Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Is Good For This Gander, Is Not Good For Other Ganders

"[Senator Susan] Collins argued that the bill would place undue burden on small business, and “impose increased costs and restrictions on small businesses in an already difficult economic climate."
(via robot-heart-politics)

Only a Republican could vote against what they themselves enjoy. The GOP lacks empathy, en masse. Imagine if Collins made less than male Senators?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chomsky: New Stage Of Capitalism

“…the capitalist class in the ’50s was sort of part of a social contract. It was part of the tenor of the times. During the Depression and the War, there was a real radicalization of the population -not just here but all over the world. And the post-War system was designed to reflect that. That’s why you get welfare states developing in the ’50s - a lot of popular pressure you couldn’t escape. Changes have taken place since then and there’s actually been a return to an extreme form of predatory capitalism, which means that not only will I close my business or move if I don’t like what you do, but something else that’s been happening, which is interesting.
In the financial institutions, which by now dominate the economic system, the management level repeatedly acts in ways which will destroy their own institutions if it’ll increase their benefits, and benefits are not small. You know, you take a look at the revenue of, say, Goldman Sachs - a very high percentage of it just goes to payment of management and bonuses. There was a time traditionally - say, GM in the 1950s - it was trying to develop a consumer base that would be loyal and lasting and they were thinking in terms of an institution that would remain and grow and thrive in the society. By now, a lot of the investment firms - bankers, hedge funds - are perfectly happy to destroy what they’re in and come out with huge, tremendous benefits.
That’s a new stage of capitalism.”

Noam Chomsky

The Father Of The Internet On Net Neutrality

"Net neutrality maintains that if I have paid for an Internet connection at a certain quality, say, 300 Mbps, and you have paid for that quality, then our communications should take place at that quality. Protecting this concept would prevent a big ISP from sending you video from a media company it may own at 300 Mbps but sending video from a competing media company at a slower rate. That amounts to commercial discrimination. Other complications could arise. What if your ISP made it easier for you to connect to a particular online shoe store and harder to reach others? That would be powerful control. What if the ISP made it difficult for you to go to Web sites about certain political parties, or religions, or sites about evolution?
Unfortunately, in August, Google and Verizon for some reason suggested that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone–based connections. Many people in rural areas from Utah to Uganda have access to the Internet only via mobile phones; exempting wireless from net neutrality would leave these users open to discrimination of service. It is also bizarre to imagine that my fundamental right to access the information source of my choice should apply when I am on my WiFi-connected computer at home but not when I use my cell phone."
Tim Berners-Lee

The Tillman Story

Shortlisted for best documentary Oscar.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Is Not A Subjective Question: We Tried Bush Tax Cuts, They FAILED

"Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 -- the dreaded 1970s -- but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.

The picture does not change if you instead look at five-year periods."

- David Leonhardt, New York Times

This isn't a subjective question open to debate; we tried a policy and we can evaluate its results. In this case, Republicans said Bush's tax policy would produce wonders for the economy, and they got exactly what they wanted. We now know, however, that the policy didn't generate robust growth, didn't create millions of new jobs, didn't spur entrepreneurship and innovation, and certainly didn't keep a balanced budget.

And now, as the failed tax policy is set to expire, what's the new Republican message? That this policy must be extended at all costs, and anyone who disagrees is putting the economy at risk.

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Follow The Money

There is no evidence these new body scanners make us more secure. But there is evidence that former [Bush] Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff made money hawking these full body scanners.... These body scanners are a violation of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. -- Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas)

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Change In DADT Strategy

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama took steps on Wednesday to force a Senate vote on legislation that would begin to dismantle the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy banning openly gay service members during the ongoing lame-duck legislative session, hosting a second White House strategy session with gay rights advocates and personally lobbying a key lawmaker who favors repeal of the ban." ...

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The GOP's Fiscal Fraudulence

We mentioned this earlier with respect to NPR, but go check out the other spending cuts Eric Cantor's little site has managed to find, with the help of visitors and supporters. The total amount saved so far? $130 billion. Not nearly enough even to pay for extending the sunset for Bush's tax cuts, which come in at $700 billion. And not even in the ball park of $4 trillion or so that we need to find before 2020. But they have their priorities straight: the top featured two cuts right now (after NPR) are

1. The Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners program

2. Matching Federal Funds For Primary Candidates.

I mean: it's just sad. They mounted a second American revolution to end the Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners program? How do they even keep a straight face when saying they want to return to fiscal balance?

GOP has never decreased spending. Why should they start now with this leadership?

Asking the public for what programs to cut? This is not American Idol.

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Bush Tax Cuts Didn’t Promote Economic Growth

No kidding, Sherlock.

I mean this as a serious question, not a rhetorical one: Given this history, why should we believe that the Bush tax cuts were pro-growth?

Is there good evidence the tax cuts persuaded more people to join the work force (because they would be able to keep more of their income)? Not really. The labor-force participation rate fell in the years after 2001 and has never again approached its record in the year 2000.

Is there evidence that the tax cuts led to a lot of entrepreneurship and innovation? Again, no. The rate at which start-up businesses created jobs fell during the past decade.

(via Seth M.)

Nothing trickles down. Although they did create tons of jobs in China and Mumbai, India.

The prosperity promised by the Bust tax cuts, passed on the shoulders and coattails of Clinton's administration, never happened. Another Republican FAIL.

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Obama’s Auto Bailout Worked


‘…This morning, a rejuvenated General Motors made its initial public offering of stock, hoping to raise $23.1 billion. As a result of the offering, which is the largest in the nation’s history, the federal government’s ownership in the auto company was halved “and billions of dollars in bailout money was returned to the federal government”… “Supporting the American auto industry required tough decisions and shared sacrifices, but it helped save jobs, rescue an industry at the heart of America’s manufacturing sector, and make it more competitive for the future,” said President Obama in a statement today…’

what Republicans said about the decision when it was made:

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?” [6/1/09]

RNC Chairman Michael Steele: “No matter how much the President spins GM’s bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign.” [6/1/2009]

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” [7/22/09]

Eighty-thousand jobs saved. More, here.

Republicans dead wrong. Again. Helping Americans is just not their thing.

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Support Our Troops: Empty Slogans And Americanism

Noam Chomsky discusses the slogan “Support Our Troops”
"the point of public relations slogans like “Support Our Troops” is that they don’t mean anything […] that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about." - Interview on WBAI, January 1992

An Apology?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta: Grade A Badass

Today, President Obama awarded Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta the Medal of Honor, making him the first living recipient of the award since the Vietnam War.  The tale of how he earned this distinction should pretty much guarantee that this man never has to buy another beer in his life.  From President Obama’s remarks:

Salvatore Giunta’s time came on October 25, 2007. He was a Specialist then, just 22 years old.

Sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the Korengal Valley — the most dangerous valley in northeast Afghanistan.  The moon was full. The light it cast was enough to travel by without using their night-vision goggles.  With heavy gear on their backs, and air support overhead, they made their way single file down a rocky ridge crest, along terrain so steep that sliding was sometimes easier than walking.

They hadn’t traveled a quarter mile before the silence was shattered.  It was an ambush, so close that the cracks of the guns and the whizz of the bullets were simultaneous.  Tracer fire hammered the ridge at hundreds of rounds per minute — “more,” Sal said later, “than the stars in the sky.”

The Apache gunships above saw it all, but couldn’t engage with the enemy so close to our soldiers.  The next platoon heard the shooting, but were too far away to join the fight in time.

And the two lead men were hit by enemy fire and knocked down instantly.  When the third was struck in the helmet and fell to the ground, Sal charged headlong into the wall of bullets to pull him to safety behind what little cover there was.  As he did, Sal was hit twice — one round slamming into his body armor, the other shattering a weapon slung across his back.

They were pinned down, and two wounded Americans still lay up ahead.  So Sal and his comrades regrouped and counterattacked.  They threw grenades, using the explosions as cover to run forward, shooting at the muzzle flashes still erupting from the trees.  Then they did it again.  And again.  Throwing grenades, charging ahead.  Finally, they reached one of their men.  He’d been shot twice in the leg, but he had kept returning fire until his gun jammed.

As another soldier tended to his wounds, Sal sprinted ahead, at every step meeting relentless enemy fire with his own.  He crested a hill alone, with no cover but the dust kicked up by the storm of bullets still biting into the ground.  There, he saw a chilling sight:  the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded American away — who happened to be one of Sal’s best friends.  Sal never broke stride.  He leapt forward.  He took aim.  He killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off.

Sal found his friend alive, but badly wounded.  Sal had saved him from the enemy — now he had to try to save his life.  Even as bullets impacted all around him, Sal grabbed his friend by the vest and dragged him to cover.  For nearly half an hour, Sal worked to stop the bleeding and help his friend breathe until the MEDEVAC arrived to lift the wounded from the ridge.  American gunships worked to clear the enemy from the hills.  And with the battle over, First Platoon picked up their gear and resumed their march through the valley.  They continued their mission.

It had been as intense and violent a firefight as any soldier will experience.  By the time it was finished, every member of First Platoon had shrapnel or a bullet hole in their gear.  Five were wounded.  And two gave their lives:  Sal’s friend, Sergeant Joshua C. Brennan, and the platoon medic, Specialist Hugo V. Mendoza.

Hooah. | The 60 Minutes interview with him, including accompanying graphics, here.

Update: A video of the entire ceremony after the jump, courtesy of The White House’s YouTube channel.

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Robert Reich: Why the Lame Duck Congress Must Extend Jobless Benefits For Hard-hit Families But Not Tax Cuts For the Rich)

America’s long-term unemployed — an estimated 4 million or more — constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.

Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can forget about the next Congress.)

The long-term unemployed can’t get work because there are still five people needing work for every job opening. And the long-term jobless are often at the end of the job line: Either they don’t have the right skills or enough eduction, or have been out of work so long prospective employers are nervous about hiring them.

They’re also a big problem for the economy. Without enough money in their pockets, they and their families can’t pay their mortgages, which keeps fueling the mortgage crisis. Nor can they replace worn-out cars and clothing, or buy muchof anything else, which is a drag on the economy.

Republicans and many blue-dog Dems say we can’t afford another extension.

But these are many of the same people who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for at least another two years.

Extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent would cost an estimated $120 billion over the next two years. That’s more than another unemployment benefit extension would cost.

The unemployed need the money. The rich don’t.

Moreover, the top 1 percent spends a small fraction of their income. That’s what it means to be rich — you already have most of what you want. So extending the Bush tax cut to them won’t stimulate the economy.

Yet people without jobs, and their families, are likely to spend every penny of unemployment benefits they receive. That will go back into the economy and save or create jobs.

A Labor Department report shows that for every $1 spent on unemployment insurance, $2 are spent in the economy. If you don’t believe the Labor Department, maybe you’ll believe Goldman Sachs analyst Alec Phillips, who estimates that if unemployment benefits are allowed to expire, the American economy would slow by a half a percent.

Republicans are still spouting nutty Social Darwinism. Cutting taxes on the rich is better than helping the unemployed, they say, because the rich will create jobs with their extra money while giving money to the unemployed reduces their desire to look for work.

Rubbish. The Bush tax cuts on the top never trickled down. Between 2002 and 2007 the median wage dropped, adjusted for inflation. And job growth was pathetic.

Jobless benefits don’t deter the unemployed from finding work. In most states, unemployment benefits are a fraction of former wages. And as long as unemployment remains sky-high, there are no jobs to be had anyway.

Besides, the economic downturn was hardly their fault. If anyone is to blame it’s the high-flyers on Wall Street who gambled away other people’s money, and the rich denizens of corporate executive suites who have sliced payrolls in order to show higher profits (and get more money from their stock options).

So why reward the people at the top with an extension of the Bush tax cut that will blow a hole in the budget deficit? And why fail to extend jobless benefits to hardworking Americans who got the boot?

Quick action is needed. Jobless benefits begin to lapse in just two weeks. Two million unemployed workers will be affected. If Congress fails to act, another 1.2 million will stop receiving benefits by the end of December. Most of the rest of those who now receive federal emergency extended benefits will gradually lose them.

Don’t extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. Give unemployment benefits to people who need them.

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Republicans Talk Cuts, But Never Walk The Walk

Yeah, be careful what you ask for. You get elected grandstanding about government overspending, you might actually have to … you know, put your name to specifics on where to cut government spending. And no one wants to run two years down the line on killing popular programs—and every program has some constituency that actually uses it, benefits from it, feels allegiance to it.

Better to keep it all vagueish and not have to take responsibility for slashing the social net to threads. Push it off on someone else. It’s the Republican way!

And it’s predictable. You know this is their way of governing.

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What Politico Left Out Of Its Obama Polling Article

Under the misleading homepage headline posted earlier today, "Poll: Obama's future uncertain," Politico reported this finding from its recent voter survey [emphasis added]: 

In the general public’s view, the president is in big trouble, with 50 percent predicting that Obama will not be reelected and just 26 percent believing he will win a second term. D.C. elites saw things very differently: 49 percent believe the president will win a second term in 2012 while just 23 percent think he won’t be reelected.

But here's what Politico left out of the article: When asked about hypothetical match-ups for a 2012 White House race including several prominent Republicans, general population voters uniformly picked Obama, and usually by large margins. In fact, Obama bested Palin by 13 points, with the Alaska Republican garnering just 33 percent of the vote in that hypothetical race. 

In other words, here's the alternate headline Politico could have used: 

Poll: Obama easily defeats Palin 

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

GOP: Closed Information Systems Based On Pretend Information

Too often, conservatives dupe themselves. They wrap themselves in closed information systems based upon pretend information. In this closed information system, banks can collapse without injuring the rest of the economy, tax cuts always pay for themselves and Congressional earmarks cause the federal budget deficit. Even the market collapse has not shaken some conservatives out of their closed information system. It enfolded them more closely within it.

This is how to understand the Glenn Beck phenomenon. Every day, Beck offers alternative knowledge — an alternative history of the United States and the world, an alternative system of economics, an alternative reality. As corporate profits soar, the closed information system insists that the free-enterprise system is under assault. As prices slump, we are warned of imminent hyperinflation. As black Americans are crushed under Depression-level unemployment, the administration’s policies are condemned by some conservatives as an outburst of Kenyan racial revenge against the white overlord.

David Frum

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Grampy McCain Moves The Goal Posts, Again

"It’s the maverick way: spend a year studying whether soldiers deserve full civil rights, and a half-an-hour deciding who will be your presidential running mate."

JON STEWART, on John McCain’s disingenuous, asinine call for a “study” on how repealing DADT would impact U.S. military forces, on The Daily Show. (via inothernews)

Shut up, John McCain. You Republicans never believe science anyways.

(via stfuconservatives)

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Fox And MSNBC Not Two Sides Of Same Coin

Keith Olbermann last night defended his brand of opinion journalism against Ted Koppel’s op-ed in the Washington Post, titled “Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.”

FOX and MSNBC are not two side of the same coin, as Koppel tries to point out.

Keith is slanted, biased, and opinionated…but Olbermann is right on more often than anyone claiming to be an objective “news journalist”.

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New Facebook E-mail Set To Crush: Do You Trust Their Privacy?

Today's teens and twenty-somethings have very little concept of privacy and really don't give much thought to it.

Which is funny because they have never picked up a call without caller ID. There was a time when you did not know who was calling when you picked up.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Speaker Nancy Pelosi: $700 Billion Times "No"

Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not give ground on her opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, even as the White House and other Democrats have signaled that it might be time to compromise.

“It’s too costly. It’s $700 billion,” Pelosi told NPR this morning. “One year would be around $70 billion. That’s a lot of money to give a tax cut at the high end. And I remind you that those tax cuts have been in effect for a very long time, they did not create jobs.”

Exactly. The prosperity these tax cuts promised never happened. Bush was allowed to pass these cuts on the coattails of Clinton. What Bush’s tax cuts have left behind is massive debt and income disparity. Both will be carried over if extended.

We know how this book ends. Why live through it again. Learn from your mistakes.

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Smart People Sleep Late, Go To Sleep Late


Smart People Stay Up Late and Sleep Late -

There is evidence to suggest that those with high I.Q.s stay up later and sleep later.

Researchers from the London School of Economicshave found that people with high I.Q.s are more likely to be night owls, whereas folks with lower I.Q.s are more likely to wake up early and function their best during the day. Other studies have found a link between “eveningness” and getting good grades in school.

However, all is not well with those who burn the midnight oil. People who are disposed to staying up late are less reliable and more likely to suffer from depression and various addictions when compared to early risers. 

So maybe the old adage should just be early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy.

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Vox Populi: Sarcasm

Koch Brands You Should Boycott

via diegueno:

These are the brands you boycott because Koch Industries own them. Koch financially underwrites the astro-turf Tea Bag movement.

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Left v Right

"These aren’t two “extremes” of some mythical middle. They are the two competing American political belief systems, period. People who vote for Republicans know very well that they are voting for low taxes for everyone, including the wealthy, and they believe sincerely that everyone would be better off if they fended for themselves and let capitalism sort it all out. (How that plays out in their own lives is different, of course, but they are persuaded that most of their tax dollars are wasted on people who don’t deserve it and they aren’t going to change their minds.) Democrats believe that taxes are a price you pay for a secure, upwardly mobile society and that the wealthy can easily afford to pay more for the privilege of living in a stable country with a strong middle class. Republicans are hostile to Social Security, Medicare and all government programs designed to help the less fortunate. They simply do not believe it’s an appropriate or moral thing to do because it makes people dependent and lazy. Democrats believe in egalitarianism, social justice and social welfare… Those differences are real and they’re not “childish.” These are very distinct ideas about what government should do and how it should do it. What’s childish is pretending that isn’t so and insisting on some kumbaaya magical thinking that we can work it all out if “the extremes” would just stop being so unreasonable."

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"We Want Our Country Back" Privilege Code

The modern “Tea Party” is a direct result of this history as the white working class aims to reestablish some measure of segregated social privilege and protection in a volatile free market. Without those protections the white working class cannot sustain or reproduce a white social identity as the mainstream middle class that is privileged and distinct from workers of color.

And let’s be clear. Whites cling to racial identity not out of reverence to heritage or culture but due to the social status and privilege it confers. The deification of the “founding fathers” and the religious zealotry surrounding their interpretation of the National Constitution has more to do with their ability to claim sole ownership over the national narrative and a sincere understanding or acceptance of the document’s intended logic.

All this coalesces to make the movement quite schizophrenic as they claim to want and need government action yet they despise the fact that an institution which used to be their sole possession increasingly must consider the needs of a broader group [i.e. “we want to take our country back!”].


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Charm And Disarm

Republicans, who are masters of deceptive marketing, seized on Obama’s most appealing qualities and turned them upside down. Their propaganda cast him not as soft but as a power-mad (black) leftist, destroying democracy with socialist schemes. The portrait was so ludicrous and mendacious, the president’s party hardly bothered to respond. Egged on by the Republican Party and Fox News, right-wing frothers conjured sicko fantasies and extreme accusations: the president is not only a black man (bad enough for the party of the white South); he is not even American. The vindictive GOP strategy is racial McCarthyism, demonizing this honorable man as an alien threat, just as cold war Republicans depicted left-liberal Democrats as commie sympathizers. Even Obama supporters began to ask, Where is the fight in the man? Some critics blame a lack of courage, but that neglects the extraordinary nerve Obama displayed in his rise to the White House—a young black man with an unusual name and limited experience who triumphed through his audacity. Obama’s governing style is a function of his biography—a man who grew up always in the middle, both black and white. He succeeded by learning rare skills, the ability to bridge different worlds comfortably and draw people together across racial, political and intellectual divides. He learned to charm and disarm, not to smash and conquer. For the first time in his life, those qualities seem to have failed him. William Greider

Using your strength as an attack in the classic Republican game. John Kerry was a decorated war veteran, Bush was a National Guard deserter. Guess who's military record was questioned?

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The World At A Glance

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jim Swilley, Georgia Megachurch Pastor, Comes Out To Congregation After Gay Teen Suicides

Jim Swilley, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch, recently revealed to his congregation that he is gay. The 52-year-old father of four said that his wife, to whom he was married for more than 20 years, encouraged him to come out years ago, but at the time, he told her: "These words will never come out of my mouth."

However, the recent spate of teen suicides, particularly that of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, prompted him to change his mind. "For some reason his situation was kind of the tipping point with me," Swilley told CNN's Don Lemon this weekend.

"There comes a point in your life where you say 'How much time do we have left in our lives? Are we going to be authentic or not?'"

Is it a requirement of heading a Mega Church to be an in the closet hypocrite?

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Sarah Palin Brags About Being “Free” In A Welfare State

“Sarah Palin’s Alaska” premieres Sunday night, but Palin (pictured with son Trig) celebrates an Alaska that bears little resemblance to the real one. Never mind that she whines about her privacy being invaded while doing a reality show. As Michael Daly in the New York Daily News notes:

Alaska gets $1.84 in federal spending for every dollar it pays in federal taxes.

We in New York get just 79 cents on the dollar.

Which means we subsidize Alaska even as it enjoys a $2 billion-plus budget surplus.

…on top of a budget surplus, Alaska has a special fund drawn from oil profits that doles out dough to every resident annually.

The check this year is $1,281 for each and every person who has resided in Alaska for a year. Those who die or are born in the midst of a year still get the full check.

Palin intones, “I love Alaska. I understand the uniqueness of this land. It’s about family and community.” Yes, and about government subsidies. She adds, “I’d rather be out here being free.” No, she’d rather be out of Alaska, having quit her job as governor to spend more time making money on the mainland.

Most people move to Alaska because they don’t like the lower 48. Palin is the perfect opportunist to exploit her shallow, contradictory positions to the willfully ignorant.

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DId You Mean Republicans?