Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's a Brainiac

by Elaine Lafferty

The former editor in chief of Ms. magazine (and a Democrat) on what she learned on a campaign plane with the would-be VP

It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's "intelligence," coming especially from women such as PBS's Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes-God help me, I'm agreeing with Fred Barnes-suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I'm a Democrat, but I've worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin's nomination. Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women's rights.

What is often called her "confidence" is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is. Now by "smart," I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a "quick study"; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her "confidence" is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

For all those old enough to remember Senator Sam Ervin, the brilliant strict constitutional constructionist and chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee whose patois included "I'm just a country lawyer". Yup, Palin is that smart.

So no simple task then, this speech on women's rights. For the sin of being a Christian personally opposed to abortion, Palin is being pilloried by the inside-the-Beltway Democrat feminist establishment. (Yes, she is anti-abortion. And yes, instead of buying organic New Zealand lamb at Whole Foods, she joins other Alaskans in hunting for food. That's it. She is not a right-wing nut, and all the rest of the Internet drivel-the book banning at the Library, the rape kits decision - is nonsense. I digress.) Palin's role in this campaign was to energize "the Republican base," which she has inarguably done. She also was expected to reach out to Hillary Clinton "moderates." (Right. Only a woman would get both those jobs in either party.) Look, I am obviously personally pro-choice, and I disagree with McCain and Palin on that and a few other issues. But like many other Democrats, including Lynn Rothschild, I'm tired of the Democratic Party taking women for granted. I also happen to believe Sarah Palin supports women's rights, deeply and passionately.

More here


The Truman Show: How McCain Could Pull Off a Final Week Upset

The most reliable surveys put McCain five to seven points behind Obama as we enter the last week of this interminable campaign. But in a race that will be famous for years afterwards for its volatility, it is not too late for the Republican to pull out a victory.

For Harry Truman in 1948, the presidential race shifted dramatically in the final week, and it's happened three more times in the past 30 years. In 1980, Reagan came from eight points behind to a solid victory by winning his sole debate with Carter in the last week of October. In 1992, Clinton, who had fallen behind in the polls because of the pounding he was taking over his liberalism and propensity to raise taxes, surged ahead of Bush when Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh announced that he was indicting Defense Secretary Casper (Cap) Weinberger, an indication of Bush's possible complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal. And in 2000, Bush's three-to-four point lead in the polls was erased over the final weekend when reports surfaced that he had been cited for DWI 20 years before and had not revealed the fact to the public. Bush still won the election, of course, but Gore won the popular vote by half a point.

What does McCain have to do to pull off a similar shift this time?

1. Use the stock market crash to highlight the tax issue. With the Dow Jones dropping each day by hundreds of points, this election is being held against a backdrop of economic fear unlike any since the Depression. Almost every reputable economist agrees that it would be catastrophic to add to the economy's woes by raising the capital gains tax. But Obama is on record as favoring an increase from 15% to 20% and suggested during the primaries that he would consider hitting 28%....

2. Bring back Rev. Jeremiah Wright. For reasons that are beyond me, John McCain has vowed not to make an issue out of Rev. Wright's extreme anti-American statements. But that should not stop independent expenditure and 527 groups from raising the issue.....

3. Warn voters of impending socialism in America. The recent bailout legislation puts the United States government inside the ownership, management and direction of many of our major companies and financial institutions. The bureaucrats have entered as firefighters, trying to extinguish the blazes that threaten to consume these companies. But once the flames are put out, will the firefighters go home or will they set up shop and give the United States a socialist economy akin to that of Western European nations? Will the bureaucrats relinquish the power they are being given in a time of crisis? McCain needs to point out that bureaucrats never let go of power unless they have to.

McCain needs to point out that it was political meddling by liberals that led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to encourage subprime mortgage loans in the first place. Were it not for the pressure in the Clinton Administration to expand home ownership to poor people and minorities, Freddie and Fannie would not have relaxed their down payment policies and would not have been willing to guarantee mortgages without proof that the borrowers had sufficient income to repay the debts....

If the Dow continues to terrify investors and distract voters from the election, it will continue to bolster Obama's candidacy and his lead. But if there is some stability in the final week before the election, there is every chance that voters will take another look at Obama and decide that he is too risky. By stressing the tax issue and the potential of an Obama regime to subvert our free enterprise system, McCain can harness the crisis and warn voters of the impact of a decision to elect the most radical candidate for president in our nation's history.

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The financial crisis has been even more catastrophic outside the USA

By Spengler

It wasn't the world that got flat, contrary to New York Times pundit Thomas Friedman, but the emerging markets that got flattened. Faddish conventional wisdom over the past few years held that American influence was fading as technology radiated to the far reaches of the world. When America's economy went into a ditch, though, the supposed economic superpowers of the future went flying, like children on skates holding onto the back of truck.

The American consumer, it turns out, played Atlas to the global economy, taking the exports of Asia, so that Asia could buy the commodities of Russia, Latin America and Africa. Remove the American consumer, and Asian exports crash, taking commodity prices along with them.

The financial crash exposes the fragility of large swaths of the world. The political consequences will be terrible. The worst of it is that America will not be around to moderate the melee, not if Democratic Senator Barack Obama is elected president, that is. Those who objected to America's role as world policeman will get what they wanted, but they won't like it: a religious war reaching from Lebanon to Pakistan, and Colombian-style narco-war spreading to Mexico and Brazil.

The wave of American self-pity that may carry Obama to the White House stems, in turn, from a global crisis that has sunk a good deal of the developing world. Worst affected are the most populous Muslim countries, and Russia's "near abroad". Pakistan, Ukraine and Belarus are out of funds and have applied for help to the International Monetary Fund. Indonesia and Turkey face drastically increased borrowing and import costs. Iran's economy will implode with oil in the mid-US$60s....

The economic crisis buoyed Obama out of his post-convention slump and exposed the emptiness of the Republicans. But it also has crushed the aspirations of the most populous Muslim countries. Even before the financial crisis, Pakistan and Turkey had turned towards political Islam. Pakistan's intelligence service is providing support to the Taliban in Afghanistan, jeopardizing the Western position. The financial crisis will push Pakistan further towards radical Islam. Now this proclamation will be preached from every mosque from Tyre to Lahore: "The corrupt West tried to seduce you with consumerism. Now the poisoned gifts of the West are shown to be an illusion, and those of you who lusted after them are left only with your humiliation."

No one in Asia, it appears, knows how to make money when American import demand shrinks, and when Asian growth falls, raw materials prices collapse. No one in Latin America, for that matter, seems to know how to make money when raw materials prices collapse. For all the preening and posing of the emerging world's nouveau riche, it turns out that the American consumer was the center of the world economy, and without the American consumer, all that is left are busted stock markets and bad credit. Most embarrassing for the flat-worlders is the observation that the emerging markets crashed when the world concluded that Washington would not be able to reverse the financial crisis. The economic bomb that detonated in America caused more collateral damage in the emerging markets than casualties at home.

Until July 2008, commodity prices rose as stock prices deteriorated because investors falsely assumed that Washington would set off a new wave of inflation as it rescued the banking system. The commodity producers thumbed their collective nose at economic distress in the industrial world and expected the boom to go on forever. Once the markets concluded that Washington would not be able to prevent a financial collapse, the commodity indices crashed along with stock prices. The commodity producers went from boom to bust almost overnight.

Iran's theocrats, as I reported in June (Worst of times for Iran, Asia Times Online, June 24, 2008), managed to steal $35 billion from oil revenues. Luxury real estate prices rose to Parisian levels while poor Iranians lacked necessities. With the collapse of the oil price, subsidies for essential items will disappear and the regime will face economic collapse. Before it does so, I believe Iran will undertake an adventure to assert its hegemony in the region, probably at the expense of Iraq.

The low level of violence in Iraq during the past several months owes something to the skill of American arms in the so-called "surge", but it owes even more to a tacit agreement between Iran and the George W Bush administration: in return for leashing its irregular forces in Iraq, Iran would get a free hand with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and American forbearance with respect to its nuclear weapons program.

The Bush administration's motive to bribe Iran and avoid political damage in Iraq disappears on US presidential election day on November 4. Whether the US administration (or for that matter Israel) has the nerve to launch an air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is anyone's guess (and everyone is guessing that the answer is negative). Nonetheless, Iran has created the strongest Shi'ite presence since the original battles that determined the succession to the Prophet Mohammed. It can watch the Shi'ite cause fade away with the price of oil, or it can attempt to use its capabilities before they are lost for another thousand years. Nothing at all that we know of the Iranians indicates that they would go quietly into another long night of Sunni oppression.

Iran's leaders, in short, find themselves in a position similar to, but more urgent than, the one that Adolf Hitler described to his senior commanders three weeks after the German invasion of Poland. I have quoted this before, but it deserves to be tattooed onto the foreheads of analysts who think that economic weakness reduces the likelihood of armed conflict.
We have nothing to lose, but much indeed to gain. As a result of the constraints forced upon us, our economic position is such that we cannot hold out for more than a few years. [Hermann] Goering can confirm this. We have no other choice, we must act ... At no point in the future will Germany have a man with more authority than I. But I could be replaced at any moment by some idiot or criminal ... The morale of the German people is excellent. It can only worsen from here.

Iran's ultimate target will be Saudi Arabia, whose largest oil fields are found inconveniently in Shi'ite-majority areas just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. The Saudis will not sit quietly while Iran gains the upper hand in Iraq. Pakistan and Turkey, Sunni powers with large armies, will be loath to allow Iran to dominate the region, and they also will be all the more dependent on Saudi generosity.

A whole generation of Western analysts looked approving on Turkey's turn to Islamism, as I reported last summer (Turkey in the throes of Islamic revolution, Asia Times Online, July 22). Now Turkey will be Islamist - and broke. Turkey paid more than 20% for local currency deposits in order to attract the funds to finance a current account deficit amounting to 7% of gross domestic product. The Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan now faces the worst of all possible worlds. The Turkish lira has lost a third of its value in the past month, and almost all of the devaluation will turn up in higher domestic prices. Credit availability for Turkish businesses will vanish, and Turkey will enter a profound economic crisis.

A belt of ungovernability now stretches from Lebanon to Pakistan, with incalculable political and military consequences. I believe that a Shi'ite-Sunni version of Europe's 17th-century Thirty Years' War will engulf the region.

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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