Monday, December 31, 2007

Should We Heart Huckabee?

What do we know about Mike Huckabee? The man is an enigma wrapped around a cross.

If you go to his website, you can learn a little bit there, He's got the usual selection of right-wing talking points: he says that Roe vs Wade should be repealed; he's strong on marriage; he's pro-gun, pro-veteran, pro-Israel, all the usual issues. He also wants to take the Bush tax cuts even farther, and help the rich get richer than they are now (even in an age where the top 1% of the population control one-third of the money, and 70% of the money is in the hands of the top 10%). And his thoughts on the subject?
I'd like you to join me at the best "Going Out of Business" sale I can imagine - one held by the Internal Revenue Service. Am I running for president to shut down the federal government? Not exactly. But I am running to completely eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes. And I do mean all - personal federal, corporate federal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment.
He probably isn't going to come out in favor of women's rights any time soon, incidentally.
In August of 1998, Huckabee was one of 131 signatories to a full page USA Today Ad which declared: "I affirm the statement on the family issued by the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention." What was in the family statement from the SBC? "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."

The ad wasn't just a blanket, "we support the SBC statement," but rather highlighted details. The ad Huckabee signed specifically said of the SBC family statement: "You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership."
The man who claims that he wants to "bring this country back together" will more likely be an even more polarizing factor. David Corn dissected Huckabee's 1998 book, Kids who Kill: Confronting our Culture of Violence for Mother Jones and discovered his distaste for… well, for everybody who didn't hold exactly his views.
Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities.
Was it those ideas, or people like you who fought against them, that polarized… oh, never mind. That's kind of a circular argument anyway.

A few pages later, we find that he thinks that:
It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations — from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.
So, you're reading along on that one, and you get to homosexuality (OK, there's all kinds of gay support groups), pedophilia (well, we haven't heard much from NAMBLA lately, but we know that they exist, or at least existed at one point), and apparently most of his audience has dozed off by this point, since organized sadomasochism is hard, though not impossible, to imagine. But "publicly endorsed and institutionally supported necrophilia"? What the hell? How stupid does he think that his audience is?

OK, strike that last question. Among other things, we establish with that sentence that his audience has an attention span of no more than two, maybe two and a half talking points.

We do know that, while he apparently hunts once in a while, he can occasionally become the poster child for the people who believe that guns should be kept out of the hands of some people. It seems that he went hunting recently for the photographers, and then, after joking about Dick Cheney's habit of shooting people in the face, tracked a bird over the heads of some reporters and fired off a round or two. That's part of the reason that the NRA teaches gun safety courses, isn't it?

We also know that he's a Christian. There's that whole bit in the Constitution that says that religion shouldn't matter in a political race, but to some people it does. And for those people, he's constantly bringing up his religion: running ads that are overtly Christian in theme (in fact, coming out and saying that he's a "Christian leader" in one of them), referring to his theological degree during a debate, and even saying that his rise in polls is due to the prayers of the faithful (as opposed to a growing distaste for Rudy 9iu11ani, or Mitt Romney reminding people of a used car salesman).

However, that seems to be the extent of what we know about him. He was a pastor for twelve years at two different Baptist churches before he became a politician, but he refuses to disclose the contents of any of his sermons.

But despite the fact that he won't tell us what he was saying when he was behind the pulpit, he's using that preacher-cred to court some of the worst of the far-right theocrats in America, and they're happily coughing up large amounts of cash for him.

We also don't get to know much about what he did as governor, except for what had already made it into the public record. You see, when he left office, he didn't seem to think that wiping the hard drives of the computers would be enough.
Department of Information Systems Director Claire Bailey said hard drives for 83 computers and four servers were destroyed, or "crushed," after information was downloaded onto backup tapes. Underwood supervised it and delivered the backup tapes to Huckabee Chief of Staff Brenda Turner, who had ordered the hard drives crushed, Bailey said.

She said the computers were located in the state Capitol; the state's Washington, D. C., office; the state police airport hangar; the Governor's Mansion; and the Arkansas State Police drug office.
For some reason, Huck doesn't want us to know exactly what he's done in the course of his life. So what do we know?

We know that our boy Huck has a fairly limited grasp of what life is like in prison.
Asked about Guantanamo, Mike Huckabee said he had visited the facility and said it was "disappointing" that military personnel were eating meals that averaged $1.60 while the detainees were eating Halal meals that cost over $4 each.

"The inmates there were getting a whole lot better treatment than my prisoners in Arkansas. In fact, we left saying, 'I hope our guys don’t see this. They'll all want to be transferred to Guantanamo. If anything, it’s too nice."
Yeah, except for that whole psychological intimidation and occasional waterboarding thing, along with other fascinating examples of abuse. And a bunch of them were kidnapped (sorry, "extraordinarily rendered") instead of arrested. And many of them are kept in solitary confinement. Oh, and the fact that none of these prisoners can seem to get a trial. That's all OK. It's the cost of their meals that's important.

He also used that opportunity to boast about how tough he is, because he used his time as governor to execute 16 prisoners. Does bragging about how many people you had killed sound like any other presidential candidates you can think of? Maybe about seven years ago or so? (Actually, he mentioned the executions because he was fighting back against Mitt Romney's current position that he's soft on crime. I just like the comparison.)

OK, then, what doesn't Huckabee know about? That list seems pretty wide-ranging. He admits that he doesn't know much about global warming or current events: he had no idea that the American intelligence community had said that Iran didn't have a nuclear warhead, in direct opposition to what Bush had been saying about them for months, even after it had been a front-page story for two days.

He doesn't know much about illegal immigrants: he recently said that there were more Pakistani's in America illegally than any nationality "than all other nationalities except those immediately south of the border" (he was trying to beat the war drum, and tie the Pakistani unrest into the illegal immigrant "crisis"); he followed that up by saying that 660 Pakistanis have come into the country illegally because of insecure borders. Unfortunately, he got the numbers backward: Homeland security reports that around 600 Pakistani's were turned back or arrested before they entered the country - oh, and no, there aren't more Pakistani's than any other nationality, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

This lack of knowledge extends to geography, as well: "We have seen what happens in the Musharraf government," Huckabee said on MSNBC. "He has told us he does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists." Yeah, Huck. That would be the western border with Afghanistan, right?

(And when former Prime Minister Bhutto was assassinated, he went up on stage in Orlando to express "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan." The man was a minister for twelve years. Couldn't he channel some of that training and find the word "sympathies" somewhere in his vocabulary? Instead, he provided fodder for pundits and the tinfoil-hat crowd for the next year.)

But staying on the subject of illegal immigrants (well, the GOP does it, why shouldn't I?), he apparently doesn't know much about moving large numbers of people, since he thinks that we can get 11-12 million illegal immigrants to leave the country within 120 days. (And he also doesn't think that the forced expulsion of over 7% of America's workforce all at once would have any effect on the economy, apparently.)

So basically, we don't get to know about his past, and what we find out about in the present is not especially encouraging. He's extremely secretive; he supports the forced incarceration, without trial, of people just because they might be terrorists; and he hunts without regard to the safety of those around him. Does this sound like any Vice Presidents you might know?

Plus, he's a former governor, proud of his death-penalty record, who shows a remarkable lack of knowledge in key fields. It's possible that Mike Huckabee could embody the worst features of both halves of the current administration.

Friday, December 28, 2007

No, not THAT Steven King

OK, so I lied a little bit. I pretended to be somebody I wasn't.

I went into the White Pages, and looked up somebody with my last name, and sent a letter to a congresscritter using that address and my name. And my email address, if it matters. Because he wasn't my congresscritter, but he was so mind-meltingly stupid that I couldn't help myself.

See, Steve King of Idaho introduced a little bill in the House of Representatives called HR 847, “Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.” That was bad enough (you know, that whole “separation of church and state” thing and all). But then he went on the Alan Colmes radio show, and made the following statement:
Colmes: Should they be taught Christianity, should every child learn Christianity?

King: I think they should learn it. If you’re going to learn American history, you cannot teach it without teaching Christianity.
That prompted me to send him the following email.
On the Alan Colmes show, you said that Christianity should be taught in schools, because the only way to teach American history is to teach Christianity. And I'm curious whether you failed both history and social studies in school.

The pilgrims might have been evangelical Christians, but our Founding Fathers were mostly Unitarians and, since this was just after the Enlightenment, many of them weren't Christian at all, simply Deists.

We even signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796 where we came out and said (in Article 11) that America is not a Christian nation.

America is a diverse nation of many faiths, and you can't discount any of them.

That's your History lesson. Now let's give you a little Social Studies. (This is actually something that you should already know, by the way. It should be required study for any Congressman.)

We have this little article called "the Constitution." It sets down the rules that the government runs by. And in the First Amendment of that document (which is part of what we call the "Bill of Rights," incidentally), it tells us that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"

The schools are a state function, and so the government doesn't try to jam religion into the ears of the children. You leave that to the parents.

Here's a little more history, by the way: the phrase "building a wall of separation between church and state" was written by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.

I would really appreciate it if you could learn little things like this if you're going to claim to represent the people of Idaho.
So anyway, I gave him time to answer. I sent it on December 14. Today is the twenty-eighth. Are you telling me that in two weeks, he couldn't come up with some kind of answer?

So my thought is that (1) he called the house where I pretended to live and determined that it was a fake (that's actually got a pretty low possibility, if you think about it), or (2) he checked the voter rolls and noted my absence (you’d think that he’d take into consideration the fact that I could be a new voter), or (3) he just refused to answer.

Me, I favor the third possibility.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Longer, Dan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg, the folk/soft rock singer/songwriter, died in his home on Sunday, December 16, after having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004.

Born Daniel Grayling Fogelberg in 1951, his first album, Home Free (1972), was only was not a huge success. But it can be said that it was his sophmore effort that launched his career, 1974's Souvenirs. With musical assistance from most of the Eagles (Joe Walsh - who also produced the album - Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Randy Meisner) and Graham Nash, the album reached number 17 on Billboard's pop albums, and the song Part Of The Plan reached number 31.

He had his weaknesses: he tended to write slightly higher than the actual range of his voice, and some of his songs (Longer or Leader of the Band) were overplayed to the point of pain. But his evocative lyrics and strong melodic talents brought his music to life.

Much of his most successful career was studded with overly-produced songs that receive far more airplay than they deserved. In his live shows (and I had the honor to attend one), he played beautiful, acoustic melodies with minimal orchestration. And he frequently sang in a lower key than what you heard on the album, too.

With 14 studio albums, he was an avid environmentalist, and performed at a number of "No Nukes" concerts for Musicians United for Safe Energy.

A video of one of his performances can be seen here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I never knew John Kennedy, but Mitt, you're no John Kennedy

Mitt Romney decided to give a speech last week, as he does so often these days. In this case, he was trying to explain how his Mormonism would not affect his ability to lead the country. Forty-seven years ago (plus the odd month or two), John F. Kennedy made a speech with a very similar concept, in regards to his Roman Catholicism. The difference, however, is that Kennedy was much more honest about his agenda.
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.


And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.
Let's compare that to some of the more interesting statements in Mr. Romney's speech.
Mr. President, your generation rose to the occasion, first to defeat Fascism and then to vanquish the Soviet Union . You left us, your children, a free and strong America . It is why we call yours the greatest generation. It is now my generation's turn.
To defeat the Soviet Union? (Hmm... quick definition of Fascism -- rights of the people stripped away, a government so paranoid it spies on its citizens, people imprisoned without a trial... I could go on, but if you were capable of getting my point, you would have already...)
America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us.
Yeah, but we ignore the leaders, and concern ourselves with the foot soldiers. Osama bin Laden is still at large because we haven't been trying to catch him, and most of the money for these radical movements comes from Saudi Arabia. But do we do anything about that?

Well, yeah. We give them more money. That's always a good move.
An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership.
So you're saying WalMart is the problem? Wow, this is the first time you've said something that I agree with.
Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America 's greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my Presidency, if I were elected.
Finally, he's going to talk about being a Mormon. It's about time. I wonder if he'll mention their magic underwear thing? (No, really. Mormons have magic underwear! It's a onesie that they can't just throw away. Honest! Check it out for yourself.)
There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams' words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'
Say what? You started your explanation of how your Mormonism isn't a threat by bringing up that tired old "America is a Christian nation" thing?

By the way, do you want to know the best way to tell that the Forefathers didn't think that we were a Christian nation? Go to the Treaty of Tripoli, which we ratified in 1797 (that's about sixteen years after we wrote our Constitution, isn't it?). Article 11 of the treaty start with the words "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..."

That might be kind of a clue, don't you think?
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.
What?!? What kind of disengenuous, meaning-free statement is that? "Freedom of religion" requires freedom, and different religions require a certain amount of freedom to survive, but in general, how do you mean that "freedom requires religion"?
Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
Ah. Philosophy. Gotcha. So let's ask this question: What if all that freedom and window-opening has led someone to the feeling that they agreed with atheism? Or that an atheist is taking a negative position without any more evidence than the theist, and so our hypothetical person felt that agnosticism was the only reasonable faith? Are they ignored completely in Mitt Romney's world?
Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today.
OK, I've got an appropriate question, Mr Romney. Did Christ come to America?

Oh, right. You answered that already, sort of. Let's step away from Romney's speech for a moment, and consider what the real question here is. Why is Romney making this speech?
Christian conservatives often brand the Church of the Latter-Day Saints a cult because the 19th-century "revelations" of the Book of Mormon are given equal status with the New Testament. On Sunday Mr Huckabee, a Baptist minister, pointedly refused to say if his rival was a Christian. "Mitt Romney has to answer that," he said. "It's not for me to determine."
In an interview with The Times earlier this year Mr Romney was asked if he believed the Mormon doctrine that Jesus Christ came to America and will one day return to rule the world from Jackson County, Missouri. "I'm not going to separate myself from my faith,” he replied, "I accept the doctrines of my Church and do my best to live by them."
So there's the question in a nutshell. People think you're some kind of weird cultist. So how do you answer that charge?

In this case, you apparently answer the charge with a long, rambling speech on the importance of religion, and the statement "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

In this whole speech, Romney only mentioned the word "Mormon" once. He usually referred to it as "my faith" or, in the more abstract statements, "religion." And he tried to calm the fears of the more moderate Christians by saying:
What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.
Well, yeah. And yours makes you believe that Christ came to America, and thinks that Missouri is a wonderful place to build your base.

OK, two points here. One: I've been to Missouri, and I'd hate to disagree with the Son of God, but... no, not so much. And two: if, in fact, Jackson County, Missouri is God's chosen place, why is the big Mormon temple in Utah?

(Oh, right, after Joseph Smith got kicked out of Ohio and Missouri, he was shot in Illinois. The rest of the church, getting their butts kicked in Illinois, schismed, and the biggest group, led by Brigham Young, went to Utah.)

But let's ignore the whole "Which religion is best?" question, OK? I've known ministers who think that Mormonism is a cult and not a Christian religion. And I've got to admit, the whole story is kind of silly. "The angel Moroni came down to Joseph Smith and told him where to unearth some golden plates, which were inscribed with an ancient Egyptian translation of the Book of Mormon. And after he translated them, the angel took the golden plates away." Why does the angel have an italian name? And why does he (or she - I don't know) take away the only thing that can verify the truth of the Book?

But I mean, let's be real. Is that crazier than the Christian faith? "God made the earth in seven days, to include fossils of dinosaurs that didn't exist to test your faith. Unless the dinosaurs died out when Noah did the ark thing. Oh, and don't forget that whole 'Hell' thing -- God knows everything. Past, present and future. So He knows that you're going to end up going to Hell, and he still allows you to come into existance. Which means that God created a torture chamber in His basement, entirely for His own amusement."

It's odd. Romney spends this entire speech blowing in whatever direction the political winds take him. He's trying to set himself up as a pandering, all-but-evangelical Christian-lite, who believes "just like you do." He can't even agree with himself during this speech. Like where he said "Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree." That's really a nice sentiment, but stands in contrast to Romney's statements that he wouldn't be likely to appoint a Muslim to a cabinet position.

Our boy Mitt's feeble grasp of history kept showing up in his attempts to pander to the Religious Right.
But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.
OK, Mitt, let's get real. "In God We Trust" was added to the money in 1864 (and only on a two-cent coin that year) because of increased religious sentiment after the Civil War. And "one nation under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 because of rampant fear of "those godless Commies." Trying to conflate these two acts with the Founding Fathers seems a little bit of a stretch, don't you think?

So, really, Mitt didn't bother to justify Mormonism. He just had his handlers write him a speech where he minimized the differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity, for a message of "any religion is a good religion" (ignoring anybody without a religion -- oh, yeah, and those Muslim extremists, they're bad, too). And he continued the Religious Right's noble tradition of rewriting history to fit their agenda.

Once again, this is just another example of Mitt Romney trying to please the most voters possible, and ignoring the truth when it's convenient. I think that Maureen Dowd saw the truth of it.
Mitt was right when he said that "Americans do not respect believers of convenience." Now if he would only admit he’s describing himself.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

If Only They'd Just Tased Him, Bro

According to physician Catherine Wilkerson, she made the mistake of attempting to save a man's life, and now might just go to jail for it.

(That link, by the way, is a particularly biased writeup of the story. You might be able to get a more even-handed version from Michigan Live or the Ann Arbor News, but those links tend to die pretty fast.)

The official description of the event is fairly straightforward. Blaine Coleman is a Michigan activist who regularly protests on behalf of the Palestinian cause and against Israel. He was attempting to disrupt a speech at the Michigan League by Georgetown University Prof. Raymond Tanter regarding the American policy in Israel. He was escorted outside to be arrested. While there, he complained he couldn't breathe and appeared to fall unconscious.

According to the report, Wilkerson was "verbally abusive" to the police and paramedics who treated Coleman, and that was why they arrested her. The building manager, Jeffrey Green, said that she was protesting, yelling at the police, and that her behavior was "more of an emotional reaction than a physician's reaction."

Dr Wilkerson's description, widely available on the internet under the title Scenes From A Cop Riot, seems to differ slightly from the official view of her actions.

She wrote that the cop, who was much larger than the protester to begin with, had the man pinned down and was crushing him against the floor with his knee backed by his full body weight. Dr Wilkerson felt that the protester would not be able to inflate his lungs in that position, and when the protester stated that he couldn't breath, she identified herself as a doctor, and instructed the cop to turn him over immediately.
The cop turned him onto his back. I saw that the victim had a wound on his forehead and blood in his nostrils. He was unconscious.

Reiterating numerous times that I was a doctor, I tried to move to where I could assess the victim for breathing and a pulse. The cop shoved me, until finally, after my imploring him to allow me to render medical care to the victim, he allowed me to determine that the victim was alive. But he refused to remove the cuffs despite my requests. A person lying with hands cuffed beneath his body risks nerve damage to the extremities and, moreover, cannot be resuscitated.
The protester remained unconscious, and the paramedics were called in. But Dr Wilkerson didn't feel that the paramedics were any better than the cops.
When the patient didn't respond to a sternal rub, one of the paramedics popped an ammonia inhalant and thrust it beneath the patient's nostrils. If you're interested in what's wrong with that, google Dr. Bryan Bledsoe… and read his article condemning this dangerous practice. That it's "just bad medicine" is sufficient to make the paramedic's actions unacceptable, but what happened next made my blood curdle. He popped a second inhalant and a third, then cupped his hands over the patient's nostrils to heighten the noxious effect. "You don't like that, do you?" he said.
Trying to google the article by Dr Bledsoe she mentions, This Procedure Stinks [Ammonia Inhalant Use], won't do you much good: although you can track it to the March 2003 issue of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, it doesn't even seem to be available on Dr Bledsoe's own website. However, the basic conclusions are available here.

Although she was forcefully restrained by the police, she was neither handcuffed nor arrested. But two months after the protest, and one week after she filed a police brutality complaint (she claims to require physical therapy for the injury she suffered at the hands of Ann Arbor police officer Kevin Warner) she was charged by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie's office, at the request of the UM police, with two attempted felonies—one against Officer Warner and one against the EMS personnel.

Although her cause is gaining support on the internet, is this a case of an overly-officious doctor interfering with law enforcement? (After all, this isn't the first time she's had issues with authority.) Is this another example of law enforcement going over the top?

I suspect that the real truth lies somewhere in between.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Presidential Shopping List

Normally, if I reprint somebody else's words, I like to steal from a blog, spread their words a little wider, not reprint from somebody who actually has a paid forum, who's making at least some kind of living from their words.

But I really liked this column (thanks, Melissa, for sharing it with me).
Presidential Shopping List

By Gail Collins

I am making a list called Qualities We Don’t Want in the Next President, based on lessons learned from the Bush administration. The first undesirable attribute was loyalty, in the sense of valuing personal relationships over competence. Really, we need to elect someone who would push his/her grandmother under a bus if she screwed up the mission.

Quality to Avoid No. 2: Extreme physical fitness.

Ideally, you do want a president who has enough energy to climb the Capitol steps. Let’s just try to avoid another chief executive who can create utter chaos in the Middle East and still figure that it was a great week if he did 20 miles on his trail bike.

During the 2000 race, the Bush campaign had an afternoon stopover at a college campus in South Carolina. I was sitting outside on a patio, typing, when the candidate himself raced through in the front of a pack of football players. (It was a little like having a cattle drive thunder past your laptop.)

Leading his little herd of hard-core jocks, Bush had the most euphoric expression on his face. I never again saw him look that happy, even when he was inaugurated. This was not a candidate who exercised in order to stay in shape for the presidential race. It was a guy who spent the campaign waiting for an excuse to get back to his real life on the StairMaster.

This year, Fred Thompson is a top contender for the title of Least Likely to Obsess Over His Running Time. But we may not want to go so far as to pick a guy who seems exhausted by a walk to the podium.

Hillary Clinton may be closer to the ideal. “Frankly, I don’t have a lot of details, but I’m sure she tries to exercise,” said a spokesman, with a tinge of defensiveness. Later, he e-mailed that Clinton has a walk “every day when she is home in Chappaqua and whenever she can when she’s on the road.” Add that all up and you get Not Very Often.

We know that Barack Obama asks his schedulers to give him an hour a day in the hotel gym, but we need more information on how he reacts when he doesn’t get it. Disappointed? Relieved? Suicidal?

John Edwards is a runner who never seemed too carried away with it. However, the way Edwards has been changing personalities recently, you never know. He could be demanding that Congress give every American worker a pair of Reeboks before the snow flies.

And then there’s Mitt Romney. I don’t think we have much to worry about from Romney on the excessive-loyalty front. There’s something about him that makes me think he’d throw his best friend overboard if it would win him 10 more votes in New Hampshire. However, he’s physically fit to a troubling degree. Romney has no known vices, except packing the family dog on top of the car during long trips. His wife makes him homemade granola, which he likes to eat with skim milk when feeling particularly indulgent. He and his many sons hold family mini-triathalons every year.

Romney has a campaign ad that shows him running — frequently uphill — through the forest, his sneakers thudding softly on the dirt trail, his breath deep and regular, strands of slightly moist hair falling artfully across his forehead as the announcer says that he has “the energy and experience to turn around Washington.” The implicit message is that Mitt’s exceptional physical prowess will work to our benefit when he becomes president. This is the exact thing we have learned is incorrect. The nation will never, ever have a president in better shape than George W. Bush. And look where that got us.

Even before Bush gave executive jogging a bad name, fitness did not always appeal to the public as much as you’d expect. Back in 1994, Romney made his first run for public office by challenging Ted Kennedy, who at 62 was bulky and moving like a much older man because of that ancient back injury. The Romney campaign ran an ad that showed Kennedy trying to squeeze himself behind a table. Voters were supposed to watch it and think: fat in the budget.

Meanwhile, Romney was bounding up stairs as if the elevator was yet to be invented, chirping his enviable stats (“One-hundred-seventy-six pounds! Almost 6-foot-2!”) at the least provocation. How could such a man not run a lean government operation? The pitch seemed to be working until Kennedy’s ad agency went to Marion, Ind., where Romney’s investment firm, Bain Capital, had acquired a factory that made office supplies, then promptly fired all the workers. (Many were then rehired at lower pay with worse benefits.) “I don’t know Kennedy, but I know Romney. We’ll be in your ads,” said an official from the local paperworkers’ union.

Perhaps this was not fair, but the voters in Massachusetts soon began to look at the spare figure of Mitt Romney and think downsizing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Those Yellow Ribbons Really Aren't Helping

Around one in every ten adults in the United States are veterans of the military. But one out of every four homeless adults are veterans, according to a new study.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
This is not a new situation, but early indications are that it will be a major problem.

Veterans have a good chance of suffering from an array of mental illness, both from what their experiences in combat and their inability to readjust when they return. Veterans have a higher rate of substance abuse than the general population, and a higher rate of divorce, with nearly sixty thousand divorces attributed to the Iraq conflict alone. Study after study show higher rates of divorce and alcoholism among returning vets.

Guard and Reserve veterans who try to return to their civilian jobs find that they’ve lost their seniority, salary and benefits, and sometimes they’ve lost the job itself.

Veterans also have a higher rate of suicide than the civilian population. And more tellingly, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are also more likely to have survived a life-altering injury than almost any similar group in the past.
Limb-loss has occurred twice as often in Iraq as in any conflict of the past century, except for Vietnam, for which there are no good statistics. The 500 major amputations - toes and fingers aren't counted - represent 2.2% of the 22,700 U.S. troops wounded in action. But the number rises to 5% in the category of soldiers whose wounds prevent them returning to duty.
Now, with any study involving statistics, there’s going to be a certain amount of error. In fact, a report on NPR suggested that, since the military is often made up of working-class and lower-class males, and those are the very groups most likely to be homeless, that much of this study is simply a statistical anomaly. Unfortunately, the NPR piece was apparently written by someone who didn’t understand either demographics or statistics. Or, possibly, it was a propaganda piece written by someone who didn’t want to admit the problem exists.

When NPR says that the military is a pool of lower-income losers destined for the breadlines, it shows that they apparently didn’t read the report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Because if they had, they might have picked up on this little factoid.
Overall, veterans tend to be better off economically than nonveterans. The median income for male veterans is $34,617 compared to $31,308 for nonveterans. The difference is even bigger for female veterans, who earn $26,470 compared to their counterpart’s annual median income of $19,179. The poverty rate for veterans is 5.8 percent, but for nonveterans, it is 12.3 percent. Veterans also have a lower unemployment rate (5.5 percent) than their nonveteran counterparts (6.7 percent)
All of which leads to an obvious question. The White House is made up of people who studiously avoided military service (Dick Cheney got 5 deferments, and George Bush spent some undocumentable time in the National Guard, for example, so that neither one needed to go to Vietnam), and none of their family members are in the military. But they’ll cheerfully send other people’s children, undertrained and without armor, into a warzone. Then, if they get back to the States, the ones who stay in the military get shipped right back to the meat grinder, while the ones who get out find themselves ignored. So what, exactly, does the White House mean by the phrase "support the troops"?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Twenty three words

Harry Reid needs to take a little initiative. As Speaker, he needs to include on the calendar, before Congress goes on recess, a motion stating, in simple, straightforward language, "United States personnel and resources will not be used in an attack on, or invasion of, Iran, without the explicit consent of Congress."

No fancy languate, no explanations or political statements, just a simple twenty three words that may be the most important statement to come out of Congress in years.

No debate, just vote. Yes or no.

If the president wants to veto it, that's great. That would say a lot. If he tries to sneak in a signing statement, that would need to get publicized.

History will not remember a budget bill. But it would remember this.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Let's ignore his religion, and just focus on Mitt Romney, the person

According to his official biography, Mitt Romney "received his B.A., with Highest Honors, from Brigham Young University in 1971. In 1975, he was awarded an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was named a Baker Scholar, and a J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School." (There's no mention of his childhood, so we'll assume he was unremarkable prior to this.)

From 1978 to 1984, he was a Vice President at Bain & Company, Inc., "a leading management consulting firm." In 1984, Mitt founded Bain Capital, a venture capital and investment company.
Bain Capital helped guide hundreds of companies on a successful course, including Staples, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Domino's Pizza, Sealy, Brookstone, and The Sports Authority. He was asked to return to Bain & Company as CEO several years later in order to lead a financial restructuring of the organization.
A more accurate description might be that he was brought in to replace the scandal-plagued Bill Bain in a time when the company's fortunes were on the wane.

Following an unsuccessful bid for the Massachusetts Senate in 1998, he took over as President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee of the 2002 Olympics in 1999, where he "erased a $379 million operating deficit, organized 23,000 volunteers, galvanized community spirit and oversaw an unprecedented security mobilization just months after the September 11th attacks, leading to one of the most successful Olympics in our country's history." (Yes, he managed to work 9/11 into his biography, too. I think that it's a Republican Party rule.)

In 2002, Romney was elected Governor of Massachusetts, where he claims all the usual gubernatorial successes (balancing the budget, better education, decreased unemployment). But he also had some unusual political views, for a Republican.

In a 1994 debate against Ted Kennedy, he stated:
"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it."
His mother, Lenore Romney, as an unsuccessful candidate in 1970 for the US Senate in Michigan, had apparently made similar, if more restrained statements. (Politics, you see, are a family tradition among the Romneys. His father, George Romney was also a politician, as the elected governor of Michigan, failed Presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Nixon.)

With regards to abortion, Mitt Romney stated more recently that he was in a "different place" than he was in 1994 (when he was a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade), and that his view in 1994 was shaped by the abortion-related death of a relative in the 1960s. Apparently, with the additional decade, he gained some perspective, because he is now pro-life, and supports the rights of states to decide whether abortion should be legal. (Except, of course, that he also supports a national ban on abortion. Tricky position, that one.)

His position on gay rights is somewhat nuanced. His campaign platform as governor was fairly clear.
All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual orientation. While he does not support gay marriage, Mitt Romney believes domestic partnership status should be recognized in a way that includes the potential for health benefits and rights of survivorship.
But he has since stated that he opposed both gay marriage and civil unions, but supported civil unions if they were the only alternative (except that his support for gay unions has apparently evaporated completely, to the point that in 2006, he requested that a ban on gay marriage be placed on the Massachusetts ballot if the legislature did not vote on the question before going into recess).

And although he has never completely repudiated his 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Republicans expressing his interest in equality, he has not actively supported gay rights in any noticeable way during his political career.

His position on gun control is equally nuanced. Although Romney now states that he "support(s) the right of individuals to keep and bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution," and he joined the NRA in August of 2006, that doesn't really match his earlier rhetoric.
In his 1994 US Senate run, Romney backed two gun-control measures strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups: the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on gun sales, and a ban on certain assault weapons.

"That's not going to make me the hero of the NRA," Romney told the Boston Herald in 1994. At another campaign stop that year, he told reporters: "I don't line up with the NRA."
And the list goes on and on.

Of course, you have to admire somebody willing to stand up against the Religious Right and tell them that "no President could possibly take orders or even input from a religious leader telling him what to do." On the other hand, he was actually trying to reassure people that they shouldn't worry about the fact that he's openly Mormon, but would that statement relieve James Dobson's mind?

There's more that needs to be mentioned about Mr. Romney, but it's late. I didn't talk about his position on animal rights (which is apparently on top of a speeding car), his continued conflating of Obama/Osama, or his weird record on guns and hunting ("I own a gun... OK, maybe my son owns a gun that he lets me use to go hunting... OK, I hunt but I don't get a license for it, because I mostly shoot varmints and the like.") But let's ignore that for now, and just consider his shifting political stances on... well, on every major political position on record.

In fact, the more you dig into Romney's shifting political stances, the more you have to wonder one thing: Is there a real Mitt Romney, or just a creature of political expediency?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Usshering in a Bold New Seventeenth Century

Our friends at WorldNetDaily are now selling copies of a new book. Well, perhaps "new" is a misnomer.
In the 1650s, an Anglican bishop named James Ussher published his "Annals of the World," subtitled, "The Origin of Time, and Continued to the Beginning of the Emperor Vespasian's Reign and the Total Destruction and Abolition of the Temple and Commonwealth of the Jews." First published in Latin, it consisted of more than 1,600 pages.

The book, now published in English for the first time, is a favorite of homeschoolers and those who take ancient history seriously. It's the history of the world from the Garden of Eden to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Actually, this translation takes both the originial Annals, along with its follow-up volume.
After a 1647 work on the origin of the Creeds, Ussher published a treatise on the calendar in 1648. This was a warm-up for his most famous work, the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world"), which appeared in 1650, and its continuation, Annalium pars postierior, published in 1654.
Aside from mistranslating the title (or ignoring the change by the translator), the fine scholars at WorldNetDaily don't seem to know their source material very well.
...the author of the book... said the world was created Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. – making it exactly 6,010 yesterday.
Technically, Ussher stated that the earth was created on the nightfall preceding October 23, but that's apparently a common error. (Incidentally, despite the implication implicit in the "article" that WND is releasing this book for the first time, that's just a marketing ploy.)

Oddly, not everyone believes Ussher's scientifically-determined age for the earth. Skeptics have held parties mocking the date, and Clarence Darrow used the errors in Ussher's scholarship to great advantage in the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial (roughly as chronicled in Inherit the Wind).

Fortunately for Ussher's work, his original effort used the Julian calendar, and could safely ignore the ten or eleven day shift switching from the Julian to Gregorian calendars. But Ussher didn't concern himself overmuch with the fact that the numbering of Julian years was based on an estimate of Christ's birth by a sixth-century scholar, Dionysius Exiguus.

An argument could probably be made that this is a historical document, but it isn't history buffs who it's being marketed for. It's published by Master Books, an imprint of the New Leaf Publishing Group. As they put it,
Master Books remains a strong voice of truth in defense of the Holy Scripture from the very first verse, continuing the evangelistic tradition and vision at the heart of New Leaf Press for 30 years. My father, Cliff , wanted evangelism to remain the primary mission of our company
They publish fine tomes like Dinosaurs of Eden, Darwin's Demise, the Creation, Evolution and Deception DVD, and even the Tower of Babel Pop-Up and Read. These aren't scholars, folks. They're far-right fringe, Rapture-believing Young Earthers.

So who do you really think is the largest audience for this cute little work of misguided scholarship? Well, one hint might be the fact that it's written up in (and sold by) both and (Why do they really think that all of life's answers can be found in Genesis, anyway? Was it "Invisible Touch" or "Sussudio" that really inspired them?)

This is considered to be "History" (capital aitch), not a "Biblical timeline." Personally, I especially like the statement in the ad, "The fact that Ussher's chronology has been deleted from Bibles is evidence of the Church's backsliding into the deceptive ideas of evolution."

But for further proof, let's look at the interview with the translators, Larry and Marion Pierce. Marion at one point says:
The hardest thing for me was containing my enthusiasm! This project became a passion as I became more aware of the deep research and irrefutable sources Ussher used in ferreting out his information. Every footnote referenced cries out to the sceptic, 'Here are my sources; check them out and see if you can prove me wrong!'
Personally, considering how strong their agenda is, I'd really rather have their translation double-checked by a real scholar. Preferably an agnostic. Or at least a Lutheran (ELCA, not Missouri Synod...).

In their efforts to stamp out modern science, the Religious Right is turning to the scholarship of a seventeenth-century Anglican Archbishop, ignoring over three and a half centuries of collected knowledge.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just one question

OK. So let me get this straight (so to speak).

J.K. Rowling has come out and said... excuse me. Let me rephrase that.

In an interview, author J.K. Rowling said that headmaster of her school for wizards, Dumbledore, is gay. Not that she ever made him do anything homosexual, but that she kept that fact in mind.

This has caused great consternation among the right wing.

So now, we are supposed to be concerned with the intent of people who don't exist. Not their actions (which never happened), but the non-actions (which also never happened). Is that about right?

We are supposed to get outraged by the things that aren't done by fictional characters, in a world that likewise doesn't exist.

I think my brain just exploded.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Domenici Doesn't Love Me

You know, sometimes I've been known to write stuff elsewhere than here. (Which is good, actually, since my output here has hardly been record-breaking...) For example, one week ago today, our Congresscritters blocked a bill that would have done a simple thing - it would have given our military equal time away from the battlefield as they are forced to spend getting shot at and blown up.

New Mexico, as you might be aware, has two Senators: Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman. One Republican rubberstamp for Bush, and one human being. And I've been known, whenever I'm feeling like getting illegally wiretapped, to express myself to the people who are supposed to be representing me in Washington. Now, Bingaman, while he may not be a fire-breathing maverick, at least had the common decency to say "Yes. I believe it's only fair to let you come back to America and get shot at less often."

Domenici, on the other hand, being a shriveled, dried-out worthless bag of pus, decided to block this act. Pretty much like the Republicans have chosen to block everything that the Democrats try to do, because they're the worst example of partisan hacks in the history of the government.

So I decided to express myself on this subject. I suppose that, to be completely fair, I should probably have also written Bingaman and thanked him for supporting the military, but I didn't. I went to Domenici's website, and wrote this.
Senator Domenici,

You just voted to block a bill that would have allowed troops to spend as much time at home training with their units as they spend deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan (and Members of the National Guard or Reserve would be guaranteed three years at home before being sent back). This would have allowed them to be better rested, better trained, and more likely to survive. Oddly, you apparently don't want that.

I understand that you did not, yourself, spend any time in the military. I spent 21 years in the military, and two tours in the Middle East. Perhaps you don't understand the stress of family separation, combined with the uncertainty of survival for the troops in Iraq. Almost 4000 of our soldiers have died, and tens of thousands have been injured by our ill-considered invasion of another country. A country, incidentally, that was not involved in any way with the 9/11 conflict, despite the White House conflating the two consistently for the past seven years.

Your disdain of the troops and your dismissal of their well-being disgusts me, Senator. If you believe that we need more servicemen and women, you should try to institute a draft (preferably one that forces the children of the rich and privileged to serve alongside their less-fortunate counterparts). That is, if you really believe that you could ever get reelected after that.

You have eight children, and presumably a number of grandchildren. Without knowing anything about them, I will guarantee that none of them are in the military. And I doubt that any of them ever have been.

There is no reason for American troops to be in Iraq. The Iraqi people don't want us there: they are in the middle of a civil war. Iraq is not a hotbed of anti-American terrorists - they merely want the foreign invaders out of their country.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is not a threat to any Americans, except those in Iraq. Even General Petraeus agrees with that.

Your vote in this matter shows that you are no longer in touch with the feelings of the people you represent, and that you do not care about the welfare of the military that you sent, and keep sending, into Iraq.
See? I didn't call him a "shriveled, dried-out worthless bag of pus," or anything. I didn't insult him in any way, although I did suggest that his actions disgusted me.

Normally, when you write your Congresscritter, they are polite enough to write you back. Although I have noticed a tendency on the part of Domenici's staff to send out a canned response that is occasionally barely related to what you wrote him about - usually just some speechwriter's platitudes.

Well, it's been a week now, and no word from Domenici.

Very strange. I'm not in the military any more. You'd think he'd have started to care about me by now.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why aren't they smarter?

You know, a major study at NYU and UCLA recently proved that conservatives don’t react well to changing circumstances, and liberals do. And we can show the truth of that with recent politics.

Take, for example, Dick Cheney. Didn't people make fun of him enough during his original claim that he wasn't a part of the executive branch of the government? In responding to a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee, first he says that he's upset that they didn't just ask him first.
-- The issuance of the subpoena to this office was procedurally irregular. First, the committee did not follow the congressional custom of sending a letter to this office requesting the material before it sent the office a subpoena.
Because Dick's always been so open and forthcoming on these matters up until now, right?

But then they're right back into the trenches with this bizarre Vice Presidential confusion regarding how the government is set up.
--In the performance of executive functions in support of the President, the Vice President respects the legal privileges afforded by the Constitution to the presidency, such as the Executive Privilege protecting among other things national security secrets and policy deliberations. Similarly, in the performance of legislative functions, the Vice President respects the legal privileges afforded by the Constitution to the Senate, such as preservation of the confidentiality of a session of the Senate with closed doors over which a Vice President may preside.
Now, I admit that I'm not fluent in Lawyerspeak, so perhaps there's some other translation of this that I can't work out. But it looks to me like he's continuing with his bone-headed contention that he is neither completely in the executive branch of government, nor in the legislative branch.

(I believe it was that great philosopher Jon Stewart who said that he was part of the mystic Fourth Branch of Government.)

You know, President Bush is known to occasionally sign a bill into law. Does this mean that he's also part of the legislative branch? (I shouldn't say that too loud. They might actually try that...)

The first time that Cheney tried to claim that he was not part of the executive branch, he backed off as soon as Congress tried to agree with him. After all, the government couldn't support double-dipping. So, as Rahm Emanuel put it, "we will no longer fund the executive branch of his office and he can live off the funding for the Senate presidency."

But see, Dick got caught just trying, as he always has, to do exactly what he wanted to do and damn what other people want. And in support of his whim, he makes some brain-dead statement like “I’m not part of the Executive Branch. Even if I do claim Executive Privilege every so often!” And then he doesn’t know what to do when people call him on his arrogance and stupidity.

It's always been about the money for Dick Cheney. He was the CEO of Halliburton for quite a while, only getting out when he decided that being the hand-up-the-backside-of-the-Bush-puppet would be a viable job to put on his resume. And then Halliburton kept getting billions of dollars in no-bid contracts from the government, but nobody felt that it was unreasonable for them to be paying the Vice President millions of dollars every year. Can somebody explain that logic to me? Is that the "free market" they keep talking about? Buy a politician and get rich?

And now the Republicans want to expand the battle into Iran. (Or Syria, if you ask Joe Lieberman.) Where's the money going to come from for that? We stripped the economic surplus that Clinton left him years ago, and now, Bush owes more money to foreign countries than every president ever, added together. Not "than any one president has ever owed." If you add up the foreign debt of every president from Washington to Clinton, you end up with a sum that's less than what Bush now owes. And we owe this money to countries like China, who've never been our friend. (Isn't that like owing money to Guido the Loan Shark? You're fine until you get behind on those payments. Then a couple of boys might come around and "explain things" by breaking a few kneecaps...)

Again, there’s no logic involved here. Where is the money coming from? The White House keeps telling us that we have to stay in Iraq "until the mission is done." Without, of course, telling us what the mission is. It’s always some nebulous argument like “they don’t have travel agents, so they won’t be able to get to America unless we leave. And then they’d just be able to follow us!”

And they don’t bother telling us how we’re going to pay for staying in Iraq, much less moving along to the next Middle East country. Except that we’re pretty sure that Bush isn’t going to pay for it by taking his tax cuts away from his rich friends.

So obviously, we're going to pay for it by continuing to take money away from repairs to our crumbling infrastructure, by failing to improve the air traffic control system, and by not ensuring that our poor have adequate health care.

I don’t understand any of this. But that’s the problem with the Republican mindset these days. They get one idea (say, "going into Iraq might be a good idea”) and then they can’t think of anything except succeeding at this mind-numbingly stupid plan, even if the facts prove that their idea is unachievable or self-defeating. They don’t react well to changing conditions.

For an example of this, let’s look back a few months, at the actions of one sad little Idaho Senator named Larry Craig. On June 11, Senator Craig went into a bathroom in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, lurked around for awhile, went into a stall, waved his hands under the divider, tapped his foot against his neighbor’s foot, and was then arrested for lewd behavior. He then pled guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct (probably hoping it would all go away), and he then tried to retract his guilty plea (probably because it didn’t go away).

OK, so he went into this bathroom stall looking for something. Maybe a place to relieve himself, or maybe for a little homosexual excursion. It doesn’t matter. Either way, whatever it was Larry Craig was looking for was suddenly interrupted. Suddenly, whatever it was that he wanted, whatever portion of the lower torso he wanted to relieve, he abruptly found himself being arrested.

Now, consider how he reacted – he panicked. Where was the crime? At what point, in fact, was he even particularly disorderly? He could easily have brazened it out. "Well, I lowered my pants as I sat on the toilet. Maybe the policeman saw my hands at that point. I don’t know what he thought he saw." Do you mean to tell me that there isn’t a lawyer in Idaho who could have gotten those charges dropped? Hell, a Public Defender could have made this whole thing go away in twenty minutes.

And is Larry Craig gay? Hell, I don’t know. The facts, such as they are, don’t look good, though. (I guess it would be polite to ignore the men who've claimed to have sex with Senator Craig, wouldn't it? Rude to the men, perhaps, but at least polite to the senator. And that's what's important, right?

I see this as a somewhat twisted metaphor for Iraq. George Bush, who became the least-documentable member of the Air National Guard in order to (successfully) avoid going to Vietnam, decided that he wanted to get his war on, prove he had bigger cojones than his dad (whose "victory" didn’t seem that impressive to him), and he found some friends who wanted very badly to get a permanent base in the Middle East. So suddenly, he’s a "war president."

But when his plans go awry (waving his hands in Fallujah, tapping his foot against Anwar Province), he refuses to accept the inevitable. What he’s doing now is what Larry Craig should have done – Bush found himself a Public Defender named Petraeus who was willing to say "Nothing was wrong in that bathroom! See, they're succeeding admirably!"

Understand, I'm not saying that he's right. I'm just saying that he's mounting an effective defense. We'll ignore that the statistics are openly cooked. We'll ignore that deaths are up in Iraq. All we have to do is listen to Bush, and everything will be all better.

He’s not failing. He’s just taking a wide stance on Iraq.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Depth of Rudi Giuliani's Ignorance

OK, I only read this post on Bats Left Throws Right because C&L linked to them, but everything he says is 100% correct. So here, in its entirety, is the work of someone calling themselves Doghouse Riley.

Rudolph Giuliani, "Toward a Realistic Peace", Foreign Affairs September/October

THIS is, I think, the most ignorant thing I've ever seen attached to a politician's name, and I've heard Everett Dirksen, S.I. Hayakawa, and Steve Symms speak.
We are all members of the 9/11 generation.
And that's it. He could have stopped there, for all the evidence he supplies, all the analysis that flows from this "fact". This is a man asking us to name him to follow the most incompetent administration in our history, to take charge of the colossal mess created precisely because we relied on this sort of sloganeering instead of looking for ways to create a realistic peace.

Or any peace, for that matter, because in the heyday of the use of Red White an' Blue as a charm against falling objects we had no interest in peace whatever. If that's ever changed for Giuliani you won't hear it about it here, just as you'll never hear it on the campaign trail. Peace, a solution (other than the Final one), these are not even a part of the narrative, as they would be in any real war, no matter how odious the enemy. It's Ultimate Victory Which Demonstrates for All Time God's Righteous Guidance of our Tax-Cutting Program vs. Demoralizing, Humiliating Defeat Which Turns Our Brave Heroes Gay. If you want an accurate title here, or at least one that refers to what's in the body of the piece, it's "How to Recycle Cold War and Post-Vietnam Rhetoric In Such A Way That It Might Win Us One More Election."

Okay, I know that Giuliani's just saying things to win a nomination--not that I think he's shamming--but this is Foreign Affairs, not NASCAR in Pictures Monthly. The base ain't listenin'. So we're forced to conclude he learned international relations playing Telephone with Young Republicans during the Reagan administration. After suggesting that our every international concern is the result of, or has been exacerbated by, our short-sighted refusal to simply explain to the other nations of the world why our system is logically the best for them if they would like to prosper, join in a secure community of nations, and avoid having us blow their fucking heads off--said persuasion to be accomplished by submarine, "paramilitary groups" (I kid you not!), and the Voice of America--Rudy assures us that, like all responsible Presidential candidates, he's already got the exploratory committee on his own canonization hard at work:
Our cultural and commercial influence can also have a positive impact. They did during the Cold War. The steadfast leadership of President Reagan, working alongside British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, helped the Soviet Union understand that it could not bully the West into submission. Although such leadership was essential, alone it might not have toppled the Soviet Union in the time that it did. But it was effective because it came with Western economic investment and cultural influence that inspired people in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. Companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Levi's helped win the Cold War by entering the Soviet market. Cultural events, such as Van Cliburn's concerts in the Soviet Union and Mstislav Rostropovich's in the United States, also hastened change.
Good Lord, it's history as told to People magazine. No, make that Us. Reagan steadfastly ran from Lebanon, after getting a couple hundred Marines killed to no purpose whatsoever, all because Realism Informed by Idealism dictated that he toss out the Camp David Accords as being, if I recall, "too accomplished by Jimmy Carter". As a result, of course, there hasn't been a bit of trouble on the Israel/Lebanon border since, and we've developed a special relationship with the Saudi royal family, once it understood the benefits of free elections and unfettered trade. The Pope managed to muzzle some mouthy South American priests and give hope to millions around the world who felt that the 19th Century was moving just a little too fast. Thatcher, meanwhile, took a failing British economy and, by dint of superior principles, drove it into the dumpster. Plus, in a certain light, she looked a little like Churchill. And who can forget that she kicked some Argentine ass, a move roundly applauded in the United States by people who couldn't have pointed to the Falklands on a map, and who apparently sided with the British in the hopes that one day we'd get our own Spice Girl out of the deal.
The next U.S. president should take inspiration from Ronald Reagan's actions during his summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavík in 1986: he was open to the possibility of negotiations but ready to walk away if talking went nowhere. The lesson is never talk for the sake of talking and never accept a bad deal for the sake of making a deal. Those with whom we negotiate -- whether ally or adversary -- must know that America has other options. The theocrats ruling Iran need to understand that we can wield the stick as well as the carrot, by undermining popular support for their regime, damaging the Iranian economy, weakening Iran's military, and, should all else fail, destroying its nuclear infrastructure.
It's amazing that the party which used to grouse about Unintended Consequences now seems to imagine there are no consequences of any sort, or where there are some, however unpleasant, it's because we haven't doubled down enough yet. Elsewhere Giuliani spits out the recent commonplace that the Iranian people "actually like us"--the whole thing is current events as scrapbook--but somehow they'll be happy to have us fuck with them from 30,000 metaphorical feet provided we've got a really good reason to do so.

This, by the way, is the essence of Giuliani's military thinking, a return to 9/12 and the infinite possibilities of crafting military action using logistical maps and vapor.
The U.S. Army needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades. It may need more, but this is an appropriate baseline increase while we reevaluate our strategies and resources. We must also take a hard look at other requirements, especially in terms of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers. Rebuilding will not be cheap, but it is necessary. And the benefits will outweigh the costs.
Which, of course, doesn't mean we can afford it, or even that it's a good idea. But let's look at this one from the top, beginning atop the spires of the alabaster castle he's erecting in the clouds and continuing down to the crater we'll leave when we climb onto the thing.

Ten combat brigades. That's 50,000 men, plus materiel, plus the neglected-to-mention-'em-because-they-ain't-sexy support troops. Forget where they're supposed to come from when we haven't been able to recruit 50,000 a year despite raising the age limit and lowering the physical and mental requirements to "Present". Every recruit receives an automatic $90,000 ($20K in cash) benefit package upon acceptance, plus unknown future educational benefits and whatever medical care we don't cheat them out of when they're no longer of any use. We spend between $50-100,000 on training each soldier in his first year. That's a commitment to a minimum $7 billion dollar increase before anyone gets a haircut, and doesn't include feeding, housing, or equipping him, and it presumably comes after we re-equip and re-man the existing ten divisions. The current Pentagon wish list is for an increase of two divisions (roughly 30,000 troops). Rudy wants half again as many at a minimum while we're sitting around trying to figure out what we really need to do. This at a time when combat readiness is at an historic low, when we may need to requisition Yellowstone for use as a parking lot for junk equipment (sorry, I shouldn't have said that out loud), and at a time when we've already transferred the responsibilities of the Army's "Ready Brigade" to the 101st Airborne--which is by training and equipment incapable of performing all the doctrinal requirements--so that we could send every brigade of the 82nd Airborne--which can--to assist in The Surge. At the best of times--like, say, when we had a standing army that was equipped and prepared to do its job--creating a single division would require a minimum of five years. Forget who's supposed to pay for all this and how--presumably vapor taxpayers and vapor money are as easy to conjure up as ghost brigades--who's going to train them? You'll have to retain practically the entire fighting force we have left, promote them, and a corresponding increase in benefits and pensions, as a training force.

Wait, we've barely begun. We've created an army of soldiers many of whom are not yet born, and saddled their younger siblings with the bill. But what th' fuck is the mission? We've already seen that a standing force of 1.1 million--double that with Reservists and Guard--was unable to deploy, let alone maintain, much more than 200,000 troops between Iraq and Afghanistan. Which force, as everybody but the Republican Presidential contenders now knows, was woefully inadequate for the job, which was to occupy the poorest country in the world, with little more than a leftover insurgent force to defend it (albeit in favorable terrain, but that terrain did miraculously get tougher on September 11), and a tenth-rate military power still more than decimated by the pounding we gave it twelve years earlier. Neither of them is Iran, and Iran is no Pakistan. Where are we sending these boys and girls, Rudy? What're they supposed to do once they get there? Or has Camille Paglia--who mused last week that we might have to return to Iraq sometime in the near future and bomb the hell out of 'em this time, as though to emphasize the fact that this was another subject she didn't know a fucking thing about--signed on as your secret military advisor?

I told myself I was going to ignore it this time, but the song of the sirens is too persuasive. It's not just current military matters on which Rudy is certifiably insane:
America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, we fought a war with the wrong strategy for several years. And then, as now, we corrected course and began to show real progress. Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America. The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse.
Fiction. absolute fiction from beginning to end. Wrong in every particular. (For the record, Your Honor, America needs to learn the lessons of Vietnam before it worries that it's getting a little fuzzy about the details. And perhaps you'd care to go first?) And it perfectly underscores the depth of the problem in front of us--not just the eventual breakdown of what remains of US forces in Iraq, which the Bush administration determined several years ago was preferable to its admission of error (these are the patriots, folks), not the wresting of temporal political control from a party of lunatics, in order to hand it over to a party of lunatic enablers, but the complete reversal of sixty years of military fetishism, insane spending priorities, and a view of history somewhere between "Unlettered" and "Hallucinated", all of it transfered from ear to ear, one whisper at a time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Health food for everyone

I'm going to see if I can't make the world a better place in one simple blog post. Since it's July, this is a particularly far-reaching and important piece of news, and will increase happiness in much of this hemisphere.

First, let me point out that a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture tells us that researchers in Thailand and America discovered that the antioxidant properties of strawberries are increased by the application of a little alcohol. (This is true of blackberries and other colored fruit, if you're curious.)

Now, some naysayers would like to point out that too much alcohol damages the liver. Screw them. They always want to rain on our parade. So we'll ignore them, in that responsible manner of the Bush administration, which bravely ignores any scientific evidence it doesn't agree with.

Straight strawberries have other beneficial effects - vitamins, minerals, fiber. You know, stuff that nobody wants to know about, but, like traffic laws, we need to have to stay happy and out of trouble.

Then we have the benefits of honey. It's good stuff. Plus, if you get honey harvested locally, it can have beneficial effects on your allergies, as well.

So, here's how I'm going to improve your life.
Strawberry Daiquiri Smoothie

1 pint (16 oz) frozen strawberries
1/4 cup local honey
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon (around 1/4 cup)
¾ cup rum (spiced is good, by the way)

Put sugar in blender first, to grind for a second or two. Pour in water rum, and lemon juice. Blend until to mixed (a few seconds). Start adding frozen strawberries, a few at a time. At the end, you'll probably need to stop the blender and stir with a spoon, pushing down any floaters. Serve.

Makes 2 good-sized daiquiris (3 if you skimp a little).
If you want don't really care about the health bonus from honey, you can go ahead and use 1/4 cup of "superfine sugar." Just put regular sugar in a dry blender first, and run it for a few seconds. If you actually pay extra money for "superfine" sugar, I'll have to come to your house and break your kneecaps. I'm sorry, but that's just the way life is.

(Some people would tell you to increase the sugar by 1/4 when substituting for honey. Well, to tell the truth, that kind of measurement is too much for me. I'm lazy. And I recommend that you avoid trying that much math when you're cooking, too. Or drinking. Same problem. It'll cause brain rot.)

Now, I'm willing to go for something that'll make your life easier and cheaper almost every time. But I'm not willing to substitute the "juice of one lemon" part for an equal amount of any brand of "reconstituted lemon juice." Because if you look on the label, every one of them that I've found uses either potassium benzoate or sodium benzoate to preserve the stuff. So avoid it.

There. See? One simple blog post, and you're healthier, more regular, and more relaxed. So what could be better than that, right?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Patriotism (slightly updated, July 31)

Sometimes, it's difficult to be a patriotic American. But that's only because "patriotism" has been carjacked by the White House.

The Bush administration and their ilk have made dissent a dirty word. If you disagree with them, you're either un-American, or worse, you're "endangering the troops."

Personally, I like to judge people by their actions, not their words. And when you look at the actions committed by our White House, you don't see anything that resembles a normal definition of "patriotism."

As the cost of the Iraq debacle increasingly spirals out of control, running us about $12 billion dollars per month at the moment, it's becoming increasingly apparent that we can't afford to stay in Iraq. Not that George W. Bush sees this as a problem. After all, he's managed to build up our national debt to nine trillion dollars, or seventy percent of the economy. Which puts the American economy at risk from hostile foreign governments.

(Let's make an analogy that hits closer to home. George Bush is spending his entire paycheck every month, and paying the bills with credit cards. Do you see how that might be a bad idea?)

The more human cost of White House policies, the price in American lives, is now approaching 3600 dead servicemen. Again, not a problem for Bush & Co. None of them has even bothered to serve in the military, nor are any of their relatives. The White House doesn't feel that "sacrifice" is an important component to a war. (Of course, if you ask Laura Bush, nobody is suffering as much as they are. So they've got that going for them, I guess.)

Meanwhile, we have an executive branch which has no interest in following the law. If the president doesn't like a bill passed by Congress, instead of vetoing it, he'll write a quick (and probably misspelled) paragraph explaining why he's going to ignore it. Meanwhile, the vice president isn't even clear which branch of the government he's in.

(On the other hand, by ignoring the court system and the appeals process, and commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby before he spent even a day in jail, George Bush apparently decided he's part of the Judicial Branch, as well as the Executive Branch. So between the two of them, Bush and Cheney have all three branches of the government covered. Cool, huh?)

And less than a month after telling a group of high school students that "the United States does not torture and... we value human rights," he signed an executive order that essentially lets the CIA do whatever the hell they want (except sexual abuse) to a prisoner.

So, what's Bush's latest trick?
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.
In case you've been living in a cave these last few weeks, this particular mutation of the law is meant to protect Harriet Miers, to keep her from squealing like a two-bit loan shark in a Mafia druglord trial.

Basically, what Bush is saying is "I told her not to tell you what I've been doing. And so, if she lies to you, it must be legal. If she refuses to talk to you, it must be legal. Because I said that it is.

And that's not all. The White House set up a secret plan to run the government in case of terrorist attack. (You remember the terrorists, right? The boogeymen that they've been waving over our heads for six years?) Well, you'd think that sort of thing would fall under that overarching title "Homeland Security," right?

So a couple of the constituents of Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) asked him to look into the plan, thinking that there might be some kind of nastiness buried in it. Seems reasonable, right? After all, he is on the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee. So Defazio went through the proper channels, and asked to go into a secured room and read the plan. And was refused permission.

No, that doesn't look suspicious at all, does it?

And now, as if to prove that Bush is either corrupt, willfully ignorant or both, the White House has asked Congress to approve a $20 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Now, let's be clear here: nearly half of the insurgents captured in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia. And let's not forget the White House's favorite topic of conversation for the last six years = 9/11. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

What is it about Saudi Arabia that makes George Bush trust them? (Oh, yeah. They have oil.)

At this point, the only true patriot in America is one who opposes the White House.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Olberman says it all

The following is Keith Olbermann's commentary from the Countdown of July 3, 2007. (Yes, Melissa, it's Keith's birthday present to you...)

I have nothing to add.
"I didn't vote for him," an American once said, "But he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."

That—on this eve of the 4th of July—is the essence of this democracy, in 17 words. And that is what President Bush threw away yesterday in commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The man who said those 17 words—improbably enough—was the actor John Wayne. And Wayne, an ultra-conservative, said them, when he learned of the hair's-breadth election of John F. Kennedy instead of his personal favorite, Richard Nixon in 1960.

"I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."

The sentiment was doubtlessly expressed earlier, but there is something especially appropriate about hearing it, now, in Wayne's voice: The crisp matter-of-fact acknowledgement that we have survived, even though for nearly two centuries now, our Commander-in-Chief has also served, simultaneously, as the head of one political party and often the scourge of all others.

We as citizens must, at some point, ignore a president's partisanship. Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world—but merely that we may function.

But just as essential to the seventeen words of John Wayne, is an implicit trust—a sacred trust: That the president for whom so many did not vote, can in turn suspend his political self long enough, and for matters imperative enough, to conduct himself solely for the benefit of the entire Republic.

Our generation's willingness to state "we didn't vote for him, but he's our president, and we hope he does a good job," was tested in the crucible of history, and earlier than most. And in circumstances more tragic and threatening. And we did that with which history tasked us.

We enveloped our President in 2001.And those who did not believe he should have been elected—indeed those who did not believe he had been elected—willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and shaped it to a razor-sharp point and stabbed this nation in the back with it.

Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers.

Did so even before the appeals process was complete; did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice; did so despite what James Madison—at the Constitutional Convention—said about impeaching any president who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes "advised by" that president; did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at the chain of events and wonder: To what degree was Mr. Libby told: break the law however you wish—the President will keep you out of prison?

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental com-pact between yourself and the majority of this nation's citizens—the ones who did not cast votes for you. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party. And this is too important a time, Sir, to have a commander-in-chief who puts party over nation.

This has been, of course, the gathering legacy of this Administration. Few of its decisions have escaped the stain of politics. The extraordinary Karl Rove has spoken of "a permanent Republican majority," as if such a thing—or a permanent Democratic majority—is not antithetical to that upon which rests: our country, our history, our revolution, our freedoms.

Yet our Democracy has survived shrewder men than Karl Rove. And it has survived the frequent stain of politics upon the fabric of government. But this administration, with ever-increasing insistence and almost theocratic zealotry, has turned that stain into a massive oil spill.

The protection of the environment is turned over to those of one political party, who will financially benefit from the rape of the environment. The protections of the Constitution are turned over to those of one political party, who believe those protections unnecessary and extravagant and quaint.

The enforcement of the laws is turned over to those of one political party, who will swear beforehand that they will not enforce those laws. The choice between war and peace is turned over to those of one political party, who stand to gain vast wealth by ensuring that there is never peace, but only war.

And now, when just one cooked book gets corrected by an honest auditor, when just one trampling of the inherent and inviolable fairness of government is rejected by an impartial judge, when just one wild-eyed partisan is stopped by the figure of blind justice, this President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

When President Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous "Saturday Night Massacre" on October 20th, 1973, Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously.

"Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men, is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people."

President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people.

It had been about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break in to a rival party's headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover-up that break-in and the related crimes.

And in one night, Nixon transformed it.

Watergate—instantaneously—became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law of insisting—in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood - that he was the law.

Not the Constitution. Not the Congress. Not the Courts. Just him.

Just - Mr. Bush - as you did, yesterday.

The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the "referee" of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's analogy. These are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush—and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal—the average citizen understands that, Sir.

It's the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one—and it stinks. And they know it.

Nixon's mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency. And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment.

It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of non-partisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to "base," but to country, echoes loudly into history. Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush. And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney. You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday. Which one of you chose the route, no longer matters. Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is irrelevant.

But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant.

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a King who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them—or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them—we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time—and our leaders in Congress, of both parties—must now live up to those standards which echo through our history: Pressure, negotiate, impeach—get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.


And give us someone—anyone—about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, "I didn't vote for him, but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."
Happy birthday, America. And may God help us all.