly English department.

This is not to say that I have anything against the moral and values of those living in a more urban environment, just that I would rather we didn't make divisive urban/rural/small town arguments at all.

#41 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:29 PM:

“We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.”

That may be true, but it doesn't preclude those virtues belonging to city-dwellers as well. And we get to add diversity and tolerance to that list.

I feel about small towns roughly the way I feel about living in the 1950s (cf. Fragano, #2) - they are probably lovely places to live if you are part of the majority group. And so it's pretty hard for me not to read paeans to small towns as code for 'white, Christian, straight,' even when they don't come from the pen of right-wing anti-Semites.

#42 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Serge, it is not my intent to deride rural people in general, but rather the belief that rural and urban people are doomed to be enemies. As far as I can tell, that belief is not springing up spontaneously from rural is being deliberately spread, often from Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, or other cities. (Where is Clear Channel's headquarters, anyhow? I doubt it's a small town.)

#43 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Yeah, that's one of my pet peeves: the casting of big cities and those who live therein as somehow un-American. San Francisco gets especially picked on in this regard (disclaimer: I'm from the Bay Area and have family ties to SF (my great-grandfather drove cable cars (ding! ding!)), so I'm biased), with "San Francisco values" being lambasted as not only not American but somehow inimical to Real American Values. A whole, beautiful, vibrant city, with its three-quarters of a million people, disowned by people who will then soundly pat themselves on the back for calling their fellow citizens un-American.

San Francisco values? How about tolerance and innovation? Failing that, how about a hearty portion of cioppino served in a sourdough bread bowl? Cos that'll feed two people easily, which is also a pretty good value.

Rant over now.

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:41 PM:

I don't think the minority of the American people who live in rural areas should be insulted or derided or in any way oppressed. I just think they need to be disabused of the notion that they're the majority, or that being who and what and WHERE they are should give them special privileges that city folk shouldn't have.

I feel certain that the MLers who are rural need no education on that topic.

#45 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Ah, sorry. I was trying for a play on the latte-swilling costal elite idea, but seem to have developed a case of EPIC FAIL. I have nothing against people who live in rural areas or small towns, and I apologize for making a joke in bad taste.

In seriousness, I do wonder why such a small subset of our population so often gets to claim the "regular folk" title, while the stastically typical people don't.

(Also, seriously, is it possible to find out who's writing Palin's speeches?)

#46 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:49 PM:

Cat @ 45, thank you. BTW, I'm right there with you on being irritated about that mantle of "regular people" thing. It's one of the many memes that are used to divide us as country and allows a great deal of nastiness to be perpetrated by the insertion of a crowbar between demographics.

#47 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Debra #39, why isn't it obvious? All rural dwellers are the true elites, in tune with Arcadia, living by the sweat of their brow which they mop with homespun kerchiefs clutched in their callused hands, all while breathing the pure air of freedom . . . .

There is a bit of dogwhistle politics there, with a leavening of nostalgia for a fictional past (do they not teach american history up to the dust bowl years anymore?). Rural/small town can be interpreted as conservative, white, devoid of bookstores, more than one movie theater (blockbusters only, please), and more churches than restaurants, especially furrin ones.

#48 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Cat @ 45, also, my apologies for growling much louder than I really ought to have.

Despite my efforts not to let the largely Republican-serving meme of city-folk looking down on those of us who live elsewhere get my goat I still seem to have a raw spot there. Probably because I originally come from a place with far more sugar beets than people and thus in my youth was subjected to the occasional round of hick-baiting.

#49 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:18 PM:

Xopher @44 hits a very important point, and one which I get to see played out in every election in my, uh, plaid state: the "fly-over" states complaint that they lack in influence compared to the left and right coasts ignores the simple cause: there aren't many people living there, compared to here. Acres don't vote.

There was a pro Dino Rossi sign that showed up east of The Mountains this year, saying "Don't Let King County Steal This Election." King County=Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond=about a third of the state's population. There's more wheat and apples and vines and potatoes on the east side, but not so many voters; more importantly, population concentrations even on the dry side often show up bright blue on the voting map.

#50 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Cat, that whole question of who counts as a "real" American (or a "real" patriot, or a "real" woman, or a "real" Christian....), and who gets to decide, on the basis of what criteria, is a long-standing source of trouble in American culture (if not in human nature).

#51 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:28 PM:

Apropos of "real people," the Shouts and Murmurs column in the current New Yorker. Put your coffee/OJ/whatever down first.

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Lila @50:

Speaking as an expat, amen. There's always someone lining up to tell me I'm not really American any more.

Even my own family doubt me, because I criticize America in conversations with them*. The fact that I do it because they are the people with whom I can let my hair down and let my fears show, no matter what I say to my neighbors here, cuts no ice, unfortunately. Leaving is as much criticism as I am allowed.

Of course, living abroad teaches me every day that I am not one of these people among whom I live. I am permanently, inescapably an American.

Just not, apparently a real one.

* As God is my witness, I will never get into a political discussion with my brother again.

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:40 PM:

From the threads of Obsidian Wings, about a year ago: one of the best comments I've seen on judging who is and is not a real American.

#54 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:54 PM:

Linkmeister @ 51: That article is excellent.

abi @ 53: That post is also excellent.

I'm so glad that people are fired up and posting about these things. This election cycle has energized us in a way that I haven't seen in decades.

#55 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 03:59 PM:

The speech was written before Palin was chosen. I very much doubt that McCain's campaign staff didn't know who they were quoting.

#56 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:03 PM:

abi @ 53: one of the best things I've read about who gets to decide who's A Real American was just written last week

#57 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:12 PM:

julia #55:

The question is, did they have a whole set of those quotes to use, depending on who they chose?

"As a writer once said[1], we grow good people in our (small towns / suburbs / small cities / big cities )."

[1] Hell, let 'em try to prove that no writer ever said any of these.

#58 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:16 PM:

"latte-swilling costal elite"

As opposed to them intercostal, muscular folks. You know, from the heart land.

(not a cat pileon! only an irresistible pun!)

#59 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:29 PM:

Re: Palin and librarian stuff:

Some of the best commentary in the library blogs I read has been at - she's got a round-up post with comments and links to previous posts and other specifics at here

Also some conversation about how this blew up. (Me, I took one look at the list and went "That's off the ALA site, yep." because I've been looking at them for Banned Books Week (a week focusing on library books and challenges that happens at the end of September - this year, Sept. 29th to Oct. 5th)

I always do a series of blog posts about various book challenge that week and fully expect to be talking about this particular issue in summary: they'll be public posts at the URL linked with my name when they happen. (Most of my LJ is friends-locked, however, so you won't see much right now.)

#60 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:37 PM:

albatross @ 57:

I can't prove that isn't the case, but it seems to me unlikely that movement conservatives aren't familiar with the name of a McCarthyite William F Buckley was actively attempting to rehabilitate (with pushback from the ever-so-contrarian folks at Slate)

#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:00 PM:

Julia #60:

I am not sure where to get good data about this, but I'm really skeptical. I've at least read a fair bit of stuff from a conservative perspective, and I'd never heard of him.

More fundamentally, this attack is guilt by very tenuous association. I understand that Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh and that bunch will try to make that kind of attack stick, but it's BS. Smearing someone for the political views expressed by a writer from whom they took one throwaway quote in a political speech is frankly idiotic. It has zero information content. It's as relevant as that idiotic debate question to Obama about why he didn't wear a flag pin on his lapel. Finding out that Palin's speech which she didn't write quoted some guy with evil beliefs tells me nothing about her evil beliefs. And as far as I can tell, the only people who will accept it as evidence of her evil beliefs are people who have already decided she's evil, for partisan reasons.

#62 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:07 PM:

albatross @ 61

My point was that nothing she said in that speech tells us anything about what she believes, since not only didn't she write it, it wasn't even written with her in mind.

You may well be much more well read about conservative thought than I, f'rinstance, am. I don't, however, think it's likely that you're quite as in tune with the enthusiasms of people who are paid to spend their days propelling conservative memes as the folks who ran both George W. Bush's campaigns and are currently running McCain's are. I'm guessing that they most likely keep up with this kind of stuff.

I know I'd heard of Pegler from reading about his era, and this isn't what I studied in school.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:08 PM:

albatross, Palin is a handpuppet. Who gives a flying fling about HER actual beliefs? The beliefs expressed in that speech are the ones we have to worry about, because she'll still be a handpuppet in office.


albatross, Palin isn't just a handpuppet. She had to have read that speech before she gave it. She's responsible for its content, because she got up there and gave it. Don't tell ME she had no idea where that quote came from, because it doesn't matter: she's responsible for what she says. Unless you're saying that the speechwriter(s) put that in to deliberately screw her over, it's her responsibility.

Take your pick. Either it's her, or she's a sockpuppet and we don't care what IS her. Either way it means voting for her team is voting for those ideas.

#64 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:12 PM:

JJ Fozz: The story goes like this: Palin asked the librarian how she would feel about removing some (unspecified) books from the library.

The librarian said, she was against it and wouldn't do such a thing. Palin then got nasty and then tried to fir her. So there isn't a list of books, per se, but there is a desire to ban; and an unwillingness to brook opposition.

Allow me to say that, for all I loathe the woman, I find your desire to inflict misery on her offensive; and your specific choice of malady misogynistic.

Re small town/rural vs. city: I'm sorry if the questions about that hurt people's feelings, but you know what... every one of those slams about the "urban elite, latte swilling immoral inhabitants of Sodom in America is aimed right at me.

When "urban dwellers" are described as destroying the essential moral fabric of America, well that's me they are describing.

If it's not, I'm sure as hell getting caught in the blast zone. How, pray tell, is one to find just whom she is speaking of, if; like McCain's POW status, we aren't allowed to ask?

So I can understand if y'all are a little tetchy on the subject, but it might be we who live in the cities have a reason to be more than a little sensitive ourselves.

#65 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:34 PM:

I know Howard Bess, and I'm inclined to believe what he says: "She scares me. She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.... This is a small town, we all know each other. People in city government have confirmed to me what Sarah was trying to do.... She's the most charming person you'll ever know. But this person's election would be a disaster for the country and the world."

#66 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:42 PM:

#46 ::: Kelly McCullough

I grew up on a small family farm in ND's Red River Valley, the southeast corner. Real small family working farm, not AgriConglomBiz that passes as farms and farming these days.

Love, C.

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:07 PM:

Xopher #63:

So, I'll ask again. Is this a good way to find out the beliefs of the person giving the speech? Or the person writing it? If Barrack Obama tomorrow gives a speech in which he includes a throwaway quote from a guy who later converted to Islam, is it proof that Obama is a secret muslim? If he gives a speech tomorrow quoting FDR, should we assume he's in favor of stacking the supreme court to get his agenda through, or of lying about his intentions to get the country into an unpopular war? Should Biden quote Churchill in a speech, am I to assume he's in favor of colonialism?

I'm not saying Palin doesn't have evil beliefs. Indeed, she's on the side of the bad guys in this election, which suggests some bad beliefs right off the bat. But the inclusion of this line from a guy who also wrote some nasty stuff tells us virtually nothing about her beliefs, nor about the beliefs of her speechwriters.

#68 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:26 PM:

Re small town values:

I remember Sam
The druggist on the corner, he
Was never mean or ornery, he was swell
He killed his mother-in-law and chopped her up real well
And sprinkled just a bit
Over each banana split...

#69 ::: mike shupp ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:27 PM:

Albatross 67 --

Westbrook Pegler was a fairly well-know name (albeit on decline) when I started paying attention to politics back in the 1960s, and his reputation was not a savory one.

Let's put it this way: If I were writing for publication, or simply writing a comment on someone's webblog, I wouldn't use a quote from Pegler unless (a) I specifically identified it as a quote from him, and (b) I explicitly explained why I needed to use that quotation.
And I'm a fairly right wing guy.

#70 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:34 PM:

albatross @ 67 (and i really do find it trying when I reply to a specific question and it isn't acknowledged):

Her speech contained a quote from someone who is, clearly, known amongst the people who wrote her speech. Either she repeated something unknown to her because it sounded good and it didn't represent her, which given the situation seems to me most likely and suggests that she's not very particular about what she chooses to be a spokeswoman for; or she was familiar with his work, in which case she represents some pretty unpleasant ideas.

I'm not sure how what you've had to say so far is a defense on either point.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:40 PM:

albatross 67: It's a good way to find the values they stand for. It doesn't matter a damn bit what they "actually" "believe." That quote is a dog-whistle to the foaming-crazy right, who know damn well who that guy was. Palin either a) knew too, and used the quote advisedly, or b) gave herself over to the campaign so that they decide what she stands for; it doesn't matter which. "Who is this I'm quoting here" is not a hard question to ask.

And I don't know who could possibly give a moldy bean for what the gorram speechwriter believed! That quote was included deliberately, by someone who knew exactly where it came from. The speech also doesn't name the writer, which was to keep those of us who are NOT part of the foaming right from figuring it out.

By denying that it really means that she actually believes it, you're carrying their water, because what they actually believe is a red herring. This is politics. We can deduce what they stand for, and who they're playing to, and we have. The foaming-crazy right know what she meant; don't try to keep us from doing the same.

#72 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Abi, you should realise that the Stross Effect (`Scottish author...') means that as you have spent time in Scotland you are automatically Scottish. Little matters like where you were born, grew up, worked, live now &c are entirely irrelevant. Once in Scotland, always Scottish.


#73 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 07:26 PM:

I was accused of having my loyalty be to the UK because that's where Graeme is from, and because I like the idea of universal health care. All whilst having his family tell me I'm surprisingly tolerable for an American. So I guess I can't win.

#74 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 07:51 PM:

#16: : Arachne Jericho For instance, even though she's a woman, she believes that rape victims are responsible for paying for the evidence tests they must go through.

From your link:

Lawmakers became involved in 2000 when reports began coming in that police departments were charging sexual assault victims for the kits and the forensic exams, which cost from $300 to $1,200 at the time. The kit, a package of sample containers, swabs and other medical supplies, is used to collect evidence from women after they are attacked.

Then-Gov. Tony Knowles said Thursday that Wasilla was unique in the state in charging rape victims for the cost of doing the law enforcement necessary for solving the crime.

I have a very strong suspicion why it was that Wasilla under Palin required women (rather than taxpayers) to pay for the so-called "rape kits." (The real name is "Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit.")

My suspicion is that having the town pay was banned on religious grounds because the next to last step is to offer emergency contraception to the victim. You can't have the taxpayers foot the bill for contraception. (Or, as some might define it, very early abortion.)

(NOTE: This will not become an brtn thread.)

#75 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Repeat: this will not become an brtn thread.

#76 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 08:16 PM:

Charging victims of rape for forensic tests isn't anything to do with abortion, it's just normal practice under President Palin.

#77 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 08:22 PM:


Come se dice brtn thread?

#78 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 08:39 PM:

I graduated from high school as one of a class of 120, in the oldest school district in that state; I was living there as an Army brat, since it was adjacent to a large Army installation. A very large installation; the 2006 statistics on DefenseLink indicate that it had almost 24,000 military personnel and more than 10,000 civilian personnel (DoD and other). The adjacent Air Force base adds another 6,000+ military personnel. (The entire state of Alaska, in the same document, has just under 25,000 military and about 8,000 civilian personnel.)

My brother and two cousins each got married on military installations, complete with dress uniforms and a sword arch. How's that for "real American small town people"?

Of course, I lost my "real American" credentials somehow by moving to the city where the Continental Army was formed, and which is still considered the birthplace of the US Army. (This city's supported the troops since 1775. Take that, Wasilla!)

#79 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 08:42 PM:

Palin fired the police chief, and then hired the guy who introduced the policy of charging rape victims for their forensic kits, but Hey!

Sometimes their Health insurance paid!

Then those bastards in DC made Alaska force them to stop... which bastards? Joe Biden, actually.

#80 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Hey, guys, I offered. I mean, I invited everyone.

Y'all could have visited a small town, eaten moose burgers, and seen a foreign country from across the border.

Everyone here could have been qualified to be Vice President of the United States!

#81 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 08:49 PM:

julia -- re-emvowel brtn (we might be talking about another country if it were Brtn, but we aren't).

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Julia, there's a fear that the thread could be totally pranged -- gone for a burton. (At last, my chance to sound just like Biggles and Algy.)

#83 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 10:02 PM:

Kip W@38: One of their signal virtues, to Pegler, would have been marksmanship.

Plenty of time to worry about that if Obama wins. But surely arming bears ranks high among those virtues - I've certainly come across a few who saw their concealed-carrying selves as "sheepdogs", quietly protecting the meekly herbivorous unarmed from the peril of random disgruntled postal workers, or perhaps even jihadis wandering the heartland searching forlornly and ill-advisedly for something important enough to blow up. Not having gnus around must be as much of a sign of the effete European ways of the blue state cities as latte-sipping and quiche-eating.

#84 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 10:59 PM:

Terry Karney @64

How, pray tell, is one to find just whom she is speaking of, if; like McCain's POW status, we aren't allowed to ask?

I may have missed something, but I didn't see anyone being unhappy that people were asking questions about what exactly Palin meant and/or criticizing Palin's perpetuation of an ugly meme. What I personally objected to was something that read to me as being derogatory of small town inhabitants in general* which strikes me as both counterproductive (in that it is behavior likely to increase urban/rural tension) and not to the point. Had it been a criticism of the idea that only small town people are real Americans I wouldn't have breathed a word because I think that idea is poisonous.

If someone wants to attack the idea that only small town Americans are real Americans I will not only agree with them, I will applaud. If someone feels the need to attack small town Americans as a part of breaking up that meme then, of course as someone who currently lives in a small town, I'm going to be unhappy as say so.

*Cat has both apologized for the impression and elaborated on her point and I want to make sure to note here that I am not growling about that again, just noting the original context of my point.

#85 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:07 PM:

@ James D. Mcdonald #74

Thanks for explaining the possible motivation there and stopping the brtn-thread-ination that might have happened. I didn't realize.

For folks who are going "brtn thread wha?" I suggest googling "making light" brtn and reading the search result summaries for context until the light goes "bing! OH."

(I don't really believe that Google knows all, including wrong things, but it's a good approximation.

And sometimes I need pretty heavy hints yah.)

#86 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 11:15 PM:

Now I'm really upset that I missed the moose festival. Maybe next year?

Also: not that fond of latte, but I love me some quiche. My MIL makes it with fresh eggs right from the chickens in her yard and homemade crust. I make it with frozen pie crust and store bought eggs, but it's still yummy.

#87 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:02 AM:

Combining the quotation: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” with the knowledge that she 'saved' $9,000 to $14,000 per year for her small (under 10,000 pop.) town per year by charging rape victims for their evidence kits, we get:

One of the 'values' in her town, when she was mayor, was nine to fourteen admitted rapes per year!

#88 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 01:42 AM:

JESR @ 49 - I saw those Rossi signs too. If they don't want King County to vote, perhaps they'll let us keep our money too and will dig into their own pockets to pay for schools, public works and poverty benefits. Of course, part of the WA GOP meme is that hard-working god-fearing east-of-the-Cascades regular people pay lots of money in taxes so Seattle welfare queens can tool around in Cadillacs - regardless of the fact that Eastern Washington is much poorer than King County.

Sorry for the rant, but the people who put up those signs know that they're reinforcing a storyline that attacks the very people who keep their economy afloat, and it makes me surprisingly angry.

#89 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 01:59 AM:

Debra Doyle @39:
Rural elite? I can name some: I grew up in two small towns, one definitely rural and the other nearly so. One was so corrupt that the FBI took over the city government, and the other was more or less openly run by the Mob.

#90 ::: Jamie Hall ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:02 AM:

Debra Doyle @39

Honestly, you've never met the rural elite? In my hometown there were plenty. Guys with houses twice as big as average, who had pastimes like golf, who were spoken of in tones of deep respect, and who could get all sorts of serious criminal charges dropped just by having a "friendly chat" with the police.

#91 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 06:13 AM:

Seriously, consider who profits from this "rural versus urban" meme. Romanticizing small-town America, with all its associated anti-intellectualism, homophobia, covert racism, and using "liberal" as a slur leads to exactly the consequences described in the "Everybody knows" thread. People who are hurt by those "real American" comments getting defensive and coming back with comments about hicks, rednecks, flyover states &c achieve nothing except lending strength to the slander that liberals think they're better than those dumb poor people. And that leads to said "dumb" poor people repeatedly voting against their economic interests for people who at least pretend to respect their culture, which can of course only be attributed to inexplicable stupidity on the part of such voters...

Plus, this kind of discussion hurts people. I've seen several political threads turn nasty precisely because there are ML readers who live in red states or come from poor rural backgrounds.

#92 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:10 AM:

I grew up in a village; I've always thought the fact that Russian has the same word for "village" and "peace" is one of the best jokes ever.

#93 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:13 AM:

Rural v. urban goes back to the invention of cities, c.f. The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.

But are there not now more city dwellers than rural dwellers?

#94 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:41 AM:

Speaking of small towns, someone should write a pastiche of the play Our Town as a Rethuglican dystopia. Or has this already been done?

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:45 AM:

Individ-ewe-al #91:

Yep. In fact, just as New York and San Francisco are very, very different cities, with very different cultures, so different small towns can have a radically different feel. Making up one template for what small towns (and their people) are like is pretty much identical to making up one template for what big cities (and their people) are like, or what suburbs (and exurbs, and all the variations on that theme) are like. They're not all the same.

My sense is that these generalizations are a kind of standard mental shorthand people use, when they just don't know much about other places. It's like a backdrop you wheel in to show that now, you're in a big city, the small town people are gawking at the buildings and being sold the Brooklyn Bridge, everyone is bustling and rude, etc. A somewhat different backdrop is wheeled out to talk about the Arab world, or Africa (inevitably mapped to the poorest and most hellish parts of sub-saharan Africa). You can see the backdrop wheeled out for the US when you talk to Europeans sometimes--the massive US output of TV shows and movies sometimes makes foreigners imagine they have a much better picture of the US than they do. (Probably similar to the way most Americans who have never visited NYC kind of have a backdrop for it in their minds, populated by the huge artistic output of New Yorkers.)

A major source of this, IMO, is that most of us get most of our background assumptions about places we don't know much about from TV shows and news, both of which are massively distorting figures. If you watch Friends to learn what New York City is like, you're probably going to get some very strange and wrong ideas.

I lived in three different small towns in the midwest growing up. All three were very different, and the least tolerant one of the three (in which the lives of the two black kids in the high school were truly horrific) also tolerated a pair of high school teachers who were very obviously lesbians in a long-term committed relationship. (It was a hint when the amazingly good history teacher moved in with the gym teacher.) Every town is likely to be different, just like NYC != SF != LA != Seattle != Houston. There are some commonalities, but it's easy to overstate them.

#96 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:49 AM:

Xopher @ 63 Unless you're saying that the speechwriter(s) put that in to deliberately screw her over...

That's what I'm... well, not hoping, exactly, but more like... you know when you hear a really good conspiracy theory and really, really want to believe it even when you know it's probably not true, just because it's so much better than REAL reality? That's what I'm chosing to do in this case. (Also why I want to find out who's writing her speeches.)

Albatross @67, your analogies are a little off there. When a politician quotes Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, they do it for the aura-rub from those people. Would any listener think, oh, Ghandi partitioned India, therefore quoting him means you're in favor of splitting the US along religious lines? Would they jump to the conclusion that quoting MLK means you're for thesis-plagiarizing? No, of course not.

Now, if you'd said, "If Obama says, 'a community organizer once said, ', and it turns out to be an al-Zarqaqi quote, does that say something about him?" that'd be a little closer to what Palin did. And I'd argue that yes, yes that does say something about him - either that he is or has hired a sloppy fact-checker, knowing that there are plenty of folks in the country who have nothing better to do than dissect his every word and call him on them, or that he admires and agrees with al-Zarqawi at least enough to quote his ideas in a speech, or that he's secretly calling out to the people who will recognize and admire an al-Zarqawi quote. None of those say anything good about the speaker.

(Which is also why Palin's excuse on making victims pay for rape kits - "but I didn't knooooooooow!" - doesn't work. If you, the Mayor, don't know about a major issue in your little town until someone from DC tells you to knock it off, that's a pretty good indicator that your leadership skills are somewhat... lacking.)

#97 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:54 AM:

Julia #70:

When I take a minority view on some thread, it's easy for me to end up in a discussion with a dozen people. Every one of those people is at least as fast and clear of a writer as I am. Inevitably, I can only reply to so many people, and inevitably, I'll miss some comments or even glop together comments that make subtly different points. That's kind-of a consequence of taking a minority position. As you may notice if you check my "view all by," I am speaking from experience here. Indeed, when I find myself responding to five or six people in the same thread, I start worrying about starting up a flamewar or ending up on the bottom of a dogpile. The last time that happened, I gave some serious thought to just not coming back, or giving up on political threads.

Shorter me: If I don't respond to you, it's probably not because I'm ignoring you, dissing you, or dodging your unanswerable arguments (though I suppose all three are possible). It's probably because I'm just one person, with the same kind of limits on my time and energy as everyone else.

#98 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:13 AM:


FWIW, I'm not trying to defend Palin. McCain/Palin can get my vote only by convincing Obama/Biden to back a policy of nationwide cannibalism, and the appointment of Paul Bremmer as the fed chairman.(Cannibalism might well be a consequence of that appointment.)

The question that interests me is whether this basic pattern is a good way of finding out a politician's beliefs. When a politician uses a one-line uncited quote from some other person in a speech, is it sensible to infer deep shared beliefs between the politician and the writer being quoted? Since neither you not I are neutral in this election, the only way I know not to let my answer to that question be swayed by my desired outcome is to pose the question either generically (as I just did), or to map it to a politician with whom I identify. That's the "mirror method," and it's a nice way to overcome my own mental biases.

A politican who quotes Langston Hughes, or Martin Luther King, or Mark Twain, or GK Chesterton, or any number of other people, is quoting a deep thinker, who almost inevitably will have come to some conclusions with which the politician is in fundamental disagreement. Someone quoting Mark Twain likely doesn't share the view of war and war mania and patriotism reflected in _The War Prayer_. Someone quoting Martin Luther King may very well be uncomfortable with some of his anti-war and anti-capitalism comments.

Similarly, I wouldn't accept this kind of evidence against a politician I liked. If Obama quotes someone who later converted to Islam, this will have pretty much zero impact on my beliefs w.r.t. whether Obama is a secret Muslim extremist. And it seems quite rare to see anyone accept this kind of evidence against people they agree with. Let Obama quote someone with a shady past today, and I expect that zero Democrats will be convinced of his evil nature by this kind of evidence.

For these reasons, I don't believe this is useful evidence about the beliefs of the speaker.

I also find it absolutely implausible that anyone in the Republican party was trying to link Palin to an anti-Semite, as antisemitism is overwhelmingly unacceptable in both the US and the Republican party. Similarly, I don't buy that it's some kind of subtle dogwhistle. Among other things, her opponent is a black guy, so there's not really any subtle signaling required to convince bigots that McCain/Palin is their only choice. And dogwhistles that only work on committed right-wing activists are kind of pointless in this campaign--if McCain/Palin can't get their votes, they will lose in a landslide.

#99 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:29 AM:

WHEREAS the purposes of Making Light include, inter alia, the pursuit of truth, the pleasure of the participants, and an overall increase in illumination in these dark times, and

WHEREAS I have already announced that the furtherance of said purposes during election season will require the deferment or avoidance of certain discussions, to the probable disadvantage of the views of particular members of this community, and

WHEREAS albatross has already graciously permitted such a discussion to pass him by to the disadvantage of his views,

THEREFORE be it known to all here present that albatross is in my good books for just and fair cause, and I will not suffer him to be harangued, browbeaten, or dogpiled upon in the furtherance of this conversation.

#100 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:30 AM:

First, McCain/Palin will lose in a landslide.

Second, I think the simplest explanation is that the speechwriter grabbed a book of quotes, turned to the Small Town, Virtue Of header, and picked one off the page.

#101 ::: Charlie Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:34 AM:

As long as we're on the subject of Palin and her associates --- a couple of interesting Google searches: palin dominionist and mccain imprecatory prayer.

To summarize: the far-right Christianist wingnuts are at least acting as if Palin is one of their own, and the wackiest of the wackos are openly praying for McCain to get elected and die, so she can take over.

They call themselves Christians, but (as I've said before) they seem to act more like devotees of The Other Guy...

#102 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:34 AM:

albatross #98: McCain/Palin can get my vote only by convincing Obama/Biden to back a policy of nationwide cannibalism

That could be spun as an innovative biomass recycling program. Combine it with an economic incentive program through the confiscation of millionaire assets and you have a Modest Proposal where each 300 millionaires recycled generates a bare minimum of about $1 for each surviving US citizen. Win-win!

#103 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:43 AM:

Albatross, I'd disagree that "dogwhistles that only work on committed right-wing activists are kind of pointless in this campaign"--McCain needs more than their votes, he needs their commitment. He needs volunteers willing to stand all day at polling places in Michigan and challenge people whose homes have been foreclosed, for instance; a more savory dogwhistle might not attract volunteers willing to do that. Is there any reason--besides an innate sense of decency--for McCain not to want to get a few thousand volunteers at the cost of disgusting a few tens of thousands of people who mostly weren't going to vote for him anyway?

#104 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:52 AM:

#98 alabatross

There is sympathetic magic invoked regarding using quotes from people--the words don't stand apart from the person quoted. Someone loathed as a vile and despicable person, might have some wonderful ideas, but the fact that the loathed and reviled person said them, is enough to kill investigation of the idea. Someone with personal charisma/likeability, such as the occupant of the White House and apparently Gov Palin, on the other hand, can say and do outrageous things and have people follow what are completely unwise, evil policies, because the person who is promoting them, has personal charm.

So, the bottom line, particular if not looking at e.g. Fair Witness types as arbiter, that the words, and the person who is the source of the information, are not independent.

(More substantiation--when people post here, usually there is some amount of confidence of value or entertainment apply based on who contributed the words. There is an interdependence, based on "past performance" and expectations--that's part of why e.g. kill files exist. "These people are in kill files because any or all of the below apply: a) They are ideologues b)They are astroturfers d) They are inane e) They write boringly f)They never write anything the person who's kill filing them regards as worthwhile g) What the write the killfilers find objectionable and get annoyed at... etc. "

The term "confidence" level applies to the source of data, that is, "this information comes from an unreliable source, therefore the information reliability is low. This information comes from a highly reliable reputable source, there for this information is highly reliable."

Those sorts of things apply to "who was the source of that quote?"

#105 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:56 AM:

Adding an analogy:

Take pure clean water, and pour it into a contaminated filthy pipe. The water that comes out of the pipe is contaminated.

Take a pristine sterilized pipe, and run sewage through it. Anything that runs through the pipe afterwared, until cleaned and sterilized, is going to be contaminated.

Contagion theory... and McCain, Palin, and their memes are contagious with debased words and products.

#106 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Rural elite: this guy in the town I work in (pop. 1065, and a McCain/Palin stronghold), who was paying $32,000 per MONTH on his house (lease + improvements) while working as a clerk in a liquor store. Turned out he was also cloning people's credit cards.

#107 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 10:30 AM:

albatross @ 98: "A politican who quotes Langston Hughes, or Martin Luther King, or Mark Twain, or GK Chesterton, or any number of other people, is quoting a deep thinker, who almost inevitably will have come to some conclusions with which the politician is in fundamental disagreement. Someone quoting Mark Twain likely doesn't share the view of war and war mania and patriotism reflected in _The War Prayer_."

I'd agree it would be pretty ridiculous to read deeply into someone's beliefs on anti-jingoism based on some random Mark Twain quote, but then Mark Twain isn't primarily known as an anti-jingoist. Maybe it would be fair to interpret the quoter as being a fan of sardonic American humor, but Twain's political beliefs are not signature aspect of Twain's image. But Pegler wasn't a well-known American humorist--he was a racist and assassination-championing conservative pundit. Racism isn't some kooky quirk of his: it's his raison d'etre. It's the only reason we know who he is. There's no other reason to quote him in particular, as opposed to the gazillion other writers who've spent their ink praising small towns. Praise of small (conservative, white, Christian) towns has long been a racist dog-whistle, and quoting a racist praising the good, decent people of small towns isn't terribly subtle.

"That's the "mirror method," and it's a nice way to overcome my own mental biases. "

Look, if tomorrow Obama gives a speech in defense of his exceptional oratory and says, "as a noted speaker once said, 'The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force,'" I will be severely freaked out. Similarly, if he gives a speech and mentions the Republicans' use of a "doctrine of shock" I'm going to be very psyched that Obama's showing that he's read his Naomi Klein.

Quotes matter. Sometimes they don't reflect deeper reality, sometimes they're patent misdirection, but they aren't irrelevant.

"Among other things, her opponent is a black guy, so there's not really any subtle signaling required to convince bigots that McCain/Palin is their only choice. And dogwhistles that only work on committed right-wing activists are kind of pointless in this campaign--if McCain/Palin can't get their votes, they will lose in a landslide."

A Republican speech-writer doesn't need a reason to throw out a dogwhistle--he'd need a reason not to. They dogwhistle for the same reason that Obama fist-bumped Michelle on stage--it's just what they do.

#108 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 10:51 AM:

James at #100, from your lips to God's ear.

On good days, which are most days, I think you are right. I look at the war, and the economy going south, and think, the American people have had it, they will rise up, they will not take this sh*t any longer.

On bad days I think, Barnum was right, Twain was right, never underestimate blah-blah-blah OMG McCain is going to win, we're DOOOOMED.

Then I take the dog for a walk.

#109 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Lizzy L @ 108, the upside is, if McCain should loose, you could say that Barnum is now officially not right any longer.

#110 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:09 PM:

James @100 - speaking of things I'd like to believe... I wish I could agree with you, but I still can't get past the "they own all the voting machines" thing. What's going to happen when all the crucial precincts turn up 51-53% McCain? (Personally, I have a bet going on the likelihood of riots, but that's not at all useful, I know.)

#111 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:17 PM:

Just to add my two cents: The quote at hand is pretty innocuous in and of itself. Surely the speechwriters could have found an equally innocuous quote from another source whose reputation is largely favorable or neutral, if they so chose.

Also, if Pegler's opinion of Truman is pertinent enough to allude to in the text of the speech, his other opinions seem to me to be equally pertinent.

#112 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:19 PM:

And heresiarch snuck in ahead of me to say pretty much the same thing while I was doing actual work. That's the problem with day jobs...

#113 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Mwa ha ha!

#114 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:24 PM:

The polls they quote on television still scare the pants off me. James, I just hope your optimism is correct! (Reason says it should be, but sometimes reason seems to be on permanent vacation in the good old US of A.)

#115 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Paula @104: in statistics, the confidence level (or confidence interval) does not apply to the source of the data: it applies to how reliable the process of extrapolating from the (supposedly good) data to the whole population is.

The problem with the reliability of the data is an entirely different problem (e.g. the question of whether only sampling on landlines skews the results because those who only own cell phones are different from those who use landlines in a way that's significant in relation to the questions asked -- the "Dewey Defeats Truman" polling problem).

#116 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Cat #110: What's going to happen when all the crucial precincts turn up 51-53% McCain?

What's going to happen is that the right will fall back on all the work they've done establishing exit polls in people's minds as somehow unreliable--even more so than usual because everyone knows that people will claim to have voted for the black guy when they really voted for the white guy--to explain it away. Oh boy!

#117 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 01:37 PM:

JJ Fozz at #25:

Seconding what punkrockhockeymom said @#34. If you don't get why this is offensive, it's because you're wishing a specifically female ailment on her, and, by trying to make it sound funny, mocking her for being female.

#118 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 03:33 PM:

But exit polls are reliable. George Bush said so when he demanded a revote in Ukraine. [/bitter sarcasm]

I got a pair of online push-polls about Palin in a gmail sidebar. I went and took them, doing my best to be honest in a way which skews the results (do I think Palin is hurting the campaign with, "moderate' republicans? No, not really. I don't see them, by and large, actually engaging in much bucking of the party).

#119 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Terry @ #118, similarly I get a survey from the RNC about once a week (with a request for a $12 "processing fee" ... now that's chutzpah!) and I have been filling them out and mailing them back without affixing the "your postage saves us money to fight the evil Democrats!" stamp (or the fee). My answers are definitely not the ones they want to hear.

#120 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:18 PM:

#115 Tom
The reliability of the data, is not independent of the channel from which it arrives.

Ahmed Kharzai, for example, was a low credibility source, meaning that anything he said, had credibility issue--it's conditional probability.

#117 Mary
Hope that one of Palin's offspring is homosexual? That didn't seem to bother Dick Cheney particularly, though....

#121 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:31 PM:

Jim #100 / Faren #114:

McCain certainly doesn't seem to be running his campaign like someone who thinks he's winning. Indeed, it looks to me like he's running a long string of high-stakes gambles, starting with the selection of Palin as his running mate. Given the relative lack of scrutiny she's endured in the past, there's a real risk of some campaign-destroying scandal coming out, despite the best efforts of the campaign to immunize her from hostile media reporting by trying to make the story "Why do the media hate Sarah Palin?" Similarly, the ads with overt lies in them, the abrupt changes in positions on various issues, and the whole strategy of a guy with a long history of a good relationship with the media basically attacking them for being sexist pigs (*ahem*) all look like dangerous gambles, things that might pay off in terms of winning some votes, but with a substantial chance of backfiring.

I will admit I am no expert, and am probably a poor gauge for public opinion, but the McCain campaign's recent choices look desperate, to me. And again, maybe I'm missing something, but the ominous economic news of the last couple weeks strike me as incredibly bad news for McCain. The McCain campaign has been running heavily on image since the Palin nomination--look how exciting it is that we have a young, fresh face, a working mom who likes to pack heat, a younger maverick to follow in the footsteps of the old maverick[1].

That stuff is kind of exciting, in a culture-war way, for some people. Wow, someone like me! But at some level, when things start falling apart, I'm not sure Palin is any of the folks you're excited to see in the oval office.

Had McCain chosen Romney or Lieberman, this financial news would be much better for him, because he could emphasize the value of having an experienced hand on the tiller, contrasted with Obama's relative lack of experience. Grayer heads aren't always wiser, but they might be more comforting in a crisis. Exciting loose cannon types (McCain AND Palin) are much less reassuring in times like this.

[1] Always two there are. No more, no less.

#122 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:43 PM:

abi #99:

I have a feeling I should print that out, fold it up, and keep it in my pocket for political discussions in person....

Bar Patron #1: You say we're torturing innocent people? You're a f--king traitor.

Bar Patron #2: I'm gonna kick your a--, you anti-American piece of sh-t.

Hastily opens magic paper.

Bar Patron #1: Hy, wht th fck s gng n hr? Wht'd y d t my vc?

Bar Patron #2: Sht, dd y slp smthng n my drnk? Hlp, cnt tlk. Gddmnt!

#123 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:52 PM:

ethan #116 (and everyone):

Does anyone here have more information about what happened with the Voter News Service in 2000 and 2002? If I were planning to fix elections on the counting side of things, I'd really want the ability to discredit or jam up the exit poll results. My take on it (largely from Wikipedia and fallable memory) is:

a. In 2000, VNS was accused of releasing exit poll information early to help Gore.

b. In 2002, VNS' exit poll data was somehow lost in a computer error, and did not surface for several months.

c. In 2004, VNS was replaced by another Greek of the same name a new consortium with the same members. The exit poll data that was released (apparently early) raised some serious questions about election fraud in Ohio. Some of that data has never been released.

There are obvious suspicions of an intentional attack raised by this, but does anyone know more about it than the natural suspicions?

#124 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 05:03 PM:

#121 albatross

I am very much wishing/hoping for strategic devastation of the McCain-Palin ticket, and the entire apparatus: root, stem, and leaf; that has masterminded the creation and implementation of that ticket and promotes/exploits intolerant anti-multicultural sectarian networking.

There is a translation for what I really mean by the above, that involve a a four letter vernacular term followed by an apostrophe and two letters. And the term is not scatalogical, does not refer to sexual activity, or race, or creed, or national origin, or skin color. The word "strategic" is the big clue.

And they ALREADY glow green in the dark....

#125 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 05:11 PM:

Addendum--they're toxic to begin with. They need hazardous waste signs--that's what they've been doing to the USA, creating a more toxic environment full of toxic mining tailings, air pollution (those infamous dirty dozen power plants that were SUPPOSED to get cleaned up in the wake of the Clean Air Act, which instead the Republicans have effectively repealed for all intent and purposes), dismantling of healthcare for everyone except the rich and politically elected/appointed, water pollution (removing wetlands protection for anything that isn't a 365 day a year wet body of water... too bad for vernal pools, streambeds for that flash flood waters pour through regularly, and anyone who gets conned into buying property that gets wet on such bases....)...

#126 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:39 PM:

Larry Brennan @88: the Puget Sound vs Columbia Basin false equation is the local expression of the Red State vs Blue State one in many ways, not the least in the case you point out. The evil libbruls pay more taxes, get less government spending in return, and are roundly abused for having more than their fair share of both money and influence.

#127 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:45 PM:

#100 ::: James D. Macdonald:

First, McCain/Palin will lose in a landslide.

How sure are we that Palin will be on the ticket in November?

#128 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:46 PM:

ethan@116, Terry Karney@118, albatross@123

Exit polls in the U.S. are not designed to be able to "call" state winners. Nor are exit polls used to call winners, with the exception of states where it is clear in advance who the winner will be (e.g. Utah, D.C.).

What exit polls are designed to do, and what they are of some use for, is collect data that provides information on why voters voted the way they did. In other words, the use of exit polls as they are (and have been) designed in the U.S. is for after-the-fact analysis.

(Mark Blumenthal has a good overview on exit polls and their limitations at


Yes, Palin was definitely an attempt at a "Hail Mary" play. There's NO way he'd have made that selection unless he was fairly sure he was losing. On the whole I think that Obama is probably where he NEEDS to be in order to win. Now I'd much rather he be up by 10+ points rather than about even, but he doesn't NEED the big lead at this point in the campaign.

#129 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:53 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz@127

At this point in the campaign dropping Palin from the ticket is almost certainly a fatal blow to the McCain campaign.

Which means that she's staying on unless something happens so that keeping her on the ticket is clearly going to be catastrophic.

#130 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:34 PM:

Michael I: I know that. They aren't designed to do that in Ukraine either.

But the data in Ohio (in 2004) showed Kerry winning by some number of points (I forget what). He lost, by about twice that. (as I recall it was winning by four, but he lost by eight).

The Bush teamm said it as a statistal anomaly, but perfectly understandable. They then floated all sorts of oddities (the Dems had figured out where the pollsters were going to be; and arranged to be interviewed. The Dems all voted early, and skewed the polls. The Republicans heard the poll data and all rushed to vote so the evil Kerry couldn't win, etc.).

The statisticians who analysed the results said it was as likely as one person hitting the lottery three weeks running as it was that many polls all ended up that far from the reality of it.

Then, when Ukraine had an exit poll dichotomy of far less than happened in the US, that same apparatus said the results were obviously fabricated and a new election had to be conducted.

That's what I was talking about.

#131 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Paula Lieberman @#117: There's nothing wrong with being homosexual--but I don't think you actually are saying that there is, just that SHE would be horrified. Still, it would be more of a punishment to her offspring, to be gay and have an incredibly intolerant mom, than to her, I suspect.

Personally, I'm settling for hoping she gets eaten by a moose.

#132 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:19 AM:

albatross at #123: No, I don't have any more info, but it's been nagging at the back of my mind since then.

As I recall, they had some inexplicable Big Failure with their exit poll software (your "point b") - and then they were mysteriously reincarnated.

But I'd love to hear if anybody tracks down more of the VNS story.

#133 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:26 AM:

albatross at 121: dear God, you are absolutely right; if McCain had chosen Romney, he'd probably be in better shape right now, because Romney, empty suit, though he is, is at least a very very wealthy empty suit who knows quite a bit about finance. Hell, there was a time when I was hoping against hope that McCain would choose Romney.

I wonder how those clever guys who came up with Sarah Palin as the perfect pick are feeling right about now...?

#134 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 01:39 AM:

As much as it pains me to do so (and trust me, IT DOES) I'm going to have to say something good about Westbrook Pegler. If you read Desert Island Decameron by H. Allen Smith you'll find two columns by Pegler (both pre-1945) that are worth reading, and one of them, "Myriad Minded Us," should be mandatory reading even today for columnists and editors--Pegler points out in detail how ridiculous it is to expect a three-column a week columnist to be an expert on everything under the sun. (The subtext is that you should check up on anyone whose writing you follow to make sure they're not a chuckle-head.)

Trust me: the rest of his stuff is distasteful beyond belief, but it would be a shame for the two columns that Smith reprinted to be forgotten.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take a long shower. With Lava soap. And a scrub brush. (Defending PEGLER? YUCK!)

#135 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 02:29 AM:

To top it all off, she apparently killed Bullwinkle.

#136 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 08:01 AM:

Terry Karney@130

The exit poll results were NOT an important part of the evidence suggesting vote fraud in the Ukraine.

Mark Blumenthal again:

(begin quote)

And thus we come to an oft-repeated legend: Exit polls "exposed" fraud in Ukraine and elsewhere, so why not here? The biggest problem with that story is that the election monitors in those counties did not depend on exit polls to provide evidence of fraud. In Ukraine, at least, the solid evidence came from eye-witnesses, taped phone conversations, and physical evidence of vote tampering. Review the reports of the most authoritative monitor on the elections in Georgia and Ukraine -- the Office of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) --, and you will find plenty of evidence cited but not a single mention of the phrase "exit poll."

(end quote)

(The above webpage is part of a series of posts exploring the allegations that exit poll results in 2004 suggest electoral fraud. Bottom line is that they don't. The differences between the exit polls in Ohio and the final results are easily explainable by other factors. Note that "statistical significance" ONLY considers random sampling error. That is far from the only likely source of error in exit poll results.)

(Should clarify that Blumenthal is not concluding whether or not something that could reasonably be called electoral fraud occured in Ohio in 2004. He is simply concluding that the EXIT POLL RESULTS can not reasonably be used as supporting evidence for electoral fraud.)

#137 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 09:40 AM:

Paula @120: Mary Cheney has been a tool of the Republicans: they used her presence -- albeit in an indirect manner -- to suggest that they are open to inclusion, and then they used Kerry's remarks during the debate to attack him for being rude and offensive. There's no way for Mary Cheney to be treated as "normal" in the Republican camp.

#138 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 11:23 AM:

Michael I: What part of I understand that, but the Bush administration talked out both sides of it's face am I not making clear?

The point I keep repeating: the Bush camp said exit polls in the US are so much hogwash.

The Bush camp said exit polls in Ukraine are gospel truth.

They can't (in a sane world) have it both ways.

#139 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 07:14 PM:

Terry Karney@138

Got it now.

Wasn't quite clear to me before that your objection was entirely about Bush saying different things about exit polls on different occasions.

#140 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Adrian @83 - I'm really not opposed to gun ownership. I do get kind of creeped out by people who marry their guns, though.

The country, maybe the world, is liberally sprinkled with peaceful, harmless gun nuts. Then there's the ones who are also assholes -- that's a Venn diagram I don't much care for -- many of whom would be dangerous in any case. If there were no weapons of any kind, they'd spend seven hours a day lifting weights so they could kill you with their hands.

True, the guns give them more reach, but you can't really take them away from just one class of people, and you shouldn't take them away from everybody. It's the kind of thinking that gets things I like banned. So I have no grand solution to the problem of assholes with guns, alas.

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 03:08 PM:

Kip W:

I think it's the underlying general problem of assholes that's the real stickler.

#142 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 01:00 AM:

albatross @ 141

Agreed. Eva and I have decided that the world would be a much better place after a pandemic of the Asshole Removal Virus. We figure humans can't be allowed to make that sort of decision so we need to gene-tailor a virus to do it.

#143 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 01:18 AM:

#142: If that virus was literally minded, things could get very messy:

"Hey! Anyone have a spare cork? I accidentally flushed mine."

#144 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 02:28 AM:

Bruce #142:

If Spider Robinson's theory[1] is correct, this would lead to the extinction of mankind. Admittedly, this would solve the problems caused by the likely meltdown of our economy in the coming months.

[1] Everyone is an asshole.

#145 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 02:39 AM:

Stefan #143: If that virus was literally minded, things could get very messy

Or, depending on its interpretation of "asshole removal", not messy enough.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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