Saturday, July 31, 2010

Then and Now: Two sets of journalists who did investigate Sarah Palin's biggest lie

It's worth noting that during the 2008 presidential election season, not everyone in the media shied away, ran away, or otherwise backed down from reporting on the uncomfortable stories surrounding John McCain's vice-presidential pick, then-governor Sarah Palin. It's impossible to say for certain why virtually all American journalists and bloggers refused to touch the issue. It may have been due to a combination of (1) everyone being gun-shy after so many smear campaigns had already taken flight that year and (2) a pervasive squeamishness among young, childless, and mostly male reporters when it came to asking admittedly personal questions about Palin's oddly inconsistent birth stories and a personal interpretation of Family Values that seemed unconventional, to say the least, coming as it did from a purported Conservative Christian. The Don't Go There attitude was certainly given a shot in the arm of esprit de corps when the Journolist members brought up the strange rumors and were told "Seriously guys...leave it be", which directive was, to their palpable relief, exactly the out most of them seemed to be looking for anyway.

However, a few journalists did think the story was newsworthy and were obviously troubled by the gaping holes and inconsistencies in the vice-presidential nominee's background stories; so much so, in fact, they set about reporting on them: those journalists worked for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Here's a video of their report.

(If anyone knows of the existence of any followup stories run by the CBC, please let me know.)

Between then and now, several blogs did yeoman's investigative work; as we know, one such writer, Audrey, was forced to quit when she was threatened and blackmailed by conservative bloggers. Interestingly, while Palin's attorneys have threatened Alaska blogger Gryphen with defamation suits for publishing rumors about things like an impending Palin divorce, they have never threatened him--nor any other blogger or journlist--for reporting about Sarah Palin's lies in re: being pregnant in 2008, and/or for stating the obvious: that Trig is not her biological son, and she faked the pregnancy for one or more of a number of possible reasons.

Truth is an absolute defense in defamation cases, and if Palin's attorneys were to file such a lawsuit, one of the first things a defendant's attorneys would do is file for discovery. In other words, Palin would have to put up whatever proof she had that the person she was suing was not telling the truth--a birth certificate, medical records, and so forth. As should be evident to anyone who's following along at this point, she cannot and would not do that, because such documents would prove exactly the opposite, and might indeed disclose facts incriminating to either her or one or more of her family members. Claiming the Fifth Amendment ("I refuse to testify on the grounds that I might incriminate myself...") for purposes of ducking or delaying discovery when one is the plaintiff is not possible, either--the defendant in such a case would have a right to a speedy and expeditious trial, as well as the right to effectively defend himself.

Hence, no defamation suit ever gets filed on that count, even as Palin might sic her retained attorney on bloggers for other things: divorce rumors, publishing excerpts of her book, and so on.

Anyway, fast-forward (so to speak) to the present, and Palingates has just posted a new 2-part video report, produced by Lidia, that's extremely well done, and, unless you are someone who's in complete denial of reality as it appears before your eyes, impossible to argue with. I especially like the second part, as it zeroes in on some of the evidence I find to be most compelling--for example, leaning forward and doubling in two while seated when you're seven months pregnant is, quite simply, physically impossible, no matter how tiny you are, no matter how tiny your baby is. (And then, incredibly, hopping up effortlessly, as though no center-of-balance shift has occurred in the past several months!) However, I recommend to everyone who's been following this utterly bizarre story that you have a look at both parts. Here's Part One. And here is Part Two, also embedded:

So, here we are, two years later, and members of the mainstream media's irresponsible, unethical, sexist, and, in my view, unforgivable behavior--in apparent deference to a vice presidential candidate who is on the record as having told baldfaced, self-serving, and bizarre lies as well as having exhibited irrational and mentally unstable behavior during the 2008 campaign--has become the preeminent story.

And one can only wonder if one of them has it in him, at this point, to finally heed the simple request we've been making all along:

The Empress has no clothes. Kindly investigate same.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sarah Palin chose (B): Ten questions for mothers

Reader Jim (aka Prup), a friend and frequent commenter at Cogitamus--and someone who does have a few differences with me about Sarah Palin's motivations as well as those of the mainstream media journalists who to this day have not investigated the ex-governor's strange, inconsistency and lie-filled stories* surrounding what has come to be known as Babygate--has written a terrific set of questions designed to get Palin supporters thinking.**

Thank you, Jim. Take it away...

Ten Questions for Sarah Palin's supporters who are also mothers:

1. If you were a state governor who was eight months pregnant--and remember, Sarah Palin already knew hers was a high-risk pregnancy because of her age (44) and, according to her book, her baby having been diagnosed via amniocentesis as having Down syndrome--and you were scheduled to fly some 4,000 miles from home to give a speech at a conference, would you (a) give your speech from home via teleconferencing, using modern real-time technology, and explain to your hosts that the high-risk nature and advanced stage of your pregnancy made you reluctant to fly; or, alternatively, send the deputy governor to give your speech or (b) dismiss any staff or security slated to fly with you and insist on flying 4,000 miles to the conference yourself?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

2. If, while attending this conference, you experienced leaking amniotic fluid and felt early contractions on the morning before you were scheduled to speak, would you (a) hand the speech to someone else, ask him or her to give it on your behalf, and go straight to the nearest hospital--one that was equipped for handling high-risk mothers, premature births, and special-needs infants--and get yourself checked out by a doctor or (b) continue with your day and give the speech anyway?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

3. After giving the speech, would you then, immediately afterward, (a) go directly to the nearest suitably-equipped hospital or (b) insist on going to the airport and proceed to get on the first of two several-hours-long commercial flights--airplanes on board which there would be no lifesaving equipment or stored blood should you go into hard labor and experience pre-eclampsia or hemorrhage, no sterile environment, and no high-risk obstetrician attending you--in order to be able to say the baby was born in your home state?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

4. At the conclusion of that first flight, would you then, upon landing and deplaning, (a) go directly to the nearest hospital in the connecting city as fast as possible, even commandeering MediVac transport if necessary or (b) take another flight lasting several hours, in order to continue heading home?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

5. At the conclusion of the second flight, would you (a) go immediately to either of two nearby hospitals with fully equipped NICU's (neonatal intensive care units), or (b) embark on a one-hour drive through dark, snowy, and winding roads in order to get to your hometown regional hospital--a facility that is not equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies, special needs or premature babies, or even twins?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

6. If you were the governor of a state and the mother of two teenage daughters--and you were well-known and widely regarded for your espousing of conservative Christian family values--would you (a) make a special effort to impress upon your daughters the responsibilities they had as members of the state's "First Family" or (b) allow one of your underage daughters to have her boyfriend "practically living in the house", fully aware they were having sexual relations, which fact would eventually be established in no uncertain terms when the two teens conceived a pregnancy?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

7. If, in addition to your to your seventeen-year-old and thirteen-year-old daughters, your household also included a seven-year-old daughter, and both girls would certainly be aware of their older sister's boyfriend's routine overnight stays--the elder one undoubtedly knowing the reason for same--would your answer to the last question (a) change or (b) remain the same.

Sarah Palin chose (b).

8. Upon your return to the office, when your premature infant is three days old, would you (a) keep him at home in the care of a baby nurse, where he can receive UV light treatment for his jaundice along with careful monitoring, should he develop any complications due his congenital heart defect; and as your staff will be excited for you, take some family baby pictures to work, thus avoiding the dangers of exposing such a vulnerable baby to the germ-filled environment of your office or (b) bring him with you to the office so you can show him off for photo opportunities?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

9. If, when your infant with special needs was a few months old, you were to be offered a high-ranking position--say, the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket--which would entail your being away from home for a few months and place you squarely in the limelight of a high-profile campaign; and at approximately the same time as this offer was made, you were to discover that your minor daughter was pregnant, would you (a) politely decline the position, citing 'family reasons', and set about protecting your daughter's privacy as your family worked through the situation and planned the best course of action for your child and future grandchild, doing your best to deflect unwanted press attention all the while or (b) accept the position "without blinking", and then parade your entire family--including your obviouly pregnant minor daughter and her boyfriend--into the bright lights and onto the international stage of the Republican Convention?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

10. Does Sarah Palin embody your definition of "Family Values?"

(a) yes or (b) no. And you choose..?

* All particulars reflect on-the-record occurrences, ages, timelines, and events, and specific details as reported by Sarah Palin herself are taken from her own autobiography and/or interviews.

** You are welcome to copy-paste or otherwise forward the contents of this post.--Ed.

I break for beauty: Ballerina Alessandra Ferri; Giselle, Act 1; Teatro alla Scala, Milano

If you've ever set foot in a pointe class, you'll immediately recognize the intricate choreography from Giselle, a ballet that tells the story of a peasant girl named Giselle whose betrayal by her aristocratic lover causes her to go mad before dying and returning as a ghost. She protects her lover from the vengeance of a group of evil female spirits called the Wilis, Slavonic supernatural creatures who danced so beautifully, they lured young men to their deaths.

A number of extraordinary ballerinas, including Anna Pavlova and Dame Margot Fonteyn, have danced the part of Giselle, widely recognized as one of the most technically difficult roles ever conceived. Watch the brilliant Alessandra Ferri, and you'll see why.

In this scene, Giselle's flirtatious dance includes an incredible series of hops en pointe, diagonally across the stage. As one commenter at this video notes of Ferri, "I can't stop watching her feet! They are too gorgeous to look away."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Apparently, young & (mostly) childless liberal center-left journos know more about pregnancy, labor & delivery than actual mothers do

"And people wonder how this farce of a candidate now controls one major political party and could well be our next president. One reason is that we do not have a functioning adversarial media uncorrupted by partisan loyalty and tactics."
--Andrew Sullivan

Well, I suppose we're starting the week out with one mystery solved. That is, the mystery of why I received only negative respsonses--if indeed I received any responses at all--when I sent e-mail after e-mail to various media people, and writers of blogs far more widely read than this one, asking them if they were going to investigate Sarah Palin's risibly unlikely, riven-by-gaping-inconsistencies birth story (or rather, stories, since they kept changing), given that so much of her very thin political resumé was constructed around her having walked the walk of a pro-life politician. And given that she'd placed her fifth child Trig, a baby with Down syndrome, squarely in the bright lights of the national media along with her other children, it was an important, politically significant story, one worthy of pursuing and elucidating.

I am really, really troubled by this. It's not exaggerating to say I have knots in my stomach.

First of all, I want to say that I have immeasurable admiration for Ezra Klein, the talented journalist and blogger who, during the time the e-mails I want to talk about were written (when the Palin nomination and subsequent Babygate rumors were the topic at hand), was writing at The American Prospect (he's now at the Washington Post).

Back in 2007, when I was just getting started as a wee baby blogger (Ezra is half my age, so I'm kidding, of course), Ezra generously extended to me a regular weekend guest-spot at his eponymous blog (pre-Prospect and pre-WaPo).

I must also say this: while I do not, and did not, personally agree with the concept, I truly believe that in his own mind, Ezra meant to create something useful in Journolist--something that expanded, and served the cause of, free speech, as opposed to shaping and constricting it--by creating a forum for political writers wherein people could turn to one another as sounding boards and learn things, and do so without fear of kicking off the inevitable shitstorm of flaming and thread-derailing that occurs when people bounce ideas around in a fully public forum. Many, many writers (and, for that matter, non-writers) belong to e-mail groups; the authors at Cogitamus, of which I am one, use ours to pass along links, jokes, and exhortations for someone to "Please, please post this; it's so good, but I have to run out and pick up the children."

I know Ezra did not mean for Journolist to become a talking-points machine, or a constrictor and molder of the press, or of free speech. Based on some of the e-mails I've read, though--and I have read a number of them at this point--I am deeply disturbed by the way some of the correspondence appears to be doing exactly that. That is, it aims to constrict and sculpt the discourse no less than if it were an unwieldy, tentacle-sprouting Play-doh beast they wanted to fashion into a tidy, shapely creature more tastefully proportioned for the puppet theatre stage known as Politics in Media. Certainly this was true of some members, when it came to the issue of whether or not to pursue investigating the obviously fraudulent stories then-VP candidate Sarah Palin was telling the national, and international, press.

The obviously fraudulent stories.

Told to, and repeated by, the press.

Repeated by the press, or simply left to stand uncontested, without any apparent independent investigation to verify them or debunk them.

I salute Lindsay Beyerstein for writing this (e-mail via Palingates; emphasis mine):
The story is far-fetched and as yet unsupported by evidence. Kathy’s right: So far, there’s not enough evidence for any responsible commentator to discuss this. Public speculation without proof is cruel and counterproductive.

However, if some reporter thinks this rumor is worth investigating further, and he or she absolutely nails this story, that would be great.

If I had the smoking gun, I’d proudly publish the evidence. (I don’t think the story is plausible enough to bother looking, but that’s a separate question.)

Anyone who decided to raise her granddaughter as her daughter is a liar and a hypocrite, not to mention an abuser of two generations of children. What kind of parent would force her family to live that kind of lie?

What warped values would give rise to such a decision? Lots of grandparents raise their grandkids. That’s admirable and commonplace. Barack Obama spoke movingly before a crowd of 84,000 about how his own grandmother helped raise him.

Why lie about the baby’s origins, except to spare Palin political embarrassment? She’s a self-professed Bible believing Christian whose mommy cred might be diminished by the revelation that she raised an unwed teen mom. That said, I imagine that she would have scored a lot of points for openly raising her daughter’s disabled child–and rightly so. A hoax would suggest extreme selfishness and blind ambition, not to mention vanity and a distinctly irrational preoccupation with keeping up appearances.

I was never a member, so I can only speak to the e-mails that have been made public. I wish I could say reading them makes me feel vindicated for the number of times I've been called crazy, or a conspiracy theorist, or over-the-top regarding matters Palin, when all I wanted was for someone in the media to do his or her bloody job.

Or hell, to pass along my blog--which is packed with examples of my writing--to a managing editor somewhere and hire me. I don't think I'm unqualified. Passionate, yes. But able to be neutral and dispassionate when it's called for, not to mention extremely well-schooled in how the press ought to function in a free society (back in the day, we couldn't even get past Go unless we took ethics, critical thinking, and media law classes in addition to related subjects like literature, philosophy, and foreign languages.)

I do know Ezra to be a man of extraordinary integrity who is possessed of a powerful work ethic. I also know that in the course of being a creative person, we sometimes build things that take on lives of their own, and at that point, those things have the potential to run amok and generally be quite out-of-control. They become tentacle-sprouting beasts themselves. Case in point: Journolist.

Finally, I know this: Ezra, being a man, has never had a baby. And neither, it would seem, have a number of the members of JL.

This, by Maggie Mahar of Politico, is just unforgivably ignorant. Really, the smug assertions here are simply jaw-dropping and remind me of Amanda Marcotte's dreadfully sloppy post, not to mention the fact that virtually every bit of it--from the number of flights Palin took, to the premature nature of the alleged delivery, to Palin's high-risk age--was wrong on its face (my emphasis):
Airlines tell people not to fly becuse they're covering their ass (concerned about liability if, say a stewardess tries to help a woman delivering and something goes wrong.)

If you think about it, going into labor on a plane is not the worst thing–much preferable, say, to going into labor in a subway (too dirty) or a cab (only one person too help you.) or a car (with your husband in a total panic.)

Seriously, on a plane you stand an excellent chance that one or more woman who have had several children can be a big help–not to mention the possibility of a doctor or a midwife.

And if you’re not yet in labor, a six-hour flight is just not that long. You’d probably
have plenty of time. (And if she had actually been in labor at that point, she would not have been able to give a speech.)

I can certainly imagine getting on a plane rather than going to a strange hospital, alone.

Would I get on a plane in my 7th or even 8th month? Absolultely.
Would I get on a plane if my water had broken?

Depends on how badly I wanted to get where I was going, and whether I was actually in labor..

Finally, as far as I know (and I’m not an authority on Downs) a Downs baby is not in special danger during the delivery.
No, Ms. Mahr is clearly not an authority. Not on babies with Down syndrome--no special danger? Does she not consider heart defects, breathing problems, and jaundice to be special dangers?--and not on pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Why say anything if you're this uninformed? Why not say, Let me research this a bit; let me investigate? Yes, it's a list-serv and people are supposedly just being sounding boards for one another. But let's also remember, the core topic at hand appears to be whether or not to pursue an enormous story, and people are discussing the merits of pursuing vs. not pursuing it by declaring as fact things that are in no way, shape, or form factual!

And this is how a significant portion of the blogosphere and media came to give ex-governor Sarah Palin a complete pass instead of pursuing the truth of the matter.

Would everyone have been so blasé about a politician fabricating a military story wherein he heroically performed his duties, leaking body fluids, before getting on two separate flights and endangering other passengers (if an emergency landind had been forced), and finally making it to a small regional hospital, so brave was he? Would they?

So why did our press--not just the aforementioned bloggers and journalists, mind you, but our entire national press--take a pass on investigating this dreadful fraud of a politician, this farce of a would-be leader, this reckless liar, Sarah Palin?



Today, the Daily Caller applauds Ezra Klein for attempting to head off the message-coordination ethos that sometimes took hold among the Journolist list-serv's 400 members:
Although he now denies that lots of informal — and some formal — coordination took place on Journolist, to his credit listserv founder Ezra Klein was a force for moderation. He stopped others from organizing a weekly message, stopped people from organizing open letters on Journolist (after they did so on one occasion), wouldn’t let those currently working in the government on the list, and seemed more reasonable than many in his remarks.

Is Sarah Palin gunnning for 2012? ~ Open Thread ~

Stephen sent me this yesterday, so you can blame him. I have to say, I was thoroughly amused to learn that even Taiwanese animation artists are making fun of the Teabaggers. My favorite part is when she uses the toy spell-check gadget. How about you?

We are melting here in Florida, just melting. I might have to break out the ice-cream making machine and see what we have lying around the fridge that can be turned into cold sweetness. Then again, it would take less effort to drive down the street and pick up some Haagen Dazs Five (I recommend Ginger). Then again, again, it would take less effort still to just sit here, mired in my inertia, and wish for someone else to do it all for me...

(Yes, it really is that stupefyingly hot here today.)

Is anyone actually getting anything done this week?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

President George Washington on religious tolerance

"To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance..."

Further to the matter of religious tolerance in these United States, which would sadly still seem to be up for question in some quarters, my co-blogger at Cogitamus, Minstrel Hussain Boy, points to a beautiful letter written nearly 220 years ago by President George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. In this letter, the first American President assured the Congregation--as he had, in separate letters to each, assured the United Baptist churches in Virginia, the General Assembly of Presbyterian churches, the Methodists, the Congregational ministers, and the Roman Catholics--that this brand-new nation would be a place of inclusiveness and religious tolerance, where everyone could enjoy "liberty of conscience". Washington wrote:


While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

August 18, 1790

I'm compelled to share MHB's closing remark in his comment, because it reflects my own sentiments so very well:
Newt, Sarah, Pammy, and the rest of those motherfuckers don't have a problem with Islam, or New York, or me.

They got a problem with George Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and John Adams.

When demagoguery, bigotry, and Philistinism collide: I can see mosques from my house! *

Let's play a little game--we'll call it Spot the Mosque.

Here are three photographs of three different subjects. One is an American university located in a North American city. Another is the building that will in time house an Islamic community center, including a prayer hall--a mosque, if you like--in a different North American city. And the other is a private golf club in yet another North American city.

Which is which? (No peeking at the photos' attributes!)

In no special order, then:




(Answers at the end of this post.)

As you've no doubt heard, right-wing demagogues have been participating in yet another mass tantrum in recent days. The antigen responsible for this epidemic of verbal hives and festering bloggy boils--the uncomfortable new shoes of truth provoking their toddler-like shrieking and spasms? Why yes, it's those damned furriners again, bringing their furriner non-Christianist religions and their admittedly tasty furriner foods and their mysterious furriner buildings to New York City, where, as every good heartlander knows, there are no furriners or furriner buildings, foods, religions, or communities. Just Real Americans™. (For now, at least. Because right-wing demagogues need to call up those painful 9-11 memories in order to rally their base, you see, and 9-11 happened to take place in New York City and Washington DC; at all other times, they'll refer to those places as Havens For People Who Aren't Like Us Real Americans™--the "elites" and, of course, those damned furriners.)

Newt Gingrich (someone remind me why the media still offer him a mic?) spewed thus:
The proposed "Cordoba House" overlooking the World Trade Center site - where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks - is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.
Never mind that the site for the Islamic community center does not overlook the World Trade Center in any way, shape, or form. You'd have to have some serious x-ray vision for that to be true, because the existing buliding slated for renovation is located between two and three blocks** of solid New York concrete, iron, and steel away from the World Trade Center's site, which is also known as Ground Zero. (**Depending your personal definition of 'block'.)

But hey, facts are not your friend when you're a demagogue and a bigot.

Just ask ex-governor Palin, who ordered her ghostwriter to pen a Facebook screed so over-the-top, it triggered Facebook's hate-speech filters and was actually pulled for a while, before someone screamed that the ex-governor's ghostwriter had as much right to be a bigoted demagogue as Newt did. The Facebook note, entitled, amazingly, An Intolerable Mistake on Hallowed Ground, began:
Earlier today, Mayor Bloomberg responded to my comments about the planned mosque at Ground Zero by suggesting that a decision not to allow the building of a mosque at that sacred place would somehow violate American principles of tolerance and openness.

No one is disputing that America stands for – and should stand for – religious tolerance. It is a foundation of our republic. This is not an issue of religious tolerance but of common moral sense. To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.

Again with the "stab in the heart" reference! Someone clearly has a hunting knife fetish. Seriously, though, hallowed ground? A shuttered discount department store on a busy Tribeca street, two/three blocks north of the WTC site, is now hallowed ground?

And here I was, thinking she only genuflected at the doorway of Neiman Marcus.

You have to give Sarah Palin and her ghostwriters credit, though. The ex-governor always remembers to strap on the chest armor of cognitive dissonance so that her heart remains mercifully un-stabbed when she cashes Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud's checks.

And then we have Pamela Geller, who also keeps using the phrases "Ground Zero mosque" and even, disgustingly "9-11 mosque"; who seems oblivious to the fact that many Muslims who were working in the towers that morning were killed, too, along with atheists, agnostics, and people of every faith and national origin; and who has now, apparently, retained a legal team that's busily working to prevent the renovation of the building by appealing to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Yes, Geller et. al. want the shuttered discount store designated as a historical landmark because a piece of landing gear from one of the hijacked planes fell through its roof. Using that logic, all the buildings in the entire southern portion of Manhattan should be designated as historical landmarks, because debris flew everywhere, for many, many blocks. I saw it with my own eyes. I watched the televised, real-time footage of the event as it unfolded, and I actually flew over the still-smoldering ruins in early October 2001. Furthermore, a dear friend of mine lives in SoHo and was walking right there, on that horrible day, several blocks from the WTC buildings. She told me how the airborne debris from the planes and the collapsing buildings landed everywhere.

Oh yeah, logic. Sorry.

To get an idea of the gullible, pig-ignorant, and rabidly proto-revolutionary nature of the target audiences for this ridiculousness--as well as the sheer volume of them that are out there--I'll refer you to a great post by blogger Eye On You, at Stand Up For Our Nation and crossposted at Palingates. The post contains random screenshots of the comments at the ex-governor's ghostwritten Facebook screed wherein you can see the kind of whipping-up of violent emotion that routinely goes on within right-wing circles. (I visited the Facebook note myself and saw enough such comments to sicken--sic-en?--anyone possessed of a modicum of sense, not to mention respect for the English language. Here's hoping these sad, delusional fools are just another pack of craven Internet blowhards, but here's also hoping, just the same, that the Feds are paying attention to them and their ISP's.):

If anyone needs a volunteer to fly a plane into it once its (sic) built...hit me up.

You don't see the U.S.A putting up statues of Busch (sic) in Iraq to replace the Saddam Hussein ones that were torn down

This Is a country founded partly on religious tolerance; the founding fathers wanted everyone to be able to chose (sic) their (sic) own form of Christiamity (sic), not be forced to worship at a state church. The Muslim religion did not enter into the picture. Similarly, Americans should not have to tolerate the religion of another tried and tested, violent culture.

It is time we stop leting (sic) this Antichrist politics go unchecked and stand up for and return to our religious rights, befor (sic) it is to (sic) late to save our children!

Religious tolerance has absolutely nothing to do with Terrorist Organizations wanting to build a trophy mosque at the site of the worst terrorist act commited (sic) on OUR land. The Obama Admisistration (sic) would do well to tell these people: "NO WAY are you going to build a mosque on that site." However, we all know our secret Muslim so-called President will just sit back and let it happen.


So there you have it.

One more thing: traditional Islamic architecture is gorgeous. Wingnuts really ought take in some beauty from time to time and broaden their shriveled little minds.

Now, here are the true identities of the buildings in my little Spot the Mosque game:

Building A is, of course, the former Burlington Coat Factory, located on Park Place in southern Manhattan, New York, which will be renovated into a community center offering various services to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and includes a gym, meeting rooms, and a prayer hall--a mosque.

B is a lovely photo of the University of Tampa, located in Tampa, Florida.

Building C is the Snell Isle Golf Club, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

[* I can see both B and C from the rooftop terrace of my new house. Really.]

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sarah Palin doesn't care: The Movie

Via Sully, this exceedingly clever little Xtranormal video illustrates the sheer insanity and recklessness involved in what Palin claims she did on the day of the so-called Wild Ride. Most of which, of course, never actually happened, because she wasn't really pregnant. (Even the red-jacketed Palin caricature in this video isn't pregnant, ha!) To be fair, she did give a speech. And she did fly home.

Yet once more, then, for our weirdly and inexplicably squeamish, sexist, ethically-challenged Barbecue Media:

The Empress has no clothes. Kindly investigate same.

UPDATE: Reader Rationalist sends along another Xtranormal clip; this one depicts the conversation between ex-governor Palin and CBJ (Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, general practitioner) as it really went down:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Keith Olbermann: On "taking decisive action and knowing how to respond in this atmosphere"

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In a breathtakingly well-written Special Comment, Keith Olbermann tears into "the scum Breitbart" for his risibly fraudulent media machine and race-baiting politics. Significantly, he also points his finger at the mainstream media writ large, the White House, and Barack Obama himself, whom Olbermann rightly criticizes for his bending over backwards to appease the racist far right and the equally racist and opportunistic FOX News gang, even as their smear campaign to paint him as the usurping and illegitimate non-American socialist/fascist president who poses a grave threat to the nation continues apace.

This impassioned editorial is one of Olbermann's best ever; I can't think of enough superlatives to describe it, in fact.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On writing about Sarah Palin's Biggest Lie: The Whys of a philosophical and political Mama

Why bother? Why now? Why me?

Those are fair questions.

When then-governor Palin was picked for the VP slot in the summer of 2008, I remember turning on my television; I think it was tuned to CNBC. I clearly recall a breathless Maria Bartiromo chattering away about Palin that morning, falling all over herself about her fortuitously-timed interview with her just a few weeks ago, and saying that Palin was So young! and Such a down-to-earth mother of five, with a baby even, a baby with Down syndrome! A mother who, Bartiromo continued, was famous for being able to shoot and field dress a moose. She rambled on, about Palin cooking dinner for a crowd of Republican big-wigs who'd visited Alaska (e-mails released by MSNBC would later reveal she bought ready-made food at Costco and had her children serve it); Bartiromo then talked about how fabulous Palin looked so soon after giving birth, and oh yes, how wonderful her energy policies were because she was all for drilling in the ANWAR--but just a tiny part of it, quoth Bartiromo, not risky at all!--and once again, she spoke excitedly of Palin's common sense, down-to-earth style of governing: why Palin had even fired her security detail and chef! But, but, but...she got them other jobs, of course, I'm sure, don't worry, said Maria, winging it now and editorializing madly when she realized how bad what she'd just said might sound--that the ex-governor had simply marched into her new office and home and begun firing people.

And on it went. Sputtering, backpedaling, and most of all, rhapsodizing.

Every journalistic nerve in my body and brain began twitching. I grabbed my laptop and Googled around a bit, trying to find out whatever I could. I had never even heard of the woman. But a lot of things struck me as highly irregular. Why so many different colleges for a plain old bachelor's degree? What was all this about her connections to weird evangelical groups and Dominionist theology? Why, on the few video clips I found, did she sound so disjointed of thought, so inarticulate, and, well, so ditzy?

Dear God, I thought, was this woman chosen because she had an attractive face and a nice figure? Was McCain that much of a pathetic old horndog, and did he care so little for the Country he was purporting to put First that he would choose, for the position that would put someone a 72-year-old cancer survivor's heartbeat away from the presidency, the pretty but pretty obviously unqualified Sarah Palin?

Who the hell was she? I wrote a hasty post about the wrong-headedness of Palin's thoughtless shilling for Big Oil: Governor Palin, you remember Katrina, don't you? Then I began to dig deeper.

And the rest, as they say, is history. It wasn't long before I would read about the absolutely unbelievable "Wild Ride", as it has come to be known.

And it was then that I knew. I remember feeling kind of sick to my stomach when I read that story, actually, and not because I am squeamish about matters obstetric, having had three babies myself, the last one at age 38 (forget anesthesia, I labored all day long and gave birth with nary an aspirin to dull the pain).

No, I felt ill because I knew she was lying, and that she was covering something up, something grave and something dark. It was clear that McCain had chosen a dangerously unqualified (and possibly seriously unhinged) liar. But I did not yet know the full extent of her deceitfulness. The next day, that famous Kos story about Palin faking the pregnancy with the baby boy named Trig, who has Down syndrome, broke; it was followed by another, equally shocking post about Palin's teenage daughter Bristol being absent from school for at least five months, and how rumors had been swirling around the state--rumors to the effect that Palin's pretend-maternity and fantastical birth stories were merely a ruse to cover for her daughter being pregnant at age sixteen.

I wanted to hear someone in the media investigate it, and contest or confirm all of it; I wanted to see all the utterly jaw-dropping allegations addressed. But they weren't, not fully, and never conclusively. Markos ordered the blog posts yanked, in the name of Not Making Liberals Look Bad, and he even configured his site so that Google "robots" would never be able to index the cache files--in short, if you try to look them up on the Internet Wayback Machine, say, you will find those posts are, for all intents and purposes, scrubbed away forever. Fortunately, ArcXIX's articles were also posted here and here, and they remain there as of this writing, if you wish to read them.

Subsequently, all manner of journalistic inquiry would effectively be quashed when Barack Obama declared families "off limits". This was to his credit, both as a father and as a politician aiming to take the high road during the decidedly low-road period otherwise known as Campaign Season. I don't fault him for it. But, it must be said, Obama clearly fomented an ongoing backlash against any and all questioning or investigating of Palin's fabulism, period. (One has to wonder if he occasionally, privately, wishes the press would shine a brighter light on the ex-governor, particularly when she obsessively and vindictively slams him on her Twitter account, of all things, or has her Facebook ghostwriters come up with terms like Death Panels, the surreal discussion of which, at one point, threatened to derail Health Care Reform.)

And amazingly, throughout the campaign, Palin herself did not treat her family as off-limits; rather, she upstaged John and Cindy McCain at every turn as she paraded them into the lights, stroking their faces and inviting the audience's cheers; later, she hid behind them; always, she used them. She still does.

At that point, the pro-life and fundamentalist Christian accolades started pouring in. McCain's poll numbers soared. In choosing Palin and announcing her the day after the Democratic convention wrapped, he'd obviously aimed to piss all over Barack Obama's post-nomination bounce. Mission Accomplished.

But not all conservative women were sold. Upon hearing her speak, Peggy Noonan famously said, into an open mic, We are so screwed. Funnily enough, I had said the same thing not too long before that, but for a different reason.

To better understand my concerns as to why we were screwed, I'd refer people to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which is fiction, yes, but it is, nonetheless, prescient, chilling, and deeply cautionary fiction. It is a story that simultaneously terrifies you and shakes sense into you, much the way that Orwell's 1984 did. Atwood's dystopian tale is set in the near future, during which a totalitarian theocracy takes hold in America; she explores the causal factors leading to the stripping away of women's rights, women's agency, and women's very identites, as well as the effects on the society and the subjugated women themselves, and the myriad levels of hypocrisy and dysfunction that remain, as ever, in play. The Handmaid's Tale examines the same kind of totalitarian government about which Frank Zappa warned Crossfire viewers in the mid-80's, when he decried the religious right's attempt to dominate our national discourse and control our politics in every way, from reproductive rights to freedom of speech and artistic expression to enforced fealty to a single religious dogma. We are headed toward becoming a fascist theocracy, he said.

We are so screwed, I kept thinking. If Palin is permitted to rise to power, we are screwed in ways people cannot begin to imagine. That much I knew. That much I continue to know, with absolute certainty.

So. That answers Why bother?

Why me? Why now? Well, as I've written--to friends, and to readers who've sent supportive e-mails, and in a few comment threads--I simply grew weary of waiting for someone in the mainstream media to join Andrew Sullivan and a handful of bloggers and demand some truth. Demand that a politican who makes enormous claims that are, on their face, fraught with the possibility (probability?) of being opportunistic lies in the disgusting extreme--claims on which she has built a political base and, in large part, a career, but which are full of holes that are glaringly evident to even the most casual observer--be held accountable.

I grew disillusioned with just about everyone pretending to the title of journalist, in fact, and I came to realize that if I was ever going to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, Well, I did my best, with what I had to work with, and I tried, I would have to stick my neck out too. If I didn't, I would forfeit the right to ever again criticize the media for their laziness and bought-and-paid-for behavior. So I jumped in. Others have been carrying this alone for too long.

I like to think my humble efforts have, at the very least, convinced a few people who were previously on the fence to take a second look and go, Hmmmm..... I've certainly received letters to that effect. Lots of them. And, as you no doubt saw in previous posts, some incredible self-lightened photographs along with the amazed words of their senders: Damn you, litbrit.

(To be sure, that line was meant ironically, but even if it only carried the suggestion that I'm being perceived as adversarial, well, good.)

Babygate, as it is called, is indeed a huge scandal, and it's one that could have a number of attendant sub-scandals attached to it. Addressing it isn't simple; in fact, as Patrick has said, It's exhausting. It all makes my head hurt, said Audrey. And then there is the backlash: people don't like having their comfortable assumptions about what is normal behavior for a politician, or a woman, pulled out from under them like The Dude's rug in The Big Lebowski--the rug that "tied the whole room together". It throws everything they know and believe into flux.

Flux can be terrifying.

That said, I'm making a promise this evening. For what it's worth--speaking as someone who to most of you reading, I realize, is just an Internet voice whom you do not know personally, but who does hold certain core beliefs about things like the importance of a strong, independent press with the requisite integrity and backbone to pursue the truth and expose the lies, particularly when those lies comprise a powerful politician's entire raison d'etre and fuel her rise to power--I promise you, readers, I will absolutely, positively not back down from the story known as Babygate until it is satisfactorily resolved.

I further promise this to Andrew Sullivan, to Patrick, to Audrey, to Bree, to Floyd, and to Gryphen. Because, as my college roommate Mori used to say, Enough already. Dangerous Shining Puppets, embodied to slick perfection by one Sarah Palin, must never be allowed to get anywhere near the levers of power, much as the pushback may distress her corporate and religious sponsors; much as the truth may annoy, or even horrify, her flock of believers. History offers many cautionary tales about troubled, impoverished, or disaffected people falling prey to charismatic charlatans, replete with varying degrees of disastrous consequences, and anyone with even a mild interest in the preservation of democracy would be well-advised to pay attention to the intertwined stories of Sarah Palin, the infant Trig, and the role that powerful, monied, religious extremist groups play in our nation's politics.

Now that we have the Internet, which permits a level and scope of communication and information-disseminating unheard of in other times--and in other nations which, faced with such threats, simply could not fully and reliably inform enough people in time to head off those disastrous consequences--there is simply no excuse for permitting it to happen ever again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sarah Palin's biggest lie and ethics violation: readers keep the photos and links coming

It has been quite a weekend here in my little corner of the blogosphere, with a continuing stream of e-mail and comments flowing in from around the country and even abroad. I've heard from mothers, fathers, doctors, artists, nurses, attorneys, writers, college students, and accountants--in other words, a thoroughly varied mix of people who, like me, have often paused to wonder if perhaps they were the crazy ones for doubting the ex-governor's ridiculous story. Who wondered if perhaps the derisive, belittling, and oftentimes insulting labels--like Delusional Conspiracy Theorist or Palin-hater--that had been hurled in their general direction were more on-the-mark than they wanted to realize.

After all, if this was true--if Sarah Palin had indeed faked her last pregnancy, and the little boy with Down syndrome known as Trig were not her own biological child, and the whole amazing Sarah, She-hero of the Skies labor and delivery story was completely made up out of whole cloth--why did no member of the press follow the investigation through until it was resolved in a factual manner? How could this stunning hoax about Trig, whose birth to a forty-four-year old sitting governor was trumpeted from Day One as proof positive of her pro-life bona fides, not be considered a subject worthy of proper, objective, and responsible reporting?

What did this say about the American electorate that so many were so easily duped?

What did this say about the American corporate-owned mainstream media that they all took a pass on the story; that they all, every one of them with the exception of Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, simply took the subject--a known, on-the-record fabulist whose catalog of lies big and small reached unprecedented dimensions within a few months of her introduction to the nation--at her word?

And finally, what did this say about the nature of the supposedly people-powered blogs, including The Daily Kos and many others, in that they banned any and all discussion of the former governor's apparent pregnancy hoax and continuing use of the innocent little special-needs boy as a political prop and sales tool, even as they investigated and pilloried male politicians who'd embellished their military histories?

I'd like to share some more e-mails. Or rather, the wonderful graphic in one, and the interesting article and photo from a British newspaper in two others.

Reader T, who now realizes this story involves considerably more than just gossip or conspiracy theories, writes:
Damn you, litbrit. I can't stop thinking about this now.

His terrific graphic includes a quote and photo from the Anchorage Daily News alongside the version he lightened himself and another photo of a clearly-pregnant Palin in her twenties (click to enlarge):

Reader V and Reader A send the link to an article in Britain's Daily Mail, about Prime Minister David Cameron's wife Samantha, who is coincidentally seven months pregnant (my emphasis):

Most airlines allow pregnant women to fly up to and including the 36th week, provided the pregnancy has been straightforward.

Mrs Cameron's baby is understood to be due in early September, meaning she could still travel if she wished.

But she pulled out of a trip last month to the G8 and G20 summits in Canada, citing exhaustion, and has apparently balked at the prospect of another long flight.

She will also miss a trip by the Prime Minister to India to promote a new 'special relationship' with Britain later this month.

'Samantha Cameron was very keen to come to India, but she won't be coming as she is expecting a baby in September,' said one British diplomat.

'The Camerons are very thrilled at the news and don't want to take any chances with the baby on the way.'

Here's the normally very slim Mrs. Cameron, who's now seven months pregnant:

I join all mothers everywhere in wishing Samantha Cameron a safe, speedy, and joyful birth experience. I'm reminded of the time during my last pregnancy, when I was boarding a short flight--from Philadelphia to Tampa--and although I was only six months along, various airline personnel stopped me and asked me, repeatedly, if I was "okay to fly". They couldn't take their eyes off my abdomen, which looked exactly like the one in that photo above: a baby bump that holds an actual baby.


For a wealth of on-the-record documents, photos, and videos, please see Palingates, especially their sidebar. In addition to Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, other blogs who've covered this story for many moons include Palin's Deeptions, The Immoral Minority, and Palin Babygate.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Photo forensics and Sarah Palin's biggest lie and ethics violation: Readers see the light

I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming number of supportive e-mails and comments about my rebuttal to Dave Weigel, who's currently guest posting at Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish. As you know, Weigel made several unsubstantiated assertions regarding ex-governor Sarah Palin's risibly untrue birth story and the circumstances surrounding her alleged pregnancy with a special needs baby in the spring of 2008, a few months before Senator John McCain would select her as his vice presidential running mate.

In that post, I called Dave out on his assertion that "people watched her announce the pregnancy" and that this was somehow proof that Palin was indeed pregnant. I reminded him of the shock with which her own closest staff and others in Juneau reacted to the news that she was seven months pregnant (which shock was reported, by the way, in the March 6th issue of the Anchorage Daily News), and asked him if he was familiar with the territory he was attempting to traipse through, that is, with Palin's appearance as she presented herself to her constituents and staff during her miraculously brief "gestation period" or even with the anatomy of pregnancy writ large (so to speak). I wrote:
Have you ever known anyone who'd given birth a few times in the past and was now seven months pregnant, Dave? Did she look like the woman at the top of this post? Lighten the contrast on your computer screen so the photo won't be as dark, and you can see where her pink and black scarf ends and the body behind it, dressed in black, begins. There is no seven month pregnancy there.

Several enterprising new readers, including some who had previously doubted both Andrew Sullivan and less well-known writers like me, took it upon themselves to do just that and send me the results. I'd like to share a few of their efforts, along with their impressions, in their own words.

First, here is a screenshot of the Anchorage Daily News website of March 14, 2008 (link).

If you click on it (and if you're like me, set aside your vanity and put on your glasses), you'll see that the caption under the photo reads:
Michael Dinneen / Associated Press

From left, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell and Sandy Parnell announce Palin's endorsement of Parnell Friday, March 14, 2008 at the state elections office in Anchorage, Alaska. Parnell had just filed to run against incumbent Republican Don Young for U.S. Congress
And here is the photo, unaltered, as it appears on the ADN site:

Reader T writes:
Ms. LB--I took your advice and I maxed out the brightness and minimized the contrast (minned out?), then repeated the steps two more times. Nothing else. [...] What's interesting is that you can see even in the low-res result is gradations of shadow below the jacket and it's clear that there's separation between her jacket and her skirt. That's not 7 or 8 months in on a woman who's had babies before.
Here's his lightened photo:


Reader S writes:
I took a moment to do this for you and, for full disclosure, included in the screenshot the curves I used in Photoshop, so that anyone could see exactly what I did to get that image from what you posted. [...] The Palin conspiracy requires only the family, some pillows, and perhaps a family doctor. This makes things much more plausible to me, and partly explains why there are so many holes – after all, Palin doesn’t strike me as a “details person.”

On a personal note, I have no experience inspecting heavily-pregnant bellies, so I will have to (take) your (and others’) word for the shape of a pregnant belly, although my understanding of gestation is that at 7 months, the child does not resemble a large, squared-off bagel.

And here's his photo, with a helpful Photoshop graphic so you can see exactly what he did:


Finally, reader G, a self-described "card-carrying member of both the Skeptics Society and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry", writes:
I first noticed this as a story that wouldn't die in Andrew Sullivan's blog at the Atlantic, and I dismissed it as being too far out to possibly be true. Where's the proof. But the more I've learned about it over the past few months, the more I think there's something to it. And let's face it, Palin does seem to have a strange aversion to the truth, even when lying doesn't seem to be in her best interest at all. [...]

I've verified the photo and date are genuine. It was taken by Michael Dinneen of the Associated Press and published in the Anchorage Daily News (part of the McClatchy—formerly Knight Ridder—chain) on the same day, March 14, 2008. Trig Paxson Van Palin was supposedly born April 18, 2008. Four-and-a-half weeks later.

And here is his photo:


That's a generous helping of quod erat demonstrandum right there. Thank you again, everyone.

When I lived in Honduras, the newspaper used to publish political cartoons and, every so often, one would be completely self-explanatory--the picture said it all--and the caption beneath it would simply read Sin palabras. Literally, that's "without words", but as with so many wonderful Spanish terms, it's rich with nuance and can refer to other things--for example, one being rendered speechless by the sheer audacity, disgusting opportunism, and craven behavior of a politician. Or the quality of something being utterly indescribable using common (or even uncommon) language due to a hoax of its like never having been perpetrated on the American electorate heretofore.

As I proofread this post before clicking Publish, I must admit that I am once again finding myself sin palabras.


For a wealth of on-the-record documents, photos, and videos, please see Palingates, especially their sidebar. In addition to Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, other blogs who've covered this story for many moons include Palin's Deeptions, The Immoral Minority, and Palin Babygate.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some serious questions for Dave Weigel re: his decidedly unserious and woefully uninformed Sarah Palin assertions

Dear Dave,

That's quite a post you put up at Andrew Sullivan's blog today. I'm guessing you were told by the higher-ups to be provocative--hey, I watched that MSM Orientation video, too--and I'll admit it, you provoked me.

Let's get right to it then. I'll quote you first, and then I'll reply.

Dave: Were Sarah Palin to become president and everything the Trig Truthers believed to be proven right, it wouldn't matter at all.

How can you say--what proof do you have--that "it wouldn't matter at all?"

As you would agree, Sarah Palin's political bona fides are largely built around her pro-life beliefs and her enormous popularity within the evangelical Christian movement. Indeed, as we all know, and as has been reported on extensively now by all major newspapers, and written about in books that covered the 2008 election such as Game Change, Senator John McCain selected Sarah Palin precisely because she could deliver the until-then disaffected religious Right and pro-life vote in ways that Joe Lieberman, his preferred choice, could not. Palin's political record was very thin; her travel, language, foreign policy, and educational backgrounds, flimsier still. She was, however, a pro-life mother of five who had walked the walk.

As you no doubt remember, one of the very first pieces of information released about Sarah Palin to the media in August 2008, in fact--after her name and the fact that she was the sitting governor of Alaksa--was that she was such a strong pro-life candidate. So strong a pro-life candidate was she, earlier in the year, she had carried and given birth to a Down Syndrome baby.

As you'll further recall, within a few days, various networks and newspapers reported on Sarah Palin's so-called "Wild Ride", a heroic tale of a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy (they're supposed to last nine months, Dave, or forty weeks if you want to be precise), who had ignored the customary warnings issued by obstetricians against air travel in the final trimester and was in Texas for an energy meeting with other Republican governors, and who despite waking up to leaking amniotic fluid and contractions (Palin's words, not mine, as told in interviews) did not go to the world-class hospital down the street, but rather, went to the luncheon, gave the speech (during which, she wrote, she experienced "big laughs; more contractions"), then boarded not one but two transcontinental flights, each of which took some four hours and had a layover in between, then bypassed the hospital in Anchorage--the one that had the NICU (that's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dave) that any premature special-needs baby would require--and, she claims, delivered the baby at the Mat-Su Regional Hospital in Wasilla. The hospital that not only does not have the aforementioned facilities to care for special-needs babies, it does not even handle any high-risk births at all (high risk meaning, if the mother is over age 35. Or there are twins or triplets. You get the idea.)

No obstetrician I spoke to--and I have spoken to three in person, myself, and other mothers have spoken to more--once he was made aware of the details (high-risk multi-para mother, special needs baby, leaking amniotic fluid at eight months) would okay a patient to get on two long flights like this. Not a single obstetrician, Dave. Please ask a few yourself, if you don't believe me, a mother who's given birth three times. Tell them all the conditions, and ask if they'd give the go-ahead to an eight-months-pregnant woman with broken water and contractions to skip getting any medical check whatsoever, take a half-day to give a speech, get on two transcontinental flights, arrive some 18 hours after the initial rupture of membranes and continue to bypass hospitals with the facilities such a premature infant would require and finally give birth in a small regional hospital that doesn't handle such high-risk births.

I'll save you the bother (because I trained as a journalist and, as I said, I did ask, repeatedly): You will not be able to find an obstetrician who would okay such outrageous risks.

The story, as Palin herself told it in speech and in writing, is patently and categorically false.

So, to rephrase my intial question, as pertains to the first of these big lies about Trig: If a male candidate for high office described an act of bravery in war that never happened, complete with details about leaking body fluids, and he were elected president, and then it was proven that said story was just that--pure fabrication--is it your contention, Dave, that it wouldn't matter at all?

On to the next issue.

Dave: All of the evidence indicates that Trig Palin is Sarah's son, and none of it suggests otherwise. I paid close enough attention to this in 2008, and realized pretty quickly that the countervailing theories made no sense. Too many people watched Palin announce the pregnancy and saw her come along until she went into labor, prematurely, while attending a National Governors Association event in Texas. Here in Alaska, people tell me that Palin fans (who at one point made up 85-90% of Alaskans) held "baby showers" for her, and she'd drop in to thank them.

Deborah: "All of the evidence...." but what evidence, exactly, Dave?

"People watched her announce the pregnancy?" So here, you're taking Palin's word for it. Palin announced her pregnancy; she told you she did; therefore she must have been pregnant, because she told you, and she told others. Journalists aren't supposed to do that, Dave--surely you know better.

And regarding the so-called announcement, her own office staff were shocked when, at seven months along, Palin told them she was pregnant. Seven months. (An aside: have you ever known anyone who'd given birth a few times in the past and was now seven months pregnant, Dave? Did she look like the woman at the top of this post? Lighten the contrast on your computer screen so the photo won't be as dark, and you can see where her pink and black scarf ends and the body behind it, dressed in black, begins. There is no seven month pregnancy there. If you're not familiar with how the female body looks during pregnancy, look at the side-by-side photos of Palin and similarly slim, fit celebrities, at 25 weeks of pregnancy--that's less than seven months--that I posted here, or hell, look at anonymous pregnant women: a Google image search offers countless examples. I chose this one, at random, and the woman's "baby bump" is relatively small compared to the one I had with my three pregnancies, and I'm quite slim and fit. At the seven month point, as you can see with your own eyes, there's simply no hiding that thing behind a floppy scarf that falls plumb. There is no way.)

"...she went into labor, prematurely, while attending a National Governors Association event in Texas..." Again, you are taking Palin at her word, Dave. Unless Palin had gone to Baylor Hospital (just a stone's throw from the convention and one of the best hospitals in the country) and been checked--which is exactly what every single obstetrician I talked to said that every single doctor would be required by his oath, not to mention the company that provides his malpractice insurance, to tell her to do--and you happened to be there within earshot when the doctor said out loud, Yes, you are now in labor, you have absolutely no proof--nothing, just Sarah Palin's word--that she was in labor then, either.

I can hear your argument: I have no reason to not take Sarah Palin at her word.

Okay, Dave, give me a moment, please--I'm laughing. And so, if you're honest, are you.

Let's face it: Sarah Palin did not experience premature rupture of membranes (also known as the "leaking of amniotic fluids" or "the breaking of water"--same thing.) And she was not in labor, not "big laughs; more contractions", as she described it in her own words. In print. Many times over. More like Big lies, Dave.

"...people tell me that Palin fans (who at one point made up 85-90% of Alaskans) held baby showers for her, and she'd drop in to thank them."

All this proves is that:

(a) Sarah Palin likes baby showers (because people had them, and she dropped in, so one can reasonably conclude that she likes them.)

(b) Sarah Palin likes parties that are given in her honor and getting presents (because people had such parties, and probably regaled her with such presents, and she dropped in, cf. [a] above) and finally

(c) Sarah Palin is well-mannered enough to say "thank you" to people who have parties for her (because when people had such parties, she dropped in and said just that).

Presumably, the people who held the parties, and bought the presents, believed Sarah Palin to be pregnant because Sarah Palin told them she was, and like you, they took her at her word.

Dave: The other Trig theories seem to be based on vapor -- that she wasn't "showing" much in some photos, that her campaign was less than 1000% forthcoming when asked about it. I don't generally trust politicians, but I know the difference between a "dodge" and an answer given to ward off annoying tabloid stories. The answers on Trig were in that latter category.

First--and I repeat--it is not so much that Sarah Palin was not showing much in some photos, but rather, as I wrote in a previous post, that her size fluctuated so greatly, so strangely, and so physically impossibly, from no "baby bump" at all, to an oddly square-shaped stomach--just a ten days before she "gave birth!"--in stills taken from a FOX News video (see the third photo in this post), to briefly large-enough-to-pass-as-eight-months-pregnant for an interview with a local tv reporter and on the day she experienced leaking amniotic fluid and contractions while in Dallas, to quite small later that day--small enough that Alaska Airlines flight attendants would report that "The stage of her pregnancy was not apparent by observation. She did not show any signs of distress."

Next, an "answer given to ward off annoying tabloid stories" would have taken the form of proper and comprehensive medical records, released as per tradition by the other three candidates, including John McCain. An "answer given to ward off annoying tabloid stories" would have taken the form of a birth certificate, as it did when the ridiculous so-called "birther" rumors about then-Senator Barack Obama began circulating and he ordered the State of Hawaii to provide it, along with a vintage 1961 birth announcement from the Honolulu newspaper.

Here's the thing, Dave: Sarah Palin's "war stories" were full of holes. And no journalists, other than Andrew Sullivan and the Anchorage Daily News, did what journalists are supposed to do when confronted with a story that's full of holes: investigate.

In fact, when the Anchorage Daily News sent a reporter to try to do just that--to investigate all the inconsistencies, conflicting stories, and persistent rumors surrounding Trig's birth, with the intention of, they hoped, shutting down what its editor Patrick Dougherty called "the conspiracy theory that would not die"--Sarah Palin fired off an angry reply that she could not believe people were questioning that she was, and I quote, "Trig's mother".

Notice the wording: Trig's mother. Not, "that I gave birth to Trig". A comparable thing would be for a male politician to say, after being confronted with questions about his service, "I wore the uniform of the U.S. Army" as opposed to "Yes, of course I fought in combat, and risked my life, during Battle XYZ on such-and-such date, and here is proof.". Do you see the problem here? It's as if a male politician had previously claimed to have fought in a certain battle--and had even described it in detail, right down to his spilled body fluids and how he heroically toughed it out for the better part of a day until he could get to a hospital--and was now, upon being confronted, saying "Hey, I wore the uniform of the U.S. Army--how DARE you question whether I'm a soldier!"

Unlike President Obama, Sarah Palin never released medical records or a birth certificate, although--quelle surprise--she lied about that too when she said in an interview, while attempting yet again to deflect and blame others, that people had asked them to release Trig's birth certificate and "we did". Neither Palin, nor her husband, have ever released Trig's birth certificate. No, they aren't required to (though one has to wonder why, as Andrew Sullivan has so many times, they wouldn't do so in the interest of closure). But Palin lied and said they did.

The final point you attempt to make--that it somehow hurts Andrew Sullivan in that his all-too-rare ethical compass compels him to commit journalism and investigate the very story out of which a prominent politician's entire catalog of political bona fides is built--is irrelevant. Sullivan himself has said, repeatedly, that he does not "give a toss" what others think. I can't speak for Sullivan, but I believe he would include you in that group ("others").

But what is relevant is that you're claiming people's skepticism, about a known fabulist's ridiculous birth story along with the odd cirmumstances surrounding the parentage of the child himself, is based on vapor.

If anything is based on vapor, I'd say it's the cumulonimbus of sloppy, ill-informed assertions in your post. Because all of them, when it comes down to it, depend on one thing and one thing only, as stated rather neatly in your title:
Believing Sarah Palin
For shame, Dave Weigel. I happen to think you're a far better journalist than this.

All Best,

[Edited to directly quote the Alaska Airlines representative.]

Palingates has also posted a detailed and very well-substantiated rebuttal to Weigel's post.