Palin’s Pals: Talking about those Alaska fringe alliances on CNN

Well, now we know what it takes to get a response to legitimate questions about their candidate out of the McCain/Palin campaign: Appear on CNN.I did so today, on Rick Sanchez’s CNN Newsroom program, where were discussed the Salon piece Max Blumenthal and I co-wrote and its ramifications. Sanchez was particularly focused on Palin’s connections to the Alaskan Independence Party, so that was the bulk of our discussion. (I’ll update with the transcript when it’s available.)

Now, when we were preparing the Salon piece for publication, I contacted the McCain/Palin campaign first by phone to ask for their reactions to our report’s findings. They asked me to send an e-mail, which I did. But I never heard a word back from them.

So today, after CNN picked up the story, they were in fact able to elicit the following response:

CNN is furthering a smear with this report, no different than if your network ran a piece questioning Senator Obama’s religion. No serious news organization has tried to make this connection, and it is unfortunate that CNN would be the first.

We are trying to arrange to have one of the Governor’s people come on air to respond in the event you do run this piece.

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Dispatch From Wasilla, Video Edition: The Mug Shot

I tried getting some interviews while I was in Wasilla this week on my new Flip phone, but unfortunately my batteries kept dying on me in mid-interview (I’ve since figured out what I was doing wrong). These are videos I took at the Mug Shot Saloon on the main highway through town, where there’s a big banner outside hailing Sarah Palin.

Nearly everyone inside was wearing Palin buttons and T-shirts. There was also a big cardboard cutout of Palin.

On Tuesday night, a crew from The Daily Show (though not Jon Stewart himself; I was mistaken about that) showed up and filmed interviews with Mug Shot patrons. As you can see, I talked to a couple they didn’t interview.

The most striking interview was with the woman who made the Sarah Palin doll. Unfortunately, the camera’s battery died just as she began to tell me why she made the doll.

What she said was this: That she had provided day care for Palin’s children, in particular the second-youngest, Piper — who had signed the doll along with Palin herself (she showed me the signatures on the doll’s tummy).

She said that Piper always wanted to know: "Where’s my mommy?" So she made a doll that looked like mommy to make her happy.

I swear to God I am not making this up. (more…)

Terrorism: Yep, It’s Still The Fault Of The Clenis

Tonight on Larry King’s CNN show, wingnut talk-show host Lars Larson resuscitated the long-simmering right-wing theory that the Clenis caused 9/11:

LARSON: The fact is the president we’ve got has kept us safe for years. Bill Clinton, I don’t believe, did that. And I don’t believe that John Kerry or Al Gore would have done a better job than George Bush at the number one job of president…

DREHER: Didn’t…

LARSON: …keeping the country safe.

KING: Just to be fair, Lars…

LARSON: Yes, sir?

KING: …how many people — how many soldiers died in the Clinton administration and how many in the Bush?

LARSON: I think that the Clinton administration set America up for 9/11…

KING: Oh. So it was Clinton’s fault.

LARSON: …by not responding to the terrorist threat.

KING: OK. I didn’t know it was Clinton’s fault.

LARSON: Oh, I’m just saying…

KING: Thank you, Lars.I didn’t know.

LARSON: I’m just suggesting…

KING: I had no idea.

LARSON: …that those years set us up by not responding. Al Qaeda responds to not responding. When you go out and you tell…

KING: I got you.

LARSON: …them we’re going to hunt you down and kill you, al Qaeda understands that.

Hmmmmm. Interesting theory. Too bad it is nearly the precise reverse of factual reality. (more…)

Dispatch From Wasilla: The Clouds Descend

mug-shot-saloon.thumbnail.jpgI guess it’s not a surprise that folks in Wasilla are big, big fans of Sarah Palin, especially now that she’s brought them genuine fame and put their town on the map. That’s true of Alaskans generally, among whom she has enjoyed an 80 percent approval rating.

But even here in her hometown, the doubts are starting to seep in. And those doubts are becoming significant everywhere else in Alaska.

The biggest source of doubt is the Troopergate investigation. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Palin in fact abused her office in firing the state’s law-enforcement director, and only true Palinbots are in denial about it any longer. A number of them think that if Palin had just fessed up, everything would have been forgiven, but the continuing denials are digging her hole deeper.

But what has Alaskans of all stripes truly pissed off is the way Team McCain has parachuted into the state and not just taken over the governor’s office, but is doing its damnedest to obstruct the Troopergate investigation by any means possible.

What I’m hearing from Alaskans: If Palin doesn’t win in November, she will be impeached as governor. (more…)

Dispatch From Wasilla: The Clouds Descend

I guess it’s not a surprise that folks in Wasilla are big, big fans of Sarah Palin, especially now that she’s brought them genuine fame and put their town on the map. That’s true of Alaskans generally, among whom she has enjoyed an 80 percent approval rating.

But even here in her hometown, the doubts are starting to seep in. And those doubts are becoming significant everywhere else in Alaska.

The biggest source of doubt is the Troopergate investigation. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Palin in fact abused her office in firing the state’s law-enforcement director, and only true Palinbots are in denial about it any longer. A number of them think that if Palin had just fessed up, everything would have been forgiven, but the continuing denials are digging her hole deeper.

But what has Alaskans of all stripes truly pissed off is the way Team McCain has parachuted into the state and not just taken over the governor’s office, but is doing its damnedest to obstruct the Troopergate investigation by any means possible.

What I’m hearing from Alaskans: If Palin doesn’t win in November, she will be impeached as governor.
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Pastor Muthee: A Real Witchhunter, All Right

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League seems to think that Pastor Thomas Muthee, the self-proclaimed witchhunter who prayed over Sarah Palin in that video — and who Palin credits with her electoral success — is simply an exotic African kind of Christian evangelist doing God’s work in his own peculiarly cultural way:

“Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa, resulting in scores of deaths in Kenya over the past two decades. Bishop Muthee’s blessing, then, was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil. While others are not obliged to accept his interpretation, all can be expected to respect it. More than that—Muthee should be hailed for asking God to shield Palin from harmful forces, however they may be manifested. And for this he is mocked and Palin ridiculed?

“We know that many cultural elites have a hard time embracing religion, but is it too much to ask that they at least show some manners when discussing subjects which most Americans hold dear?”

That would be all well and good if the "witchcraft" that Pastor Muthee became famous for pursuing were truly some kind of Dark Art from the Dark Continent, bent on the persecution of Christians (though it would be good of him to present some actual examples of said "witches" too).

But Muthee’s pursuit of "witchcraft" had a more familial resemblance to Salem. (more…)

Casting Out ‘The Spirit Of Witchcraft’ Over Sarah Palin

Max Blumenthal has been busy in Alaska:

By the end of the second day of Muthee’s sermons, the church had been tipped off about me, the liberal media member in its midst. An associate pastor told me he had received an email from an anonymous source warning him about me. When I tried to interview members of the congregation in the church parking lot, my questions were either met with silence or open hostility. I strongly suspect the McCain campaign has mobilized the Wasilla Assembly of God against perceived threats from the media.

But they hardly needed encouragement. On the first night of services, Muthee implored his audience to wage “spiritual warfare” against “the enemy.” As I filmed, a nervous church staffer approached from behind and told me to put my camera away. I acceded to his demand, but as Muthee urged the church to crush “the python spirit” of the unbeliever enemies by stomping on their necks, I pulled out a smaller camera and filmed from a more discreet position. Now, church members were in deep prayer, speaking in tongues and raising their hands. Muthee exclaimed, “We come against the spirit of witchcraft! We come against the python spirits!” Then, a local pastor took the mic from Muthee and added, “We stomp on the heads of the enemy!”

The video of Pastor Muthee has to be seen to be believed. Especially as he prays over Palin.

The Quiet Racial Campaign Against Obama

obama_button0001.thumbnail.jpgThere’s an ugly below-the-radar campaign involving naked racial appeals being waged against Barack Obama in various locales around the country. In at least one case — in Roxbury, N.J. — white supremacists have been involved:

A flier left on driveways in a neatly packaged plastic envelope and distributed by a group named the League of American Patriots, with a Butler mailing address, questioned, "Do You Want A Black President?" and stated "Black Ruled Nations most unstable and violent in the world."

… Roxbury resident Elizabeth Corsetto said she and her husband came home from doing errands Saturday and found the flier at the end of their driveway. She picked it up, expecting a mailer from a retailer but instead found a one-page, black and white sheet featuring unflattering photos of Obama, including a doctored one portraying him with a long beard and turban.

"Why should we seal our fate by allowing a black ruler to destroy us?" asked the flier, which also detailed what it contended to be a series of facts on black unemployment, poverty, HIV and crime rates, while pointing out the woes of a couple of predominantly black-populated countries.

Another racist publication, from the neo-Nazis who brought you the 2006 Toledo riots, even went so far as to publish a coy magazine toying with the suggestion that Obama be assassinated.

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Palin’s Political Payback To Her Black-Helicopter Buddies

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This morning I interviewed John Stein, the former Wasilla mayor who was defeated by Palin in 1996 by using "a quiet campaign by some Palin supporters raising emotional issues like abortion and gun control, which had no apparent tie to municipal politics" — and as Phil Munger notes, a whisper campaign that Stein was secretly Jewish (Stein is a Lutheran).

According to Stein, Palin’s main base of support in that election (and subsequent Wasilla campaigns) was derived from her fellow congregants at Wasilla Bible Church and the larger evangelical Christian community. But it also included some of the Mat-Su Valley’s biggest far-right nutcases — to the extent that she even attempted to reciprocate by appointing one of them to the city’s planning commission.

The connection revolves mostly around three men known to have far-right leanings in the community: a builder named Steven Stoll, a computer repairman named Mark Chryson, and a third man named Mike Christ. All three subscribed to a bellicose, "Patriot" movement brand of politics — far-right libertarianism with a John Birch streak.

According to Stein, Steven Stoll — whose local nickname, according to Phil Munger, is "Black Helicopter Steve" — was involved in militia organizing in Wasilla the 1990s, and subscribed to most of the movement’s paranoid conspiracy theories: "The rumor was that he had wrapped his guns in plastic and buried them in his yard so he could get them after the New World Order took over."

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Sarah Palin’s Bircher Mag: What Was In It

con-con-call-1b.thumbnail.jpgAccording to Ben Smith, Team McCain has an explanation for that copy of the John Birch Society organ, The New American, that Sarah Palin was displaying in the 1995 photo of her that appeared in the New York Times:

"This photo from the early to mid 90s shows the Governor having her photo taken in front of a three ring binder of information from local citizens presented regularly to Wasilla council members by the town clerk," said Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb. "These binders featured material given by members of the public to all council members."

Really? Well, you can see the first page of the story at left. Here’s a PDF file of the entire piece [minus a page we’ll insert soon]. The text is also available here. And here’s a shot of the cover.

As you can see from reading it, it’s largely a long-winded exercise in needless paranoia: The author seemed to believe that a relatively benign gathering of governors to hash over states rights was part of a covert conspiracy to remake the Constitution.

Why exactly would this article be part of "material given to the council by members of the public"? It has nothing to do with Wasilla, or even city governance. Nor, for that matter, is the piece bound in with the rest of the material in the binder; Palin has set it out separately.

Smith notes that the then-editor of New American at the time reported (quite accurately) that the publication distributed copies of the piece widely with the intent of flooding state and local civic offices. And indeed, this piece looks not quite like the original (the piece on Palin’s desk has printed material below the second black bar), suggesting that what we’re looking at is one of those reprints.

So it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation that some citizen, at a bare minimum, dropped it by for distribution to the council and that just happened to be the page that Palin had opened to when time to pose for her photo.

However, that doesn’t explain everything.

Rather than being randomly selected, it appears that Palin has chosen this piece carefully — it appears to be, after all, an official City Hall portrait (at least, it’s not just a snapshot). The Birch flier has been pulled out and neatly arranged. Nor is it hole-punched for the three-ring binder; rather, it seems to have been placed on top of the briefing materials separately.

Why choose as an illustration of one’s work on the Wasilla City Council an article dealing with an international conspiracy to destroy the Constitution under the guise of a states’ convention? Phil Munger has some ideas.

So do we. We’ll report back on this when we know more. (more…)