Tag Archives: GOP vice presidential candidate

Sarah Palin’s College Years Left No Lasting Impression

Sarah Palin, then Sarah Heath, left, with classmate Stacia Crocker at a dorm party at the University of Idaho. She wasn’t out to get attention, one former classmate said. She kept to herself.

Sarah Palin, then Sarah Heath, left, with classmate Stacia Crocker at a dorm party at the University of Idaho. She wasn’t out to get attention, one former classmate said. She kept to herself.

Governor Sarah Palin was a disastrous vice presidential choice for the Republican party and now we learn that she was a forgettable, unremarkable college student.  In 14 days it will be time for the governor to pack her bags and return to governing Alaska through its many economic and social challenges which need her undivided attention.

In the five years of her collegiate career, spanning four universities in three states, Palin left behind few traces. Not many professors or students even remember her. Reported from Moscow, Idaho — What can we learn about our political stars from impressions they made in college?

Sen. John McCain is remembered as a passionate contrarian who won the hearts of his classmates at the Naval Academy. Sen. Barack Obama, who attended Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School, is remembered as a daunting scholar and calming influence. Sen. Joe Biden, who had a brush with plagiarism at Syracuse University College of Law, is remembered fondly by professors who found him charming.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however, is barely remembered at all.

In the five years of her collegiate career, spanning four universities in three states, Palin left behind few traces.

“Looking at this dynamic personality now, it mystifies me that I wouldn’t remember her,” said Jim Fisher, Palin’s journalism instructor at the University of Idaho, where she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in journalism in 1987.

Palin, he said, took his public affairs reporting class, an upper-division course limited to 15 students. “It’s the funniest damn thing,” Fisher said. “No one can recall her.”

“I don’t remember her,” said Roy Atwood, Palin’s academic advisor at the university.

Indeed, interviews with a dozen professors yielded not a single snippet of a memory.

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Bush Administration to Gov. Palin: Beluga Whale in Alaska is Endangered

Beluga whales are now listed as an endangered species.

Beluga whales are now listed as an endangered species.

Alaska’s Gov. Sarah Palin has questioned scientific evidence that the beluga whale population in the waters near Anchorage is declining. In fact last summer she urged the federal government not to list the whale as endangered, citing concerns of what a listing might do to the Cook Inlet economy.

But today the U.S. Government replied with a decisive counter, declaring the beluga whales in Alaska’s Cook Inlet an endangered species. The findings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration trigger a rigorous regimen to protect the whales, dwindled to an estimated 375 from their 1995 high of 653.

The decision by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service could trump a decision by the U.S. Interior Department to make oil leases available on Cook Inlet, where energy analysts see an estimated $1.38 billion worth of resources.

“In spite of protections already in place, Cook Inlet beluga whales are not recovering,” said James Balsiger, NOAA’s acting assistant administrator. The agency added that oil and gas exploration had hindered the whale’s existence.

As the Associated Press noted, this is the second run-in Palin has had with the Bush administration over the Endangered Species Act. Earlier, the governor, now Republican vice presidential candidate, had asked the courts to overturn an Interior Department decision declaring polar bears threatened.

Bush administration to Gov. Palin: Beluga whale in Alaska is endangered

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NOAA Lists Cook Inlet Beluga Whales as Endangered

October 17, 2008

NOAA today announced that the Cook Inlet beluga whale population near Anchorage is in danger of extinction, and has been listed as an endangered species.

“In spite of protections already in place, Cook Inlet beluga whales are not recovering,” said James Balsiger, NOAA acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

Listing the Cook Inlet beluga whales means any federal agency that funds, authorizes, or carries out new projects or activities that may affect the whales in the area must first consult with NOAA’s Fisheries Service to determine the potential effects on the whales. A federal action must not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species.

In 2000, NOAA declared the Cook Inlet beluga population depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In response to a petition submitted by the Trustees for Alaska on April 20, 2006, the agency proposed on April 20, 2007, that Cook Inlet beluga whales be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The act requires a final determination by Oct. 20, 2008. This announcement is the result of NOAA’s scientific review of the proposal to list Cook Inlet belugas.

The Cook Inlet beluga population declined nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 1998, based on annual scientific surveys. NOAA scientists estimated the Cook Inlet beluga population at 375 for both 2007 and 2008. Estimates have varied from a high of 653 belugas in 1994 to a low of 278 belugas in 2005.

Despite restrictions on Alaskan Native subsistence harvest of Cook Inlet belugas starting in 1999, the population is still not recovering. Between 1999 and 2006, Alaska Native hunters took a total of five Cook Inlet beluga whales for subsistence. No beluga whales were harvested in 2007 or 2008.

Cook Inlet belugas are one of five populations of belugas recognized within U.S. waters. The other beluga populations inhabit Bristol Bay, the eastern Bering Sea, the eastern Chukchi Sea, and the Beaufort Sea. Of the five stocks of beluga whales in Alaska, the Cook Inlet population is considered to be the most isolated, based on the degree of genetic differentiation and geographic distance between the Cook Inlet population and the four other beluga stocks.

The recovery of the Cook Inlet whales is potentially hindered by strandings; continued development within and along upper Cook Inlet and the cumulative effects on important beluga habitat; oil and gas exploration, development, and production; industrial activities that discharge or accidentally spill pollutants; disease; and predation by killer whales. The agency will identify habitat essential to the conservation of Cook Inlet belugas in a separate rulemaking within a year.

NOAA expects the final rule on this decision to be published in the Federal Register on Oct. 22. A pre-publication version of the rule is available now on NOAA’s Fisheries Service Alaska region Web site.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

More Hatred at a Palin Rally in Johnstown, PA … Are These Your Neighbors? (Video)

Judging Sarah Palin By The Cover

Sarah Palin Newsweek cover

Sarah Palin Newsweek cover

With its outrage over Palin’s unflattering Newsweek cover photo, Fox News proves that it creates its own reality.  Senior lecturer Sarah Churchwell, writing for the Guardian.co.uk, examines from an international perspective the uproar by the conservative Republicans to the unairbrushed closeup photograph of Gov. Palin.

Last week, Newsweek ran a cover story on Sarah Palin with a close-up of Palin on its cover under the headline “She’s one of the folks (and that’s the problem)”. Republican commentators were quick to protest, but their opposition took a novel turn: they objected not to the explicitly editorialising headline, but to what they argued was an implicitly editorialising photograph. Fox News’s Megyn Kelly complained that it was “ridiculously unfair to her – not the headline, but the photograph”.

The twist was that the photo had not been altered, which, Republican pundits like Andrea Tantaros claimed, was evidence of clear bias on the part of the magazine. “This cover is a clear slap in the face of Sarah Palin,” she told Kelly. “Why? Because it’s unretouched. It highlights every imperfection that every human being has. We’re talking unwanted facial hair, pores, wrinkles.” And why is a news magazine revealing normal human imperfection suddenly objectionable, rather than, you know, normal and human? Because, according to Tantaros, “unlike movie stars and liberal media types, regular ‘folks’ have other concerns besides tweezing, waxing, moisturising, exfoliating, detoxifying and pore tightening. We’re busy.”

You have to admire the sheer effrontery of the proposition that the liberal media has time for grooming but the conservative media does not. Tantaros’s exhaustive catalogue of cosmetic procedures would seem to belie her protestations – if her appearance hadn’t already. This is a woman who is no stranger to the made-up, in every sense of the word. I was reminded of nothing so much as Claude Rains in Casablanca being shocked – shocked! – to find a casino at Rick’s at the same moment that the waiter hands him his winnings. Except that the new twist on the old hypocrisy is that the regular folks who don’t have the time or luxury to spend on superficial appearances are complaining about being confronted with unvarnished reality. Nothing is so unfair as facts in a world of spin, distortion and brazen misrepresentation.

One of my grandmothers would have called this the chickens coming home to roost – except that she was something of a diehard Republican herself. My other grandmother, a liberal elite and damn proud of it, would have said they’ve been hoist with their own petard.

There’s a reason why children learn through rote: repeat something enough, and it will become a habit of thought, and eventually a mode of perception. If you become accustomed to shaping reality to suit your own agenda, then actual reality, when it reappears, will come as an unwelcome shock. And it will always reappear. Facts don’t go away just because they’re as unwanted as facial hair. Tantaros is half right, of course: regular folks don’t object to wrinkles, facial hair or pores, and are unlikely to start disparaging Palin because of the empirical evidence of a photograph. As the article inside the magazine noted, we have far bigger empirical problems with Palin – and her imperfections are far from skin deep.

We have become so accustomed to a world of slant and partiality that Megyn Kelly, looking for reasons to object to the Newsweek cover, explicitly didn’t object to the headline, or consider it unfair. But – unlike the photograph – the headline completely lacked impartiality, announcing its “problem” with Palin from the outset.

As someone who shares that problem, I wasn’t predisposed to protest. After reading the actual article – which apparently conservative media types can’t be bothered to do, as they’re too busy worrying about appearances – I am even more disposed to agree with the article’s perspective, and its arguments. But I am deeply concerned that we’ve become so used to living in a “No Fact Zone“, to borrow Stephen Colbert’s phrase, that Kelly, Tantaros, et al could see nothing remarkable in a news magazine’s cover story announcing an interpretive judgment from the outset.

We’ve been spun for so long that we can no longer see straight – an undiluted truth, like an untouched photograph, is suspect, dishonest in its honesty, imbalanced by virtue of being insufficiently, or openly, imbalanced. We recognise distortion only in its absence. Objectivity has become objectionable, and if it’s unflattering, it must be unfair.

As an accidental expatriate living in Britain for the last decade, I have often been asked why the UK doesn’t have a version of shows like The Colbert Report, as if its absence reflects a failure of nerve on Britain’s part. But the answer seems to me obvious: it is because the BBC and the other major British news outlets still exercise the principle of journalistic impartiality, and still believe in that fusty, archaic, elitist thing called truth. They don’t always achieve it, to be sure, but as far as I can tell America’s stopped trying. Colbert only makes sense in a mediasphere dominated by the likes of Megyn Kelly, who finds objectivity unfair when it doesn’t favour her agenda. Objectivity may be an impossible ideal for humans to achieve, but that it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for. There’s a reason why we call it the ugly truth.

From over here across the pond, it seems that America has been quite cavalier in its willingness to toss the principles of fact and objectivity aside in favour of a screaming subjectivity that passes for individualism and, God help us, democracy. As Colbert told President Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ dinner, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Judging Sarah Palin By The Cover

Children’s Travel Reimbursements Raise Tax Issues for Gov. Sarah Palin

Today journalists Mary Jacoby and Jesse Drucker of the Wall Street Journal examine the tax issues involving $25,000 in remibursements for the travel expensives of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s children.

Several tax experts said they believe Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin is required to pay federal taxes on $25,000 in reimbursements from the state of Alaska for her children’s travel expenses.

The Alaska governor released her 2006 and 2007 tax returns on Friday, sparking a lively debate on tax blogs and among tax professionals over whether reimbursements and per-diem meal payments from the state should be subject to federal taxes. Since taking office in December 2006, Gov. Palin, whose state salary is $125,000 a year, received reimbursements totaling $43,500 for travel and lodging for her family in connection with state business. Of that total, $25,000 was for her children’s travel and the rest was for her husband, Todd, the Washington Post reported.

While several tax experts have raised serious questions about whether the payments to Gov. Palin are taxable income, they said the case was clearer cut for treating the reimbursements for the children’s expenses as taxable income. “The kids are a slam dunk problem,” said Robert Spierer, a partner with the accounting firm Perelson Weiner LLP in New York City. “The husband you could make an argument that he had to be there because it was required for spouses to be there.”

But not the children, he said. “I don’t think I would ever claim that on my clients’ returns. I can’t think of a real strong argument for it.”

Gov. Palin also accepted $17,000 in per-diem meal payments for nights spent at her home in Wasilla, 40 miles from the governor’s office she used in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Gov. Palin often used that office rather than traveling to the state capital of Juneau, more than 800 miles away. Several tax experts have argued this should be counted as taxable income.

The McCain-Palin campaign released an opinion letter from Washington, D.C., criminal tax lawyer Roger M. Olsen, concluding that Gov. Palin complied with Alaska law in not reporting the reimbursements and meal payments as income.

A spokesman for the McCain campaign said Gov. Palin relied on the W2 wages form from the state of Alaska in filing her tax return, which was prepared by H&R Block. The W2 did not include the travel reimbursements as income.

“The state believes it is interpreting IRS policy correctly. It has no indication to believe that it is misinterpreting that policy,” said Brian Jones, a McCain campaign spokesman.

Gov. Palin “has every right to assume the state of Alaska knows how to handle her W2,” said Alan D. Westheimer, a certified public accountant in Houston. “These people [the Palins] are not tax lawyers. They went to H&R Block” to prepare their taxes.

Mr. Westheimer said this shows a good-faith attempt on the part of the Palins to comply with the law. Of the travel reimbursements for her children, “it may not be the letter of the law,” he said, “but it’s arguably within the spirit of the law because it’s related to her job.”

Tax experts said a good case could be made that Mr. Palin, as the spouse of the governor, was required to attend official functions and was thus eligible for the travel and lodging reimbursements, even though he is not an Alaska state employee. Many of them said it is less clear why Gov. Palin’s children would be required at official state functions.

Bryan Camp, a tax professor at Texas Tech University School of Law and a former Internal Revenue Service lawyer in Washington, said the IRS would ask several questions to determine whether the travel reimbursements were reported properly.

Those questions include whether Mr. Palin and the children were employees of the state of Alaska, whether they traveling for bona fide business purposes, and whether they would have been able to deduct those travel expenses on their own tax returns for business purposes.

Because the answer to at least one and possibly more of those questions is no, “The Palins should have reported the $43,000 in family travel allowances received in 2007 as income,” Mr. Camp wrote in an analysis.

Reimbursements Raise Tax Issues for Gov. Sarah Palin