Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

And here's a toast . . . To the decline and fall of George W. Bush. . .

Here's something to celebrate, besides the incoming Democratic Congress. In 2006, we saw the decline and fall of George W. Bush as a president with even an iota of credibility.

According to polls conducted throughout the year by CNN, Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, ABC News/Washington Post, CBS News, Gallup, and USA Today/Gallup, the President's disapproval ratings were higher than his approval ratings, for every date, for every poll, for all of 2006. Every. Single. Time.

President Clinton never came close to accomplishing this. . .

In 1993 and 1994, President Clinton was an unpopular President.

President Bush, in 2006, was not an unpopular President. He was a national disgrace. We the People were ashamed of him with perfect consistency, all year long. He's done.

And on a related note, Republican Senators are apprehensive about a surge an escalation. "Today on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said President Bush should have congressional support before he announces any plan for escalation in Iraq" or things could get ugly. With the Democrats in control, things sure as hell better get ugly!

Graphic via Bartcop

3000 Americans Dead

Vigils commemorating the deaths in Iraq will be held in Nashville and other cities and towns across the nation on Monday. Update: The New York Times has photos of all 3,000 -- Faces of the Dead in Iraq.

The number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq climbed to 3,000 on this, the last, day of 2006.

The grim milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.

But it was all worth it! Just ask our dear leader:

"The sacrifice has been worth it. I haven't questioned whether or not it was right to take Saddam Hussein out. I mean, I've questioned it -- I've come to the conclusion that it was the right decision." - George W. Bush

And Juan Cole reminds us that we are kidding ourselves if we think that "3,000" describes the extent of the casualties: "[T]he true number of Americans and US allies who are in some sense casualties of war is in the tens of thousands." [via memeorandum]

Nashville Vigil

The Nashville vigil commemorating the 3000th US military personnel death in Iraq, will be MONDAY January 1 at 4 pm at the Federal Building, 8th and Broadway downtown. Details at https://www.afsc.org/3000/

If you're not near Nashville, you may go to that website for info on a vigil in a town or city near you.

Video: Waiting for Bush to Go Gobble . . Gobble . . .


Here's that funny video I was looking for. When Nixon finally left office he said something like, you won't have me to kick around anymore. When Bush finally goes (please!), I expect him to say that we won't have him to joke about anymore.

Cause when Bush is not destroying lives, he is one funny fool.

Ten Suggestions for Rescuing the Bush Legacy


Bush’s Legacy
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Particularly after all the tributes to Gerald Ford in the last few days, President Bush may be pondering his own legacy and obituary. Sorry, Mr. Bush, but it doesn’t look good right now, with your obit perhaps beginning something like this:

“George W. Bush, who achieved tremendous acclaim for his handling of the 9/11 terror attacks but left office vilified and disgraced, mired in the Iraq war and stalemated at home, his hard-line partisan tactics souring the electorate and crippling his beloved Republican Party for a generation, died. …”

But Mr. Bush, your plight isn’t hopeless. In the holiday spirit, let me offer you 10 suggestions for what you can do in 2007 to try to rescue your legacy.

First, seriously engage Iraq’s nastier neighbors, including Iran and Syria, and renounce permanent military bases in Iraq. None of that will solve the mess in Iraq. But these steps will suggest that you are belatedly trying to listen and are willing to give diplomacy a chance. They may also help at the margins: renouncing bases is a simple move that has no downside and will make it harder for Iraqi militants to argue that Americans are just out to steal Iraqi oil and grab military bases.

Second, start an intensive effort to bring peace to the Middle East. Work with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to flesh out his peace proposals. And vigorously back the Geneva Accord approach to an Israeli-Palestinian peace, since everybody knows that is what a final peace deal will look like. Frankly, it seems unlikely that peace is going to break out anytime soon in the Middle East, but there is a huge dividend for America’s image if we at least try.

Read the whole thing . . .

Graphic via Internet Weekly

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Died Cursing Americans


While there are plenty of reports claiming that Saddam's last words included a robotic God is Great, it seems far more likely that the dictator turned martyr was saying God Damn You!

According to the New York Times, Saddam Hussein devoted the last moments of his life to "cursing the Americans and the Persians." Undoubtedly some of the bitterness is lost in the translation: "Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians." But I'm sure Hussein's followers get it.

The Times account excerpted below does a fair job of capturing the utter "barbarity of the moment."

BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 — Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his neck snapped.

His last words were equally defiant.

"Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians."

. . . The room, only 30 feet square, had a foul odor. It was cold, had bad lighting and a sad, melancholic atmosphere. With the witnesses and another 11 other people — including guards and the video crew — it was cramped.

. . . Mr. Rubaie, who was standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Hussein, asked him about the murder of the elder Mr. Sadr.

They were standing so close to each other that others could not hear the exchange.

One of the guards, though, became angry. “You have destroyed us,” the masked man yelled. “You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution.”

Mr. Hussein was scornful. “I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persian and Americans.”

The guard cursed him. “God damn you.”

Mr. Hussein replied, “God damn you.”

. . . The executioners offered him a hood. He refused. They explained that the thick rope could cut through his neck and offered to use the scarf he had worn earlier to keep that from happening. Mr. Hussein accepted.

The platform he stood on was very high, with a deep hole beneath it.

He said a last prayer. And then, his eyes wide open, no stutter or choke in his throat, said his final words cursing the Americans and the Persians.

. . . His body stayed hanging on the rope for another nine minutes as those in attendance broke out in prayer, praising the Prophet, at the death of a dictator.

Sad graphic found at this Italian newspaper via DU.

Saddam Hangs; Bush Sleeps



Sitting around waiting for a lynching was a f**king morbid way to spend the evening. But for some reason I was compelled to do it. Me and CNN.

The media reports that Bush had no such compulsion.

The Decider slept through it, just like it was a hurricane or something.

God, I hope next year is better, but with this one going out with a lynching, or the human race at its vilest, it doesn't exactly look promising. The sight of all those humans doing the jubilant dance of revenge was just one more depressing sign from the universe that we are a sick species.

I need to find a funny video to cheer this blog up.

Josh Marshall and Juan Cole have some memorable thoughts on the lynching; excerpts follow.

Josh Marshall:

Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn't come close to cutting it -- the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the 'secular arm'. Try pretending it's a war crimes trial but it's just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they're up to now.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.

Juan Cole:

The body of Saddam, as it swung from the gallows at 6 a.m. Saturday Baghdad time, cast an ominous shadow over Iraq. The execution provoked intense questions about whether his trial was fair and about what the fallout will be. One thing is certain: The trial and execution of Saddam were about revenge, not justice. Instead of promoting national reconciliation, this act of revenge helped Saddam portray himself one last time as a symbol of Sunni Arab resistance, and became one more incitement to sectarian warfare.

Saddam Hussein was tried under the shadow of a foreign military occupation, by a government full of his personal enemies. The first judge, an ethnic Kurd, resigned because of government interference in the trial; the judge who took his place was also Kurdish and had grievances against the accused. Three of Saddam's defense lawyers were shot down in cold blood. The surviving members of his defense team went on strike to protest the lack of protection afforded them. The court then appointed new lawyers who had no expertise in international law. Most of the witnesses against Saddam gave hearsay evidence. The trial ground slowly but certainly toward the inevitable death verdict.

Gruesome graphic via Fox News and they have a video too.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam Hussein Was Hanged in Baghdad


Saddam Hussein was hanged in Baghdad tonight, according to CNN International -- which is citing Arab television sources. MSNBC is announcing that three Arab networks are reporting that Hussein was executed at roughly 9:00pm central.

Earlier, the Associated Press reported that U.S. authorities were "maintaining physical custody of Saddam to prevent him from being humiliated before his execution," and will "try to prevent the mutiliation of his corpse."

Some U.S. embassies around the world warned American travelers of potential "problems" they might encounter due to Hussein's hanging. The Pentagon stated that U.S. troops were prepared to deal with any increase in violence that could follow the execution.

Sexist Science Tip of the Day


Study says: Housework cuts breast cancer risk.

And a college education will atrophy your uterus!

Women who exercise by doing the housework can reduce their risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

The research on more than 200,000 women from nine European countries found doing household chores was far more cancer protective than playing sport.

Dusting, mopping and vacuuming was also better than having a physical job.

The women in the Cancer Research UK-funded study spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week cooking, cleaning and doing the washing.

Housewife Magazine Cover from August, 1912, via Nostalgiaville

What they're saying:

"We now have scientific evidence that women are doing themselves physical harm by not staying home to scrub toilets and get the pipe/slipper combo ready for the penis people of the house." -- Preemptive Karma

"[T]here is some science that the Bush administration and the ladies at Concerned Women for America can get behind." -- Norwegianity

"You hear that ladies? Cleaning could save your life. A job could kill you." -- Feministing

"Feminism kills." –- Vox Popoli

"Men are the ultimate feminists. It's not that we're lazy or swinish. It's that making you clean is our way of participating in The Race For The Cure (TM)." -- Ace of Spades

What is Bush's War Good For?


From Esquire Magazine, The Meaning of Life:

"I could be perfectly fine without kids. If my wife wants kids, that’s fine, too. It’s not an issue because of this. But I plan on wearing my prosthetics most all the time. And if I have those on, I’m not going to be able to carry my kids. I can’t really bend over because it’ll throw my balance off. So I’m not going to be able to pick up my kids. So you’re walking through the park and they don’t want to walk, they want to be carried. Sorry, I can’t do it. I’ve thought about that a lot. It’s going to be hard."

Magazine Cover of the Year found at Truly Equal via The Sideshow

A Fair Execution



So Iraq and the USA have something in common besides a claim to democracy and rampant violence. Like 67 other countries and territories in the world, both Iraq and America retain and use the death penalty. But these days we electrocute instead of lynch. Iraq still lynches. But then Iraq has that electricity problem.

It seems like as good a time as any to look at the company we keep.


Countries and territories which retain the death penalty:

AFGHANISTAN, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, BAHAMAS, BAHRAIN, BANGLADESH, BARBADOS, BELARUS, BELIZE, BOTSWANA, BURUNDI, CAMEROON, CHAD, CHINA, COMOROS, CONGO (Democratic Republic), CUBA, DOMINICA, EGYPT, EQUATORIAL GUINEA, ERITREA, ETHIOPIA, GUATEMALA, GUINEA, GUYANA, INDIA, INDONESIA, IRAN, IRAQ, JAMAICA, JAPAN, JORDAN, KAZAKSTAN, KOREA (North), KOREA (South), KUWAIT, LAOS, LEBANON, LESOTHO, LIBYA, MALAYSIA, MONGOLIA, NIGERIA, OMAN, PAKISTAN, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, QATAR, RWANDA, SAINT CHRISTOPHER & NEVIS, SAINT LUCIA, SAINT VINCENT & GRENADINES, SAUDI ARABIA, SIERRA LEONE, SINGAPORE, SOMALIA, SUDAN, SYRIA, TAIWAN, TAJIKISTAN, TANZANIA, THAILAND, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, UGANDA, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, UZBEKISTAN, VIET NAM, YEMEN, ZAMBIA, ZIMBABWE

Cartoon via www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au

Lieberman: Let's Escalate this War!


Why We Need More Troops in Iraq By Joseph Lieberman. . . shorter version . . . cuz I'm an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut Bush's bitch.

Lynching Saddam: The New Way Forward



It turns out that Saddam Hussein will be lynched, and Bush will announce his plan for "a new way forward" troop escalation at pretty much the same time . . . soon.

What a coincidence!

"President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year."

Lucky Bush! With the Saddam Hussein lynching apparently scheduled for this weekend, the First Cowboy can emerge in the New Year with yet another notch on his killer belt.

Cuz Saddam was found guilty in a fair and balanced trial in "a court in Iraq, established by US viceroy Paul Bremer, who appointed its judges in direct contravention of international law."

So now that long awaited speech by the Decider, announcing "the new way forward" can be loaded with the gunslinger language we've become so accustomed to:

Wanted Dead or Alive! We have killed the killer! The sovereign nation of Iraq has killed the killer! And here's the videotape to prove it. Now if the radical extremists will just stop being so damn violent maybe we can get some peace. And in the name of peace, I, George W. Cowboy do hereby escalate the War.

As a little bonus, expect the First Cowboy to add a noose to his collection of Saddam memorabilia. It'll look real kinky next to Saddam's gun.

Graphic via Unfairly Balanced
(Hat tip to All Hat No Cattle)

Bush Bigger Villain than Saddam, Osama & Satan

America's Top Villain of 2006 . . . pResident Bush


In the category of villain, Bush wins by a landslide! It looks like we have a new axis of evil.

A Failed Revolution


A Lie in 1994
By PAUL KRUGMAN

After first attempting to deny the scale of last month’s defeat, the apologists have settled on a story line that sounds just like Marxist explanations for the failure of the Soviet Union. What happened, you see, was that the noble ideals of the Republican revolution of 1994 were undermined by Washington’s corrupting ways. And the recent defeat was a good thing, because it will force a return to the true conservative path.

But the truth is that the movement that took power in 1994 — a movement that had little to do with true conservatism — was always based on a lie.

The lie is right there in “The Freedom Revolution,” the book that Dick Armey, who had just become the House majority leader, published in 1995. He declares that most government programs don’t do anything “to help American families with the needs of everyday life,” and that “very few American families would notice their disappearance.” He goes on to assert that “there is no reason we cannot, by the time our children come of age, reduce the federal government by half as a percentage of gross domestic product.”

Right. Somehow, I think more than a few families would notice the disappearance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and those three programs alone account for a majority of nondefense, noninterest spending. The truth is that the government delivers services and security that people want. Yes, there’s some waste — just as there is in any large organization. But there are no big programs that are easy to cut.

As long as people like Mr. Armey, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay were out of power, they could run on promises to eliminate vast government waste that existed only in the public’s imagination — all those welfare queens driving Cadillacs. But once in power, they couldn’t deliver.

That’s why government by the radical right has been an utter failure even on its own terms: the government hasn’t shrunk. Federal outlays other than interest payments and defense spending are a higher percentage of G.D.P. today than they were when Mr. Armey wrote his book: 14.8 percent in fiscal 2006, compared with 13.8 percent in fiscal 1995.

Unable to make good on its promises, the G.O.P., like other failed revolutionary movements, tried to maintain its grip by exploiting its position of power. Friends were rewarded with patronage: Jack Abramoff began building his web of corruption almost as soon as Republicans took control. Adversaries were harassed with smear campaigns and witch hunts: Congress spent six years and many millions of dollars investigating a failed land deal, and Bill Clinton was impeached over a consensual affair.

But it wasn’t enough. Without 9/11, the Republican revolution would probably have petered out quietly, with the loss of Congress in 2002 and the White House in 2004. Instead, the atrocity created a window of opportunity: four extra years gained by drowning out unfavorable news with terror alerts, starting a gratuitous war, and accusing Democrats of being weak on national security.

Yet the Bush administration failed to convert this electoral success into progress on a right-wing domestic agenda. The collapse of the push to privatize Social Security recapitulated the failure of the Republican revolution as a whole. Once the administration was forced to get specific about the details, it became obvious that private accounts couldn’t produce something for nothing, and the public’s support vanished.

In the end, Republicans didn’t shrink the government. But they did degrade it. Baghdad and New Orleans are the arrival destinations of a movement based on deep contempt for governance.

Is that the end for the radical right? Probably not. As a long-suffering civil servant once told me, bad policy ideas are like cockroaches: you can flush them down the toilet, but they keep coming back. Many of the ideas that failed in the Bush years had previously failed in the Reagan years. So there’s no reason to assume they’re gone for good.

Indeed, it appears that loss of power and the ensuing lack of accountability is liberating right-wingers to lie yet again: since last month’s election, I’ve noticed a number of Social Security privatizers propounding the same free-lunch falsehoods that the Bush administration had to abandon in the face of demands that it present an actual plan.

Still, the Republican revolution of 1994 is over. And not a moment too soon.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Feminist Victories in 2006



Heading the list of Ms. Magazine's top ten victories for women in 2006, is the election of Nancy Pelosi as the first woman and first self-identified feminist Speaker of the House.

"This is What a Speaker Looks Like" is the title of the exclusive interview cover story in the winter issue of Ms. It will be on the newstands any day now.

Pasted below is a partial list of the feminist victories -- visit Ms. Magazine online for the full list.

POLITICS: 2006 is the breakthrough year of women leaders in the United States. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) becomes the first woman and first self-identified feminist Speaker of the House. As the third-in-line to the presidency, Pelosi now holds the highest public office achieved by a woman in United States history.

The 110th Congress will have the largest number of women chairing committees: including Representatives Louise Slaughter, Nydia Velazquez, Juanita Millender MacDonald, and Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer will all head committees beginning in January 2007.

Women voters led the way in the 2006 election: the gender gap proves to be a determining factor in electing the new Congress. If only men had voted, exit polls show that the Republicans would have maintained control of the Senate.

A record number of women were elected to Congress (90) and state legislative seats (1,731). However, the U.S. still lags behind many other countries with women comprising only 16.3 percent of Congress and 23.5 percent of state legislatures.

Voters send a pro-women's rights message when they decisively defeat a draconian abortion ban in South Dakota and parental notification measures in Oregon and California. Women voters led the drive to approve a minimum wage increase in six states (AZ, CO, MO, MT, NV, OH) and to defeat a ban on same-sex marriage in Arizona.

HEALTH: The Food and Drug Administration issues two approvals for women's health and lives: after a long campaign by women's rights and reproductive health organizations, emergency contraception is approved to be sold without a prescription for women 18 and over; Gardasil, a vaccine for women and girls that prevents the spread of certain strands of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer, is approved.

Ford: Iraq War Not Justified


"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people . . I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

-- Former president Gerald R. Ford, 2004


In an embargoed interview in July of 2004, Gerald Ford was referring to one of George Bush's several justifications for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The former president was critical of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Bob Woodward reports that Ford said that "the Iraq war was not justified."

Ford agreed that "his comments could be published any time after his death." Audio excerpts from the interview are available at the WaPo link above.

Photo via Wapo link above: President Gerald R. Ford, center, with Chief of Staff Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, and Rumsfeld's assistant, Dick Cheney, on April 28, 1975. (By David Hume Kennerly -- Ford Library Via Associated Press)

Lessons Never Learned

Presidential assistant Donald Rumsfeld, right, and his deputy Richard Cheney meet with reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., in this Thursday, Nov. 7, 1975 file photo.

Ford and Brown
By Bob Herbert

It would not be easy to find two men more different than Gerald Ford and James Brown. But I had a similar reaction to each of their deaths — a feeling of disappointment at some of the routes the nation has traveled since their days of greatest prominence.

Both men were important figures, symbolically more than substantively, at crucial periods in postwar American history — Mr. Brown at the crest of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s and Mr. Ford in the trough of the “long national nightmare” of Watergate.

Both were unlikely harbingers of the new. Mr. Brown, with his gleaming (and anachronistic) pompadour, became the very embodiment of black pride, a troubadour exhorting his followers to “Say it Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” at a time when schoolhouse doors were opening and unprecedented opportunities were beckoning to black Americans after centuries of almost unimaginable degradation.

Mr. Ford was more than just the designated healer after Watergate. The U.S. was also in the final throes of the long national nightmare of Vietnam. And it was stuck in a protracted energy crisis. The nation was looking for a way forward.

My disappointment stems from the opportunities never seized and the lessons never learned from those two periods, which were all but bursting with possibilities.

Mr. Brown’s message was relentlessly upbeat and optimistic. Despite the continuing plague of racism, there were dreams in the 1960s of fabulous days ahead for black Americans, days in which the stereotypes and degradation of the past would be erased by a new era of educational, professional and cultural achievement.

Those dreams did not include visions of an enormous economically disadvantaged population that would continue to live in poverty, or near-poverty, more than 40 years later; or a perennially ragged public school system, largely segregated in fact, if not by law, that would turn out generation after generation of educationally deprived children; or a black prison population so vast and so enduring it would come to seem normal to legions of black youngsters, actually dictating to a great extent their tastes in fashion, art and music; or a level of sustained violence that has condemned thousands upon thousands of black youngsters to an early grave.

Oh, there have been plenty of strides since the mid-1960s. That’s undeniable. But one would have to be blind not to notice that there is much cause for disappointment, as well.

James Farmer, who helped create the Congress of Racial Equality on Gandhian principles of nonviolence, once told me that even as the civil rights movement was racking up its stunning successes, its leaders made a grave error.

“We did not do any long-range planning,” he said. “So we were stuck without a program after the success of our efforts, which included passage of a civil rights bill and voting rights legislation. We could have anticipated the backlash that followed. We could have asked ourselves what the jobs prospects would be for blacks in the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, and later on. By and large we didn’t do that, except for affirmative action. We should have had a plan.”

It would be foolish to suggest that the United States as a whole hasn’t made tremendous progress since the 1960s and ’70s. But it’s impossible to reflect on the presidency of Gerald Ford, who formally ended U.S. participation in the war in Vietnam, and fail to notice that his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and chief of staff, Dick Cheney, were among the chief architects of the current calamity in Iraq. There were lessons galore to be learned from Vietnam. But Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney, like frat boys skipping an important lecture, managed to ignore them.

The trauma of the 1973 oil embargo actually spooked the country into action on the energy front. Fuel economy standards for automobiles were ratcheted up and improvements were made in the energy efficiency of refrigerators, air-conditioners and other household appliances. But those successful early efforts, instead of being strengthened, were undermined by the conservative political tide of the past several years.

Now we’re confronted with the dire threat of global warming, and as usual there is no plan.

If history tells us anything, it’s that we never learn from history. We could have stepped back from the war in Iraq, and stepped up to the challenge of global warming. We could have learned something when James Brown was on the charts and Gerald Ford was in the White House.

Maybe next time.

[via The Unknown Candidate ]

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

R.I.P. Gerald Ford


JEFF WILSON, AP Writer: LOS ANGELES - Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th president and the only one never elected to nationwide office, has died. He was 93.

. . . Minutes after Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal and flew into exile, Ford took office and famously declared: "Our long national nightmare is over."

But he revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president. That single act, it was widely believed, cost Ford election to a term of his own in 1976, but it won praise in later years as a courageous act that allowed the nation to move on.

He was in the White House only 895 days, but changed it more than it changed him. Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the presidency of Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

R.I.P. James Brown

Video: James Brown - I Feel Good


Giving Thanks to 'Illegal Aliens'


On George Washington and other shameless illegals who might be targeted as despicable villains on an upcoming Lou Dobbs show.

Writing in the New York Times, William Hogeland suggests that we give thanks to George Washington and other assorted Founding Illegals for having the courage to disobey the immigration laws of their day.

Our Founding Illegals:

You wouldn’t know it from the immigration debate going on all year (the bipartisan immigration bill-in-progress, announced this week, is unlikely to mention it), but America’s pioneer values developed in a distinctly illegal context. In 1763, George III drew a line on a map stretching from modern-day Maine to modern-day Georgia, along the crest of the Appalachians. He declared it illegal to claim or settle land west of the line, all of which he reserved for Native Americans.

George Washington, a young colonel in the Virginia militia, instructed his land-buying agents in the many ways of getting around the law. Although Washington was not alone in acquiring forbidden tracts, few were as energetic in the illegal acquisition of western land. And Washington was a model of decorum compared to Ethan Allen, a rowdy from Connecticut who settled with his brothers in a part of the Green Mountains known as the Hampshire Grants (later known as “Vermont”). The province of New York held title to the land, but Allen asserted his own kind of claim: He threw New Yorkers out, Tony Soprano style, then offered to sell their lots to what he hoped would be a flood of fellow illegals from Connecticut. . .

Parallels to today’s illegal immigration are striking. Then as now, it was potentially deadly to bring a family across the line. But once across, illegals had a good chance of avoiding arrest and settling in. Border patrols, in the forms of the British Army and provincial militias, were stretched thin. The 18th-century forest primeval, like a modern city, offered ample opportunities for getting lost. Complex economies thrived in the virgin backwoods, unfettered by legitimate property titles.

When conflicts developed between the first and second waves of illegals, some salient social ironies arose, too. By the early 1770’s, George Washington had amassed vast tracts to which his titles were flatly invalid. The Revolution rectified that. With British law void, Washington emerged from the war with his titles legal by default. But he acquired another problem: low-class illegals were squatting on his newly authenticated, highly valuable property. . .

Those of us whose ancestors risked everything as illegal immigrants, and in the process helped found a nation, owe our forebears a debt of gratitude, too. Without their daring disregard of immigration laws, we might not be here today.

Read the whole thing

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

News from the Bible Belt: Shopping at Wal-Mart Insults God

Jesus Is Against Wal-Mart


Ethics Daily: A Kentucky Baptist pastor is featured in a television commercial being aired in the Bible Belt urging followers of Jesus to think twice before doing their Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart.

"Jesus said do unto others as you would have them do unto you," said Joseph Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. "But if these are our values, can we continue to shop at Wal-Mart without insulting God?"

The ad, sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, is taped in front of a stained-glass window inside the church sanctuary. Phelps tells viewers that Wal-Mart has repeatedly broken child-labor laws, is being sued for gender discrimination and leaves more than half of its employees and families without company health coverage.

"So as we celebrate Christmas together, search your heart," Phelps said. "If these are Wal-Mart's values, would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart? Should you?"


via Brittney at NIT

Newsflash: Your pResident Reads Newspapers?


Hold on to your keyboard.

The New York Times reports that your pResident says he actually reads newspapers:

Flash! President Bush Says He Reads Papers

"President Bush declared in 2003 that he did not read newspapers, but at his final news conference of the year last week, he casually mentioned that he had seen something in the paper that very day."

Okay, so maybe the Commander-in-LaLa-Land actually has taken up the habit of reading newspapers, or, uhm, headlines. Maybe. But does Bush read Mad Magazine?

via memeorandum

Cover of Mad Magazine via DU

Universal Healthcare in America is Inevitable


One of the many benefits of losing the Do Nothing Republican Congress is that America will surely join the rest of the developed world sooner, rather than later, by finally signing on to universal healthcare.

The only question is: what shape will American universal healthcare take?

Below are highlights from Ezra Klein's must-read piece in today's LA Times -- Going Universal:

THE STATISTICS, by now, are well known. Forty-seven million uninsured Americans. Premium increases of 81% since 2000. Small businesses failing, big businesses foundering, individuals priced out and, amid all this, skyrocketing profits for insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The American health system, put simply, is a mess. An expensive one. Indeed, in 2002, we spent $5,267 per capita on healthcare — $1,821 more than Switzerland, the nearest runner-up. And yet we had higher infant mortality, lower life expectancy, more price inflation and an actual uninsured population, a phenomenon virtually unknown in the rest of the developed world, where universal healthcare is, well, universal.

These are unsustainable trends. The U.S. healthcare system cannot, in its current form, go on forever, or even for very much longer — employers can't afford it, individuals can't handle it and the country's conscience won't countenance it. . .

... Across the country there are unmistakable signs that the gridlock and confusion sustaining our sadly outdated system are coming to an end and that real reform may finally emerge, possibly even starting in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is promising to spend his upcoming State of the State speech explaining how he will push the Golden State closer to universal healthcare in the coming year. . .

Massachusetts has passed the nation's first near-universal healthcare plan, creating a structure that should cover 95%-plus of its citizens by making healthcare as mandatory as car insurance. Nationally, the Democratic resurgence has returned universal healthcare to the agenda and its advocates to power. In the House, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont), a staunch Medicare-for-all advocate, is expected to be chairman of the health subcommittee.

Surrounded by an unlikely array of union leaders and corporate chief executives, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has unveiled an inventive, comprehensive reform plan that would end the employer system forever. What businesses pay in employee premiums would be redirected to employee raises; insurers would offer their plans through state associations that would no longer allow price discrimination for reasons of health or job status; and everyone would have to buy in. Universal coverage would be achieved in under two years.

The most compelling evidence that resistance to reform is futile, however, is coming from the insurers themselves. Cognizant that Congress and the nation are tiring of the current dystopia, the insurance industry recently released its own plan for universal healthcare. . .

What's important, though, is that for the first time since the early years of the Clinton administration, these arguments are being made, and employers, insurers, politicians and, most crucially, voters are making their way back to the table.

The realization that our illogical, mistaken healthcare system can't go on forever has dawned, and so it will end. The question now is what replaces it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

So This is Christmas (Video)

John Lennon . . .

via Mia Culpa


Video: Save Santa for the Kids and for Al Gore

Happy Holidays Message


via Feministing

Beverly Marrero - Best Candidate for Cohen's Senate Seat


[bump] Help send this wonderful progressive woman to the Tennessee State Senate!

"I tried to spend my life to teach my children to always stand up against bigotry and intolerance. And to write bigotry and intolerance into the constitution of the state of Tennessee I find to be a very unfortunate thing." -- Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis)

State Rep. Beverly Marrero is a candidate in the January 25th Democratic primary for the State Senate seat vacated by Steve Cohen. Also running in the Democratic primary are attorney Robert Spence and former Cohen campaign manager Kevin Gallagher. The winner will face former federal prosecutor, Republican Larry Parrish.

Rep. Marrero was one of only seven House members to vote against putting the deplorable gay marriage ban on the ballot. She is a longstanding champion of women's right to self-determination. On more than one occasion, Marrero was one of only a handful of Democratic women to block Republican efforts to remove a woman's right to choose from the state constitution.

In other words, Beverly Marrero is a highly principled progressive politician in the state of Tennessee. A rare thing indeed.

Rep. Marrero will not be permitted to fundraise after the legislature goes back into session on January 9. If you are able to do so, I hope you will act now to help send this wonderful progressive woman to the State Senate!

You can donate via Act Blue, or checks can be made payable to: Marrero for Senate and mailed to her at 243 Hawthorne, Memphis, TN 38112.

When Rep. Marrero was unable to attend a Pro Choice Rally, held at the State Capitol a few years ago and sponsored by the Tennessee Guerilla Women, she kindly provided us with the following statement which we read to the crowd:

As a Democrat, I support women being allowed to make choices about their own lives and bodies. These are painful and difficult choices. I support these women. I stand beside them in their struggle for self-determination.

As a Democrat, I am concerned about all children being nurtured and supported by a loving and compassionate community.

As a Democrat, I am opposed to discrimination against my gay and lesbian friends and neighbors.

As a Democrat, I am opposed to discrimination against our newest immigrants who come to America looking for a better life for their families.

I believe in the "American Dream" and hope to keep opportunities available to everyone to strive for a better life in this "land of opportunity." If we let the "American Dream" die, who are we, and how are we different?


Beverly Marrero

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dowd: Trump Fired Up


by Maureen Dowd

Donald Trump gives me an interview, though he has his doubts.

“I would like the interview to be in the Sunday paper,” he says.

He can’t be worried about his exposure, so it must be his boundless appetite for bigger/taller/glitzier that makes him yearn for the larger readership of Sunday.

“Me, too,” I reply. “But the only way that’s going to happen is if I give Frank Rich my notes and let him write the column.”

“I like Frank Rich,” he says, his voice brimming with appreciation for a man whose circulation is bigger than mine.

“Me, too,” I say.

. . . When I call De Trop Trump at Mar-a-Lago, he’s still ranting about “that big, fat slob Rosie O’Donnell.” When he granted Tara Conner, the naughty beauty queen, a second chance this week, Rosie made a crack on “The View” about an oft-married snake-oil salesman not being the best person to pass moral judgments. He slimed back, and the Great American Food Fight was on. . .

How about those other international party girls, the Bush twins?

“When you’re a president who has destroyed the lives of probably a million people, our soldiers and Iraqis who are maimed and killed — you see children going into school in Baghdad with no arms and legs — I don’t think Bush’s kids should be having lots of fun in Argentina,” he says.

Read the whole thing . . .

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Op-ed Censored by the White House


The New York Times has published the redacted version of an Op-ed censored by the Bush Administration. Take a look at the graphic here, and tell me you are not living in a state similar to the USSR.

If you've been following the story, you know that this is the Op-ed that is critical of the Bush Administration's refusal to talk to Iran.

Authors, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann provide a long list of citations to back up their assertion that everything censored here by the Bush Administration has long been in the public domain. As you can see from the excerpt below, making sense of the Op-ed will require that you also read the cited material.

The authors state that they "will to continue to press for the release of the article without the material deleted," and they remind the Bush Administration that classifying information as secret is what you do for "the safety and security of the United States," not what you do for your self-serving political reasons.

If we ever rid ourselves of the Egomaniac in the Oval Office, we really need to fix our system so that we can easily evict a president who wrecks such havoc upon the world that virtually the entire country is in a constant state of crisis.

Impeachment takes too long. We are living in the instant information age. Why does it still take years to get rid of an obviously incompetent president? The security of the country cannot wait years. Congress should be able to call a special election whenever there is a crisis of confidence, or whenever it is obvious that we have a president who is wrecking the nation, a president better suited for the USSR.

In the meantime, what will the madman do next?

Excerpt of Redacted Version of the Op-Ed on Iran:

But Tehran was profoundly disappointed with the United States response. After the 9/11 attacks, xxx xxx xx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xx set the stage for a November 2001 meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s six neighbors and Russia. xxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx Iran went along, working with the United States to eliminate the Taliban and establish a post-Taliban political order in Afghanistan.

In December 2001, xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx x Tehran to keep Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the brutal pro-Al Qaeda warlord, from returning to Afghanistan to lead jihadist resistance there. xxxxx xxxxxxx so long as the Bush administration did not criticize it for harboring terrorists. But, in his January 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush did just that in labeling Iran part of the “axis of evil.” Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hekmatyar managed to leave Iran in short order after the speech. xxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxx the Islamic Republic could not be seen to be harboring terrorists.

Read the rest of what your President will let you read . .

Video: Senator Hillary Clinton on The View


This is Part 2 -- Senator Clinton discusses the seemingly impossible dream of being president even if you are a woman. And, she discusses the problem of raising children in the postmodern world, as she does in her book -- It Takes a Village -- which is now being republished.

See Part 1 here.

via Real Clear Politics

Can Bush Take Two More Years of Jeers?


In an article titled, Dubya in the Dumps, John Podhoretz joins the deafening chorus of jeers that mock and taunt our dangerously delusional pResident.

As conservatives and liberals alike continue to pile it on, I can't help but wonder if the delusional decider can actually take the mockery and jeers for two more years.

If he can't take it and is forced to step down, lives will surely be saved. So, let's hear some more jeers.

DUBYA IN THE DUMPS - PRESS CONFERENCE A DISASTER:

YESTERDAY, at a press conference that was unquestionably the most dispirited performance of his presidency, President Bush implicitly answered a question many close Bush watchers had asked after the thumpin' the Republican Party took in November.

The question was this: How would Bush, who himself had only suffered electoral success since seeking higher office in 1994, handle defeat? The answer: Not well.

"I encourage you all to go shopping more," he said - expressing a strange anxiety about the economy's retail sales after he had just trumpeted how strong those sales had been and how strong the economy has been in general.

Asked about the pregnancy of Mary Cheney, his vice president's lesbian daughter, Bush offered a response that contradicted itself three times in the course of three sentences: "On the - on Mary Cheney, this is a personal matter for the vice president and his family. I strongly support their privacy on the issue, although there's nothing private when you happen to be the president or the vice president. I recognize that."

And on Iraq, he said things were tough, and were going to continue to be tough; that he had said we were winning earlier in the fall but now recognized we weren't winning - and asked for patience as he consulted with his advisers and Democrats about a new way forward there. . .

If you combine the effect of yesterday's press conference with his remarkably depressing interview with The Washington Post the day before - when he said that victory was "achievable" in Iraq, a defeatist word that must have had Winston Churchill rolling in his grave - you can't help but feel that Bush has had the stuffing knocked out of him by the twin blows of the November election results and the bloody chaos in Baghdad. . .

And, Mr. President, in the absence of a terrorist attack that threatens worldwide commerce, the shopping habits of Americans are really and truly none of your business.

Read the whole thing

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Democrats Oppose Escalation of Troops


Democratic leaders have united in opposition to the Decider's go it alone idea of escalating the number of troops in Iraq. Republican leaders are generally silent on the unpopular idea.

The madman in the Oval Office has indicated that "he will listen but not necessarily defer" to military leaders on the question of an escalation of troops - and deaths - in Iraq, cuz he's the Decider.

TPM:

After initially indicating an openness to the "surge" idea (providing that "it's part of a program to get us out of there"), incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement yesterday that he's no longer open: "I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq."

The next Majority Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters this past weekend that "sending more soldiers to Iraq after the holidays would further drain an already depleted military."

House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement today rejecting the idea of a surge.

And House Majority Leader-elect Steny Hoyer (D-MD) earlier released a similar statement.


Bush With Devil Horns Photo via AP


Rightwingers are crying foul over this AP photo of Bush with devil horns.

I don't get it.

If this image were found on a moldy cheese sandwich, many of the same rightwingers, who now criticize it, would instead take it as a direct sign from God.

So now God works through the Associated Press. What's so hard to understand about that?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bush Interprets Election: My Way Or the Highway


The pResident who famously gives himself permission to ignore the law by issuing signing statements, has now let it be known that he has his own interpretation of the November election results.

According to the Commander-in-the-Bubble, when the American people voted for the Democrats, they were telling Bush to spend more money, send more troops, do whatever it takes to achieve victory or win the War on Iraq!

But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed. He confirmed that he is considering a short-term surge in troops in Iraq, an option that top generals have resisted out of concern that it would not help.

Bush also said, "We're not winning, we're not losing." It was just days before the November elections when the Decider had a different view: "Absolutely, we're winning."

And in yet another flip-flop, Bush has signed on to the Democrats call for an increase in the overall size of the U.S. armed forces.

The Decider offered more gems during his press conference this morning. Here are just a few:

"The enemy is . . . violent."
"I believe we’re going to win."
"We're going to succeed."
"The enemy . . . can’t run us out of Iraq . . . that’s not going to happen."
"I’m willing to follow a path to victory."
"I encourage you all to go shopping more."

Losing the War on Unlicensed Sex

More than nine out of ten Americans have had premarital sex, reports the Guttmacher Institute.

Those of us who reside in the reality based sphere of America will not be surprised to learn that the War on Sex is going the same way as the War on Drugs.

Marijuana is America's biggest cash crop, and 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex.

Unlike smoking pot, engaging in sex without a government issued license does not always put you at risk of a prison sentence, but that could change. (Especially so if you live in Georgia.)

So while the Bush Administration throws hundreds of millions of dollars into abstinence only 'educational' programs, Americans continue to marry late, or never, and refuse to live celibate lives just because their government tells them to do so.

Oh yeah, the U.S. Government is also losing the War on Iraq.

Is there any war the Bush Administration is not losing?

"This is reality-check research," said the study's author, Lawrence Finer. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."

Finer is a research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that studies sexual and reproductive issues and which disagrees with government-funded programs that rely primarily on abstinence-only teachings. The study, released Tuesday, appears in the new issue of Public Health Reports.

The study found women virtually as likely as men to engage in premarital sex, even those born decades ago. Among women born between 1950 and 1978, at least 91 percent had had premarital sex by age 30, he said, while among those born in the 1940s, 88 percent had done so by age 44.

"The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds," Finer said. . .

"It would be more effective," Finer said, "to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active -- which nearly everyone eventually will."

via memeorandum

Flunking Our Future


The Basics in Iraq
By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON: The only sects that may be more savage than Shiites and Sunnis are the Democratic feminist lawmakers representing Northern and Southern California.

After Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman had their final catfight about who would lead the House Intelligence Committee, aptly enough at the Four Seasons’ hair salon in Georgetown, the new speaker passed over the knowledgeable and camera-eager Ms. Harman and mystifyingly gave the consequential job to Silvestre Reyes of Texas.

Mr. Reyes promptly tripped over the most critical theme in the field of intelligence. Jeff Stein, interviewing the incoming chairman for Congressional Quarterly, asked him whether Al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” the lawmaker guessed.

As Mr. Stein corrected him in the article: “Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an Al Qaeda clubhouse, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.”

Mr. Stein followed up with a Hezbollah question: “What are they?” Again, Mr. Reyes was stumped.

“Hezbollah,” he stammered. “Uh, Hezbollah. Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish?” (O.K. ¿Que es Hezbollah?)

Sounding as naked of essentials as Britney Spears, the new intelligence oversight chief pleaded that it was hard to keep all the categories straight. Thank heavens Mr. Stein never got to Syrian Alawites.

Many Americans, including those in charge of Middle East policy, are befuddled and fed up with the intransigent tribal and religious fevers of the region. As Bill O’Reilly sagely remarked, “I don’t want to ever hear Shia and Sunni again.” But it is beyond the job description of top officials to wish the problems away, especially when the entire region is decomposing before our bleary eyes.

If Mr. Reyes had been reading the newspaper, he might have noticed Mr. Stein’s piece on The Times’s Op-Ed page two months earlier, in which, like a wonkish Ali G, he caught many intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as members of Congress, who did not know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite.

“Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting,” he concluded. “And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.”

The lack of intellectual urgency about our Middle East wars is chilling. The Iraq Study Group reported that our efforts in Iraq are handicapped by the fact that our embassy of 1,000 has only 33 Arabic speakers, just six who are fluent.

W., of course, failed a foreign affairs pop quiz and still became a close ally of the Pakistani dictator he referred to as “General … General.”

Once they have the job, the incentive of politicians to study is somewhat dulled. Charles Z. Wick, who headed the U.S. Information Agency during the Reagan years, sent a memo to his staff saying that he and the president needed to know if France was a member of NATO. Mr. Reagan had already been the president for years, The Times’s Steve Weisman reported, when he expressed surprise at learning that the Soviets had most of their nuclear weapons on land-based missiles, while America had relatively few.

One possibility is that Mr. Stein’s questions were just too darn hard. He should have pitched a few warm-ups, like: How many sides are there in the Sunni Triangle? Or: Which religious figure, Muhammad or Jesus, has not been the subject of a Mel Gibson film?

Perhaps the questions could be phrased Jeopardy-style, as in: “The name shared by two kings in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.” (What is Abdullah?)

A multiple choice might be easier on harried policy makers. For instance, which of the following quotes can be attributed to Dick Cheney?

a) “So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people: greedy, barbarous and cruel.”

b) “Don Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had.”

c) “Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks.”

Or this: Is the Shiite crescent a) a puffy dinner roll, b) a new Ramadan moon, or c) an arc of crisis?

Once our leaders get a grasp of the basics, we can hit them with a truly hard question: Three and a half years after the invasion of Iraq, with nearly 3,000 American troops dead and the Iraqis not remotely interested in order or democracy, what on earth do we do now?