4th of july...the aftermath

h/t lgm


i finally post about palin

I've settled down in front of the computer at least five times this weekend with the intention of writing something about Sarah Palin’s weird resignation and her even weirder explanations for it, without getting anywhere. And I've noticed a lot of prominent bloggers and print commentators whose reaction is still some variation or elaboration of “WTF?”

Of course she has her defenders, although the right wing talkers and bloggers are far from unanimous. Bill Kristol thinks the decision could be "shrewd." (If you think I'm going to poke around to find a link for that, you overestimate me). But when has he ever been right about anything?

If we look at her resignation from her expressed viewpoint, granting both that she genuinely wants to do what’s best for Alaska and that she has some idea what that entails, then it makes no sense at all. As Hilzoy points out, there's a lot a “lame duck” governor can accomplish, unburdened by re-election fundraising and campaigning.

There were rumors, made believable by her many known ethical lapses, that the Feds were investigating and that an indictment might be in the offing. Now the FBI is on record denying that, and Palin’s lawyers are threatening everyone from Alaskan blogger Shannyn Moore to the New York Times for reporting these rumors. A patently ridiculous threat, of course—Palin is a public figure, and it's true that there have been rumors. I've never seen anyone insist that the rumors are flatly true, and even that would be protected speech in this country under these circumstances. (Of course, IANAL). But it seems clear at this point that she didn't resign because of legal trouble, much as she appears to deserve it. (Hey, Mr. Whiplash, er, I mean Van Flein, why dontcha sue ME? I could use the publicity).

Then there's the “think of the poor children” argument—she resigned essentially because David Letterman made a crude joke about her daughter. But I don't remember Bill Clinton resigning because John McCain made a crude joke about Chelsea. It comes with the territory. Politicians (and, unfortunately, their children) need thick skins.

The only explanation that makes any sense to me is the one that diagnoses her with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I am far from the first to suggest it; Google now lists two million hits for the search terms "palin + npd." But (although IANAP[sychologist] either) I have a bit of relevant personal experience, having had significant and painful interaction with a person with that clinical diagnosis.

For the person I'm referring to, everything was about her. Everything. If there was a broken board in a floor somewhere, it was there to twist her ankle. Rules about job promotion or degree completion were there to prevent her from getting the promotion or finishing the degree. She assiduously acted the part of a caring, charitable, outgoing, fun-loving friend. But eventually it became clear that all of these attributes were facets not of her, but the character she was playing on the stage of life, virtuous but victimized, always victimized, by the malevolence of others.

This person was way smarter than Sarah Palin, so she did a much better job of anticipating people’s reactions. She was exceeding cagey—but in the endgame, when she sued someone close to me—someone who in the course of her social work career was trying to help her—the court case brought her psychiatrist’s diagnosis into public view.

According to the shrinks, people like this are motivated by a deeply unconscious conviction that they are flawed and undeserving, that there's something wrong with them, something unforgivable. In compensation, they act a part. They perform the role of a good human being. The quality of their performance depends on their talents and their intelligence. Palin, being not that bright, picked an ideologically right-wing model of virtue to strut on life’s stage.

Briefly, it seemed to work for her. McCain made his VP choice, and she was thrust into the limelight. Rightist pundits masturbated over her image.

But eventually reality intervened. She wasn't elected Vice President; in fact, she may well have cost McCain the presidency. Alaska, like every other state, has problems that need to be dealt with. And she, having no idea how to deal with them, went into a frenzy of victimization—which is typical of the NPD style.

Who would have thought that Katie Couric could set such a process in motion, just by asking a few not-too-hard questions? But Palin couldn't answer them, since they weren't in the script she was performing, and the victim characterology got its start. It built and built, through the lost election and Letterman jokes, and eventually got to be too much.

So she quit, because in her narcissist’s mind, her victimization is the primary thing to be understood about the world. You and I, according to this view, will now understand her as a victim—of the traitorous left, of the media, even of the more rational of McCain's advisors.


tegucigalpa follies

it is being said (mostly by rightist pundits and of course the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal) that the military’s removal of the president of Honduras was entirely consistent with the rule of law, pursuant to decisions by the country’s legislature and supreme court, which determined that Zelaya’s planned referendum—on whether term limits should be relaxed to allow him to run for a second term—was unconstitutional. Perhaps. But there are some questions to which I’d like to know the answers before making up my mind about that:

Have the Honduran legislature, military and courts consistently abided by the country’s constitution over the 28 years it has been in force? In broader terms, how solidly is this constitution cemented into Honduran institutions? Was this case litigated properly through the court, according to established procedures, or did the court just proclaim, ex cathedra, that the referendum was unconstitutional?

And come to think of it, does the constitution and legal code specify that the court’s enforcement mechanism when it finds the president to be acting unconstitutionally is to send the military in the middle of the night to kidnap him and fly him out of the country?

And given their loud assertions that Zelaya is unpopular anyway, why are they so afraid of the referendum in the first place?


toward the end of a wet june

One of the wettest Junes on record has taken a toll on both my outdoor chore productivity and my exercise program—a semi-regular five-or-so mile walk around a loop of nearby dirt roads. I’ve gotten caught before in the rain on this walk, and it ain't pleasant, so I’m reluctant to get out and do it when the weather threatens rain, as it has continuously for the last couple of weeks, except when I’ve had too much else on my agenda to take the time. Of course.

But today I risked it, and won the weather lottery, though the bugs gave me something to grouse about. I don’t remember when they’ve been worse. Between the bat die-off and the rain, they’re incredibly profuse. At least the birds seem happy and well fed.

The streams are full, and the roadside woods look like a rainforest, lush and wet and tangled with overgrowth. Ravens sport in the pines, jostling showers from the wet branches. Finch squadrons sortie from the tall grass, bright yellow streaks zooming up to the telephone wires. A male redwing fights off an interloping competitor, their aerobatics so close to me I can hear the whoosh of air through feathers. The cascading call of the veery is everywhere. Wood thrush and mockingbird sing like improvising jazz musicians, in ever-changing phrases built from sounds from flute to maracas. Is this random or does it encode some meaning? Do birds have aesthetics? I read somewhere that chickadees have specific calls for several types of predators, but thrush song seems more poetic and less practical, somehow.

Wildflowers are ubiquitous; I'm ashamed to say that I don't know most of their names. Thumbing through a wildflower book after the walk, I did pick up one fun fact: the white-blossomed plant in the first flower photo is Poison Hemlock, the stuff that did Socrates in. The leaves look somewhat like parsley. Don’t make the mistake of eating them.

Things I didn’t photograph: beer cans in the stream. People on gigantic riding mowers. The depleted remnants of the beaver pond for which our road is named, now a muddy slough because (I suspect) the landowner shot the beavers. The relentless new construction, some of it modest and respectful of the land—one house even being built on weekends by a determined individual owner from lumber harvested on site—but more of it of the mcmansion type, huge ugly status symbols plunked awkwardly into meadow and onto hilside. The recession may have slowed housing starts, but it hasn't stopped them.

I feel incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful spot, and worried that I won't be able to sustain it for much longer. I love the quiet, the privacy, the proximity of nature and all its critters, even the harshness of the winter, although I might not say that in February, which certainly does make you appreciate summer.

And I wonder what the place will be like in a few decades when the effects of changing climate are too obvious to ignore.


bygone american automobiles V

Kaiser-Fraser, later Kaiser Motors, and later still Willys Motors and the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, was the only major American car manufacturer to come into existence after WWII and succeed—if only for a while. You can read all about it at Wikipedia if you want. The first Kaisers were supposed to have front-wheel drive, but the technical difficulties were too much and that plan had been dropped by the time the car went into production. Their advertising makes a big point of "Anatomic Design," which I take to mean something like what we mean when we say "ergonomics,” and a low center of gravity, both innovative notions at the time. The widow’s peak is an odd styling flourish.


a sustained cold spell in hell

...and the Supreme Court issues two good decisions in one day. I'm just cranky enough to wonder if they’re providing cover for some upcoming blockbuster of a bad decision.



love and will

Jenny Sanford, in her statement about her husband’s Argentine philandering:

“I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will...”

Is it just me or is there something profoundly twisted about this? The commitment part—though as a consequence rather than a prerequisite of love—that I can see. But in my book, if it requires an act of will, it's not love. That sounds more like perceived duty. Fundy Christians like the Sanfords are very big on duty, especially the perceived duty to overcome everything that’s human in themselves and conform to a set of standards that preclude happiness. ’Cause we’re never supposed to be happy, you know, until we’re dead.

Maybe this is what makes them so squirrelly about same-sex marriage, which is presumably entered into because it makes both partners happy, rather than out of conformity to religious norm.

I don't want to belittle duty. You and I have a moral duty to treat others the way we want to be treated, especially including our spouses. Honesty is part of that. And nobody has a right to happiness; only to its pursuit. Sometimes one is forced to make difficult choices, as was Sanford. He blew it. But if we could take away all the religious claptrap and make our choices based on our honest desires tempered by the golden rule, happiness would be a lot more common. Sure, it might take an act of will to restrain an impulse you know will hurt someone. But it doesn't take an act of will to love.


in other news...

The phrase ”hiking the Appalachian trail,” which for about 24 hours euphemized only an unexplained absence, will now forevermore mean “having an extra-marital affair.”


“ butcher...”

Things are getting really ugly in Teheran, judging by what you can find from Nico Pitney and Andrew Sullivan, who have been aggregating the bits and pieces that sneak by the Iranian censors. From a Facebook post quoted by Pitney: “"In Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat - blood everywhere - like butcher...”

And then there’s this:

Of course it's very difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not. The woman interviewed in the the video above sounds very genuinely distraught, and at the same time just a little too much like a calculated rebuke to Obama’s measured response.

They were beating people like — hell. This was a massacre. They were trying to beat people so that they would die. They were cursing — saying very bad words to everyone. They were beating old men. And this was — this was exactly a massacre. You should stop this. You should stop this. You should help the people of Iran who demand freedom. You should help us.

She wants us to put a stop to the regime’s repression, but what can the US do that falls between between harsher rhetoric and, you know, invading the country? Harsher rhetoric is certainly not going to help; on the contrary it will further undermine the protesters, making them seem to the Iranian authorities even more as American stooges. American wingnuts seem to think it’s all about us; even some Iranians seem to have that idea, which is I suppose understandable in that after all it was the US that installed the hated Shah, and the US that looked the other way when our then friend Saddam was using chemical weapons on whole towns full of Iranians.

A transcript of some of her interview is now up at The Lede at the Times, which also quotes others who didn't see quite what she describes.


what smarter people than me are saying

Lawyers, Guns and Money led me to this article, which suggests the Rafsanjani knows exactly what he's doing, and is likely to succeed in removing Khamenei, whom he's trying to replace with a small group of senior clerics rather than a single supreme leader. He’s been successfully lobbying other members of the Assembly of Experts, and may soon have a majority on his side. The money quote:

To a certain degree, hardliners now find themselves caught in a cycle of doom: they must crack down on protesters if they are to have any chance of retaining power, but doing so only causes more and more clerics to align against them.

In the meantime, Juan Cole points out that the kind of demonstrations that have happened in Teheran would be illegal and suppressed in New York or just about anywhere else in the US. In fact many more protesters were arrested at the Republican National Convention than have been arrested in Teheran. Granted, no one was shot dead, but people were beaten and treated harshly.