Palin Cleans Up

As we saw during the 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin, given even half an opportunity, helps herself. Though the McCain campaign worked hard to keep her in check, she was always on the verge of “going rogue.”

She also helped herself in another way. When the campaign wanted her to improve her image (i.e. her appearance), she went on an enviable shopping spree, spending over $150,000 of Republican campaign funds on herself and on her daughter. Not bad! And she wanted to keep what was tangible after the elections!

When she addressed a tea party convention in February this year, she gave them exactly what they wanted, that is, unrelenting attacks on Obama;  she presented herself as someone sympathetic to their “cause” (i.e. their anger) and a potential leader of the movement. She still charged them $100,000 for the privilege. There were complaints from many of the tea partyists. She fudged on the money, saying to trust her that it will go to a good cause. No doubt it will: Sarah Palin.

Recently at the Oscars Gift Suite, she and her entourage helped themselves to the freebies there. “They were like locusts,” it was reported. “They practically cleaned out the suite.” (That part may have been somewhat exaggerated.) Security would not allow any photos, which were expected by the companies donating items to use for product promotion. These items were then supposed to be donated back for auction (to support Red Cross efforts in Haiti and Chile), but Palin “did not give up any of of her swag.” (E! Online)

It seems that with Sarah Palin, there is no clear line between what is private and what is public. The same pattern seems to have existed in her public positions in Alaska, and it will no doubt continue wherever she finds herself. Perhaps she is also helping herself at Fox News. This trait is not necessarily a bad one. All the great dictators made no distinction in this respect. Their philosophy was, What was good for them was good for the nation.

God is Hate II

(See also the “God is Hate” post of January 31.)

Satan’s favorite Christians, homophobe Fred Phelps and his rabid band of followers at Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, (mostly members of his own family), have for some time emotionally and psychologically harassed grieving families of dead soldiers at their funerals. They do so by holding signs saying, “God Hates You,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “God Hates Your Tears,” “Fag Troops,” and many that are more offensive.

This happened at the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder who was killed in combat in Iraq on March 3, 2006. Here the group also included a sign that said, “Matt in Hell.” It was never suggested that Snyder was gay, but Phelps claims he died because he fought for a country that condones homosexuality. He also said on his web site that Matthew’s father “raised him for the devil.”

Albert Snyder, Matthew’s father, sued for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury agreed, but this was later overturned by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeal on the basis of the First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech. Now the matter is before the Supreme Court, and it is hoped that this court will find a way to do the decent thing.

It is unfortunate that basic human dignity and respect for intensely personal issues do not enter into considerations of free speech. But surely what Phelps and his minions have done is a gross violation of basic rights. They do have the right to express their views, however evil they may be, but one’s rights are limited when they intrude on someone else’s rights and privacy. Grief is a necessary step in restoring one’s self and one’s life; there is no question in my mind that in seeking to deny both the grief and the dignity of laying a loved one to rest, these hatemongers have intruded on the rights of the mourning family. It was not as if the family of Matthew Snyder could turn away. If someone wants to debase a funeral, the mourners are trapped, and the forces of evil are victorious.

If Phelps really wants to deal with the issue of homosexuality, he should look within himself. His extreme homophobia suggests that he is struggling to deal with strong homosexual urges of his own. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will rule to restore the judgment against him as well as the damages award that the original jury imposed, in effect curtailing his hate mongering. This will give him more time to examine his own deep motives.

America’s Cup: Fun and Games

It seems to be in the nature of America’s Cup competition that, every now and then, the race for the world’s oldest active sporting trophy becomes nothing less than a farce. The most recent competition, held this last February, was another instance.

The match amounted to three racing days, two races, and two and a half years of legal wrangling. In addition, there was no international competition for the right to challenge, and the race (traditionally a monohull competition) was between two ridiculously large and expensive multihulls.

Despite this, the 2010 challenge was not the most farcical. That “honor” is still held by the 1988 mismatch between a huge New Zealand monohull and Dennis Conner’s 60-foot American catamaran. So ridiculous was the race that Conner held back the speed of the multihull to help the American position in the court case that he knew would follow.

These one against one matches are called “Deed of Gift” matches. More appropriate, I think, would be to call them “Court of Law” matches.

Fortunately, the 2010 campaign was won by the right team, BMW Oracle (racing as USA 17). Larry Ellison of Oracle wants to return the cup to the traditional format of competition between potential challengers to determine the eventual challenging boat and competition between boats from the defending country (currently USA) to determine the defending yacht.

I hope Ellison also returns to monohull competition. We already have a multihull regatta, modeled on America’s Cup, the Little America’s Cup. It was here in the Little America’s Cup that the wing type sail that BMW Oracle sported was first used in competition.

America’s Cup racing is traditionally between monohulls. America, the schooner that started it all, was an innovative monohull design in 1851. The best competition has always been between monohulls of similar design, with room in the rules to allow for innovation.

The heyday of America’s Cup was when the yachts were of the 12-metre class. These were less expensive than earlier yachts and also less than the class that replaced it, the International America’s Cup Class. If Ellison (as he said) wants to get back to a less expensive format with more countries competing, it should be to something similar, though a different class from standard yacht racing classes to provide for development. The 12-metre rule allowed for considerable flexibility in design, through limiting trade-offs, with a lot for room for innovation. (The yachts were not twelve meters in length; competing plus and minus measurements had to total twelve meters.)

It was in a 12-metre yacht in 1983 that Australia II broke the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year-old stranglehold on the cup. Contributing to the win was an innovative keel design on Australia II. Too much has been made of the winged keel. Australia II was the superior yacht and would have most likely won anyway, though they were up against a formidable opponent in Dennis Conner. The kind of innovation that the winged keel represents would not have been accepted under the rules of standard yacht classes. Indeed, the winged keel was promptly banned from other classes.

The move to 12-metre racing turned out to be a very significant move. It eventually opened up the competition for the trophy. It enabled America’s Cup to spread to other countries and potentially become a truly international regatta of the highest order. Now it has a chance to stay that way—as long as we do not end up with any more “Deed of Gift” or “Court of Law” races.