Sunday, February 27, 2011

Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan

February 21, 2011

GOP leaders "can't believe" they misattributed Eisenhower's breadth of vision and leadership to Reagan.

WASHINGTON—At a press conference Monday, visibly embarrassed leaders of the Republican National Committee acknowledged that their nonstop, effusive praise of Ronald Reagan has been wholly unintentional, admitting they somehow managed to confuse him with Dwight D. Eisenhower for years.

Enlarge ImageEisenhower

The GOP's humiliating blunder was discovered last weekend by RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who realized his party had been extolling "completely the wrong guy" after he watched the History Channel special Eisenhower: An American Portrait.

"When I heard about Eisenhower's presidential accomplishments—holding down the national debt, keeping inflation in check, and fighting for balanced budgets—it hit me that we'd clearly gotten their names mixed up at some point," Priebus told reporters. "I couldn't believe we'd been associating terms like 'visionary,' 'principled,' and 'bold' with President Reagan. That wasn't him at all—that was Ike."

"We deeply regret misattributing such a distinguished and patriotic legacy to Mr. Reagan," Priebus added. "We really screwed up."

Following his discovery, Priebus directed RNC staffers to inform top Republicans of the error and explain that it was Eisenhower, not Reagan, who carefully managed the nation's prosperity, warned citizens of the military-industrial complex's growing influence, and led the country with a mix of firm resolve and humble compassion.

Enlarge ImageNot Eisenhower

"Wait, you're telling me Reagan advocated that trickle-down nonsense that was debunked years ago? That was Reagan?" Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said upon hearing of the mistake. "I can't believe I've been calling for a return to Reagan's America. I feel like an asshole."

According to sources, millions of younger Republicans have spent most of their lives viewing Reagan a stalwart of conservative principles, and many were "horrified" to learn that the former president illegally sold weapons to Iran, declared amnesty for 2.9 million illegal immigrants, costarred in a movie with a chimpanzee, funneled aid to Islamic militants in Afghanistan, and suffered from severe mental problems.

In the wake of the GOP's revelation, Congress has passed bills to rename Reagan National Airport and the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in honor of Eisenhower. A number of potential 2012 Republican presidential contenders have also rushed to reframe their agendas in terms of "Eisenhower ideals" while distancing themselves from Reagan.

"It's absolutely mortifying to suddenly realize that the man you had long credited as a champion of fiscal conservatism actually tripled the national debt and signed the largest peacetime tax hike in U.S. history," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, adding that he was ashamed to learn that the man he once called his hero stood by silently while the AIDS epidemic exploded. "Frankly, I can't even believe that fucker had the balls to call himself a conservative."

"But we must move beyond this mess and look ahead toward our country's future, a future much like the one envisioned by the great Ronald Reagan," Gingrich added. "Oh, sorry—force of habit."

The misplaced adulation of Reagan has reportedly affected more than just Republican rhetoric, and seems to have had an impact on policy. Former president George W. Bush told reporters he "honestly thought" everyone wanted him to follow in Reagan's footsteps, which led him to emulate the 40th president's out-of-control deficit spending, fealty to the super-rich, and illegal wars.

While the GOP's error has gone largely unnoticed by the American public, a number of citizens admitted to having been puzzled by Republicans' slavish celebration of Reagan during recent years.

"I never understood why everyone elevated him to the level of a party icon," said 89-year-old Nancy Reagan. "Ronnie was certainly sweet and I loved him very much, but let's face it, he was a terrible president."

NASA Completes 52-Year Mission To Find, Kill God

February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON—After more than five decades of tireless work, brave exploration, and technological innovation aimed at a single objective, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Wednesday that it had finally completed its mission to find and kill God.

Enlarge ImageNASA officials celebrate after finally locating and murdering the Supreme Being.

"I am ecstatic to tell you all today that we have beheld the awesome visage of the supreme architect of the cosmos, and we have murdered Him," jubilant administrator Charles Bolden said after being drenched with champagne by other celebrating NASA employees. "There have been innumerable setbacks, missteps, and hardships over the past 50 years, but we always stayed true to our ultimate goal and we never gave up."

"We finally got the son of a bitch!" Bolden continued. "He's dead! God is dead!"

According to officials, God was killed this morning on the moon by a highly trained team of seven astronauts. He was reportedly lured into a trap after coming into contact with the Voyager 2 probe, which was transmitting a false message that NASA wanted to broker a truce with God on "neutral ground."

Enlarge ImageAstronauts prepare the Creator's body for its return to Earth.

"One of our lunar rovers captured an image of God at approximately 2100 hours last night, and we immediately launched a vessel manned by our best assassins," said Richard Egan, Mission Control Chief at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "After exiting the lunar lander, the astronauts approached God under the false pretense of peace, but He must have sensed something was amiss and fled. Our men gave chase in a moon buggy, finally overtaking Him in a crater where He was subdued after several minutes of violent hand-to-hand combat."

Egan told reporters that it took as many as five highly trained astronauts to fully restrain the Supreme Being. He also confirmed that three of the astronauts sent to kill God were badly injured, but were expected to recover.

"He was damn fast. And strong—as strong as anyone I've ever engaged," said Captain Trevor Sullivan, the astronaut who, after his weary team dragged a bloodied and beaten God back to the lunar module, executed Him with a single gunshot to the head. "He fought like a wild animal, and the fact that He's omnipotent really worked against us. But we know a few tricks ourselves, and after all was said and done, we took Him down for good."

"Gotta give Him credit, though, God was defiant right up until the end. Scrappy bastard spit right in my face just before I pulled the trigger," added Sullivan, smiling.

NASA was founded in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the express purpose of locating and assassinating God. By 1969, it had completed a successful lunar landing, bringing mankind that much closer to neutralizing the Almighty. It was in that year that U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first to step on the moon, and uttered the legendary phrase, "Where are you, God, you fucking faggot? Come and get me!"

Over the years, officials told reporters, God had proved to be an elusive and formidable foe. In 1986, He destroyed the Challenger shuttle, killing all seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, a special operative who had been given orders to seduce and then strangle God with garrote wire. The Lord subsequently blew up the Columbia Destroyer Shuttle on reentry in 2003, and several times sabotaged the Hubble Space Telescope, a large piece of surveillance equipment launched into orbit in 1990 to monitor His activities.

"I can't tell you how many times God gave us the slip," NASA aerospace engineer David Williamson said. "We learned pretty quickly that you couldn't underestimate Him, not for a second. He was an unbelievably intelligent and resourceful enemy, and if you made even the smallest mistake, you can bet He'd make you pay for it."

Sullivan's begrudging respect for God was echoed by many other NASA officials and employees. Though most have spent the majority of their adult lives working toward killing God, a certain reverence for the deceased deity pervaded NASA headquarters.

"It's ironic that despite all of the technological advances and powerful weapons we've made, it was God's trusting and compassionate nature that was His final undoing," said Buzz Aldrin, a former astronaut who ripped out pages of the Bible on the moon's surface in an effort to enrage God and draw Him out of hiding. "I mean, you've really got to hand it to Him. He gave us one hell of a fight."

"I only wish it had been me personally who got to pull the trigger on that cocksucker," Aldrin added.

Live like Pedro! Disgraced former state senator's Bronx 'pad' up for sale

Sunday, February 27th 2011, 4:00 AM
Former State Senator Espada Jr. shows off his wall full of pictures.
Lombard for News
Former State Senator Espada Jr. shows off his wall full of pictures.
You can now buy the place where Pedro Espada lived - well, where he technically lived.
The disgraced former state senator - under federal indictment for using a nonprofit as his personal piggyback - is selling his much-mocked Bronx home, the Daily News has learned.
The lightly-used co-op was a source of controversy throughout Espada's political career, as he frequently had to fight off charges he only kept the co-op to establish residence in the Bronx and didn't actually live there.
Those looking to purchase the place where Espada slept - from time to time - will have to fork over $199,999, which is about $25,000 less than he paid for it 2007.
But Espada, who admits to keeping a home in Mamaroneck across the Westchester line outside his old district, may have to take even more of a loss, according to real estate agents.
Gregory Tsougranis, a broker who recently sold a two-bedroom co-op just below Espada's in the E. 201st St. building, said that unit took 92 days to sell and went for $190,000.
"It's a good deal," said Tsougranis. "It's a very strong building."
A call to Espada's spokesman was not returned yesterday.
Espada, who has mounting legal bills, has insisted the Bronx building was his primary home. But the apartment, which also requires $675 monthly maintenance, remained under investigators' scrutiny.
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has been investigating whether the unit was Espada's legal district residence, and there remains some question whether it was purchased illegally with Medicaid funds from his Soundview Healthcare Clinic.
Espada and his son were indicted in December on six federal counts of embezzlement and theft. They're accused of using public money to buy Broadway tickets, a Bentley and fancy restaurant meals.
The state recently barred Medicaid payments covering Espada and his son's salaries at the clinic, and a lien could be placed on money from the sale of the co-op.
Despite the controversies, Espada ran for reelection last fall but lost in the Democratic primary.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Murdoch and Koch Collude Against Wisconsin Workers

Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers share the same deregulatory agenda and are organizing against Wisconsin protesters. (photo: Reuters)
Adele M. Stan, AlterNet
Excerpt: "Ginning up the right-wing rabble is a Fox News specialty. Glenn Beck is more than a talk-show host; he's Rupert Murdoch's community organizer. Like Koch, Murdoch embraces a completely deregulatory agenda: one that would leave giant corporations such as News Corp., the second largest entertainment company in the world, according to Fortune magazine, with nary a single regulation to stand in the way of profit-taking."

Bob Herbert | Absorbing the Pain
Bob Herbert, The New York Times
Bob Herbert begins, "Lynda Hiller teared up. 'We're struggling real bad,' she said, 'and it's getting harder every day.' A handful of people were sitting around a dining room table in a row house in North Philadelphia on Wednesday, talking about the problems facing working people in America."

Gadhafi Arms Civilian Supporters
Maggie Michael and Ben Hubbard, Associated Press
Intro: "Tripoli, Libya - The embattled regime of Moammar Gadhafi is arming civilian supporters to set up checkpoints and roving patrols around the Libyan capital to control movement and quash dissent, residents said Saturday."

Glenn Greenwald | Targeting Assange, Manning and WikiLeaks Supporters
Glenn Greenwald, Democracy Now!
Glenn Greenwald discusses the issue of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual crimes and potentially being extradited to the United States. Also included in the interview are questions about alleged whistleblower Army Private Bradley Manning, and a recently disclosed plot by three private intelligence firms to target WikiLeaks and its supporters.

RSN Special Coverage: GOP's War on American Labor
Reader Supported News
Some call it labor's swan song, others call it labor's wake-up call. Right now it's a grassfire spreading across the upper Midwest, and RSN is staying on it.

RSN Special Coverage: Rocking the Cradle
Reader Supported News
As the wave of pro-democracy, self-determination protests spread across the cradle of civilization, Reader Supported News will bring you the latest updates with uncensored and uncompromising coverage.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Town hall question: "Who's going to shoot Obama?

WikiLeaks: Gadhafi Stashed $32 Billion in Cash in Foreign Accounts

Feb 25, 2011 – 9:02 AM
Theunis Bates

Theunis Bates Contributor

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has signed dozens of multibillion-dollar deals over the past decade with foreign firms eager to exploit his country's vast oil and natural gas reserves. So where has all that money gone? Not to ordinary Libyans, around one-third of whom are thought to live in poverty.

Instead, Gadhafi and his family appear to have been quietly siphoning off the country's riches and investing them abroad. According to a confidential cable penned last year by the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the regime's secretive sovereign wealth fund (an investment vehicle for Gadhafi and his cronies) has stashed at least $32 billion in cash in foreign financial firms -- with several U.S. banks each holding up to $500 million each.

That diplomatic dispatch, released by anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks, details a meeting between Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and Mohamed Layas, head of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), in Tripoli in January 2010. Layas wanted Cretz to encourage U.S. firms to invest in Libya's health and tourism sectors. To underline the safety of such an investment, he stated: "We have [$32 billion] in liquidity ... mostly in bank deposits that will give us good long-term returns."

Layas added that "several American banks are each managing $300-500 million of LIA's funds" and moaned about being "entangled in a legal disagreement with Lehman Brother's due to a major investment that was 'mismanaged.'"

Although Gadhafi and company pumped money into that failed investment bank, Layas said they sensibly turned down approaches by two Americans linked to notorious Ponzi schemes -- Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford.

The Gadhafi family hasn't restricted its investments to financial institutions. As of 2009, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, the LIA had accumulated $70 billion in assets, including substantial stakes in numerous European bluechip firms. The LIA owns 2.6 percent of Italian lender UniCredit (worth about $1.3 billion), 2.01 percent of Italy's biggest defense and aerospace firm, Finmeccanica (about $105 million), and 7.5 percent of Juventus soccer club ($17.5 million).

Sponsored Links
Meanwhile in Britain, the sovereign fund snapped up 3.01 percent of publisher Pearson, which owns the Financial Times (at today's market rates, that stake is worth nearly $400 million), as well as several prime pieces of London real estate. LIA spent $258 million on a retail center in the capital's main shopping district in June 2009, and that December paid $190 million for an office block opposite the Bank of England.

All of these investments were originally intended to only enrich the Gadhafi clan. But they could end up benefiting the whole nation. The United States and European Union governments are now considering freezing the dictator's foreign assets. That move should prevent the colonel and his family from draining the fund, which would instead be inherited by the next Libyan government.

Sven Behrendt, managing director of Geneva-based consultancy Geoeconomica, told Reuters that the new administration could cash in some of the fund's assets and use the money to invest in Libyan companies that will create much needed jobs at home. "Can we turn Gadhafi's political toy into a long-term oriented sovereign wealth fund which benefits future generations?" he said. "It's possible."


With the advent of the "Crash tax", proposed teacher layoffs and general cutbacks, YFP finds a little known city agency that appears to fall under the radar. The mission of SCOUT is to patrol the streets of New York and report graffiti, potholes and general quality of life issues. We raise the question.

Why does the city need a mobile unit when Mayor Bloombito prides himself on the efficiency of the 311 system call in unit. This redundant excess calls for an investigation. Where was the team in the recent blitz of snow storms?

Where is this team in areas where potholes resemble craters? Where is this team in neighborhoods that have graffiti older than the Mona Lisa? Perhaps the SCOUT unit should be SCOOTED.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wirelessly Keeping New York City Streets Clean

January 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

With on-the-street inspectors and a wireless reporting system, New York City is making a big dent in street maintenance.

By Shelley Mika

With more than 8.2 million citizens, New York City is one of the world's most populous cities. Part and parcel to a city of this size is an equally large infrastructure, and just like any roadway system in cities across the country, maintenance of these roads is an important factor in keeping the system running safely and smoothly.

Clearly, the more streets in a city and the more traffic on those streets, the more maintenance issues arise. To provide more complete street maintenance and repair, the City formed the Street Conditions Observation Unit (SCOUT), a team of 15 inspectors who patrol the streets looking for maintenance problems. Armed with a wireless reporting system, the SCOUT system has been able to significantly improve the condition of New York City's extensive street system.

SCOUT Helps City Locate Problems

Until recently, the City of New York relied on citizens to report street maintenance issues, such as potholes, litter, and graffiti. However, that user-dependent system wasn't 100-percent reliable. Even though the City designated a 3-1-1 phone number, citizens tended to report only issues affecting them personally, which left the City unaware of many problems and therefore incapable of solving them.

In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the SCOUT team. These inspectors patrol the streets daily, covering each New York City street every month. When maintenance issues are spotted, SCOUT inspectors record the issue and report it to the proper agency.

To more quickly and efficiently communicate problems to the proper agency, the City employed a wireless reporting device that electronically provides inspectors required forms, while also instantly relaying those reports to City agencies via BlackBerry handheld devices.

"We looked to TeleNav Track to improve the process of monitoring street conditions so improvements can be made quickly and efficiently," said Girish Chhugani, executive director – Program Management Office. "TeleNav Track provides SCOUT inspectors customized wireless forms for easy data entry on their BlackBerry smart phones. This information is then wirelessly routed to the appropriate agency for corrective action."

SCOUT System Enhances Quality Assurance

SCOUT inspectors also use an image capture function to take photos of maintenance items as part of a quality assurance process performed on a percentage of issues.

Because TeleNav Track includes a GPS tracking system, fleet managers can also track inspectors' routes.

"The ability to quickly customize and deploy forms to the field is a very important and unique feature of TeleNav Track. The ability to track the route of the inspectors using the Web-based management tool provided by TeleNav is also a very important feature needed by the SCOUT program," Chhugani said.

While TeleNav Track revamped New York City's reporting system, launching the program was fairly simple.

"We were able to easily customize the wireless forms to fit our specific needs and what we wanted to use them for. It only took a few hours to learn how to use the system, and we started seeing results in the first month," Chhugani said.

By pairing the SCOUT team with TeleNav Track, the City has identified a greater number of street maintenance issues and resolved them more quickly. The City continues to rely on citizens to play their part in maintaining street conditions. The 3-1-1 system remains in place, but with SCOUT on the Web (, launched August 2008, citizens can view street conditions in their neighborhood and track the status of repairs to the responsible agency, allowing citizens to work in tandem with the City to keep streets safe and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Puerto Ricans In The NY Knicks?

I normally writed about the politics of my community, city, nation, or anything that might affect us a people. But today I have to dedicate this page to the big blockbuster trade that the NY Knicks basketball team made with the Denver Nuggets. Bringing Brooklyn native, Carmelo Anthony back home to New York City is in a way a bit political in that Carmelo recognizes that he is of Puerto Rican descent.

Now you may ask, where is the political connection? Well, right here on this Blog I have written about the recent study that showed the terrible conditions that the Puerto Rican youth are going through in this city. The report stated that the Puerto Rican youth were in fact the worst off of all ethnic groups in the city. YES, the worst.

The Knicks by bringing Carmelo, or Melo as he likes to be called back to the city have also helped to bring a positive role model that perhaps many Puerto Rican youth can learn about, relate to as he too was raised by a single parent, his mom and is bi-racial. Melo is a role model and he comes to New York at no better time when the youth of this city need more of them, especially the Puerto Rican youth. Perhaps now when they see his tattoo of the Puerto Rican flag he has on his arm, many more Puerto Rican youth can raise their heads a little higher as Melo raises his hands to dunk on an opposition player.

Yes, Carmelo identifies with his Puerto Rican heritage.

Also in this trade the Knicks received, Renaldo Balkman, another player that identifies himself as a Rican. Those of you who follow international basketball know that Balkman also plays for the Puerto Rican national team.

So you see, sports and politics do mix; well at least I think so.

Our Juan Gonzalez Wins 2010 Polk Award For Hard-Hitting Columns On CityTime Scandal

Allow me to congratulate my talented colleague, columnist Juan Gonzalez: Here's our piece today on his receiving the prestigious George Polk Award for his writings on the CityTime payroll scandal:

juan gonzalez.jpgDaily News columnist Juan Gonzalez has won the 2010 George Polk Award for Commentary for exposing massive fraud by consultants hired to eliminate chicanery in the city payroll system.

Gonzalez's reporting uncovered a taxpayer boondoggle of more than $720 million in the CityTime contract.

His hard-hitting columns led to the federal indictments of four consultants and their relatives, and the resignation of the director of the city's office of payroll administration.

"It's a great honor, but best of all is the news that prosecutors seized $27 million from bank accounts of dummy companies tied to the fraud," Gonzalez said. "For once, taxpayers got some of their stolen money back."

It is the second time that Gonzalez, 62, has won the prestigious honor named after the CBS newsman killed in 1949 while covering the civil war in Greece. Long Island University bestows the annual award to honor the best in American journalism.

"All our judges agreed that his scoops and his doggedness were instrumental in bringing this scandal of waste to taxpayers' money to light," said John Darnton, curator of the George Polk Awards.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tea Partyers gone wild! Who's the worst president of them all?

War Room

Tea Partyers gone wild!

Tea Partiers gone wild!

With the new Tea Party presence in Washington, a fair amount of attention has been paid to extreme legislation proposed by emboldened conservatives in Congress. But you haven't seen anything until you check out what's going on in America's statehouses.

Earlier this month, news broke about a bill making its way through the South Dakota Legislature that, under one interpretation, would have made it legal to kill abortion providers. While that measure was, after a loud public outcry, shelved, it's actually just the tip of the iceberg. From bizarre schemes involving gold to outright advocacy of nullification, state legislative chambers across the country have become havens for the wildest, most zany dreams of the Tea Party crowd.

Here are nine of our favorite proposals that are -- we kid you not -- actually pending in state legislatures today.

Global warming is good!

A legislator in Montana has introduced "an act stating Montana’s position on global warming; and providing an immediate effective date." Under the bill, the Legislature would make an official finding not only that " global warming is a natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it" but also that "global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana." There is no elaboration in the bill on that final claim.

For the inevitable Massachusetts invasion of New Hampshire ...

Several Tea Party favorites in the New Hampshire Legislature have introduced "an act establishing a permanent state defense force." The bill allots roughly half a million dollars per year in order "to defend this state from invasion, rebellion, disaster, insurrection, riot, breach of the peace or imminent danger thereof, or to maintain the organized militia."

The individual mandate ... for guns

An act to "to provide for an individual mandate to adult citizens to provide for the self defense of themselves and others" was introduced by five South Dakota legislators. They are primarily trying to make a point about the federal healthcare mandate. But the bill would require adults to obtain a gun "sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense" within six months of turning 21.

Another Nullification Crisis?

At least six bills have been introduced in the Montana Legislature to nullify federal legislation. (Remember what happened last time we had this debate?) Among the proposed laws is "an act nullifying and voiding the federal Endangered Species Act in Montana. Other measures would declare healthcare reform unconstitutional and make it a crime to enforce federal gun laws.

Who needs the U.S. Mint when we have gold?

Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican, has introduced the "Constitutional Tender Act" to require the exclusive use of gold or silver for payment of state debts. It would also require banks that take state money to accept and offer gold. But not just any gold. The bill specifies that "pre-1965 silver coins, silver eagles, and gold eagles" be used.

In South Carolina, meanwhile, a state representative wants a commission to study the creation of an "alternative sound currency" in case of a "breakdown of the Federal Reserve System."

Because 26 constitutional amendments is just too many

A law proposed by immigration foes in the Arizona Legislature is designed to force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the meaning of the 14th Amendment, which extends citizenship to any person born in the United States. The proposed HB 2561 says that birthright citizenship only applies if at least one parent is a citizen or legal permanent resident of the U.S. Thus, the children of illegal immigrants would not be citizens of the U.S. (and, indeed, would not be citizens of any country if they are born in America).

No Gays Need Apply

The "Religious Conscience Protection Act," introduced in the Iowa House in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, would make it "legal for an Iowa business owner who cites religious beliefs to refuse to provide jobs, housing, goods or services to people involved in a marriage that violates his or her religious convictions." The ACLU of Iowa calls the bill "an effort to legitimize discrimination under the guise of religious liberty."

Birtherism in Hartford

A Connecticut legislator last month followed at least 10 other states in introducing a birther-inspired bill -- "An Act Concerning Qualifications to Appear as a Candidate for President or Vice-President on a Ballot in This State" -- that would require presidential candidates to produce their birth certificate to show they are natural-born citizens. If passed, the bill would cover Barack Obama's 2012 candidacy.

No more pesky gun-related questions from nurses

A Florida representative introduced "an act relating to the privacy of firearms owners," which would make it a third-degree felony for a doctor or nurse to inquire about a patient's firearm ownership. That level of felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill was introduced after a pediatrician allegedly told a mother to find another doctor after she refused to tell him whether she kept guns in her home.

With research assistance from Teresa Cotsirilos and Justin Spees

Who's the worst president of them all?

Who's the worst president of them all?
Former presidents Buchanan and Bush

In 2006, while the Bush administration smashed its way through two wars, countless constitutional constraints, and a fragile economy constructed on the slippery slope of tax cuts for the wealthy, Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian, pondered in Rolling Stone whether W. would be regarded as America's worst president. Rather coyly, Wilentz never came right out and said that Bush 43 was the worst, but his essay gathered together all the evidence that pointed toward only one verdict: guilty as charged.

In making his case, Wilentz mentioned a 2004 poll of historians, who predicted that Bush would surely end up among the worst five presidents. While presidents have a way of rewriting their own history -- witness Bush's recent book tour -- he doesn't seem to be on a path to any near-term redemption. For example, a poll conducted in July 2010 by the Siena Research Institute revealed that 238 "presidential scholars" had ranked Bush among the five worst presidents (39 out of 43), with Andrew Johnson solidly occupying the very bottom of the list. Johnson is a particular favorite for the bottom of the pile because of his impeachment (although he was acquitted in the Senate by one vote in May 1868), his complete mishandling of Reconstruction policy, his inept dealings with his Cabinet and Congress, his drinking problem (he was probably inebriated at his inauguration), his bristling personality, and his enormous sense of self-importance. He once suggested that God saw fit to have Lincoln assassinated so that he could become president. A Northern senator averred that "Andrew Johnson was the queerest character that ever occupied the White House."

Queerest? Perhaps. But worst? Johnson actually has some stiff competition for the bottom rung of the presidential rankings, not only from W, but also from one of his own contemporaries, James Buchanan, the fifteenth president.

Interestingly enough, Johnson and Buchanan, two of the worst presidents, stand as bookends for arguably the best: Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln's greatness might never have manifested itself if it weren't for Buchanan's utter and complete incompetency, and for that reason I cast my ballot in favor of the fifteenth president as our absolutely worst chief executive ever.

While I acknowledge that Bush 43 was certainly the worst president I've seen in my lifetime (12 presidents have occupied the White House since my birth), he runs neck and neck with Buchanan's inadequacies as chief executive. Both of them pursued their own agendas: Buchanan hoped to placate the South as the sectional controversy grew worse (and became increasingly more violent) in the late 1850s, while Bush worked assiduously to dismantle the federal government while trying to fit his presidency into his vacation schedule. Buchanan failed to reach his goal; Bush succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Both presidents handed a broken country on to their successors. But Bush broke the nation's back on purpose, so he wins points for what we might call a competent incompetency.

- - - - - - - - - -

By any measure, Buchanan was an odd duck. As the last president to be born in the 18th century (1791), he began life as the son of a storekeeper in Pennsylvania, attended Dickinson College (from which he was briefly expelled for rowdiness), and became an able attorney. Apart from eyelashes and eyebrows, Buchanan lacked any facial hair; he never shaved throughout his adulthood. His eyes were slightly crossed; to compensate for the defect, he often kept one eye shut and cocked his head to the side. Actually Buchanan was nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other.

Yet Buchanan built up a prosperous law practice, and savvy investments -- particularly in real estate -- made him a wealthy man. In 1819, he was engaged to Ann Caroline Coleman, the daughter of a prosperous manufacturer, but he devoted most of his time to his work as an attorney and to politics. For whatever reason, Ann Coleman broke off the engagement and died shortly afterward, perhaps from an accidental or self-induced overdose of laudanum. Her death left Buchanan distraught with grief. "I feel that happiness has fled from me forever," he told his father. The Coleman family prevented him from attending the funeral. He would mourn Ann's death for the rest of his life. From time to time friends urged him to marry, but Buchanan vowed never to take a wife. "My affections," he said, "were buried in the grave."

The mysteries surrounding his relationship with Ann Coleman resemble the bleak and brooding elements of an Edgar Allen Poe story, with Buchanan cast in the role of a bereft and inconsolable inamorato. He remained a committed bachelor until his death. Some historians have speculated that Buchanan was actually a homosexual, but these claims are based solely on the fact that he roomed for several years with a close friend, William Rufus King, an Alabamian who served in the U.S. Senate and as vice president under Franklin Pierce. Andrew Jackson once called Buchanan "an Aunt Nancy." A Tennessee governor referred to him and his roommate as "Buchanan & his wife." But such 19th century political slurs should not be interpreted in a 21st century context. Like most of us, Buchanan kept his sexual preferences -- whatever they were -- to himself.

During the War of 1812, Buchanan turned to politics, joined the Federalist Party, and served in the Pennsylvania Legislature from 1814 to 1816; he later won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1821 to 1831. In Washington, he turned his back on the Federalists and ardently -- although somewhat incongruously, given his wealth and high status -- supported Andrew Jackson and the rising populism of the Democratic Party. Jackson appointed him minister to Russia, a diplomatic post that placed Buchanan as far away from Washington as the spoils system could manage. When he returned to the States, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he displayed all the traits of a Democratic Party stalwart, a strict constitutional constructionist (in the Jeffersonian mode), and -- again, incongruously -- a Northerner who strongly, even sometimes impulsively, supported Southern interests, including any measure that would protect or extend the institution of slavery.

In the 1840s, he hoped to receive the Democratic Party nomination for president, but he did not attract much attention in Congress or as a diplomat, and he occupied a middling rank in his own party. When James K. Polk won the presidency in 1844, he named Buchanan secretary of state -- a plum appointment -- but the new president grew frustrated with the Pennsylvanian, calling him indecisive and thinking him ineffective. "Mr. Buchanan is an able man," Polk wrote in his diary, "but in small matters without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid." As secretary of state, Buchanan's biggest idea was to propose the annexation of Cuba while the United States went about adding great expanses of territory in the Southwest and along the Pacific Coast after defeating Mexico in the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846-1847. The dream of acquiring Cuba danced in Buchanan's head for the rest of his life, obviously to no avail, even though plenty of Southerners would have loved taking over an island in the Caribbean where slavery already existed, just 90 miles or so off the U.S. mainland. Americans, he believed, should go wherever they wanted to go, although he said so in a potentially tongue-tying sentence: "Let us go on whithersoever our destiny may lead us."

Echoes of Buchanan's belief in Manifest Destiny can still be heard in our own time. In his 2004 State of the Union address, George W. Bush recast (but only slightly) Buchanan's belief in manifest destiny by trumpeting: "America is a Nation with a mission -- and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman." That was one of his explanations for why the United States had invaded Iraq without provocation. Buchanan's "whithersoever" had landed us in the Middle East -- without an exit strategy. For Bush and Buchanan, there was simply no way to avoid destiny and providence. If God wanted the U.S. to possess California and Oregon, so let it be done. Ditto Iraq and Afghanistan.

Buchanan thought he could grasp the presidency by wooing support from Southern Democrats, so he remained steadfast in his defense of states' rights, slavery and its extension into western territories, and aggressive expansionism. Yet his bid for the Democratic nomination failed in 1848, when Lewis Cass of Michigan ran and lost to Zachary Taylor, the Whig candidate, and again in 1852, when Franklin Pierce won the Democratic nomination and the election. Buchanan hoped that Pierce would name him secretary of state, but the new president instead appointed him minister to Great Britain. Once again Buchanan's ostensible political friends had succeeded in getting him out of the country and, one assumes, out of their hair. In London, he could not stop thinking about Cuba. He traveled to Ostend, Belgium, in October 1854, where, with two other American ministers, he drew up a "manifesto" that called for the use of force by the U.S. to take possession of the island. Inevitably, the Ostend Manifesto was leaked to the press, giving rise to a storm of protest at home and abroad. Congress investigated the diplomatic correspondence surrounding the document's creation, and Northern antislavery forces denounced it as nothing more than a Southern attempt to expand slavery into the Caribbean. The Pierce administration gave up its designs on Cuba, but Buchanan kept longing for the island, hoping that someday the United States (and he) would hold it in a loving embrace.

From across the Atlantic, Buchanan also kept his eye firmly focused on presidential politics. He resigned as minister to England and returned to the U.S. in time to throw his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination in 1856. His timing was perfect, since the Democratic Party had been thrown into disarray by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act two years earlier. The act, which was the brainchild of Sen. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, voided the earlier Missouri Compromise by allowing the voters of Kansas and Nebraska to decide by means of what was called "popular sovereignty" whether their territories should allow slavery inside their borders. Conflict between pro-slavery "border ruffians" and "free-soilers" resulted in violence between the two sides. President Pierce supported the pro-slavery element in Kansas, despite the fact that free-soilers actually constituted a major of the population. As a result, both Pierce and Douglas, who also had presidential aspirations, lost support in the Democratic Party -- a political development that worked to Buchanan's great advantage.

Regarded as a safe candidate, since he had been overseas during the upheavals over Kansas, the Democrats nominated him at their convention in Cincinnati. In the general election, Buchanan faced off against two other candidates: John C. Frémont of the Republican Party and Millard Fillmore, the former president, of the American (or "Know-Nothing") Party. Buchanan won, but only by a plurality, not a majority. Nevertheless, he saw his victory as a mandate, namely that Americans had voted for Union over disunion.

From the start of his presidency -- indeed, from the very moment of his inaugural address -- Buchanan revealed that he was going to do everything he could to sustain slavery and Southern interests, no matter how much his policies would give Northern Republicans proof that the new president was part of what they called a "Slave Power Conspiracy." Sixty-five years old, with snow white hair, Buchanan took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address. He made plain his own and his party's belief that Congress had no authority to interfere with the institution of slavery.

What really mattered to him, however, was the prospect of finding a judicial, rather than a congressional or a presidential, solution to the sectional issue of slavery. Going beyond accepted political bounds, and ignoring the principle of separation of powers, Buchanan had used his influence to sway a Northern Supreme Court justice to side with the Southern majority in a pending case, Dred Scott v. Sandford. When he delivered his inaugural, Buchanan already knew the outcome of that case, although in his address he deceitfully alluded to the forthcoming decision by saying of the Court: "To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit, whatever this may be." Two days later, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney issued the most infamous decision in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court -- an opinion holding that Dred Scott, a slave who sued for his freedom because he had lived with his master for a time in a free state, was not free; that no slave or black person could be a citizen of the U.S.; that Congress had no power to exclude slavery from a territory; and that the slavery exclusion clause of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional. The opinion did not resolve the sectional controversy as Buchanan and the Taney court had hoped. Instead, it produced thunderous outrage throughout the North. In the South, of course, the decision was cheered. But Northerners saw the court's action as a partisan ploy.

Ignoring the clamor of criticism from the North, Buchanan nestled into the White House by surrounding himself with advisors who told him what he wanted to hear rather than what he needed to know. The new president lived in a bubble, despite the fact that the nation was beginning to crumble around him. During his first year in office, an economic depression (referred to as the Panic of 1857) hit the country and persisted for his entire term in office. With striking ineptitude, Buchanan failed to deal with the economic crisis in any effective manner, which only helped to increase bitterness between Northern commercial interests and Southern agrarians. Spouting his philosophy of limited government, he told the public that the government lacked the power "to extend relief" to those hardest hit by the depression. As he promised to reduce the federal debt and all government spending, Buchanan nevertheless oversaw during his one term in office a growth in federal spending that amounted to 15 percent of the budget in 1856. When he left office, Buchanan handed over a $17 million deficit to Lincoln.

In the heat of mounting sectional discord and as the economy bottomed out, Buchanan abandoned the traditional understanding in U.S. politics of regarding his political enemies as a loyal opposition; instead, Buchanan, like George W. Bush 150 years later, accused his political opponents of disloyalty, extremism and treason. "The great object of my administration," Buchanan wrote in 1856, "will be to arrest, if possible, the agitation of the Slavery question at the North and to destroy sectional parties." In other words, Buchanan wanted to eliminate the Republicans, not just defeat them, rather like how Karl Rove worked strenuously to create a "permanent majority" for the Republican Party during Bush 43's presidency.

While Buchanan condemned Republicans and abolitionists as the source of all the nation's troubles, the Kansas problem continued to boil over. When the pro-slavery minority in Kansas submitted a fraudulent constitution legalizing slavery in the territory, Buchanan endorsed the document as legitimate. Then he tried to force his arch-rival, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, to do the same. In a White House meeting, Buchanan threatened Douglas by pointing out that since Andrew Jackson's time no senator had opposed a presidential measure successfully without then losing his next bid for reelection. Furious, Douglas replied: "Mr. President, I wish you to remember that General Jackson is dead!" He then stormed out of the White House. (Douglas won reelection to his seat, successfully defeating Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois Senate contest of 1858.)

Buchanan went forward and submitted the Kansas issue to Congress. Then, in his annual message, he enjoyed a "Mission Accomplished" moment by declaring that "Kansas is ... at this moment as much a slave state as Georgia and South Carolina." But Congress had not yet decided the fate of Kansas. After fierce debate, the Senate approved the bill admitting Kansas as a slave state, but the House of Representatives did not. Finally, in Kansas, the free-soil majority voted against the pro-slavery constitution in a fair election. (Kansas would remain a territory until 1861, when, after the departure of Southerners from Congress, it was admitted into the Union as a free state.) With a smugness that smacked of delusion, Buchanan took credit for making Kansas "tranquil and prosperous."

Even as Buchanan was fanning the flames of sectional strife over Kansas, another crisis in the West demanded his attention as president. In Utah territory, the Mormons combined an overt patriotism and demonstrations of loyalty to the U.S. government with rebellious rhetoric and actions -- such as the practice of polygamy, otherwise outlawed in the U.S. -- that left many Americans outside of the Great Basin convinced that the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were intent on dominating the government of Utah, ignoring federal officials and authority in the territory, and enforcing a "Theodemocracy," rather than a true democracy, under the leadership of Brigham Young. When reports reached Washington in the spring of 1857 that the Mormons were in a state of near insurrection against federal authority, Buchanan concluded -- on something less than reliable evidence -- that the Utah settlers had "for several years past manifested a spirit of insubordination to the Constitution and laws of the United States," that the inhabitants of the territory were under "a strange system of terrorism," and that those who resisted the federal government were therefore traitors. Accordingly, he ordered, in his capacity as commander in chief, a military expedition to the territory that was "not to be withdrawn until the inhabitants of that Territory shall manifest a proper sense of the duty which they owe to this government." The army blundered its mission, and the Mormons fought an effective guerrilla campaign against the federal troops. Eventually, Buchanan felt the heat of political pressure to end the so-called Mormon War, and a peaceful end to the fiasco. True to form, however, Buchanan claimed credit for a victory in Utah.

The president was a saber-rattler. To solve a dispute between the U.S. and the British over the boundary through the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Northwest, Buchanan sent troops under the command of Gen. Winfield Scott to Puget Sound. Luckily the argument was settled peacefully. He also dispatched 2,500 sailors and Marines to Paraguay after a U.S. naval captain had been killed there. The campaign lasted months without any appreciable results. Like other presidents who would follow him, including George W. Bush, Buchanan resorted to military force without qualms and then, when the use of force did not quite work out as he intended, he simply declared victory and hoped that everyone would forget his mistakes. At least he did not say out loud to the Mormons, the British or the Paraguayans, as Bush 43 did to his enemies, "Bring them on." Even so, he assumed the posture of an aggressive commander in chief -- one who conveniently overlooked the fact that Congress, and not the chief executive, was supposed to declare war.

Meanwhile, Buchanan pushed ahead with what he considered his most important piece of business: acquiring Cuba for the United States. After his nomination for the presidency, Buchanan reiterated his extraordinary lust for Cuba. "If I can be instrumental in settling the slavery question ... and then adding Cuba to the Union," he exclaimed, "I shall be willing to give up the ghost." Yet Spain had not changed its mind since the time of the Ostend Manifesto. It had no interest in relinquishing Cuba to any other country, including the United States. A bill to purchase the island languished and then died in Congress. Undeterred, Buchanan kept saying over and over, "We must have Cuba." Because his desire for Cuba was not fulfilled, he did not give up the ghost.

Instead, he led the nation into its worst crisis. The crisis, at least, was not entirely of his own making, although he surely contributed to the steady escalation of belligerent feelings between North and South while he sat in the White House. He also helped bring about a schism in the Democratic Party that led to a four-way race for the presidency in the election of 1860: in the North, Abraham Lincoln (R) versus Stephen Douglas (D), and in the South, John C. Breckinridge (D) versus John Bell (Constitution Union Party). Buchanan did not run for reelection because he had promised the nation he would serve only one term. In that sense, he was a lame-duck president from the moment he had been elected in 1856, and his disputes with Congress suffered because everyone in Washington knew that he would be gone after four short years.

What triggered the immediate chain of events that led to the Civil War was Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency on Nov. 6, 1860. Fearful that Lincoln was a die-hard abolitionist, rather than a Republican who simply wanted to prohibit the spread of slavery into the western territories, a good number of Southern extremists called "fire-eaters" vowed to take their states out of the Union if Lincoln became president. With his election, South Carolina quickly called a convention to consider the matter of secession, and on Dec. 20, after Lincoln's election had been confirmed by the Electoral College, the Palmetto State jubilantly declared that it was no longer in the United States. Despite all the rationalizations and elaborate justifications for secession, then and ever after, the action taken by South Carolina was illegal and traitorous. Buchanan, as the nation's chief magistrate, watched with a slack jaw as the South warned the nation that it would not abide Lincoln's election, despite the fact that the Illinoisan had been legally elected (and not, say, appointed to the presidency by the U. S. Supreme Court as George W. Bush would be in 2000). Rather than taking the South's threats seriously, Buchanan in his annual message ignored the impending crisis and asked one last time for a congressional appropriation with which to purchase Cuba. He also suggested that it might be prudent to send a military expedition into Mexico for the purpose of establishing an American protectorate in Chihuahua and Sonora to ward off Indian attacks and bandit raids into Texas and New Mexico. Congress refused his requests.

At first, though, it looked like Buchanan might take decisive action against disunion. In his annual message to Congress, in December 1860, he denied "the right of secession." The Founders had established a perpetual union, he said, and the federal government had the duty to defend it from all enemies, foreign and domestic. In Buchanan's estimation, there was no wiggle room when it came to disunion: "Secession is neither more nor less than revolution. It may or may not be a justifiable revolution; but still it is revolution." By inserting the word "justifiable" in this last sentence, one could detect Buchanan faltering, his knees buckling like a boxer who's about to collapse to the mat. Sure enough, Buchanan also declared in his message that he and Congress lacked the authority to force any seceded state back into the Union. "The power to make war against a State," he contended, "is at variance with the whole spirit and intent of the Constitution ... Our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war."

But he said this 17 days before South Carolina or any other Southern state had left the Union. He was, in other words, providing the South with a handy justification for secession and letting them know the federal government would do nothing to stop the disintegration of the nation. No longer did Buchanan rattle sabers, as he had done in Utah or had threatened to do in acquiring Cuba or invading Mexico. When it came to the South and secession, the president professed to be powerless. In the North, his professed impotence seemed inexcusable, especially among those anti-slavery Democrats who remembered how Andrew Jackson had effectively handled the Nullification Crisis of 1832, when South Carolina tried to void a federal tariff law. Jackson had responded by threatening to use military force against South Carolina, which wisely had backed down. Stephen Douglas was right, though: Jackson was dead, and Buchanan was nothing like him.

Buchanan's lack of resolve, once South Carolina and the other states of the Deep South did abandon the Union, opened the door for those rebellious states to take possession of federal property -- forts, armories, post offices, customs houses -- without hindrance. Fort Sumter in South Carolina, which sat on a small island in the middle of Charleston's harbor, was among the few federal military installations that remained in the hands of the U.S. government. The fate of Fort Sumter threw Buchanan into a fit of indecision. Always something of a sponge who absorbed the ideas and strength of others around him, like W did under the mesmerizing influence of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Buchanan continued to listen to his Southern advisors who told him to tread carefully or not at all. Throughout the month of December 1860, Buchanan nearly suffered a complete breakdown: He cursed aloud, he wept, his hands trembled, he could not remember orders he had given or documents he had read. Some mornings he found it difficult to get out of bed. Observers noticed that there was a constant twitching in his cheek, an indication that he might have suffered a minor stroke as the crisis mounted. Finally, he decided not to give up the fort, and the Southern members of his Cabinet resigned in protest. Buchanan replaced them with Cabinet officials who were more decisively Unionist in their sentiments.

He wanted someone -- anyone but himself -- to find a solution to the nation's problems. Nevertheless, by the end of December Buchanan ordered a supply ship to Fort Sumter; the effort failed, however, when the ship was forced to abandon Charleston harbor when it came under heavy fire from batteries along the shore. Buchanan decided to do nothing else about the fort and the troops who defended it. In fact, it became clear that he intended to take no action against the South for the remaining eight weeks of his term. When he shared a carriage with Lincoln back to the White House after the new president's inauguration, Buchanan said, "If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland [his private estate in Pennsylvania] you are a happy man." Lincoln's reply, if any, is not recorded.

Buchanan spent the rest of his life at Wheatland justifying his actions -- and, more pointedly, his inaction -- in a memoir in which he referred to himself in the third person, as if he were a figure he had never met in person. He continued to blame abolitionists and the Republican Party for the nation's troubles, and he absolved himself of any responsibility for the Civil War, stating that he was "completely satisfied" with everything he had done as president. Forgotten by his countrymen as he spent his last years at Wheatland, he died in 1868. Many Americans had assumed he was already dead.

- - - - - - - - - -

Numerous historians have said that no president was better qualified to serve in the White House than James Buchanan, given the vast amount of experience he had gained in elected and appointed offices over the course of a long career in public service. In 1988, some pundits said the same thing about George Herbert Walker Bush, who had served as vice president, ambassador, congressman and director of the CIA before winning the presidency. Too few pundits, however, pointed out how injuriously unqualified George W. Bush was for the presidency. But, then, we all learned that for ourselves over eight long years.

Lately some historians have tried to rehabilitate Buchanan. "It is unrealistic," writes a recent historian, Russell McClintock, "to think that in 1860 the White House could have been occupied by a chief executive willing to take a sufficiently bold stand" in the secession crisis. Really? McClintock believes that "few of the men who have occupied the White House could have stood up to the challenge of the moment." But that's nonsense. It amounts to admitting that most presidents are mediocre, and Buchanan should be forgiven for simply being more mediocre than most of them. Yet Lincoln had no experience in leadership when he took the oath of office. And while it's true that he fumbled during his first weeks in office, he eventually rose "to the challenge of the moment." What distinguishes Buchanan, then, is not that his mistakes can or should be excused, it's that he totally lacked the capacity to rise to the occasion, to act when action was necessary, to defend the country precisely when it needed defending. In other words, he was a terrible president.

Even so, Buchanan's incompetent incompetency resulted in our worst national catastrophe, though the Civil War cannot entirely be laid at his feet. Other forces, beyond his blunders, led to secession and war, and to some extent, when all's said and done, there was probably little he could have done to prevent the cascade of Southern states that left the Union after South Carolina marched out in December 1860. Indeed, it's just possible that if he had attempted to coerce South Carolina to rescind its secession, other Southern states might have seceded in even more rapid order than they ended up doing. That's not an excuse for his inaction, and my statement differs significantly in substance than McClintock's apologia for Buchanan. Buchanan might not have been able to change the course of history or to stop the onslaught of Civil War. But he might have at least tried.

As for George W. Bush, and his incompetent competency, he did not usher in a civil war -- not quite. But he did make a mockery of the Office of the President of the United States, initiate foreign wars without provocation, mismanage the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, overstep his constitutional authority as president and commander in chief, violate human and civil rights, approve the use of torture, call his domestic political opponents enemies of America and traitors, alienate most of the nation's allies around the world, lie about WMD, pass tax cuts for the wealthy that brought the national economy to its knees, sign the TARP bill into law while letting foreclosure victims eat cake, and spend a great amount of time pedaling his trail bike and clearing brush on vacation.

Buchanan's sins were many. Their consequences were felt by Northerners and Southerners through four years of a bloody Civil War. And so we still feel the effects of his ineptness 150 years after the fact. But we are still too close to Bush 43's despicable actions in office -- the ripple effect of all the mayhem he sought purposely to create -- for us to understand just how much lasting damage he actually accomplished. Even so, Bush's eight years in office were an unmitigated disaster. In fact, the more we learn as time goes by, the worse Bush's presidency continues to get; there will undoubtedly be more damning revelations in the years and decades ahead.

Hence my verdict: As of today, Presidents' Day 2011, James Buchanan wins the dubious distinction of having been our worst president. Nevertheless, it is well within the realm of possibility -- once historians have a chance to reckon more completely with all of Bush 43's extraordinary transgressions as president -- that W might someday unseat Buchanan as the very worst president this nation has ever had.

  • Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History at Western Kentucky University. He is working on a book about Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. More: Glenn W. LaFantasie

Sunday, February 20, 2011

'Tony's Law' Would Require Marijuana Users To Inform Interested Neighbors

WASHINGTON, DC—Citizens spoke before Congress Monday in support of Tony's Law, a Senate measure that would require all marijuana-law offenders to inform their neighbors if they're holding.

If enacted, Tony's Law will require illegal-drug offenders to announce their status.

"Right now, countless Americans are living on the very same blocks as convicted illegal-drug users," said Sharon Logan of the Weed For Tony Coalition. "Without a federal mandate requiring full disclosure, how are unsuspecting residents supposed to find any decent weed?"

Designed to protect Americans from dry spells, Tony's Law was named after 19-year-old New Jersey resident Tony DiCenzo, who went nine months without getting high before discovering that he lived in the same apartment building as a reliable marijuana source.

"Can you imagine the shock and anger Tony must have felt when he found out that the guy on the second floor possessed the Schedule I federal controlled substance?" Logan said. "The offender could have invited poor Tony into his apartment to smoke some at any time. It's heartbreaking."

Tony's Law would create a national public registry of drug-law offenders' names, addresses, and pager numbers. Additionally, offenders charged with dealing marijuana would be required to either post signs or go door-to-door and let neighbors know when they're holding.

Privacy-rights groups oppose the legislation on the grounds that it violates the individual's right to a stash, but Austin, TX's James W. Clancy is one of many stoner-rights lawyers who traveled to Washington to rally in favor of the law's passage.

Enlarge ImageA convicted drug user in Kenner, LA informs his neighbor that he has the number of a guy.

"Millions of Americans love to be high," Clancy said. "Unfortunately, their neighbors often keep them in the dark about what kind of shit is going around."

Clancy and other proponents of Tony's Law argued that the bill would result in increased domestic trade in consumer snack products and a heightened sense of community and well-being.

More powerful, perhaps, were the personal testimonials of hundreds of drug-drought victims, who stood before lawmakers to share their experiences with dope deprivation.

"As a parent, I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to finding weed," Minneapolis resident Kyle Berman said. "All my wife and I wanted to be able to do was get Tina and Tyler to bed, put on a movie, and smoke a joint. It wasn't until the police busted the guy across the street for growing marijuana that we realized how close we'd come to actually finding some pot. A whole set-up with lamps and everything was less than 50 feet from our living room. It sickens me to think about it."

Several lawmakers have spoken out in opposition to Tony's Law, largely due to what Rep. Chris Chocola (R-IN) called "complications stemming from the illegality of marijuana."

Nonetheless, the bill's many devoted supporters said they'll continue their fight.

"After nine months of hell, Tony eventually found a hook-up through the friend of a guy whose brother met someone at a former girlfriend's birthday party," activist Stephen Miller said. "In spite of the nightmare he was going through, Tony didn't give up...and neither will we."

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Frank Rich | The GOP's Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder
New York Times cartoon for Frank Rich Op-Ed, 02/19/11. (art: Barry Blitt/NYT)
Frank Rich, The New York Times
Frank Rich begins: "Six weeks after that horrific day in Tucson, America has half-forgotten its violent debate over the power of violent speech to incite violence."

More Than 200 Feared Dead in Libya Protest Crackdown
Guardian UK and Contributors
Intro: "Witness describes 'massacre' as forces loyal to Gaddafi shoot unarmed protesters in Benghazi."

JP Sottile | Democracy Is Revolting
JP Sottile, Reader Supported News
JP Sottile begins: "Voting isn't everything. Just take a look at Egypt. Throughout Mubarak's tenure, his regime staged campaigns, held elections and people voted. It was a 'democracy.' More precisely, it was a self-proclaimed 'republic,' just like some other country we know."

Wisconsin Protests: Why 'Week of Rage' Matters to Rest of America
Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor
Intro: "Wisconsin protests at the state Capitol pit a new wave of Tea Party-inspired Republicans against Democrats defending their most cherished ideals. It's a political drama that echoes across the country and could play out again across the newly 'red' Midwest."

RSN Special Coverage: Rocking the Cradle
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As the wave of pro-democracy, self-determination protests spread across the cradle of civilization, Reader Supported News will bring you the latest updates with uncensored and uncompromising coverage.

Illinois Supreme Court Deems Rahm Emanuel Sleazy Enough To Run For Mayor Of Chicago

February 2, 2011 |

CHICAGO—In a unanimous decision handed down on Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was sleazy enough to be included on Chicago's mayoral ballot. "It is the opinion of this court that Mr. Emanuel is coarse, vulgar, and power-hungry to such a degree that he should be eligible to hold this city's highest office," Illinois Justice Robert R. Thomas wrote in his majority opinion, adding that Emanuel also met a key stipulation requiring that any mayor of Chicago be a bully willing to do whatever is necessary to push his agenda through the city council. "Further, Mr. Emanuel is a sleazebag and a sleazeball, both of which are criteria he fulfilled prior to filing his papers with the local election board." The decision overturned an appellate court's ruling that Emanuel was only sleazy enough to be the governor of Illinois, and that he lacked the slithery, snake-like attributes necessary to oversee the morally bankrupt cesspool of Chicago politics.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

* Gustavo Rivera: "Pass The Pledge"

Citizens Join Senator Rivera Urging Legislators To Keep Their Promise And Reform Albany

54 of 62 current State Senators signed “New York Uprising Heroes of Reform” pledge last November

Fueled by a clear mandate by the people to clean up Albany, Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) joined with regular New Yorkers to film and release a video posted on, urging all 54 members of the Senate who promised to reform Albany to keep their word.

New Yorkers want Albany to change its ways and solve their problems. Senate Democrats have followed through on their promise to voters by calling for the immediate passage of ethics, independent redistricting, and budget reform legislation – the central points of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s reform pledge.

“New Yorkers are frustrated by the scandal, corruption and dysfunction that has plagued Albany for years and been a road block to passing common sense legislation time and time again,” Senator Rivera said. “Too often, politicians have put special interests or their own interests ahead of those they serve. I am committed to passing reforms that will help restore New Yorkers’ confidence in their government and elected officials because it is what our constituents deserve and Albany needs.”

On the first day of State Senate session, Senators designated “Heroes of Reform” by Ed Koch called on Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Senate leadership to keep their promise and pass the Mayor’s “New York Uprising Heroes of Reform” pledge as the Senate’s first order of business in the New Year.

It is clear in the video that New Yorkers want their elected officials to follow through on their promises so that the State can get back on the right track. With the public and the Senate Democrats on board, the final piece is the current Majority – begging the question, will they keep their promise and pass the pledge?

Video can be viewed at

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