Don’t trust them! They’re just like us!

From Republican National Committee chair Mike Duncan:

“The Democrats mean to use this opportunity of unchallenged power to explode the size and scope of the federal government, to take control of entire sectors of our economy, to crush the conservative opposition through parliamentary procedure and redistricting,” he told RNC members, winning applause. “The goal is to indoctrinate a generation of American children to the gentle comforts of the nanny state … The only thing standing between their agenda and success is the Republican Party.”

In other words, he claims that the Democrats are going to do exactly what the Republicans did over the last dozen or so years: explode the size and spending of government (Bush’s deficits so big they defy understanding, wiretapping, homeland security dept.)… check! Crush the opposition through procedure and redistricting… check check! Indoctrinate children (um, ever heard of “No Child Left Behind”? Check!) to the nanny state (Bush’s bank bailout, FCC censorship “won’t someone think of the children? other than parents? Tax cuts for the rich and coddling corporations? How about the police state Bush left us?)… check check check!
I’m really astonished — although I shouldn’t be — at the increase in hypocrisy displayed by the GOP as their party falls into total disarray and cannibalism. It’s incredible how quickly their house collapsed; the current understanding seems to be that they have only five reliably conservative states in their column these days.

Oh, you wanted a network with that?

I’ve been reading this morning about AT&T’s new 3G MicroCell device. Simply put, it creates a 3G “cell” in your home, routing your cell phone calls and data over your internet connection.
At first, I thought this was cool — I get poor reception in the house, and this would begin to move me toward living a cell-phone only life.
Then, I started thinking more critically.
Using this device would incur yet another monthly fee from AT&T above and beyond the cost of buying the device itself. This would seem to offset the savings of disconnecting the landline phone.
And then I starting thinking even more critically: what would be the reason for spending that money and using such a device? That’s right — the inadequacy of AT&T’s coverage.
The bottom line? Rather than spend the money needed to build out their network and improve coverage in neighborhoods, AT&T has decided to let customers themselves build out the network and pay for the privilege. I already pay AT&T $140 each month for substandard cell coverage and a landline that is unusable when it rains; but hey — for a premium on top of that I can have more intelligible calls? Bonus!

Don’t Peak Too Soon

Wow. I was unemotional and pretty pragmatic about Obama’s inauguration, but I have to say I’ve been impressed by the first 3 or 4 days.

  • Halted implementation of the last of Bush’s restrictive and destructive orders
  • Shut down the CIA secret prison system
  • “Outlawed” torture
  • Ordered the closure of the Guantanamo detention camp
  • Appointed envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan/Pakistan, restarting diplomatic efforts there after a solely military policy
  • Strictly limited the role of lobbyists in government
  • Froze the pay of senior staff in the White House
  • Called for more transparency in government and undid the Bush administration policy on withholding government information (including a new White House website that doesn’t have restrictions on searching/cataloging content)
  • Removed the so-called “gag rule” which prevents any discussion of abortion by groups receiving US funds

Wow. And it’s only been 4 days.
These were, of course, the easy ones. Hope this trend continues, and it will be interesting to see he manages the issues that can’t be addressed by executive order.
I have to say that I am very impressed by the new White House website — until now, the site has always been pretty much useless, but the new blog makes it timely and imparts a feeling of connectedness. One can read clear positions and agendas, and it almost feels like one knows what the president is doing each day. Let’s hope they can keep it up for years. Eight?

Let’s improve our word power

You’d have thought that a few days after President Obama took office I’d be turning toward the future rather than continuing to blast the Bush administration. Looks like that won’t be the case, as the GOP continues its ridiculous traditions by jabbing and insulting and being generally obnoxious.

Example #1
I need to brush up on my vocabulary ‘cos I’m not sure what the word is that describes someone claiming victory by using a negative — saying that something that didn’t happen means that someone did something good.

2,688 Days
By Marc A. Thiessen
Washington Post, Thursday, January 22, 2009; A17

When President Bush left office on Tuesday, America marked 2,688 days without a terrorist attack on its soil. There are 1,459 days until the next inauguration. Whether Barack Obama is standing on the Capitol steps to be sworn in a second time depends on whether he succeeds in replicating Bush’s achievement.

As the new president receives his intelligence briefings, certain facts must now be apparent: Al-Qaeda is actively working to attack our country again. And the policies and institutions that George W. Bush put in place to stop this are succeeding. During the campaign, Obama pledged to dismantle many of these policies. He follows through on those pledges at America’s peril — and his own. If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible — and the Democratic Party could find itself unelectable for a generation.

It’s worth noting that the author, Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen starts his clock on the day after the September 11 attacks. I think the more interesting way to read these numbers is that the Bush administration managed to go only 234 days without a terrorist attack; and this after being specifically warned not only of the pending attack but of the specific method to be used. [UPDATE 2/12/09: Mea culpa. After reading the infamous memo myself, I tend to think that it is not necessarily the smoking gun so many have made it out to be. Read it here. It simply states the obvious — that Bin Laden was determined to strike, was looking at buildings in NYC, and planning hijackings… since 1997, which would tend to indicate it wasn’t about to happen a few weeks later.]

It is also worth noting that Thiessen claims a terrorist attack would doom the Democratic party for a generation; possibly the most ridiculous and hypocritical nonsense I’ve heard today (never misunderestimate the ability of Republicans to reach new heights of hypocrisy). Maybe Mr. Thiessen, like many in the GOP, thinks that the massive repudiation of the Republican party over the last few years is because a magical fairy sprinkled liberal dust on America? Golly, do you think it could be because the American people are tired of the fear mongering of the GOP? Not content to learn the lesson, the GOP talking points today, when people are celebrating the triumph of hope over the politics of fear, are the same as they have been for the last 7 years.

On Tuesday, George W. Bush told a cheering crowd in Midland, Tex., that his administration had left office without another terrorist attack. When Barack Obama returns to Chicago at the end of his time in office, will he be able to say the same?

Since George Bush has little concrete success to crow about, he’s forced to brag about things that didn’t happen. Since his base mainly consists of people who can’t seem to think for themselves and have no critical abilities, this makes perfect sense — bragging about something that didn’t happen is no different than a televangelist claiming that the hurricane didn’t hit because of his prayers, that the rain came because of a dance, or that millions of people weren’t killed in Africa… oh, wait.

You know what’s gonna make the GOP unelectable for a generation? Their dire harping on TERRORISM! TERRORISM! YA’LL GONNA DIE IN THERE!

Example #2
Missouri Senator Kit Bond (R, duh) and Florida representative Bill Young (R, America’s Wang) says that the prisoners at Guantanamo should be transferred to… Alcatraz. ‘Cos those hippies in San Francisco were against torture and unlawful detention. Gosh, this San Francisco bashing gets funnier and funnier everytime some nutcase right winger opens his mouth. (That’s a real purty mouth, by the way.)
San Francisco is a major American city. And in an era where it’s even become passe to criticize Hollywood, it’s the last city that politicians feel comfortable railing against. Funny, isn’t it? How the GOP, which purports to be so UHMERICUN tends to paint some Americans as the enemy? The people of San Francisco — and judging from the election results, the people of many other cities — are concerned about morality and our constitution, about human rights and the integrity of our nation. Too bad these things are so far from the tiny minds of politicians like Bond and Young (wow, there are two names that go great together, especially in a GOP airport bathroom), who are mainly concerned with how many cheap shots they can take rather than how they can solve problems.

And yeah, I’m having fun taking cheap shots myself today, so I understand their glee.

Example #3
Saw a clip of Minority Leader John Boener (R, of course) on NewsHour last night, railing about how the Democrats in Congress are marginalizing the Republicans and not listening to them. In other words, he’s complaining that the Dems are acting just like Republicans. Not fair!

Hey hey hey, goodbye

I was going to post every image I’ve used in this blog illustrating the Bush administration, but then I remembered that — believe it or not — some people still access this site with dial-up. And I don’t wanna choke their modem.

So instead, here’s just one simple image to leave a smile on your face.

Bush Burnout

It’s been a long eight years.
On election night 2000, I sat on my couch with my neighbor Danielle, shocked and incredulous as the networks started to call the election for Bush. As she left to go home next door, I reassured her that this moron — who couldn’t even name another world leader — couldn’t possibly cause much harm, that our system of government and our constitution would prevent any lasting harm.
The next day we didn’t know who was president. And there was a glimmer of hope.
Well, we all know how this all turned out, and it turned out so much worse than even the most pessimistic of us could have imagined.

But we did survive, most of us, and now we are presented with the check at the end of the evening.

I don’t know if it is the result of the constant pounding of the last eight years or just a general depression brought about by dark mornings and underwater mortgages, but I am finding myself emotionally devoid when it comes to the departure of Dubya. One would assume that I’d be the first to whoop and holler, but I just don’t have the energy.

And the incoming president? Really, look at it all on paper: the first ever black man to be elected president; the first to come from my generation and representing a post-baby boom populace; a president who by all appearances seems to reflect a truly inclusive attitude (which, of course, angers everyone equally). He didn’t get into office by demonizing groups of people or invoking fear. The message was hope, something we haven’t had in a long time.

So, why am I not ecstatic and jumping for joy?

All Themes Considered

Hey, kids! Are you an NPR junkie like me? Ever wish you could pretend you were the host of a prestigious NPR news show? Here’s your chance!

Morning Edition Top of the Hour Theme:

Morning Edition Close:

All Things Considered Top of the Hour Theme:

Weekend Edition Saturday Top of the Hour Theme:

I used to think that the day would never come

I loved this NY Times op-ed by Gail Collins this morning…

He’s Leaving. Really.
By GAIL COLLINS

Tonight President George W. Bush bids adieu to the American people.

Excitement mounts.

The man has been saying goodbye for so long, he’s come to resemble one of those reconstituted rock bands that have been on a farewell tour since 1982. We had exit interviews by the carload and then a final press conference on Monday, in which he reminisced about his arrival on the national stage in 2000. “Just seemed like yesterday,” he said.

I think I speak for the entire nation when I say that the way this transition has been dragging on, even yesterday does not seem like yesterday. And the last time George W. Bush did not factor into our lives feels like around 1066.

So far, the Bush farewell appearances have not drawn a lot of rave reviews. (Most striking, perhaps, was a critique of that final press conference from Ted Anthony of The Associated Press: “It all felt strangely intimate and, occasionally, uncomfortable, in the manner of seeing a plumber wearing jeans that ride too low.”) A Gallup poll did find that his approval rating had risen slightly since they began, but this was probably due to enthusiasm for the part about his going away.

“Sometimes you misunderestimated me,” Bush told the Washington press corps. This is not the first time our president has worried about misunderestimation, so it’s fair to regard this not as a slip of the tongue, but as something the president of the United States thinks is a word. The rhetoric is the one part of the administration we’re surely going to miss. We are about to enter a world in which our commander in chief speaks in full sentences, and I do not know what we’re going to do to divert ourselves on slow days.

The White House has promised that in his final address, the president will be joined by a small group of everyday American heroes, which means that the only person on stage with a history of failing to perform well in moments of stress will be the main speaker.

Bush is going to devote some of his time to defending his record, although there has been quite a bit of that already. Over the last few weeks we have learned that he thinks the Katrina response worked out rather well except for one unfortunate photo-op, and that he regards the fact that we invaded another country on the basis of false information as a “disappointment.” Since Bush also referred to the disappointments of his White House tenure as “a minor irritant” it’s perhaps best to think of the weapons of mass destruction debacle as a pimple on the administration’s otherwise rosy complexion.

If there’s any suspense about the speech it is how many times Bush will use the word “freedom,” which popped up 27 times in his relatively brief second inaugural. The man who gave us Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Freedom Agenda, the USA Freedom Corps and the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has so thoroughly debased one of the most profound concepts in our national vocabulary that it’s getting hard to hear it used without remembering Janis Joplin’s line about how freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

There are a lot of ways to approach this farewell-speech business. Ronald Reagan started with winning folksiness, then lurched into a warning against big government and a plea to raise a new generation of patriots that knows “who Jimmy Doolittle was.” Bill Clinton’s sounded very much like a bid for a third term. (“Thirty-five million Americans have used the family leave law …”) On the other hand, anybody listening to it now would surely begin to tear up when Clinton got to the part about how he was leaving the country “on track to be debt-free” by the end of 2009.

History does suggest that Bush performs best in venues like this one, in which he has a long lead time and virtually no actual role in preparing the words he is about to say. But still, what could he possibly tell the country that would change anybody’s opinion about the last eight years?

“My fellow Americans, before I leave you next week I want you to know that …

A) “Although things have gone very wrong, I take comfort in the realization that Dick Cheney was actually in control from the get-go. Honest, I never even knew half the people in the cabinet.”

B) “Laura and I have come to realize that all things considered, retirement to a mansion in Texas is just totally inappropriate. And so we take our leave to begin a new life as missionaries at a small rescue station in the Gobi desert …”

C) “Surprise! This has all actually been a bad dream. It’s really still November of 2000 and tomorrow Al Gore is going to be elected president.”

Otherwise, the best possible approach for a farewell address might be for Bush to follow his father’s lead and just not give one.

She’s right. As I drove home tonight Bush was on the radio; even though his voice just makes me retch these days, I listened for a few moments as he said nice things about Obama and his family… then he mentioned September 11 and I knew what was coming, so I changed the station.

Afterwards, Joan Walsh had this to say:

I can’t believe President Bush’s approval ratings have climbed as he edges to the end of his tragic term. Except I sort of understand it; I felt sorry for him tonight during his farewell address, which was utterly self-indulgent and delusional. It’s hard to see someone leave the presidency so shamed.

Let’s be honest: Thursday night Bush sounded like a kid reciting the high points of fourth grade, or a challenged patient graduating to a new level in some kind of mental health rehab institution. No one could watch that and not be shaken by it. I’ve had my political disagreements with my friend Chris Matthews, but he summed it up really well: It was an abomination, the depiction of a world of presidents in which “every kid gets a trophy who participates.”

Except of course this isn’t a grade school T-ball tournament, this is the self-assessment of the worst president in American history, whose awful decisions could make it impossible for Barack Obama to make the full difference he was elected to make, and that his talent and policy program makes it clear he can achieve.

The Associated Press includes this line in their story:

Bush’s presidency began with the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and ends with the worst economic collapse in three generations.

I beg to differ. That attack took place 8 months into his presidency. It is far more illuminating to realize that Bush’s presidency started with warnings about bin Laden, not the attack. His presidency started with a memo specifically indicating that al Qaeda wanted to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.
Gosh, doesn’t that just put it into a different perspective?

The Facebook Report: 2008

Wherein I report to you the year-end demographics of my Facebook friends. Eye-opening statistics, indeed.

Change v Politics as Usual

Never let it be said that I don’t lambast both sides of the aisle. I’m sure there will be plenty of Republican hypocrisy to write about in the next 4 years, but now that the Dems are back in power, let the bashing begin.
We’ll start with the dashing of our hopes of change. An entire election campaign based on the idea of change, new directions, new blood… and now Obama’s picks are pretty much shaping up to be another Clinton administration with the same ridiculous foibles.

Treasury Secretary-designee Tim Geithner met this afternoon with bipartisan members of the Senate Finance committee to explain why he failed to initially pay self-employment taxes in 2001 and 2002 and why he employed an immigrant as a housekeeper whose working papers had expired shortly before she left her job, The Post’s Lori Montgomery reports.

According to a Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter has not officially been made public, Geithner made a “common mistake” of failing to file self-employment tax for two of the three years he worked for the International Monetary Fund.

Although they receive W-2 forms, U.S. employees of the IMF are treated on the agency’s books as independent contractors and do not have taxes withheld by their employer.

Geithner’s tax returns were examined as part of the vetting process when Geithner was picked by President-elect Barack Obama in November. Upon learning of the shortfall, Geithner paid $25,970 to cover the two years’ worth of taxes and interest.

Also, in 2006, the IRS told Geithner that he owed $17,230 in self-employment tax and interest for 2003 and 2004, which he paid.

Then, there is the housekeeper issue. Also during the vetting process, it was discovered that Geithner and his wife employed an housekeeper in 2004 and 2005 whose working papers expired during her time with them.

According to the source, Geithner told the senators that he and his wife were unaware that his housekeeper’s documentation had expired three months before she left their employ to have a baby. Nevertheless, Geithner said, she continued to reside legally in the United States as the wife of a citizen and was granted a green card a few months after. [Washington Post]

So, here’s what I can’t help but wonder: did Geithner learn nothing from previous administrations? From the appointees who had the same kinds of problems, and were scandalized by them? I mean, you’d think that anyone in public service would a) have a big accounting firm do their taxes and b) never, EVER hire an immigrant to watch their kids.

And here I was hoping that we’d be seeing some really smart people in the cabinet.

Facts v. Bush

Now, we all know that politicians — even the ones we agree with — spin and twist the facts. And today’s marathon Evita-like press conference by George W. Bush was certainly no exception to that rule. The interesting thing is that the AP jumped right on it and fact checked immediately. Was it quick enough to offset the Bush talking points blitz? Who knows. And at this point, who cares? I think it is a little late for him to begin propaganda to shape his legacy now. He’s already been judged.

FACT CHECK: In final word, Bush gilds his record
By JIM DRINKARD, Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 12, 2009

(01-12) 12:32 PST WASHINGTON, (AP) –

President George W. Bush claimed to have inherited a recession that in fact began on his watch in a legacy-polishing news conference Monday often at odds with his record. A look at some of the president’s claims in his final news conference, and the facts:

BUSH: “In terms of the economy — look, I inherited a recession, I’m ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth.”

THE FACTS: There have been two recessions during Bush’s time in office. The first was a relatively mild downturn that began in March 2001 and lasted eight months, ending in November 2001. Since the first one did not begin until after he took office in January 2001, it is not strictly accurate to say he “inherited” it.

The second downturn began December 2007 and has already lasted longer than any recession in a quarter century. If it does not end until the second half of this year, which many economists believe is likely, the current recession will have surpassed in length all other downturns of the post World War II period.

As to his claim of 52 months of uninterrupted job growth, that is factual, although perhaps misleading in what it says about overall job growth during his term. Job growth after the 2001 recession did not resume on a sustained basis until September 2003, continuing until January 2007, a period of 52 months.

However, jobs have declined in every month since then. A staggering 2.6 million jobs disappeared in 2008, the most since World War II, and unemployment hit a 16-year high of 7.2 percent in December.

Overall, during Bush’s eight years in office, a net total of 3 million jobs were created. In the two terms of his predecessor, President Clinton, roughly 21 million jobs were generated.

___

BUSH: Asked about the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush said, “You know, people said, well, the federal response was slow. Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed… That’s a pretty quick response.”

THE FACTS: The president’s defense is based on one very narrow measure in the 2005 storm’s immediate aftermath. He ignored numerous other facets that depict a more sober picture.

There were 9,000 Louisiana families still living in trailers as of last Sept. 1, and more than 30,000 residents of Gulf states receiving disaster housing assistance. Five of 23 acute-care hospitals in the New Orleans area remain closed. The city’s bus system carries less than a third of its pre-storm passengers. Many neighborhoods remain largely vacant.

Bush noted that $121 billion in federal aid was approved. But much of that went to rescue operations and other short-term needs. The Louisiana Recovery Authority estimates that about $15 billion has been spent on rebuilding in the state.

Bush said New Orleans schools have improved, which is true. But of 125 public schools in New Orleans before Katrina, only about 85 remain.

___

BUSH: Predicted that Israel and the Palestinians will eventually make peace more or less on terms he outlined early in his tenure, and said his administration “worked hard” to advance peace by defining a goal of two peaceful countries and working to strengthen Palestinian security forces.

THE FACTS: Bush’s 2002 speech calling for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel did mark a surprisingly explicit and detailed endorsement of that idea by an American president. But he didn’t mention that in those early years his administration put active peacemaking in a deep freeze and only tried to restart negotiations late in his term. In the years between, Israel expanded Jewish settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians for an eventual state, with only mild complaint from the United States.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the administration waited until the timing was better, meaning until after the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the election of a moderate leader to succeed him. Bush wrote off Arafat early on, with advisers saying the PLO chief was corrupt and probably incapable of delivering a deal that Israel and its U.S. backers could live with.

But by the time the U.S. made Mideast peace a diplomatic priority conditions were changing again. Bush pushed Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, to hold elections in early 2006 that he feared, correctly, would legitimize his rivals in the Islamic Hamas movement. Those rivals are now in control of the Gaza Strip, splitting the territory and people Abbas theoretically governs.

Bush sponsored a high-level peace conference in late 2007, and visited Israel and the West Bank in early 2008. Rice stopped by often to check on secret negotiations between Abbas’ West Bank leadership and Israel.

Hamas is now at war with Israel in Gaza, in the most intense fighting in years. Israel may succeed in wounding Hamas leadership and its ability to fire rockets into Israel, but it probably cannot defeat the well-organized group outright. In the meanttime, civilian deaths in Gaza erode Palestinian support for negotiations.

___

Associated Press writers Tom Raum and Anne Gearan in Washington and Cain Burdeau in New Orleans contributed to this report. [Via SF Gate]

We all knew the Doctor and Rose were… you know

This was never an issue in the original run of “Doctor Who” — the on-screen mating of the Doctor (newly announced Doctor #11 Matt Smith) and Rose Tyler. From “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” comes this scene sure to cause plenty of scandal and eye-rolling in the fan slash community.