To be honest, I feel a little sorry for Sarah Palin. She was just minding her own business, being the slightly corrupt and occasionally lying govenor of an unimportant state, and to be honest the fact that she abused that position is not massively important to me. Such things happen, and I genuinely think her various transgressions are the result of incompetence, not malice.
Here is what I think happened: Sarah Palin is a victim of circumstance. Her meteoric rise to infamy is the fault of the people of Alaska and the Republican party rather than her own. Palin’s problem is that she has no internal barometer of her own ability to do any given job. When she saw an ad saying ‘mayor needed, job may involve constructing coherent sentences’ she (wrongly) assumed she could do it. When the gubernatorial elections rolled around she assumed she could do that too. Whether she asked to be considered for vice-president or whether someone approached her, I don’t think it ever occured to her that she might actually not be smart enough to run the entire country. And there will always be people like her, as evidenced by the paper Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognising one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessmentsÂ (link is to PDF, title will worry the self-employed). That’s why we have systems of exams and qualifications and job interviews — and indeed elections — in place to prevent the incompetent from being given important jobs they are likely to mess up. It doesn’t always work, but it’s usually effective. Think of all the cretins you’ve ever met. Was any of them a doctor or a teacher or an MP? Probably relatively few of them were.
But because now other peopleÂ have put the idea into Palin’s head that she might actually be qualified to be President, it’s going to be very difficult to convince her otherwise which is, presumably, why she launched SarahPAC. A PAC is, I’m told, an organisation that collects money and turns it into political capital, and is often a precursor to a Presidential campaign. Exactly what else hers might be for is unclear, but given the timing, the five-page or so website, SarahPAC.com, is generally assumed to indicate that she’s planning a campaign for 2012.
I dont’t think we can make Sarah Palin go away, but I think we can ensure her campaign fails. I don’t think we can stop the far-right lunatic fringes of the Republican party from supporting her, but I think we can stop anyone else making that mistake. I don’t think contempt is appropriate, but I don’t think that pity is going to stop her. I propose that ridicule is the answer. People have to see how completely absurd it is that someone so utterly uselessÂ could become President.
From time to time I submit stuff to Newsbiscuit. More occasionally they use it. Their submission board is pretty awkward to work, though, so I thought I’d post my favourites on this blog also, where I can keep an eye on them. First, the ones they used:
Next, some of the ones they didn’t. I’ll put most of them after the fold, since there are a lot of them. Also, some might be offensive if you’re easily offended. First, though, my favourite, from early to mid October:
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has had his kitchen refitted under laws brought in in the wake of the September 11th and July 7th terrorist attacks.
The refit was proposed in August, as part of a larger reorganisation of Number 10. Brown’s wife Sarah raised objections to the plans at an early stage, saying that the new system would make cooking difficult and that she didn’t like the colour. It seemed that the deadlock was unresolvable until September 17th, when the Prime Minister realised he could use existing anti-terror laws to push the installation through without first gaining his wife’s approval.
Critics have claimed that this is “a clear abuse” of the power handed to the PM’s office by these new rules. One backbench MP said that while he understood the need to have special new measures to deal with the new kind of threat faced today, the government had taken advantage of the fear to pass laws granting themselves more power than they had ever been elected to. Other recent applications of the anti-terror laws include freezing the assets of Iceland UK, resolving the double-booking of a conference room in Parliament, and the emergency resolution on Tuesday which mandated it was James’ turn to do the washing up.
Brown has insisted that neither he nor the government has abused the trust placed in them by Parliament, saying that there are “other kinds of terrorism” besides violent attacks on civilians, and that these might be said to include refusal to wash dishes or bad taste in kitchen units.
The House of Lords is expected to overturn the decision, but James Brown has said that as he’s already done the washing up, it’s too late to reverse the damage and a system must be put in place to prevent these situations from arising in the first place.
Asked again on Sunday whether Sarah Palin is ready to be president, Sen. Joe Lieberman went one step further than he has in past remarks — virtually pledging to voters that John McCain “will live to 85 at least.”
I understand that it would be spectacularly dumb for Obama to start any kind of legal action against McCain’s campaign for any of the made up shit in his various propaganda, but even so, one would think that a system would exist to stop people from lying in TV ads. I’m sure such a system already exists, but why then is it never used? If I see a lie in a TV ad I can email the ASA and they’ll investigate and take action. I can only assume that an equivalent body exists in the US, and yet I’ve never heard a single report that started ‘the McCain campaign’s latest ad has been pulled after an adjunction following a complaint from a citizen’.
Seems strange to me, considering what is at stake.
Broadly categorised. Thanks to the sites linked here, especially the fantastic Jed Report. I’ve tried to limit it to stuff I think matters and provide sources where possible. Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or when he does some future dumb shit, and I’ll add it. (Wiki version)
Accepted nomination in front of an image of Walter Reed Middle School. The current theory is that they meant to useÂ Walter Reed Army Medical Center.Â Walter Reed Middle School has been used in a Presidential Campaign before: that of Matt Santos, the fictional Democrat from The West Wing, who was based on Barack Obama, and beat an aging maverick Republican in the general election. That’s an image McCain wants to put across.
Apparently, tomorrow George W Bush is going to give a big speech at the Republican convention, a pointless bit of formality that has to be done before McCain will be allowed to run for President under a Republican banner. On Tuesday, McCain will seek to downplay the association with Bush (lest any of us notice that he’s borrowed all Bush’s pulicies) by associating himself with someone else: he’s naming his running mate.
I can’t see how this could help him. Since, if elected, John McCain is definitely going to die in office, he’s basically naming his Gordon Brown. Unfortunately, he only has two options. He can pick someone nobody’s heard of, in which case he’s basically pitching an unknown quantity against a far more popular unknown quantity, or else he can pick a high profile Republican, the problem there being that they’re all mental.
It’ll be interesting to see who he picks, but there’s no way it should ever make any difference.
One thing I’m growing to like more and more about the internet is how easy stuff like Blogger or WordPress make it to start a website for any old pointless reason, and there’s very little to stop that website expanding to silly proportions. This means that there are a growing number of websites dedicated to documenting rather specific things, and with a whole world to send in submissions, there are lots of examples of them all. Here are a few I know well:
Signs that Fascinate and Intruige: a Facebook group with thousands of photos of dumb signs. Has a strict rule about it having to be something the submitter found, so no internet virals. Still a scary number of things.
Say What?: A blog along similarly signatory lines. Pretty good hit rate in a field where that’s unusual.
Not Always Right: collecting stories of daft and unreasonable requests made by customers to put-upon retail staff.
spEak You’re bRanes: a collection of dumb comments written by idiots, mostly from the BBC’s singularly awful Have Your Say section, where right-wing morons make bad suggestions, jokes that don’t work, and unreasonable demands. That’s probably why it’s at ifyoulikeitsomuchwhydontyougolivethere.com.
Readers’ Letters: a similar site aimed at primarily-offline media such as newspapers and magazines. Annoyingly LiveJournal-based, but I think we have to forgive that if only because [nja]‘s current userpic looks so delightfully like Elvis Costello cover-art.
The FAIL Blog: photos of stupid things, ruined by the application of large block letters saying “FAIL”, all of which were added in Paint Shop Pro. You can tell because Photoshop does letter corners correctly.
Photoshop Disasters: pictures from newspapers, websites, magazines and the like, which have obviously been edited by morons. There are a few on here that I disagree with, though — at least one where they’ve highlighted a wrist and said “look at the unnatural way that wrist is bent, did they think we wouldn’t notice”, and I can bend that way.
The other day I made fun of John McCain for referring to Czechoslovakia, a country which hasn’t existed for 15 years. After that, I read a comments thread with similar accusations about Barack Obama, and I thought “I should check these out — I’d hate to be mocking one candidate while the other does worse things”. I like to think of myself as an equal opportunities sarky bastard. (In that spirit, allow me to roundly mock commenter Reid for saying “Hussein will not be elected President” and leaving it at that, as if the very fact that Obama’s middle name is Saddam Hussein’s last name makes any difference to anything at all.)
They didn’t seem to think the Czechoslovakia thing was important, and you can make a good case for that, but their reasons are ridiculous:
“This is basic elementary school geography. I don’t care what excuses you make for them. It also illustrates their level of awareness of the world.”
Can you draw an accurate map of Africa?
How about if I draw the lines, can you put in the names?
Nobody can do that. How is that even remotely like not knowing what countries are called while discussing their politics?
Kinda depends on which week you left elementary school.
What? For the record, Obama studied law at Harvard, and McCain was 5th from bottom of his class of almost 900.
I’ll tell you, as a truck driver, the average person person can tell you the name of the next town.
One of my favorite stories–I was lost, trying to find a consignee–instructions from the dispatcher were bad, nothing matched up with the map. Called the consignee and talked to several people who, given the intersection of major (for the area) highways where I was sitting could not tell me how to get from where I was to where they were.
I finally found the place by circling town (it was just a little bitty place) in decreasing-radius circles until I spotted a likely candidate in the dark.
I have literally no idea why this story is here. Possibly it’s a failed attempt to reference the Kentucky thing (see below) but probably he started thinking about something else and just kept typing.
The Czech Republic is very important to lots of people, and given that they ought to quit changing names every few years. They have been through, what, four since I left grammar school? Larry Sheldon | 07.18.08 – 2:03 am | #
The Czech Republic has been the Czech Republic since its inception in 1993, and while the full name of Czechoslovakia changed many times before then, “Czechoslovakia” was never wrong for long, assuming that Sheldon left grammar school some time after 1918. They stopped being Czechoslovakia when the country broke in two — what the hell where they supposed to do? Both be Czechoslovakia?
Still, here goes nothing, a full round-up of all the gaffes they accused Obama of making, and a few other things they said about him. Are they worse than McCain’s total ignorance of how to work a computer? Are they worse than his apparent failure to read and understand the Constitution? Let’s have a look.
Fifty Seven States
One of their favourite Obama ‘gaffes’ is his supposed assertion that there are 57 states. The first problem I have with this is that it clearly demonstrates Republicans can’t count, because what Obama actually said was this:
I’ve now been to 57 states, [with] one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii I was not allowed to go to, even though I really wanted to go, but my staff would not justify it.
That makes sixty states, you feeble-minded buffoons. Of course, that would make it harder to draw absurd parallels with the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, except that it wouldn’t because there are only 57 states in that if you exclude the three ‘observer’ states. (I wonder if it’s ever the same people who promoted the Jeremiah Wright clips who think Obama is a Muslim.)
I’ve now been to fifty… seven states? I think one left to go. One left to go. Alaska and Hawaii I was not allowed to go to…
Pretty clearly, Obama said “fifty” instead of “forty”, because he was thinking about the number of states that there are. That’s the kind of mistake people make all the time. And afterwards he acknowledged his error, rather than repeating it as McCain did with Czechoslovakia.
No dice on the 57 states thing, I’m afraid. I’m not a hypocrite yet. I just missed a clip of a mildly amusing error.
Which States Border Illinois
Again, Obama’s knowledge of US geography is called into question. One (presumably conservative) ‘news’ website reports this as “Media Snoozes While Obama’s ‘Altered States’ Gaffes Continue”. If this is as serious an error as they’re implying then the media is clearly complicit in some kind of propaganda campaign. We can’t have a President who doesn’t know the local geography of the state that elected him to the Senate, can we? So what’s the deal?
Well, Obama said this:
Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known [in Kentucky], coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it’s not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle.
And the not-so investigative journalists at News Busters cleverly dug out their atlas and noticed that Kentucky shares a border with Illinois. Therefore, they conclude, Illinois is zero miles from Kentucky and Obama is a fool. We need a map.
(All maps taken from Wikipedia)
Note that I had to Google search to find this — Sheldon simply assumed that we all knew about this.
They’re right, too. Illinois is closer to Kentucky than Arkansas, which by what is clearly a really significant amount. Here, for those interested, is the same map with the population densities shown. (By which I mean I looked at the population maps on Wikipedia and pasted them on top of the state map, ignoring the projection differences as hard as I could. I made this in a couple of minutes in Paint.NET, so it’s not very good.)
You can clearly see that the entire population of Illinois lives almost as far from Kentucky as they possibly can. In fact, probably further from Kentucky’s borders than the population of Arkansas live. That’s not really fair, though, as the population of Kentucky are over to the west of the state, away from Arkansas, so the population centre of Illinois is still nearer to that of Kentucky than that of Arkansas is, but I think this shows that simply going by closest borders isn’t a good plan.
Really, taken in context, Obama’s statement was about politics. I don’t know much about state-level politics, beyond the fact that everyone in Texas is insane and Louisiana is apparently doomed, and California is governed by a robot from the future, but I was able, thanks again to Wikipedia, to find out what larger ‘regions’ the states are usually divided into (Guess how long this map took me):
So is seems likely to me that Arkansas is probably much closer, politically, to Kentucky than Illinois is. Of course, Obama’s statement is still mildly silly — you obviously shouldn’t refer to distances between states when your state is zero miles away — but I can’t bring myself to consider this a “gaffe”. And nor, apparently, can anyone else much, because the media didn’t bother reporting it. “Snoozed”, if you won’t.
I’m still not a hypocrite. I am, however, heartened that the US media would ignore inconsequential things instead of sensationalising them (you know, this one time).
Obama is a Marxist
This is something a couple of Republicans have said, and I can’t even be bothered deconstructing it. Learning Marxism for the sake of a blogpost would be going far above and beyond and I’m not doing it. The actual odds that this is anything other than another Republican who can’t tell Marxism from Liberalism from Communism from Socialism are so vanishingly small that the possibility isn’t worth considering.
This accusation doesn’t make any sense without context and no context was given. I genuinely don’t know what point is being made here. I had a look on Google and that didn’t seem to help. I presume it’s a reference to Iraq, and I know Obama wants to slowly take troops out of there, and I think he’d send a few more to Afghanistan, which I think would be called “re-deployment”. I imagine the commenter here decided that that constitutes “surrender” and phrased his accusation in a way designed to make himself look as foolish as possible: you can’t conflate two concepts then accuse people of not being able to distinguish them. It’s so absurd as to be almost brilliant.
Yeah, that was pretty dumb. I’ll give you that one. And even though it was the same Larry Sheldon who said it as said all that other rubbish, I’ll even refrain from cancelling it out against his nonsense. In fairness, Obama did say it only once rather than repeatedly, and the significance of the attack on Pearl Harbor was the timing and lack of warning rather than the actual weapons used, but still, Obama messed up pretty good there.
On the other hand, this was an isolated incident, whereas what I did was to combine three McCain issues — his age, his repeated references to countries that don’t exist and his inability to work a computer — and wrap them up into one coherent package of 1992-ness. This is just pointing and laughing at a mistake. I think I’m okay with myself here.
Obama Went To Harvard
Yes. Yes, he did. Isn’t that good?
Lastly, I feel for the sake of completeness, I should lay out what I consider the better case for Saying “Czechoslovakia” Doesn’t Matter, since I defended Obama just now and if I’m being fair I should do it properly. First of all, he could be discussing the Czech Republic and Slovakia. If this is the case he should say “the former Czechoslovakia” as we do with Yugoslavia, but that’s still just a speech thing rather than a shocking ignorance thing. Secondly, he may just be in the habit of saying “Czechoslovakia” — that happens — but if that was true I’d expect him to reliably pronounce it correctly. To be honest, though, I don’t think any of that case matters, because it only dents one of the three things I flagged up as indicators that McCain may be living in 1992. In context, I think it looks pretty bad for him, and even if it doesn’t matter, he and his staff should be able to spot things that make him look dumb and change them. The fact that they can’t or don’t is at least as worrying as the mistake itself.
Obviously I don’t think that an election should be decided or fought on a Who Said The Dumbest Thing competition. But if this is the best collection of “gaffes” they have then I’m happy to keep poking fun at McCain, safe in the knowledge that I’m not indulging in too much selective reporting.