Earlier this week Guardian journalist Ed Pilkington caught a cavalier Sarah Palin affixing her signature to Old Glory and an Ayn Rand book within a few short moments (1:33 in the video embedded below). Apparently that's not so Kosher. Salon blogger Emma Mustich points out that signing the flag is a clear and direct  violation of flag code, although it's likely to be protected by a slew of free speech rulings (that Palin likely opposes) which have deemed flag-burning protected by the first amendment. While Palin's act of "desecration" in and of itself will not stir up liberal outrage, the hypocrisy here is staggering. How would Sarah Palin and her ilk react if it were Barack Obama casually affixing his own John Hancock on the stars and stripes? Surely the outrage and cries of "traitor" would have reached fever pitch by now. Palin's treatment of the flag with the same "scrawl on it" attitude that a rockstar has towards a concert program perfectly sums up her credo of wrapping herself in Betsy Ross' handiwork -- she uses symbolic, shallow patriotism to shield herself and attack opponents. Read the stories at The Guardian and Salon's War Room.
It had the tone of a college-age drunk dial, a passive aggressive "reconciliation" effort that fanned the flames of conflict all over again. Over a decade after Anita Hill riveted the country by accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, she got an odd message on her phone. It was Thomas' wife Ginni--a conservative power broker in DC attracting controversy for her anonymously-funded right-wing advocacy--asking that Hill say she was sorry. The message was left early in the morning. on the answering machine at Hill's Brandeis campus office--she's currently a professor there. Its text follows:
“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. “ just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.” “So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.”
Hill believed the call was a prank. She eventually turned the message in to authorities a week after receiving it, and it was confirmed to the New York Times by Thomas's spokesperson. Needless to say, Hill said she found its delivery "inappropriate" and its content "offensive." Thomas's phone message, with its implication that speaking up about sexual harassment is the aggressive action (rather than, say, sexually harassing someone), is indeed deluded and despicable. Either she's completely out of it and in thrall to her husband's side of the tale, or as Nancy Goldstein at WaPo suggests, she's trying to create a diversion from her own scandalous political behavior. And the mainstream media's focus on Hill's refusal to apologize is equally offensive and misses the juice of this story. It's Ginni Thomas's erratic and bizarre behavior, and our un-evolved attitudes to sexual harassment nearly 20 years after the Hill-Thomas hearings, that are the real headline-makers. In the meantime, a bunch of enterprising progressives on Twitter came together to imagine what Anita Hill's apology should look like with the #AnitaHillApology hashtag.
A reporter and progressive blogger attempting to cover a campaign rally for Senatorial candidate and Tea Party annointee Joe Miller in Alaska was promptly handcuffed and "detained" by Miller's private security force, numerous media outlets are reporting. Alaska Dispatch founder and editor Tony Hopfinger's alleged crime? "Trespassing"--at a public event at a public school. According to Alaska Dispatch, Hopfinger was carrying a video camera and attempting at the time of his non-arrest to ask Miller questions about a current hot-button issue from his previous career: "whether the candidate had ever been reprimanded for politicking while working at the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2008." Several Alaska media outlets are currently suing for the release of records pertaining to this issue of Miller's past conduct. Alaska Dispatch reports the following sequence of events based on various firsthand accounts:
  • Two or three bodyguards told Hopfinger to stop asking questions and to leave the building.
  • Hopfinger continued to ask questions while apparently videotaping the candidate.
  • Bodyguards told him that if he persisted they would arrest him for trespassing, but refused to identify themselves to Hopfinger.
  • Hopfinger asked why he was trespassing, as the event was at a public school. Seconds later, he was then put in arm-bar and later handcuffed and sequestered at one end of a hallway for at least 30 minutes. He was told, "You're under arrest."
  • Anchorage Police arrived on the scene shortly after.
As other bloggers as well as Miller's opponent Senator Lisa Murkowski have noted, the irony here is that Miller claims to be a valiant defender of constitutional liberties. That only extends so far, it seems, as the priorities of his campaign. Read more at Alaska Dispatch and Think Progress and watch video at TPM. Update: Hopfinger spoke to the Huffington Post about the incident.
"Getting handcuffed by somebody you don't know at a public school, no one had said it was a private event or cast it that way, I mean intimidated, yeah [I was]. But I guess I was more pissed off. Miller, I felt, was going to answer my question on the reprimand part," said Hopfinger. "I think, just like in other parts of the country, the media is finding itself having a hard time doing its job in this political cycle because, whenever we ask questions, there are certain candidates out there who decry 'lamestream media' or whatever. Mr. Miller has had plenty of time to answer questions. He has been given plenty of opportunities. He somehow believes he shouldn't be questioned about his background and yet he wants a job in six years, to a post where there are only 100 in the entire country, and we are not supposed to ask questions about anything of his past. There is a little bit of shoot the messenger. It is happening up here, and other parts of the country. There are certain candidates who just want to turn this around and act like it's the media causing the problem. That has always been there, that element. It is just more ramped up this political cycle."
Women's presence on political talk shows is abysmally low. To prevent it from being lower, a group of media activists took action: they turned on their TVs. The Women's Media Center and hundreds of its supporters tuned into "This Week" with host Christiane Amanpour to support women on television yesterday. Amanpour is a highly-regarded TV journalist but her ratings have been low since she took the helm of the Sunday talk show. The media group, which boasts Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem as board members, aims to improve coverage and representation of women in all forms of media, encouraged supporters to live-tweet the show with the #WMCwatchin tag on Sunday. To drum up support, they cited studies that have found that only 13.5% of guests on Sunday shows are female, an imbalance that even Politico has picked up on. So how did the watch-in go? WMC Director of Communications Yanna Walton reported back to Alternet:
While we can’t measure how our numbers affected Nielsen Ratings, we do know we had a really huge impact on raising awareness about “This Week” and women anchors in general. In fact, Christiane thanked us for our support via Facebook and Twitter, and it was highlighted on Salon, Jezebel, and Joe Trippi (who has a million followers) blogged & tweeted about the watch-in.
Walton reported that in terms of numbers, their alert about the show reached over 40,000 people through various media, including 1600 on Facebook. "Our #WMCWatchIn hashtag had over 2 million impressions," on Twitter she said. In addition, many WMC supporters wrote in to say that they'd never even realized Amanpour had her own show, and planned to keep tuning in beyond this Sunday. Walton said that the WMC would definitely try the "watch-in" format again with other types of shows in the future.
Rumors of a massive Wikileaks dump which would put over 400,000 documents worth of classified information about the Iraq war on the web for all to view have got Pentagon staffers working around the clock, The Daily Beast's Philip Shenon reports. Alternet's Scott Thrill wrote last month the speculation that the leaks could contain "American military participation in bloody conflicts as well as detainee abuse conducted by Iraqi security forces." Previous leaks from the company, including video footage strongly suggesting U.S troops' involvement in the killing of civilians, have proven devastating to military reputation. Pentagon staffers told Shenon yestarday that their "WikiLeaks task force" of 130 members has been furiously working to determine just what documents might be contained in the leak, and how to react when those documents are posted online. They have "contingency plans" for protecting Iraqi civilians and others who might be mentioned in the documents. But they also are continuing to "demand" that WikiLeaks halt the distribution of the documents and that major mainstream news organizations work with the Pentagon to determine what information might raise "national-security concerns." So far, however, Pentagon officials told The Daily Beast that no news organizations have come forward. The situation differs from the shadowy organization's massive dump of similar information on Afghanistan--believed to be provided by the same intelligence officer as the Iraq documents--because that leak came with weeks of advance warning. This leak is anticipated today only because of online chatter and rumors. Meanwhile WikiLeaks faces its own spate of internal problems, from an on-again off-again sexual harassment lawsuit against its elusive founder Julian Assange to an internal power struggle. Its site remains down as of this morning. Read last month's Alternet story anticipating the next WikiLeaks dump. Read the full story at The Daily Beast.
While most votes for Tea Party candidates this November will be throwaway expressions of dissatisfaction with little effect in DC, the handful of candidates that do get elected may be able to wield disproportionate power, a new report finds. New York Times political reporter Kate Zernike reports on an internal Times election analysis that pegs the overall looming threat of the group as overblown due to the fact that so many candidates are running in Democratic districts. Still, the report predicts widening national influence of the Tea Party, thanks to a handful of closely competitive races around the country.
While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts.
The Times did a district-by-district analysis, only counting as "Tea Party candidates" those running for office who had been specifically endorsed by local or national Tea Party groups or who had "entered politics through the movement." According to the Times' accounting, the extremism of the Tea Party movement might actually hurt the Republicans in the Senate because of races like Delaware's, where the upset by Christine O'Donnell in the Republican primary bodes poorly for the party in the general election. The Times counted nine Tea Party Senate candidates, with several like O'Donnell unlikely to win. Still, in the other end of congress, even a handful of House victories--there are nearly 20 toss-up races at the moment--gives the extreme right-wing ideologues a small but potentially influential bloc in the house, Zernike writes. Read the full story here.
In a gimmick that brought together signature moves from each of their shows, Oprah joined Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" last night and unveiled a gift for each member of the audience. Tucked under their seats were envelopes with plane tickets that would take them to the "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington on October 30th. "You're going to the rally! You're going to the rally!" Winfrey , appearing on a screen above the faux-dumbfounded hosts' heads, announced, to wild applause. Watch a clip below.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Announcement
Daily Show Full Episodes
Bill O'Reilly ticked off the ladies of  "The View"  so much that two of them--Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar--stomped off the set. The fracas began with a back and forth over the proposed Downtown Manhattan Islamic Center in which O'Reilly was typically bullheaded and condescending to the hosts. But the final blow was when O'Reilly shouted that people opposed the center because "Muslims killed us on 9/11". At that point, Behar stood up and Goldberg joined her and they stalked out of the room, igniting a firestorm on twitter. Watch the sequence below. An unapologetic O'Reilly used the incident on his own show to bemoan the iron fist of PC liberals, and Salon's Joan Walsh wrote that she wished Behar and Goldberg would have stayed to tangle with O'Reilly and offer some persuasive arguments. But is O'Reilly--who shouts down his opponents on a regular basis--really someone who can be engaged with in a meaningful way?
That's one lost vote for NY Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino. After Paladino apologized, sort of, for his widely-criticized homophobic remarks to a Right-Wing Orthodox Jewish group this weekend, said group wants nothing do do with him. Rabbi Yehuda Levin, proud head of a congregation of at least two dozen members and wannabe founder of a new "Jewish Tea Party" branch, helped craft Paladino's initial disparaging comments. So naturally, he was disappointed by their retraction. At a press conference in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Levin told reporters that after Paladino's (rather halfhearted) apology, he "nearly choked" on his pastrami sandwich and could no longer endorse the candidate "until such time as he straightens out." “Which part of the speech that you gave in Brooklyn to the Orthodox Jewish community are you apologizing for? Will we see you next year with your daughter at that gay pride march?” Levin asked an absent Paladino, who still remains far to the right of most NY voters on social issues and trails in the polls. On Sunday, Paladino had virulently criticized his opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching with his daughter in a pride parade. Still, reporters noted that Levin sounded a wistful note and offered an olive branch to the "Old Carl." "Carl, we’ll leave the light on for you. Come back, Carl," he said. Read the report at the NY Times and TPM.
Good news for lovebirds--strong affection and pleasure can serve as a natural Tylenol without the liver damage. A new set of research found that strong feelings of love can reduce pain by up to 40%. The Stanford University study, as reported by the New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope, looked at fifteen students who reported being deeply in love. Researchers scanned their brain response to pain when looking at pictures of the objects of their affection, mere casual acquaintances, or distracting tasks. "Looking at a picture of a loved one reduced moderate pain by about 40 percent and eased severe pain by about 10 to 15 percent," Parker-Pope writes. The theory is that strong affection or positive feelings, not just of the romantic variety, are sent the brain's "reward" centers and can trigger the release the body's own painkillers. The study's understanding of innate analgesics has implications for the treatment of chronic pain conditions. “Find things to give you pleasure in life, whether it be through the one you love or going and listening to great music or reading a good book,” Dr. Sean Mackey, who authored the study and heads the pain management division at Stanford,told Parker-Pope. “It suggests that activating this intrinsic reward system ultimately can reduce your pain.” Incidentally, the distracting task also effectively reduced pain, through "cognitive pathways" rather than brain chemistry. So if you're not falling head over heals, a few rounds of angry birds or brickbreaker might serve as an effective painkiller as well. Read the full story here.