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Oppose the Gonzales Nomination

A few weeks ago in this space, I wrote about the more than two dozen civil rights and human rights groups who had raised what they called 'serious concerns' over President Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

Since that time, the opposition to Gonzales's appointment has picked up steam, particularly as more information comes out about the nominee's efforts to support the White House in its attempts to override both US law and the Geneva Conventions on torture.

As the Washington Post reported today in a front-page story, in March of 2002, the CIA asked for a legal review--the first ever by the government--of how much pain a US intelligence officer could inflict on a prisoner without violating US law outlawing torture of detainees. "White House counsel Gonzales chaired the meetings on this issue, which included detailed descriptions of interrogation techniques such as 'waterboarding,' a tactic intended to make detainees feel as if they are drowning." As R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Eggen continue, Gonzales "raised no objections and without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved an August 2002 memo that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings they sought."

Subsequently, Gonzales ignored the objections of State Department and military lawyers and strongly endorsed the determination of Justice Department lawyers that neither the Geneva Convention nor corresponding US laws on prisoner protections should be applied in the "war on terror."

Revelations like these have generated widespread opposition to what most considered an easy confirmation battle. Joining a host of liberal groups opposing the nomination, a dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the rare step on Monday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general.

They understand, as Robert Scheer makes clear in his syndicated weekly column, that what's at stake with the nomination is whether Congress wants to absolve Gonzales of his attempt to have the President subvert US law in order to whitewash barbaric practices performed by US interrogators in the name of national security.

Gonzales's Senate hearings begin tomorrow. Please click here to send a letter to Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter, the co-chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee who will be leading the hearings, asking them to make sure the nominee receives a thorough vetting.

And read and circulate David Cole's December 6, 2004 Nation magazine editorial making clear why Gonzales is the wrong choice.

There are also numerous other activist resources online courtesy of some of America's most steadfast progressive advocacy groups. Human Rights First launched a new website devoted to ending torture and is publishing a special blog by Avi Cover directly from the hearings all day on Thursday. The Center for American Progress has produced a set of ten questions Gonzales should be asked during his hearings. People for the American Way has published a review of Gonzales's repeated failures as a public official to meet the standards that should be expected of the nation's highest law enforcement officer. The Alliance for Justice has released a detailed lawyer's letter critical of the nominee and the Center for Constitutional Rights--which has represented many of the victims of US abuse--is forcefully urging all Americans concerned over the use of torture to oppose the nomination.

As Scheer concludes his column this week, "to make a man with so little respect for both the spirit and the letter of the law the nation's top law enforcement official would be a terrible advertisement for American democracy."

So join the protests today.

Shirley Chisholm's Legacy

Thirty-three years ago this month, a member of the U.S. House from Brooklyn challenged her party and her country to think more boldly than it ever had before about what the occupant of the White House should look like.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, who four years earlier had become the first African-American woman to win election to Congress, declared that, "I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States. I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests. I am the candidate of the people."

Chisholm, who died January 1 at age 80, ran as the "Unbought and Unbossed" candidate for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. She campaigned in key primary states as a militant foe of the war in Vietnam and a champion of the economic and social justice movements that had organized so effectively during the 1960s. And she did not mince words. A co-convener of the founding conference of the National Women's Political Caucus, she once announced, "Women in this country must become revolutionaries. We must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes."

That kind of talk, along with her refusal to reject the endorsement of the Black Panthers, scared the party establishment -- including most prominent liberals -- and Chisholm's run was dismissed from the start as a vanity campaign that would do nothing more than siphon votes off from better-known anti-war candidates such a South Dakota Senator George McGovern and New York City Mayor John Lindsay. They were not ready for a candidate who promised to "reshape our society," and they accorded her few opportunities to prove herself in a campaign where all of the other contenders were white men. "There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter," Chisholm observed. "Anyone who takes that role must pay a price."

Chisholm had to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in order to participate in a televised debate featuring McGovern and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Through it all, she maintained the dignity that characterized a political career that began in the clubhouse politics of Brooklyn, saw her elected twice to the New York state Assembly and seven times to the U.S. House, and was capped by President Clinton's nomination of Chisholm to serve as U.S. ambassador to Jamaica -- an honor she was ultimately forced to refuse because of ill health.

One of the most remarkable moments of the 1972 campaign came after Alabama Governor George Wallace, a foe of civil rights who also sought the party's presidential nomination that year, was shot. Wallace was shocked when Chisholm arrived in his hospital room to express her sympathy and concern. "He said, 'What are your people going to say?' I said, 'I know what they are going to say. But I wouldn't want what happened to you to happen to anyone.' He cried and cried," Chisholm recalled.

The congresswoman's compassion -- and her commitment -- struck a chord with voters. While she won no primaries, Chisholm outlasted better-known and better-financed contenders such as Maine Senator Ed Muskie and Washington Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. At that year's Democratic National Convention in Miami, she received 151 delegate votes and a measure of the respect that she was often denied on the campaign trail.

Chisholm, who would go to serve another decade in the House, never expected to win the presidency in 1972. But she did expect that her candidacy would inspire others. "I ran for the Presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo," Chisholm wrote in her 1973 book The Good Fight. "The next time a woman runs, or a black, or a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is ‘not ready' to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start… I ran because somebody had to do it first. In this country, everybody is supposed to be able to run for President, but that has never really been true."

Chisholm was indeed an inspiration. At least one young "Chisholm for President" campaigner now serves in Congress: California Representative Barbara Lee, the only member of the House to oppose President Bush's demand for a blank check to mount military responses to the September 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, spoke for many African-American women in Congress when she said, "If there were no Shirley Chisholm there would be no Stephanie Tubbs Jones." And the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns picked up where Chisholm left off, hailed the woman who served as an advisor to both those candidacies. "She set the pace and pattern for other public officials," Jackson said of Chisholm. "She refused to accept the ordinary."

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and by clicking here.

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Ken Lay Would Love SS Privatization

A New Year's Day story in the Washington Post reported that President Bush's allies in corporate trade associations, the financial and securities industries and Fortune 500 companies are raising millions of dollars for an election-style campaign to convince Americans--and skeptical lawmakers--that social security is in crisis, and that the proper remedy is to establish private social security accounts.

Bush's privatization scheme--he calls it his #1 domestic priority--has clear winners and losers. The winners: the financial industry which is lusting after the hundreds of billions in fees and commissions it stands to earn if it can hold Social Security funds in individual accounts. The losers: tens of millions of retirees and surviving spouses and children, plus some ten million disabled workers and their families, who will lose the dignity of a guaranteed income and the financial security that the system currently provides.

Bush's scam is clear: sell out to Wall Street and destroy America's most successful social insurance and anti-poverty program. (Social Security is the difference between a decent life and poverty for half of all Americans over 65.)

In the coming months, we're going to hear a lot of flimflam about how social security is in crisis and privatization is, as Bush has said, a "plan for the people." Don't believe a word of it. Check out the expert testimony of America's most eminent economists (including Nobel laureates) who gathered at the end of 2004 to rigorously debunk the Administration's fear-mongering. (Click here to go to the Campaign for America's Future website to read their full statements.)

"In reality," as Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker wrote in the pages of The Nation last month, "For more than two decades, [the Right has]spread stories about the baby boomers bankrupting the system and multi-trillion debts left to our children and grandchildren. In reality, the program can pay all scheduled benefits long past the boomers' retirement. According to the Social Security trustees report, it can payfull benefits through the year 2042 with no changes whatsoever. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office puts the date at 2052. And even after those dates, Social Security will always be able to pay a higher benefit (adjusted for inflation) that what retirees receive today. Those scary multi-trillion dollar debts translate into a deficit equal to 0.7percent of future income--presented in very precise form in the Social Security trustees report for those who care to look."

If you need more evidence that privatizing Social Security is a lousy idea, think back to the Enron scandal. Remember what we learned: Greedy Enron executives sold stock for millions while the company was still riding high and then gave themselves big bonuses as bankruptcy loomed. Meanwhile, they lied to employees and stockholders about the company's finances and then didn't allow workers to bail out of 401(k) retirement plans that held Enron stock. Thousands of people not only lost their jobs but their lifetime savings.

After Enron's collapse, the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history, you'd have to be pretty dense to fall for the Bush Administration's callous scheme to encourage workers to take risks with their pension and retirement benefits.

Bush and his cronies have worked hard to ignore the lessons of Enron--continuing to fight against serious regulation of corporate misbehaviour and abuses. Don't let them ignore Enron's lessons when it comes to replacing a successful government guaranteed program for a greed-ridden privatization scam.

Maybe we need a new slogan: Ken Lay would love social security privatization.

(ACTIVIST LINK: Click here to send a letter to your elected reps urging them to oppose the President's plan for privatization.)

Bush Fails a Global Test

George Bush ended 2004 on a sour note.

But at least he maintained his record as the most disingenuous president since Richard Nixon.

When other world leaders rushed to respond to the crisis caused by last Sunday's tsunamis in southern Asia, George Bush decamped to his ranch in Texas for another vacation. For three days after the disaster, the only formal response from the White House was issued by a deputy press secretary. Finally, after a United Nations official made comments that seemed to highlight the disengaged nature of the official U.S. reaction to one of the worst catastrophes in human history, the president appeared at a hastily-scheduled press conference to grumble about how critics of his embarrassing performance were "misguided and ill-informed."

Bush bragged about the U.S. commitment of $35 million to help respond to a tragedy that has cost more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions of people in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Somalia and other countries.

What the president did not say is that this initial commitment was less than the planned expenditure for his Jan. 20 inauguration: $40 million.

It was, as well, less than the initial commitment by smaller and less wealthy nations such as Spain, which moved immediately to guarantee a $68 million line of credit for relief and rebuilding efforts.

The president's missteps were noted by the rest of the world, and by diplomatic observers at home. Leslie Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Bush had missed an opportunity to display humanitarian, moral and diplomatic leadership in the world. Reflecting on the administration's response, Derek Mitchell, an expert on Asian affairs at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, "I think politically they've done poorly."

An embarrased Bush administration scrambled to up the ante with a new commitment of $350 million, and the president dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell and First Brother Jeb Bush to Asia. President Bush even ordered that flags be lowed in recognition of the tragedy.

But none of the face-saving measures erased the initial impression that this president is anything but a compassionate conservative.

At a time when the U.S. image abroad has been battered by the president's unilateral decision to order the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration should have been sensitive to the need to respond quickly and effectively to a disaster of this magnitude. But that did not happen. Bush failed to engage at the critical point and then peddled the lie that the U.S. is in the forefront of providing humanitarian aid.

Thirty other developed nations commit greater proportions of their gross domestic products to humanitarian projects than does the U.S. In fact, the entire U.S. commitment for humanitarian aid in 2004 -- $2.4 billion -- was about the same amount as the U.S. spends every ten days to maintain the occupation of Iraq.The contrast between the Bush administration's spare-no-expense approach to Iraq and its initial penny-pinching response to the crisis in southern Asia was devastating for America's image abroad. And, even as Bush tried to make amends, his administration's priorities remained out of whack -- the $350 million commitment that the administration now offers in response to the earthquake and tsunami damage equals less than two days of Iraq spending.

But it is not too late to respond in a more appropriate manner.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, a longtime advocate for a more responsible U.S. policy regarding humanitarian aid, has suggested that the U.S. should rescind a portion of the reconstruction aid that has been budgeted for use in Iraq. Of an estimated $18.4 billion allocated for that purpose through December, only about $2 billion has been spent.

Leahy has already attracted some interest in his proposal from Congressional Republicans. Hopefully, this will influence the administration to dramatically increase its commitment to emergency relief and redevelopment aid.

What is the appropriate commitment? Over the critical period of the next several months, the U.S. should provide at least as much money to rebuild southern Asia as it does to maintain the occupation of Iraq – a figure Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last year put at roughly $3.9 billion a month but that is, in reality, much higher. Committing as much to aiding southern Asia as is now being spent to occupy Iraq would signal that the U.S. wants to rejoin the world community.

Committing dramatically less – as appears to be the president's intent -- will confirm the impression that the U.S. is more interested in spending money on a military misadventure than on a necessary reconstruction.

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and by clicking here.

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How to Help Tsunami Victims

The earthquake and tsunami that ravaged thousands of coastline villages from Thailand to Somalia this past weekend has prompted an urgent need for relief from the international community. With the death toll at 76,000 and rising quickly, the threat of infectious diseases is increasing rapidly as entire islands go without clean water and medicine.

The Bush Administration initially announced a $15 million aid package in response to the disaster, and upped that to $35 million yesterday in the face of mounting public pressure. Jan Egeland, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, got the ball rolling when he criticized the US's contributions to economically-struggling countries around the world as "stingy" in recent years.

Unfortunately, Egeland's criticism finds support in the numbers: the New York Times reported this morning that the US is among the least generous nations in the world in proportion to the size of its economy when it comes to providing assistance to poor countries.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2003 contributions by the US represented only 0.14 percent of the US gross national income, making it the smallest donor percentagewise among developed nations. By contrast, Egeland's native Norway gave 0.92 percent of its gross national income; Denmark, 0.84 percent; the Netherlands, 0.81 percent; Luxembourg, 0.80 percent; and Sweden, 0.70 percent.

The non-partisan group, Americans for Informed Democracy, is calling on US citizens to register their support for the US government to demonstrate far more principled, aggressive and generous leadership in responding to the tsunami disaster than is currently being shown. Click here to sign and send a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and click here to read eyewitness dispatches from BBC correspondents filing from affected areas around the region as relief efforts get underway.

Beyond the actions of the US government, private citizens can also lend a hand. Given the dire state of affairs, it's hard to imagine a more valuable effort to contribute to at this time. Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam America and UNICEF are three good groups accepting donations for the relief effort. And click here for a larger list of organizations, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Co-written by Patrick Mulvaney.

Martha Stewart's Christmas Message

Looking for some good news this holiday season? Check out Martha Stewart's Christmas 2004 message. The old Martha would have been instructing America's women how to wrap those presents, trim their trees and bake those holiday cookies. The new Martha has issued a different tip: a smart call for sentencing reform.

A realist might say that battlefield conversions don't last once the war is over. But Martha is no fool and her eyes seem to have been opened to the reality of how our society has come to use prisons.

Millions have followed Martha's advice when it comes to recipes. I hope some of them will listen to her call for a makeover of the criminal justice system.

Her statement, which deserves at least as wide a circulation as her recipes, is posted below.

An Open Letter From Martha Stewart

Dear Friends,

When one is incarcerated with 1,200 other inmates, it is hard to be selfish at Christmas--hard to think of Christmases past and Christmases future--that I know will be as they always were for me--beautiful! So many of the women here in Alderson will never have the joy and well-being that you and I experience. Many of them have been here for years--devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family.

I beseech you all to think about these women--to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking. They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate, no way to be prepared for life "out there" where each person will ultimately find herself, many with no skills and no preparation for living.

I am fine, really. I look forward to being home, to getting back to my valuable work, to creating, cooking, and making television. I have had time to think, time to write, time to exercise, time to not eat the bad food, and time to walk and contemplate the future. I've had my work here too. Cleaning has been my job--washing, scrubbing, sweeping, vacuuming, raking leaves, and much more. But like everyone else here, I would rather be doing all of this in my own home, and not here--away from family and friends.

I want to thank you again, and again, for your support and encouragement. You have been so terrific to me and to everyone who stood by me. I appreciate everything you have done, your emails, your letters, and your kind, kind words.

Happy holidays,

Martha Stewart

Rule One: Count Every Vote

Politics is a game played by rules. And the most important rule regarding close elections is that you don't win by being conciliatory during the recount process. Indeed, the only way a candidate who trails on election night ends up taking the oath of office is by refusing to concede and then confidently demanding that every vote be counted -- even when the opposition, the media and the courts turn against you.

That is a rule that Al Gore failed to follow to its logical conclusion in 2000, and that John Kerry did not even attempt to apply this year. Both men were so determined to maintain their long-term political viability that they refused to fight like hell to assure that the votes of their supporters were counted. That refusal let their backers down. It also guaranteed that, despite convincing evidence that the Democrat won in 2000, and serious questions about the voting and recount processes in the critical state of Ohio in 2004, George W. Bush would waltz into the White House.

Maybe someday, if the Democrats really want to win the presidency, they will nominate someone like Christine Gregoire. Gregoire is the Washington state attorney general who this year was nominated by Democrats to run for governor of that state. She is hardly a perfect politician -- like too many Democrats, she is more of a manager than a visionary; and she is as ideologically drab as Gore or Kerry.

But Gregoire had one thing going for her, and that was her determination to win.

When the initial count showed her trailing Republican Dino Rossi by more than 200 votes, she refused to accept the result. Certain that there were Democratic votes that had yet to be tallied, she demanded a recount. The second review showed her trailing Rossi by 42 votes and -- as in the 2000 fight over recounting presidential ballots in Florida -- the Republicans accused Gregoire of traumatizing the state by continuing to demand that every vote be counted. "It's time to move forward," chirped Rossi, who ridiculed Democratic demands for a fuller, sounder recount. Rossi claimed that Gregoire wanted to count and recount the ballots until she was declared the winner.

In a sense, Rossi was right.

Gregoire did want to keep counting until she won. But, of course, that is the point of the recount process: If you think that the votes are there to assure your victory, you keep demanding that they be counted and tabulated. This is the fundamental rule that neither Gore nor Kerry ever quite got.

As Christmas approached, the pressure on Gregoire to back off was intense. But the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and her supporters continued to press for a full review of the ballots -- paying more than $700,000 for another count and going to court to defend the principle that every voted counts and every vote must be counted.

Two days before Christmas, with a go-ahead from the state Supreme Court, Gregoire got a full count. That reversed previous results and gave her a 130-vote lead over Rossi.

The fight may not be over yet. Rossi is crying foul. But the likelihood is that, in Washington state, the Democrat, not the Republican, will be taking the oath of office in January. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, Christine Gregoire got more votes. Second, she demanded that they be counted.

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and by clicking here.

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Gone (Ice) Fishin'

I'm not really off ice fishing. But it is rather cold where I am. Until my return to Washington, please feel free to read past "Capital Games" columns. Click here to do so.

The Republican Dictionary: Part 3

This past November, I wrote about the right's semantic trickery and proposed an idea for how we could debunk and decode the conservative's Orwellian Code of encrypted language: A Republican Dictionary.

I put together a small list and asked readers to send me their own entries. Response has been overwhelming--more than 375 people have sent definitions.

I published a small sample of the entries I've received in this space earlier this month. Below I'm publishing a second batch of reader submissions to this on-going project. We're going to continue posting additional entries in the weeks ahead, so click here to suggest your contributions.

ALARMIST, n. Any respected scientist who understands the threat of global warming. (Dave Nold, Berkely, California)

ALLIES, n. Foreigners who do what Republicans tell them to do. (Gary Schroller, Bellaire, Texas)

BALANCED, adj. 1. favoring corporations (a more balanced approach to the environment.); 2. favoring conservatives (fair and balanced reporting). (Scott Davis, Grand Prairie, Texas)

CLASS WARFARE, n. Any attempt to raise the minimum wage. (Don Zwier, Grayslake, Illinois)

COALITION, n. One or more nations whose leaders have been duped, pressured or bribed into supporting ill-conceived, unnecessary, under-planned and/or illegal US military operations. (Michael Shapiro, Honolulu, Hawaii)

CONVICTION, n. Making decisions before getting the facts, and refusing to change your mind afterward. (Paul Ruschmann, Canton, Michigan)

CULTURE OF LIFE, n. A reduction of reproductive freedoms. (Sean Sturgeon, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada)

DEMOCRACY, n. My way or the highway. (Daniel Quinn, London, UK)

ECONOMIC RECOVERY, n. When three out of five software engineers who lost their jobs to outsourcing are able to find part-time work at Wal-Mart. (Rob Hotman, Houston, Texas)

ELECTION FRAUD, n. Counting every vote. (Sean O'Brien, Chicago, Illinois)

GIRLY MEN, n. Those who do not grope women. (Nick Gill, Newton, MA)

HARD WORK, n. What Republicans say when they can't think of anything better. (Brian McDowell)

HEALTHY FORESTS, n. No tree left behind. (Ron Russell, San Francisco, California)

JOB GROWTH, n. Increased number of jobs an individual has to take after losing earlier high-paying job. (John E. Tarin, Arlington, Virginia)

JUNK SCIENCE, n. Sound science. (Geoffrey King, Austin, TX)

OFFICE OF FAITH-BASED INITIATIVES, n. Christian Right payoff. (Michael Gendelman, Fair Haven, New Jersey)

OWNERSHIP SOCIETY, n. A society in which no one ever needs to own up to their mistakes or the consequences of their actions. (Sharon Gallagher, New York, New York)

PARTIAL BIRTH ABORTION, n. A non-medical term invented by anti-choice zealots that refers to a broad class of abortion procedures; employed as a first step in reversing Roe v. Wade. (David McNeely, Lutz, Florida)

POLITICAL CAPITAL, n. What a Republican president receives as a result of a razor-thin margin of victory in an election. (Joy Losee, Gainesville, Georgia)

PRESS CONFERENCE, n. A rare event designed for the President to brag about his prowess as a leader while simultaneously dodging difficult questions. (Jim Nidositko, Westfield, New Jersey)

REFORM, n. Rollback of New Deal reforms, laws, standards and social protections. (Nick Gill, Newton, MA)

RESOLUTE, adj. Pig-headed. (Paul Ruschmann, Carlton, MI)

SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, n. rich person (Michael Mannella, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM, n. Leave no Wall Street broker behind. (Ann Klopp, Princeton, NJ)

STAYING THE COURSE, v., The act of being stubborn and unable to admit glaring policy mistakes; being wrong and sticking with the wrong idea regardless of the consequences. (Jillian Jorgensen, Staten Island, New York)

TAX SIMPLIFICATION, n. A way to make it simpler for large US corporations to export American jobs to avoid paying US taxes. (Seth Hammond, Goodwell, Oklahoma)

VERY CLEAR, adj. Modifier used immediately before any preposterous explanation or rationale. (Lance L. Prata, Eastlake Weir, Florida)