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    They called it the Reagan Revolution. I meet intelligent and articulate people who cannot remember America before Reagan.

    Steven Colbert interviewed a young conservative woman who wants to go back to the "old days" and she looks longingly back to a by-gone era. But that era that she describes was an era of Democratic Presidents and liberal reform.

    The conservative nostalgia is based on an era with mainly Democrats in the White House and Congresses largely control by the Democrats. From 1932 until Ronald Reagan, the only two elected Republicans Presidents were Eisenhower and Nixon - Nixon who resigned in disgrace and had Ford fill out the remainder of the term. The rest were all Democrats in the Presidency with a largely Democrat Congress.

    So the nostalgia that conservatives wax poetic about has nothing to do with the "Reagan Revolution," except in the sense of the nostalgia.

    Reagan was old enough to by my grandfather, or great-grandfather to people in their 20s. People in the era of Reagans own youth had memories of growing up in the Great Depression. These were hard times and the Democrats came to power because economic times were bad. Rightly or wrongly the bad economic times were blamed on the Republicans and they were voted out.

    America became powerful and great during an unprecedented era of government involvement and regulation.

    The Reagan vision of America before Nixon/Ford/Carter does not square with the fact that for almost 50 years, the Democrats' vision of America is the one that made America what it was. The conservatives think that by reversing all the Democrat/liberal policies and programs that this will make America what it once was.

    The halcyon days were not achieved by Republican policies.

    GWB, our President, is not in a Great Depression scenario, but clearly the economy is not what it once was.

    We got a glimpse of what Democrats can do - and Clinton (a rather conservative Democrat) was able to bring fiscal responsibility and move the government into the black.

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    So far, the outcry has been mostly in tech circles and non-English sites. On Manal and Alaa's bucket, Manal writes:
    Alaa and the rest of the group that was kidnapped yesterday, will be detained for 15 days. They didnt go directly to the prison as we thought, but spent the night at the Khalifa's police station and are supposed to be transferred to the prisons now. The 3 women will go to El Qanater prison, as Tora prison where the rest of the 40 detainees are held has no section for women, and the men are supposed to join the rest and go to Tora prison, but some think that they will also taken to El Qanater prison (which has sections for both men and women).

    They renewed 15 more days to the detainees of 24th of April, today. They are not releasing them anytime soon.From prison, Alaa writes:
    Today it hit me, I am really in prison. I'm not sure how I feel. I thought I was OK but I took forever to wake up. The way fellow prisoners look at me tells me I do not feel well but I can't really feel it.

    I'd say prison is not like I expected, but I had no expectations. No images, not even fears, nothing. Guess it will take time. I expect to spend no less than a month here. I'm sure that's enough time to see all the ugly sides of prison, to be genuinely depressed....

    ...Still I am writing this in English to prevent my cellmates from reading over my shoulders, not that I am sure this will work. They are all educated and some are very knowledgeable, in the span of two days we discussed everything, from Egyptology to biology to economics, lots of politics tab3an. I have to defend Kefaya and all the different movements, I have to explain about the judges and I have to explain why I'm here, why it's worth it, and to be frank I've no idea why. It isn't worth being away from Manal for three days let alone 30 (mashy ya masr) but I can't really say that, can I ?I know it's not easy to get worked up over yet another blogger who's been arrested by an oppressive regime. But Egypt is supposedly an ally, supposedly a democracy, right?

    More from the Guardian. Here's a small but hopefully growing Frappr map of support for Alaa. And more from Global Voices and Slashdot.

    Via vlado, Ayman, and Gunnar, who note that Alaa is a Drupal contributor, too.

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    The US military says the Taliban is getting stronger in Afghanistan.

    Uruzgan was one of three southern provinces where U.S. military spokesman Col. Tom Collins said the insurgents have bolstered their numbers.

    "We know for a fact that in recent weeks they have grown in strength and influence in some parts of Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan," he told a news conference in Kabul. "There is a hard-core group of Taliban fighters, certainly numbering in the hundreds."

    He said the militants are recruiting poor villagers.

    "They prey upon people who don't have a lot of hope. They recruit people to join their cause," he said. "These people may not believe much in the cause, but they need a job."Of course, we couldn't be bothered with actually helping Afghanistan grow an economy (aside from opium) or actually establish law and order.

    "Taliban Schmaliban! Saddam is thumbing is nose at us! Let's fix the facts and go get him!"

    And so we spend millions of dollars a minute dealing with the civil war we unleashed in Iraq, while the real terrorists who planned 9/11 get stronger in Afghanistan.

    In making this choice, Bush may have been "the decider," but it sure doesn't seem to have been all that smart now.

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    The Money Changers

    from Talk to Action

    Last week, Mainstream Baptist wondered, What's the Matter with Texas?, and referenced the Texas Freedom Network's incisive new report: "The Anatomy of Power: Texas and the Religious Right in 2006."

    No one should be surprised to hear that there's a whole lot the matter with Texas, or that -- as is the case even in religion-driven politics – the root of our state's particular evil can be traced to the love of money. Here in Texas, rich men who hand money out by the bucketload are using their wealth to buy a state government that looks like their vision of the promised land.

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    I'm struck by today's news that President Bush has designated an ecological treasure that's underwater a national monument. You can bet they made sure there was no oil there.

    Also oh so ironic: Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court majority opinion today that uses all sorts of ends-justify-means rationalizations to undermine a key provision of the Fourth Amendment. Scalia has just redefined judicial activism. To hell with the law -- and forget all that Founding Fathers crap -- just look at all my good reasons why we should ignore the law -- just look at the police academy!

    At least the Republicans in Congress were in their usual self-righteous form today, using cheap rhetoric to try to score political points while doing everything to avoid talking about the disaster in Iraq. A lot of peacock feathers there.

    In case you missed it on Wednesday, Zbigniew Brzezinski on the NewsHour [video | mp3]addressed what the Republicans won't:

    Well, the president opened his press conference by make a statement, which I suspect most Americans didn't quite fully interpret correctly. This is what he said: "I have just returned from Baghdad. I was inspired to be able to visit the capital of a free and democratic Iraq."

    [Holds up a map of Iraq, with a small dot on it.]

    Now, this is what the president actually visited. This is an aerial map of Baghdad and, within it, the viewers can see a small spot. That is the so-called Green Zone, a fortified American fortress housing the American embassy, the American high command, and all the major institutions of the Iraqi, as he said, free and democratic government, in an American fortress....

    And then, last but not least is the fact that the so-called Iraqi government, three years after the beginning of the occupation, still sits in an American fortress. It cannot venture outside of it. To call it a government is to misuse the word "government."...
    [W]e have to get rid of the mindset, which is really by now totally ahistorical -- we no longer live in the age of colonialism. We no longer have to assume "the white man's burden" in order to civilize others, and I'm using these phrases in quotation marks....
    Well, how many thousands of Iraqis will die in the meantime? How many hundreds, how many thousands of Americans will die in the meantime?

    How much will our prestige internationally decline? How many billions of dollars will we spend on this?
    Good questions. Questions the Republicans don't even want to ask, let alone answer.

    But I'm sure the newly non-indicted Karl Rove will come up with some good anger points to turn citizen against citizen. Nothing stirs up the ire of the GOP like American citizens.

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    Utterly "grotesque" statements like this:

    STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the war in Iraq many argued that going into Iraq would stir up a hornet’s nest. The administration strongly disagreed and here’s what Vice President Cheney had to say in August 2002.

    CHENEY (VIDEO): I believe the opposite is true. Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region, extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad, moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli/Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Extremists now appear to have been emboldened. The moderates appear to be in retreat. There is no peace process. There is war. How do you answer administration critics who say that the administration’s actions have unleashed, have helped unleash the very hostilities you hoped to contain?

    RICE: Well, first of all, those hostilities were not very well contained as we found out on September 11th, so the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque.
    This kind of Newspeak is the worst kind of political weaseling. After what will most likely be eight years of the Cheney-Bush swagger, the last person we need in the White House is their rationalizer against reality.

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    That's the net effect of this absurd law:

    The Senate voted yesterday to make it a crime to take a pregnant minor to another state to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge, handing a long-sought victory to the Bush administration and abortion opponents.

    The bill would help about three dozen states enforce laws that require minors to notify or obtain the consent of their parents before having an abortion. It would bar people -- including clergy members and grandparents -- from helping a girl cross state lines to avoid parental-involvement laws. Violations could result in a year in prison.
    Their rationale? Parental rights.

    Proponents of the Senate bill said it would protect girls from being pressured by their boyfriends into having an abortion. "It's an affirmation of parental rights," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). "An underage child cannot obtain an aspirin at school without parental consent," he said, adding that parents' role in their young daughter's decision about abortion is far more significant.
    Nothing like claiming an absurd school rule prohibiting aspirin for students to justify such a draconian law that makes it virtually impossible for an incest victim to take care of herself without the perpetrator's permission.

    Of course, the fanciful "pressure from the boyfriend" scenario is what they tell you. But just as important is to protect the progeny rights of fathers who molest their daughters. (They won't tell you that.)

    And where are the Democrats?

    Democrats are pushing back, accusing Republicans of trying to frighten and divide the electorate rather than tackle tough issues such as high gasoline prices and the Iraq war. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), an antiabortion Democrat who voted for the bill, will spend part of the summer stressing the need to prevent unwanted pregnancies, aides said....Give the girls hell, Harry.

    Fifty-one Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for the bill, while four Republicans, 29 Democrats and one independent voted against it.Thus the "Big Tent" some would-be pundits like to blather about for the Democratic Party lets misogyny rain on women. No wonder they dropped the ERA from their platform.

    Via BlogHer.

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    Thursday night offered just one more of those moments where one has to wonder at the incompetence of our leaders in Washington. Consider this response by Senator John Warner (R-Clueless) on the NewsHour:

    MARGARET WARNER: Senator Warner, you said something to General Abizaid, which we did quote in our piece or show in our piece, but you said -- and let me see if I can read this -- that, basically if we see a civil war really erupt, that the administration may have to come back to Congress for a new authorization to maintain troops there. What were you -- is that what you mean? Do you think that's the case, that basically you all didn't sign up for staying on in a civil war?

    SEN. JOHN WARNER: I was one of the co-authors of that resolution, and I went back here recently and re-examined it very carefully. And you go back to the Constitution. Our president has the authority as commander in chief of the Armed Forces to deploy them to the far-flung places in the world to protect our freedom here at home. That he has done.

    And now the question is to Congress, only the Congress can declare war. Well, factually we haven't declared any situation to be war since World War II. So what we do from time to time is pass the resolutions.
    Funny how he just accepts that. When you consider the long string of "police actions" and unofficial wars the US has engaged in over the decades -- Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait (and I'm sure I'm forgetting a dozen others) -- the batting average isn't very high. The first Persian Gulf "war" was perhaps the only qualified "victory" out of that list -- and if the cowardly Congress actually stood for something, they might have even declared war, such was that conflict's popularity.

    Congress has been good at weaseling out of taking responsibility when it comes to sending our troops into combat. They were mice after 9/11.

    But now we have not just a question of backbone and integrity, but also a question of competence. Consider what Sen. Warner say next:

    So to an extent, Congress plays a role in supporting the president's authority in the Constitution to employ our forces. Now, the resolution in my judgment was drawn up at a time when none of us, from the president on down, could ever envision the seriousness of this situation now, in terms of sectarian violence, and -- and I underline -- just the possibility of a civil war.
    In trying to appear strong and knowledgeable, the Republican Senator offers a proud declaration of ignorance and incompetence. Everybody I knew saw nothing but trouble coming from invading Iraq. We weren't buying the baloney coming from Bush and Cheney. It just didn't make sense. And Colin Powell's kangaroo court presentation to the UN just before the invasion started would not have stood up in your average Law & Order episode. (I'm convinced the writing staff would have sent that illogic back into rewrites.)

    I'm wondering how Senator Warner managed to get into office and put himself forward as some kind of authority on international affairs. The man offers a boatload of crap analysis in this segment of the NewsHour Thursday night. Why should we believe him -- or the President or Cheney or Rice or Rumsfeld or any of these wishful-thinking nincompoops -- when their bubble-world lives prevented them from hearing what we all were shouting during the drum-beat run-up to invading Iraq (rather than truly going after al-Qaeda)?

    Stupid is as stupid does. Arrogant is as arrogant does. That nasty combination comes in spades in our government leadership. And long after they're gone, enjoying their fattened pensions and pork-guaranteed jobs in "the private sector," we'll be paying the price.

    And so will our children.

    And their children's children.

    This is the worst government America has had ever. I remember when the whole world was with us after 9/11. Look at things now. We stand against most of the world. And everywhere we've tried to "do something," it's turned to shit. We have Bush, Cheney and the Republican Congress to thank for all of it.

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    In what seems to be a clear example of confusing correlation with causation, a study has concluded that because kids who are more sexually active listen to music with sexual lyrics, then the music is causing the sexual activity.

    Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

    Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

    Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.
    Of course, the notion that perhaps -- just perhaps -- kids who are more likely to be sexually active are more likely to seek out and appreciate more sexually-vivid music never makes it into the study's headlines.

    But wait, they have confirmation!

    "A lot of teens think that's the way they're supposed to be, they think that's the cool thing to do. Because it's so common, it's accepted," said Ramsey, a teen editor for, a teen sexual health Web site produced at Rutgers University.

    "Teens will try to deny it, they'll say 'No, it's not the music,' but it IS the music. That has one of the biggest impacts on our lives," Ramsey said.
    So there you have it on authority of a teen. The music makes them do it.

    Okay, snark aside, I don't doubt that music can have an influence. But life is a lot more complicated than simple equations of 1-to-1 relationships such as these researchers would have us believe.

    Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives, said explicit music lyrics are a cultural expression that reflect "social and economic realities."

    "We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor" for teens initiating sex, Chavis said.
    I'm not a defender of the misogynistic, ultraviolent lyrics in so much popular music, nor its celebratory wrapping around such emotions. But can we lay rape and murder by teens at the feet of music?

    Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher and author, said factors including peer pressure, self-esteem and home environment are probably more influential than the research suggests.

    "It's a little dangerous to just pinpoint one thing. You have to look at everything that's going on in a young person's life," she said. "When somebody has a healthy sense of themselves, they don't take these lyrics too seriously."
    The study's conclusions, at least as reported by the AP, represent sloppy science. Correlation is not causation. That's the first thing you learn in middle school science class (or at least that was taught back when I went to school and when it was called 'junior high').

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    This report strikes me as rather ridiculous.

    Paparazzi photographs of Socialist presidential hopeful Segolene Royal in a turquoise bikini have raised eyebrows in France and underlined the spread of celebrity culture into France's traditionally sober political coverage.
    I'm shocked -- shocked! I tell you! -- that this woman has a body beneath her usual business suits!

    This week's edition of celebrity magazine "Closer" included a cover picture of Royal on holiday in bathing suit, cap and sunglasses as part of a survey of "50 stars at the beach."

    Its rival VSD followed up with a similar photo of Royal juxtaposed with a picture of Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative she may well face in next year's presidential election, jogging on the beach over the headline: "Duel in the sun."
    Of course, is anybody fussing over Mr. Sarkozy's appearance in non-business attire? No, but--

    Former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin last year threatened legal action against Paris Match for unauthorized pictures of himself on holiday in bathing trunks.It seems that France is not for lovers if they run for office. Better they pose with a guillotine? Or perhaps a line of police wearing riot gear?