look for the helpers

We don’t have a TV in our main living space, and Jon and I almost never watch TV news (when we do, the kids are in bed or not in the room, because we watch in our bedroom usually after bedtime, and it’s because we’re following a breaking event or watching a live speech or something). I figure, they’re 5, and I don’t want to overwhelm them with the problems of the world just yet, especially since Claire tends toward anxiety. We talk about issues and events, but I just don’t want them exposed to wall-to-wall coverage or the sensationalism and graphic imagery so often part of TV news. This wasn’t even a super conscious decision to protect them from TV news, but more a result of my own awareness about my anxiety– I do better reading print/online news than watching it on TV, too. This has been especially true since the election.

I haven’t talked to them about recent natural disasters, but we were eating at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant last night, and they had a Mexican news station on TV. Of course most of the coverage was about the Mexico City earthquake. We had been eating when I noticed a concerned look on Claire’s face. “What is happening? Are those people dead? What happened to that building?” I realized she’d been watching the coverage, taking in the images even if she couldn’t understand the speaking, which to me had been background noise along with the oom-pa-pa mariachi music playing on the radio.

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How to explain an earthquake to my worried child without causing her to develop a fear that one might happen to us? I told her there was an earthquake in Mexico City, and that a lot of buildings fell down when the ground shook. “Did people die?” Yes, some people died, but a lot of people are still alive in the rubble, and the people they are showing right now are the helpers. They are digging the people out and saving them. So many people will be helpers after something terrible like this happens, and we’re so thankful for the helpers.

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I don’t know if I got it right, but my general parenting philosophy is that following the advice of Mr. Rogers can never be wrong. He said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

 

I don’t watch the news because it feels like the end of the world lately: earthquakes, hurricanes, shootings, nuclear war, and an evil man in charge of our country. I need to look for the helpers, too. I need to protect my children and myself, and I also need to help the helpers.

Some organizations we like to support include World Vision, Doctors Without Borders, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.  Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments. I’d also love to know if you protect your kids from TV news, and what age you think is appropriate for them to be exposed to it.

how my mombod wound up on nightline

My most recent blog post, “mombod” started out as a rant to my husband. As I was venting to him about how ridiculous it was that people were writing lists about reasons “dadbods” are attractive when there’s a total double standard about moms’ bodies, I realized I was already halfway done writing a blog post with my words. I quickly fired off a post, and since I felt it was timely, I went ahead and submitted it to my editors at Huffington Post as well. They immediately picked it up. I got a lot of positive feedback from friends about the piece, and felt good about myself for holding it down for all the mombods out there.

The next day, the girls and I had a slow morning at home before meeting up with some friends for lunch. When I got home and got the girls down for a nap, I checked my email and saw a message from a producer at Nightline. She had read my mombod piece on HuffPost and wanted to know if I would be interested in speaking on camera about it. That night.

I could tell the producer was looking for sort of a “backlash to dadbod” angle, and made clear that I wasn’t *against* dadbod. I love dadbods! I’m married to a hottie with a bit of a dad-body. My entire message was that if we’re going to accept, love, and admit that we find imperfect male bodies attractive and desirable, we needed to do the same for women, whose general message from society is usually that if their bodies bear any evidence that they have borne children, it is a problem to be fixed, not a beautiful, acceptable new normal. The producer said she liked that idea, too, and within a few minutes, she had arranged for a local ABC camera crew to come to my house at 3:30 to film the interview and get some b-roll of me with my family.

That left me a couple of hours to a) freak out, b) get at least two spaces in my house cleaned up enough to appear on camera, and c) fret about what I was going to wear. I quickly eliminated option c) and decided to just leave on what I had been wearing for a normal day momming it up in my mombod. I thanked God I had showered and fixed my hair that morning. I warned my husband, who was getting off work right around the time of the interview that he would likely be arriving just in time for filming (which is why he appears in his work scrubs in the footage).

The camera crew showed up at 3:00 and did a LOT of setting up. Lighting something for film ain’t no joke. I sat in a chair for most of it and remembered the storyline about the lighting stand-ins from “Love Actually.” When they were finally ready, the producer called and asked me the interview questions via speaker phone while I looked at one of the camera guys to the side of the camera and pretended he was interviewing me. The nice part about being interviewed about something I’ve written is, I don’t really have to come up with points on the spot– I’ve already written and edited them and basically just have to restate them to answer the questions, so I didn’t feel super on the spot or like I had to fish for answers. The most difficult part was trying to remember to include the question in my responses, since the interviewer wouldn’t be heard on camera.

Then they wanted to get some footage of us as a family, so we did some playing in the den, “made a snack” in the kitchen (it wasn’t really snack time, so I had the girls help me pull some grapes off the stems and put them in a bowl to serve later with dinner), and took a walk in front of our house. While the camera guys had won me over by helping make sure my bra straps didn’t appear on film (sleeveless shirt hazard), they lost me a little bit when I saw the final interview and realized that although they swore my tripping did NOT appear in their footage, the one bit of walking they did show was in fact me tripping. I’m nothing but grace.

At that point, I didn’t know who else would be in the story, or really what they would be doing with my answers. When the interview aired after my bedtime that night (I stayed up to watch, though, because I was pumped), I saw it for the first time along with everyone else. I loved the dadbod blogger, because he was sweet and funny, and I immediately worried that he’d get negative comments for being slightly larger than the average dadbod, which really has been one of the most common comments people have made to me– “Isn’t that guy bigger than a dadbod?” To that I say: I don’t care, and it doesn’t really matter. In fact, again, my entire message on bodies is that whatever body you have, it is worthy of love and acceptance, and it can be seen as sexy.

Also, my husband immediately pointed out that I was billed as a “mommy blogger” but the other guy wasn’t billed as a “daddy blogger.” Many bloggers better than I have tackled the gag-worthiness of the phrase “mommy blogger,” but for the record, I was asked to state my name and occupation on camera, and I described myself as a “writer and mom.” I would pretty much never call myself a mommy blogger. I’ve been blogging longer than I’ve been a mom, and I’ve always blogged about many subjects that include but are not limited to parenting. Marginalizing women’s writing as something for “mommies” is offensive and sexist.

That said, I think my message came across, and I thought the piece was a good one. I’m annoyed that the headline is “Mommy Blogger Fires Back Against Dadbod Physique,” when I’m not against dadbods (or any bods) in the slightest. As I said originally, “Whatever body you have, mombod, dadbod, rippedbod, fatbod, YOU are what make your body sexy, not the other way around.”

insane, crazy, giant news

So, you may have noticed that the blog has been quieter than usual. It’s because I’ve been keeping some really big news under my hat, and I’ve been unable to even think of anything else, let alone write about anything else. And today that news got bigger and crazier, and though we were planning to wait a little longer for the reveal, we just can’t keep this in. So, we’re telling the world…

THAT WE ARE HAVING TWINS.

I’m not kidding, I’m not joking, and no, I don’t even believe it, but the doctor tells me the two fuzzy blobs on the screen are in fact two babies. Two babies that I will be birthing in April. Holy crap. Totally insane. What was already giant, life changing, you will never sleep again news has now doubled.

In case you doubt me, or you enjoy looking at fuzzy blobs on ultrasound images (if you don’t, that’s cool, I never know what I’m looking at and find ultrasound images a little weird, myself), here is my proof:

Apparently this is happening, people.

Sanford and Soul Mate and Smoking

Governor Sanford.

Back during the whole “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” fiasco, I wrote a lot about my state’s governor, Mark Sanford.  I’ve written about his marriage, I’ve written about his infidelity, I’ve written about his ties to C-Street’sThe Family.” I’ve created an entire tag, Annals of South Carolinian Ridiculousness, largely thanks to his antics, though Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham have certainly contributed to that category.

And now, my fair governor is in the news once again.  His wife having filed for divorce and written a tell-all book after their efforts to save their marriage failed, he is trying to reunite with the Argentinian woman he calls his “soulmate.” And the thing is, I’m fine with that. I can’t say why exactly, but somehow, I’m less bothered by a man who simply fell in love with the wrong woman at the wrong time, than I am with an Elliot Spitzer screwing prostitutes behind his wife’s back after making a career going after prostitution rings, or John Edwards cheating on his dying wife with a bimbo, and then failing to wrap it up, all the while thinking that he could still run for president and no one would know about his love child.  Somehow, I’m sympathetic to love, even if it’s narrated by poorly-written email poetry about tan lines.

This is a slide from a presentation my husband gave on the subject of childhood smoking.

What I’m less sympathetic to are Sanford’s policies, particularly his veto this week of a proposed tobacco tax increase in a state with the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation.  As someone concerned about childrens’ health in particular (and the wife of a pediatrician), I know that higher tobacco taxes are a proven way of keeping tobacco out of kids’ hands and a great way to fund tobacco use prevention programs.  According to the SC Tobacco Collaborative, “Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.”  Keeping kids from smoking is a key way to prevent adults from smoking and make our nation a healthier place, keeping health care costs down for all of us.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most smokers have their first cigarette between the ages of 11 and 14!  Thankfully the House overrode his veto, and there is hope the Senate will do the same.

It’s just a shame that yet again, the governor’s love life is detracting attention from his more serious missteps, like the ones that put SC children at risk.

Was Fort Hood Massacre a Terrorist Act?

In the wake of what everyone agrees was a horrible tragedy at Fort Hood, there has been sort of a battle of interpretation going on between those who were quick to label it an act of terrorism because the perpetrator is a Muslim and those who urged caution, seeing it as a horrific act of workplace violence which may or may not have a religious or terroristic motivation.  The juxtaposition of the treatment of the Fort Hood story, in which the perpetrator had an Arabic name, and the Orlando office shooting, in which the perpetrator did not stand out ethnically or religiously, was striking.  We are more than OK assuming the Orlando shooter was just a guy who snapped in hard times, but we were less willing to believe that a Muslim American could “snap” without any additional religious or political motivation.  In particular, I would recommend this piece by Eboo Patel, a Muslim American active in interfaith causes.  I agree with Patel’s idea that murder is not a value in any major religion. Murderers are not Muslims or Christians, they are murderers.

However, now that more information is coming to light, the “terrorism” debate is heating up.  It is being reported that Hasan had tried to contact Al Qaeda and the CIA may have known about this months ago, which raises some serious questions about whether or not they reported this info to the military, and what actions could have been taken to prevent this tragedy.  Though I have seen at least one blogger at The New Republic call the reporter who broke the Al Qaeda story’s credibility into question, so I’m not quite ready to accept this as total fact yet.  There was much speculation and misinformation when the story initially broke, and the speculation and misinformation continues in the aftermath.  There is, however, some indication that Hasan was affiliated with more radical views of Islam.

Still, even if Hasan were a religious extremist, is the Fort Hood Massacre terrorism? Continue reading “Was Fort Hood Massacre a Terrorist Act?”

don’t let the door hitcha on your way out

So, almost a month after her crazy pre-Fourth-of-July “Declaration of Independence,” Sarah Palin is no longer governor of Alaska, having handed over power to the Lt. Gov. who was sworn in yesterday after Palin, apparently wearing the hide of a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater that she hunted aerially, gave a pouty and trademarkedly random farewell speech that many pundits have compared to a poorly given high school commencement address.

Despite the fact that Palin thinks it’s OBVIOUS why she resigned, we still don’t really know why.  My best impression given what she’s said?  The press is mean and she can’t take it.  And she wouldn’t be able to do anything in her second half of a term, anyway, even without the mean mean press, because she’s under the impression that “lame ducks” can’t accomplish anything at all, ever.

Now, people who know me, and they know how much I love this state, some still are choosing not to hear why I made the decision to chart a new course to advance the state. And it should be so obvious to you. (indicating heckler) It is because I love Alaska this much, sir (at heckler) that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one’s last year in office. How does that benefit you? No, with this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, for truth. And I have never felt like you need a title to do that.

I’m reminded again of Dahlia Lithwick’s Slate piece about Palin’s communication style. She appears to REALLY think that she’s made herself perfectly clear and anyone who doesn’t understand why she does what she does is just being dense on purpose. Lithwick wrote:

If you think of Palin as someone who never felt herself to be fully heard or understood, not truly politically realized in the eyes of the American public, her rage toward the country, the media, and those of us who fail to love and understand her is easier to comprehend. Think of an American visiting France who believes that if he just speaks louder, he will be speaking French. Palin has done everything in her power to explain herself to us, and still we fail to appreciate what she is all about. I’d be frustrated, too, if I thought I was offering up straight talk and nobody was getting the message. Especially if I held a degree in communications…because she believes she has been crystal clear all along, she’s come to resent us, too. The enduring political lesson of Sarah Palin may simply be that for most of her political career she’s been lost in translation, without fully appreciating that only in translation was she ever, briefly found.

So, no one really knows why Sarah Palin quit being governor, and no one, apparently not even Palin herself, knows what she is going to do next.  Given the fact she has reiterated multiple times now that she “doesn’t need a title” to effect change, I’m thinking maybe she’s done with elected office?  Not that she could WIN elected office anyway.

Though Palin has a small but very enthusiastic fan base, she (and those who see her as the future of the GOP) seems to misunderstand that in order to win a GOP nomination, she cannot rely solely on white evangelicals.  The Wall Street wing of the party basically hates her, perhaps because they’ve always stood for smarts and economics, two things that Palin can’t count on as strong suits.  At least one GOP strategist has called her “another Huckabee,” but in reality, she’s LESS than a Huckabee, as in a recent Washington Post poll, Huckabee outstrips Palin in support from white evangelicals, 2-1.  Imagine if Huckabee and Palin were both in the running for the nomination.  Together they’d split the social conservative wing, and a third person would likely win the nomination, probably someone like Mitt Romney.

So, if you ask me, Palin may very well continue to be a player in terms of the sheer attention that she gets.  She’ll definitely have a book, and maybe her own TV talk show, just like Huckabee.  She’ll probably raise money for the party and support candiates with similar views.  But I doubt she’ll ever win a nomination for national office, and even if she did, there’s no way she’d actually win that office.  Statistically, the more America gets to know about her, the more Palin’s favorability wanes, as was the case in Alaska as well.

So, while I love to make fun of her, particularly because I think she’s a not-particularly-intelligent whiner, you probably won’t be hearing from me as much on the subject of Sarah Palin.  All she really is, when it comes down to it, is an attention whore.  And when people like me write about her, and better yet, give her someone to point to as part of the evil evil liberal, elitist media, we are giving her exactly what she wants.  So, farewell Sarah Palin.  Don’t let the door hitcha on your way out. *wink*

bufflo roams back home

a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.
a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.

So, I’m back from a week spent in Colorado with family, and I’m catching up on all the things I’ve missed out on during what was probably a much needed break from the internets and news.  Seriously, my Google Reader had “1000+” items in it when I got on for the first time this morning since Tuesday (besides a little BlackBerry powered browsing while sitting in airports).  And since I’m motoring through it, I figured I’d put a few of the hits right here.  Sorta like a less-timely Bufflo Tips.  I will probably be blogging more about my trip later, but for now, enjoy some linkylinkys.

First up: I love Jenny Lewis’ video for her song See Fernando.  She’s definitely a girl crush of mine.  If someone would PLEASE teach me how to embed non-YouTube videos on WordPress, it would be much appreciated.  In the meantime, you have to watch this 60’s spy-thriller music video here.

Next, check out the trailer for No Impact Man (and Family)’s documentary!  I’ve loved following their journey on the blog and look forward to seeing the film.

  • We have been out of town for a week.  Duh.  We were staying with family who probably had every toiletry that I could possibly need and thus could have preventing me from needing to pack any.  We didn’t check any bags.  We were gone less than a week.  I overpacked.  It’s chronic.  I should have read this post, from one of my fave bloggers, Decorno.
  • Journalism great Walter Cronkite died this week, and Glenn Greenwald points out that most of the journalists marking his passing and running retrospectives are nowhere NEAR the journalist Cronkite was, and are opposed to doing the kind of reporting he did.  Greenwald writes:

    Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

  • I used to respect John McCain, even if I didn’t always agree with him, until he ran such a despicable campaign for the presidency and chose an idiot to be his running mate.  Now, he’s losing even more points from me because he’s blocking nominees to the Department of the Interior because he wants a copper mine to be allowed in a national forest.
  • Via Jezebel, I never thought Charlie Brown could be creepy.  Turns out he can.
  • Nate Silver notes that Sarah Palin really *isn’t* all that much of a fundraiser.
  • Meanwhile, in my absence, Palin decided to try to string a few coherent sentences together (a huge undertaking from the Queen of Fragments, though I’m guessing this piece was heavily edited by someone with at least a bare-bones knowledge of basic grammar) in opposition to cap and trade in the Washington Post.  Alex Koppelman of Salon’s War Room blog summarized the op ed thusly:

    While the piece is certainly more coherent than her resignation announcement or some of her past interviews, the article makes numerous unsubstantiated claims and reads like a greatest hits list of Republican talking points on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill currently working its way through Congress.

    The entire piece refuting Palin’s points is worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet. I like this part: “She does not rely on any scientific evidence to back up any of the bold statements she makes in the piece.” BECUZ SARAH PALIN DON’T NEED UR FANCY BOOK LERNIN’.  ALSO, SY-ENCE IS FUR ATHEEISTS.  Another good reaction to the Palin op ed can be found at The Daily Beast, written by Edward Markey, of Waxman-Markey fame.  I think I’ll trust the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee over a less-than-one-term governor with a degree in communications that apparently failed to give her a basic grasp of Standard English any day.

  • Ezra Klein says Palin probably didn’t write it.  She signed her name to it.  He’s probably right.  He also writes:

    The term “global warming” is absent. So is “climate change.” It’s a bit like an op-ed that attacks firefighters for pointing pressurized water cannons at everything but never mentions fires, or a column that condemns surgeons for sticking sharp things into people but never mentions illness.

  • Conor Clark at The Daily Dish says “Palin’s op-ed displays an ignorance for the subject so profound it’s almost gutsy. Almost.”
  • Obama nominated a Surgeon General who isn’t Sanjay Gupta and who seems to be an all-around awesome lady.  Apparently some haters think she’s too fat to be Surgeon General, 4rlz.  Frances Kissling of Salon’s Broadsheet addresses those haters.
  • Meanwhile Ezra Klein has a sensical piece about why we as a society should worry about obesity.
  • So, a bunch of “Blue Dogs” are threatening to derail health reform.  Nate Silver points out that this could hurt them in the end, as their districts have higher rates of uninsurance than most.  He writes:

    Mike Ross of the Arkansas 4th, where almost 22 percent of the population is uninsured? This is a bill designed to help districts like his. And the same goes for most of the other Blue Dogs. A lot of the time, these guys are stuck in a tough spot between their party and their constituents. Here, those interests are mostly aligned.

  • Yay for good news when it comes to SAVING THE ANTIBIOTICS.
  • And finally, check out this piece on How Outlet Malls Rip Us Off, and maybe next time you head to the outlets, take a smart phone so you can check reference prices online and find out what retail price REALLY is.

More Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

I wasn’t intending to do any blogging today or this week, but I like to watch the video from the most recent Rachel Maddow Show on my lunch break, and when I saw that she was covering The Family again, I knew I had to do a post.  You can see my previous post on the subject here.  You can watch the video clip I’m discussing here (I would embed it but MSNBC isn’t playing nice with WordPress).  All quotes from The Rachel Maddow Show taken from this transcript.

In the wake of the Sanford and Ensign sex scandals, the C Street house/Bible Study/group looms large, as does The Family, the organization behind it.

One of the more interesting bits was clips of sermons from the leader of The Family from original reporting by Andrea Mitchell.  In one of the clips, the leader of The Family, Douglas Coe, says:

DOUGLAS COE, “THE FAMILY” LEADER: I‘ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard. They would bring in this young man‘s mother. He would take an ax and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That‘s what Jesus said.
COE: Jesus said, you have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself. Hitler, that was a demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
COE: One of the things [Jesus] said is “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can‘t be a disciple.” So I don‘t care what other qualifications you have, if you don‘t do that, you can‘t be a disciple of Christ.

So basically this guy sees a lot of parallels between following Jesus and being a member of the Red Guard or Nazi Party? I’m already terrified.

During the show, Rachel also interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s Magazine, who infiltrated The Family and lived at C Street before writing a book on The Family.  Here’s one of the things Sharlet said about The Family:

They believe in something called “biblical capitalism,” and biblical capitalism is the way they‘re going to bring the gospel to the already powerful. Where the money goes they believe God goes.

“Biblical Capitalism? Wonder how they’d square that with this vision of the early church, from the Book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:45-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

Nevermind their downright unbiblical fetishization of capitalism, according to Sharlet, the group has been involved in shady dealings with brutal dictators:

SHARLET: Well, you know, we heard in that clip, we heard Coe talking about Mao‘s China and so on. And we also hear him again and again using the model of Hitler as an ideal of strength. And I‘ve heard him—this is really boilerplate sermon for Doug Coe.

It‘s not that he‘s a neo Nazi of some sort. It‘s that they fetishize strength. They look for the leader who they believe is chosen by God. Evidence is his power, his wealth, and his willingness to align himself with their version of American power.

The dictator Suharto in Indonesia was one such. They organized meetings for him with American defense contractors, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the secretary of defense, and most notably, since Indonesia is a major oil producing company with American oil executives, who described their meetings in memos of Congress as great moments of spiritual honesty between themselves and the dictator.

Finally, Maddow asks Sharlet, if, since religion is a private matter in this country (ha! Yeah, the Values Voters and people who are convinced Obama is somehow a secret Muslim, as if that disqualified him from office, really believe in religion as a private matter.), if he believes the members of Congress who are affiliated with C Street and the Family should disclose their involvement in the group. Sharlet responds:

I think when you have—when you have members of Congress who are looking to a particular religious group for a sense of authority, which is explicitly antidemocratic, that explicitly fetishizes strength and dictatorial power, if they want to do that, that it‘s their choice. But I think they owe it to their constituents to say, “Here is why I have chosen to leave the mainstreams of American religion and affiliate myself with this sect that is so unorthodox and so really brutal in its theology.”

I bolded the parts above because, based on everything I know of Jesus, I feel quite confident in saying that the theology of this group is NOT “Christian.” It is extremist, it is unorthodox, and true Christians should point out groups like this and say, THEY DO NOT REPRESENT US, OUR GOSPEL, OR OUR GOD.

Personally, I do think these men, Sens. Ensign and Coburn and Gov. Sanford, should be asked some really hard questions about their involvement with this group, and whether or not they feel its views conform to biblical orthodoxy and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

taking Palin at face value doesn’t help her cause

So, Sarah Palin resigned almost a week ago in a rambling, babbling speech punctuated with the honking of waterfowl in front of a hastily gathered group of mostly local news reporters.  In the week that followed, pundits and bloggers have been going nuts analyzing Palin’s resignation and trying to figure out WHY.  Palin doesn’t understand why anyone would be wondering about underlying reasons or scandals.  Wearing her waders, she told ABC News “You know why they’re confused? I guess they cannot take something nowadays at face value”.

OK.  So, here’s what she said (emphasis mine):

Political operatives descended on Alaska last August, digging for dirt. The ethics law I championed became their weapon of choice. Over the past nine months I’ve been accused of all sorts of frivolous ethics violations….

“The state has wasted thousands of hours of your time and shelled out some two million of your dollars to respond to ‘opposition research’ — that’s money not going to fund teachers or troopers or safer roads…. Todd and I are looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills in order to set the record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn’t cost them a dime so they’re not going to stop draining public resources — spending other peoples’ money in their game.

“It’s pretty insane — my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now.”

Let’s take this apart one point at a time, shall we?

  • Palin seems to suggest that most of the ethics complaints are filed against her by “political operatives” and enemies.  I’ll let Salon’s Joan Walsh take this one (emphasis mine):

    All but one of them were filed by her constituents in Alaska. That one exception was a complaint by a DC watchdog group about her $150,000 clothing gift from RNC. It was ultimately dismissed, but it dealt with an unclear area of campaign-finance law…Four of the complaints were filed by a Republican former ally of Palin’s, Andree McLeod, who turned on her because she felt Palin was cutting ethical corners, hiring cronies and using a private email account to conduct public business outside the realm of public records. Many of the complaints predated her vice presidential nomination. And at least one of the complaints was clearly justified; Palin had to pay back about $8,000 in travel expenses for her children. Another is still pending: A seemingly reasonable complaint about Palin charging the state per diem when she’s living in her own house in Wasilla rather than the governor’s mansion.

    If you’d like to read a complete listing of the ethics investigations, the Anchorage Daily News has compiled a list.  As you can see, only one complaint was filed by a political operative, and many were quite serious, the opposite of “frivolous.”  Even in some of the cases in which Palin was found to have done nothing wrong, other actions were taken.  The list mentions one member of her administration who was ordered to undergo ethics training because of “troubling emails.”

  • Now about those hours wasted and dollars spent.  Where does Palin get this “millions of dollars” total?  David Murrow, a Palin spokesperson, acknowledged to a Plum Line reporter

    that this total was arrived at by adding up attorney hours spent on fending off complaints — based on the fixed salaries of lawyers in the governor’s office and the Department of Law. The money would have gone to the lawyers no matter what they were doing.

    Greg Sargeant continued:

    The ethics complaints have apparently not had the real world impact Palin has claimed, and didn’t drain money away from cops, teachers, roads and other things.

    So once again we return to the total cost of the ethics investigation, as tallied by the Anchorage Daily News: $296,000. And where do the bulk of these charges come from? Again from the Anchorage Daily News:

    The bulk of the expenses — $187,797 — appear to stem from Troopergate, the messy case involving Palin’s former brother-in-law, a state trooper, who got on the wrong side with Palin and her family. Palin herself initiated at least a part of the ethics case to counter a legislative investigation into the same matter.

    And when they report that Palin initiated part of the case “to counter a legislative investigation” what they mean is, she tried to have the investigation moved to the jurisdiction of people she had the power to fire if they returned a verdict she wasn’t happy with. Palin, as Talking Points Memo notes, “has the power to fire the personnel board’s members, the independence of its judgments is hardly beyond reproach.”

  • And now for Palin’s argument that the burden of these investigations is so crippling that she and her staff can do little else.  As Talking Points Memo reported, at the time of her announcement, there were only 3 ethics investigations still pending against Palin, hardly an overwhelming number.  And none of those three is as serious as the Troopergate investigation, which she managed to weather while remaining governor AND campaigning for the Vice Presidency.  I just don’t buy that she can’t keep doing her job in the face of the remaining cases.  If they really are as frivolous as she claims, they’ll be dismissed as quickly as the others have been.

So.  Palin is wrong about who is bringing the ethics complaints against her, she is wrong about their level of seriousness, she is wrong about how much they are costing the state, and she is most likely wrong about how crippling they are of her ability to do her job as governor, the job she promised to do for at least one full term.  Moreover, she is using the very ethics reform she champions as one of her crowning achievements as an excuse for being a quitter.  Steve Benen points out that there is more than a little irony in this, and that perhaps instead of quitting, Palin could use her immediate knowledge both of what it takes to pass ethics reform and of the flaws in the current ethics law, to improve the law:

To hear Palin tell it, her opponents are now using her own achievement against her — exploiting the law to waste taxpayer money, bankrupt the state’s governor, and paralyze state government. Doesn’t that suggest there’s something wrong with the new ethics laws? If the measures were written in such a way as to make it easy and cost-free for anyone to cripple the state’s political process, then don’t the reform laws need reforming? Indeed, even putting Palin aside, won’t all future Alaskan governors have to deal with the same problem? It sounds like Palin has firsthand experience in identifying the flaws in her own law. If she weren’t quitting, and letting her own flawed ethics rules force her from office, maybe she could work on improving the system and helping the state.

Sarah Palin is right about one thing?

XXFactor writer Emily Bazelon thinks “Sarah Palin is right about one thing.”  Bazelon believes that Palin may be correct in that she would not be able to accomplish much as governor in her final year and a half in office.  Bazelon writes:

I’m starting to see the unvarnished point. Given what a target of controversy she’s become, what legislative agenda could she push through?…It’s a funny sort of toppling: I resign because of the damage my detractors are doing to me, even though I did nothing wrong and I am still tough as nails.

I think this gives Palin not nearly enough credit for her strained relationship with the Alaskan legislatures and other government officials. Prior to being tapped as McCain’s VP pick, Palin achieved most of her successes in Alaska through bipartisanship. Time Magazine’s Jay Newton-Small brought this up in his piece on “Five Reasons Alaskans Think Palin Quit.” He quotes Harry Crawford, an Anchorage Democrat:

With Sarah, we were able to do things that we’d been trying to do for 25 years. Everything she can point to in terms of achievements was done with nearly uniform Democrats votes and just a smattering of Republican votes.

And then Sarah went and bit the hand that fed her all the little victories she highlighted on her resume as she ran for VP by running a dirty, nasty, hateful campaign that culminated in people shouting threats against Obama at her rallies. She accused a sitting Senator of “palling around with terrorists.” Perhaps she expected never to come back to Alaska, but she couldn’t have expected to come back and have everything be hunky dory after she led one of the most despicable campaigns in years. If Palin isn’t able to accomplish anything as governor, it’s her own damn fault.