Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Great Moments in Presidential Speeches": A fond farewell

By non sequitur

As many of you probably know, a recurring segment on David Letterman's show over the past few years has been called "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches." It is, as you might expect, a vehicle for satirizing George W. Bush and his way with the spoken word. Now that his days of presidential speechifying are almost over, they've compiled a sort of greatest hits. My favorite part was probably the kid near the end (I was crying with laughter), and the very last clip. Enjoy.

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And here's to you, Barack Obama, a world turns its hopeful eyes to you

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's our Photo of the Day: Obama and Biden on their way, by train, to Washington, a historic, Lincolnesque journey to Inauguration.

(Update: They've arrived. And the American people are indeed optimistic.)

(Photo: NYT.)

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Going out on a low

By Michael J.W. Stickings

President Bush is convinced that history will vindicate him, which may or may not be sheer craziness, but what is undeniable is that, right now, the American people do not approve of how he has conducted himself as president. And, with just a few days to go in what has been a disastrous presidency, the numbers are nothing if not overwhelming:

President Bush will leave office as one of the most unpopular departing presidents in history, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing Mr. Bush's final approval rating at 22 percent.

Seventy-three percent say they disapprove of the way Mr. Bush has handled his job as president over the last eight years.

Mr. Bush's final approval rating is the lowest final rating for an outgoing president since Gallup began asking about presidential approval more than 70 years ago.

After the past eight years, Bush certainly belongs in the record books.

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Organizing for America

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or: Obama 2.0.

Which is fine. The question all along has been how best to take advantage of, in a positive way, Obama's massive grassroots campaign, how to translate success in 2008 into success in 2010, 2012, and beyond.

And merging that campaign, Obama's "machine," into the DNC, that is, with the formal party apparatus, may very well be the best way to do it. Just as long as it isn't all about re-electing Obama in 2012. As worthy a goal as that will be, after all, the party as a whole needs to focus on keeping and expanding its majorities in Congress, winning at the state level, and otherwise spreading its resources up and down the ticket. In other words, it's not just about how the Democratic Party can help Obama, it's about how Obama can help the Democratic Party, translating his massive popularity into success for the party more broadly.

Anyway, here's the announcement:

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Transition soon to end

By Carol Gee

Obama transition time is now less than a week. There is considerable Inaugural hope, but America is still in shock.# But everyone is moving forward and looks to be mostly on track. For example, Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog posts "The Official Photo"* (1/14/09), noting:

The official presidential photograph of Barack Obama has been released. It's the first ever presidential portrait shot with a digital camera.

It's the Economy, stupid -- In his economic speech on January 8, President-elect Obama admits that there is so much work to be done. The nation is fearful that we are fighting off economic depression.# At the very least, as McClatchy headlines, "Recession calls up sacrifice* (1/6/09). As the first part of the new strategy, the Senate voted Thursday, 52-42 to release the second $350 billion of the TARP funds.

Confirmation votes have already begun. To track those nominations and confirmation fights, see "References" below. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted positively Thursday for Secretary of State designate, Hillary Clinton, with only one Republican dissenting, Senator Vitter. There was an interesting related article at The New Republic - The Plank: "They Are All Hillary's Women Now"* (1/14/09). To quote Michelle Cottle's conclusion:

Both the history and the temperament of the incoming Secretary of State suggest that she will prove a strong champion of women . . . in such straits. To be sure, Hil will have a lot on her plate. But she has always taken pains to remind us (not to mention an annoyed Chinese government) that women's rights are human rights.

Confirmation hearings continue -- La Vida Locavore headlined, regarding Governor Vilsack's nomination to be Secretary of Agriculture and his ties to agriculture and biotechnology, "Department of odd omissions"* (1/12/09). Eric Holder's nomination as Attorney General had much potential for fireworks until this news came through. We learned what Holder said from Yahoo! News: "Holder: Waterboarding is torture."# There was no equivocation, no mincing words, no shading of his important legal opinion. Pundits were of the opinion that that declaration will seal his successful nomination. CQ Politics says that, "Holder Signals New Era at Justice Department, Vows Independence as Attorney General" (1/15/09). To quote further:

Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr. outlined positions on detainee treatment and presidential authority that differ starkly from those of the Bush administration during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Thursday.

. . . “I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture,” Holder said. The statement was an unequivocal departure from the stance of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey , who refused to make such a statement at his own 2007 confirmation hearing.

The statement has potentially significant implications for government agents who waterboarded suspected terrorists since 2001. And it is symptomatic of the new approach Obama is expected to take to the detention and treatment of suspects in the war on terrorism.

How will the new President govern? McClatchy puts it this way (1/7/09): "Move over, boomer presidents: A new generation takes charge."* Politico says that there will be "late nights, long hours in Obama White House" (1/14/09). There is also an interesting question posed by Secrecy News (11/6/08): "The Presidential Transition and Secrecy." The Democratic Strategist takes "Two new looks at Obama" on (1/12/09). To quote:

One, by Mike Tomasky in The Guardian, coins an interesting new phrase for Obama's approach to the stimulus package: "indirect direction:"

. . . Meanwhile, over at New York magazine, John Heilemann takes everything ever said about Obama's unique political appeal and ramps it up many notches in a piece that suggests he's the first "Independent" president.

Running three governments at the same time -- is what Politico calls "Obama's speed and balancing act" (1/14/09). To quote:

First is Obama’s own administration, still being assembled and facing a few rough patches a week before his Inauguration. Next is his ambitious economic recovery bill, approaching $850 billion and fast becoming a second government in its own right. Third is the leftover business of the outgoing Bush White House: what to do with the last $350 billion in a financial markets rescue fund approved a month before Obama’s election.

Finally, maintaining a Democratic Congress could prove to be a big advantage in President-elect Obama's first full term. If President-elect Obama maintains his bipartisan, pragmatic style of trying to fix problems and get things done, he should be able to avoid a mid-term defeat at the hands of the now mostly discredited Republicans.

Additional References:

Hat Tip Key
: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Reaction in review (Jan16, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Carol Gee: "Reflections on the War in Gaza" -- Thoughts on the difficulty of finding answers to conflict when both sides are wronged, includes interesting comments.

By Capt. Fogg: "The Healer" -- Fogg's last words say it all about Bill Frist's defense of GWB, "It's just that faith makes liars of us all."


By Mustang Bobby: "Close enough isn't good enough" -- Bobby very skillfully takes on the arguments of columnist George Will regarding AG Jerry Brown's brief to declare California's Prop 8 unconstitutional.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Geithner, the Tax Man, and the Treasury" -- An excellent post that explains in clear terms what all the fuss over not paying taxes is about.


By Creature: "A popular stimulus" -- Creature reminds us that Republicans are still out there making mischief.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Craziest Republican of the Day: Dick Cheney" -- MJWS' label, as you can imagine, engendered a lively argument in the comments thread.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Charm offensive: Obama at dinner with the conservative punditocracy" -- Michael helps us all relax about our next president having dinner with right wingers.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Around the world: China, Zimbabwe, Somalia, the Ukraine, and the Vatican" -- A fine round-up of neglected stories by which we'll augment awareness.

By Libby Spencer: "Bush admits his mistakes" -- Libby has similar derision to the rest of us regarding Bush's press statements on his own accountability.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Senator Burris" -- Michael's post highlights some insightful thoughts on the seating of Illinois Seante appointee, Roland Burris.


By Creature: "Quote of the Day" -- Monday's excellent choice is from Kevin Drum's farewell to Bush.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Juxtaposition: Bush Obama, Gitmo, and the so-called War on Terror" -- Michael feelt what many of us felt as we watched our current president at his final press conference, "And we will soon, at long last, be rid of him." See also, "Overturning Dubya: Obama to reverse Bush national security polities."

By Capt. Fogg: "Ann of God" -- Almost more than you wanted to know about Ann Coulter's latest shennanigan, as only Fogg can write it.


By Carol Gee: "Reviving the Rule of Law After a Lawless 'War on Terror' " -- A thorough exploration of the constitutional/intel/DOJ arena as it could be impacted by President-elect Obama's administration.


By Libby Spencer: "Cannabis cure for Alzheimer's" -- Six comments followed Libby's interesting news about the promise of THC compounds in the treatment of the scourge of Alzheimer's.

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Reflections on the War in Gaza

By Carol Gee

The war in Gaza has been a terrible event, terrible for the Palestinians and terrible for Israel. It has been terrible for Hamas and for Fatah, for Gaza and for the West Bank. It has been terrible for those trying to help, the NGOs, the UN, and Egypt.

The loss of life has been astonishingly asymmetrical. And the loss of innocent lives has been just heartbreaking. As a result protest has broken out all over the world, including in Israel. The nation of Israel cannot justify its actions as defensive. And Hamas has been shortsighted and stubborn in maintaining its rocket attacks on Israel. And the United Nations has, once again shown that it is ineffectual at its most basic work.

The timing of the war was chosen because of the transition of power in the United States, and because the Bush administration lost credibility as honest brokers for peace a long time ago. America's interests have not been what is best for the Middle East, but myopic and misguided. The timing took terrible advantage of President-elect Obama's lack of authority of the situation, knowing that he would respect the principle of one president for foreign policy at a time. Congress is out of touch with how widespread the dissatisfaction with what our friend Israel has done in Gaza. It is an unfortunate and unrealistic situation. The timing also has to do with Israel's political calendar. With the current Prime Minister having lost credibility and standing in his country and with elections coming in February, the war inevitably looks like it was fought for political gain at home for the Israelis.

The news about the war has been bad. And it has been badly reported, biased against the Palestinian people who lost their lives as innocents. Opinion makers ignore the astounding loss of life in the Gaza strip, they ignore the politics of the situation in the U.S., Israel and the West Bank. And they ignore the failures of the Bush administration regarding a long-awaited peace agreement in lands that have tried to settle it with violence for many decades.

Terrorists get to their views because of grievances, either real or perceived. Their terrorized adversaries will never be able to kill them fast enough or in enough numbers to attain peace. Because others look on, see what is happening, and take up the cause as soon as they are old enough. Terrorism is a tactic that is not confined merely to those who fit the stereotypical model.

Nations can find themselves getting into vengance-driven responses or aggression that puts them at risk of losing their souls. If nations had such things as "souls." Individuals have souls, nations have values and histories and constitutions and norms and good will to throw away. If they lose their way, as has the U.S., Israel, and Palestine (both parts). People in authority need to step back, take a breath, and open their eyes to the larger reality.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Bursting the bubble

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You heard about his dinner with conservatives and his meeting with "liberals"*, but, just as much, one of the more intriguing meetings Obama has had recently was with Lee Hamilton and a group of foreign policy experts, mostly on the Middle East and South Asia, who work outside "the presidential bubble that is rapidly closing around him," as Laura Rozen put it.

It is, needless to say, astonishingly difficult for a president to avoid being trapped in the bubble, but it does seem that Obama is determined to try. Which is extremely promising.

* I use scare quotes because the guest list was not all that liberal. While some of the attendees are certainly on the left (Dionne, Rich, Maddow, Robinson, Martin), a couple of them are non-liberal Beltway reporters (Brownstein, Seib), and one of them isn't liberal at all (Sullivan, a self-professed conservative, however much some of his views may be characterized as liberal and however pro-Obama he may be). (And one of them is, to me, a superfluous, annoying pseudo-liberal (Dowd).)

Krugman, who was invited but didn't attend, is certainly one of the mainstream media's more progressive figures, but what strikes me, comparing the conservative dinner and the liberal meeting, is that, despite the emergence of figures like Maddow and Olbermann, not to mention Stewart and Colbert, there are really no liberal-progressive equivalents to the likes of Kristol, Brooks, Will, and Krauthammer, that is, prominent pundits both in print and on TV. Krugman doesn't nearly have their wide exposure on TV, and neither does Dionne or Rich (neither of whom, in any event, is as determinedly partisan as their conservative counterparts, with Dionne more of a centrist liberal and Rich often as critical of the Democrats as he is of the Republicans).

Part of the reason is certainly Fox News, which provides a platform for right-wing pundits, and which has no left-wing equivalent, but I also think that part of it is the mainstream media's rightward tilt, its susceptibility to conservative messaging and propaganda (not least with respect to alleged liberal bias), its overcompensatory efforts at "balance." I tend to like the pundits at TNR a great deal -- Scheiber, Crowley, Cottle, Judis, Fairbanks, Zengerle, Orr, et al. -- but they don't have the right's broad media exposure either.

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Judging Holder

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Say what you will about Eric Holder and whether he should or should not be Obama's AG -- and, despite some nagging concerns (e.g., the Mark Rich pardon, his views on mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes), and one major concern (his very Bushie position that Gitmo detainees are not covered by the Geneva Conventions), I tend to see him as suitably progressive (especially on guns, the death penalty, executive authority, and the war on terror) -- at least he understands that waterboarding is torture, which puts him well above the Ashcroft-Gonzales crowd.

Not that the standard should be as low as just better than the Bushies, but still. It's encouraging.

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The healer

By Capt. Fogg

"A man can smile and smile and be a villain" or at least he can heap praise on one. That Mussolini made the trains run on time has become a metaphor for the practice of singling out certain isolated actions of an otherwise un-praiseworthy person in order to dismiss any clear view of the whole man.

That particular kind of smile is visible on the face of Bill Frist as he tries to portray our outgoing president as a savior of millions. George Bush is a healer, he says. I know, but be careful that nothing flies into your mouth while it gapes in amazement. No, he's not talking about the hundreds of millions of lives, perhaps billions of lives affected by his economic policies nor the uncounted lives of Iraqi civilians who he has killed or maimed, the millions exiled, the millions forced into fear and abject squalor, he's talking about the lives he's saved in Africa.

While millions have been hacked to pieces, raped, dismembered and starved in Africa without any interference by the United States of America, Bush has none the less committed 15 billion dollars to fight AIDS, according to smiling Bill Frist. Some, of course, question the accounting and questionable accounting is the most visible Bush family trait as we have seen. No mention makes Frist of any number of lives that might have been saved by advocating condoms to prevent infections because that, of course, would offend the Christian Right. God, after all, provides sinners so that we can be saintly in our condescension and preventing the infections just gets in the way of God's plan.

Frist has the nerve to continue on and on about how Bush has done wonders for education and health care and I'm sure it's not that he's a damn liar or that he lives on another planet that he doesn't realize that Bush failures in these departments contributed heavily to the fact that he is no longer the Majority Leader. That Bush and Frist and their party of God are saintly men, misjudged by sinners and Liberals, is an article of faith for Republicans, but they're no different than other men. It's just that faith makes liars of us all.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"What else is there to say? In the end, after eight long and traumatic years, Bush did not have much to tell us. Who wouldn't rather watch a miracle airplane landing than a failure saying goodbye?" -- David Corn, on Bush's, almost preempted, goodbye.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Close enough isn't good enough

By Mustang Bobby

George F. Will really can't argue effectively that California's Prop 8, the referendum that eliminates same-sex marriage rights, is a good law, so he uses the typical tactics that debaters use when they get down to their last straws: he attacks the attackers of the law -- in this case California Attorney General Jerry Brown -- and he makes exceptions to his own beliefs in order to shore up his shaky argument:

Now comes California's attorney general, Jerry Brown -- always a fountain of novel arguments -- with a 111-page brief asking the state Supreme Court to declare the constitutional amendment unconstitutional. He favors same-sex marriages and says the amendment violates Article 1, Section 1, of California's Constitution, which enumerates "inalienable rights" to, among other things, liberty, happiness and privacy.

Brown's audacious argument is a viscous soup of natural-law and natural-rights philosophizing, utterly untethered from case law. It is designed to effect a constitutional revolution by establishing an unchallengeable judicial hegemony. He argues that:

The not-really-sovereign people cannot use the constitutionally provided amendment process to define the scope of rights enumerated in the Constitution; California's judiciary, although established by the state's Constitution, has the extra-constitutional right to supplement that enumeration by brooding about natural law, natural justice and natural rights, all arising from some authority somewhere outside the Constitution; the judiciary has the unchallengeable right to say what social policies are entailed by or proscribed by the state Constitution's declaration of rights and other rights discovered by judges.

What is natural justice? Learned and honorable people disagree. Which is why such consensus as can be reached is codified in a constitution. But Brown's reasoning would make California's Constitution subordinate to judges' flights of fancy regarding natural justice. Judges could declare unconstitutional any act of Constitution-revising by the people.

"Natural law" is also the argument that most anti-abortionists use in arguing against Roe v. Wade; the life of a foetus supersedes the rights of the woman bearing it, and the rights of the unborn are equal to those of any other citizen even though the Constitution clearly states that rights of citizenship aren't established unless or until a person is born in the United States or naturalized through the due process of law. Simply put, Mr. Brown is saying that there are some rights that are so important that they can't be subject to the political whims and winds of popular opinion. For example, if civil rights and voting rights for African Americans were put to a vote by referendum in 1964 and 1965, chances are very good that they would not have passed in many states, and not just those in the South. I'm not sure that Mr. Brown isn't going out on a limb here, but I also don't think that it should be given the brush-off that Mr. Will gives it. If the idea of natural law doesn't apply to the rights of same-sex couples who are otherwise entitled to the same rights and responsibilities of everyone else, why should it apply to a foetus?

Mr. Will then does a bit of pretzel logic on the idea of the people voting on laws:

Passing laws by referenda is an imprudent departure from the core principle of republican government -- representation: The people do not decide issues, they decide who shall decide. But the right of Californians to make laws through the direct democracy of referenda is as firmly established as it is promiscuously exercised.

This is his thinly-veiled way of saying, "Well, I don't like it when the people make the law, but in this case, I like the result, so it's okay." Whether he knows it or not, he's just made a very good point as to why Prop 8 should be overturned: the basic rights of the citizens shouldn't be subject to the whims and the fund-raising capabilities of the Mormons, and it doesn't matter whether or not you approve of the people who are making the pitch or who are the targets of the vote. And just because referenda is "firmly established" in California law doesn't make it right. Slavery was pretty firmly established, too, before 1864.

Finally, and most patronizingly, Mr. Will tells all us queers to just be patient. This time the proposition was passed narrowly as compared to the original Prop 22 in 2000 that established the law defining marriage as being for straight people only:

Just eight years ago, Proposition 22 was passed, 61.4 to 38.6 percent. The much narrower victory of Proposition 8 suggests that minds are moving toward toleration of same-sex marriage. If advocates of that have the patience required by democratic persuasion, California's ongoing conversation may end as they hope. If, however, the conversation is truncated, as Brown urges, by judicial fiat, the argument will become as embittered as the argument about abortion has been by judicial highhandedness.

I think the same argument was made in the 1950's when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education: "You colored people should just be patient, we'll get around to giving you your equal rights in due time, so stop being so damn pushy about getting them right now just because those nine old men said so." Yes, and if they had, they'd still be waiting.

Giving a minority community that contributes fully to society every way, including paying our taxes and doing our duty as citizens while being denied the fundamental equality of the law, is wrong, and Mr. Will knows it. Giving us a pat on the head and the gentle admonishment to wait our turn isn't good enough.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The Official Obama portrait

By Libby Spencer

First portrait taken on a digital camera, done by Pete Souza, the new official White House photographer.

I like it. He looks presidential and isn't he really an attractive man? I don't know how much I'm going to like his policies but I think he'll be a good leader, maybe even a great one.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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Geithner, the Tax Man, and the Treasury

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oh, how the right is salivating over Treasury nominee Tim Geithner and his tax problems, specifically, his failure to pay almost $43,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes over several years earlier this decade.

Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Geithner explained, according to the Post, that the "mistakes on his tax returns early this decade were unintentional and that he has since paid back the $42,702 he owed, including interest... [H]e mistakenly believed that his employer at the time, the International Monetary Fund, was deducting those taxes from his paycheck." Democratic committee chairman Max Baucus called his mistake "serious," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is withholding judgement, and two other Republicans, Jim Bunning and Jon Kyl, are temporarily delaying his confirmation, but, of all people, Orrin Hatch, one of the most conservative and most partisan of Republicans, came to his defence: "I still support him. I have no problem. He's a very, very competent guy."

But then there are those who are making much ado, such as the Politico's Roger Simon, a noted conservative, who asks today, "What if I didn't pay taxes?" Which isn't fair, of course, because Geithner still paid most of his taxes, he just neglected to pay certain taxes that he thought were already being deducted." It an incredibly and typically idiotic piece.

Then there's The Wall Street Journal, a right-wing rag (in editorial terms), which facetiously calls for "a Geithner tax amnesty." But Geithner didn't "forget" to pay his taxes, it was just an oversight on his part -- a serious one, to be sure, but it's not like he was engaging in tax fraud or otherwise simply refusing to pay his taxes.

And it isn't just the right. Even The New York Times (which is actually far more rightist than most people realize) editorialized that "the disclosures cannot be dismissed so easily, or papered over," that "Geithner must be questioned forcefully about these matters at the hearing next week, and his explanations must be credible."

As the Times reports elsewhere, though, "several tax experts" say that "it is an easy mistake for an employee of an international organization to make." Even the Politico admits this: "Should the U.S. treasury secretary know how to do his own taxes? Maybe not, say payroll lawyers, accountants and tax professors, who consider Timothy Geithner’s failure to pay four years of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes to be a fairly common mistake — even for a top economist chosen to run the Treasury Department, including the Internal Revenue Service."

And while media outlets like CNN are similarly making much ado and focusing on all the supposed opposition to Geithner, Republicans, with few exceptions, are pretty much on Geithner's side, dismissing the tax oversight and stressing his abilities and qualifications.

Now, this is not to say that I myself am fully behind Geithner. I have my reservations, but they have nothing to do with his taxes. Rather, they have to do with the fact that he once worked for Henry Kissinger (I'd like to know more about what he did for Kissinger & Associates), that he's another Rubin-Summers (who were both enablers of the banking crisis back when they were at the Treasury in the '90s under Clinton), that he has been very much part of the problem with respect to the financial meltdown, and that he's an enthusiastic cheerleader for the ever-growing financial bailout.

Still, I'm not against him -- I trust Obama on this -- and, despite these concerns, I do not necessarily oppose his confirmation. Indeed, as Robert Kuttner (via Benen) noted last September, Geithner is actually quite progressive with respect to regulatory policy. And Paul Krugman likes him, which is, for me, very much in his favour, even if Frank Rich makes a strong and persuasive case against him for being "no less tardy [than Rubin] in discovering the reckless, wholesale gambling that went on in Wall Street's big casinos, all of which cratered while at least nominally under his regulatory watch."

Regardless, it looks like he'll be confirmed. Thankfully, the stupid matter of his taxes won't be his undoing.

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The conservative press after dinner and a few drinks

By Creature

CNBC's conservative Larry Kudlow has a crush on the next president:

"He's making good on his promise to reach out to Republicans and conservatives and this post-partisan stuff, whatever that means," Kudlow said. "I was very impressed. He's a nice guy, terribly smart, well-informed, great smile. He just really engaged. He said he likes to know the arguments on all sides."

I wonder if Kudlow will wait three days before calling.

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Don't ask, don't tell, everyone ring the culture war bell

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So Obama, it is being reported, intends to do away with the military's (and Clinton's) ridiculous "don't ask, don't tell" policy, one that allows gays to serve in the military only if they remain in the closet and everyone else remains in the dark. When asked about it directly, soon-to-be Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave a direct answer: "Yes," meaning, it will be be gotten rid of.

Good enough, right?

Well, not for Fox News, which, in reporting the story in its characteristically "fair" and "balanced" way, decided to spin the move as potentially damaging to Obama's presidency and as a first strike in a renewed culture war:

The startling pronouncement, which could re-open a dormant battle in the culture wars and distract from other elements of Obama's agenda, came during a Gibbs exchange with members of the public who sent in questions that were answered on YouTube.

First, how is it "startling." The "pronouncement" was blunt, to be sure, but, as Fox admits, Obama has long been opposed to the policy.

Second, it's not like the policy is extremely popular, whereas Obama is. He'll need to spend much of his political capital on the stimulus package, of course, and then on health care, energy, and education reform, among other initiatives, but the good thing is, he has a lot of capital to spend. There would certainly be opposition both from within the military and from without, and it could become a minor distraction, but Obama would no doubt be able to handle it while making a strong case for doing away with the policy.

Third, it is the right that wants to, and intends to, reopen the culture wars, as Palin and others tried to do during the presidential campaign, and it will go there regardless. Yes, this would give them an opening, but standing up for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve their country against bigots who want them to keep quiet about who they are or, better, to get the hell out of the military altogether is a fight Obama and the opponents of the policy should be willing to have. It's not about "culture," after all, with one "culture" pitted against another, it's about equal rights, that is, about a cornerstone of American democracy and the American way of life, as well as about patriotism, about men and women who want to be treated fairly, to be respected for who they are, and to serve alongside their fellow citizens in protecting America, men and women who are prepared to risk their lives for the sake of their country.

Fox News and its ilk may want to frame the story in terms that support the right's perspectives and goals, but the truth is that Obama is in a position to do away with a bad and bigoted policy. And he has both the conviction and the popularity to do so.

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Five days

By Creature

Until the work finally begins to undo all the damage done by George W. Bush.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A popular stimulus

By Creature

It seems Americans are all on board with the new POTUS and his spending plan. Even most Republicans (68%) are willing to give spending a chance. Twenty percent of them, however, back obstructing the new -- and very popular -- president. Twenty percent. The same twenty percent who love Sarah Palin, listen to Sean 'n' Rush, and think Joe the Plumber is A-OK. These people must be ignored. If only.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Dick Cheney

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There really isn't much more than can be said about Dick Cheney, is there? He was wrong about so much and yet he continues to delude himself into thinking that all was for the best, that he was right when it mattered, that, contrary to reality, he did what had to be done -- the Iraq War, (illegal) surveillance, the expansion of executive power and the trampling of the Constitution, and the enabling of torture (which he doesn't think was torture, even though it was).

And yet, in the final days of the Bush presidency, it is Cheney who is doing much of the talking, contrary to how he conducted himself for most of the past eight years, stewing in his bunker.

Nothing he is saying is all that revealing -- he's less introspective than Bush, and more dishonest, and very much just as he has been all along, full of arrogant self-justification -- but much of it, as you might expect, is crazy. For example, this doozy from an interview with Jim Lehrer (more here, with the full transcript here) airing tonight:

QUESTION: But Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4,500 Americans have died, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?


Yes, that's right, and it's that simple, the deaths in Iraq, both Iraqi and American, have been worth it. Because, in Cheney's view, it was all about getting rid of Saddam. And, fine, Saddam is gone, but has the rest of it, the failed occupation, the sectarian violence and civil war, been worth it? Well, again, yes. To Cheney, there's no remorse, no looking back, no attempt to understand the present, in any honest way: "I think we did exactly the right thing. I think the country is better off for it today. I think it's been part of the effort, alongside Afghanistan, to liberate 50 million people and establish a vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East. I think those are major, major accomplishments."

I'm all for liberation, too, but are the people of Iraq truly free? Is there really a vibrant democracy there? And in Afghanistan, what of the ongoing war and instability there? It's not enough just to believe in your own high-falutin' rhetoric of freedom and democracy. It's not enough just to say that there have been such accomplishments, such historic progress. There's the not-so-little matter of the facts on the ground to consider, and the facts don't really back him up, do they? And what Cheney does not consider is not just those facts but that his own policies -- or, rather, Bush's -- have hindered progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as elsewhere, including in Iran, in North Korea, and with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). Even granting him that going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do -- which, in retrospect, I'm not about to do -- what about what came after the invasion? So too in Afghanistan. What about what came after the overthrow of the Taliban, specifically the immediate turn to Iraq and the failure to go after al Qaeda with full determination? And then, what about the gross mismanagement of the war in Iraq, and how Iraq turned into a cesspool of terrorism and sectarianism?

But, no, those aren't questions Cheney will answer with any honesty, so enraptured is he in his own delusions of success. He's still one of the craziest of them all. At least his time is almost up.

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Charm offensive: Obama at dinner with the conservative punditocracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've been meaning all day to comment on Obama's dinner with Will, Kristol, Brooks, and Krauthammer -- the four horsemen of the right-wing apocalypse? -- but I just don't have much to say about it. On Obama's part, it was an exceptionally smart move. Why not, as the soon-to-be president, make nice and break bread with four leading conservative political commentators? If nothing else, as Michael Crowley stressed, "Obama will surely choose his words carefully and avoid saying anything that causes him trouble. He's certainly not going to make any new promises to appease the right. And a little personal charm" -- or a charm offensive? -- "is sure to buy him a few pulled punches among the columns and punditry of these men." No, they won't go soft, but maybe at least they'll show him some respect and take him, and his efforts at outreach to the right, seriously. (Remember that the Clintons did themselves no favours by attacking the media, including liberals, early on, setting a negative tone that only hindered the Clinton presidency. Obama may be stuffing his administration with Clintonites, but he has certainly learned from some of Clinton's mistakes.)

And liberals, by the way, aren't all that troubled by the dinner. Take Steve Benen and Kevin Drum, for example. And, again, I feel much the same way.

As Jon Chait argues, though, and I think he's right about this, conservatives wouldn't be nearly as understanding if the situation were reversed:

I actually don't find it terribly surprising that liberals haven't shown any outrage over Barack Obama's dinner party with George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks. I'll get to my hypothesis why liberals aren't upset in a moment. But first imagine this counterfactual: George W. Bush (or maybe a victorious John McCain) sat down before his first inauguration with Paul Krugman, E.J. Dionne, and Frank Foer. Would conservatives have reacted with the same equanimity? No, I think they'd have gone nuts. And the reason is that they wouldn't have confidence in Bush or McCain to be surrounded by liberal ideas without being deeply influenced by them. I don't think they'd have reacted this way if, say, a President Mitt Romney did the same thing.

And that's why liberals aren't having a cow. They know that Obama understands far more about policy than any of his right-wing dinner companions, is used to being exposed to opposing ideas, and won't come out of that dinner telling his staff, "Hey, did you know we cut half the capital gains tax and raise more revenue?"

A separate issue is why Obama didn't pick some conservatives with a bit more intellectual integrity than, say, Kristol and Krauthammer. The problem, of course, is conservatives like that tend not to rise to positions of high influence.

Right, I don't think there's any concern, despite existing (and, in my view, wrong-headed) concerns among some progressives that he's a centrist of sorts, that Obama will surrender to conservative pressure or otherwise reveal himself to be a Republican. If nothing else, we have confidence in Obama's firmness. And we understand, I think, that it makes good political sense, at this time, with the economic stimulus package soon to be up for a vote and with health care, energy, and education reform looming on the horizon, to reach out not just to potentially friendly Republicans in Congress but to key figures, key opinion-shapers, on the right. Which is why he picked these four. Two of them, I agree, may not have much intellectual integrity -- I'd say Will is the only one with much of it, and Brooks has more than Krauthammer and far, far more than Kristol -- but there's no denying their lofty places in the conservative food chain. (But at least more despicable figures like Limbaugh and O'Reilly weren't there. That would have been too much even for generous and understanding liberals to take.)

This is one case where it is best to trust that Obama knows what he's doing. I have no doubt that he does.

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Is he dead yet?

By Mustang Bobby

Still another report of the imminent demise of Fidel Castro.

''High sources in Washington are saying that reliable sources have said that he has taken gravely ill,'' said University of Miami's Andy Gomez, who serves as an advisor to the U.S. Task Force on Cuba, an arm of the Brookings Institution think tank comprised of academics and former diplomats. ''They are monitoring this very closely, including looking for additional movements of security and troops. So far, none of this has happened.''

Castro's continued absence from public view, an unusually long break from published essays, failure to schedule private chats with recent visiting presidents and veiled remarks by Venezuelan ally Hugo Chávez has elevated the unconfirmed reports of the Cuban leader's pending death.

U.S. officials from the State Department acknowledged that they were aware of the reports on Castro's health but denied they were monitoring troop activities on the island.

For those of you outside of the Miami area, this is a regular feature in our news here. Rumors start to spread: somebody heard from their cousin who got a late-night phone call from their sister's neighbor in Havana that Castro had fallen off the perch, and pretty soon everybody from Calle Ocho to Hialeah is sure that not only is he dead, but he's been dead since July 2006 and all the pictures of him have actually been of his brother Ramon, who's been his stand-in, and what we've been treated to for the last two years is the Latin version of Weekend at Bernie's. But then... nothing. No somber music over Radio Havana, no black-draped editions of Granma, and pretty soon it's all forgotten until the next one.

This time around there's little more than tea-leaves and vague signals, and The Miami Herald's Cuba watch-blog, Cuban Colada, is being very cautious. But the timing would be interesting; Fidel Castro goes out, the Obama administration, which has promised to lift the Bush administration's travel and money restrictions, comes in, and one of the unspoken requirements for lifting the embargo -- Fidel's passing -- is met.

It would be one of life's little ironies that Castro, who made his career out of being larger than life and who dominated the Latin American policy of the U.S. for fifty years, should fade away with barely a whimper on the eve of the inauguration of a president who is willing to deal with the Cuban government rather than isolate and lecture them.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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"We do not torture."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So said President Bush in 2005 (when asked about reports of secret CIA prisons).

And yet, in truth, the U.S. does torture.

So says Susan Crawford, the convening authority of the Guantanamo military commissions, a Gates appointee and Bush administration official:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.


Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent... You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.

Qahtani's "interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003." Which means that Bush, who was ultimately responsible, whether he knew it or not, lied.

The various enablers and supporters of torture, both inside and outside the administration, have defended and continue to defend the use of techniques such as waterboarding, claiming that they do not amount to torture, but it has been clear for a long time, as we know that waterboarding was used on detainees, that the Bush Administration, from Bush and Cheney on down, sanctioned what is widely considered to be torture.

And now we have formal confirmation from no less an authority than the high-ranking administration official who is responsible for overseeing the military commissions and reviewing the treatment of detainees at Gitmo.

(Find more reaction at Memeorandum.)

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Money, it's a gas: Ben Bernanke and the bottomless bailout

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, you knew this was coming. As the Times puts it, "the banks need more taxpayer money," "a lot more money."

Isn't this partly why so many of us were against the bailout, at least in principle, from the start? It wasn't just that it's a bailout of Wall Street instead of Main Street, which is to say, a bailout of the stinking rich, of those who are at the very core of the financial meltdown and who are very much to blame for it, it was that it was never clear, in terms of dollar figures, what it would amount to. The price tag was just a guess tossed out there by the Treasury, so high that it boggled the mind, initially preventing judgement, but so vague in terms of specifics that it, once the mind settled, it was nothing if not concerning.

In other words, the Treasury didn't know how money was needed for the bailout, and so it was, and is, in effect, a bottomless bailout. It was never going to be just $700 billion.

And now the banks, with Fed Chairmain Bernanke at the head, is back at the trough, asking for more.

Will there be no end to it?

I said at the time, back in October, that, whatever my opposition to it in principle, it seemed to me that something had to be done, and soon, if only for the sake of public confidence and market stability -- and that the bailout was at least something.

Still, confidence and stability aside, the bailout is essentially nothing more than a massive transfer payment to Wall Street, a blank cheque for Treasury Secretary Paulson and the Wall Street oligarchs.

"More capital injections and guarantees may become necessary to ensure stability and the normalization of credit markets," said Bernanke.

There will be an end to it, eventually, but the wedge has already been driven in. And if the banks get their way, as I suspect they will, more and more taxpayer money, how much nobody knows, will flow in their direction.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sarah Palin hates us

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers who lie annoy me,

she told Esquire, in yet another of her post-election blame-everyone-else-but-me sessions.

It is Andrew Sullivan who has been all over the is-she-really-Trig's-mom story -- like the rest of us, he just wants the truth, and Palin has been nothing if not sketchy about the whole affair (hence the lingering suspicions) -- but I for one, if I may defend myself, am not an anonymous blogger (that's my real name up there) and do not think of myself as a bored, pathetic liar.

Now, I'm sure some people find me pathetic, as I do myself from time to time (don't we all?), and I suppose I get bored as well, but not all that often (not with a good job, a loving wife, two kids, and an avid interest in the world around me), and no doubt some people (i.e., those who disagree with me) think I'm a liar. So that's maybe -- what? -- two out of four, assuming that Palin would find me pathetic and a liar? So I suppose, if Palin knew of me, and I suspect she doesn't (I'm sure she didn't even read my Guardian piece), I'd annoy her just like all the truly bored, truly pathetic, truly dishonest, and truly anonymous bloggers out there. I'm just not sure to whom she's referring. Certainly none of my blog friends/acquaintances are like that.

Really, though, she's not referring to anyone. She's just attacking bloggers generally. Just like she thinks we all live in our parents' basements, so does she think that we're all bored and pathetic (and anonymous?), a bunch of liars. It's just her way of lashing out at her critics, at anyone who dares question her. (I'm sure she's fine with the many bloggers on the right who helped make her what she became, who drooled all over her and who long for her to lead them to the promised land of conservative bliss -- God, guns, and a whole lotta drilling.) She avoided -- or was kept away from -- the media during the campaign, but now she's a media manipulator herself, using various friendly media outlets on the right, as well as more mainstream outlets, to spew her spin and promote her cause, namely, herself.

As long as the media still bother to put a camera and microphone in front of her, enabling her and keeping her in the public eye long past her expiry date, we'll have to put up with this sort of nonsense. And while we're talking about lying, it's Palin herself who's full of dishonesty, as when she attacks the Anchorage Daily News for probing (and questioning) her maternity, an attack without basis in reality. But, then, so much of what Palin says and does is without basis in reality, and, in her eternal quest for victimhood (they're all against me!), she's apparently willing to make any claim, however fraudulent.

Some bloggers, perhaps, are worthless little shits, but, from what I know, the vast majority of them, and certainly of the ones that matter (in the liberal, progressive blogosphere, at least), are smart, sensible people who seek and speak the truth. Far be it from Sarah Palin, in all her self-absorbed cluelessness, with all her dim-witted hatred, to get us right.

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By Carol Gee

Upcoming legislative issues -- Congressional leaders, Senate Democrats will meet with President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday to iron out concerns over the proposed stimulus package. Stimulus specifics include a round of tax cuts, but not an earlier jobs-credit proposal, increased aid to students and schools and doubling the energy tax credits. To quote Glenn Thrush at

The Senate trip comes amid increased jockeying between the transition team and Hill Democrats over the details of three monumental legislative issues -- the composition of the roughly $775 billion stimulus package, the fate of Obama's controversial $300 billion middle-class tax cut and his push to quickly pass the second $350 billion tranche of the highly unpopular bank bailout.

Bipartisanship? At President-elect Obama's behest, our current president (OCP) has agreed to request the remaining $350 billion from the TARP bailout fund. Congress has fifteen days to object to the request or it will go through. It will be interesting to see whether the new administration will be able to clear up any of the financial mess left by the Republicans' disbursement of the first $350 billion.

Hearings -- Tuesday also will see Hillary Rodham Clinton's confirmation hearing to become the new Secretary of State. Memeorandum's story is that Clinton [will] emphasize 'smart power.' Politico headlines: "Land mines ahead for Hillary." The headline exaggerates the danger that Clinton will encounter very difficult questions by the committee members. At the same time it looks as if Illinois senator designate, Roland "Burris may breeze into [the] Senate," without the involvement of the rules committee after all, and as he said, "without creating a scene." ProPublica headlined: "Senate Dems Cave, Burris to be Seated." It is not clear yet what will happen to Minnesota's Al Franken.

Individuals will leave 2010 openings -- One of my favorite Republican senators, George Voinovich of Ohio, announced that he will retire at the end of his term in 2010, according to Yahoo! News, ". . . like 3 other GOP senators#." Others include Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, Mel Martinez of Florida and Sam Brownback of Kansas. In an interesting aside, BuzzFlash: reveals that this is the "Oldest. Congress. Ever*" (1/6/09).

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Around the World: China, Zimbabwe, Somalia, the Ukraine, and the Vatican

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The latest in our ongoing series... (for previous entries, see here or here).

1) China: "China's exports have dropped into their biggest decline in a decade. Exports in December were down 2.8% from the same time last year, a bigger decline than November's 2.2% drop, the China Daily said."

Even though "China's economy relies on domestic demand for its goods and services more than any other country in Asia," which is to say, even though the decline in exports is perhaps less of a concern to China than it would be for others, what the numbers show is that "China is no more immune to worldwide trade problems than any other large economy." And it is likely to get worse: "With Japan, the US and Europe now in recession, China's heavily trade-dependent economy is expected to harder hit through the coming year."

Still, a growth rate of 7.5% in 2009 wouldn't be so bad, would it?

2) Zimbabwe: "Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people and almost 40,000 have contracted the normally preventable disease, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday."

As if it weren't already bad enough in that wretched place, what with the tyrant Mugabe clinging to power and continuing to oppress the people, now there's this, which "has spread to all of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces because of the collapse of health and sanitation systems." And the situation will only get worse during the January-March rainy season.

3) Somalia: "Ethiopian troops pulled out from crucial bases in Mogadishu on Tuesday, leaving a power vacuum that was quickly filled by Islamist fighters who seized their positions."

And so, with the Ethiopians soon to be out, within a matter of days, Somalia is left to the Somalis... and to "Somalia’s Islamist movement," which "has made a steady comeback, with Islamist factions again controlling much of the country.

One war is over, but another is already underway: "Many Western diplomats and other Somalia analysts have warned that once all the Ethiopians are gone, the various Islamist factions will unleash their considerable firepower on each other in a scramble to take over the country. Some of that fighting has already kicked off, with dozens of people killed in the past week in combat between moderate and radical Islamist factions."

4) Ukraine: "Just hours after Russia resumed delivery of natural gas to the European Union through Ukrainian pipelines, Kiev has admitted to blocking the supplies. Ukraine is claiming that Gazprom has established 'unacceptable' conditions for the transit of the gas to Europe."

It's a complicated situation, obviously, with Gazprom blaming the U.S. for backing the Ukraine (and accusing the Ukraine of stealing gas), but it is essentially a regional dispute between Moscow and Kiev "over gas pricing and the lucrative transit fees paid to Kiev for gas transported across its pipelines." (Though Anne Applebaum notes that it was actually Putin, who still runs the show in Russia, who actually turned off the gas, not Gazprom. So it's political, not just commercial, and, this year, Russia is very much to blame.)

Russian gas is essential to much of Europe, but what is needed is for Europe to disentangle itself from the situation by reducing its dependency on Russian gas in the first place. And that requires, in Applebaum's view (one I share, though I defer to her expertise here), "a true, unified E.U. energy policy," even if, as Clay Risen points out, there are no "easy or obvious answers" and, to put it mildly, "difficulties inherent in any such effort."

5) Vatican: "Decrying the violence that Mexicans are enduring, the Vatican has suggested excommunication as a possible punishment for drug traffickers whose war with the government has led to the deaths of thousands of people in the last year. But the Roman Catholic Church's severest form of rebuke would probably have little effect on traffickers and killers who lack a religious conscience, the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, acknowledged."

You think?

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Overturning Dubya: Obama to reverse Bush national security policies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Following up on my Bush-Obama-Gitmo post from last night, it looks like Obama will indeed reverse many of Bush's more egregious moves:

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to move swiftly to reverse executive orders regarding torture of terror suspects, the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and other controversial security policies, sources close to his transition said, in dramatic gestures aimed at reversing President Bush’s accumulation of executive power.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) said he's been informed that President Obama will support his proposed legislation to make public some opinions from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which issued some of the Bush Administration's most sweeping claims of executive power. Obama also has promised to limit President Bush's practice of using "signing statements" to amend legislation.

"Every day we get indications that they're serious about reversing the abuses of the Constitution," Feingold, a harsh Bush critic, told Politico. Feingold said he thinks Obama is likely to issue executive orders rapidly reversing Bush policies, and others have indicated that those will likely cover the interrogation and detention of terror suspects, and keeping the records of past presidents secret.

For America, then, the start of a long road back to respectability and a renewed moral standing in the world, a start coming in just a matter of days, and not a moment too soon.

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Bush admits his mistakes

By Libby Spencer

Bush held his last presser yesterday. I missed it live but Creature posted a video with the highlights. CNN reports Bush admitted to some mistakes. This was the most important one in his mind.

"Clearly putting a 'Mission Accomplished' (banner) on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," Bush said. "It sent the wrong message."

Only because it became the internationally recognized shorthand for epic fail and will likely remain the longest running joke to the end of time. Bush is also sorry for some of the other dumb stuff he said. He didn't elaborate, but "bring 'em on" springs immediately to mind. Further, in retrospect he thinks he should have squandered his political capital on pushing immigration reform instead of trying to destroy Social Security.

Ignoring Katrina was not a mistake in his mind. He distills it down to how awfully distracting it would have been if he had toured the devastation personally. He's probably right about that, but apparently fails to grasp the difference between making a personal appearance and ignoring it altogether while being photographed at fundraisers strumming the guitar.

Also not a mistake was authorizing torture. In fact, he brags about it.

They, and by they I suppose he means himself, Cheney and their closest sycophants, may believe they tortured a lot of "actionable intelligence" out of Mr. Mastermind, but the consensus of those who were involved deems the information to have been useless. I'd also think that we'll never be able to hold the man to account because the evidence is tainted by torture. But I don't suppose Bush will ever torture his 'beautiful mind' with that reality.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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Sign of the Apocalypse #63: Virginity for sale?

By Michael J.W. Stickings


A student who is auctioning her virginity to pay for a masters degree in Family and Marriage therapy has seen bidding hit £2.5million ($3.7m).

Natalie Dylan, 22, claims her offer of a one-night stand has persuaded 10,000 men to bid for sex with her.

Last September, when her auction came to light, she had received bids up to £162,000 ($243,000) but since then interest in her has rocketed.

The student who has a degree in Women's Studies insisted she was not demeaning herself.

Miss Dylan, from San Diego, California, USA, said she was persuaded to offer herself to the highest bidder after her sister Avia, 23, paid for her own degree after working as a prostitute for three weeks.

Oh, assuming this is for real (and it could very well be a money-grubbing hoax), it's also for a "study," which she claims is "completely authentic." (More here. No word on what her women's studies colleagues think of this. It's hardly liberating, even if she thinks it's about empowerment.) And it's also a SOTA:

1) If it's a hoax, it's a SOTA that it's generated such buzz.

2) If it's not a hoax, it's a SOTA that it's generated such buzz.

And it proves that:

1) Men are stupid. (Seriously, how did we get this far?)

2) Ms. "Dylan" (and this is supposedly her) is a) manipulatively resourceful; b) loathsomely self-disrespectful; or c) both.

3) Our civilization, such as it is, continues to swerve into self-destructive oblivion.

(Still, I wonder how many men out there, typically full of themselves, think that she should pay them to lose her virginity.)

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