Saturday, December 27, 2008

Memorandum To Conservative Republican's

The Original


by Jed L  Sat Dec 27, 2008

TO: Republican spinners, flacks, and concern trolls
FR: Jed Lewison

Real Time With Bill Maher is currently on hiatus until February, so I hope it's okay that I borrow his "new rules" concept for a brief second. Here goes:

New rule. If you're a Republican media operative, and you want to see the Obama administration fail, don't say while you think that Obama had nothing to do with Blago's corruption, that you think it's "unfortunate" that Obama will be tainted nonetheless.

First of all, you're wrong. Obama won't be tainted. People have seen your stupid GOP tricks before, and they won't fall for them again. While you were busy talking about how "unfortunate" it is that the Blago mess drags on and on, President-elect Obama was busy dealing with the nation's real problems -- and racking up an 82% approval rating for having done so.

While you were disengenously prattling forth about transparency in the wake of the most secretive administration in American history, Barack Obama was putting all the cards on the table, holding nothing back.

While you were dreaming of another Whitewater, Obama was becoming the most admired man in America. (And by the way, Hillary Clinton -- not Sarah Palin -- is the most admired woman in America.)

And most importantly of all, while you were busy doing everything possible to avoid discussing the fundamental economic challenges that we face, Barack Obama and his administration were busy working on a plan to start the recovery from the Bush Recession.

If you learned one thing from the last election -- and you apparently haven't -- it's that people are sick and tired of the typical partisan Republican games and distractions, especially when we're facing such enormous problems.

This is a big moment in our nation's history. You have an opportunity to do the right thing and get on board and help us fix the disaster that eight years of highly ideological conservative governance have brought to the United States of America.

Or you can cement your irrelevancy by standing on the sidelines and throwing partisan potshots and imagining fires where there isn't even any smoke.

It's your choice. Choose wisely.

Socialist Healthcare: A Horror Story

   If you listen to the Republicans, some Democrats, and our healthcare providers,  government funded healthcare ( in any form ) is an evil entity which should not be allowed in the United States. You also hear on occasion that " socialized healthcare " does not work so well in many of the countries which have it.

   We all know that any form of government programs will have its own set of problems and healthcare will be no different. But let's face it. Anything would be better than the shit that you and I have to go through for treatment at this time. Hospitals give you lackluster treatment if you can't pay them. Insurance? They don't want to pay for your treatment, exams, whatever, either.

   So, let us read the following " socialized medicine " horror story, shall we?

by Jerome a Paris  Thu Dec 25, 2008

I first wrote this almost two years ago, and reposted it last Christmas as Nataline Sarkisyan was sentenced to death by her heathcare insurance provider. I suppose that, as nyceve keeps on posting yet more healthcare horror stories, it is worth reposting to underline that things can really be different and need not be as broken as they seem to be in the US healthcare system, to the utter incomprehension of the rest of the so-called civilised world.

My (then 4 years old) son was diagnosed 4 and a half years ago with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery, then chemiotherapy for a year and a half. In 2006, he appeared to have been cured, but the tumor reappeared in September that year, and he underwent radiotherapy for several weeks the following winter. Since that, his tumor has not reappeared in the quarterly (now semestrial) check ups.

As a consequence of the initial surgery on the tumor, which was in a very delicate location, he is handicapped and has only very partial use of his right arm.

:: ::

He was first diagnosed by our pediatrician, a private sector doctor, who sent us to the (public) specialised pediatric hospital in Paris for additional exams. We did a scan and a MRI the same day, and that brought the diagnosis we know. He was hospitalised the same day, with surgery immediately scheduled for two days later. At that point, we only had to provide our social security number.

Surgery - an act that the doctor that performed it (one of the world's top specialists in his field) told us he would not have done it five years before - actually took place the next week, because emergency cases came up in the meantime. After a few days at the hospital, we went home. At that point, we had spent no money, and done little more than filling up a simple form with name and social security number.

Meetings with the doctor in charge of his long term treatment, and with a specialised re-education hospital, were immediately set up, and chemiotherapy and physical therapy were scheduled for the next full year.

Physical therapy included a few hours each day in a specialised hospital, with a varied team of specialists (kinesitherapy, ergotherapy, psychologist, orthophonist) and, had we needed it, schooling. As we lived not too far away, we tried to keep our son at his pre-school for half the day, and at the hospital the other half. Again, apart from filling up a few forms, we had nothing to do.

My wife pretty much stopped working to take my son to the hospital every day (either for reeducation or treatment) - and was allocated a stipend by the government as caregiver, for a full year (equal to just under the minimum wage). Had we needed it, transport by ambulance would have been taken care of, free of charge for us (as it were, car commutes to the hospital could also be reimbursed).

During the chemiotherapy, if he had any side effects (his immune system being weakened, any normal children's disease basically required him to be hospitalised to be given full anti-biotic treatment), we'd call up the hospital and just come around. Either of us could spend the night with him as needed. We never spent a dime when we did so.

After a year at the specialised hospital, ongoing re-education was moved to another institution specialised in home and school interventions. In practice, a full team of 5 doctors or specialists come to see him over the week, either at home or at school, to continue his treatment (such follow up, possibly less intense than at the beginning, will be needed until he reaches his adult size). Of course, they manufacture braces and other specialised equipment for him and provide it free of charge to us. This has now been going on for 3 years and pretty much the same team has been taking care of him throughout.

Check up exams take place every 3 months, with all the appropriate exams (usually including a MRI), and we've never had to wait for the appointments. Again, no cost for us, no funds to be fronted.

When he relapsed, our doctors considered all available options. In the end, the most promising technology was in another Paris hospital. Such technology, linked to nuclear research, exists only in 3 places in the world, one in Boston and one in Switzerland, so the "socialist" French system itself was able to provide a cutting edge option. But had we needed to go to Germany, the UK or even the USA for treatment because that's where the best hope was, the costs of that would have been covered fully by French social security.

Since our son has been in first grade (he is now in third grade), he has the right to special help for handicapped children at school, thanks to a fairly recent national law, and he now benefits from part time help - a person who is around about 20 hours per week to help him do his work and catch up when he is absent for his therapy. This is paid by the city of Paris and the ministry of education.

Oh, and as he is officially handicapped, we also benefit from an additional tax break (in France, the taxes you pay are roughly divided by the number of people in the family; the handicap counts as an additional person for that purpose).

So, we did not have to spend a single cent. We got support to be available for him. He gets top notch treatment. We never had to wait for anything. And this is available to absolutely everybody in France, irrespective of job, age or family situation. If you are badly sick or injured, you simply do not have to worry about money at any time, nor about lack of care. You can get substitute basic income if you have to abandon your job for any duration, and lodging near the hospital if required.

An interesting twist to that story is that we do have private healthcare insurance in France. Basic healthcare is covered by social security, but only partly: except for the poor (under a certain income level), there are co-payments for most expenses like medecine and doctor visits, and doctors are also allowed to charge you more than the official tariff (and you have to pay the difference, in addition to the co-payment on the official price, if you go to such doctors). Thus many people buy private (or mutual) insurance to cover that difference partly or fully. Such insurance is often provided by employers. But whenever you have "major" expenses, you switch to 100% coverage of expenses by the public system - except that, if you had a private insurer, it has to pay to the public entity a portion of the costs. In my case, as I had a good insurance via my bank, this is what's happening, and thus the private sector bears a portion of "catastrophic risk." (And they have no say in what care is provided. They just pay an agreed fraction of it.)

Thus there is solidarity across the sytem.

:: ::

This is not to say, of course, that all is well in French healthcare. As in other countries, costs are barely under control, spending increases every year, and there are many ways the system could be improved for doctors, nurses and patients. But the fact remains that if you are badly ill, you will be taken care of; you will not need to give up your job (or if you do, you're helped); you will not need to sell your house; and you will never be denied healthcare.

It's been tough enough to deal with a sick child; I simply do not want to imagine what it would have been like if I had to beg for care or to scurry around for money in addition. It's just inconceivable. And thus, I was happy to pay taxes before, and I'm really, really happy to pay taxes now to provide that level of care for those that really need it.

                         Original Article

Starbucks Guilty Of Union-Busting

    This was reported in the New York Times on December 24th.

The IWW Scores Big Victory Over Global Coffee Chain
New York, NY (Dec. 23, 2008)—Following a lengthy trial here last year, a National Labor Relations Board judge has found Starbucks guilty of extensive violations of federal labor law in its bid to counter the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. In an 88-page decision, Judge Mindy E. Landow found, among other things, that Starbucks maintained multiple policies which interfered with workers' right to communicate about the union and about working conditions; terminated three workers in retaliation for union activity; and repeatedly discriminated against union supporters. The decision comes despite a 2006 New York settlement in which Starbucks pledged to stop illegal anti-union activities and mirrors federal government action against the company for its conduct toward baristas in Minnesota and Michigan.
"The judge's decision coupled with previous government findings expose Starbucks for what it is—a union-busting corporation that will go to staggering lengths to interfere with the right to freedom of association," said Daniel Gross, a barista and member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union found to have been unlawfully terminated by the coffee giant. "In these trying economic times of mass layoffs and slashed work hours, it's more important than ever that Starbucks and every corporation is confronted with a social movement that insists on the right to an independent voice on the job."
The Board decision is the latest blow against a company that has experienced a stunning fall from grace. From a precipitous decrease in customer demand to its increasingly tattered socially responsible image, the myriad of challenges facing Starbucks has resulted in the company losing over half its value from just a year ago. The decision also represents a significant victory for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union which continues to grow across the country with baristas taking creative and determined actions to improve the security of work hours and win respect on the job. Starbucks faces another Labor Board trial next month in Grand Rapids, Michigan over illegal union-busting.
"For the first time, a judge has confirmed the existence of a nationally coordinated anti-union operation at Starbucks," said Stuart Lichten, the attorney for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union in the case. "This decision conclusively establishes Starbucks' animosity toward labor organizing."
The union is confident that Judge Landow's copiously documented and well-reasoned 88-page decision will be upheld by the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. should Starbucks appeal. The victory is sure to be gratifying for the union's international supporters who conducted spirited global days of action in defense of Isis Saenz, Joe Agins, Jr., and Daniel Gross after their terminations which the Board has now found to be unlawful.
The National Labor Relations Board attorneys on the case were Burt Pearlstone and Audrey Eveillard. The union's attorney Stuart Lichten is a partner at Schwartz, Lichten & Bright, a prominent New York City labor law firm. Starbucks was represented by union-avoidance lawyers Daniel Nash, Stacey Eisenstein, and Nicole Morgan at corporate firm Akin Gump.
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is an organization of almost 300 current and former Starbucks employees united for a living wage, secure work hours, and respect on the job. Founded in 2004, the union uses direct action, litigation, and advocacy to both make systemic improvements at Starbucks and take on the company over unfair treatment of individual baristas.
The Industrial Workers of the World ( is a rank and file labor union dedicated to democracy in the workplace and global solidarity.

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Christmas Sales Take A Plunge

   If you shopped for Christmas presents, then you are aware that the stores which you shopped in had some pretty steep discounts on many items. In spite of sales with as much as up to 70% off in many retailers, holiday sales still took a plunge of at least 2% to 4% this season.


If early December half-price sales aren't enough, what can retailers do early in the new year when consumers spending slows even in a good economy?

Dan Butler, the National Retail Federation's VP of merchandising and retail operations, says many retailers will reassess their pricing to charge closer to what consumers think products are really worth. He says shoppers got savvier and asked "is it really worth it?" even when prices are drastically discounted.

  I guess that they do not figure that those job losses and layoffs that we've had this year might have something to do with a decrease in spending for the holiday.

  SpendingPulse data shows sales of women's clothing dropped nearly 23% while men's clothing sales slipped more than 14% in November and December compared with a year ago. Sales of electronics and appliances fell even more drastically, dropping almost 27%. SpendingPulse tracks total sales paid for by credit card and estimates those paid with checks and cash.

  Did anyone do well this year? Of course, you know that Wal-Mart did well as did online retailer who says that this season was its best ever.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Power Of One

     Hey you! Yes you! The one reading this right now. See that colorful button off to the right? Have you clicked it yet? Have you signed the petition yet? Come on now. What are you waiting for, Christmas?  Do you want both George Bush and Dick Cheney to get off for the war crimes that they have committed?  Cheney has pretty much dared the citizens of the United States to do anything about. Are you going to let that asshat get away with this? Sign the petition, and then pass it along.


The Power of One

by: Nightprowlkitty   Fri Dec 26, 2008

Petition Badge
Get Badge

Give Bush and Cheney a fair trial -- something they have not bothered with since they stole office.

It's funny how the powers that be in the media and government are running around with their big fat excuses as to why we can't hold these criminals accountable for their crimes.  It all boils down to "It's too hard!!!"

It's too hard.  It would affect too many people.  It would interfere with the crucial work of restoring our economy.  Blah blah blah.  Not one of these folks say, however, that no crime has been committed, no law has been broken.  No one says that.

I find that stunning.  We all know, at least those of us who have been paying attention, that Bush and his crew of crooks have broken the law over and over again.

And Cheney says "What you gonna do about it?"  And Cheney says "oh, the Dems knew about this and approved it, hell they wanted us to be even tougher than we were!"

And we should believe Cheney ... why?

I don't want speculation any more.  I want the truth, the facts, what really happened.  Only a special prosecutor can get that information, someone who is inured to the politics of Washington D.C. by being given the independent power to investigate.

What I like about this petition is that it shows the power of the individual citizen.  This is not a grassroots effort decided by committee.  A couple of folks got together and came up with the text and others jumped in to work further on it and spread it around.

The power of the individual citizen.

I am extremely annoyed at the argument that we citizens are somehow childlike creatures who don't know all the real problems of our country and so we shouldn't cry and whine about our "pet issues" when the government knows so much more about what is important and should be made a priority.


We ARE the government.  The only people who will take back power as citizens, are citizens!  That's us.

To me, Obama's election is a signal that we can now start taking back that individual power, our individual rights.  It's not for Obama or any elected representative to tell me what I should make a priority.  I get to decide that for myself.  They'll do their jobs, and I'll do mine.

The measure of our success with this petititon will be the resistance from the powers that be, the Dems, the Repubs, Obama, the media.  The more we read about how this is not a good idea, getting a special prosecutor, the more we'll know we have them on the run.

Many of us have sent this petition to friends and family, whether they be politically agreeable to us or not.  One by one people will sign.  This isn't "organized" grassroots and it's netroots only insofar as the structure.

To me, this is about the power of each indviidual citizen, not resting happy with the decisions of our elected representatives but standing up for what we feel is right and making our voices heard.

We need to know the truth about the crimes committed in our names.  We need to have every American citizen aware of what has been done so there can be no denials or excuses.

At this time, the only line between tyranny and freedom is an informed citizenry.  By signing this petition and working to make it known we will not accept anything less than full accountability for torture being done in our name, we are exercising our power, not the power one step removed of the three branches of government.

We have power collectively and we also have power individually.  I think the citizenry of this country are going to be tested enormously as we have to let our representatives know we are not asking for favors on our "pet causes" but taking our government back, of, by and for the people.

Tennessee Coal Ash Spill Bigger Than Thought

   From NYTimes

A coal ash spill that blanketed residential neighborhoods and contaminated nearby rivers in Roane County, Tenn., earlier this week is more than three times larger than initially estimated, the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Thursday.

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead and selenium that can cause cancer and neurological problems.

Authority officials initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled when the earthen retaining wall of an ash pond breached, but on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep. The amount now said to have been spilled is larger than the amount the Authority initially said was in the pond, 2.6 million cubic yards...

The spill occurred at the Kingston Fossil Plant, one of the authority's largest electrical generating sites, located on the banks of the Emory River about 40 miles west of Knoxville.

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Obama Is Most Admired Man In America

   First he gets selected as  " Person of the year " by Time, and now, according to a new USAToday/Gallup Poll, Americans have selected President-elect Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world. Is Obama not on one hell of a roll, or what? 


It is the second most admired man by Americans that gets my ass, though. George Bush comes in second. WTF? This just goes to show you that, even after 8 years of crime and treason by this administration, we still have some pretty stupid folks who support this asshole.

President Bush falls to a distant second after seven years as the most-admired man.

Hillary Rodham Clinton leads the list of most-admired woman, a spot she's held for 13 of the past 16 years — as first lady, then New York senator and now Obama's designate for secretary of State. A newcomer is second: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who wasn't well-known nationally until Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate in August.

  Palin in second place behind Clinton? If that is the best that we can do, we are in some serious trouble in the future.

Sarah Palin Shoots Reindeer

  Oh, the horror of it all!

by kwolfman  Thu Dec 25, 2008

Caught up in post-election efforts to bolster her public image and set the stage for a 2012 presidential run of her own, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin forgot to pick up the family's Christmas turkey dinner from Costco.  So, like all hard-working hockey moms, she made the best of a potentially bad situation.

Palin picked off one of Santa Claus's reindeer in mid-flight early Thursday morning with her prized double barrel mahogany-handled shotgun, as the jolly giver of gifts skirted the outskirts of midtown Wasilla in his shiny red sleigh on the way to Anchorage.  The reindeer in question, later identified as Prancer, began bleeding profusely from its midsection, and Santa was forced to cut it loose from the sleigh to avoid a crash and allow the annual worldwide toy delivery to continue.  Prancer fell "at least 600 feet" through the air before slamming into the frozen Alaskan tundra, whereupon he expired.

"I ain't never seen nothin' like it," said Todd Palin, who arrived at the carcass ahead of his wife on a new racing-quality snowmobile.  "I mean, how many chicks you know can cap a doe at 200 yards in the dark?  That s*** was HOT.  God, I love my wife.  And I need a cold shower."

Mrs. Palin reached the dead reindeer a few minutes later on snowshoes, and proceeded to skin it, remove its organs, cut its throat, and hang it upside-down from a nearby tree to drain the blood.  She and her husband then dismembered the carcass, packed the various parts into two full-size garbage bags, and carried it all back to their house.

The Governor emphasized that no part of Prancer's body would go to waste.

"Well, you know, we're gonna barbecue the ribs and the front legs for dinner later today," she said, "and we'll be throwin' the hindquarters into the woods out back so the wolves have somethin' to eat too.  We're tryin' to fatten 'em up so they make bigger targets come aerial hunting season."  Mrs. Palin threw in one of her customary winks to add a dose of levity to the situation.

When asked about the fate of Prancer's head, Mrs. Palin replied that she is "thinkin' of usin' it for the mask on Trig's Halloween costume next year.  That little guy, he loves watching 'Rudolph' before bedtime."

Santa Claus managed to complete his circuit and make it back to the North Pole without losing another reindeer, but expressed sadness at the loss of Prancer while staying upbeat about the overall health of his fleet.

"Obviously, we're all devastated here that Prancer's gone," Claus said via cell phone interview.  "But we finished up just fine with only seven 'deer, and we're confident that next year we'll get by again with seven just fine.  To be honest, old Prance'd been slipping a bit in recent years.  He was getting to be a liability.  Maybe it's better this way."

A majority of the remaining reindeer openly wept when asked to describe their feelings, but a few were noticeably ambivalent.

"Prancer was a loafer," spat Donner.  "I was always having to pick up his slack.  He put on about fifty pounds this summer and never even tried to work it off in time for the big flight.  I was puffing like a smoke stack 'till that b**** took his a** down.  Palin 2012!"

Added Dancer, "Half the time we went up, Prancer was drunk.  I mean flat-out, balls-to-the-wall wasted.  We tried an intervention a few years back, but he just fled and hid in a snowbank for a month, chain-smoking and swigging whiskey by the bottle with some pissed-off union elves who were on strike."

After dinner, Mrs. Palin was asked if she planned to hunt and cook any more of Santa's reindeer for Christmas in the years to come. 

"Oh, this one was mighty tasty, so you betcha!"
"How many?"
"Um ... all of 'em!"                     Original Article

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day Political Humor

Conan O'Brien:

  "Barack Obama is on vacation in Hawaii right now. And today many newspapers carried pictures of a shirtless Obama playing in the ocean. Did you see that? Yeah. So as you're thinking of things to be thankful for this holiday, remember, that could have been a shirtless John McCain."

  "The White House staff has been briefing Barack Obama's team on a series of worst-case scenarios that could face the country after President Bush leaves office. That's the latest. Yeah. Apparently, the absolute worst case scenario is that Bush doesn't leave office."


David Letterman:

  "The nice thing about the holidays is the holiday spirit. Let me give you an example of how the holiday spirit affects people. You know that guy that threw the shoes at President Bush? Well, today, he was throwing fruit cakes."

  "We're talking about Sarah Palin, who has a brand new Christmas album. It's entitled 'I Can See Bethlehem From My House.'"


Jay Leno:

  "President-elect Barack Obama and his family are in Hawaii this week. To which President Bush said, 'You know, I prefer spending my Christmases right here in the United States.'"

  "Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in an interview on '60 Minutes' on Sunday that, if the Constitution allowed it, he would like to run for president. Yeah. Yeah. There's a switch, a Republican being stopped by the Constitution, when does that ever happen?"

  "Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he will not fill Barack Obama's seat any time soon. He says he's going to wait until next summer when prices improve."

" Santa " Shoots And Kills 3... Or Maybe More

    What kind of a world do we live in when even Santa Claus takes a pistol and then goes " postal " with it?

   It looks as if this Santa was having a few problem in his marriage so he decided to take his frustrations out on guest at a Christmas party in a house which happened to burn down some time afterward. Police did not know of the shooting until after the fire was put out and the bodies were found.

   The suspect in the shooting, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, was found hours later at his brothers house, dead.  The police aren't saying how he killed himself.

   It is being reported that the police had found more bodies at the house after sifting through the ashes but they aren't saying how many more and thus far they haven't determined if the others were killed by the shooter or by the fire.

Police initally said three people were dead in the shootings and fire late Wednesday. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said Thursday that investigators sifting through the ashes of the house found more bodies, but would not say how many.

The bodies were too badly burned to immediately determine whether they died in the shootings or the fire, Winter said. "We have multiple bodies inside," Winter said. "They're extremely charred and burned."

Jan Gregory, a neighbor, said about 25 people were at the party when the gunshots rang out and people started running by the house.

She said she saw a teenage boy run from the house screaming, "They shot my family."

Telling The Christmas Story Correctly

   Since it is Christmas day, I'm changing the usual subjects so that we can take a look at our " tradition " of Christmas.

   So much of our Christianity is these days is based more on tradition than actual biblical fact. The Christmas story is no exception. Let us take a look at a different re-telling of the Christmas story.

Tradition Develops

An old and familiar part of the Christmas story goes like this: Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem shortly before the birth of Jesus. [1] The night they arrived in Bethlehem there were no rooms available in the local inns, and so Joseph and Mary had to make a place for themselves in a local stable, where Mary gave birth to Jesus and then laid him in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals.

The picture painted by the above part of the Christmas story is not a pretty one. It paints a cold and selfish picture of the people of Bethlehem. Most people of every age and culture go out of their way to help women in need, but somehow the people of Bethlehem closed their doors to this young woman about to give birth. Is that really the picture of the birth of Christ that the Word of God paints for us? We will see that there is a joyful picture of giving in the Christmas story that has been hidden from the eyes of many Christians, but which shows the true heart of Christmas: giving to others from a joyful heart.

The modern Christian understanding of the birth of Jesus comes largely from extra-biblical works and traditions imported into the Gospels, rather than the biblical record itself. Much misinformation came from a document that was widely circulated in the early centuries of the Christian era. It is referred to by scholars as the Protevangelium of James, and was likely written in the third century A.D. [2] The Protevangelium is the first document scholars are aware of that refers to Jesus being born close to Mary’s arrival in Bethlehem, though it says Jesus was born in a cave before Joseph and Mary even reached Bethlehem. Sadly, in ancient times as well as today, people seem to pay more attention to what people say about the Bible than what the Bible itself says.

We do not know how large a part the Protevangelium played in developing the tradition that Mary gave birth to Jesus the night she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. However, we do know that the traditional belief became easier to sustain as the center of Christian culture moved to Europe, where day-to-day life was quite different from life in Palestine.

Arrival in Bethlehem

When we read the Bible carefully, even in most English versions, we see that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for an unspecified number of days before Mary gave birth.

Luke 2:6 (KJV)
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

It is clear from Luke 2:6 that Joseph and Mary did not arrive in Bethlehem the night she gave birth, but days earlier. Mary gave birth “while they [she and Joseph] were there [in Bethlehem],” and the verse specifically says “days.” When the word “days” is used in the plural in the New Testament, it always refers to “days” literally or a period of time. Had Joseph and Mary arrived the day Mary gave birth, the text would have used “day” or “hours,” not the plural “days.” New Testament scholars know this. For example, R. C. H. Lenski writes: “This [the day Jesus was born] was not the day of Joseph’s and Mary’s arrival….” [3] Nevertheless, as usual, scholarship does not often have the power to overturn tradition, with its well-entrenched stories, songs, and paintings.

If Joseph and Mary had been staying in Bethlehem before Jesus was born, how is it that they had not found adequate lodging? Why give birth in a stable and lay Jesus in a manger? Oops, the Bible never says the birth was in a stable—that is tradition. If for some reason Bethlehem was so totally filled with guests and visitors that no one would open their homes to Joseph and Mary, their relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth lived only a short distance away, in the hill country of Judah (Luke 1:39 - NASB) [4], and Joseph and Mary could have gone there with only a little effort. In fact, Mary had visited Elizabeth early in her pregnancy (Luke 1:40). So Joseph and Mary could have found adequate housing and care if they needed it.

Getting the Story Straight

The story of the night of Christ’s birth needs to be retaught and relearned in Christian circles, not only because truth matters and what actually happened is important, but because it shows the love and sacrifice that people make to help each other, and the true joy of giving so that others may be blessed. That is a much more redemptive rendition of the Christmas story than townspeople closing their hearts and shutting their doors to a pregnant woman in need.

In order to see what really happened around the season of the birth of Christ we will need to glean facts from both the Greek text and the culture of the ancient Near East (which, by the way, existed in many parts there until quite recently). Too often the Greek text alone has been used to try to reveal biblical truth. The Greek text alone is not enough to rebuild the truth of the biblical events for a very simple reason: when something in a culture is usual, well known, normal, or “standard operating procedure,” it is not written about in detail. For example, if I write a letter to a friend about my months of being with my son as he recovered from being wounded in battle, I might say, “I drove to the hospital every day.” I would never write: “I went to the hospital in my car, which is a large metal and plastic mobility device on wheels, with a gasoline engine that starts when an ignition key is turned, and I made it move by pedals on the floor, (etc).” It would be ridiculous to write that. Why? Because everyone in today’s culture knows exactly what I mean when I say “I drove to the hospital.” Perhaps 2000 years from now, if culture has changed so much that only a few historians know what a car is, they might wish we described our driving in more detail, but that is not necessary today. In the same way, things that were part of the everyday culture of the Bible times were not described in detail in their writings. We have to learn about the ordinary things of ancient life by piecing together details from many texts and writings, by using archaeology to study the material culture left to us, and by studying any cultures that still live the same way.

What we will see as we examine the biblical record from both the Greek text and the culture of the times is that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem some time before she gave birth and were taken into the home of a local resident, likely a relative who was also of the family of David, in whose home Mary gave birth. Although most English versions have the phrase, “there was no room for them in the inn,” we will see that phrase has been both mistranslated and misinterpreted.

Welcomed into a Private Home

Before we look at the mistranslations of “room” and “inn,” however, let us look at some reasons Joseph and Mary could have found a place to stay. [5] First, Joseph was returning to his town of origin. Historical memories are long in the Middle East, and family support is very strong. For example, Paul knew he was a descendant of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5), even though Benjamin lived more than 1500 years earlier than he did. Given the long family memories in Hebrew culture, once Joseph told people that both he and Mary were descendants of families from Bethlehem, many homes would be open to them. In fact, it is likely that Joseph and Mary already knew of relatives in Bethlehem and may well have gone to those homes first to find lodging. As we see the true story of Christ’s birth develop, that seems like a very strong possibility.

Second, not just one, but both Joseph and Mary were “royals,” because they were both from the royal line of David. David is so famous in Bethlehem that it is called, “the city of David” (Luke 2:4 - KJV). Being from that famous family would have meant that most homes would open their doors to them if only for that fact alone. Being able to host a couple that were direct descendants of David would have been an honor and privilege.

Third, in every culture women about to give birth are given special help, and the village of Bethlehem would be no different. The New Testament scholar Kenneth Bailey, who has spent his life living in the East and teaching in Universities in Egypt and Lebanon, properly understands the heart of village life in Palestine and points out that Joseph and Mary would never have been turned away in their hour of need. He says: “Was there no sense of honor in Bethlehem? Surely the community would have sensed its responsibility to help Joseph find adequate shelter for Mary and provide the care she needed. To turn away a descendent of David in the city of David would be an unspeakable shame to the entire village.” [6]

It is important that we properly understand the record of the birth of Christ. The night that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem they were not rejected by a local hotel that had its “No Vacancy” sign turned on. Instead, they were taken into the private home of a caring family, who let them stay in the family living quarters. This type of giving and joy of service demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas.

There was No Space in the Guestroom

Let’s read, properly translate, and correctly understand what happened when Jesus was born.

Luke 2:7
and she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The phrase “no room for them in the inn” is a mistranslation that continues to support the misunderstanding about the birth of Christ. Two words we must understand to properly interpret the biblical account are topos, which most versions translate as “room,” and kataluma, which most versions translate as “inn.” The word topos occurs more than ninety times in the New Testament. It does not refer to “a room,” like we think of a hotel room, or a bedroom, but simply to a place, or a space in a given area. The text is not saying there was no “room” for Joseph and Mary as in the sense of a hotel room, but rather that there was no “space” for them. Space where? Not in the “inn,” but in the kataluma. What is a kataluma? In the Gospel record it is a “lodging place” or “guestroom,” not a commercial lodge, or inn. There was no space for Joseph and Mary in the guestroom because it was already full. It is noteworthy that even Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon notes that if Luke 2:7 had meant to say “inn” in the sense of a hotel, there is a better Greek word that is used elsewhere in Luke. [7]

The normal Greek word for “inn” is pandocheion, and it refers to a public house for the reception of strangers (caravansary, khan, inn; we would say hotel or motel). The word pandocheion was used not only by the Greeks, but also as a loan-word for “inn” or a commercial lodging place in Hebrew, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, and Turkish. Luke uses the word pandocheion in the parable of the Good Samaritan when the Samaritan took the man who was mugged to a public inn (Luke 10:34).

In contrast to the public inn (pandocheion), both Mark and Luke use kataluma in their Gospels as a “guest room” in someone’s house (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11). When finding a place to eat the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus tells them to say to the owner of the house, “…The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room [kataluma], where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” (Luke 22:11). So in both Mark and Luke, the kataluma is a guest room in a house, not an inn or hotel.

The gospel of Luke also uses the verb form of kataluma, which is kataluo, “to find rest or lodging.” When Zacchaeus the tax collector brings Jesus home for a meal, the Bible says that Jesus goes “to be the guest” [kataluo] at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:7). So Luke uses both the noun kataluma and the verb kataluo to refer to a room in someone’s house. [8] The fact that pandocheion is a better word for “inn” than kataluma, along with the fact that Luke used pandocheion for an “inn” and kataluma for a guest room, is very solid evidence that Luke is telling us the family who took in Joseph and Mary had “no space” in their “guestroom.” Thus the Bible should not be translated to say there was no room for them in the inn, but rather there was “no space for them in the guestroom.” It is noteworthy that Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, done by Robert Young, the same man who produced Young’s Concordance to the Bible, translates Luke 2:7 as follows: “…there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.”

One thing that is left out of the biblical record is why the guest room was full. Although we will never know for sure, there are a couple possibilities. First, if Jesus was born when we of Spirit & Truth Fellowship think he was, the first day of Tishri, it is possible that Jerusalem and the surrounding region was already experiencing a large influx of people for the season of the year, because it had the largest number of sacred days and feasts. The month of Tishri (usually around our September) had the Feast of Trumpets (Tishri 1), the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15-22), and anyone who was traveling a very long distance to be at Jerusalem for any of them might have wanted to be there for the entire festival season. Also, Luke tells us the reason that Joseph traveled to Bethlehem was due to Caesar’s tax registration (Luke 2:1-4), and it is possible that other family members besides Joseph had decided to travel to Bethlehem at that time, when they could both register for the tax and be part of the celebrations at Jerusalem. [9]

Common Features of an Eastern Life

There are a few things about ordinary houses and ordinary life in first century Palestine that we must know in order to understand the birth of Jesus. One is that it was quite common for houses in the Middle East to have a guest room where guests, and even strangers, could stay. Showing hospitality to strangers has always been a huge part of Eastern life, and is written about in the Bible and in many books on the customs of the Bible. Several biblical records show strangers being given hospitality, including the record of Lot (Gen. 19:1-4), the man in Gibeah (Judg. 19:19-21), and the Shunamite woman, who showed hospitality to Elisha by building a guest room just for him (2 Kings 4:10). Giving hospitality is a command for Christian leaders as well (1 Tim. 3:2).

Even poor people could have a guest room because it did not have to be furnished or have an adjoining bathroom and shower. People did not generally sleep on beds, but traveled with their own blankets that they slept on at night, so sleeping arrangements were no problem. Tables and chairs were not used in the common homes of first century Palestinians, and the bathroom was a pot, or a place outside. So the average guest room was simply a small, empty room, offering shelter and a place of safety. The guest room provided privacy for the guests as well as the family, because one-room homes were common. Our modern houses with many rooms were simply not the norm in a village of the first century. Quite often a family lived in a one-room house, in which all family activities occurred. They pulled their bedrolls out at night and slept on the floor, and simply rolled them up again in the morning.

Another thing we must understand about houses in the East is that it was common for people to bring their animals (the family donkey or a couple of milk goats, for example) into them at night. Such animals were very valuable, and the people brought them into the home at night to keep them from being stolen and to protect them from harm. Of course, if the family were shepherds or herdsmen, they would not bring the whole flock or herd into the house, but would have a family member or hired guard watch them in the field.

It was a common practice to raise the floor of the part of the house where the family lived, and keep the animals in an area that was a little lower. [10] Knowing this helps us understand Luke 2:6 and also where that idea that Jesus was born in a stable came from. Jesus was laid in a manger, which is an open trough, box, or bin, where the animal food was placed so the animals could feed easily. In Western society, mangers are in barns or stables, so if Jesus was laid in a manger it made sense he was born in a stable. However, in Eastern society, where the animals grazed outside during the day and were brought into the house at night, the manger was in the house. Thus when the Bible says that Jesus was laid in a manger “because” there was no space in the guest room, any Easterner would understand perfectly that the guest room was full so Jesus was born in the main part of the house where the family and animals were, and then safely placed in the manger, which would have been filled with clean hay or straw and would have been the perfect size for him. This was not to demean him in any way, but to care for him. The protective walls of the manger kept him safely guarded and away from busy feet and a bustling household, as well as warm and protected from any drafts or cold air in the home.

Another thing that helps us understand the Christmas story is understanding Eastern hospitality. In the East, guests were given special treatment of all kinds, including behavior that seems very extreme to us. For example, in the record of Lot and the two strangers, Lot would have handed over his own daughters to the mob before surrendering his guests (Gen. 19:8). Similarly, the people with whom Joseph and Mary stayed would never displace their guests from the guest room, but instead would inconvenience themselves, graciously bringing the couple into their living space.

Another thing we need to know is that Mary and Joseph would not have been alone when Jesus was born. The women of the household, along with the women of the family staying in the guestroom, most likely the village midwife, and perhaps even wise and experienced women from the neighborhood, would have been present, and would have shooed Joseph and the rest of the men out of the house some time during Mary’s labor (actually, the men would have graciously left on their own, which was also standard procedure in that culture). The husband and any sons (along with Joseph), would have left their own house, spending their late evening and night hours with other families or just resting out under the stars, so that Mary would have the privacy she needed during the birth of Jesus. [11] Of course they would be allowed back in the house after the baby was born and there had been adequate time to get things in the house back in proper order and make sure Jesus and Mary were comfortable.

Baby Jesus would have been born in normal circumstances, with Mary being helped and cared for by the women around her. Although the Bible does not mention that there was a midwife and other women present with Mary, it would be quite unthinkable that they would not be there to help. No details of the birth would be given in the Bible because births were a “normal” part of life, and no first-century reader in Palestine would expect anything different than what usually happens with a village birth. In fact, if the women of the household had not been there to help, that would have been so unusual (and seemingly coldhearted) that it would probably be written about in the Bible. Also, the shepherds who came to see Jesus knew that he was the promised Messiah. When they found Joseph, Mary, and their Savior, if they in any way felt that he was not being treated well, they would have been scandalized and outraged, and immediately taken them home to their own houses. The fact that they did no such thing, but rather left the new family where they were and went to tell the good news to the whole area, indicates they felt Joseph, Mary, and the baby were being well cared for. [For further study read Family Life in the Bible.]

The Christmas Story

So we see that the way the birth of Jesus actually happened is considerably different than what is commonly taught. It is not that Bethlehem was full of cold-hearted townspeople who would not take special care of a young woman about to have her first child.

Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem at least a few days before Mary gave birth, and were taken in by one of the local homes, most likely that of a relative. The host family already had guests in the kataluma, the guest room, so there was no space (topos) for them there. Therefore, the homeowners graciously made room for Joseph and Mary in their own living quarters, treating them like family. When Mary went into labor, the men left their own home to give her privacy, and the women of the household, likely along with the village midwife, came to Mary’s side for help and support. Shortly after Mary gave birth to our Lord and Savior late in the evening (after sunset) or at night, Joseph and the men would have been called back into the house to see the new baby boy, and there would have been much jubilation and revelry, which was always a traditional part of the birth of a baby boy, particularly if it was a first child. [12]

Not too long after Jesus was born, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, dedicated to God, and placed in a perfect spot, the manger in the family home, which would have been cleaned and made up with fresh straw. No doubt the news soon spread around the village that a baby boy had been born (the music and shouting would have helped that happen), and that both the mother and baby were doing well, but soon there was to be news of a different kind. Shepherds showed up from a nearby field and told the village that a great light had shined around them, that they had seen an army of angels on the hillsides, and that an angel had told them that this baby was no ordinary baby, but the Messiah, the Savior. Their report caused great wonder all over the region, and resulted in glory and praise to God.

Thus the story of the birth of Christ reveals something that demonstrates the true spirit of Christmas: people opening their homes and their hearts, joyfully giving to others in need, and helping where they can.

Female Teacher Charged With Having Sex With Student...

   but this one is a little bit different from these teacher/student sex crime that we usually hear about.

   In Dakota County , Min. teacher Melissa Diana Koehn has been charged with three felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old girl who had once been her student .

   A cop had noticed the two in a parked car kissing each other and became suspicious because of the difference in their ages.   More

   Does anyone not remember what bedrooms and hotel rooms are there for?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"An American Gothic" Wishes You and Yours A...



Happy Hanukkah



  or whatever else that you may be celebrating.

   Stay safe, and take care of each other. We're all that we've got.

4 Of 5 Americans Approve Of Obama's Transition

and those are some pretty impressive numbers!

Eighty-two percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday morning approve of the way the Obama is handling his presidential transition. That's up 3 points from when we asked this question at the beginning of December. Fifteen percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way Obama's handling his transition, down 3 points from our last poll.

The 82 percent approval is higher than then President-elect George W. Bush 8 years ago, who had a 65 percent transition approval rating, and Bill Clinton, at 67 percent in 1992.

"Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades. He's putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The poll also suggests that the public approves of the President-elect's cabinet nominees, with 56 percent of those questioned saying Obama's appointments have been outstanding or above average, with 32 percent feeling the picks have been average, and 11 percent saying Obama's choices have been below average or poor.

A third say that their impression of Obama has gotten better since the election, with only 8 percent saying their opinion has gotten worse.

Presidents usually start to lose support once they assume office and start making the tough decisions. But with eight in ten currently approving of Obama, he can give away 20 or 30 points, estimates Holland, and still have a majority of the country on his side.

With the mess that Obama will be inheriting from the Bush fiasco, he will need all of the support that he can get.

Jobless Claims Reach 26 Year High..

   and it probably is not going to get better for at least half of the new year, maybe longer.

   New government data that was released on Wednesday shows that new claims filers for jobless  benefits jumped by 30,000  to a 26 year peak last week.

Initial claims  for state unemployment insurance benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 in the week ended Dec 20 from a revised 556,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said. It was the highest since the week ended November 27, 1982, when initial claims rose 612,000.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 560,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 554,000 the week before.

The four-week average of new jobless claims, a better gauge of underlying labor trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased to 558,000 from 544,250 the week before. This was the highest reading since December 1982.

  It is noted that some states are seeing layoff increases in the auto industry essentially because consumers can not afford to spend their money on those vehicles.

     By the way. Those professionals who keep track of these things were only expecting an increase of 560,000.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Financial " Ponzi Scheme " Bailout...

    is one hell of a Christmas present to the major bankers and other Wall Street firms. But what truly sucks is that these firms have the nerve to not let the taxpaying public know where our money  is going and for what. This is pure bullshit, and you can blame pretty much all of our political representatives for this load of shit.

    If I attempt to get a small business loan, the lender wants to know just exactly what the cash is for and then I have to account for every dollar spent so that the lender knows that the cash was used for it's stated purpose.

It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going?

But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

  Declining to? WTF? This is what happens when our Congress listens to Bush and the rest of his crime syndicate! You and I get fucked because we get no real Congressional oversight in anything that has to do with our money.

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

  One reason why these crooks do not wish to provide answers? The banks and our Treasury Department made  sure that there would be no accountability as it was the banks that pretty much wrote the bailout rules to favor themselves.

October 14,2008

The 936 point rise on the US stock market yesterday was the American ruling elite’s initial verdict on the extraordinarily favorable terms the government is granting to financial firms in the $700 billion bailout passed by Congress on October 3. Far from heralding improving economic conditions for working people, the Wall Street surge reflects the financial establishment’s success in extorting massive sums of money from taxpayers.

Several factors played important roles in the market’s rise. A technical correction was likely after the massive falls of last week, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2,236 points, or 21.33 percent, to 8451.19. The announcement of bank bailouts in Europe totaling trillions of dollars—under conditions where national governments are competing to rescue their respective banks—contributed to expectations that Washington would continue to bail out its own banks. Another major factor was undoubtedly a series of announcements by US officials underscoring that US banks would essentially dictate the terms of the bailout.

  All of the biggest Banks had reps at the meeting to iron out the bailout terms.

The meeting’s roster underscores the social character of the bailout. A handful of current and former top banking executives gathered for a meeting, publicly announced a few hours before it took place and closed to the public, to discuss the conditions under which they will receive hundreds of billions of dollars in public funds. The fact that, in a healthier political climate, these executives would face investigation and prosecution for overseeing the predatory lending practices that led to the housing and credit crises was simply ignored.

In this meeting of the godfathers of American finance, no one was present who represented the overwhelming majority of the American population. Indeed, the participants live in a world of wealth and power that has no resemblance to the existence of ordinary working people.

    You all know that back in the 30's depression that many executives who lost cash in the collapse of Wall Street took to shooting themselves or either jumping out of high-rise windows. You will not see any of that this time around because those same type of crooks are making a killing this time around courtesy of the American taxpayer.

    I think that maybe we should go and visit some of these clowns in their nice offices and give them one of two choices.

   1) Jump out of your own window, or,

   2) Be pushed out of your own window

Coal Sludge Spill In Tennessee...

  and this isn't a pretty sight.



HARRIMAN - Workers face "several weeks' worth of work" to clean up 2.6 million cubic yards of fly ash dumped across hundreds of acres after a retention pond collapsed early Monday morning at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston steam plant.

No injuries have been reported, but one house was swept off of its foundation and onto the road, and huge piles of a mixture of water, mud and ash covered Swan Pond Road in Roane County.

Officials say up to 400 acres of land adjacent to the plant are under 4 to 6 feet of material. An initial estimate projected that 2.6 million cubic yards of fly ash were released, said Laura Niles, an Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman in Atlanta.

  This sludge can be, and more than likely is highly toxic. This area will be toast for a very long time after the clean-up.

The 40-acre pond was used by TVA as a containment area for ash generated by the coal-burning steam plant, Francis said. An earthen wall gave way just before 1 a.m., flooding the road and railroad tracks leading to the plant.

Health Care: 77% Want Major Changes

   Whether or not Republicans will go along with any of those major changes is another story.

ABC/WaPo Poll

Seventy-seven percent of adults believe that Obama should make major reforms to the health care system, compared with 20% who said he should not, the poll found. Of those supporting major reforms, 51% of adults believe that Obama should seek them immediately after he takes office, and 26% believe that he should wait until later in his presidency, according to the poll. Sixty-eight percent of adults believe that Obama will have the ability to make major reforms to the health care system, compared with 28% who believe that he will not have the ability, the poll found.

   That 20% would probably include the insurance industry as well as most of the healthcare industry. Let us not forget the pharmaceutical industry as well as the Republican industry, as well.

Is George Bush's Mission Accomplished?

Published on Monday, December 22, 2008 by The Toronto Star

Bush's Mission Accomplished?

As the U.S. president prepares to depart, his legacy is undergoing a major round-the-clock renovation

by Tim Harper

WASHINGTON – The inaugural viewing stands are rising along Pennsylvania Ave., but the real heavy lifting is going on inside the White House in the final days of the Bush administration.

[U.S. President George W. Bush meets with the crew aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, left, where he announced the end of all major combat in Iraq on May 1, 2003. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters File Photo)]U.S. President George W. Bush meets with the crew aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, left, where he announced the end of all major combat in Iraq on May 1, 2003. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters File Photo)

There, the round-the-clock renovation is continuing at a frantic pace, the scraping, scrubbing, whitewashing and painting of the George W. Bush legacy.

In this view of the world as the clock ticks toward midnight, illegal wiretaps, waterboarding, Guantanamo Bay, secret prisons, Abu Ghraib, the stripping of Geneva Convention rights and illegal detentions are all worth it because Americans have been spared another terror attack for 7 1/2 years.

Iraq and Afghanistan are brave "partners in freedom" and important strategic allies, only flawed intelligence is ever regretted, presidents don't get "do-overs," others are always blamed, and Osama bin Laden is downgraded to a mere cog in a damaged Al Qaeda.

It is in many ways a brazen rewriting of history while the history is still unfolding.

"While there's room for honest and healthy debate about the decisions I've made – and there's plenty of debate – there can be no debate about the results in keeping America safe," Bush proclaimed last week at the U.S. Army College in Carlisle, Pa.

The legacy chorus in the final days features U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former political adviser Karl Rove.

Bush is in the midst of a rite for all two-term U.S. presidents, who, unlike prime ministers in the Canadian system, leave office on a fixed date beyond their control.

Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have all done this in recent history and Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien tried it in Canada.

Some U.S. presidents try a late game stab at Middle East peace, some ride off in a cloud over controversial pardons, but no one in American history has had a steeper climb at cleansing his image than George W. Bush.

He is fighting to the end.

Yesterday, in the wake of a front-page New York Times story blaming much of the economic crisis on Bush, the White House responded by saying the story was an example of "hindsight with blinders on and one eye closed."

Bush leaves office with the lowest popularity rating since such measures were first formulated.

He leaves behind three images seared in the world's consciousness. There was Bush in the flyboy suit on the aircraft carrier declaring Mission Accomplished in the Iraq war on May 1, 2003.

There was Bush on Aug. 30, 2005, hamming it up on the guitar in California while New Orleans drowned.

And there was Bush, the champion of the free market, pleading with Congress to agree to an unprecedented government intervention in an economy teetering on the edge of Depression.

He is the man who brought us "Bring It On," to an Iraqi insurgency who did just that, promised to capture the still-free bin Laden "dead or alive," and praised his incompetent patronage appointee Michael Brown with a "heckuva job, Brownie," as Louisiana and the U.S. Gulf Coast suffered with the carnage of Katrina.

Even his high moments were only reminders of failure to come.

He soared with the bullhorn in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and his subsequent address to Congress, but that is now a symbol of goodwill squandered.

His final, would-be victory tour of Iraq will always be remembered for him ducking shoes.

He will not get credit for other accomplishments. His efforts in helping Africa cope with HIV/AIDS went largely unnoticed and his unprecedented effort to smooth the transition to the Barack Obama administration will be a footnote.

All this from a man who used to dodge questions about his place in history because in history "we'll all be dead."

Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar and former White House adviser, says Bush is following presidential precedent, but he wonders if anyone is paying attention.

"You can't worry about your place in history, because it will be out of your hands," says Hess, now at the Brookings Institution and author of What Do We Do Now? A Workbook for the President-Elect. "But it would be an unnatural act to become president of the United States and not wonder how history will judge you."

All two-term presidents do the same, Hess says, because they are not defeated at the polls, but watch the sands of time run out.

Hess recalls writing a State of the Union message for Dwight Eisenhower in 1961, a report sent to Congress after the election of John F. Kennedy. Although Eisenhower did not read it, it was entered in the record as a rendering of eight years of Eisenhower accomplishments.

It is Iraq and the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that will always define the Bush presidency.

The Pew Research Center found that only 11 per cent of Americans believe Bush will be remembered as an outstanding or above-average president, by far the lowest positive end-of-term rating for any of the past four presidents.

Under Bush, the American view of the presidency as an institution has plummeted but not nearly as far as the world's perception of the U.S.

Still, the Pew study found that Americans support Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes after 9/11 and about half the country still believes in torture as a means of extracting information from terrorists or terror suspects.

In the Carlisle speech, Bush proclaimed the U.S. had removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, shut down terrorist training camps and liberated 25 million Afghans.

That ignores the fact the war in Afghanistan is going so poorly Obama will substantially beef up the American troop presence in the country to try to turn things around.

Bush's version of Iraq involves the liberation of 25 million Iraqis and the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein, but he overstates the coalition that joined him in the war and does not mention weapons of mass destruction, the 4,210 U.S. deaths or the 98,000 Iraqi deaths, as tabulated by

Moira Whelan, director of strategy at National Security Network, says Bush is "rewriting history," ignoring the fact Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and that the invasion of Iraq was a major recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

When Bush tried to claim in an interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz that Iraq turned out to have been a major haven for Al Qaeda, she pointed out that was not until the U.S. invaded.

"Yeah, that's right. So what?" Bush replied. The point, he said, was that Al Qaeda had made a stand.

No weapons of mass destruction?

"That's true. Everybody thought they had them," Bush said in the same interview. The point, he said, was that Saddam had the capability to produce such weapons.

In a C-SPAN interview last week, Bush said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks "came out of nowhere." On Aug. 6, 2001, however, at his Crawford, Tex., ranch he was presented with an intelligence brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

As he rides into the sunset, this is a much more reflective man, a guy who unexpectedly grabbed CNN interviewer Candy Crowley's hand and walked with her hand-in-hand last week.

"I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging," he said Friday, as his portrait was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

He lamented all those banquets where comics make fun of the president, then he gets up and makes fun of himself and "everybody has a jolly time, except the president."

He said prayer gives him strength and says every day of his life is joyous, "some days happy, some days not happy; every day joyous."

And he might take one last stab at a joyous valedictory address.

He said last week he has talked to a speechwriter about delivering a farewell address to a nation which seems to be collectively saying "good riddance."

                          © Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

WTF is going on with Foreign Auto Companies in the U.S.A. ?....

Original Article
by PatriotsFightTheIronHeel     Mon Dec 22, 2008

    After the Big 3 finally got their bailout you would think on the face of it that the problem is solved. Judging by the newspapers we can now move on the next topic. Compromise has been reached and the best possible solution has been found.
    The meme that everybody in the industry has to chip in and sacrifice in order to keep it alive has been tried over and over. A company would for some reason be near destruction and the line is 'labor has to give something(wages,benefits) just like everyone else or risk losing everything'. We are seeing the first battles now in the fight for the life of the UAW, which is arguably the cornerstone of the American labor movement. If they die, you can kiss the American middle class goodbye.
    Of course, the death of the Big 3 would be the death of The American Auto industry. This cannot be allowed. America must bailout Detroit, we are told, and even Bush Jr knows it, which means it must be as obvious as remembering to breathe. So the question I have to ask is simple enough. If American taxpayers and American laborers have to sacrifice in order to save the American Auto industry ?

  Free market pure capitalism economics as a system teaches that unions, government interference and tariffs all act to distort the true sense of the marketplace. The less the marketplace is polluted with the obstruction of regulation the more balanced the system will become, we are told, and with more competition consumers will have better options among both price and quality of products. Free market capitalists will tell you this and more, their cheerleaders such as the late Milton Friedman, or living dinosaurs Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker, and since their advice worked so well all over the world in the past leading up to this point, we should take their advice a little longer.
    The fact of the matter is that the American Auto industry IS vital to the American Economy.
    But according to the actions of a powerful few, the American middle class is not.

    Case in point.
    Foreign owned auto manufacturers such as Toyota and Saab can afford to pay non-union American laborers to build their cars here in America. They receive tax breaks in many states where labor laws are enacted to handicap unions. They are given resources that are not available to the American owned companies. This hurts American business. These American business used to send their factories overseas because they could not afford to pay for American labor, something they never actually claimed except for in their actions. How ironic is it that we used to open GM factories in Asia to pay Asian laborers to build cars for Americans, and now Asian companies open Asian factories in America and pay American laborers who work for slightly less to build our own cars for us.
    Where is the protectionism there? Where is the necessary sacrifice we all have to make together? My money went for bailouts. Where is your commitment? By the way, southern and western right to work states, I'm looking in your direction.
    I thought this was the entire reason we have tariffs. If a foreign company has an unfair advantage over an American one we used to be allowed to place a tax on their goods as they entered the country. I guess that doesn't apply if that company tricks our citizens into building their productys here for them. Want to protect the AMerican Auto industry without cutting our own fiscal throats to do it? Tariff the hell out of foreign auto companies. This is how we kept Britian and France from dominating us financially during our nations first years, we had just won independence militarily, we could not afford to lose our independence finacially, then or now.
    But multinational corporations have no fear of losing their independence, do they? If anything, they are entirely independant of everyone. The pay little or no taxes. If one country goes to the wolves economically they can pick up and set up shop somewhere else. The American middle class, on the other hand, has everything to lose, and the UAW is where it will start. If the middle class is personified by skilled labor, professional and educated labor, and they have no voice to negotiate with the management of these multinational corporations, well, isn't that the end of the middle class and the three clas Upper-middle-poor construct? Better yet, at that point, are we not the have's and the have nots, or is it time to call ourselves indentured servants yet? How about wage slaves?
    A moderated capitalism can be moral and provide for all. I'm not making this up. Neither did Karl Marx. It was Adam Smith's idea, or the gist of it. The Friedman free market baloney is economic rape, taking by force through theory and lies, and right now the middle class is facing the battlefront on all sides, but most notably, unions are at risk. The UAW, the UFT and other intergral unions are all that stand in the way of us and the CEO's who would take from the poor and give to the rich, modern day Sherrifs of Nottingham all of them.

    So where does Mazdanomics come in. It is the title of the latest series of commercials running on several channels, including FOX, where the ad states something along the lines that for 0% APR and no payments until March 2009 you can walk away with any one of five new Mazda's, and in this uncertain economy, who could turn their back on a deal like that!

    As of now it should be the duty of the American middle and working class to buy American made products, and now more than ever from Detroit. We should be able to claim a tax credit if we do so, or something. The only reason auto employees in non union shops get paid as much as they do is because unions like the UAW exist. If the UAW disappeared tomorrow those Toyota jobs in Kentucky would be paying $7.50 p/hr with no benefits before lunch break.
    But, striking deeper to the root of the problem, how the hell can Mazda give out 0% APR and no payments till after Obama is in charge? Don't you get the feeling that they know you can't afford it now, and you definitely won't be able to afford it three monts from now. It is just like the housing industry, or Wall St., or every other piece of shit that will blow up in our face (Surprise!) in the next few months. Are the foreign auto companies waiting to get more sales on the books now, just to see the financing fall apart months from now when they can step right back on the never ending corporate bread line again. You know, the one that isn't available to anyone else. Isn't this the same problem with housing, you know, people couldn't afford it anyway they shouldn't have been buying that house in the first place and all that line of bull. Are we not being set up again. And again.
    So call the foreign auto makers bluff. They know they can offer you free cars till March because Detroit has a bad reputation right now and Obama is gonna have to fix EVERYTHING BUSH FUCKED UP, except Bush didn't fuck this one up, it started years ago with free market pure capitalism economics, and from Reagan to Bush Jr it has turned into this.

     Hold them accountable. Do not buy foreign cars. It isn't the end-all-be-all answer, but until we get green energy efficient vehicles coming out of Detroit, the least we can do is keep gas guzzling foreign crap from ruining our middle class jobs, our national budgets with bailouts and getting Republicans re-elected with their lobbying money. Or, better yet, if you can, take mass transit, or even more, ride a bike. I would rather walk to work for the rest of my life than think I bought a foreign car made in a non union factory in a Republican Senators state. Ouch!