Connections

Former 1960s radical Bill Ayers appeared (as himself) in the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground, which was narrated by Lili Taylor.

Taylor was in High Fidelity with Tim Robbins who was in The Hudsucker Proxy with Steve Buscemi.

And Steve Buscemi was in Tanner on Tanner with, yes, Barack Obama.

That’s only four degrees of separation — a closer connection than either The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times was able to establish in their exhaustive attempts to find any links between the former ’60s radical and the current Democratic nominee for president.

1969simpsonGov. Sarah Palin has also recently tried to link Obama and Ayers, suggesting that Obama is somehow complicit in Weather Underground activities that took place when he was a child because he has since raised funds for poor kids’ schools in Chicago and so has Ayers. CNN debunks Palin’s claim, noting that they’re a bit late to the party what with the Times and every other news outlet — “Several other publications, including the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic …” — having already staked and dusted the claim before Palin repeated it.

I’ve never met Ayers, and I haven’t been to Chicago in years, but I can claim a closer connection to the man than Obama has. My uncle, and namesake, is listed in Ayers’ c.v. Ayers contributed a chapter for a book* my uncle edited. It’s the very first chapter — meaning Ayers’ name in the book’s table of contents is listed directly below the name of my mother’s favorite baby brother. By Gov. Palin’s reasoning, that’d be more than enough to put me on some FBI watch list.

This kind of desperate straining to find some distant association with which to smear Barack Obama seems like a counterproductive tactic for the McCain campaign. Going after Obama with a smear that’s this obscure, this far-removed, and this baseless reinforces the perception that McCain and his hired mudslingers were unable to find anything substantial or legitimate with which to criticize his opponent. (Plus, as a general rule, when you’re trying to land a below-the-belt smear it probably shouldn’t include having to point out that your opponent has a long history of raising funds to help poor schoolchildren. That’s generally regarded as a Good Thing.)

It doesn’t speak well of Sen. McCain that his campaign is willing to rely on such silly tactics. Ten years ago I might have said that McCain was “stooping” to such tactics, but the senator has gotten lower and lower over those years, wallowing deeper and deeper in whatever filth he thought might get him elected. It’s hard to say at this point that anything is beneath him.

More to the point though, these strained attempts at guilt-by-association don’t actually prove anything. The photograph above, for example, shows the 1996 Republican nominee for vice president Jack Kemp with one of his intimate business associates — a suspected murderer who is now a convicted felon. Did Kemp’s association with this unsavory figure make the former congressman any less qualified to be Bob Dole’s running mate? I didn’t think so, but then I don’t work for the McCain campaign.

Actually, when I say that these baseless and illegitimate attacks “don’t prove anything,” that’s not quite accurate. They don’t prove anything about the person being attacked, but they do prove quite a bit about the people making the attacks. They prove the attackers to be capable of the level of dishonesty and the level of sheer silliness that ought to disqualify one from public office.

In Gov. Sarah Palin’s case, this isn’t the first time she has demonstrated such dishonesty or such silliness. Nor is this the first instance of Palin repeating something that isn’t true long after it has been thoroughly documented as untrue.

Palin’s willingness to repeat such disproven and discredited allegations confirms the dismaying pattern we saw established in her very first speech after being selected by John McCain. She says things that aren’t true. She does this a lot.

Worse than that, Palin says things that aren’t true long after it has been pointed out to her repeatedly that the things she is saying are not true. She says things that aren’t true that she knows are not true. This is called lying.

The public hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to learn very much about Gov. Sarah Palin, but this much we do know: Sarah Palin is a liar. She lies to make herself sound better than she knows herself to be and she lies to make her opponents sound worse than she knows them to be. Her lies are many and they just keep coming, from her misleading self-flattery on her role in the Bridge to Nowhere scandal, to her obstruction of the Troopergate investigation, to her recent perverse description of her role in Alaska’s efforts to divest from the Sudan. She is a serial liar.

This has now been so well documented that the closest thing to a defense of Palin isn’t a defense at all, but rather an admission. “All politicians are liars,” her defenders say. That cynical, blanket condemnation blurring all degrees and frequencies of dishonesty fails to recognize what makes the Alaska governor special. She has distinguished herself by her willingness to continue repeating her lies long after they have been thoroughly discredited. Most lying politicians either back off or change the subject when their lies are refuted, but not Palin.

And that brings us to the second thing that we have been able to learn about Gov. Sarah Palin: She views her own supporters with contempt.

However much Palin may dislike her critics, that dislike is nothing compared to the scorn, disdain and loathing she regularly displays for those who offer her only their unconditional support. She detests those people.

Palin’s supporters are, for the most part, evangelical Christians, which is to say these are my people. She feeds my people lies, with a smile on her face, convinced that they are too stupid or too lazy to know or to care that she is feeding them bullshit and calling it chocolate. These people that she is treating with such contempt and inordinate condescension are my family — both figuratively and literally.

And, yes, I find it upsetting when someone treats my family so contemptibly. It would be wrong of me to allow anyone to treat my family this way without calling them on it, so I am calling her on it: Sarah Palin is a remorseless liar with a hole where her soul should be.

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* The chapter “Work that is real: Why teachers should be empowered” in the book Empowering teachers and parents: School restructuring through the eyes of anthropologists. G. Alfred Hess, Jr., ed., Bergin and Garvey, 1992. In case you were wondering.

  • Tonio

    Some people (not my cousins, I hope) are praying that McCain does die and leave the presidency to her. On the other hand, I hear that some of the conservatives who aren’t fundamentalists are quite leery of her, and wish McCain hadn’t picked someone so extreme.
    There’s something deeply unsettling about the former. That division you describe sounds like the division in the GOP during the Watergate years. As Nixon’s culpability became clearer, his base in Congress gradually shrunk to just a handful of older Southern ideologues. Perhaps Palin’s candidacy is really a litmus test for ideological rigidity.
    On another forum, I heard someone (don’t know the party) declare that if McCain wins, he would volunteer for Secret Service duty, just so he would take a bullet if necessary to keep Palin from becoming President.
    Typepad has been screwing with me too. It no longer works in my Safari 3.1.2 (Mac OS 10.4.11) It keeps telling me that the Typepad server is down. I’m currently having to use my venerable, buggy, Netscape 7.2.
    Have you tried Google Chrome, which uses Safari’s rendering engine? I didn’t know many people were still using Netscape – I had assumed that most had switched over to Firefox.

  • Tonio

    Civil unions and other “marriage-light” arrangements require formal contracts and other actions in order to create similar rights, and never quite make it.
    Excellent point. Also, court and hospital employees who are morally opposed to homosexuality may throw up roadblocks to the rights that straight married couples take for granted. Such employees may argue that the civil union couples “aren’t really married,” or they may offer the bogus “personal conscience” argument that some pharmacists use to avoid dispensing contraception. Bogus because a person’s moral opposition to homosexuality or contraception should apply only to that person.

  • Tonio

    Civil unions and other “marriage-light” arrangements require formal contracts and other actions in order to create similar rights, and never quite make it.
    Excellent point. Also, court and hospital employees who are morally opposed to homosexuality may throw up roadblocks to the rights that straight married couples take for granted. Such employees may argue that the civil union couples “aren’t really married,” or they may offer the bogus “personal conscience” argument that some pharmacists use to avoid dispensing contraception. Bogus because a person’s moral opposition to homosexuality or contraception should apply only to that person.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Google Chrome is not available for the Mac yet, despite the fact that it’s using WebKit as the rendering engine. A lot of the special Google Chrome multiple-process tricks must be rebuilt from the ground up for the Mac, and even then I rather expect it will be restricted to Leopard (OS X 10.5.0) and above.
    I can say that under Safari 3.1.2 for Leopard, TypePad seemes to be working as well as it ever does. I’d suggest Firefox for Mac users still in 10.4.x, but I can’t test that.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Google Chrome is not available for the Mac yet, despite the fact that it’s using WebKit as the rendering engine. A lot of the special Google Chrome multiple-process tricks must be rebuilt from the ground up for the Mac, and even then I rather expect it will be restricted to Leopard (OS X 10.5.0) and above.
    I can say that under Safari 3.1.2 for Leopard, TypePad seemes to be working as well as it ever does. I’d suggest Firefox for Mac users still in 10.4.x, but I can’t test that.

  • e. nonee moose

    as a general rule, when you’re trying to land a below-the-belt smear it probably shouldn’t include having to point out that your opponent has a long history of raising funds to help poor schoolchildren.
    And what exactly do the Republithugs care about raising funds for poor schoolchildren? To them that’s almost as damning as any association with a former 60′s radical. She could have just stopped right there and her base would be just as riled up!

  • e. nonee moose

    as a general rule, when you’re trying to land a below-the-belt smear it probably shouldn’t include having to point out that your opponent has a long history of raising funds to help poor schoolchildren.
    And what exactly do the Republithugs care about raising funds for poor schoolchildren? To them that’s almost as damning as any association with a former 60′s radical. She could have just stopped right there and her base would be just as riled up!

  • Dash

    The San Francisco Chronicle’s Letters to the Editor page from October 8 has this letter from a real Maverick. You have to scroll down to the last letter, “Original Maverick.”
    Editor–I’m a descendant of the original maverick, Sam Maverick. In fact, I have one of his personal books right next to me in our bookcase. Being his descendant and a Democrat, I was a little miffed at the Republicans for trying to benefit from his memory, but let’s look into this a little bit more–in some ways it’s very appropriate.
    Sam Maverick was a cattle rancher in Texas. What did he do to make his name a household word? Was it his dashing good looks and cavalier attitude (as played by Mel Gibson)? No, it was his sleazy business practices. The story goes that he never branded his cattle, while all of the neighboring ranchers did. After a rainstorm, flood or stampede, all the ranchers had to sort out their cattle. Maverick would claim any unbranded animal must be his, ending up with any young or newly acquired cattle that really belonged to his neighbors. His name came to stand for someone who didn’t play by the rules, but eventually morphed into a positive connotation.
    If Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin want to declare their Maverick-hood, I fully support it, but only under the original definition–no good cattle rustlers out to benefit from other people’s losses.
    Elizabeth Minor
    Berkeley

    Some of the letters higher up on the page have to do with Ayers and California’s Proposition 8, which will remove the right to marriage for same-sex couples.
    And here’s a blog entry about the recent deaths of long-married actor Paul Newman and activist Del Martin, the latter married her partner of some 55 years this year when it became legal. The entry has a couple of links that Ember might find useful.

  • Dash

    The San Francisco Chronicle’s Letters to the Editor page from October 8 has this letter from a real Maverick. You have to scroll down to the last letter, “Original Maverick.”
    Editor–I’m a descendant of the original maverick, Sam Maverick. In fact, I have one of his personal books right next to me in our bookcase. Being his descendant and a Democrat, I was a little miffed at the Republicans for trying to benefit from his memory, but let’s look into this a little bit more–in some ways it’s very appropriate.
    Sam Maverick was a cattle rancher in Texas. What did he do to make his name a household word? Was it his dashing good looks and cavalier attitude (as played by Mel Gibson)? No, it was his sleazy business practices. The story goes that he never branded his cattle, while all of the neighboring ranchers did. After a rainstorm, flood or stampede, all the ranchers had to sort out their cattle. Maverick would claim any unbranded animal must be his, ending up with any young or newly acquired cattle that really belonged to his neighbors. His name came to stand for someone who didn’t play by the rules, but eventually morphed into a positive connotation.
    If Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin want to declare their Maverick-hood, I fully support it, but only under the original definition–no good cattle rustlers out to benefit from other people’s losses.
    Elizabeth Minor
    Berkeley

    Some of the letters higher up on the page have to do with Ayers and California’s Proposition 8, which will remove the right to marriage for same-sex couples.
    And here’s a blog entry about the recent deaths of long-married actor Paul Newman and activist Del Martin, the latter married her partner of some 55 years this year when it became legal. The entry has a couple of links that Ember might find useful.

  • Anonymous

    it really sucks that we are now forced to use the pagination.
    And used to be one could skip to end by adding a high number like 99 after the page in the URL, but even that doesn’t seem to be working now. Guess the correct page number or suffer a 404 message.

  • Anonymous

    it really sucks that we are now forced to use the pagination.
    And used to be one could skip to end by adding a high number like 99 after the page in the URL, but even that doesn’t seem to be working now. Guess the correct page number or suffer a 404 message.

  • Me!

    (The momentum really started with Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” comment a few years back.)
    This is off topic, but the funny thing is the reason I recognized that comment was because it was the only way I could remember what the terms left-wing and right-wing even meant when I was younger (I was about 10 or 12 when she said that). So I remembered that line, and thus knew that since Clinton was a Democrat, the right-wingers must be Rebublicans, and Democrats must be left-wing.
    Mind you, though, it was a lot easier to remember when I figured out that Republican and Right-wing both start with an R, and Left-wing and Liberal both start with an L. That’s a much better way to remember which is which. (if your kids can’t remember which party is left-wing and which party is conservative, just tell them to remember left-wing and liberal start with L and Republican and Right-wing start with R, which lets you fill in the blanks easily)

  • Me!

    (The momentum really started with Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” comment a few years back.)
    This is off topic, but the funny thing is the reason I recognized that comment was because it was the only way I could remember what the terms left-wing and right-wing even meant when I was younger (I was about 10 or 12 when she said that). So I remembered that line, and thus knew that since Clinton was a Democrat, the right-wingers must be Rebublicans, and Democrats must be left-wing.
    Mind you, though, it was a lot easier to remember when I figured out that Republican and Right-wing both start with an R, and Left-wing and Liberal both start with an L. That’s a much better way to remember which is which. (if your kids can’t remember which party is left-wing and which party is conservative, just tell them to remember left-wing and liberal start with L and Republican and Right-wing start with R, which lets you fill in the blanks easily)

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RajExplorer/ Raj

    Secret Muslim Man
    Secret Muslim Man
    They’ve given you a label
    By focusing on your name

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RajExplorer/ Raj

    Secret Muslim Man
    Secret Muslim Man
    They’ve given you a label
    By focusing on your name

  • McJulie

    Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy”
    The thing is, she was kind of right about that — maybe they weren’t vast, exactly, but they were well-funded and well-connected enough to have a lot of influence.
    But “vast right-wing conspiracy” is simply not the kind of thing you can say and have people take seriously, even if it is true. Like the the protagonist in a vampire movie. “Vampires, it’s vampires I tell you! Why won’t anyone believe me?”

  • McJulie

    Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy”
    The thing is, she was kind of right about that — maybe they weren’t vast, exactly, but they were well-funded and well-connected enough to have a lot of influence.
    But “vast right-wing conspiracy” is simply not the kind of thing you can say and have people take seriously, even if it is true. Like the the protagonist in a vampire movie. “Vampires, it’s vampires I tell you! Why won’t anyone believe me?”

  • http://d-84.livejournal.com cjmr’s husband

    maybe they weren’t vast, exactly
    Have you ever *seen* these guys???

  • http://d-84.livejournal.com cjmr’s husband

    maybe they weren’t vast, exactly
    Have you ever *seen* these guys???

  • mrlinzy

    Shouldn’t Ayers be properly described as a former terrorist? I think it has been a long time since he planned a terrorist act, and he no longer ascribes to the tactics he believed in in the 60s.

  • mrlinzy

    Shouldn’t Ayers be properly described as a former terrorist? I think it has been a long time since he planned a terrorist act, and he no longer ascribes to the tactics he believed in in the 60s.

  • Reynard

    Posted by Tonio: I didn’t know many people were still using Netscape – I had assumed that most had switched over to Firefox.
    I keep the Netscape as a Legacy app because my mom still uses it (because it’s both an e-mail app *and* a dessert toppingbrowser!) and I sometimes have to help her through fixes over the phone.

  • Reynard

    Posted by Tonio: I didn’t know many people were still using Netscape – I had assumed that most had switched over to Firefox.
    I keep the Netscape as a Legacy app because my mom still uses it (because it’s both an e-mail app *and* a dessert toppingbrowser!) and I sometimes have to help her through fixes over the phone.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    What with the all-consuming national fervor concerning the upcoming election, I can’t help wondering if President Bush, being the man that we know him to be, isn’t sitting back there at his ranch going, “But what about me? I’m still President, dammit! Why is no one talking about me?”
    Heh.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    What with the all-consuming national fervor concerning the upcoming election, I can’t help wondering if President Bush, being the man that we know him to be, isn’t sitting back there at his ranch going, “But what about me? I’m still President, dammit! Why is no one talking about me?”
    Heh.

  • Ryan Ferneau

    Shouldn’t Ayers be properly described as a former terrorist? I think it has been a long time since he planned a terrorist act, and he no longer ascribes to the tactics he believed in in the 60s.
    Once a terrorist, always a terrorist, certainly if they’re still working with those radical Democrats who want to DESTROY CAPITALISM!

  • Ryan Ferneau

    Shouldn’t Ayers be properly described as a former terrorist? I think it has been a long time since he planned a terrorist act, and he no longer ascribes to the tactics he believed in in the 60s.
    Once a terrorist, always a terrorist, certainly if they’re still working with those radical Democrats who want to DESTROY CAPITALISM!

  • Johnny Pez

    Waitaminute! Your first name is actually Alfred?
    This changes everything.

  • Johnny Pez

    Waitaminute! Your first name is actually Alfred?
    This changes everything.

  • Shell Goddamnit

    Hey! For three months I lived in the household of a retired police officer who was one of the original signers of the Port Huron Manifesto! I R UR-SDS!!
    But then my whole family had at one point been under surveillance by the state police red squad, so as a tie to the crazed left it’s kind of redundant.
    And these are only two of the myriad reasons why I’m unlikely to ever run for elective office…

  • Shell Goddamnit

    Hey! For three months I lived in the household of a retired police officer who was one of the original signers of the Port Huron Manifesto! I R UR-SDS!!
    But then my whole family had at one point been under surveillance by the state police red squad, so as a tie to the crazed left it’s kind of redundant.
    And these are only two of the myriad reasons why I’m unlikely to ever run for elective office…

  • lou

    I’ve interviewed and cited Ayers for research on reforming urban schools. Guess that makes me suspect too. Did not know he was a Weatherman until this whole brouhaha started. As I’m a year older than Obama, I totally sympathize with him about the “I was only 8!” retort.

  • lou

    I’ve interviewed and cited Ayers for research on reforming urban schools. Guess that makes me suspect too. Did not know he was a Weatherman until this whole brouhaha started. As I’m a year older than Obama, I totally sympathize with him about the “I was only 8!” retort.


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