Posted tagged ‘Palin’

2 Black 2 B Prez: Palin Hears, Retransmits Dog Whistle

May 19, 2011

Sometimes, the quote simply speaks for itself:

“Well, talk about racism, that was a racist tinged question from David Gregory,” she said. “He made it sound like if you’re black, you are on food stamps and the President is referring to you as being on food stamps. I think that’s racist.” [Sarah Palin speaking to Sean Hannity, via TPM]

Victim politics demands that the real suffering of others must be made invisible.  In its place comes the claim of precisely the injury actually done to those others, but now alleged to be suffered by the speaker.

Everyone reading here knows this dance, of course. But still, it’s important to keep calling this out.

To do so:  let me just say as clearly as possible what, again, we all know:  that when Palin calls David Gregory racists because Mr. Gregory had the temerity to ask Gingrich a question about his use of racist signalling — why then you  have as perfect a measure as can be imagined of how much the modern Republican Party sees refighting the Civil War** (on the wrong side) as its only remaining path to power.

Bluntly:  Palin and Gingrich and a Republican Party that tolerates them trade on race fear and race hatred for political gain.  Evil is not, I think, too strong a word to describe either the sincere or cynical wielding of this particular cudgel.

It could work.  It has in the past.  And hence the obligation:  every time a Palin or a Gingrich — or any of them — plays to that voter on the margin they think they can capture with a coded appeal to racism, it’s time to name and shame.  It isn’t much, I know, but the goal is to raise the psychic cost of actually pulling the lever for and against the color of the candidates’ skin that much higher.

To put it another way:  anyone who thinks that the next election is going to be even the least bit easy isn’t paying attention.

*A false dichotomy, I know.

**Really, restaging the post-reconstruction assertion of white supremacy following Hayes-Tilden fiasco, but that’s not nearly iconic enough to put over my meaning.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, The Slave Ship, 1840. (And yes, I know I’ve posted this one before, but I love it and it works here.  Plus, I get to look at it whenever I head over to the MFA.)

cross posted at Balloon Juice.

Sunday Conundrum…What the Hell Does This Mean?

April 10, 2011

This being the following statement from unsuccessful national candidate and half-term former governor Sarah Palin:

“It’s not America’s role not to be out and about nation building and telling other countries how to live…”

This isn’t snark .(Or rather it is, but I am also experiencing genuine bewilderment.)

Treat this as an a self-amuse thread; one of the few genuine pleasures of the last couple of months has been watching Palin do the headless chicken, as she continues to strut, unaware that she’s well down Glenn Beck’s path, amirite?

So just give your babblefish a workout in an attempt to translate Palinese into coherence.

Image:  Francisco de Goya, Still Life with Chicken and a Pan of Fish, 1808-1812.

Weimar Politics in AZ

January 9, 2011

Cross posted at Balloon Juice

What do we know about assassination as a political tool?

It works.  Not always, but enough.

It can be effective even if the assassin is truly a lone gunman, truly crazy, utterly denuded of membership cards or explicit links to more formal political groups.

It achieved the desired goal for the Confederate Party when Booth shot Lincoln.  White supremacists were able to play the politics of the next decade or so to resume, through the ballot box and violent terror, a political dominance that would only begin to wane almost a century later, and is not all gone yet.

It was devastating in Israel, where the settler-Likud alliance managed to transform the course of Arab/Palestinian – Israeli-Jewish peace negotiations after the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.


And so on.  It works — when it does — because even though in the immediate aftermath of a political murder all parties may decry violence, the combination of the loss of leadership and the chilling effect of murderous force itself take their toll on the targeted side.


So, while I agree with those who say that this particular assassin may not himself be a poster child for the presumptive murderousness of the American right, I think, as John put it and Kay echoed:

The point we have been trying to make for the last couple of years is that Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are crazy people out there. Stop egging them on.

Except I’d take this a step further, and say  — whatever the particular path this killer took to these murders — we need to follow that logic a little further, to look at what that rhetoric of hate is supposed to achieve. Sarah Palin et al., aren’t trying to debate. They are trying to gain power.  In that context, those on the right who chose to employ violent rhetoric do so to help gain ends that haven’t been won (or are too much trouble to acquire) by treading democratic paths.



This isn’t new, of course.  Let me offer one example of this kind of tactic taken to an extreme.  I spent most of a decade working on a book (Einstein in Berlin) — and in it, I spent some time engaging the tragic history of the Weimar Republic.  I’m not going to apologize for Godwinizing here, because, as you’ll see, Hitler and the Nazis don’t make an appearance in the episode below.

Rather, in the early years of Weimar, you find murder turned almost into  a precision tool of politics, long before the Nazi party appeared on the scene. Between 1919 and 1922, the violent right reasserted its presence in Weimar governance while destroying the core of skill and leadership available to the left through a sustained and devastating campaign.  As I wrote some years ago:

Emil Gumbel’s dismal report, “Four Years of Political Murder” demonstrated the depth of the danger faced by the Republic, and by the left.  “The right is inclined to hope that it could annihilate the left opposition…by defeating its leaders.  And the right has done it” Gumbel wrote.  “All of the leaders of the left who openly opposed the war and whom the workers trusted…are dead.”  … Gumbel concluded, “the effectiveness of this technique is for the moment indisputable.”

The climactic and most famous assassination of the more than 340 political murders committed in this early period of Weimar came in 1922, when Einstein’s friend, Walther Rathenau, then Germany’s foreign minister, was killed.  Here’s what happened:

At about 10:40 a.m. on June 24, 1922, Walther Rathenau left his house in the countryfied suburbs of Berlin.  He settled into the back seat of his jaunty open car.  His chauffeur got behind the wheel.  There was no need for conversation between the two.  Rathenau, appointed Germany’s Foreign Minister less than three months before, drove to work each day along the same route at much the same time.  The driver put the car in gear and set out as usual up the Königsallee.  Germans are often parodied as creatures of order, and there was never a man who more aspired to be the perfect German than Rathenau.   By mid-1922 in Berlin, however, such precision had become not so much a routine as an invitation.

Rathenau’s driver drove on sedately, hugging the middle of the road.  About three blocks from the house he slowed to cross a set of streetcar tracks.  As he did so, a six-seater open touring car drew level with Rathenau’s automobile.  There were a driver and a young man in the front, and two more young men in the back, all wearing leather coats and driving caps.  A witness said that Rathenau looked over, as if worried the cars might crash.  At that moment, Erwin Kern, twenty-five years old, a former navy officer, leaned from the window of the overtaking car.  He rested the butt of his automatic pistol on his other arm and aimed at Rathenau.  The range was no more than a few feet.   Rathenau was looking at his killer as the man fired.  Kern shot  rapidly, five times — the witness said it sounded like a machine gun – and Rathenau slumped over.  As he fell, one of Kern’s accomplices stood up and pitched a hand grenade into Rathenau’s car.

Rathenau’s driver pulled over, then sped on to the nearest police station.  As he drove, the grenade went off, jolting the car forward.  The driver kept the car moving, though, and a young woman walking by, a nurse named Helene Kaiser, leapt into the passenger compartment.  “Rathenau who was bleeding hard, was still alive,” she said.  “He looked up at me, but seemed to be already unconscious.” The chauffeur turned the car round and raced back to Rathenau’s house.  His bleeding body was carried back inside, and set down in the study.  By the time the doctor arrived, Walther Rathenau was dead.

Who were the murderers?  No one, really.   They were just pissed off, underemployed, violent young men,* ex-military, (a couple of them), meeting and talking in the context of a sustained and successful campaign to paint everything about the Weimar democracy as a betrayal of the “true” Germany.

Kern and his band of four other disaffected students and veterans found each other, and began to plan to assassinate some Jew prominent enough to matter.  They settled quickly on Rathenau — he was the most obvious target, as made clear by the doggerel rhyme that had become popular among nationalist and anti-Semitic circles:  “Knalt ab den Walther Rathenau/die gottverdammte Judensau.” (“Shoot down Walther Rathenau/the goddamned Jewish sow.”)  The conspirators began to study their intended victim, learning his habits and his routes.

… A test run on June 20 convinced Kern that a revolver would not do; he would need an automatic to be sure of hitting his target.  He picked one up that evening, no great feat in the gun-ridden Berlin of 1922.  On the morning of June 24, car trouble almost sidelined the murderers, inviting unhappy comparison with the Serb gang that had by blind luck managed to kill the Archduke Ferdinand in that distant Sarajevo of June, 1914.  But the car revived just in time.  They pulled out of an alley behind the minster’s car.  Within minutes, Walther Rathenau lay bleeding to death.

Rathenau’s death marked more or less the end of the murder campaign.  But that was not because the outpouring of sorrow and anger at his killing finally compelled the German right to cease their viciousness. Rather, it was because the battle was won.  The left had been substantially weakened, and the stage was set for a resurgent center right — and ultimately, the far right as well.

History does not repeat itself.  The United States in 2011, after more than two centuries practice at constitutional democracy (and all our experience of its ups and downs), is not Weimar Germany, emerging from catastrophic defeat and attempting to master the arts of governance in the midst of international sanctions and constant internal strife.  Sarah Palin is no Erich Ludendorff, that’s for sure — for all her seeming willingness to ascend to power on her reputed skills with firearms.

But even if repetition is a myth, our past still echoes across time — and listening carefully, we may find clues to the meaning of what is happening right now.

Rathenau was murdered by sane conspirators motivated by those who created a climate of hate in which a disgraced militaristic right could return to the political arena.  Rep. Giffords was shot and others murdered by someone who may well be crazy — but that man acted within a context in which her colleagues and allies deemed it OK for an allegedly sane “leader” who lost the last election to post crosshairs over the names of her political opponents.  So here’s the lesson I draw from all of this:

The least we can do Gabrielle Giffords, Judge John Roll, Christina Green and all the other victims of this murderous attack is honor them through acts of memory, so that whenever next someone advances or excuses the rhetoric of violence we say “no, not this time, not mindful of those we’ve already lost to this kind of evil.”  Naming and Shaming is not just good clean fun at this point; it’s a duty.  We have to do whatever we can to make it political kryptonite to play in that (quick)sandbox.**

As a late addition to that thought — if John Kyl, Senator and Congressional colleague to the terribly injured Gabrielle Giffords, thinks it “inappropriate” for the Pima County Sheriff to condemn the vitriolic rhetoric of talk radio and its consequences in Arizona, then he is, as Mistermix suggests below this, exactly wrong.  I’d go further.  In trying to muzzle the sheriff, Kyl is not just an assh*le. He’s part of the problem, an enabler of those who incite violence for political ends, and he should be contemned as such from every corner.

*An odd and sad footnote to that murder, the driver of the death car ultimately repented and recanted, joined the French Foreign Legion on his release, and was instrumental in saving Jews in Marseilles from the Holocaust.

**Not to self-link, and to make sure I relegate to a footnote my contempt for a mostly negligible person in our civic conversation, let me here echo DougJarvus’s snark about McArdle et al.’s defense of open carry protests at presidential events.   Here’s my post on that subject, with a full frontal assault on McArdle’s capacity for reasoning, moral or otherwise.  It was fun to write at the time.  Rereading it now just makes me sad.

Images:  Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Death of Caesar, 1867.

Francisco de Goya, The Third of May, 1814.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Actor, before 1861.

Why Friends Don’t Let Friends Read HuffPost “Science”

December 11, 2009


I confess that I have an instant gag reflex to the work of any author who permits this kind of bio line attach to his/her name:

Robert Lanza, MD is considered one of the leading scientists in the world.”

But that’s only a symptom of the real problem here.  As are such telling but on one level superficial errors like mistaking the physical unit for energy.*  (It’s joules, not watts, as Lanza repeatedly mistakes.  Watts are units of power:  one watt equals one joule/second.)

There is a critique (demolishment) of Lanza’s “argument” for the nonexistence of death (sic!) that’s pretty easy to construct, of course.  The mush of badly garbled physics and windy speculation on the true nature of time and so on makes both a familiar and plenty broad target.  See this post and thread from PZ Myers.

Rather than recapitulate that hive-tome, (and not to anticipate any physicist with time on her/his hands who can more powerfully than I eviscerate the quantum-and-mulitverse nonsense purveyed by the handwaving Dr. Lanza) I just want to pick up on the implications of the kinds of rhetoric described above.

That is:  this is typical of one of the ways in which scientific illiteracy infects culture — not in the outright denial of obvious truths, but in the appropriation of the language of science to mask idiocy.

You see this often in blunt ways.  In Sarah Palin’s now infamous WaPo op ed. on climate change and the notorious emails, she “writes”*

What’s more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd. Some scientists had strong doubts about the accuracy of estimates of temperatures from centuries ago, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate….

…before concluding that

“Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference.”

Palin’s willed misrepresentation of the emails themselves have been well documented…see this for the latest general response to the really damaging deliberate mischaracterization of what those emails do and don’t tell you about climate change, and see this and this for specific rejoinder to Palin’s op-ed.

But the key here is “her”* choice of language.  “Consensus.”  “Accuracy of estimates.” “Trustworthy science.”  “She”* is asserting a claim of reason here, of the use of the very tools that really trustworthy scientists would employ.

It’s obvious why “she”* does so.  Anthropogenic climate change is the object of specifically scientific inquiry, and unless the claims of scientific knowledge from within that inquiry can be denied in their own frame of reference, those who wish to keep their own oxen ungored would be forced back onto the six year old’s argument:  “don’t wanna.”

It’s clever too.  As the tobacco hacks once noted, the product here is doubt — specifically doubt about what is and isn’t known, to what level of confidence.  Given the provisional nature of most scientific claims, that’s a pretty easy product to manufacture, as the tobacco companies did for decades, and as climate denialists and creationists have managed to do for the last many years.

But at least there is the possibility of correction here.  When the enemies of science argue in the language of science, they are on our turf, and, with effort, it is at least possible to demolish their claims.  In cases where time is of the essence, as in climate issues, that may be cold (hot) comfort — and certainly those of us, like my family, who have lost beloveds to RJ Reynolds (Pall Mall Reds, specifically), the decades of delay won by false claims of  uncertainty are unforgivable.  But still, we’re in with a chance when we fight on home ground.

Stuff like Lanza’s, though is more insidious, if less directly dangerous.  Here is someone asserting not the limits or errors of science, but its expansiveness.  He uses words that sound technical-ish — that “20 watt fountain of energy that is operating in the brain.”  (No, I did not make that up.)

He references grand sounding ideas:  “One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely.”

He talks about specific experiments:  “Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter.” (That this is a drastic mistatement of what’s going on in what I infer is the experiment under discussion (there is no reference) can be glimpsed in this account).

And so on.  The point isn’t that Lanza gets lots of stuff wrong — though that’s material as to why this piece is a crock — but that he weaves his woo in language designed to persuade a reasonably trusting reader that this “leading scientist” really knows stuff, that this pseudoscientific mush is actually embedded in a real and significant research program.

And the damage done there is, I think, obvious.  There is a lot of long term damage to the public’s ability to make sense of our expanding understanding of the material world that doesn’t came from people saying specific things that ain’t so — a la the divine Ms. Palin* — but from the confusion about what science is at all that comes from stuff like this.

Lanza is a man in pain. His speculation on the nonexistence of death occurs in the context of the loss of his sister not long after her marriage.  That’s a horrible tragedy to endure, and I condemn no one for seeking solace in that context.

But the truly human trope of seeking meaning in seemingly random disaster is not in itself a reliable source of general claims about the universe.  And when Lanza turs his private grief into a public and  general claims, he does so in ways that both damage his own authority as a scientist (leading or not) and — more important — he directly and significantly damages his readers’ ability to understand what science does and does not do.

The other culprit here, more culpable in my view, is Lanza’s mouthpiece, his venue.  The Huffington Post wants to be a web-center of cultural discourse.  In its ambition it seems to have decided that science can be covered like its media/gossip page.  Fun stuff is more important than real stuff.  I give Lanza, if not a pass, at least sympathy in his pursuit of some formulation that will make his loss (and perhaps his own fear of mortality) more tolerable.

The HuffPo crew?  Not so much

*I confess to some doubt as to whether the temporary governor actually writes that which is published under her name.


William Hope, “A photograph of a group gathered at a seance. ” 1920.

Benjamin West, “Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky,” ca. 1816

Paul Krugman is wrong…Spinal Tap edition.

July 5, 2009

Sort of.

Under the headline, “Whom the gods would destroy….” he writes

… they first make Republican governors.

I mean, I suppose a classical education might incline you that way.  But watching the recent dances, be they tango,* or the funky chicken,**  I must say that the latest news has brought to mind nothing so much as a rather more profane instance of serial destruction.  That would be of course, the terrible fate that attended these people:

I mean, does Mark Sanford remind you more of Oedipus or of some bozo in a shower cap, gamely certain that he of all drummers can defeat the odds?

And Sarah Palin.  Is she Arachne, or some bozo taking a dive off a snare kit?

You make the call…but from where I sit, Paul Krugman does our friends waaaaaay too much honor.

*For the Hollywood version, happy ending variant, of the  Sanford moment, try this:

**And to capture the essence of  La Belle Sarah,  how about this:

Last Thoughts Before Canvassing (2): Unargued Assertion About Science and the Election

November 3, 2008

One last thought about the stakes for science (and society) in this election.  I am going to be spending essentially all my waking hours between now and 8 p.m. tomorrow electioneering, so I’m not going to come up with a long supporting argument for this statement, but beyond all the specifics of policy claims and budget promises, there is a fundamental difference between a McCain/Palin led GOP and the Obama/Biden approach that I and a fusion physicist buddy of mine were just talking about this morning.

For McCain or at least the GOP base, science is instrumental, and divisible.  It is conceivable within the science-world view of much, though not all of the GOP electorate to say that molecular medicine is fine, but evolution is not — so we’ll have the one and not the other, thank you very much.

I have been planning for a long time to write a much more considered essay about why this is false — drawing in part on wonderful parallels from Chinese history that I can draw out of filial respect for my Chinese historian father.

But for now, I’ll simply state the obvious:  evolutionary ideas are not merely the context of modern biology, they are essential to process of reasoning that runs through that field.  The same is true across discipline after discipline; the geology that locates oil is the geology that creates the climatological and evolutionary history of the planet through deep time, and vice versa…and so on.

All of which to say is that a political movement that owes any debt of power to those who want the technology, the goodies, without the intellectual machinery needed to advance the inquiry wants something for nothing.

Science is the cultural value that we all think it is, I believe; it is part of the reward of being human that we get to ask and answer great questions.  But it is also, and historically speaking, first, the means by which we advance human wealth and well being.  One side in this election lacks the commitment to fundamental science that the other retains.

That’s an assertion more than an evidence-defended argument in this post, I know.  I’m assuming a certain amount of shared knowledge of, for example, the Palin wing of the GOP and its blithe disdain for the way science actually works.  John McCain may not agree — but he has harnessed his hopes to the energy and ambition of that wing of the GOP.  So forgive me here if I just assert my conclusions here.  I’ll write a more reasoned argument in their defense the next time this kind of thing flares up.  Whoever wins, America being America, I’m sure there won’t be long to wait.

In the meantime, please forgive the pure, “this is what I thought on my summer vacation” nature of this post, and vote. Vote early, and in case you had any residual doubt about this blog’s stance:  Vote for Obama/Biden.

The Science Vote: An Entirely Unsurprising Endorsement by Your Faithful Blogger

October 29, 2008

The past week or so have seen a number of significant endorsements for Barack Obama coming from moderate Republicans (endangered, yes — perhaps less than a hundred breeding pairs in the wild), and in a few cases, genuinely much further right than those, (see Adelman, Kenneth, self described as not a neo-con, but a con-con.)

Adelman’s endorsement and that of the big dog on the block, Colin Powell, both emphasized the larger question of the qualities of the two men running for President over policy specifics. Adelman even allowed that he disagreed with Obama more than McCain on a point by point basis, but that he nonetheless will vote for Obama “primarily for two reasons, those of temperament and of judgment” — as evidenced by McCain’s erratic lurching during the onset of the financial meltdown and his choice of Sarah Palin respectively.

Those are reasons a national security voter would seize upon, and I agree that they are, or ought to be, sufficient to secure Obama an unprecedented unanimous vote next Tuesday.

But it occurs to me that in my discussions of McCain’s disqualifications for the office he seeks from the point of view of what would be best for American science, I’ve tended to focus on process, on political nuts and bolts, to the partial exclusion of the kind of overarching “quality of his mind” arguments that the Powell and Adelman endorsements emphasized.  See especially this post for what I mean, this, and this besides if you are a glutton for punishment.

So it’s a fact that in all likelihood McCain will gut science spending, and pick winners and loser for reasons outside the judgment of professionals as to the promising areas of pursuit (think of it as executive department earmarks) is amply supported by the evidence.

But the deeper danger for US science research and education that a McCain and Palin adminstration lies with their catastrophic failure to understand what is required to do science in the first place.  They lack the understanding, the breadth of knowledge and experience, the judgment to be stewards of the single national endeavour that matters most to our longterm security and  prosperity.

Why do I say so?  Because that conclusion seems to me by far the most reasonable interpretation of the statements made by Sen. McCain and Governor Palin, both recently and over much longer time frames.

These statements are by now familiar to most folks likely to be reading this blog, so I won’t go into my usual logorrhea here.  But the highlights bear remembering.

John McCain repeatedly, and Sarah Palin very recently confirmed that they do not understand the connection between specific inquiries and broader research programs.  McCain has made a habit of decrying research into bear DNA.  Palin, more catastrophically, recently made insufficiently ridiculed remarks about “fruit fly research in Paris France,” adding “I kid you not.”*

Kidding she wasn’t; celebratory in her ignorance she was.  Not to belabor the point, but if you like the prospects of modern gene-centered research in particular and molecular biology in general, you have to do a ton of research just like the two maligned projects.

Elect Palin and McCain if you want put perhaps the single most fruitful research area in all of current science into the category of things you laugh at because they sound wierd.  This is a case where the two candidates demonstrate that they lack  ability to understand and interpret the connections between particulars and the bigger picture.  I can’t think of a worse attribute in potential Presidents.

Then there is the ability to hold contradictory ideas in one’s head without noticing.  There are too many examples of this to list.  Some of them, I think, merely expedient willed ignorance — think of McCain’s hopelessly impossible budget proposals, with its freeze that isn’t a freeze, a promised end to the AMT, renewed tax cuts for the wealthiest, increases in military spending, stimulus and financial bailout to add to the half-trillion dollar current deficit and a promise to balance the budget in four or eight, or four, or eight years or wherever Douglas Holz-Eakin has left his abacus rightnow.

But others are either truly cynical — lies told to gain political power, again, not a qualification for the office such behavior is intended to secure — or signs of real intellectual blindness.

A simple and obvious case is McCain’s attempt to suggest that he is at once serious about controlling climate disruption and increasing fossil fuel use — see e.g. the gas tax holiday, still promised on his website, and drill, baby drill.  The two categories are incompatible.  You can’t control human impacts on climate unless you create incentives to cut carbon use — that is to say, make the price of fossil fuels go up.  McCain has said he supports a cap-and-trade mechanism to do just that (though one of the posts linked above describes just how hollow a promise that is), but such a mechanism is meaningless in the face of determination to expand the availability and drop the price of fossil fuels.  You can’t do one and have the other.

And promoting such policies, as McCain did just today in Florida, means, just to repeat it, that he is either lying when he promises one outcome or the other, or he simply cannot process the fact that the two policy goals are incompatible.  You choose which explanation you like.  It doesn’t matter.  No such person can be trusted to make sensible decisions about the future of science (or much else for that matter) for the United States.

Again: the point I am trying to make is not that McCain and Palin have articulated bad policies for American science, though they have, but that the way they think, their poor judgment about technical and scientific matters, their lack of capacity to grasp how the actual daily work of science proceeds matter more.  Their willingness to ridicule specific bits of research they don’t understand exacerbates the problem by diminishing the value our culture as whole places on inquiry and discovery.

The bottom line:  a President McCain or, should the plausible succession occur, a President Palin, do not possess the qualities required to nurture the future of American science. Their ascendancy would rob the enterprise of both the hard cash and the oxygen of cultural approbation it needs to survive.

On the other hand, if you care about the ability of the United States to retain its narrowing pre-eminence in scientific and technical research, you would do far, far better to vote for Senator Barack Obama and his Vice Presidential partner, Senator Joseph Biden.

*I don’t mean to say that Governor Palin wasn’t ridiculed for her fruit fly idiocy.  It’s just that she wasn’t derided enough.

Image:  Joseph Wright, “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump,” 1768.  Source:  The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202.