Friday, September 30, 2011

End of the Month Still Life

Part of our incredible bounty of tomatoes in 2011 - over 1,000.  There are still slightly more than 100 on the vines in the greenhouse, but the 2011 gardening year - one of our very best ever - is pretty much over.  The Black from Tula tomato crop is finally rapidly ripening.  Some of these above will be made into sauce, some dried.  The rest will be eaten fresh.

I'm reading and reviewing Amanda Coyne and Tony Hopfinger's upcoming book, Crude Awakening.  I've read more books about Alaska this year than any year since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was thinking of writing a historical book about Alaska myself.  Crude Awakening is quite good, about how oil politics corrupted our policies, and how the playing out of that corruption led to openings for the opportunistic and often lucky Sarah Palin to advance her self-serving career.

Was Alaska's Diebold Accu-Scan System Hacked in 2004 and 2008 - Probably

I felt that way in 2004, in the Knowles-Lisa Murkowski contest.  Even more so in 2008, particularly regarding the Ethan Berkowitz-Don Young race.

The Alaska Democratic Party went to court over the handling of electronic voting in the 2004 count.  Berkowitz declined to look into the serious anomolies in his race against Young.

In 2010, one of the elements in Joe Miller's suit to force a hand count in his loss to Lisa Murkowski was over the potential inaccuracy of our generic voting machine here, the Diebold Accu-Scan system.  The Alaska courts declined to honor Miller's request to get enough hand-counted votes that had been aggregated from these machines to get a sample of their accuracies, or potential inaccuracies.  Miller even brought this vulnerability up after the August 2008 primary.

I've written about these issues before.  Peoples' eyes glaze over whenever one brings up electronic voting machine hacking.  For one thing, it seems to a lot of people to be a conspiracy theory.  And there's no sexy tag one can attach to the issue that would help bring it to the forefront of political discussion.  After all, in the American system, all's fair in love, war and politics.

My two heroes on this issue nationally are Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, and Brad Friedman of the BRAD BLOG.  Bev has been in the struggle to find the truth longer.  Brad has reached a lot more people.

Wednesday, Friedman published a story at Salon that should be national headlines, but barely made it beyond a few of the liberal and progressive blogs:
It could be one of the most disturbing e-voting machine hacks to date.

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.

"We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines," said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team "We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine."

The Argonne Lab, run by the Department of Energy, has the mission of conducting scientific research to meet national needs. The Diebold Accuvote voting system used in the study was loaned to the lab's scientists by, of which the Brad Blog is a co-founder. Velvet Revolution received the machine from a former Diebold contractor

Previous lab demonstrations of e-voting system hacks, such as Princeton's demonstration of a viral cyber attack on a Diebold touch-screen system -- as I wrote for Salon back in 2006 -- relied on cyber attacks to change the results of elections. Such attacks, according to the team at Argonne, require more coding skills and knowledge of the voting system software than is needed for the attack on the Diebold system.

Indeed, the Argonne team's attack required no modification, reprogramming, or even knowledge, of the voting machine's proprietary source code. It was carried out by inserting a piece of inexpensive "alien electronics" into the machine.

Over 90% of Alaska votes are entered into products vulnerable to these attacks, and have been since the system was installed during Gov. Knowles' second term.  Although a lot of scrutiny toward defects in electronic voting systems has been directed toward touchscreen machines, the main Alaska machine, the Accu-Scan system is equally vulnerable.  Here's Brad Friedman Thursday:
This afternoon on my Pacifica Radio show on KPFK here in Los Angeles (and up and down the West Coast) I interviewed Dr. Roger Johnston of Argonne National Lab's Vulnerability Assessment Team on their $26 "Man-in-the-Middle" attack on a Diebold touch-screen voting system as I reported yesterday in my exclusive at Salon (and here at The BRAD BLOG.)

While yesterday's reports included information on the team's previous, similar-ish hack of a Sequoia touch-screen system, and the fact they feel they could do the same with most other e-voting systems, among the interesting new points raised during our discussion on KPFK today is that Johnston believes they could use a similar method to manipulate the vote count on a paper-ballot based optical-scan system as well!

So, in other words, the low-rent attack Argonne has demonstrated --- requiring no knowledge of the voting system software, $10 to $26 in off-the-shelf computer parts, and little more than an 8th grade computer lab education --- could also be implemented not just on touch-screen e-voting systems, with or without a so-called "paper trail," but also on the paper ballot op-scanners used to count the majority of votes that will be cast in the U.S. in next year's Presidential election.
That this is an important issue for Alaskans to consider was realized earlier Thursday by the blogs Mudflats and Immoral Minority.  Jesse Griffin at IM wrote:
After what happened in 2000 during the Bush v Gore election, I have been convinced that the Republican motto is "win at all cost."

They no longer care about democracy, or fair play, or the will of the people. All they care about is winning.

And as long as these incredibly faulty machines are still being controlled by that party, and we know that they are, the ONLY way we have of beating them is by having our candidates win by the largest margin possible.

Unless something changes concerning these machines in the next year, the only way that we can ensure a victory for our democracy is by making sure that people turn out to vote, and to make sure the vote they cast is the one that is recorded.

Which is why whenever I hear a progressive suggest that they will stay home because this President is not EXACTLY who he  wanted him to be, I literally want to throttle them into unconsciousness.

This is not a game, this is serious.  The very definition of who Americans are is at risk and the Republicans have already demonstrated that they have NO intention of playing by the rules.

In other words, THIS seems like the perfect job for Homeland Security.

I have sent them an e-mail with the article, if you would like to do the same here is their contact information
I like his passion, but he is disingenuous to think that Obama is less into winning at all costs than the GOP.  He's certainly right that the vulnerability is, as it always has been, a threat to American democracy.

At Mudflats, bringing up the 2010 Miller campaign's concern about voting machine hackability, Jeanne Devon attacked this problem humorously:
I roll over lazily, stretch, yawn, and open one eye…

I do a combined gasp/shriek, recoil a little, and bury my face in the pillow.

Yes, my strange bedfellow is still here. I thought he left after the 2010 election, but apparently not. Given that you all know how I feel about former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, that I agree with virtually none of his political philosophy, and that I am grateful every day that he is not in Washington, 

D.C., he does bring up an interesting point to the readers of his website.

The topic of the article is pretty much the only thing I agree with Joe Miller about, with the notable exception of the fact that I, too, would rather have had Scott McAdams as Senator than Lisa Murkowski. Miller’s website links to an article by a man many of you know from The Mudflats, one Mr. Brad Friedman. He is more used to having strange bedfellows than I am, and this is because the issue closest to his heart, and the one to which he devotes an incredible amount of time, is election integrity.

Election integrity simply means that your vote should count one time, and represent the actual way you voted. It means having confidence in the methodology and accuracy of the vote count. Seems simple enough, and most people just assume this to be the case. That’s what representative democracy is all about, right? One person, one accurately-counted vote.

The more you learn about this issue, the more horrified you will get. Not just in Alaska, but across the nation there are consistent problems with ensuring an accurate vote. Machines can be manipulated, numbers changed, ballots are kept in unsecured locations, results show that they were changed with no record of who did it or when…

Republicans are the main culprits suspected of the hinkiness, but there are exceptions. As it always is with the human beings, the people tempted to abuse power are the ones who have it. So, election integrity is NOT a partisan issue. It is amazing though, that when you stick up for the principle, how often you will be accused of being partisan. Just ask Brad Friedman who, depending on what side happens to be in his cross-hairs, has been accused of being a Republican hack, or a “Democrat” hack.
It should be said also, that The Mudflats got its share of grief by agreeing with Joe Miller that the Alaskan voting system is broken, and needs to be repaired. But we march on anyway, because in this case, regardless of how brutal the game is between the red shirts and the blue shirts, we all must agree on the rules or there is no game.
At RT TV, Thom Hartmann chose to also use humor in his take on what the revelations of the Argonne Laboratories study might mean:

This is more serious than most people think. Perhaps, though, the snark exuded by Devon and Hartmann will help give the story legs indignant obstinance has failed to lend it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oakland Gaza Children’s Art Exhibit Opens on Time – In Front of Museum That Banned It

Right on schedule, an exhibit of kid's art from the besieged enclave of Gaza opened in Oakland, California this past week.  Not in the once-renowned Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA) there. It opened out in the plaza in front of the museum, with over 500 attending the event:
Two weeks ago, an art exhibit scheduled to be shown at the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland was cancelled due to pressure from local and national pro-Israeli lobby groups.

The museum had apparently caved to pressure by local and national pro-Israeli lobby groups to cancel the show, according to The Electronic Infitada blog.

Undaunted, the show still went on, as announced by The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

In a press release, MECA stated:

"As promised, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) presented “A Child’s View From Gaza” on the scheduled opening date, September 24, 2011. The art exhibit opened in the courtyard outside of the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland to a tremendous crowd of supporters.

"'A Child’s View from Gaza' features the work of young Palestinian children who lived through Israel’s attacks in the winter of 2008-09 — which killed approximately 1,400 people, including several hundred children — and have used art therapy to process their trauma and grief."
I wrote earlier here about the censorship of the kids' art, in an article titled Crayons or Mass Destruction.  In the time since I wrote that article, which noted that some pro-Zionist expansion organizations had openly bragged about being part of the censorship effort,  other organizations supporting the rapidly expanding dispossession of Palestinians from their homes, farms, schools, businesses and from under the very sky they adore, have joined in a strange, triumphalist strut reminiscent of Afrikaaners, bragging about dispossessing Bantus or Zulus:
The Tweet from the Jewish Federation of the East Bay was unabashed: The Jewish establishment had succeeded in shutting down an art exhibit aimed at children that portrayed Israel scathingly.

“Great news!“ the federation proclaimed. “The ‘Child’s View From Gaza’ exhibit at MOCHA has been canceled thanks to some great East Bay Jewish community organizing.”

Sent on September 2, the message celebrated the cancellation of an exhibit of 45 drawings by Palestinian children that had been scheduled to open on September 24 at Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art. The museum’s decision was announced immediately following a meeting between Jewish groups and the museum‘s directors. And that has set off a debate still roiling the cultural quarters of the San Francisco Bay area, where the Jewish establishment has already drawn lines on artistic criticism of Israel from within the community.
In contrast to praise garnered toward the censorship by groups supporting or actually sponsoring growth of Zionist settler colonies on Palestinian land, has been the pushback from elements of the Bay Area community not usually involved in disputes of this sort.  Here's the conclusion of a letter to the MOCHA board, unanimously signed by the board of the Oakland Education Association:
MOCHA has long been a place where the art of all children is valued and shared, not a place where some is censored. We urge you to abide by your own core values and mission. As stated in your Open Letter to the MOCHA Community of September 12, 2011, “The Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) was founded as a place where children from all backgrounds could come together to make and celebrate art. MOCHA provides a safe place for children to express themselves through art, and produces programs that are intended to foster insight and understanding.” That you have chosen not to allow a safe place for the often-ignored children of Gaza to share their art is a decision that will unfortunately scar your reputation and remain a deep disappointment to the many teachers who have supported you throughout your existence.

Sincerely and with deep regret,

Betty Olson-Jones

President, Oakland Education Association
The letter was read at the opening outside the discredited museum.  Yesterday, the Oakland Tribune published an op-ed by board members of the Middle East Children's Alliance, which had sponsored the exhibit of Gaza children's art.  Here's a part that recounts past censorship efforts by groups and individuals supporting future colonization expansion on Palestinian land:
Shamefully, pro-Israel groups have long strategized to silence Palestinian voices and those in solidarity. For 23 years, MECA has challenged such censorship and fought to raise the voices of Palestine, especially those of children.

In 1991, when we invited Professor Noam Chomsky for a speaking engagement, 19 professors from UC Berkeley signed a letter to bookstores selling tickets to the event. The professors threatened to picket their stores, but the owners refused to be censored.
In December 2005, MECA, in collaboration with Alliance Graphics and the Berkeley Arts Center, presented Justice Matters: Artists Consider Palestine, an exhibit displaying the artwork of 14 Palestinian and North American artists. Fourteen rabbis visited Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley demanding that he cancel the show. They further insisted that the city withdraw funding to the Berkeley Arts Center and to be given the right to inspect any future art exhibit. Despite the rabbis' objections to the art, the mayor rejected censorship and the show opened to a huge crowd of supporters. [emphasis added]
One of the claims made by MOCHA, in censoring the kids' work, was that the museum did not show violent images, as policy.  Earlier in September, San Francisco Chronicle writer, Jill Tucker, listed past exhibits which clearly indicate the museum's defense was a lie:
Yet it wouldn't have been the first time the museum has featured wartime art by children.

In 2007, it exhibited paintings made during World War II by American children in the Kaiser shipyard child care center. The art featured images of Hitler, burning airplanes, sinking battleships, empty houses and a sad girl next to a Star of David.

In 2004, art by Iraqi children hung on the museum's walls. The pictures, made shortly after the U.S. invasion, included a picture of a helicopter shooting into a field of flowers.
Henry Norr, begins his excellent article on the opening of the exhibit in its new venue with:
If I were one of the Zionist operatives who pressured the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland to cancel the exhibit of Gaza children's drawings, I'd be kicking myself right now.

If they'd simply ignored the whole thing and let its scheduled two-month run proceed, probably no more than a few hundred people, most of them school children, would have seen the show. It's not as if MOCHA is a major attraction.

But thanks to the ham-handed censorship engineered by the Jewish establishment - and the determined fight-back of the Middle East Children's Alliance and others opposed to such bullying - thousands of people around the world have seen the kids' pictures.

Last Saturday 500 or so crowded into a makeshift storefront gallery and spilled over into the street outside at an upbeat grand opening of the show around the corner from MOCHA - see Annie's description here, video here (including the music of the Brass Liberation Orchestra, featuring my daughter Sarah on snare drum), more video and photos herehere, and a frustrated Zionist take on the event here. Thousands more have seen at least some of the images online - here at Mondoweiss, onFacebook, on YouTube, even in a slideshow posted on the online editorial pages of the two largest newspapers in the East Bay. and

Lots more Bay Area residents and visitors will get a chance to see the pictures in person this fall, as they will remain on display at MECA's new gallery for the next two months at 917 Washington Street in Oakland, a block from Broadway between 9th St. and 10th St. (MECA is still trying to work out hours and staffing, so before you head for the show, check at, email, or call (510) 548-0542.)
Here's a Youtube video of the opening:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roz Savage Within 200 Miles of Completing Third Ocean Solo Row - The Indian Ocean

Sometime within the next week or so, British rower, Roz Savage, will become the first woman to row the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans alone.  I wrote a couple of posts about her Pacific effort at its conclusion.  Now she is approaching Mauritius, having left Fremantle, Australia on May 4th.   Here's waht she wrote about this leg of the journey, before leaving Australia:
The route may seem surprising, and indeed the original intention was to aim for Zanzibar in Africa. However, given recent problems with pirates operating in the waters off the east coast of Africa, I decided after extensive consultation with my weatherman to aim for Mumbai instead.

The winds and currents are likely to help in this choice of route. Once in the Arabian Sea, the conditions will shift from the southeast to the southwest, allowing a long, looping arc to the west coast of India.
Apparently, during the early part of this trip the goal was changed from Mumbai to  Mauritius, again, because of pirate dangers in the Northern Indian Ocean.

What she has done and is doing is not just a very remarkable athletic achievement, it is a triumph for those of us who are concerned about the fate of the oceans and the planet.

Her trips are designed to raise global awareness on oceanic pollution, particularly, plastics.  here is a video of her explaining what she is about, back in April 2010:

Her efforts to raise awareness of ocean pollution have earned her several awards:
She is a United Nations Climate Hero, a trained presenter for Climate Reality, and an Athlete Ambassador for

She is on the board of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and co-patron of the Greener Upon Thames campaign for a plastic bag free Olympics in 2012. She is a Blue Ambassador for the UK-based BLUE Project.

Her voyages are projects of the Blue Frontier Campaign
While rowing alone, she keeps up her blog, podcasts and other communications with the rest of the world.

Back in 2010, at the conclusion of the Pacific Ocean leg, I helped get Roz into contact with my close friends, the Alaska adventuring family of Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman.  In 2008 and 2009, they walked from Seattle to Unimak Island in the Aleutians, solely by walking, skiing and pac-rafting.   Like Savage, these two blogged, took videos (posting some on Youtube) and photos, gave talks in communities along the way, and ended up writing a book about the experience.

Here's a distillation from videos they made on the trip:

Earlier this month they embarked on a multi-month journey to Alaska's Malispina Glacier, where they will document changes there since the 1890-era Israel Russell Expedition.  Like Savage,  Erin and Hig are seriousc environmentalists, using their trips - as does Roz - to bring awareness to environmental degradation.  (I'm writing an overture for the Anchorage Youth Symphony's 2012 European tour, about their 2008-2009 trip,  titled The Wild Coast)

One thing that has struck me about Erin, Hig and Roz, is how little the media cares about these three iconoclastic winners.  I watched the Alaska media all but ignore Erin and Hig during their trek up the coast, which was entirely unprecedented.  At the same time, the movie about Christopher McCandless' foolish, somewhat suicidal trip to Denali was  getting dozens of Alaska and hundreds of national press articles.  The media seems to want to portray nutty people returning to nature, not the rational ones.

You can follow Roz best at her blog - here.
You can follow Erin and Hig best at their blog - here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blood in the Snow: Maslin’s NYT Review of The Rogue Is Intellectually Dishonest

 --- by Geoffrey Dunn


Five days before a literary embargo theoretically prohibited any reviews from appearing in the mainstream media, the New York Times delivered what was effectively a journalistic hit (executed by Janet Maslin) on bestselling author Joe McGinniss and his long-awaited book-length profile of Alaska’s former governor, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.

Since then, the review has gone viral, in both the rightwing blogosphere and, even more troubling, in the mainstream media, and has been used as a political weapon—there is no other word for it—by everyone from Todd Palin to Andrew Breitbart in attacking McGinniss and his book. Maslin’s initial catchphrases, most notably her references to “caustic, unsubstantiated gossip” and “unnamed sources,” swiftly became the dominant meme surrounding the book long before others even had a chance to read it. Indeed several mainstream reporters cited the Maslin review without having read the book itself. Only yesterday the Huffington Post shamefully linked to Maslin’s review when it fallaciously reported that The Rogue claims Palin had “slept with a string of black men.” It does not.

As reviews go, it is a bloody hatchet job from beginning to end, rendered with a dull and ragged blade. From the very first paragraph, Maslin hacks away at McGinniss, whose collected oeuvre stretches back to his 1969 bestseller The Selling of the President and the classic Going to Extremes (1980), which deftly chronicled the changing nature of the Last Frontier under the economic, political and cultural onslaught brought about by the 1970s oil boom and the completion of the Alaska pipeline. I was—and remain—an admirer of both works.

I should also acknowledge that I am the author of an earlier book on the former Alaska governor, The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power, published by St. Martin’s in May, and which I suppose in some people’s eyes would make me something of a competitor with McGinniss, though I never looked at it that way. I sensed at the outset that our books would be very different—and they are, told through very different eyes and voices, and with an entirely different focus—although they come to startlingly similar conclusions about Ms. Palin, both as a human being and as a political figure. While I have never met McGinniss personally, we were introduced by email last year through mutual friends in Alaska and we occasionally communicated (or, more accurately, commiserated) about the poisonous ordeal of covering Palin. But I had not seen a single word of the McGinniss book until I read the first “installment” in Doonesbury, which featured excerpts from the book (all by “named” sources, incidentally), and then received a review copy that arrived in the mail later that week.

I was nearly three-quarters of the way through it by the time that Maslin’s review was first posted on the Times web site. I was immediately appalled by its intellectual dishonesty, its distorted portrait of the book, and its unbridled demonization of McGinniss. She calls the book “dated, petty and easily available to anyone with Internet access.” Really? Then why,  one must ask, has the book caused such a ruckus? Are there reports on the Internet, for instance, of Palin’s mass firing of people of color during her first weeks as Governor of Alaska or personal accounts of her dominionist religious beliefs? Is there a full-scale work that combines the elegance and depth of McGinniss’ reporting into a composite narrative? I think not. Indeed, the power of The Rogue is that the whole of its devastating narrative is greater than the sum of its parts.

Moreover, roughly nine months after the assassination attempt on Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords—over whose congressional district Palin had placed crosshair images on her SarahPAC website—there’s not a single mention by Maslin of Palin’s troubling behavior and commentary, both before and after the carnage that left six innocent bystanders dead and another 13 wounded; nor is there a single reference to her many demagogic (and unsubstantiated) claims regarding President Obama, with whom she is strangely obsessed (her charges of “death panels” and “palling around with terrorists” come immediately to mind). Nor does Maslin mention Palin’s troubling behavior on the campaign trail, with her ramped up rhetoric that lead respected Congressmember John Lewis to condemn Palin for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” throughout the country. All of this is apparently forgiven, or conveniently forgotten, by Maslin, whose Sarah Palin is—once again—a victim. Poor Sarah. Poor, poor Sarah Palin.


Early on in her review, Maslin gives the game away. She clearly has taken sides against McGinniss regarding his moving next door to his subject on the banks of Lake Lucille. Heaven forbid! After mocking a reference that McGinniss makes to some nesting grebes, Maslin declares: “Tweets emanated from the Palin place, too. But they were the kind that Mr. McGinniss could have monitored from his home in Massachusetts.”

Seriously? A book about Palin could have been written in Massachusetts without ever stepping foot in Wasilla or the Mat-Su Valley? Is she kidding us? That’s exactly what John McCain thought regarding his shoddy vetting of Palin. And it’s what softball journalists who have glorified Palin’s record as governor of Alaska have claimed as well. It’s a con job from beginning to end.

Sarah Palin is clearly the product of two deep strains in American politics: One emanates from Alaska, where isolation and corruption define its political culture; the other is the dark underbelly of the American body politic that has produced demagogues from Huey P. Long to Joe McCarthy to, I dare say, Sarah Palin. From the friendly confines of Maslin’s home in uppity, lily-white Pleansantville, New York, she apparently can see neither.

Having spent approximately two years on the Palin beat, let’s just say I know the terrain, both literally and physically, in ways that Maslin never could and never will. The stories about the Palins and their intimidating, vengeful behavior absolutely permeate southcentral Alaska, and while I can hold my own with a pistol (Alaskans offered me weapons as well), I would have never moved in next door. Ever. I thought McGinniss’s decision to do so was absolutely brilliant (from not only a publicity standpoint, but also as a journalistic strategy for getting those close to Palin to talk to him)—and courageous—and he would have been thoroughly foolish, if not professionally negligent, to have turned his back on the opportunity. Was he stalking Sarah Palin? Hardly. The only person who stalks Sarah Palin and her family is Sarah Palin.


When I returned from Alaska in August of 2009, I told a friend about an encounter I had earlier that summer at a Tea Party gathering in Anchorage, during which time guys with extended beer bellies carrying pistols in holsters tried to intimidate me as I was covering their rally. “Pistols in their holsters?” my friend queried in disbelief. I didn’t press it. If you haven’t spent time in southcentral Alaska, it’s hard to comprehend quite fully. The following year, during Palin sycophant Joe Miller’s ill-fated run for the U.S. Senate, someone sent me a link to footage of a family-oriented Fourth of July parade in Eagle River, located between Anchorage and Wasilla, at which supporters of Miller openly carried assault rifles and side arms. Some of the same guys who confronted me in Anchorage were in the footage. When I wrote a piece about it for the Huffington Post, one of my liberal sources in Wasilla said to me: “You’re making much too much of the guns, Geoffrey. Everyone up here carries guns.”

Janet Maslin would know nothing of these peculiar Alaska dynamics from the sanctity of Pleansantville, where, her Wiki bio duly notes, she serves as President of the Board of the Jacob Burns Film Center. The Jacob Burns Film Center! No, you cannot see Sarah Palin from there! Moreover I cannot imagine Maslin at the Mug Shot Saloon or A-1 Pawn and Gun Loans in Wasilla. And without going there, she could never understand fully the woman that John McCain irresponsibly selected to be his running mate in August of 2008. No author could.

Nor does Maslin appear to know much about Alaska political history or its political economy. There’s not a single mention of the culture of corruption that has defined Alaska since the oil companies began purchasing the State Legislature decades ago (she does, however, mention the Palin’s toilet). Nor does she seem particularly astute in respect to American politics. She doesn’t even mention the Tea Party or say a word about Palin’s political aspirations in 2012. She makes fun of the Doonesbury installments, but Maslin’s ignorance of these forces would seem to be the far more comical. One has to wonder why she was assigned this review.

Indeed, Maslin would seem to be a very odd choice for the task. A math major in college, she began her journalism career as a rock critic, became the Times film reviewer for two decades (I was a fan) and then switched to book reviews about a decade ago. Her most recent subjects include books by or about cultural celebrities, all of whom are white: Roger Ebert, Jill Clayburgh, Mick Jagger, Joseph Heller, Keith Richards, Angelina Jolie, Patti Smith, Rob Lowe, and yes, Tina Fey, who famously caricatured Palin on Saturday Night Live. That’s about as close as Maslin has come to Palin World.

More to the point, there’s not a single review by Maslin in 2011 addressing the hard-scrabble world of contemporary American political discourse or what’s at stake as the country confronts its political leadership in next year’s national elections. Not a word. And therein lies the problem: Maslin treats The Rogue as a celebrity portrait—not as a book about the woman widely viewed, even by the Republican establishment, to be the most polarizing figure on the American political landscape since George Wallace.


In my eyes, Maslin’s most egregious claim—and the one most often repeated by right-wing defenders of Palin and by the mainstream media as well—is her assertion that McGinniss trades in “caustic, unsubstantiated gossip about the Palins, often from unnamed sources.”

As a film and book reviewer, Maslin knows absolutely nothing about developing sources in the field. She has never had to deal with the decision of whether or not to use an anonymous source. In fact, the news side of the Times quotes unnamed sources on a daily basis, all the time. The paper did so today; it does so every day. John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s best-selling Game Change, which brilliantly chronicled the 2008 presidential race, did so without the benefit of any named sources. (It, by the way, contains a brutal portrait of Palin; the Times review called it “vivid” and “spicy.”)

Watergate would have never been broken were it not for anonymous sources. There would be no Bob Woodward. Maslin acts as though McGinniss is the first and only writer to ever do so. It’s a sham.

That said, a significant portion of the McGinniss book is based on substantiated evidence and named sources. In fact, at a quick count, I tallied more than six dozen interviewees in the book who appear “on-the-record,” and most of the book’s most troubling revelations were actually confirmed. Even the alleged liaison between Palin and former University of Michigan basketball star Glen Rice was confirmed by Rice (although Maslin tries to dismiss the confirmation by calling McGinniss’s questioning “flagrantly leading”; it is not). It was Palin’s former schoolmate John Bitney, later to serve as her senior campaign advisor and as her Legislative Director, who confirmed that Todd Palin could often be found “on the end of a straw.” Hardly anonymous.

To my mind, some of the most devastating and revelatory interviews in The Rogue were utterly ignored by Maslin. Take for instance the assertions made by veteran Alaska State Trooper Gary Wheeler, who was assigned to serve as Palin’s security detail right after she was elected in 2006. Maslin, of course, doesn’t know Wheeler, but I do. He’s a candid, straight-shooting cop, born and raised in Alaska, who served more than a quarter-century with the Troopers. I have no idea about his politics (I suspect he is a fiscal conservative), but he is intolerant of bullshit and duplicity. He describes Palin’s approach to the governorship as a “part-time job.” Palin, according to Wheeler, who observed her closely during her two years as governor, “doesn’t belong leading people; she’s just not smart enough. She has no intellect and no interest in learning, because she already thinks she knows it all.”

He concluded by noting that Palin’s “no mama grizzly; she’s a rabid wolf. Take a look at the snow: wherever she’s been, there’s a trail of blood in her wake.” [emphasis added]

When it comes to assessing Palin, I’ll take the word of the guy who was charged with protecting her over the arm-chair observations of Janet Maslin any day. And nearly everyone I spoke to in Alaska—where I conducted dozens of interviews with people from across the political spectrum (but mostly on the Republican side)—came to the same conclusion.

Then there’s yet another omission in Maslin’s review: the running thread in The Rogue of racism in the greater Palin clan, manifested by Palin’s father, her husband and by Palin herself. It was Bitney—on-the-record—who noted the mass firings of people of color in the Palin administration. Perhaps Maslin can’t see that from Pleasantville either. Of the 200 most recent books she’s reviewed, there wasn’t a single one listed by either an African American or Latino author, and only a handful by Asian Americans. The last African American author she reviewed was more than two years ago, in June of 2009. Talk about institutional racism.

Finally, there is a hint by Maslin, executed in parenthetical code, that the McGinniss book is (whisper) sexist: “(many of these gossips are men),” she writes. It’s a cheap trick used to impose an allegation of misogyny on the book and its author. In fact, there are several women named as sources in The Rogue, including former Republican state Senator Lyda Green and Palin’s former campaign manager, Laura Chase, both of whom served as mentors to Palin and both of whose blood was left in the snow. Both conservative, both widely respected, and both still living in greater Wasilla, these women provide testimony about Palin that should not be ignored. Maslin makes no mention of them.

By rendering such women in The Rogue invisible, Maslin has done a distinct disservice to these women with her implication. It took a considerable amount of courage for them to step forward and speak on the record. The fact of the matter is—and recent polls support this conclusively—that Palin is far less popular among Alaskan women than she is among men. Indeed, her approval rating is lower among college educated women (an embarrassing 24 percent) than any other demographic in the Last Frontier. (Whisper: the vast majority of the books Maslin reviews are by men.)

Palin has been utterly erratic (and purely opportunistic) in respect to feminism. As I noted in my book, she told Katie Couric in 2008 that she was a feminist one day, then completely changed her mind a few days later with Brian Williams. Two years later, in April of 2010, she was claiming the feminist mantle again with her “mama grizzly” routine. In an important opinion piece appearing last year in the Washington Post entitled “The Fake Feminism of Sarah Palin,” Jessica Valenti noted that “Palin isn’t a feminist—not in the slightest.”
Feminists — or anyone who cares about women’s progress — need to stop Palin from turning feminism into yet another empty slogan. Because “sisterhood” and meaningless rallying cries aside, American women need real feminism in their lives.
Palin doesn’t deserve to be protected by a faux feminism that denigrates the views of women with whom she has worked and who, in the end, judge her quite harshly.


Shortly after my book came out, I received a thoroughly unsolicited response from a former Palin staffer who pointed out a particular paragraph in my chapter entitled “Juneau” as precisely capturing the Palin strategy when dealing with the press:
Palin learned early on in her political career that, given the bifurcated nature of mainstream journalism, with its implicit acceptance of “two sides to every story,” that if she countered hard enough with denials or counter-narratives of her own, at worst she would break even, that she could cancel out any allegations or charges of impropriety. It was all about the push-back, the denial, the counterpunch.
“That’s exactly what she does,” he wrote. “That’s her secret.”

In October of 2010, Palin attacked Politico writers Jonathan Martin, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei for articles they had written using unnamed sources. She called Martin “a punk” and demanded that Allen and VandeHei “man up.” It was classic Palin, turning herself into a victim and demonizing reporters.

Martin refused to be made into a journalistic eunuch. “If Sarah Palin can call a journalist ‘yellow’ and try to denounce every story written about her,” he noted, “it’s an effort to try to make the mainstream media not legitimate. If they’re not legitimate, she doesn’t have to deal with us and can stay in the Fox News world, conservative talk radio world. If we’re not real and legit, there’s no point to deal with us, which means she doesn’t have to face scrutiny and accountability.”

Maslin makes no mention of this dynamic in her review, nor does she seem to be even the slightest bit aware of it. The rules of engagement have been rendered different by Palin, not by those who write about her, because, as Martin noted, she doesn’t allow herself to be subjected to scrutiny or accountability. And she—and her rabid supporters—maintain a threatening presence against those who dare to criticize her, making “on the record” interviews all the more difficult to obtain. Only a few weeks ago, conservative icon Ann Coulter complained to Laura Ingraham on Fox News about this very phenomenon. Conservatives, she noted, are afraid to voice even the “tiniest of criticism” of Palin “because they don’t want to deal with the hate mail….You say her voice is a few octaves too high… and you’ll be inundated with enraged emails and letters.” Or worse. Much worse.

None of this means to suggest that Palin is open season for any outlandish charge or allegation, but it does mean that the rules of journalistic engagement have been altered, not by choice, but by necessity.

After two years of researching Palin—going through 40,000 pages of documents and interviewing more than 200 people, many of whom were once her closest allies—the conclusions I came to about this divisive woman are very similar to those arrived at by Joe McGinniss: she is vindictive and vengeful, a pathological liar, driven not by a political commitment to the greater good, but by both an obsession with celebrity and a strange dominionist Christianity. I don’t discount Maslin’s right to her opinion, but in her snide and rather shallow assertions about The Rogue, she has, in fact, committed the very journalistic transgressions of which she accuses McGinniss.

Palin’s response to exposés about her—or her family—has always been to attack the messenger. In her review of The Rogue, Janet Maslin is now doing Palin’s bidding for her. Maslin’s intentions may be noble, but her instincts have betrayed her. I know which version of Palin’s persona rings closest to the truth. And it is not Janet Maslin’s.

reprinted from firedoglake with permission of the author
image by Zina Saunders

The Hate Continues at Right-Wing Palin Shrines - Updated

The ABC News story on attorneys working for Sarah Palin, writing a threatening letter to author Joe McGinniss, based on a January 2011 email (handed over to Andrew Breitbart), from McGinniss to Anchorage blogger Jesse Griffin, prompted several blog posts, mostly at right-wing sites that follow both Palin and Breitbart's every move.  The Euro-American Palincentric site, Politicalgates, certainly not a Palin shrine, was the first blog to pick up on McGinniss' most recent comprehensive statement in this regard.  That blog posted McGinniss' response to a query made at the book salon I hosted Sunday afternoon at the progressive site, firedoglake.  Here's what McGinniss wrote then:
Bottom line: not only my editor, but Random House attorneys verified every source, in some cases speaking directly to the sources themselves. I have dozens of hours of recorded conversations. Random House attorneys listened to them all, then made an independent judgment about the trustworthiness of the sources. No material from an unverified source is included in the book. Many details were omitted for that reason. Obviously, any writer would like to be able to name every source. In this case, the climate of fear the Palins created in and around Wasilla made that impossible. After seeing how Sarah reacted to my moving next door, many people became afraid for their own safety and said they’d talk to me only if I guaranteed confidentiality. When I felt I had to, I did. Anonymous sources have a long and honorable tradition in U.S. journalism. Look at Woodward and Bernstein and “Deep Throat.” Just last week, the NY Times had a story about the Mets third baseman and quoted an anonymous source. In twelve books written over 42 years, I’ve never been through a legal vetting like this one. It lasted for months.
Monday evening, I decided to post McGinniss' authoritative statement at the comments sections of as many of these right-wing blogs as I could, based on memeorandum's linkage to new articles.  I prefaced the McGinniss quote with, "At a book salon I hosted at the blog firedoglake on Sunday, McGinniss wrote this:"

Here are a couple of the results:

1).  The blog Conservatives4Palin removed the comment, replacing it with this:
Interesting that the SeaofPee felt threatened by having a commenter print McGinniss' most recent statement in this matter, rather than keep the false meme going that Joe's January letter was some sort of authoritative statement on how fact  checking was handled at Crown, regarding The Rogue. What does that say about that site's ability to handle real news, that not only was the comment removed, but that people who had read what McGinniss had actually said on Sunday were lauding the person who hid the truth from other commeters there?

2).  The guy more openly in love with Todd Palin than any other web writer, Robert Stacy McCain, posted a story based on the legal threat.  At least his blog didn't erase me, like they do at the SeaofPee, and at The Mudflats.  

Here's one of the responses to my comment at McCain's site:
Delightful people, eh?  I'm surprised PaganTemple didn't get more likes.  Probably needed to have more threats of Robert Stacy McCain buggering me while tied up, to get his, uh, clientele aroused.

Update - 9:00 a.m:  Apparently, R. S. McCain's site has followed the lead of the SeaofPee, taking down my comments, and responses to the two of them. Here's the other comment I made:
Here's what McCain wrote, explaining the removal of the three comments (counting the pasting of the Sunday McGinniss statement from firedoglake) I took screenshots of, and posted above:
UPDATE IV: We have apparently attracted attention of some Palin Derangement Syndrome sufferers, including the vile Phil Munger, whose comments were deleted. You hideous monsters have plenty of bandwidth at Mudflats, etc., where you can spread your insane filth without being permitted to hijack my bandwidth. Wombat will be advised to wield the troll-hammer at his discretion.
 My stuff certainly was vile, wasn't it?   "Hijack my bandwidth"?  What can one say?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pulling Out the Garden Before a Hard Frost - Updated

While I was driving over to Palmer-Fishhook Road this morning to pick up a water quality testing kit for a demonstration my wife will give late this week as a volunteer at Machetanz Elementary, I noticed frost on newly harvested alfalfa, in a field alongside the road.  Looking at the barometer when I got home, I realized we have about a 2/3 chance of a hard freeze tonight.

When I got home, it was rapidly warming into the 50s.  Strider was splayed out on the breakfast deck, soaking up the rays.  But I knew I had to pull everything in the garden but the carrots, peas and lettuce, all of which can stand cold down to about 25 to 28 F.  The potatoes had to get pulled because they are in the coldest part of the garden.

Update - Tuesday morning:  It got down to 26 degrees Monday night.  Glad I pulled them up.

Strider, happy in the sunshine:

Violas, pansies and Johnny-Jumpups.  They withstand frosts down into the mid-20s:

Stupice and Black Cherry tomatoes ripening.  They're in the greenhouse - safe for a few more weeks, unless it gets into the teens at night:

Black From Tula tomatoes, starting to ripen.  They are 80-day tomatoes, and are late, but tasty:

I brought the spearmint and rosemary into the greenhouse from the deck.  They are alongside arugula for seed, thyme and oregano, along with the last of the Suyo cucumbers:

A lone head of red lettuce, still standing in front of a pile of pulled green bean and bok choi stems:

 Four outsized zucchini, waiting to be added to the compost pile:

A wheelbarrow full of potatoes, beets, corn, cabbage, green beans, and a couple of nice, young, succulant zucchini:

About 1,000 or more carrots.  They'll stay in the ground for another week, unless it gets into the low 20s:

The remaining lettuce.  It is quite tender.  We may pull it Wednesday, if the weather remains like it is - clear, with no wind:

The snow peas are still producing handsomely - about 50 new ones per day:

A sweet pea flower at the end of a pea row:

Sugar snap peas are still producing fully:

A cabbage leaf/stalk and cornstalk debris pile, ready to be put into the big compost pile:

Dill - harvested and bundled, so the seed can dry out in the greenhouse and shop:

Cilantro seed, maturing and drying in the greenhouse:

Palin Threatens to Sue McGinniss Over The Rogue - Who Is On Joe's Side?

These two?  Maybe, maybe not:

I talked to a friend of mine in the national press this week. He said, “Joe seduced a murderer, why did you think you were smarter?” I didn’t know. I didn’t vet Joe.  It occurred to me, this is why Sarah Palin was elected. This is why I took Joe McGinniss in like family. Alaska has an open heart that doesn’t ask for a history. At one point, it was rude to ask people where they were from. Many people run away to Alaska, reinvent themselves, and carry on. When people out themselves as both Sarah and now, Joe, we get it.

Since the manuscript of Frank Bailey’s memoir Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin was leaked in its entirety to the media by author Joe McGinniss, whose own Palin book will be out this month, the authors of Blind Allegiance (Frank Bailey, Ken Morris and myself) have been asked questions.  What’s the back story?  How did this happen? What was the motive?
Today, many of those questions will be answered for those who have been curious.  Matt Harwood from the top-notch investigative site Truthout has done a major expose of McGinniss – and not only his motives and behavior in the Blind Allegiance incident, but past ethical challenges as well.
You can read the expose HERE. [emphasis added]
On Sunday, at a book salon I hosted at firedoglake, McGinniss had this to say about the vetting of his book on Palin:
Bottom line: not only my editor, but Random House attorneys verified every source, in some cases speaking directly to the sources themselves. I have dozens of hours of recorded conversations. Random House attorneys listened to them all, then made an independent judgment about the trustworthiness of the sources. No material from an unverified source is included in the book. Many details were omitted for that reason. Obviously, any writer would like to be able to name every source. In this case, the climate of fear the Palins created in and around Wasilla made that impossible. After seeing how Sarah reacted to my moving next door, many people became afraid for their own safety and said they’d talk to me only if I guaranteed confidentiality. When I felt I had to, I did. Anonymous sources have a long and honorable tradition in U.S. journalism. Look at Woodward and Bernstein and “Deep Throat.” Just last week, the NY Times had a story about the Mets third baseman and quoted an anonymous source. In twelve books written over 42 years, I’ve never been through a legal vetting like this one. It lasted for months.
We'll soon see who is supporting Palin on this meretricious lawsuit inspired by one of the sleaziest racists on the web.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mark Wolbers UAA Clarinet Recital - The Naked Clarinet - Fantastic! Off to Tour Southeast Alaska

I've got to say that one of the chief joys of my life has been teaching at campuses of the University of Alaska Anchorage in Palmer, Eagle River and on the main Anchorage campus, since 1995.  The main part, all along, has been working with 16 years worth of Alaska kids, eager to finish their education and go out to meet life's career and character challenges.  But along with that, has been the joy of working with so many dedicated professionals, putting so much on the line for these young students, hour after hour, day after day, for years.

I like to say that the day I don't learn something from my students is the day I need to go find another line of work.  Fortunately, I've been learning more than usual from my students lately.

And of my colleaugues from whom I've learned a lot over the years, Dr. Mark Wolbers, the head of wind studies and director of the UAA Wind Ensemble, has probably taught me the most.

When I first met Mark, he had recently taken up the baton at the sometimes struggling wind group there, and I had just taken over the Mat-Su College Community Band from my friend Neal Long.  Although I had gotten excellent conducting training and education, it had all been back in the 1960s and early 70s.  This was the mid-90s, and I was beyond rusty.

I watched Mark conduct his young group a few times.  Then, in 1997, I began playing in his band.  I'm still playing in it.  Every Tuesday and Thursday I learn something new about one aspect or another of rehearsing and group performance.  I've probably been in about 900 rehearsals and 90 concerts with Dr. Wolbers now.

Between 1997 and 2007, every time I rehearsed my band in Wasilla, I brought something into my toolkit as a conductor I had learned from Mark.  Some tools were small, like cutting off fermatas (when the conductor holds the arm up and musicians stay on one note until stopped).  Others were bigger, like the ways to dissect a problem section in a piece, and convince people that they can actually do a tricky passage with aplomb.

In 2006, I gave my band a year's notice, and left the Mat-Su College Community Band because I felt the growing gulf between my radical liberalism and the band members' overall turn increasingly to the right was holding the group back from its potential.  I thought there would be few new conducting opportunities for me.  Fortunately, Tai Wai Li, the director of the Anchorage Civic Orchestra, where I play tuba and (occasionally) trombone, needed a replacement for his 2010 and 2011 spring concerts and asked me to direct them for him.

Conducting an orchestra is different from conducting a band or wind ensemble in some major ways, but the same general rules apply.  Again, my 900 lessons from Dr. Wolbers payed off.  He even came to one of my dress rehearsals to observe, because he wouldn't be able to come to the concert.  I was touched.

Sunday Afternoon, at the UAA Arts Building Recital Hall, Mark gave a long, rich recital of music for unaccompanied clarinet.  The first half was devoted to music for the standard B-flat and A clarinet.  After an intermission, he performed three sets of pieces for the E-flat alto clarinet.

The hall was packed.  The selections were demanding.  He didn't miss a note, a beat or a nuance.  After the concert was over, Mark got his well deserved standing ovation.

He's going to be taking this recital program on the road next week to Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Ketchikan.

Here is one of the pieces he performed today (in an earlier recording).  Hommage a Manuel de Falla by Béla Kovacs:

Review of The Rogue by Joe McGinniss (The Hate Continues)

 [This review was created for the Firedoglake Book Salon I'll be hosting with Joe McGinniss Sunday, between 1:00 and 3:00 pm Alaska time]

I. Longtime journalist and award-winning author Joe McGinniss' newest book, The Rogue, is the latest - but by no means last - book about Sarah Palin.  Palin is not only the most famous Alaskan in history, she has uniquely combined political activity, celebrity, motherhood, grandmotherhood, a spousal relationship, borderline religious beliefs, professional victimhood, the American gossip universe, pop culture, legal obfuscation, new media and social networking.  Increasingly known for being thin-skinned and somewhat lacking in spatial awareness,  Palin, more than any American politician in a generation or so, almost begged McGinniss - or any investigative author - to move next door.  As I wrote here last year, a couple of days after McGinniss was able to do just that:
[A]uthor Joe McGinnis, who is writing a critical book about Sarah Palin, was looking for a place in Wasilla to rent this summer, as he continues his research. He was offered the house next door to the Palins’ Lake Lucille cult compound-in-progress. He wasn’t looking for the place. It came looking for him. What would you do?
Having spent time with McGinniss at the crucial point between when he moved in, and the Palins' reaction to their new neighbor set in concrete the scene for how the book played out, I can say that Joe really was hoping to be able to just be their next-door neighbor.  He did not want to make waves, and was hoping to sit down with Sarah and Todd socially, perhaps professionally, and go through notes with them as work proceeded.  I'm not kidding.

What ended up happening was another over-reaction by Sarah, similar to many those of us who had been watching her for a long time had witnessed before.  Her facebook people went all professional victim for her and, to quote Palin in another context - "Game on!"

What Joe McGinniss ended up writing is a story that may be the best close look at how a small town in America related over a period of 20 years to a politician who had an uncanny ability to draw upon hatred, superstition, gang organizing and media incuriosity since Sinclair Lewis’ novel of 1935, inspired by Huey Long, It Can’t Happen Here.

I live in that town.  The book mentions me directly or indirectly several times, which makes for a fairly interesting book salon here at firedoglake.

Since publication, McGinniss has been repeatedly questioned about his use of anonymous sources in The Rogue.  His response has been to say that in many cases Wasillans were genuinely afraid to come forward because there had been so many examples in the past illustrating the benefits of anonymity. Backing up this view, on Tuesday, Andrew Sullivan excerpted from just one of my experiences in this realm:
You want to know why some Wasillans asked for the same anonymity in "The Rogue" as Colin Powell gets from Bob Woodward? Maybe ask an Alaskan:
McGinniss addresses the climate of fear the Palin camp has created in the Wasilla area since the mid-1990s, better than anyone else has.  Far better.  He lived through it. Here's one example.  My longtime friend (since 1974, in Seattle, before he moved to Alaska), Dewey Taylor, used his truck to bring some chairs over to McGinniss' new rental next to the Palins.  Apparently, some of Palin's advocates took note:
Then I hear that at about four o'clock this morning somebody shot out the driver's side window of Dewey Taylor's truck, which was parked in his driveway.

I call him and offer to pay for a new window.  "Don't be ridiculous," he says, "it was probably just a coincidence."

"How long have you lived there?"

"About twenty years."

"Ever had a problem with a vehicle parked in your driveway before?"


"I don't think it's a coincidence."
A couple of interesting things should be noted here.  I see Dewey a lot.  He's never discussed this incident with me.  Strange, eh?  Maybe not, as three months earlier, Palin-loving vandals (a week after this incident) had drained the oil from my Subaru (probably using a Jabsco pump), cut the oil warning light wire, and cost us $3,500.00.  And I've never shared that with Dewey.  We're both "I'll move on" kinds of people.  Dewey more than I.  But did fear of even dwelling on the vandalism help us keep our mouths shut?

How many other stories like that are there out here in the Mad Zoo?  The climate of festering fear or immediate retribution here - not just from the Palins, but from the nutty right-wing and Christianist zealots - should not be underestimated.
Who do you trust - the MSM in DC or Alaskans who know the truth?
The hate continues.

As one example (covered at firedoglake's TBogg niche the other day), white supremacist and Todd Palin BFF Robert Stacy McCain is once more stoking the fires:
Joe McGinniss deserves The Mother of All Ass-Whuppings, and Todd Palin ought to give him exactly what he deserves.

So I’m asking readers to go make a $25 donation to SarahPAC to help defray Todd’s legal expenses when he shows up at McGinniss’s first book signing and pounds that scurvy worm into a bloody pulp.

Please give $25 to SarahPAC, so that we can bail Todd Palin out on that assault charge — and then fly him to the next Joe McGinniss book signing to deliver yet another brutal ass-whupping.
He followed it up with more projected hatred.

Commenters, all too predictably, are aiming the hate not just at Joe, but at the McGinniss family, and you and me:
Provide me also a legal defense fund because while McGinniss is away doing his homework in Alaska, I was giving some nice injection thing to his wife, and McGinniss wife loves well cooked hot dog.

-- snip --

I don't really see a lot of this crap ending until a few of these assholes end up dead, which of course I would be very sorry to see.

---  snip ---

..... I wish McGinness and people like him would all just fall down and die an agonizing death. There's just no way that could be their fault, could it?
Just a small sample.

II. The Rogue is constructed around Joe McGinniss' 2010 summer stay on the shores of Lake Lucille.  His introduction to the ambience of Wasilla is lengthened by over a page, as he lists all the churches in the greater Wasilla area - about 50.  He even misses some that are hard to find for one reason or another.

The chapters alternate between retelling the meetings, interviews, encounters, conversations, emails, hate mails, visitors and narrowly avoided altercations as they roll by, and looks back at Palin's rise.  The looks go back into her family's background, before Sarah Palin was born.  McGinniss throws a lot of fresh light and detail onto available biographical information about both the Heath family into which she was born, and the Palin family, into which she married. He adds quite a bit of important new information too.  The looks back eventually merge with the present as it was when McGinniss finished the manuscript early this summer:
This may be a strange thing to say in [opening] the last chapter about the star performer of the circus.  But no matter how much my book sales might benefit from a Palin presidential campaign in 2012, I sincerely hope that the whole extravaganza, which has been unblushingly underwritten by a mainstream media willing to gamble the nation’s future in exchange for the cheap thrill of watching a clown in high heels on a flying trapeze, is nearing its end.
In a review at the Euro-American Palin-centric blog, Politicalgates, Blueberry T has provided a fairly brief chapter-by-chapter synopsis.  The subjects that seem to be brought up repeatedly by those interviewing the author this past week have centered around Palin's two best-known sexual escapades (one pre-marital), the perception that McGinniss' move next door was unseemly, questions about the birth of Trig Palin in early 2008, and the veracity of his anonymous sources. The author's book tour interviewers, at least that I've reviewed, don't seem to be interested in how thoroughly McGinniss has documented the fervor of Palin's over-the-top devotees, nor in the deep ties Palin has had since the early 1990s to domininionist sects.

The author gratefully acknowledges how fully he was able to use the resources and existing material of such Alaska bloggers as Jeanne Devon, Shannyn Moore, Jesse Griffin and others.  He also points out the importance of author-journalists such as David Neiwert and Max Blumenthal for their research on Palin's ties to far-right, white supremacist and millennialist organizations.

On the other hand, McGinniss is wary of the symbiotic relationship media has come to rely upon regarding Palin.  He seems to understand that had Alaska's mainstream media done a better job up through mid-2008, he would have been left without a subject for this newest book.

III. It is too early to tell what McGinniss has achieved, past writing the easiest to read, most engaging trip yet through the strange world of PalinLand.  As the author noted, much contained in the book has been covered before.  Not this way, though, and not with this level of humor, wonder, snark and plain curiosity.  His coverage of the voluminous hate messages, calls and emails is centered not on him, but on what this means in a larger way.  His continual refusals to take guns proffered to him day after day by a succession of some of my longtime friends made me laugh, because he accurately caught my friends' quirks in a touchingly warm way.  Even though you don't know these people, you'll probably laugh too, as Joe introduces them, one pistol, shotgun or rifle-offering woman or man after another.

He was notably more charitable toward the vast shortcomings of Alaska society in The Rogue than he had to be when writing about the crazed oil pipeline construction days in his 1980 book, Going to Extremes.  At that time, McGinniss' book was one of several that addressed the wild times of that construction boom, including John McPhee's brilliant set of sketches, Coming Into the Country.   Even though McPhee's pipeline era book was a masterpiece of tone, narrative and style, his predictions about Alaska's future held up far less than did those McGinniss made back then.

McGinniss' implications about what the pipeline meant in 1980 were mostly limited to the future of Alaskan society.  Those in The Rogue have as much to do with the future of our fraying, tarnished American fabric.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

London Philharmonic Members Suspended for Signing Pro-Palestinian Letter of Support

The title page to Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, showing how he scratched out the name of Napoleon Bonaparte, after Napoleon declared himself Emperor
I. The London arts scene is one of the most energetic, creative and cutting edge on the planet.  Young artists flock there from all over the world to take part in its visual arts shows and showings, new dramatic works, musical premieres and what not.  All these elements are combined in cinema, happenings and multi-media events that challenge categorization.

At the same time, London is home to hundreds of very traditional arts presenting organizations, companies, ensembles and venues.  The brash avant garde arts scenes and the venerated institutional ones sometimes intersect.  I've been fortunate to witness that happening in trips to London dating back into late in the last century, participating in it in 2005.

protest signs outside the London premiere of The Skies Are Weeping at the Hackney Empire - Nov 1, 2005

2011 has seen a rise in artistic resistance to cultural events celebrating the expanding apartheid policies of the government of Israel.  The London arts scene has a centuries old relationship with Jewish artists that may be unique.  Alone among the great European cities, London did not see its vibrant Jewish community fractured and dismantled (as with Moscow and St. Petersburg) or utterly destroyed (as in Nazi-occupied Europe) during the 20th century.

There is a battle going on now in London between activist Jewish artists - some very young, others quite established - who are taking acton against apartheid Israel, and the mostly older Jewish arts supporting community of patrons, managers, board members and event-attending subscribers.  Although this same battle is happening in some U.S. cities, such as New York City and in the San Francisco Bay area,  London is the central front.

This past month has seen the possibly long-term suspension of an unnamed violinist in the London Philharmonic "after she allegedly launched an anti-Israel "rant" when Israeli musicians appeared at the Royal College of Music before the concert at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this month."

Soon afterward, when those Israeli musicians, members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, performed at a popular Proms concert, a group of mostly Jewish musicians interrupted the performance several times, breaking out in Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from his 9th Symphony, with new lyrics:
Israel, end your occupation:
There’s no peace on stolen land.
We’ll sing out for liberation
’till you hear and understand.

Ethnic cleansing and apartheid
Should belong to history.
Human rights cannot be silenced:
Palestine will soon be free.
Some London reviewers and commentators observed, as did The Guardian's  Erica Jeal, after the demonstration, that its crudeness "seemed to turn the audience – many of whom were no doubt sympathetic to the protesters – into avid supporters of the Israel Phil."  She was there, I wasn't.  But if the immediate impression, watching the orchestra members try to put more meaning into their playing in response to the open hostility, backs Jeal's assertion, the lasting one may be of deepening hostility to cultural programming of organizations such as the Israel Philharmonic, that have direct ties to that country's government.

As the ramifications of the Proms outburst began to play out, word spread that four members of the London Philharmonic who, along with many other UK artists, had signed a letter protesting the upcoming concert, had been suspended for their action, by the LPO, for "up to nine months":
In a statement, Tim Walker, the LPO's chief executive, and Martin Hohmann, its chairman, said the suspensions sent "a strong and clear message that their actions will not be tolerated … the orchestra would never restrict the right of its players to express themselves freely, however such expression has to be independent of the LPO itself.

"The company has no wish to end the careers of four talented musicians but … for the LPO, music and politics do not mix."

They added that the orchestra had no political or religious affiliations and strongly believed in the power of music to bring peace and harmony to the world, not war, terror and discord.

The LPO suspended cellist Sue Sutherley and violinists Tom Eisner, Nancy Elan and Sarah Streatfeild until June 2012 after they signed a letter as members of the LPO denouncing the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) as an instrument of the country's propaganda.
Other signatories of the letter are prominent Jewish London musicians.  In response to the suspension, over 100 artists have signed a letter protesting the punitive action:
Leading names in the arts industry have criticized the London Philharmonic Orchestra's (LPO) suspension of four members who opposed a London concert by Israeli musicians.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, filmmaker Mike Leigh, actress Miriam Margolyes and 115 other prominent arts figures said they were "shocked" and "dismayed" at the suspension of the four musicians, and urged the LPO to reconsider its decision.

"One does not have to share the musician's support for the campaign for boycotting Israeli institutions to feel grave concern about the bigger issue at stake for artists and others. There is a link being created here between personal conscience and employment which we must all resist," the letter said.

"Why should it be so dangerous for artists to speak out on the issue of Israel/Palestine? We are dismayed at the precedent set by this harsh punishment, and we strongly urge the LPO to reconsider its decision," it said.
There seems to be growing support for the suspended musicians in other arenas too. At the classical music forum, Bright Cecilia, commentator Philodor writes:
There's going to be a lot of trouble over this. Presumably the Musicians' Union is organising now. If they've got any balls they'll ballot for a strike. You can't have orchestral managements running about suspending musicians for signing a letter.

Musician unions are interesting organisations. If a management annoys an orchestra sufficiently they can easily find themselves with a very solid strike on their hands. Musicians are trained, for years, from childhood, to play together. Which means they also go on strike together.

Watch this space. If I was a member of the LPO I'd vote to strike. Their management needs knocking down a peg or two.
That forum post launched a wild debate.  Forum members have posted their correspondence with the LPO organization, some framing the question at hand - can we as artists stand by idly as Israeli apartheid grows? - in recent historical perspective.  At issue is the contention of the LPO manager and board that their organization is apolitical, and that the members, by affixing LPO behind their signatures in the protest letter, violated ensemble policy.  Defenders of the LPO Four feel that their having identified themselves that way was not at all what the director and board took it to be.  Here's one example of that argument, in a letter written to director Walker by Serenus Zeitblom:
I am afraid that because of its close links with the Israeli government, and the way that the Israel PO has continued to act as a cultural flagship for a state whose policies in Palestine are systematically in breach of UN resolutions and international law, any concert by that orchestra is a political event. I'm afraid it is simply naive to argue otherwise - in this case music cannot be above politics, in the same way that a visit from a state-sponsored orchestra from South Africa in the apartheid era could not be above politics. There are far bigger issues at stake here than whether members of one orchestra should argue that another should not play - in fact it is the four suspended players whose actions were seeking to keeping politics out of music.

I am also surprised to see that you write that political and religious views should be private. I am not aware that this was an issue about religion - while Israel is officially a Jewish state there are many Jews who oppose its policies in Palestine and many non-Jews who support them. Are you saying that considerations of religion were taken into account in the suspensions? And if you really mean that religious beliefs must be private, would you suspend a Sikh player for wearing a turban? Or a Jewish player for wearing a yarmulke? Or a female Muslim player for wearing a headscarf? In every case they are making public their religious affiliation.
Philidor, responding to a comment at the forum, writes:
[I]t makes strong tactical and strategic sense for everyone concerned about Israel's conduct to support a Western classical music boycott. I live in central London and use public transport almost daily. Why should I get blown up because the Israeli state has slaughtered yet more Palestinians and manufactured a fresh batch of terrorists to torment us all? Israel must behave, and if they won't, they must be disciplined using lawful and legitimate weapons which are effective. A classical music boycott is just such a weapon. This brouhaha proves its effectiveness.
II. In the early 1990s, Seattle bronze sculptor Peter Bevis and I created a multi-media lecture that we toured in Alaska and Washington, called Artists as Environmentalists. We described our activities and those of others, confronting ecological catastrophes worldwide, as arts chroniclers and organizers.  We bemoaned the lack of strategic approach toward mobilizing artists against egregious industrial and government practices that damaged the environment or spoiled renewable resources irredeemably.

In the mid-90s, I gave a lecture several places, including at the Juilliard School in NYC and at the Cornish Institute in Seattle, titled The Social Responsibilities of Composers. I've brought back a short version of that recently, which highlights some little known facts about composers from Beethoven to Aaron Copland, who raged against the machine just as fervently as Bob Dylan.

Orchestras these days, whether it is in London, NYC, LA, Seattle or Anchorage, are firmly rooted in supporting the status quo.  In Anchorage, for instance, our Anchorage Symphony's board chair routinely rotates between a high-level executive from Exxon, followed by one from Conoco-Phillips, followed by one from BP, followed by one from Wells Fargo, then back to Exxon - and so on.  The large donors to the ASO and most orchestras tend to be people who do not want contentious social, environmental or political issues to aurally poke at their smug satisfaction in the concert hall.

Orchestras in The West (Central and Western Europe and the English-speaking world, plus Israel, Japan, Singapore and China) treat composers of new music as "content providers."  If a divisive or radical subject is presented by almost any of these ensembles, it inevitably needs to be cloaked in metaphor so thick any immediacy is lost.

With so many young performing musicians in London and other European "classical" ensembles, we will probably see moves afoot to bring more "immediacy" and direct action on global issues into the concert hall.

In the United States, Alaska composer John Luther Adams may be the best example of a first-rank composer who, although quite good at cloaking his messages in metaphor, is embarked on a major project to put an issue that is very contentious in U.S. politics - global warming - front and center:
[Adams is composing] a new piece, “Become Ocean,” [which] will debut with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in 2013. The work is described as “a one-hour long global warming piece about the melting ice caps and rising oceans.”
Ironically, major funding for this new work appears to be coming from the Heinz Foundation, an organization not quite ready to reject the paradigms stifling the world of the performing arts.

Popular music has always provided far more examples of artists raging against one machine or another than has "classical" music.  It is hard to find a social, political, human rights or environmental topic upon which serious orchestral composers have latched that has enough examples to become a category.  There is one exception, though  - The Holocaust.  Back in the late 60s, one of my mentors, a Jewish composition professor, told me the two things that I should consider, to help get a career established:  Marry a very rich young woman (he had), and write a composition about The Holocaust (he hadn't.  Yet).  "The grants and job offers will leap at you, Phil," he assured me.

I did neither.  Perhaps I'll write a work about The Holocaust someday, but so many profound masterpieces already exist.  Whether I'm writing about the mechanized response to battlefield death of our American military, Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, The Exxon Valdez oil spill, September 11th or Rachel Corrie, the same muse guides me as guided Arnold Schoenberg in A Survivor from Warsaw,  Henryk Górecki in his 3rd Symphony, or Dmitri Shostakovich in the opening movement of his 13th Symphony or his 2nd Piano Trio.

Perhaps soon it will be as easy for classical musicians or composers, such as the dynamic young Australian-American composer, Melissa Dunphy, to get her Gonzales Cantata performed as it is to have Steve Reich's Different Trains produced.

Those who see the lives of performers, composers and other artists as having to be disassociated from current political and societal struggles, as being manageable to the extent of making all art that isn't created within strict norms "out-of-bounds," or subject to severe sanctions like year-long or lifetime suspensions (sometimes known as "blacklisting"), will hopefully see a series of musical, photographic, sculptural, dramatic and poetic Tahrir Squares staring them in their faces as this decade broadens.