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McCain Camp Assails Book-Banning Report as a ‘Smear’

Posted on Sep 8, 2008
Flickr / aesop

Team McCain has rejected the “vicious smear” that as mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin wanted to ban books from the local library, but the campaign’s 1,615-word memo on the subject indirectly supports the accusation. As Palin’s mayoral predecessor recalls, “She asked the library how she could go about banning books.” According to the Anchorage Daily News, she also fired the library director “without warning” for “not fully supporting her efforts to govern.”

According to the campaign’s statement, “then-Mayor Palin never asked anyone to ban a book and not one book was ever banned, period.” The Wasilla library’s official response (alert: .PDF file) agrees with the McCain campaign: “We have no records of any books being ‘banned or censured’ ever.”

But that doesn’t mean that the mayor didn’t ask if she could have books banned.

The campaign memo does not dispute this point and refers to “a rhetorical question of the Wasilla Library Director about the library’s book-challenge policy. It was a rhetorical question—nothing more.”

Whether or not she was acting professionally in response to community pressure, the McCain campaign has confirmed that Sarah Palin did inquire about the process by which the Wasilla library might ban books.

McCain campaign statement:

When first elected, Mayor Palin asked a rhetorical question of the Wasilla Library Director about the library’s book-challenge policy. It was a rhetorical question—nothing more. As Mayor Palin said at the time, she was merely asking questions about administration policies (the book-challenge policy being pertinent because of the local debate at the time) and that she had no materials in mind when she asked the questions. After these rhetorical questions, no other action was ever taken by her office.

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Time magazine on Palin’s background:

[Former Mayor John] Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.

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By Maani, September 9, 2008 at 9:43 am Link to this comment


Thank you for your post.  Setting aside what seem to be misunderstandings here, we are actually in complete agreement on all relevant issue.

Re “who would Jesus have bombed,” I have always felt that the “original” query - “What would Jesus do?” - always had the emphasis on the wrong word.  Most people emphasize His name; i.e., What would JESUS (as opposed to anyone else) do.  But I think the emphasis should be elsewhere: What WOULD Jesus do; i.e., making the ASSUMPTION that He would do something more “loving” or “peaceful” (or whatever) than someone else, but then really thinking about what it is He WOULD do.

As for your being an atheist, just as I would say re freedom of speech, “I may disagree with your position, but I will defend to the death your right to maintain that position.”


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By cann4ing, September 9, 2008 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

Maani, I have always found your posts sincere, but I think you missed the core point of Chomsky and the historian Fritz Stern.  There is a fundamental distinction between the Christian religion and what Chomsky refers to as a “pseudo-religious transfiguration.”  These so-called Christian fundamentalists have corrupted Christianity in the same way that al Qaeda has corrupted Islam.

My principle response is to ask these charletons—Tell me, who would Jesus have bombed?

By the way, Maani, I am an atheist, but that in no way suggests that I look down on those who are religious.  I respect those who use the tenets of their religion to the betterment of mankind.  After all both Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were deeply religious men, and the world is a better place because these men once walked amongst us.

Fundamentalist extremists, no matter their religion, are another matter.  And Sarah Palin is a fundamentalist extremist.

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By yellowbird2525, September 9, 2008 at 9:13 am Link to this comment

in Oregon they closed the libraries “claiming” no $ to operate them; then they said yes there ARE $ but might not be in the future; and placed it in the hands of a “company”; who will NOT put any/all books in them; have to be screened 1st; this is right up there with deliberately changing the internet; getting original archives; changing the records; and back dating them; along with Fed laws being done the same way, & also state laws; they “amend”; delete, deliberately LIE and claim “expired”; real good at following the Feds examples of backdating things; it is ALL FRAUD folks: you might have “freedoms” but you have NEVER been free; Corps’ were to have paid for all things taxes do: that’s right! Way our nation was set up was for all taxation things to be paid for by profits from Big Business; Laws PROTECTING people from large Corp’s; have been removed; all laws are FOR Corps; & wealthy; AGAINST the people of the land; Rumsfeld (prev sec of defense) was the one who pushed thru asparteme which contains FORMALDEHYDE one of the most toxic chemicals in use against the humans: and it is actively & agressively used in almost every single thing today: from shampoos, to soaps, deoderants, clothing, paints, carpeting, new furniture: to HARM you to get $ for their TWIN company the Pharma’s; so does FREE mean freedom for everyone in Corps & Big Businesses to HARM citizens to the maximum degree?

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By Maani, September 9, 2008 at 9:08 am Link to this comment


Thank you for your post.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not in any way suggesting that Palin’s religious views are acceptable - particularly if she intends to use them in policy-making.  Despite being a minister, I strongly support the separation of church and state (I am among only a handful of evangelical ministers to have signed the American Atheists petition for the absolute separation of church and state) and do not subscribe to the narrow, unloving, unforgiving and often un-Christian positions of the so-called “Christian Right” (which, like the Moral Majority before it, is neither. LOL).

That said, despite Chomsky’s brilliance in some areas, I find many of his theological and theological-historical views to be inaccurate at best, and self-serving at worst.  This is not to say that he has nothing to contribute in this area.  But I take his views here with a grain of salt (but only a grain; sometimes its a whole shaker…LOL), preferring to rely on historians with a much deeper knowledge of the specific topic.


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By yellowbird2525, September 9, 2008 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

First of all, God is NOT for the US Gov; He wanted it destroyed back in 1949-1950; His people thought it would be best for their children & grandkids for it to remain; so they interceded, fasted, prayed, and He reluctantly did not destroy it; all involved repented for their errors back to God and the the people of the church.***Just so you know where GOD stands! He did NOT tell Bush to attack Iraq to enslave, oppress, and burden, kill, steal & destroy is NOT HIS way; read the Word; it is the devil who comes to steal, kill, & destroy; American’s sing of being “free”; God sees oppression; NOT liberty; so why would HE be for oppressing & enslaving & overburdening folks of any other country?

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By Biggcatt, September 9, 2008 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

Last comment directed at Stephen King fans, of course.  [c.f, “The Dead Zone”]

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By Biggcatt, September 9, 2008 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

and if so, have any of you been able to see beyond the gender difference, and notice the uncanny, scary resemblence between Sarah Palin and Greg Stillson?

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By Fahrenheit 451, September 9, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

@ cann4ing;

You’re the man, thanks for that.

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By cann4ing, September 9, 2008 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

Maani, consider the following from Noam Chomsky, “Failed States:”

Fritz Stern, a scholar of German history, noted “Hitler’s…appeal to his ‘divine mission’ as ‘Germany’s savior’ in a ‘pseudoreligious transfiguration of politics’ adapted to ‘traditional Christian forms’…with ‘Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.’  Hitler’s hostility toward the ‘liberal secular state,’ shared by much of the Protestant clergy, drove forward ‘a historic process in which resentment against a disenchanted secular world found deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason.’” 

Go over to the AV booth.  Watch Sarah Palin ranting at her Dominionist church about our troops in Iraq being on a mission from God.  Then listen carefully to her pastor’s follow-up about the Rapture.  The entire approach of the American Christian fundamentalist movement has to parlay “resentment against a dienchanged secular world” by offering “deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason.”

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By Fahrenheit 451, September 9, 2008 at 8:31 am Link to this comment

@ Maani;
I know the Germans/Nazis claimed Christianity; I know few who believe it.  Their very deeds denied that claim.  Thanks for the clarification.

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By Maani, September 9, 2008 at 8:20 am Link to this comment


Yes, I agree re the basic “intent” of Heine’s quote.  However, I was alluding to the reference of Christianity as a “subduing talisman” AGAINST “the brutish German love of war.”  Heine was saying that if that “talisman” was removed, that “brutishness” (and violence) would be unleashed.  And despite PROFESSING Christianity, and using it to further his ends, Hitler’s actions spoke louder than his words: i.e., NOTHING he actually DID was “Christian” in any way, shape or form.  Where Christianity preaches love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, peace, etc. (even if it does not always live up to those principles), Hitler’s actions (and many of his words) were filled with hate, arrogance, lack of forgiveness and compassion, and war and violence.

Given this, how anyone could think of Hitler as a “Christian” is beyond me.


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By Fahrenheit 451, September 9, 2008 at 7:04 am Link to this comment

@ Maani;

Thank you, but, if anyone deserves credit it’s “visitor”; prior to his(?) post I had never heard of Heine.  But I am happy he(?) posted because I then looked up Heine and it expanded my knowledge with new information.  The meaning of your post is unclear to me:  I took the Heine quote I posted as a prophecy of the coming of Hitler and the holocaust.  Is that what you were saying as well?

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By Maani, September 9, 2008 at 6:49 am Link to this comment


Thank you for the quote from Heine.  As I have noted before, it is a misnomer that Hitler was a Christian; he merely “used” Christianity to further his ends - no matter how many times he “professed” his “faith” (whether in writing or verbally).  Not only did he do more to attempt to DESTROY Christianity - in Prussia (murdering 90% of the parish priests in a two-year period) and Austria/Germany (attempting to take over the Protestant church in order to dismantle it) - but in an address to the party faithful in 1933 (think how early that was…), he stated, “It is through the peasantry that we will finally destroy Christianity.  One can be a German or a Christian, but not both.”

As an aside, it is also a canard that Hitler had a “cozy” relationship with the pope.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Because although it is a sad truth that the pope did not actively assist the Jews, individual priests were doing so, and the pope was aware of this and did nothing to stop it.  Hitler was well aware of this, and had he been successful in dismantling the Protestant church, his almost certain next step would have been going after Catholicism and the pope.

People tend to forget that Hitler’s goal was a “master race” of “Aryans.”  But “Aryan” is NOT a religion; it is a bloodline.  And if the Aryan bloodline is “connected” to any “spiritual” belief at all, it is much closer to paganism (even Druidism) than Christianity.

This is not to say that many “good” Christians did not believe the canards that (i) the Jews killed Christ and (ii) Jews sacrificed Christian children and used their blood in rituals.  These and other absurdities were indeed used to rationalize and justify Jew-hatred, and the actions of individuals and groups.  But Christianity was not the “cause” of the Holocaust, nor was it as integrally connected to it as most people think.  [N.B. For excellent background on this subject, read Michael Burleigh’s two brilliant books, The Third Reich and Sacred Causes.]

This does not absolve Christianity of its historical atrocities.  But (Tiger Toe take note…) it is important not to enage in historical revisionism that demonizes an entire faith based on the actions of a comparative few - especially when those actions were phonily justified on that faith.


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By Fahrenheit 451, September 9, 2008 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

@ visitor;
Thanks so much for answering cann4ing’s question.  I looked up Heine and found this as well:
In 1834, 99 years before Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party seized power in Germany, Heine made another remarkable prophecy in his work “The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany”:
“Christianity - and that is its greatest merit - has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals. (...)
Do not smile at my advice—the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.”

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By Wen Henagan, September 9, 2008 at 4:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just after the Repub. convention when there were the headlines of this new rising star, I started scratching my head wondering what I’d missed. I had heard a zero from both McCain and Palen. Even stranger, the comments continued about the rising star and some bump in the polls proved it. I thought, maybe it was just me, maybe I am too biased an observer. But I kept checking up on the facts. McCain talks about lots of “change” and his sidekick talks about lots of “change” and how she’s made such a huge difference in Alaska. And then I check the facts again. Again a Zero. So I must conclude I have drifted off to Never-Never Land. What’s going on with the “typical” American these days? Is there such a creature?

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By grumpy, September 9, 2008 at 3:14 am Link to this comment

Tiger toe, you should have spent more time learning spelling, grammar and proper usage rather than learning to spew hatred.

This election is not about issues and I don’t think either candidate will stick to their beliefs and/or their platform if they think a swing in their stance could move their position a point in the polls. Their chief mission is to get elected, be remembered in history and further insure their families financial security for generations.

Oh, and I’ll be voting for Obama, just to nullify one bigot’s vote!

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By visitor, September 9, 2008 at 2:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The book burning quotation is from Heine.

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By Fahrenheit 451, September 9, 2008 at 1:03 am Link to this comment

My moniker should never be applied to any book, period!

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By Alejandro, September 8, 2008 at 10:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am not a fan of either McCain or Palin and they will not get my vote, but according to Fact Check.Org, the story of book banning by Palin is false. I for one am only interested in how do we get people in swing states not to fall for the Kool Aid McCain and Palin are trying to sell, not un-substatiated accusations? Their only aganda is to continue to feed the Neo-con beast (Milton Freidmans) Chicago School of Economics theory, as reseachered and exposed by Naomi Cline in her book The Shock Doctrine. The challenge as I see it is; How do you get Joe six-pack and his two dumb kids to understand that a vote for McCaine/Palin is a vote against their best interest, unless of-course your income is above a quarter of a million dollars a year?

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By Paul, September 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As well as not knowing the difference between censored and censured, I’m pretty sure these people are confused about the difference between rhetorical and hypothetical.  If the question really was rhetorical then its purpose was probably meant to intimidate the librarian; if it was hypothetical it could have been simple curiosity.

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By cann4ing, September 8, 2008 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment

Maani, perhaps you know.  Was it Bertold Brecht who said, “Where they burn books, they will one day burn people?”  If not, then who?

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By Tiger Toe, September 8, 2008 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The last thing we need in this country in more religion.  Does anyone realize that people who brought on these attacks of 911 were involved in some type of religion.  Religion is a brain washing tool I have been studying this for years. I grew up in a evangelical church and brain washed until I reached an age where I was able to think independently and realized that religion is a tool used to brainwash the people its a business just like any other used to raise money and in some cases to help elect a president we need to stop believing in things that we cannot prove exist and face reality.  We should not allow one religion decide who our president is going to be.  Get out there and vote with your mind this is a free country that is what we fight and die for.  We do not fight wars and have our freedom decided for us based on some religion we are not a part of.  I we allow this country to be run by religion we are no better off than countries who let their religious beliefs decide who will run the country.  I hate to break it to you Americans but the country should be fun by we the people not the peoples god   there are way too many gods.  So which one do we pick to run the country   I would trust is atheist to run this country over any religious figure, at least they deal in reality.  That is what this country needs   we need a very strong independently thinking individual who can make decisions based on reality not some god who does not exist. Other wise which god would that be there are so many.

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By Maani, September 8, 2008 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment

“Books are Burning” by XTC

Books are burning
In the main square,
And I saw there
The fires eating the text

Books are burning
In the still air
And you know where
They burn books, people are next

I believe the printed word should be forgiven -
Doesn’t matter what it said;
A wisdom hotline from the dead back to the living;
Key to the larder for your heart and head

Books are burning
In our own town
Watch us turn ‘round
And cast our glances elsewhere

Books are burning
In the playground
Smell of burnt book
Is not unlike human hair

I believe the printed word is more than sacred -
Beyond the gauge of good or bad;
The human right to let your soul fly free and naked
Above the violence of the fearful and sad

The church of matches
Anoints in ignorance with gasoline -
The church of matches
Grows fat by breathing in the smoke of dreams…
It’s quite obscene

Books are burning
More each day now
And I pray now
You boys will tire of these games

Books are burning
I hope somehow
This will allow
A phoenix up from the flames

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By cann4ing, September 8, 2008 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

By Cran Berry, September 8 at 4:17 pm #

I give up. The Republicans have won.

Odd.  I thought the election was not being held until Nov. 4; that there are three presidential debates and a VP debate between now and then.

Stop panicking over a “bounce” in the daily tracking polls.  Its referred to as a bounce because these things go up and down.

The Repugs have tried to pull a fast one with Palin—America’s most obscure governor from the least populated state.  She has proven quite adept at reading words written for her by Rove’s acolytes off a telepromter, but if she had the skills to withstand critical questions, they would not be hiding her from the media, save a friendly interview with a lightweight like Charles Gibson.

No one can rise to governor of any state, even Alaska, without leaving a paper and video trail.  The clip Olbermann brought out tonight was Palin supporting the earmarks to the Bridge to Nowhere during a debate.  Olbermann noted that Alaska got the earmark and, when the “bridge to nowhere” became an embarrassment, the state used the money to build a road to nowhere which stopped where the bridge was to have started. 

The clips of her in church last June saying our troops in Iraq are carrying out God’s will and exposure of her almost comical rejection of both the science of evolution and the science of global warming are going to have an enormous impact as the American public gradually but ever so slowly comes to the realization that the picture of McCain/Palin as moderates or mavericks is a lie—that on every issue they are precisely what we have witnessed from the Bush regime.

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By Hannah, September 8, 2008 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it….it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support. “

Sounds exactly like the bush administration. When you have no skills at management this is what you do, surround yourself with “loyalists” who will support you not matter what you do.

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By Big B, September 8, 2008 at 7:17 pm Link to this comment

My grandmother was a school teacher for 46 years. she had a phrase that is appropo for this story. It was “the only bad book is one that is unread”

I have for years thought that we should teach a class to all high school students called “comparative religeon”. it would discuss the history and ramifications of all the major religeous groups on the societies they affect. Then we should let the kids pick their own religeon, or non at all.
I have always wondered how many would pick christianity, or Islam under these circumstances?

Of course this would never happen, because if there is one thing a major religeon will not stomach, it is scrutiny.

Keep reading kids! It’s the only thing that keeps us free! Information is power. that’s why people like gov Sarah want to ban books. Dumb people don’t protest anything.

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By bipolar2, September 8, 2008 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment

** Welcome to “The Handmaid’s Tale”, America **

McCain is a dupe. Now he’s just along for a ride into the abyss of fundamentalist political ideology, dominionism.

Palin comes “wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.” She is exactly the gender traitor christo-fascists need to create the xian Iran of their dreams, under xian imams, xian thugs, and their corporate overlords.

Have you ever read or ever viewed The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? A one sentence synopsis: “In a dystopicly polluted right-wing religious tyranny, a young woman is put in sexual slavery on account of her now rare fertility.”

Atwood depicts a society in which women have been stripped of all rights in a fragment of a failed America, know as Gilead, a new country controlled by dominionists.

Obama PACs should buy The Handmaid’s Tale, novel and DVD, by the box load and hand copies to every media person they know. Get TV outlets to broadcast it. If necessary buy time to show The Handmaid’s Tale in critical markets.

Link Palin directly to Atwood’s dystopia. Palin comes from a possible future we must avert.


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By boycottpalindotcom, September 8, 2008 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When she tried to fill 2 open seats in the City Council and the city attorney stopped her because the ordinance that it wasn’t in her perogative, she said that she had engaged in a ploy.  She told The Frontiersman (local paper) “it was brilliant maneuvering that I had to do to deal with the impasse”.

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By harpo, September 8, 2008 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Should we trust a library that can’t spell the word censored?
Unless they were implying that no books have been formally reprimanded.

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By troublesum, September 8, 2008 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment

The hell she wasn’t vetted.

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By troublesum, September 8, 2008 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment

All of what Cann4ing has revealed here would be seen as very positive qualities by republican party bosses.  They’re looking for ruthlessness under cover of congeniality.  Or as Mr Fish would have it, “poison with a smile.”

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By jackpine savage, September 8, 2008 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

I don’t give a rat’s ass if it was a rhetorical question or not.  Book banning is one of my lines in the sand…even when it’s rhetorical.  Saying, “No,” to book “challenges” should be the only answer…ever.

I don’t care if the book proclaims that the only way to eternal salvation is inter-species sodomy.  I don’t care if some bleeding heart is offended that Mark Twain wrote the word “nigger”.  And i don’t care if it suggests that we should be communists.

If a book got through editing, published, printed, and purchased by a public library it is good enough.

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By troublesum, September 8, 2008 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

Of course the first thing mayors do is call the local librarian to find out what the book banning policy is.  I mean, just in case.

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By cann4ing, September 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

This typical of the non-denial denials from hair splitting Republicans.  The articles on the book banning issue never said Palin ordered the banning of any books; just that she inquired about that possibility; that the librarian responded with a public statement that she would resist censorship, Palin tried to fire her.

Anne Kilkenny, who has known Palin since 1992, wrote:

“While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

“Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal—loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it….it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

“She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

“Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.”

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