Archive for October 2010

Tea Party Express: Is this traveling one-woman show Palin’s dry run?

October 19, 2010

It’s a big and slick production, as grassroots efforts go. Deluxe motor coaches glide into town, adorned on their sides with huge renderings of the United States Constitution.  Musicians belt out songs about tax hikes and bailouts. They are very capable performers.  A new-media crew captures the action, dangling a camera above the crowd from a boom crane suitable for a Hollywood studio.

TPE's rolling media crew huddles over the set-up of the boom crane

The star of the show shines as brightly as the gleaming vehicle that will carry her from town to town on the cross-country tour of the Tea Party Express. Sarah Palin is, indeed, a rock star, drawing a crowd of a thousand or so to a mostly-vacant shopping complex on a damp, chilly morning in Reno.

And yet, there’s a significant void in the program. It’s two weeks until election day, but the event features not a single syllable from any candidate for any office. The lineup – besides Palin – is as follows: A little-known author, a mother-turned-activist, several singers, a local talk radio host, a red-meat tossing former member of the U.S. Navy, a home-grown Tea Party organizer from Sparks, and a former California state assemblyman who manages a political action committee.

Palin speaks to Reno. Great shoes, but decidedly unpresidential.

This is a 30-city showcase for the star, with a completely unmemorable supporting cast.  It is, one can speculate, the experiment that will determine whether Palin is simply making waves as a private citizen —  her stated goal when she stepped down from her post as the governor of Alaska — or whether she is to be taken seriously as a contender for the GOP presidential nomination.

There are legal and practical factors keeping other stars off the stage. Federal campaign finance law doesn’t allow political action committees to coordinate activities with candidates for federal office. While the Tea Party Express has named Harry Reid as its number-one target, his challenger, Sharron Angle, can’t be present as it rallies for her on her own stomping grounds.

Attorneys can disagree about whether a joint appearance is absolutely prohibited, but Angle is taking a strict interpretation, and you can call it an abundance of caution if you wish.  It’s possible that other candidates will dare to show up in cities where the race is not so razor close.

Congressman Dean Heller is on hand, but keeps a low profile, waving when his name is called from the stage by a local warm-up speaker, then making a hasty retreat back to the sidelines.

The most straightforward message of the day

Down-ballot Republican hopefuls are plentiful in the audience, but they are not officially recognized.  This is a different issue. To allow one of them to speak would necessitate inviting all of them to speak, or else showing favoritism. None of them speak, therefore.

And so, here it is, an oddly outsized political rally, minus the politicians.  There is an endless pre-game show, with songs,  speeches, slogans, and some overtly nasty taunts at the “liberal media,” who are perched on a platform fifty yards from the stage, and who, by the way, include Carl Cameron from Fox News.

Three busloads of national media are present.  Some hail from farther afield than New York or Washington, with reporters instructing crewmates in German, and other, less discernable languages.

At last, Sarah Palin takes the stage. She speaks of the power of the American people, who, she says, are close to throwing off the yoke of Obama-Reid-Pelosi government.

Various attendance figures were reported, but it probably pushed 1,000

“You’re winning, Joe Sixpack!” she shouts, and gets an appreciative response.

Palin is fluent in the language of inspirational partisanship. She encourages the faithful to work until they are exhausted to ensure victory. She wraps it up by throwing some more dirt on the media, which has failed to properly serve as objective referee, she says. The crowd roars approvingly, and she delivers an additional punch, concluding that lower ratings and a ravaged industry are the price of biased reportage for its practitioners.

On to Elko, and 29 other cities, dragging the liberal media along for the ride.

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Notes from a Hostile World: Everyone is packing without a permit. (Concealed recording devices.)

October 8, 2010

Not sure if Scott Ashjian used a smart phone recorder to capture his conversation with Sharron Angle. Maybe he went with more cloak-and-dagger technology, like the digital ball point pen recorder, available for $159 at websites that sell spy gear.

Doesn’t matter.  Surely his chest hairs were not snagged beneath adhesive tape and wires.

The moral of the Angle-Ashjian secret-recording debacle? Everyone is packing a concealed recording device, no permit necessary.

Next time you’re tempted to disparage your boss to the guy at the next desk, restrain yourself.  Most of your colleagues are armed with a device – let’s call it iRecord – that could make your snotty comment public. Wise these days to proceed with constant recognition that smart phones are recording devices, and their owners command technology once reserved to cops and the media.  Such fun. See ya in court.

Secret recordings are a handy new ordinary-guy privilege, useful for capturing snarky  service in retail stores,  promises in the dark, and dumb stuff other people shouldn’t have said. Possibly with serious purpose, like making sure you get your fair share of mom’s estate.

It worked for this man, who was sued by family members because he recorded a kitchen-table discussion that included his dying mother, who left no will. A judge found no fault with his recording, and said the gathering was a family meeting.  In essence, his recording was the modern-day equivalent of whipping out a yellow pad and a pen. (But far more compelling as evidence, one suspects.)

And so, employers, in your next come-to-Jesus meeting with an employee, you might want to inquire as to the location of his or her iPhone. If you’re really paranoid, ask to see the display indicating the record function is off.

Employees, on the other hand, might feel justified recording such a meeting. With permission of course.  Tell the boss it’s not much different than requesting a copy of your paper personnel file on your way out the door. Which, you assume, would contain a paper record of today’s discussion.

And don’t forget the video cams. The pervs were early adopters, placing cameras on their shoes more than a decade ago for upskirt shots to post on their pervy websites.  Beware the guy who stands too close in the supermarket line.

But surreptitious video is not exclusively the province of strangers. Ask the woman who discovered a tiny video camera on her bedroom bookshelf, planted inside a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  (Is nothing sacred?) It was her brother-in-law, with access to her bedroom, who installed the cam, which captured her and her boyfriend in “various states of undress.”

More serious stories have originated with laptop cams.  How about the school district that decided to track the school-issued laptops by remotely activating the cameras, which produced photos of the places the laptops were sitting?  Student bedrooms, for instance, at all hours of the day and night. Taxpayers in the district are facing a tab of more than a million dollars for digital forensics and legal fees.

And in recent headlines, poor Tyler Clementi became 2010’s most famous Rutgers freshman, God rest his soul, when his roommate turned on the laptop cam and invited a list of chat friends to watch Tyler’s sexual interaction with a male partner. Reports say this drove Tyler to suicide.

It’s not just high-stakes political races and government investigations that produce secret recordings.  If you are important enough to have “enemies,” and even if you aren’t, be paranoid.  Paranoia is healthier than ever. Paranoia is the new normal.

Sent from my laptop, which has a piece of black electrical tape over its camera lens.