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As we remember Johnny Carson's many gifts, perhaps his greatest was his ability to know when it was time to voluntarily step out of the spotlight and never look back. A talent that's all too rare in American life.

It's hard to know if Harvard President Larry Summer's foot-in-mouth disease is the result of nature or nurture, but his political tone deafness was once again on display at a diversity conference where he suggested that women were innately less skilled at math and science then men.

Despite continuing revelations that torture was endemic in Iraq and our efforts to stabilize the country are failing, Donald Rumsfeld not only holds on to his job but apparently is targeting sites in Iran. The septuagenarian should have retired after Afghanistan.


IS AL QAEDA JUST A BUSH BOOGEYMAN?
by Robert Scheer

Bellingham, Wa.


STEREOTYPE BY DAGUERREOTYPE

Katonah, NY

Below is my running commentary on Bush's inaugural speech. Too bad heckling the president is a federal crime.

....We are led, by events and common ...

Half a century has passed since Manny Farber wrote in these pages about underground films, by which he meant the urban crime movies watched by male loiterers near the Greyhound station, in theate

"I am very happy to see so many flowers here and that is why I want to remind you that flowers, by themselves, have no power whatsoever, other than the power of men and women who protect them and

Alberto Gonzales's nomination to succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General put the Abu Ghraib torture scandal back on the front pages, since he was directly implicated, as White House counsel, in

As elections near, guerrillas are conducting their own "shock and awe" campaign.

Can a dose of Christianity stiffen the Democrats' spine, win back Kansas and bring people power to the anemic left?

Imagine, in the same month as the death of the muse of high camp, Susan Sontag, we have England in an uproar about Prince Harry and his silly armband.

Click here for info on how you can help oppose Gonzalez's nomination.

CAN CBS EVER BE SORRY ENOUGH?

In December the leaders of the Democratic Leadership Council, Al From and Bruce Reed, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about what the Democrats had to do to attract heartland

In February 1917 bread riots, led by women, many of them elderly, broke out in the center of St. Petersburg.

In the run-up to the January 30 election in Iraq, the prospects for a fair and credible outcome have steadily diminished.

President Bush has not lost his flair for irony.

Just as the President hit the point in his second inaugural address where he declared to the dissidents of the world that "when you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you," authorities were removing peaceful protesters from the regal one's line of sight.

It was a similar juxtaposition of lofty rhetoric and less-than-lofty deeds that made the first term of the Bush presidency so unsettling to thinking people in the United States and abroad. And nothing in Thursday's inaugural ceremony suggested that the second term would be any better. Even as American forces remained mired in the quagmire of Iraq into which they were led by the Bush Administration's deliberate misreading of intelligence information, the President offered no indication whatsoever that he had learned from the mistakes and misdeeds of his first term.

As Bush begins his second term today, progressives must fight hard in DC against the dismantling and rollback of the twentieth century's hard-earned rights and liberties. But with legislative--and this week, literal--gridlock in our capitol city, it's time to recognize that the road to renewal may well run through the states.

As Justice Louis Brandeis argued in the 1930s, "It is one of the happy accidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments."

A savvy progressive state-based strategy (and some of the smartest minds in politics today are at work crafting this ) would seize on this "happy accident," and turn to the states to develop and promote the reforms and ideas that, eventually, will make their way onto the national agenda. Here's a quick guide to ten initiatives (in both red and blue states) that are already winning beyond the Beltway.

How the upper one-one-hundredth of 1 percent does politics.

The First Lady has always merited her designation as "the brighter Bush." But, clearly, she needs to study up on American history.

With concern mounting about the wisdom of the Bush team's plans for four days of lavish inaugural festivities, Laura Bush was dispatched to make the case for the $40 million blowout that was organized to erase any doubt about who is in charge. Like her husband and his aides, the First Lady announced her approval of the ridiculous extravagance that will accompany what that is starting to look more and more like a royal coronation. The excess is necessary, she explained, because big parties at the opening of a presidential term are "an important part of our history."

"They're a ceremony of our history; they're a ritual of our government," she said of free-spending inaugural celebrations, after being asked whether it was appropriate to spend tens of millions of dollars on ten different parties at a time when the nation is at war and much of the world is still recovering from the tsunami disaster.