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Thank you

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A light has gone out.

Sen. Edward Kennedy
February 22, 1932 - August 25, 2009


"For all those whose cares have been our concern,
the work goes on,
the cause endures,
the hope still lives,
and the dream shall never die."

-Sen. Ted Kennedy
1980 Democratic National Convention

Picture and quote courtesy of Huffington Post

The goal we were always aiming for

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Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was moved yesterday.

It is the curse of the journalist always to be present, but never really There.

The job requires that we stand slightly apart, seeing but not believing; hearing without being seduced. …

Then comes the rare instance that penetrates the armor, when something causes you to put down the pad, turn off the camera in your head, and become part of the moment. The short list in recent history includes the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the signal marches on Washington, the terrorist attacks of 9/11. To those we may now add Inauguration Day 2009. …

We knew it was coming. … And yet, when the hour finally arrived and Obama raised his right hand, his presidency was somehow not quite imaginable.

Sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, extremities numb despite layers of wool, and seeing so many gathered to witness this thing they called "change" was, dare I say it, awesome. That most-annoying hipster term for anything remotely acceptable is suddenly useful for its intended purpose.

For awe is the truest word to describe what transpired and what was inspired. …

It is awe for what is, in fact, not change, but the natural, if difficult, progression of an ideal that is true and good and transcendent through time. Barack Obama's presidency isn't a change from, but a continuation of the American experiment toward its hoped-for destination.

Obama hinted at this in his speech by invoking American values of hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism. In honoring all those who came before, who fought and died from Concord and Gettysburg to Normandy and Khe Sanh, he reminded us that change is not a single event on Election Day, but an evolutionary process.

The change we've been waiting for? No, the goal we were always aiming for. …

It is now the day after. Work awaits, bills remain, wars persist. The afterglow is hard to sustain as the promise of yesterday becomes tomorrow's challenges. Armor on, cameras whirring, pens poised. The march toward a more perfect union continues.

Good luck, Mr. President.

Kathleen, I know you haven't always been a fan of Mr. Obama but I salute you for this column which captures so well the awe and essence of what occurred yesterday.

Thank you.

President Barack Hussein Obama

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He's taken the oath of office. Via Ann Althouse and Jeff Toobin of CNN, Chief Justice Roberts screwed it up.

His speech has a number of high-points. The full-text of the prepared remarks is here.

Here are some of the phrases or parts that caught my ear as I listened.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.


On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.


As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.


For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.


Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.


In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

UPDATE: If you happened to miss it, you can watch it for yourself, courtesy of Politico.

The Journey

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It started in Springfield in 2007. We got a big boost in January 2008 in Iowa and the next 10 months led us to this:

And thus to today at last:

January 20, 2009

Yesterday my daughter was walking around saying in a gleeful voice, "Just think. Today is the last day that George Bush is president."

Yes We Can ... Yes We Did.

Olbermann's 8 Minute recap of 8 years of the Bush Administration

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See how much you've forgotten about.

Damn, so much, so wrong. [via]

Yes We Can

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Almost a year ago, this video appeared.

It was based, of course, on the soul-stirring words that Obama delivered in New Hampshire on January 9, 2008.

That speech inspired the conservative denizens of Red State to comment positively on the power of Obama's vision and oratory. Even a waiter in Marrakesh was so impressed by this speech that he memorized and recited it to his customers. the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready or that we shouldn't try or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

~ transcript link

In this week before President-Elect Obama's inauguration, the phrase "Yes We Can" rings with new resonance and clarity. If his inaugural speech approaches the clarity and inspiration of his New Hampshire speech, Obama will offer hope to millions more.

Bill Ayers, Chris Matthews, and American Redemption

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I am one of those who thinks Bill Ayer's 15 minutes was up some time ago and would not have gone out of my way to view his appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews. But Al Giordano of The Field posted an item about Bill and Chris's conversation that was intriguing enough that I did watch the youtube clip.

What was interesting about the conversation was the connection of their positions as antagonists back in 1971.

In 1971, Bill Ayers was a 27-year-old member of the Weather Underground, a clandestine revolutionary organization mainly of young people opposed to the Vietnam War and the capitalist system. That year, the organization took credit for setting off a bomb in a US Capitol bathroom one night when the building was closed to the public.

In 1971, Chris Matthews was a 26-year-old US Capitol police officer, a member of the group of workers that could have been wounded or killed by the bomb (which upon explosion did damage to property but not people, as was the Weather Underground's goal)...

The conversation was an intelligent, thoughtful discussion - a variety not usually seen on cable news. Al summed it up more eloquently.

Striking about Ayers' appearance on Hardball is his thoughtfulness, the intelligence of his political analysis, and the disarming yet substantive way that he answered some hard questions from Matthews. Both men dressed themselves in glory during that conversation and in doing so created a kind of lighthouse with which the rocky shoals and stormy waters of American political discourse can better be navigated. Both revealed themselves as men of maturity and seriousness that would be worthy and valued collaborators on any political project.

Check it out if you have time.

Karmic justice: Gen. Eric Shinseki

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News arrived over the weekend that President-Elect Obama had selected Gen. Shinseki as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The official announcement is to be made on Monday, December 7th, the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Obama referenced it in his talk with Tom Brokaw on Meet The Press Sunday.

"He was right."

That was his clipped response to Brokaw's query on Shinseki and his dismissal by Rumsfeld. It was brief and powerful. James Fallows has a piece on the karmic justice of it all and a follow-up commenting on the elegance of the timing.

Fallows' recitation of Shinseki's history and approach to his position and responsibilities is corroborated by this first person narrative from kossak Homer J which offers another angle from which to see how Gen. Shinseki respected and cared for the veterans and soldiers under his command.


Spencer Ackerman and Hilzoy have posted about Obama's selection of Shinseki. Spencer unequivocally approves. Hilzoy looks thoughtfully at some of the implications and possible outcomes of his appointment.

Lead Federal Weathermen Prosecutor is outraged

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That's what William C. Ibershof said in his letter to the editors in the New York Times responding to their article on Obama and Ayers which highlights the minimal contact the two had on very legitimate and well-regarded non-profit ventures in the Chicago area, one of which was financed by the foundation of well-known Republican publisher, ambassador and Nixon/Reagan pal, Walter Annenberg.

As the lead federal prosecutor of the Weathermen in the 1970s ... I am amazed and outraged that Senator Barack Obama is being linked to William Ayers's terrorist activities 40 years ago when Mr. Obama was, as he has noted, just a child. [...]

Because Senator Obama recently served on a board of a charitable organization with Mr. Ayers cannot possibly link the senator to acts perpetrated by Mr. Ayers so many years ago.

He does mention one other item that just confirms that Republican behavior patterns have remained much the same over the past 40 years.

I do take issue with the statement in your news article that the Weathermen indictment was dismissed because of "prosecutorial misconduct." It was dismissed because of illegal activities, including wiretaps, break-ins and mail interceptions, initiated by John N. Mitchell, attorney general at that time, and W. Mark Felt, an F.B.I. assistant director.

Imagine that. Illegal activities including wiretaps by the Attorney General and his assistant director. Sound like anyone else you know?


Being "Uppity" and the destruction of black Wall Street

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Sometimes you find nuggets in the most unexpected places. The genesis of this particular nugget is a thoughtful and important op-ed by Brent Staples in the New York Times titled Barack Obama, John McCain and the Language of Race. In it he discusses the word "uppity" and its use in our nation's history and politics.

Deoliver47 at Daily Kos took the opportunity to add some historical background to Staples' essay in a most viscerally powerful diary about the destruction of the "black Wall Street", Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Deoliver47 is an African-American woman of either late 40's or early 50's age (she's said - I just can't remember which) who has been a powerful contributor to the Daily Kos community ever since she joined. I've learned to watch for her posts.

As she points out in her post, the Tulsa riots were likely the most deadly set of race riots that we've ever had in this country but they're not even listed when historians recount the list of race riots. The video that accompanies her diary is remarkable. And it adds such poignancy to her conclusion.

There are times here at Dkos when I want to cry out to you, that you don't understand why Barack cannot ever slip out of control, why he walks so carefully and speaks so thoughtfully.  He knows the history.  He has studied it, and has run up against it, even if he did not live through those times.  He knows.  I know.  We as black people know.  The penalty for uppity is often death - even today. You who rant at him to become more fierce, to get more tough, know not what you are asking.  This is a subtle dance we dance as black folks.  

Staples concurs in his conclusion:

Mr. Obama seems to understand that he is always an utterance away from a statement -- or a phrase -- that could transform him in a campaign ad from the affable, rational and racially ambiguous candidate into the archetypical angry black man who scares off the white vote. His caution is evident from the way he sifts and searches the language as he speaks, stepping around words that might push him into the danger zone.

These maneuvers are often painful to watch. The troubling part is that they are necessary.

So on a day that we watch more headlines about Wall Street and Main Street, the election, Barack Obama and John McCain - please remember the history of Black Wall Street.

Those who forget are often doomed to repeat.

I trust that we will build a different future, for all of us - black, white, brown, yellow, and red.  A future where "uppity" will no longer be a call to violence.

It sheds a whole new light on Obama's path and his accomplishment. I must admit that I was ignorant of Greenwood and the Tulsa riots. I add my wish to build a different future to Deoliver47's wish.

Do go read both the NYT essay and Deoliver47's diary. You'll find them time well spent in learning something that probably didn't show up in your history book yet has relevance to today's world.

7 Years Later

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Roger Cohen writes a column unlike any I've seen. It's powerful, especially for those who spent many hours in Sunday School and church listening to the scripture from the King James version.

And in the seventh year after the fall, the dust and debris of the towers cleared. And it became plain at last what had been wrought.

For the wreckage begat greed; and it came to pass that while America's young men and women fought, other Americans enriched themselves. Beguiling the innocent, they did backdate options, and they did package toxic mortgage securities and they did reprice risk on the basis that it no more existed than famine in a fertile land.

Thereby did the masters of the universe prosper, with gold, with silver shekels, with land rich in cattle and fowl, with illegal manservants and maids, with jewels and silk, and with Gulfstream V business jets; yet the whole land did not prosper with them. And it came to pass, when the housing bubble burst, that Main Street had to pay for the Wall Street party.

For Bush ruled over the whole nation and so sure was he of his righteousness that he did neglect husbandry.

And he took his nation into desert wars and mountain wars, but, lo, he thought not to impose taxation, not one heifer nor sheep nor ox did Bush demand of the rich. And it came to pass that the nation fell into debt as boundless as the wickedness of Sodom. For everyone, Lehman not least, was maxed out. [...]

For Bush ruled over the whole nation and so sure was he of his righteousness that he did foster division until it raged like a plague. Each tribe sent pestilence on the other.

And in the seventh year after the fall, the dust and debris of the towers cleared. And it became plain at last what had been wrought -- but not how the damage would be undone.

Do go read the whole piece. It's powerful. You may also appreciate TeacherKen's thoughts on the column.

What have we wrought?

It's Official!

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hillaryacclamationofobama.jpgAfter a call for nomination by acclamation made by Sen. Clinton, the Democratic party has nominated Barack Obama for the office of the president of the United States. It's official. Lots of cheers and tears.

Rep. John Lewis brought the historic perspective... reflecting on how they fought to even be able to vote and to see this today is amazing. He said he'd cried earlier and didn't think he had any more tears left in him. An historic moment indeed.

Jim Leach vs. the Nattering Nabobs

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I saw Jim Leach's speech on Monday night and despite his very low key style, it really hit home. I knew right then that I wanted to find a transcript and reread his words. As I recall, the chattering heads were saying that no one really hit back at the Republicans on Monday evening. Well, they think that because they were all busy talking over Jim Leach and didn't hear him say this:

The party that once emphasized individual rights has gravitated in recent years toward regulating values. The party of military responsibility has taken us to war with a country that did not attack us. The party that formerly led the world in arms control has moved to undercut treaties crucial to the defense of the earth. The party that prides itself on conservation has abdicated its responsibilities in the face of global warming. And the party historically anchored in fiscal restraint has nearly doubled the national debt, squandering our precious resources in an undisciplined and unprecedented effort to finance a war with tax cuts.

Re-read that paragraph. That's why Republicans for Obama exists. Rep. Leach continued on, not pulling any punches.

America has seldom faced more critical choices: whether we should maintain an occupational force for decades in a country and region that resents western intervention or elect a leader who, in a carefully structured way, will bring our troops home from Iraq as the heroes they are. Whether it is wise to continue to project power largely alone with flickering support around the world or elect a leader who will follow the model of General Eisenhower and this president's father and lead in concert with allies.

Whether it is prudent to borrow from future generations to pay for today's reckless fiscal policies or elect a leader who will shore up our budgets and return to a strong dollar. Whether it is preferable to continue the policies that have weakened our position in the world, deepened our debt and widened social divisions or elect a leader who will emulate John F. Kennedy and relight a lamp of fairness at home and reassert an energizing mix of realism and idealism abroad.

The portfolio of challenges passed on to the next president will be as daunting as any since the Great Depression and World War II. This is not a time for politics as usual or for run-of-the-mill politicians. Little is riskier to the national interest than more of the same. America needs new ideas, new energy and a new generation of leadership.

Hence, I stand before you proud of my party's contributions to American history but, as a citizen, proud as well of the good judgment of good people in this good party, in nominating a transcending candidate, an individual whom I am convinced will recapture the American dream and be a truly great president: the senator from Abraham Lincoln's state-Barack Obama.

As the Boston Globe noted today:   [via]

The best way to watch a political convention is on C-Span. That way Americans can make their own judgments unfiltered, without being told what to think by the nattering nabobs of TV commentary. [...]

Had the commentators not been so busy filling airspace and paid closer attention to what was happening on the podium, they might have had a different take. On Monday a speech by former Representative Jim Leach, an Iowa Republican, ably set the framework for his own party's failings, besides delivering a bipartisan endorsement of Barack Obama. His address wasn't electrifying TV, but it was a more articulate critique of the Republicans - and from a former loyalist, too - than many Democrats have mustered.

They read my mind.

The complete transcript and video clip are below the fold.

Obama: Preaching to the waiters, Huguenots & the First Amendment

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NCJan raised an interesting point of discussion today about Barack Obama's appearance in Rick Warren's Saddleback Forum.

Did Obama pull a Colbert?

As far as the Saddleback thing goes, couldn't Obama have pulled a Stephen Colbert/Press Club thing that night?

By that I mean, while McCain was speaking to the audience in front of him and ignoring the fact that the nation was watching, Obama was speaking to all of us.

I remember when Colbert's first reviews came out, everybody in the traditional media thought he had bombed. That's because they were taking their cues from the people in the room. ... And sure enough, days and even weeks later, Colbert's performance was upgraded to brilliant. It is still remembered. It is memorable.

I think that by sticking to his guns on things like choice, Obama was "playing to the waiters" in that crowd. In this case, the waiters were all those pro-choice Republican women who were, by the very nature of patriarchal right wing religion, standing "in the back of the room" that night.

I think she's onto something there. Given the subsequent McCain campaign efforts to find out if a pro-choice Veep nomination would help or hurt him, I suspect that the McCain campaign itself recognizes that it has cut off all the Republican pro-choice women. Of course, all the pushback about choosing a pro-choice Veep nominee and how it would completely dissolve the Repub base coalition means McCain is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

Contrast that with what Barack Obama accomplished at Saddleback. In addition to reaching out to the Republican prochoice women, he established himself more firmly as a thoughtful Christian. I just ran across this blog post, "Obama Shows Guts", by David Brody, a reporter/blogger with the CBN network about Obama's appearance at the Saddleback Forum.

The fact that Barack Obama would show up at an Evangelical Church and take the tough questions is a credit to him. I mean he knew he was the visiting team so to speak yet he handled these questions like he has in the past: with relative ease.

Brody commented on the 'when does a baby get human rights' question and noted "But look, the guy is pro-choice so did anybody really expect him to answer it with a fervent "at conception" answer? He was kind of stuck and it showed. But let's remember for many others in the faith community who aren't as conservative an answer like that may have been just fine. Obama's main focus is not to win over the die hard conservative Evangelicals. He's trying to appeal to the broader faith community and the latest polling shows he's doing a pretty god job of it."

He concluded his assessment this way.

Overall the night was a success for Obama. He didn't get put on the spot too much with the abortion questions. He handled the "Jesus" question about his faith with ease and maybe most important he looked comfortable up there. His answers were nuanced quite a bit unlike McCain's quick direct answers. That was a big difference between the two of them. Obama sees more shades of gray. McCain sees the World a lot more black and white. That was on clear display. By watching Obama and McCain go back to back tonight, I think it offered a stark contrast on how they both approach the hot button social issues. But Obama has very little chance with die-hard pro-lifers anyway. Instead, Obama's goal is to come across as a caring family man who takes his faith and set of values very seriously. That plays to the broader audience. A forum like this only helps him in that regard.

I think that Brody's post supports the contention that Obama was looking beyond the people in the room. It certainly supports my contention that Barack did just fine at Saddleback. He did what he needed to do though he shouldn't have to do it. And that raises this question.

Why is such a religion focused discussion a part of our democratic selection of a president anyway?

I can remember discussing our Huguenot ancestry with my mother (who's a missionary) while I was growing up in Liberia and concluding that the separation of church and state was a good and proper thing. It wasn't so long ago that people were persecuted and killed for being the wrong kind of Christian by other Christians which, BTW, Obama did subtly underscore in his response about evil being perpetrated on behalf of the good and that good intentions didn't necessarily mean doing good.

Kathleen Parker commented on the separation issue today as well, asking how Thomas Jefferson would have responded to questions about his position on evil and his relationship with Jesus Christ?

What would have happened to Thomas Jefferson if he had responded as he wrote in 1781:

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Would the crowd at Saddleback have applauded and nodded through that one? Doubtful.

By today's new standard of pulpits in the public square, Jefferson -- the great advocate for religious freedom in America -- would have lost.

And the point that Ms. Parker makes is a sad one. Thomas Jefferson would have flunked at the Saddleback forum. All the chattering classes would now be talking about how poorly he did and out of touch he was. One of our country's most esteemed Founding Fathers wouldn't have made the grade at Saddleback or on the cable news shows. One can only imagine what the Fox Noise channel types would have had to say about him.

We, collectively and individually, owe so much to Mr. Jefferson. He fought long and hard for our rights to free practice of religion and freedom from religion which culminated in the First Amendment which, in case you need a refresher, reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

What a sublime sentence. So much democracy is caught up in that one statement.

The people at remind us of the history of it.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is also the first section of the Bill of Rights. It is arguably the most important part of the U.S. Constitution, as it guarantees freedoms of religion, speech, writing and publishing, peaceful assembly, and the freedom to raise grievances with the Government. In addition, it requires that a wall of separation be maintained between church and state. [...]

The roots of the First Amendment can be traced to a bill written by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in 1777 and proposed to the Virginia Legislature in 1779. It guaranteed freedom of (and from) religion. After an impassioned speech by James Madison, and after some amendments, it became law on 1786-JAN-16.

In the spring of 1778, the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, PA. They resolved three main religious controversies. They:

  • Decided that there would be no religious test, oath or other requirement for any federal elected office
  • Allowed Quakers and others to affirm (rather than swear) their oaths of office
  • Refrained from recognizing the religion of Christianity, or one of its denominations, as an established, state church.

But there was no specific guarantee of religious freedom.

Jefferson was pleased with the constitution, but felt it was incomplete. He pushed for legislation that would guarantee individual rights, including what he felt was the prime guarantee: freedom of and from religion. Madison promised to promote such a bill, in order to gain support for the ratification of the constitution by the State of Virginia.

In 1789, the first of ten amendments were written to the constitution; they have since been known as the Bill of Rights. [...]

Shortly after Thomas Jefferson was elected president, some Baptists from Connecticut asked that he declare a national day of fasting in order to help the country recover from a bitterly fought presidential campaign. He disagreed, feeling that the Federal government should not recognize a day set aside for religious reasons. In his reply of 1802-JAN-1, he stated:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

What a brilliant idea. Thanks, Mr. President.

Now we just need to start teaching the First Amendment and what it means to all of us because somewhere along the way, there's a lot of people who seem to have forgotten it.

Another 'Must Read' about Georgia-Russia conflict from The Belgravia Dispatch

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Greg Djerejian has posted another must-read analysis which takes apart the predictable neo-con, McCain response to the Georgia-Russia conflict.

Witness this incredibly poor reasoning by McCain, jaw-dropping even by the standards of the mammoth policy ineptitude we've become accustomed to during the reign of Bush 43 and his motley crew of national security miscreants. Here is McCain:

Mr. McCain urged NATO to begin discussions on "the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia,'' called on the United Nations to condemn "Russian aggression,'' and said that the secretary of state should travel to Europe "to establish a common Euro-Atlantic position aimed at ending the war and supporting the independence of Georgia.''

And he said the NATO should reconsider its previous decision and set Georgia - which he called "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion'' -- on the path to becoming a member. "NATO's decision to withhold a membership action plan for Georgia might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia, and I urge the NATO allies to revisit the decision,'' he said. [my emphasis]

First, what does it matter in this context that Georgia was "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion"? If it had been the first to adopt Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, would the situation be different? Perhaps this might get assorted Christianists in an excited tizzy or such, which come to think of it, might be why some clueless aide to McCain, fresh from a Google sortie, decided to plug this little factoid into his statement. But what is really mind-boggling here is that McCain would have us double-down, and cheer-lead having NATO "revisit" the decision not to extend membership to Georgia! It is precisely this type of profoundly flawed thinking ... that has gotten Georgia into this bloody mess.

There's more, said in the way Djerejian only can do so along with some references to more authoritative, informed views such as those of George Kennan as well as some recent comments by Henry Kissinger.

Then he produces this bit:

So here is where matters stand. Rather than talk and obsess about what we should do, it is the Russians, sad to say, who will determine the fate of Georgia in the coming days and weeks, and so we might take a moment or two and stop and think about what their next moves are likely to be. Will they stop at Gori (just south of Ossetia) as well as a bit to the east of Abkhazia (a similar 'exclusion zone'), or have they now decided to march into Tbilisi and unseat this Government whole stop (I think it's a closer call which way Russia will go than many of us realize at this hour, but won't hazard to make a call just yet. UPDATE: The latest Russian moves would appear to indicate the former). As a Georgian civilian put it more pithily: "The border is where the Russians say it is. It could be here, or it could be Gori". Or, indeed, it could be Tbilisi, as I say.

Meantime, a Georgian soldier tells a U.S. reporter in the same piece: "Write exactly what I say. Over the past few years, I lived in a democratic society. I was happy. And now America and the European Union are spitting on us." They are, aren't they? They had no business making the cheap promises and representations that were made. No business on practical policy grounds. No business on strategic grounds (though I guess it got Rummy another flag, near the Salvadorans, say, for the Mesopotamian "coalition of the willing"). And now our promises are unraveling and nakedly revealed for the sorry lies and crap policy they are, with the emperor revealed to have no clothes, yet again. This is what our foreign policy mandarins masquerade about as they play policy-making, in their Washington work-stations. It's, yes, worse than a crime, rather a sad, pitiable blunder.

And one McCain would have us compound, I stress, again! An honorable man who served his country well, it is clear his time has past and his grasp on the most basic foreign policy calls we'll need to make in the coming years is very tentative indeed. He'll be surrounded by second-tier 'yes-man' realists and residual neo-con swill, few with any ideas worth pursuing if we mean to take the national interest seriously with sobriety and freshness of perspective. So let us help him exit off-stage gracefully, as he served his country with dignity when called upon, but let us not sacrifice our children's future to ignorants with deludely romantic notions of empire. Been there, done that. Indeed, we have a President who has announced a pre-emptive doctrine which allows us to, willy-nilly, instigate regime change when and where we deem appropriate. Who are we to lecture Putin now? What standing do we have to do so? And what parochial and self-satisfied myopia has us indignantly thinking we are some unimpeachable arbitrer of right and wrong in the international system after the disastrous missteps of the past eight sordid years?

If we mean to help the Georgians escape an even worse fate, we must summon up the intelligence and humility to have a dialogue with Putin, Medvedev, Sergie Lavrov, Vitaly Churkin and the rest of them based on straight talk (not of the McCain variety, and if we can somehow find a messenger of the stature and talent to deliver the message in the right way, hard these days), to wit: we screwed up overly propping this guy up and he got too big for his britches, we understand, but for the sake of going forward strategic cooperation (and don't mention Iran here, at least not as the first example)--as well as stopping further civilian loss of life--agree to work with us in good faith towards a status quo ante as much as possible, don't enter Tbilisi, and throw show-boats Sarkozy/Kouchner a bone with some possible talk of a going forward EU peacekeeping role (if non-binding, for the time being). This is roughly what we should be saying/doing now, not having the President step up to the White House mike fresh back from the sand volleyball courts of Beijing to gravely declare Russia's actions are "unacceptable in the 21st century." Such talk will get us nowhere, instead, it might just fan the flames more (as will Cheney's threats of "serious consequences", apparently a favorite sound-bite of his, but this time mentioned only in the context of the U.S.-Russian relationship). Let us be clear: these men's credibility is a sad joke, and Putin knows it only too well. So let's get real. Before it's too late, and more facts are created on the ground, mostly on the backs of innocent civilians throughout Georgia's various regions.


Messing with history in Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia

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John Cole did a Sunday morning round up on the situation between Georgia and Russia. It's a good introductory summary including a link to Greg Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch who has apparently come out of semi-retirement from his blog to comment on this situation. John also references Daniel Larison at Eunomia. If you want the short version on background, John's post gives you a start.

Greg Djerejian's post is worth reading in its entirety in that it adds some perspective and knowledge that you won't find in the US press coverage. It certainly hasn't been evident in the NPR coverage.

Steve Clemons who also gave Djerejian's post a nod has his own background summary of the Georgia-Russia clash.

Dimitri Simes, President of the Nixon Center, was one of the leading foreign policy experts in Washington to predict some kind of hot clash between the former Soviet state of Georgia and Russia involving the autonomous provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia at the time Kosovo declared its independence. [...]

... Simes convinces me in his important Foreign Affairs essay, "Losing Russia," that much of what we are seeing unfold between Russia and Georgia involves a high quotient of American culpability.

But it's Daniel Larison at Eunomia who's been discussing this intelligently for a long time and continues to do so in these posts. (He also gives Djerejian a nod.)

He covers McCain's reaction with a nod to John Cole's summary on it in this one: McCain's Georgia Obsession. And in this one: Reflexive Hostility Has Its Advantages.

HIs commentary on traditional news media and columnists' pronouncements and editorials is interesting. I suspect he wouldn't like hearing this but it wouldn't look all that out of place on Daily Kos.

If you skim through those and their associated links, you'll have the equivalent of a crash course on the history of Georgia, Russian and their satellites.

One more thing to be noted and that is that Randy Scheunemann, McCain's chief policy advisor in this area, is neck-deep in lobbying conflicts of interest. Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise has an exclusive scoop on just how deep he is and with what dubious (Chalabi) partners. Given what we now know, the prospectus descriptions of what his organization will do for potential clients just scream 'culture of corruption'. TPMMuckraker expanded on his history in Iraq in "McCain Adviser's Horrifying Iraq Track Record: Will the Press Notice?"

August 6, 2001 - We Will Never Forget

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Click on images for larger view

Today is a day to remember the 7th anniversary of the PDB delivered to President Bush. The one he received with the comment:

"All right. You've covered your ass now."

The one about which Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor, said:

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

The day after he received the memo the Washington Post noted, "Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday" .

Per ThinkProgress,

Here's how the administration reacted, according to the 9/11 Commission report:

-- [President Bush] did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so. [p. 260]

-- We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in the PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period. [p. 262]

Today -- 2,557 days later -- Bin Laden still remains free and "determined to strike in U.S."


Tell me now.

How is it that Republican administrations keep us safer?

How is it that invading Iraq made us safer?

Don't give this administration a 3rd term.

Photo credit:       mock, paper, scissors


For more information, please check GWU's The National Security Archive.

H/T to ek hornbeck, the smoking gun, ThinkProgress, and Crooks and Liars.

July Fourth, a Celebration of Dissent

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Cross-posted with permission from KerryVIsion

Happy Fourth!

What a great holiday -- when Americans celebrate the immutable bond between patriotism and dissent -- when the founders declared that the United States would no longer tolerate the tyranny of King George, and spoke out about the injustice. They listed out the reasons in detail and and declared our sovereignty in a document that affirms that the States would no longer tolerate living under the oppressive rule of the King.

With this document, the United States declared our Independence, and it is that dissent we celebrate today.

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the
thirteen united States of America

When in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.


That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the Present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let the Facts be submitted to a candid World.


He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People; unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

He has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

He has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.


He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislature.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond the Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule in these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Powers to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.


He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic Insurrections among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.


In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

Nor have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Signed by ORDER and



Found: The "lost chapter" of the Iran-Contra report

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Robert Parry of Consortiumnews highlights a story that should concern us all. It seems that the final report of the Iran-Contra investigation was missing some significant parts. And the failure to expose what happened has allowed the parties involved to continue to influence our country and our politics with no penalty for their ill conduct.

As historians ponder George W. Bush's disastrous presidency, they may wonder how Republicans perfected a propaganda system that could fool tens of millions of Americans, intimidate Democrats, and transform the vaunted Washington press corps from watchdogs to lapdogs.

To understand this extraordinary development, historians might want to look back at the 1980s and examine the Iran-Contra scandal's "lost chapter," a narrative describing how Ronald Reagan's administration brought CIA tactics to bear domestically to reshape the way Americans perceived the world.

How Ignorant are We?

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MsJoanne posted an item at TPMCafe which pointed to a longer post that she'd done at the zoo about a new book written by Rick Shenkman: How Ignorant Are We? The Voters Choose... but on the Basis of What? Mr. Shenkman is an associate professor of history at George Mason University and the founder and editor of GMU's History News Network website

MsJoanne excerpted a few stats I think we all should know about.

These statistics come from varying studies done over the last 20 years.

  • 25% of Americans cannot name more than one of the five freedoms granted by the First Amendment.
  • 20% know that there are 100 senators. 25% knew a US senator's term is six years.
  • 40% can correctly identify and name the three branches of government. (Ed note: the author found this encouraging!)
  • Most Americans cannot name their own member of Congress or their senators.
  • 34% know that it is the Congress that declares war.
  • 35% know that Congress can override a presidential veto.
  • 49% think the president can suspend the Constitution.
  • 60% believe that he can appoint judges to the federal courts without the approval of the Senate.
  • 45% believe that revolutionary speech is punishable under the Constitution.

Ok, that's politics. What about more general knowledge? Funny you should ask.