Dennis Prager: Lying Asshat

As I noted before, Dennis Prager angered me beyond words with his bigoted screed against Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. Turns out that the 'outrage' that underlies his column never happened. From Think Progress:

Right-wing radio host Dennis Prager wrote a column earlier this week claiming that Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, had "announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran." Prager claimed this "act undermines American civilization," and compared it to being sworn in with a copy of Hitler's "Mein Kampf."


But Prager's column is based on one other glaring error: the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book. The Office of the House Clerk confirmed to ThinkProgress that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony. (Occasionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible.)
I'll tell you where to stick that finger, Mr. Prager.

I'm not holding my breath for an apology...

What Everybody's Hoping For

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel's deliberations.

The report, unanimously approved by the 10-member panel, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, is to be delivered to President Bush next week. It is a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March, avoiding a specific timetable, which has been opposed by Mr. Bush, but making it clear that the American troop commitment should not be open-ended. The recommendations of the group, formed at the request of members of Congress, are nonbinding.

A person who participated in the commission's debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, "there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached."

The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year.
For all the 'Strict Father' posturing, the draw down in troop levels is really about easing the domestic pressure of an unpopular war. And nobody's happier about this development than beltway Dems. It gives them cover for something they should have the courage to demand just because it's the right thing.

George W. Bush painted himself into a corner with his 'Stay the Course' rhetoric. He can't reduce troop levels in Iraq because it would mean that he was 'flip-flopping' - something equivalent to admitting that you're wrong. We all know that if there's one thing that Bush can't do, it's admit that he was wrong.

So along comes James Baker to act as a pseudo-authority figure that tells the Bush Administration that they need to begin to redeploy troops out of Iraq. BushCo. has known for a long time that Iraq was unsustainable but they did not want to 'cut and run.' That's why they created (or allowed the creation of) the 'Baker Commission.' The I.S.G. exists to provide the political theatrics needed to provide a marginally elegant exit from a decidedly messy situation.

If James Baker and the I.S.G. puts this country on a road that leads out of the disaster in Iraq, that's a good thing. But I'm not about to praise anybody for following its recommendations. They're just a revision of 'Stay the Course' adjusted to reflect a little bit more reality.

As soon as this report is published, it will be adopted by the Democrats in the same way that the 9/11 Commission's report. 'Enact the recommendations of the Baker Commission' will be the talking point. It sounds good, but the fact is that Democrats are allowing James Baker to set their policy on Iraq.

Let's Compare and Contrast:

The Wall Street Journal:

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults said they believe there is a civil war in Iraq, the online poll from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20 found, compared with 14% who disagree and 18% who aren't sure.

Mr. Bush nominated former director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mr. Gates as a successor to Donald Rumsfeld on Nov. 9.

Of 2,429 U.S. adults polled, only 13% think Mr. Gates will make the situation in Iraq better. Forty-two percent think he will make no difference and another 40% say they aren't sure of the impact.

About half of those polled would like the government to set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, while 18% favor withdrawing all U.S. troops now and 19% favor sending more troops to stabilize the situation.
The AP:
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is developing plans to send four more battalions to Iraq early next year, partly to boost security in Baghdad, defense officials said Wednesday. Meanwhile, a commission studying Iraq policy said it would make its report next week.
One of these groups is living in reality. I'll let you guess whether it's the group that controls enough nuclear weapons to end life on earth or not.


Dennis Prager Angers Me Beyond Words

This man has more site traffic than I do. How does he get it? By being an asshat:

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress.
Wrap your head around that for a minute.

Mr. Prager goes on to assert (and I have no way of knowing if he's correct) that every Jewish Person elected to office in the history of the United States has sworn their oat of office on the Bible. Whether or not that's true, he follows up with this:
So why are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done -- choose his own most revered book for his oath?
Because he asked, and because it's his right you ignorant mother-fucker.

[Mustn't stoop to name calling. Mustn't stoop to name calling. I'm better than the ignorant mother-fuckers on the right that always resort to name calling.]

The Constitution guarantees that no religious test be applied for public office. Being forced to swear an oath on the holy book of a specific religion sounds an awful lot like a religious test to me.

The people of Minnesota knew that Mr. Ellison was a Muslim when they elected him. Obviously his electorate wasn't "interested in only one book, the Bible" when they sent him to Washington to be their representative.


I grew up across the street from a man who's first name was 'Adolf.' Turns out that despite this damning evidence, he was absolutely nothing like Hitler. I'm as shocked as you are.

He Woulda' Deserved It

Jim Webb, a man with super-human self control. Evidence in The Hill:

President Bush has pledged to work with the new Democratic majorities in Congress, but he has already gotten off on the wrong foot with Jim Webb, whose surprise victory over Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) tipped the Senate to the Democrats.

Webb, a decorated former Marine officer, hammered Allen and Bush over the unpopular war in Iraq while wearing his son's old combat boots on the campaign trail. It seems the president may have some lingering resentment.

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

"I didn't ask you that, I asked how he's doing," Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn't. It's safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won't be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon. [Emphasis Mine]
I know everybody and their cousin has covered this story. I just want to say that if Mr. Webb brings that same kind of emotion to the Senate Chamber, we're set.

Go read Shake's take on the psychology of the exchange. I just wish Webb had hauled off and decked the guy. Bush's probably had it coming since he was old enough to realize he could get away with shit like that because his dad was important. It's to bad that now he's got a tax-payer financed security detail that prevents the people he's been screwing over for the past six years from getting as close as Senator Webb did...

Sanity Starting to Peak Through

Think Progress reports on Colin Powell's latest criticism of his former boss. In an interview with CNN's Hala Gorani, Powerll called on Bush to be honest about the situation in Iraq. Transcript of Gorani's report:

GORANI: Well, within the context of the leaders conference in Dubai and also within the context of this debate, this semantics debate, over whether to call what is going on on in Iraq a civil war, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he thinks we can call it a civil war and added if he were still heading the State Department, he probably would recommend to the Bush administration that those terms should be used in order to come to terms with the reality on the ground.

I'm paraphrasing what he told me. This was closed to cameras and this was something he said within the context of this academic debate with 2 or 3,000 people watching on in the region.
The story of Colin Powell's life would make a great tragedy. Honest soldier rises through the ranks, achieves greatness yet will always be reviled for his actions while working a man he didn't like. The great tragedy is that his greatest strength - his sense of duty, is what leads him there.

Enough Shakespearean blabber. Colin Powell has a great deal of esteem in the eyes of the public. Having him call for BushCo. to stop using Orwellian 'newspeak' is certainly a good thing. It would have been better for him to have done more while he was actually involved in shaping policy.

Late Start

Today's been one of those days where real life interferes with my ability to post. It happens at times.

The rest of the day will probably be pretty busy as well, I'm sorry to say, and there probably won't be to many post today. I'll do better tomorrow, I promise.


Clocking a Meme

A link for science.

I actually used memetics for my thesis in college. I'm interested to see how this turns out.

Tom's Problem with Miami

The Miami Herald:

WASHINGTON - Rep. Tom Tancredo, the leader of the anti-illegal immigration faction in the U.S. House, spent a recent weekend at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Ninety miles to the south, he found a symbol to bolster his belief that unfettered immigration is endangering the United States: Miami, he told a conservative online news site, "has become a Third World country." [Emphasis Mine]
I've been to Miami. It is NOT a third world country. It just isn't.

First, some background: The term 'Third World' was developed to describe 'non-aligned' nations during the Cold War. The U.S., Western Europe, and their allies were the 'First World,' the U.S.S.R. and the Soviet nations aligned with it were the 'Second World,' and the remainder were 'Third World.'

Miami is a technological advanced, industrialized, Capitalist Democracy - a First World city.

The Cold War definition has fallen out of usage, you argue. 'Third World' now means a nation with a low U.N. Human Development Index score. Fair enough. 'Third World' nations are 'Developing Nations.' According to the Wikipedia article, here are characteristics of Developing Nations:
  • Low saving which may lead to low investment according to Harrod-Domar model but large amount of saving and investment still does not imply strong development
  • High rates of fertility
  • Legal structures and institutions
    • a breakdown in the rule of law
    • high corruption
  • inadequate reforms imposed in counterpart with financing of last resort, by multilateral organizations (like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) to get out of situations of deficit and indebtedness in which the country is placed (see Developing countries' debt).
  • lack of interest in and comprehension for the specific dynamics of a nation, by multinational companies.
  • Domination of trade rules by richer countries
  • Using up of resources to pay interest on debts.
Ok, I think we can all agree that Miami doesn't suffer from any of those problems. So what justification could Tancredo use to call Miami a 'Third World Nation'? I'll let him explain:
Tancredo, who chairs the bipartisan House Immigration Reform Caucus and championed a fence along the border with Mexico, said Monday in an e-mail sent by his office that his comparison was based on crime statistics he believes "are deeply rooted in the immigration debate."

"While a recent documentary comparison of Miami-Dade County to Baghdad was a bit of an overstatement," he wrote, referring to an Australian documentary that compares Miami to Baghdad, "no one can argue that it is not one of America's most dangerous areas."
[Newsflash, Mr. Tancredo: Miami doesn't appear in the top 25 'Most Dangerous Cities' - a list that includes such 'Third World' metropolises as Washington D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri.]
He noted in the e-mail that the number of homicides in the county recently reached 200 for the year. The number is actually a decrease from the 1980s.

"Moreover, the sheer size and number of ethnic enclaves devoid of any English and dominated by foreign cultures is widespread," Tancredo said in the statement. "Frankly, many of these areas could have been located in another country. And until America gets serious about demanding assimilation, this problem will continue to spread."
So it's about speaking English? Is France is a Third World Country? What about Italy, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Germany?

Or is it just the Brown People, Mr. Tancredo?

And if you're serious about running for President in 2008, insulting a state that you desperately need to carry probably isn't a good way to kick off your campaign.

USMC: Anbar Province Lost

From the Washington Post:

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

The Marines recently filed an updated version of that assessment that stood by its conclusions and stated that, as of mid-November, the problems in troubled Anbar province have not improved, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. "The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same, the official said.


[T]he memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the country before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1. [Emphasis Mine]
This memo was first reported on in August when it was widely read in national security circles, though at that time it was described as "grim" but it's contents weren't made public.

The report illustrates the situation faced by Iraq's Sunni population. In power under Saddam, the Sunni minority's leaders have either left Iraq out of fear or been assassinated. Unlike the Shiites and Kurds in the north, the Sunnis find themselves without oil revenues and a concerted effort by the Shiite dominated government to withhold pay for civil servants and Iraqi troops in Al Anbar has left Al Queda in Iraq as the default power in the Governate.

Col. Peter Devlin, "a senior and seasoned military intelligence officer with the Marine Expeditionary Force" who authored the report, states that "without the deployment of an additional U.S. military division -- 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- plus billions of dollars in aid to the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the insurgency."
Al-Qaeda itself, now an "integral part of the social fabric of western Iraq," has become so entrenched, autonomous and financially independent that U.S. forces no longer have the option "for a decapitating strike that would cripple the organization," the report says. That is why, it says, the death of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June "had so little impact on the structure and capabilities of al-Qaeda," especially in Anbar province.
Devlin offers the creation of a Sunni paramilitary protection force or the creation of a Sunni state as a possible way to stem the violence.

* * * * *

This is what happens when you invade a country with no plan to secure the nation after you've defeated a dictator that has held together a nation of disparate factions that have a long history of violent confrontation.

This is what happens when you invade a country with no understanding of the culture or history of the people of that nation. If you assume that the people will react the way you would react, you're asking for things like this to happen.

This is what happens when you invade a country with thousands to few troops to secure the peace so that the Secretary of Defense can make an ideological statement about how the future of the U.S. Military is as a 'light & flexible' force.

This is what happens when you invade a country for false reasons without the support of the world community.

And thousands and thousands are dead. Many thousand more are injured.

And for what?


From the Ventura County Star:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Sen. Joe Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's incoming chairman, wants to get tough with Mexico, calling it an "erstwhile democracy" with a "corrupt system" responsible for illegal immigration and drug problems in the U.S.

Biden, D-Del., was in Columbia on Monday in his first postelection trip to this first-in-the-South presidential primary state as he continues to line up support for his presidential bid.

During a question-and-answer session before more than 230 Columbia Rotary Club members, Biden was asked about immigration problems.

Biden, who favors tightening the U.S.-Mexico border with fences, said immigration is driven by money in low-wage Mexico.

"Mexico is a country that is an erstwhile democracy where they have the greatest disparity of wealth," Biden said. "It is one of the wealthiest countries in the hemisphere and because of a corrupt system that exists in Mexico, there is the 1 percent of the population at the top, a very small middle class and the rest is abject poverty."

Unless the political dynamics change in Mexico and U.S. employers who hire illegal immigrants are punished, illegal immigration won't stop. "All the rest is window dressing," he said.
Biden actually makes some decent points, though his word choice leaves something to be desired. The problem is that all of this runs under the headline "Biden: Blame immigration woes on Mexico."

In many ways, the immigration problem is rooted in Mexico/Latin America. People don't emigrate from a place with a reasonable quality of life. For many potential (illegal and legal) immigrants a job, financial and personal security, some freedom, and a future that looks better than the present would do much more than a multi-million dollar fence to convince them to stay out of the United States.

Achieving goals like those for one nation, such as Mexico, is hard enough. Trying to improve the lives of people across Central America is a gargantuan task.

On top of that, it would require U.S. investment in those nations.

If trying to justify spending federal tax dollars to improve the quality of life for Mexican citizens in Mexico sound like political suicide, it's because it would be. In the xenophobic environment that GOP immigration agitators have created, 'the problem' actually transcends immigration.

For people like Tom Tancredo and the Minute Men, this is about making sure that anybody of Latino descent in the United States doesn't get any sort of help they 'don't deserve.'

Proof? Look at the laws that are meant to prevent 'illegal immigrants' (code for Latinos) from being eligible for any number of government programs, from emergency medical care through Medicaid to student lunches.

For many Immigration Hawks, the idea that Washington stopping illegal immigration by investing in Mexican infrastructure is about as appealing as offering aid to Iran and North Korea in an effort to have them abandon their nuclear weapons program.

To step into a Lakoffian analysis for a moment, any Immigration Hawk adheres to the Strict Father Model is going to see this investment as rewarding bad behavior. Adherents to the Nurturant Parent Model will see it as helping people get what they need for themselves.

Though I believe support could be found for a Mezzo-American Investment Program, the long time it would take for the program to bear fruit is another strike against it. It would take decades of investment, concerted anti-corruption efforts, and government restructurings in multiple nations for the necessary changes to be seen on the ground. Worse yet, the powerful 'establishment' institutions in these nations, as well as American interests that profit from them or through them would work very hard to prevent any change that could lead to a loss of power or profit.

When all is said and done, fence is probably cheaper and in the short term a fence would be more effective. But the fence would only be treating a symptom. For any real progress to be made on immigration, the cause - poverty in Latin America - must be addressed.

Old Media Lashes Out

Michael Kinsley's op-ed in today's Washington Post:

There is something about the Web that brings out the ego monster in everybody. It's not just the well-established tendency to be nasty. When you write for the Web, you open yourself up to breathtakingly vicious vitriol. People wish things on your mother, simply for bearing you, that you wouldn't wish on Hitler.

But even in their quieter modes, denizens of the Web seem to lug around huge egos and deeply questionable assumptions about how interesting they and their lives might be to others.

This is strange. Anonymity, for better or for worse, is supposed to be one of the signature qualities of the Web. As that dog in the New Yorker cartoon says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The Internet is a place where you can interact with other people and have complete control over how much they know about you. Or supposedly that is the case, and virtually everybody on the Internet is committed to achieving that goal.


There's an element of amiable self-parody about a lot of this that makes it bearable. Or is there? It's hard to tell. Surfing aimlessly, I stumbled upon a Web page that describes itself as "The definitive site for finding out 'What is Doug Doing?' " Doug himself writes: "So I know what you all are thinking . . . Doug never updates this!" Doug seems genuinely apologetic about not keeping us up to date on the minutiae of his life. For myself, I'm worried sick that the grad course and two music history courses Doug is taking this semester, which he says are driving him "a little crazy," may not leave him enough time to keep the page totally current. Remember your priorities, Doug, and don't let school get in the way of maintaining your Web site.

For the ultimate in solipsism, check out Twitter.com, a site where -- once you register -- you can answer the question "What are you doing?" At 7:47 am on Monday, for example, Lynda was going to get a glass of cold water.

This raises more questions than it answers. Did she get it? Was it cold enough? Tragically, we'll never know until someone starts a site about what you were doing before what you're doing now. Or possibly an interactive site about what you are going to do next after you finish doing what you're doing now. There could be multiple options. People could vote. Hey, someone call Google. We're rich!
As an interesting side note, the Washington Post usually includes a Technorati "Who's Blogging about This" section in the side bars of their articles. This article doesn't have one.

Here's my take: Nobody's forcing you to read "The definitive site for finding out 'What is Doug Doing?' " or visiting Twitter.com to engage in philosophical questions about glasses of cold water. And while I could argue that nobody's forcing me to buy the Washington Post, if I do buy the Post, (say for local sports) I am required to purchase a print copy of Michael Kinsley's opinion on writers that he thinks are less important than he is.

Mr. Kinsley hasn't used his space on one of the nation's leading opinion pages to condemn the web for the vitriol directed at student athletes (college and high school) or the lack of privacy for celebrities the web has created or make any other legitimate complaint about the Internet. He's used that space to tell everybody how he feels about who write for their own pleasure, for tiny (perhaps non-existent) audiences.

Mr. Kinsley spent some thousand words in a national newspaper telling us - peons in his eyes - that we should leave the writing to professionals.

I'm not here to defend the actions of Doug, Lynda, or anybody else. That said, looking the blogs of Myspace for the best writing the 'net has to offer is like looking to sports stadium concession stands for gourmet food. At a football game, a hot sausage with peppers and onions is exactly what you want and what you expect - but if you're looking for delicately balance flavors with creative texture and beautiful presentation, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Of course what Mr. Kinsley wanted was disappointment. It makes him feel important, knowing that his writing is the good kind of writing while all the unwashed masses out there can't cobble together a few sentences letting us know if the glass of water was cold enough, let alone discuss any of the great issues facing us as a nation.

Like 'self involved people' keeping online diaries.


More Attempted Book Bannings (Yawn)


FOND DU LAC, Wis. -- Maya Angelou autobiography is causing concern at Fond du Lac High School, where some parents want the book banned.

Sophomores in advanced English classes read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Some passages describe Angelou's rape and unwanted pregnancy.

School Superintendent Gregory Maass said one set of parents objected to the book, so the school assigned their student an alternative book.

Maass said they weren't satisfied and want the book removed from the curriculum entirely.
I'm really tired of writing these posts. It's like watching re-runs of 'Full House.' The same plot, over and over. By the 22nd minute, the 'everybody's learned their lesson' music comes on, somebody gets a hug, forgiveness is given, and the bliss that only TV sit-com families enjoy once again reigns supreme.

The Christianist version is, of course, parent objects to book, teacher supplies alternative, fundie parent rejects the alternative, demanding all the kids education be sacrificed to satisfy one parent's desire that their child not be exposed to 'dangerous' ideas.

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" has been taught in the school in question for over a decade and was taught in my highschool without incident. When the Fond du Lac principal held a meeting some 80 people showed up, though no decision was made as to what to do about the situation.

Why? Because the only thing that needs to be done is that the over-protective parents meddling in the education of kids who aren't their own need to be told to stuff it and accept the fact that their kid has already been given an alternate text. More likely, the school board caves and a bunch of kids are denied another part of the education they deserve.

No wonder the United States ranks 19th out of 24 when it comes to education...

Have I really become this cynical? I'm yawning at book bannings? I thought I'd come back from my long Thanksgiving vacation refreshed. I guess not...

BREAKING! Iraq now a Civil War!

Well, NBC has finally caught up to reality. The Pentagon is still in denial.

I will take this opportunity to point out that despite NBC's vastly greater access to information, their global network of reporters, and 24 hour a day monitoring of the situation in Iraq, I still beat them to this conclusion by about nine months.


Iraq's Fort Sumpter - February 22nd, right here on 300 Dollar Wonder:

The BBC (which also gets credit for the picture) is reporting on an attack on the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, holy site for Shia all over the world and Iraq in particular. The shrine, resting place of the 10th and 11th Imam and the place where the 12th 'Hidden' Imam disappeared. The golden dome of the shrine along with it contents, were severely damaged when armed men forced their way into the shrine in the early morning and detonated explosives. Shia outrage is huge.


I can't help thinking that things in Iraq are getting worse, not better. I see no way this situation can end in anything but civil war.
I'd take pride in my ability to say 'I told you so' except that thousands of people have died, many thousands more have been injured or made homeless, the entire region stands on the edge of chaos and the world (and the U.S. specifically) faces a more dangerous future.

Thanks, George.

People are Idiots - UPDATE

From the AP:

DENVER (AP) - A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

The subdivision's rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything. Kearns fired all five committee members.
This is a 200 home subdivision and 'three or four' people have complained. And what sort of idiot doesn't know that the peace sign has nothing to do with Satan? (Actually, what sort of twisted Christianist rhetoric produces people that equate war and violence with Jesus Christ, the 'Prince of Peace' and peace with the work of the devil?

UPDATE: 11.29.2006

It seems that Bob Kearns underestimated the amount of fight in peace activists. From the New York Times:
Last week, a couple were threatened with fines of $25 a day by their homeowners’ association unless they removed a four-foot wreath shaped like a peace symbol from the front of their house.

The fines have been dropped, and the three-member board of the association has resigned, according to an e-mail message sent to residents on Monday.


Mr. Trimarco said he put up the wreath as a general symbol of peace on earth, not as a commentary on the Iraq war or another political statement.

In any case, there are now more peace symbols in Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 people 200 miles southwest of Denver, than probably ever in its history.

On Tuesday morning, 20 people marched through the center carrying peace signs and then stomped a giant peace sign in the snow perhaps 300 feet across on a soccer field, where it could be easily seen.

"There's quite a few now in our subdivision in a show of support," Mr. Trimarco said.

A former president of the Loma Linda community, where Mr. Trimarco lives, said Tuesday that he had stepped in to help form an interim homeowners’ association.

The former president, Farrell C. Trask, described himself in a telephone interview as a military veteran who would fight for anyone’s right to free speech, peace symbols included.

Town Manager Mark Garcia said Pagosa Springs was building its own peace wreath, too. Mr. Garcia said it would be finished by late Tuesday and installed on a bell tower in the center of town.
Sometimes this work out the way the should...

AP Photo/provided by Lisa Jensen

The 2008 Horse Race

I hate Horse Race politics, but like everybody else, I can't seem to tear myself away...

Quinnipiac ranks national leaders (including many 2008 contenders) and finds that Nancy Pelosi has made the biggest gains from her spot at the bottom of the last poll, taken September 5th.

The survey, taken the week after the Democrats won back Congress, asks voters to rate the warmth of their feelings for leaders on a scale of 0 - 100. The mean scores for each politician with the percentage not knowing enough about the individual to rate him or her:

1) Rudolph Giuliani - 64.2. (9)

2) Sen. Barack Obama 58.8 (41)

3) Sen. John McCain 57.7 (12)

4) Condoleezza Rice - 56.1 (7)

5) Bill Clinton - 55.8 (1)

6) Sen. Joseph Lieberman - 52.7 (16)

7) NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg - 51.1 (44)

8) John Edwards - 49.9 (20)

9) Sen. Hillary Clinton - 49 (1)

10) N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson - 47.7 (65)

11) Sen. Joseph Biden 47 (52)

12) Nancy Pelosi 46.9 (34)

13) Gov. Mitt Romney - 45.9 (64)

14) Former VP Al Gore - 44.9 (3)

15) President George Bush - 43.8 (1)

16) Sen. Evan Bayh - 43.3 (75)

17) Newt Gingrich - 42 (15)

18) Sen. Bill Frist - 41.5 (53)

19) Sen. Harry Reid - 41.2 (61)

20) Sen. John Kerry - 39.6 (5)
John Kerry's gaffe didn't seem to destroy Democrat's ability to win elections during the midterms but it did destroy any chance at a meaningful attempt by the Massachusetts Senator to mount another Presidential run. Other hopefuls that don't seem to be in position to run include Bill Frist and Newt Gingrich. Evan Bayh's numbers aren't that good, but with 75% of respondents not knowing enough to form an opinion, his could go up. Romney, Richardson, and Biden find themselves in a similar situation.

Hillary Clinton is in the peculiar position of having 'topped out' on the support meter. Her 49% 'approval' rating wouldn't be so bad except that 99% of respondents have already formed an opinion - there's no room for improvement. This doesn't bode well for Hillary when compared to the other front runners, McCain and Giuliani.

A note, though, on Giuliani: If he were to make a real run at the presidency, people would start to look more closely at 'America's Mayor.' While the good feelings about Rudy from his actions on 9/11 and the aftermath resonate well with all Americans, his other positions won't mesh with the majority of his party's base. Expect his numbers to fall (especially among GOP primary voters) as other Republican contenders paint him as 'too liberal' and 'out of touch with Republican values.'

Lieberman's numbers are surprising. His supporters are more likely to be Republicans than members of his own party. I would say that this doesn't bode well for his staying 'blue' except that Joe's smart enough to realize that if he switched parties, he'd be in real trouble.

The real winner here is Barack Obama. With a 58.8 rating and lot of room to grow (41% of respondents didn't know enough about him to form an opinion) Obama is perhaps in the best position of any potential candidate on the list.

That said, the winners of the 2006 midterm haven't even begun their terms, so all of this could change wildly in the next two years. All speculation at this point borders on tea reading...

Trent Lott Doesn't Like Karl Rove

In 2002, Trent Lott, the new Republican Senate Minority Whip, said that if segregationist Strom Thurmond had been elected in 1948, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

Karl Rove took the opportunity to drive the then Senate Republican Leader out of power - more for being a weak leader than for any ethical reasons.

Now Trent Lott may have his chance at revenge.

From Think Progress has the transcript of a Fox News interview:

WALLACE: Senator, over the last four years, though, you did have some harsh things to say about the White House, and I wonder whether you still stand by them. You said Karl Rove should resign. Still believe that?

LOTT: Look, I've been in sort of a liberated mode. Some people say that they hope in my new leadership position, I won't give that up. I do believe in trying to be honest and respectful. I've had problems with some of the conduct of Karl Rove. But I have a good relationship with the President and most of the people around him. I think Josh Bolten is doing a great job as his chief of staff. You know, the president and I can communicate, and I want to see him succeed, because he is the President. And we have to work with Democrats because they are in the majority.
This meme is a bit of a theme for Mr. Lott. He's called for Rove's resignation before, during the CIA 'Plame-gate' scandal.

At risk of casting Mr. Lott in a positive light, (something I DO NOT want to do) I think having somebody who's actively opposed to the White House is a good thing. Even if the hostility isn't for ideological reasons, it's good to have someone who sees all things Rovian as suspect and treats them with hostility.

And this from the person leading the party that should be most receptive to the President's agenda.

While it appears that the Democrats won't press their advantage, the rubber stamp congress seems to be a thing of the past for BushCo.


Tryptophan Recovery Day

This post comes to you from the Glorious Home State - Pennsylvania - though I haven't actually seen much of the goings on in that state as I have been trying desperately to overcome the effects of the tryptophan (as illustrated at right) in what must have been at least seven pounds of turkey. And that's just the turkey that I ate...

I hope everybody enjoyed the holiday festivities of their choice and I hope that everyone was lucky enough to have today to lay around and engage in that most American of pass times - being lazy. Football would also have been an acceptable answer.

I was blessed with a Thanksgiving gathering free of political rancor. Hopefully everybody else was able to visit their crazy wingnut uncles without being thrown out of the house for being a pinko commie bastard as well.

While we all relax and eat leftovers, the political world continues to turn. Think Progress reports:

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), one of the leading voices on immigration for the right, claims President George W. Bush is plotting to merge the U.S. with Mexico and Canada. An excerpt from WorldNetDaily:

Tancredo lashed out at the White House’s lack of action in securing U.S. borders, and said efforts to merge the U.S. with both Mexico and Canada is not a fantasy.
"I know this is dramatic - or maybe somebody would say overly dramatic — but I'm telling you, that everything I see leads me to believe that this whole idea of the North American Union, it's not something that just is written about by right-wing fringe kooks. It is something in the head of the president of the United States, the president of Mexico, I think the prime minister of Canada buys into it.
While I stand in awe of Rep. Tancredo's ability to read George W. Bush's mind, the mind of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and President Vicente Fox Quesada, Think Progress notes taht various right-wing authorities were quick to, um, condemn Tancredo's remarks?

The National Review:
This is not a fringe. It's a wave. It's fine to disagree with Rep. Trancredo; it's wrong to treat him like a lunatic when he is anything but.
Forgive me if I still consider anybody who thinks that an American Politician could 'merge Canada, the U.S., and Mexico' is a stark-raving lunatic. The only way that it could ever happen is that George W. Bush decides to conquer Mexico and Canada.

It's really a sad state of affairs when I believe that the United States invading and conquering it's neighbors is a more realistic option. Welcome to Bush World.


About Damn Time

From the American Research Group, Inc.:

Republicans are less apt to say they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job and the economy when compared to a month ago according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 60% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 38% approve and 57% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 61% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 37% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 58% disapprove.

In the current survey, 72% of Republicans approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 23% disapprove. In October, 79% of Republicans approved of the way Bush was handling his job and 16% disapproved. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 68% of Republicans approve and 27% disapprove. In October, 86% of Republicans approved and 10% disapproved.
While I'm glad that one in four Republicans are smart enough to figure out that Bush is screwing things up, it alarms me that it took them over 6 years to figure it out.

Bush has a stunning 12% approval rating among Democrats. This is shocking in two ways: First, 12% of Democrats still approve of George Bush. Second, Bill Clinton enjoyed a 32% approval rating from Republicans when he left office. Just some perspective...

Winning Hearts & Minds

I'm sure that fond memories of running three blocks in the desert heat in the hopes of getting clean water from an occupying military will be just one of the things that makes this newest Iraqi generation staunch allies of the United States in the years to come.

This isn't the Candy Bomber of Berlin Airlift fame. This is some twisted guy seeing how far a bunch of kids will run to get something American kids would hardly get out of their chairs for.

I'm all for U.S. Troops handing out water. I'm sure that the vast majority of Americans in Iraq would are happy to give water or candy or a toy or gum or whatever to Iraqi children. I'm sure they're doing just that. But when you're trying to ingratiate yourself with a population, it only takes one asshole to screw up the effort.

Thanks to Sis who found the video.


The Problem with Leviticus

Shakes Sis has a great take on this article. (Go read it.) I'm going to concentrate on a different part of the piece, so hopefully she won't accuse me of post-stealing. From the USA Today:

What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality?


Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.


So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."

As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred.

The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal.
I have this sort of twisted fantasy where I impersonate a preacher. I arrive at some megachurch as a 'guest pastor' to deliver the sermon. The bulletin declares today 'Bible Believer's Day' and promises an exciting sermon that will have the congregation participating in ways they never have before.
"Good morning! As you may have read, today Biblical Inerrancy Day. I'd like to invite anybody who's gay to leave."

(The Congregation is shocked. Nobody leaves.)

"I'd also like anybody who's eaten shrimp, lobster, or catfish in the last week to please go to the narthex, where coffee and donuts are being served."

(Again, nobody leaves.)

Surely somebody here has had shrimp this week! On a salad, perhaps? At TGI Fridays? I'm very serious. According to Leviticus 11:12, to eat anything from the sea without fins or scales is sinful in the eyes of God. Please leave.

(At this point, a few people leave.)

Excellent. We're beginning our journey towards a Church that fully adheres to the Inerrant Word of God. Anybody who wears contact lenses or glasses, could you please remove yourselves from the sanctuary.

In addition, any women that are menstruating, any person that has both onions and potatoes planted in their garden, and anybody wearing a cotton/poly blend should leave now too.

Anybody who mowed their lawn Saturday or had a ham and cheese sandwich should leave...
You get the picture.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, the author of the article, calls attention to one of the things that has always bothered me about using Leviticus to argue against providing gay people with human rights. There are so many other parts of Leviticus that even the most Christian of people ignore.

Either you believe that everything in the Bible is completely and perfectly true (and you don't eat shrimp or mow your lawn on Saturdays) or you believe that it isn't. There is no half-way. You can't have it both ways.

This makes people uncomfortable. It exposes the fact that they're using scripture to discriminate against people they hate. At best, it's a 'biblical shield' to protect them from something that they think is 'icky.'

Oliver Thomas notes that Jesus' teachings are vastly different from what many Christianists preach. When I was growing up, the minister at my church was fond of saying 'The Devil can quote scripture for his own ends.'

We don't write laws against people that commit adultery. We don't enact legislation against people that work on the Sabbath. There is no statute on the books punishing a person from coveting his neighbor's wife or her neighbor's husband. Usury, gambling, pre-marital sex, swearing, and worshipping god's other than that of Christians are all protected or codified by law in one way or another.

This hypocrisy isn't lost on people. While Christianists loudly proclaim that America is a Christian Nation, the number of non-Christians is quietly growing. Between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of Americans that self-identify as Christian fell from 86.2% to 76.5%. At that rate, by 2042, non-Christians will outnumber Christians in the United States.

There are more Americans who say they are not affiliated with any organized religion than there are Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans taken together.

Mr. Thomas tells us this:
Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.

It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.
My take: If Christians are reduced to 'the anti-gay people' in the eyes of the public, America will look like Europe by the beginning of the next century.

Damn Hippies!

Jenean Mcbrearty, contributing columnist in the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Hippies still trying to ruin the country
By Jenean Mcbrearty

America won't win another war until the 1960s flower children are pushing up petunias.

Radicalized, the flower children morphed into lefty loonies who now masquerade as social progressives. No matter what they rename themselves, however, their agenda hasn't changed.

They still want utopia, and it wouldn't be worth mentioning except that their naivete has aged into a persistent denial of reality that may have devastating consequences.

For example, consider their continued belief that America's armed forces are neo-Nazi stormtroopers who delight in burning babies to further the aims of imperialistic corporations.

Such nonsense, now treated as legitimate by the left-leaning media, denigrates the patriotic values and sincerity of half the nation. It undermines the war effort, insults the dead and the survivors of battle and their families, and supports the aims of the enemy. Translated into immigration or national defense policy, it is an invitation to the world to destroy our country.
How did this person manage to get something published in a newspaper? I'm not really sure what the circulation of the Lexington Herald-Leader is, but holy shit, this is just unhinged!
Marxism doesn't work. Love is not all you need. Western culture is worth defending because it protects freedom, tolerance and the greatest material good for the greatest number. Government can't solve every problem. The American taxpayer has no obligation to support the rest of the world's exploding population.
Please point out the Marxists that are currently influencing American policy, Ms. Mcbrearty. I'd just love to know their names. You know, it's really too bad you don't provide any back-up for your declarations.

Nobody's arguing that 'Love' is going to end the Civil War out of Iraq, though the current 'course' doesn't seem to be any more effective. Government may not solve every problem, but having Republicans run the government doesn't seem to solve any problems. And as soon as Western Culture is perfect in it's ability to 'protect freedom, tolerance and the greatest good for all' I'll stop trying to improve it.

Ms. Mcbrearty, if you're stupid enough to argue that American taxpayers have 'no obligation to support the rest of the world,' you better stop accepting the tax money that blue states are thanklessly providing for Kentucky. (PDF) For every dollar Kentucky pays in Federal taxes, it gets $1.45 of Federal spending.
Their BAWL (Buddha-Allah-Wicca-Lenin) is better than some old Judeo-Christian God.

In their heart of hearts, lefty loonies do want America to lose in Iraq and every military theater. They want outside enemies to accomplish quickly the demolition of American capitalism, using the violence the lefty loonies are too old, too scared and too well-invested to use.
Um, Buddha-Allah-Wicca-Lennin? That's three 'people' with a religion thrown in. It makes as much sense as Johnny-Sam-Christianity-Jill. And I'm sure, Ms. Mcbrearty, that any implication that we should chose leaders that are quick to resort of violence to get what they want was purely accidental.
Yet, please be compassionate toward aging, albeit dangerous, erstwhile flower folks. Understand their pain when communism failed. Understand their desire to enforce perfect harmony. Understand their insistence that we love humanity except those in uniforms.

Just don't vote for them in 2008.
I usually don't give the other side advice on how to better make their argument, but I think, just this once, I will.

Ms. Mcbrearty, if you could be just a little bit more hysterical, you might convince more people. Don't feel so tied down with verifiable facts and direct quotes - embellish! Oh! Find a catchy name for your opponent. Use something that clearly identifies them as 'bad.' 'Lefty Loonies' is weak, go with something a bit more forceful like 'Pinko-Commie-America-Haters-Who-Eat-Fetuses.' Along with pointing out that people who disagree with your opinion are in league with Stalin, this will make you seem like a more neutral commentator, something undecided readers respect.

Above all, make sweeping generalizations, ignore subtlety and nuance! The louder your column sounds the more convincing it is!

Gratuitous Olbermann Post


Problems for Romney

A Rasmussen Reports survey has found that 43% of Americans would never vote for a Mormon. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

WASHINGTON - Some 43 percent of Americans wouldn't even consider voting for a Mormon for president, according to a new poll that shows an increase from previous surveys in the number of voters unwilling to support an LDS candidate for the White House.

The latest poll, released Monday, is bad news for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon Republican who is expected to make a 2008 presidential bid. Previous polls have shown a smaller share of Americans saying they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.

The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg in June found 37 percent of those surveyed wouldn't vote for a Mormon while other surveys from the late 1990s showed about 20 percent were opposed to a candidate from that faith.

Some 38 percent in the Rasmussen poll said they would consider voting for a Mormon, while 19 percent were unsure. Of those who identified themselves as evangelicals, 53 percent said they wouldn't consider voting for a Mormon candidate.
It's interesting that the only sub-group that is mentioned is Evangelicals. It would be interesting to see breakdowns by party affiliation, race, income, education, and region. Of course 'Evangelical' is code for 'White, socially conservative Republican' - of which only 53% would vote for a Mormon. This must scare the shit out of Romney. If this bias against people that have different ideas about God can't be overcome quickly (with either speeches, TV spots, or appropriately timed attacks on Gays) Romney's candidacy is dead in the water.

Romney has the deck stacked against him. He's running for the nomination of a party with its powerbase in the South and West when he's from the North East. This poll shows that he's looking to attract voters that are hostile to his religion. He has low name recognition and, as far as I've seen, no 'proto-platform.' He's not the 'immigration candidate' or the 'Iraq candidate' or the 'trade candidate' or the 'tax candidate' or any other 'candidate' except the 'Mormon candidate' and his base has basically rejected that.

For what it's worth, I would have no problem voting for a Mormon. I just can't imagine voting for Mitt Romney.

Here's the other part of Rasmussen's survey that I found interesting:
A potential Mormon presidential candidate fared better than one who is Muslim or an atheist running for the White House, the Rasmussen poll also found.

Some 61 percent of likely voters would not even consider voting for a Muslim presidential contender while 60 percent wouldn't vote for an atheist, the poll found.
I always knew I was unelectable... Atheism is the new gay...

Why This Blog is Pro-Union:

From the Houston Chronicle:
Since Oct. 23, janitors have marched in front of office buildings throughout Houston, blocked streets and invaded a Galleria-area office in to bring attention to their cause.

The Service Employees International Union represents about 5,300 janitors who make an average $5.30 an hour and want a boost in pay to $8.50 an hour and health care benefits from the city's five largest cleaning companies.
The strikers have set up a very good website.

These photos are from MyDD:

Think that's bad? It gets worse. Houston Justice for Janitors:
We sat down in the intersection and the horses came immediately. It was really violent. They arrested us, and when we got to jail, we were pretty beat up. Not all of us got the medical attention we needed. The worst was a protester named Julia, who is severely diabetic. We kept telling the guards about her condition but they only gave her a piece of candy. During roll call, she started to complain about light-headedness. Finally she just collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was like she just dropped dead. The guard saw it but just kept going through the roll. Susan ran over there and took her pulse while the other inmates were yelling for help, saying we need to call somebody. The medical team strolled over, taking their own sweet time. She was unconscious for like 4 or 5 minutes.


One of the protesters had a fractured wrist from the horses. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain.

The guards would tell us: ‘This is what you get for protesting.’ One of them said, ‘Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.’ The other inmates—there were a lot of prostitutes in there—said that they had never seen the jail this bad.
And Worse. From Pandagon:
A reader who was down in Houston supporting the strikers emailed me about her experiences. She was arrested on Wednesday and this is her story:
I was waiting to be frisked on entering the jail, and I was behind some strippers who were part of a vice sting. While they were getting frisked (legs spread, bending over, hands against the wall) there were pairs of male cops standing around watching in the most digusting way you can imagine (and I’m sure you can imagine). Nudging each other, making comments, standing with their legs spread and their arms crossed. When I got frisked, the officer pulled my shirt up high, yanked my breasts out of my bra, and then left the shirt up while she did my bottom half. Humiliating. Horrible. A nice little show for the disgusting pigs who were watching like they were still at the strip club.
Ezra Klein points out that bail was set at $888,888.00 for people who make $5.50 an hour. This in a state where a murderer had bail set at $30,000.00.

Perspective: Kill another human being and you can avoid waiting in jail for your trial for the equivilent of a brand new BMW 328i.

Organize a protest demanding a living wage and health benefits for the people that clean up after your sloppy ass and it takes the equivilent of this to get you out of jail:

A 4,000+ square foot, 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, two story Mediterranean style McMansion in Houston. Oh, and it's on a golf course. Wanna bet that the dirt that gets tracked into the clubhouse on $300 golf shoes is cleaned up by janitors making peanuts and working without health care?

Take a minute and do something to help.

Vacation Update:

In case you were wondering why I jumped the gun by a day on my One Year Anniversary post, it's because I ended up heading to warmer climes for a few days. Last minute, relatively unplanned vacations are always the best kind.

I'm posting from the hotel lobby, so this will be the only post for today. I'll be back at home (and back to posting) tomorrow.

To tide you over, here's a fun little picture I found during the run up to the election, but never got around to using.

I assure you that the man in the picture isn't me.

Side note: Just how un-funny is this going to be? And what 'right-leaning' comedian are they going to get to do it? For that matter, other than Denis Leary, are there any 'right-leaning' comedians?

Apparently, Kurt Long and Susan Yeagley. Either that or they're just willing to be paid to play one on TV...


One Year Ago

On November 17th, 2005 I started 300 Dollar Wonder.

It's amazing how much has changed since then. I don't think that anything that I did specifically lead to those changes, but the larger movement that did bring about those changes is in many ways the reason that 300 Dollar Wonder exists.

To everybody how stopped by, either by accident or by design, and took the time to read my posts, thank you. To everybody (anybody?) that makes 300 Dollar Wonder a regular destination, thank you. To anybody who thought that the ideas I posted here were compelling enough to leave a comment, I can't tell you how encouraging that is.

Thank you to Markos and DailyKos for being my stepping stone into the blogosphere. Thank you to Shakes Sis at Shakespeare's Sister who was the first to add me to her blogroll and, despite the slap-dash nature of my posting still manages to link to me ever so often.

The only thing that I know about the next year is that it will be nothing like the one we've just come through. I believe that it will be better. Here at 300 Dollar Wonder, I'll be working, in my own small way, to make sure that it is better.

Thank you all,


Caution: Al Franken Dancing

Thanks to RawStory who found the video. I'm not sure if having this floating around the internets will help Mr. Franken's not quite official election race, but here it is...

Now You Tell Us...

From the New York Times:

[The top American military commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid] also publicly said for the first time that the American position in Iraq had been undermined by the Bush administration's decision not to deploy a larger force to stabilize the country in 2003. That decision was made after Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff at the time, told Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed. His testimony was derided by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and the general was ostracized at the Pentagon before his retirement a few months later.
Took you long enough.

But don't worry, a strong dose of 'stay the course' will cure you of your doubts, and if not, you'll go the way of Gen. Shineski and Donald Rumsfeld...

Pelosi is the Next Speaker of the House

From Fox New's newly blue website:

WASHINGTON — Current Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was unanimously chosen by her caucus Thursday to be speaker of the House, becoming the first woman to be ensured the job that constitutionally is second in line of succession to the presidency.
Of course Fox News couldn't resist piling on about the 'earth-shattering, party-destroying infighting' going on in the fight between Murtha and Hoyer. Our party is run as a democracy - complete with vigorous debate - and not a top-down, authoritarian juggernaut. And despite the fact that it's messy at times, it's a good thing.

Glenn Beck is an Ass

From Media Matters:

On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
So, in Glenn Beck's twisted head, the simple fact that you're a Muslim means that you have to do something to prove that you're not a terrorist.

This makes as much sense as asking all Christians to prove that they're not Branch Dividians or Abortion Clinic Bombers.
As Media Matters for America has noted, Beck previously warned that if "Muslims and Arabs" don't "act now" by "step[ping] to the plate" to condemn terrorism, they "will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West" and declared that "Muslims who have sat on your frickin' hands the whole time" rather than "lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head" will face dire consequences.
All of this begs the question: Why does Glenn Beck still have a TV show? Yeah, there probably are Americans that think just because Keith Ellison is a Muslim, he's a terrorist. These people are bigoted, backwards idiots with views that don't deserve the reinforcement of having them repeated on CNN. Would Beck ask the same question to a Jewish person? A Mormon? A Catholic? Somebody from the wrong sect of Protestantism? I know that there are people that think Atheists are unfit for office, but that doesn't mean that an anchor on a major news channel should be delving into spiritual matters to placate their strange, religious blood-lust.

Mr. Beck, you are a disgrace to your network and a disgrace to the values enshrined in our Constitution.


Demographically Speaking...

This is beyond bad for the GOP. From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — President Bush's decision to back Sen. Mel Martinez to help lead the Republican Party, a move intended to appeal to disaffected Latino voters, drew sharp criticism Tuesday from some of the party's core conservatives, who disdain the Florida lawmaker's support for liberalized immigration laws.

The decision to name the Cuban-born Martinez as Republican National Committee general chairman served as an acknowledgment that the GOP had lost ground among Latinos; in last week's midterm election, the Republican share of the Latino vote dropped to 30% from more than 40% in 2004. Party leaders have said they need to build more support among Latinos for the GOP to regain its dominance.


Criticism of Martinez came Tuesday from several conservatives, including Curly Haugland, an RNC member from North Dakota, who said he believed the party was far too focused on pandering to minorities.

"We're losing our base in droves because they don't get campaigned to," he said, referring to GOP-leaning conservatives.

Randy Pullen of Arizona, another RNC member and an activist against illegal immigration, likened Martinez's selection to the episode last year in which Bush named his longtime friend and legal counsel to the Supreme Court, only to reverse himself after a furious conservative backlash.

"I'm hoping that it's not another Harriet Miers moment," Pullen said.

Another leading critic of Bush's stance on immigration, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, offered tepid support for Martinez.

Tancredo called the senator a "competent spokesman for our party," but added that if he "rejects the will of rank-and-file Republicans and uses the position to advocate for things like the president's amnesty proposal, then I believe the party could be headed for another shellacking at the polls in 2008."
George W. Bush (or more likely Karl Rove) has realized that if the GOP becomes the 'white' party, it's going to drift towards irrelevence as minorities begin to make up more and more of the electorate. That's why before Martinez, the rumors were that Michael Steele would be the RNC chair. The US Census has predicted that Whites will be the slowest growing racial group in the United States for the next 20 years. Making that group your only voting block isn't going to get you very far.

But Rove doesn't seem to be able to get 'The Base' to see that - or at least he can't get them to accept that.

The more noise Republican 'send 'em all back' immigration hawks make, the less likely the GOP is to attract any support from people of Latino descent.

That said, it's important that the Democratic party be something other than the 'Not-Republicans.' As a party, we should have (or should at least be working on developing) an intelligent, meaningful, fair and successful immigration policy.

The New Minority Whip

The new Minority Whip, Sen. Trent Lott, Republican from Mississippi, shall henceforth and forever be known as:

Strom Thurmond Lite

New and Improved! It still has all the 'old time South' flavor you love, but now without the troublesome hood!

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Cracks Starting to Show...

Via the International Herald Tribune:

WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged for the first time the existence of two classified documents, including one signed by President George W. Bush, that have guided the agency's interrogation and detention of terror suspects.

The CIA disclosed the existence of the documents in a letter Friday sent from the agency's associate general counsel, John McPherson, to lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The contents of the documents were not revealed, but one document, as described by the ACLU, is "a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees."

The second document, according to the group is a Justice Department legal analysis "specifying interrogation methods that the CIA may use against top Al Qaeda members."
We all know that "We Don't Torture." I guess we'll soon find out what - exactly - we are doing at detention facilities spread around the globe, out of the eye of American citizens and beyond the reach of the American Judicial system.

The ACLU hopes to make these documents public. A Democratic House and Senate will do much to encourage that, I would think.

If I were BushCo. I'd be scared shitless.