Saturday, June 12, 2004

What's Happening in the Religious Right?

They've been busy little bees recently, especially down in Texas, where they have totally taken over the local Republican Party. Steve Gilliard gives this quote from a Salon article to convey the flavor of the fervent religiosity among Texas Republicans:

The values and world vision of the movement today can be found enshrined in the 24-page party platform. It's a fearful, twilight looking-glass world, beset by enemies, where the purity of the culture, under constant siege, must be protected from threats both internal and external. The platform makes short work of the federal government, calling for the abolition of everything from the U.S. Department of Education to the Internal Revenue Service, along with most taxes. Aliens without proper identification are to be summarily deported. Illegal immigrants should not be granted drivers' licenses. Voter registration is to be made more difficult. "American English" is the official language of the state, and "the Party supports the termination of bilingual education programs in Texas." A plank titled "equality for all citizens" urges the repeal of hate crimes legislation. Another one states: "We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values." Since the Bible is the literal truth, teachers should have the right to instruct their public school students in "creation science." The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the legal system. And lest anyone forget, "America is a Christian nation."

I find this very scary stuff. Funny, too. Lest you think it's just a joke, listen to this comment from the same convention:

Gina Parker, who ran unsuccessfully for state party chairmanship on an anti-abortion, pro-gun, and pro-business platform, opened a window on the world of conservatives in Texas: "We are waging war on our own society. My boots were made for walking all over the Democrats and re-electing President George Bush."

Those of you who thought the war was in Iraq are now properly informed: the war is here, at home, and the enemies are US! And Texas will be the new Talibanstan, I fear.

But Texas isn't the only place where the religious right holds sway. In fact, they're pretty much running the whole country right now:

In the mid-1990s, following Bill Clinton's second electoral ride to the White House, the vibrancy of Religious Right organizations appeared to be on the wane. Outside the sanctuary of the fundamentalist church, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had become public caricatures of intolerance and zealotry. Pundits in the media and the liberal church deemed the movement torn, shattered, and perhaps dead.
How then, less than a decade later, has the Religious Right become a powerful sector of the Republican Party, holding veto power over most any GOP maneuver?
"The Religious Right has been institutionalized within the Republican Party," confirms Kenneth Wald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. "Just look at the leaders of the GOP."
Note the top seven ranking Republicans in the U.S. Senate: Bill Frist, Tennessee; Mitch McConnell, Kentucky; Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania; Bob Bennet, Utah; Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas; Jon Kyle, Arizona; and George Allen, Virginia. Other than party affiliation, what do these senators all have in common? Each has earned a 100 percent rating on the Christian Coalition's scorecard, voting in accordance with that organization's positions on key legislation.
A similar pattern exists among the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who in part controls whether an issue will be even debated on the House floor, also receives a 100 percent on the Christian Coalition scorecard.
Yes, the Religious Right is alive and well. Over the past quarter century, it has grown from an adolescent, grassroots movement to a mature political player closely integrated into the Beltway mainstream. The results of a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press illustrated the historical shift in political classification of white evangelical Protestants. In 1987 and 1988, 34 percent identified as Republican while 31 percent identified as Democrats. Currently, 43 percent view themselves as Republicans against 22 percent as Democrats.

The main agenda of the religious right is on what they call moral issues. These include abortion, gay rights, school prayer, teaching creationism in public schools and regressive tax structures. The last one seems surprising, given that Jesus was somewhat of a redistributioner of wealth. But today's religious wingnuts don't read their Bibles that way; rather, they see communism lurking in anything that would take from the rich and give to the poor. Besides, allowing for increased poverty of the lower income classes lets the religious people to work together with traditional conservatives. Never mind what Jesus would do. Jesus was a feminist and socialist, after all.

The religious right needs to have Bush re-elected. Another four years in power will give them a Supreme Court that should leave the 1990's Afghanistan in shame. All they want from Bush is the courts. Otherwise Bush can go on pleasing the corporations as usual. This was made clear in a comment by one religious right leader:

"The Republicans need to understand that we have two non-negotiables - we're pro-life and we're pro-marriage. We might not be happy to move on other issues, but we're willing to make some concessions. But not on those two things."

Must be a relief to the other Republicans, the ones who will not be picked up in the Rapture. But it's worrying to the majority of us who happen to be female, as I doubt that the definitions of 'pro-life' and 'pro-marriage' that these folks use include very many concessions to women.

Revisionistic Economic History

This article at the is so good that I'm posting a big chunk of it:

In the days since the death of former President Ronald Reagan, many media outlets have falsely credited him with presiding over "the longest economic expansion in history"; in fact, Reagan should be credited with presiding over only the third-longest expansion in American history.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research , the longest economic expansions in U.S. history are:
March 1991 -- March 2001: 120 months
February 1961 -- December 1969: 106 months
November 1982 -- July 1990: 92 months

The expansion Reagan presided over is therefore the third-longest in history. Even at the time of the expansion Reagan presided over -- before the expansion that began in 1991 -- it wasn't the longest in history; it was the second-longest.

But that's not what many media outlets have been reporting:
The New York Times (6/6/04): "After the 1981-82 recession, Mr. Reagan presided over the longest economic expansion in history, one that saw the creation of 16 million jobs."
New York Daily News (6/6/04): "Throughout much of the Reagan presidency, the country enjoyed what was then the longest economic expansion in U.S. history."
The Philadelphia Inquirer (6/6/04): "In 1983, the United States entered its longest economic expansion since World War II."
The Washington Post(6/6/04): "When Reagan took office in 1981 after the inflation-ravaged years of Jimmy Carter, his advisers warned of a looming 'economic Dunkirk.' When he left the presidency eight years later, inflation and unemployment had fallen sharply and the country was in the midst of what was then the longest economic expansion in history."
CNNfn anchor Kathleen Hays repeated The Washington Post's mistake , verbatim (6/7/04): "When Reagan took office in 1981, high inflation forced his advisors to warn of an coming economic Dunkirk. When he finished his term, inflation and unemployment had fallen sharply and the country was in the midst of what was then the longest economic expansion in history."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial (6/7/04): "He presided over the longest economic expansion in history with the creation of 16 million jobs, yet cutbacks in social programs left millions of Americans more vulnerable than ever."
Jack Wheeler's column, The Washington Times (6/8/04): "Five years ago, in February 1999, I wrote the following tribute to this extraordinary man. 'He crushed inflation along with left-wing Keynesian economics and launched the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. Starting in 1982, the Reagan Boom is now in its 18th year - with only a short eight-month shallow interregnum caused by the oil-price spike following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.'"

It is true that, at the time, the expansion that began during Reagan's presidency was the "longest peacetime" expansion "since the end of World War II." (It has since been surpassed by the expansion that began in 1991.) But how meaningful is it to write of the "longest peacetime economic expansion since the end of World War II" (and before 1991)?

Between the end of World War II and the end of the expansion Reagan presided over, there were only two periods of "peacetime" that lasted five or more years: one of roughly eleven years from the end of the Korean War to the beginning of the Vietnam War and one of roughly 17 years from the end of the Vietnam War through the end of the expansion in 1990.

"Since the end of World War II" sounds impressive -- nearly 60 years! -- but the "peacetime" qualifier (and the omission of the 1990s expansion) cuts the timeframe in question roughly in half

I wonder how the even longer peacetime economic expansion of the Clinton era will be treated by future pundits? Unless things change a lot, the so-called liberal media will probably not mention it. The blue dress, now, that's an altogether different matter.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Reagan's Legacy to Women

I don't think that he intended to leave one. Women were not one of his concerns. But many of the current administration's policies regarding women have their roots in the Reagan era. It was then that international family planning programs became a target for the Republican pro-life base. Reagan put Clarence Thomas (of later Supremes' fame) in charge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, and cut the EEOC's budget by half. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop...

Poor women also suffered because of Reagan's general economic policies. Reagan didn't believe in raising the minimum wages or in welfare payments for single mothers, and it was during the Reagan 80's that it became fashionable to call women on welfare 'welfare queens'.

But some things that Reagan tried to accomplish were indeed ahead of his time:

Reagan welcomed the New Right, headed by ultra-conservatives from The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Free Congress Foundation. They wasted no time putting forth their agenda in the form of the so-called Family Protection Act, introduced in 1981.
It would have dismantled equal education laws, banned "intermingling of the sexes in any sport or other school-related activities," required that marriage and motherhood be taught as career choices for girls (but not, of course, marriage and fatherhood for boys) and banned legal aid for women seeking a divorce. The act never passed. These ideas were seen as out of the mainstream back then. But the seeds were sown.

Indeed, they were sown. And the conservatives have tried to harvest the yield ever since. Just consider the recent attempts to modify Title IX which requires gender equality in education, or the most recent attempts to make sex-segregated and unequal education acceptable. It would be just a small step from this to programs that advocate different educational choices for girls and boys.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Some Innocent Fun

Via skippy. Click here, and then move the cursor around. Then click on Blair and do the same.

On Comments

When I check this nifty little Haloscan site for any new comments on my blog I always read the warning that heads the list of comments: "If you delete a comment, it can never be recovered." This strikes me as so poignant, never to be recovered, gone for ever, dead. I immediately want to delete everything, just to see if I would actually feel that bad. I haven't done that yet, of course, because I treasure all the comments, even the ones that don't call me wonderful.

The funny thing about the comments is that they are always better than my post. This did come as a surprise to me, as I thought my role would be to educate and gently guide my naive readers (!), whereas the reality is that the readers send me back to check my data and learn new things. A humbling experience, but fun.

Of course, I have not yet had a real troll visit. That might make me feel differently about the comments, and maybe I could even use the ban button. It could be interesting, but so far I have been saved from testing this theory. The trick for troll avoidance is to use really long words in the posts. That and writing sort of mushy.

Anyway, the point of this post is to thank all of you who read this valuable blog (never forget to self-promote), even if it costs equally valuable minutes of your lives, never to be recovered. As the alternative is probably something even more tedious than reading me, I hope you will persevere.

With Liberals Like These...

who even needs conservatives as enemies? I'm talking about Susan Estrich, a law professor at University of Southern California and the author of a frankly feminist book Sex&Power. She was the first woman to run a presidential campaign in the United States, that of Michael Dukakis. She is supposed to be a liberal.

Here is Susan as a guest host on Hannity and Colmes:

HANNITY: I mean, we hear this. We've got Soros -- wait a minute. We've got Soros; we've got Podesta. We've got them going into talk radio.
But when you watch what they're doing they seem to want to attack personally conservatives just like they have hatred for George W. Bush, but they don't have ideas. Where are the ideas on the left? Where is the thinking liberal?
ESTRICH: I don't know. I don't have a full-time job on TV, so I can't tell you.
I don't know any liberal radio except the one that's failing. I don't know liberal television, you know, that doesn't exist. All right

Strong analysis, right? Being a good debater on the liberal side of the spectrum, right? Well, my left shoe would have done better.

And here is Susan in her column which for some obscure reason is on the Clintons:

Compared to Bill Clinton and George Bush, John Kerry looks like a guy with relatively little not to like about him. He didn't start the wrong war; he didn't have sex with the wrong girl. He enlisted. He's not Bill, or George. It may be enough.

It was just a few short years ago that we were a nation torn apart by reports of a blue dress, a cigar and oral sex in the White House.

Is it possible that we can really turn aside from the scandals of war and peace and return to the simpler days of a blue dress?

Or is it inevitable that the debate, this time, will be about why we wasted so much time on nothing when we could have been focused on weightier matters; whether Richard Clarke was right in arguing that Clinton put a higher priority on fighting terrorism and Al Qaeda than George Bush did, or whether it is also true that had we not been so distracted, the country as a whole might have put a higher priority on fighting terror than fighting against each other?

There are, to be sure, some Democrats who worry that Clinton's reememergence will make Kerry look pale, dull and inarticulate by comparison. That is what happened last spring at the party's Unity dinner.

How does the old saw go? Damning with faint praise? Who was it who said that conservatives are those who attack liberals with venom and vitriol, while liberals are those who attack liberals more obliquely?
Whoever it was, that person must have met some of this new breed of liberals.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Mummy Wars Revisited

This is a post from last November. I wanted to write about the mummy wars, but realized I had already done so. Hence a slightly edited rerun, in honor of the approaching summer. Its topic is every bit as current today as it was last year. More's the pity.

For those of you who have been asleep for the last hundred years in an enchanted castle surrounded by thorny rosebushes, Mummy Wars are the vicious argument ongoing between mothers who work outside the home and mothers who are full-time caretakers of their children, or sometimes between women with children and women without children. It also has a subcategory of fights about women on welfare and women who work.

Mummy Wars are not real wars. They look staged to me; as if they are there to entertain someone else. Who is the audience? Who made up the rules of these wars?

This is what I wrote on one of my bad-hair days: ( Even goddesses have them, and then our power turns not-so-nice. Well, ok. Goddesses don't have bad-hair days, but then I need to find a language to communicate with mere mortals, and hair seems to be one of those things everybody is allowed to be angry about, even women.) So rather, here is my view from above on a cloudy day when the rain whipped down with a vengeance:

U.S. women are sharply divided by motherhood and its meaning. The ferocious battles being waged over this have been called the Mummy Wars. But what we are observing is not so much a real war as a series of carefully orchestrated matches in a sports arena. In fact, Mummy Wars are best seen as a set of fights between Roman gladiators in the Colosseum:

The first match of each night is always between the teams Mothers and Others. The Mothers are armed with accusations of selfishness against those Others who could've joined Mothers but didn't, and condescending pity towards those Others who tried to join Mothers but couldn't. For a long time the Others had very puny weapons and predictably lost most matches, but recently they have wrought a sword out of accusations that Mothers get preferential treatment in the workplace. This should make future battles much more interesting to watch.

The second match of the night is a filler where Mothers Who Pull Their Weight butcher Mothers Who Are Welfare Queens. As the latter team has no weapons, the match is enjoyed by only the most sadistic of spectators.

The third match is the main event of the night, and always promises lots of blood and gore. The teams are the Stay-At-Home Mothers and the Employed Mothers. The Stay-At-Home Mothers fight mostly with accusations of selfish greed and child neglect. Although these weapons are few, the ferocity with which they are used makes the team a formidable opponent. The Employed Mothers have an interesting strategy: They appear to fight almost solely defensively by using individual freedom of choice as a shield. This is because the rules of this Colosseum forbid open attacks against Stay-At-Home Mothers. But covert maneuvres are always possible, and the Employed team uses them brilliantly by whispering that their opponents should really be called the Ladies Who Lunch or Mealticketed For Life.

The outcome of this match is never certain, but one thing is: if you get turned on by a protracted struggle resulting in lots of severed limbs and bleeding guts, this is the battle for you to watch.

The real Roman gladiators fought each other to please their spectators. This is something all of us fighting the Mummy Wars would do well to remember.

Nasty, isn't it? A suitable episode in the Mummy Wars. Of course it has a point, all sarcasm does, and the point is that these fights are orchestrated by the way the labor markets operate and by the way women are judged. Children are not really regarded as the responsibility of both parents, and employment is still based on the Victorian assumption that each worker has a full-time caretaker at home for all those annoying things that happen to people, you know, small children, elderly relatives and so on. Lipservice is paid to allowing re-entry to labor markets for those who take time off, but in reality such re-entry is rarely possible without considerable losses of pay and retirement benefits compared to what would have been gained from an uninterrupted career path. This is why I find even the term "Mummy Wars" so incredibly insulting: these fights are created by the often impossible constraints under which so many mothers function and by our cultural obliviousness to the needs of those who take care of small children. Women are pretty much told:"You better choose to have children OR to work, for only perfect worker bees are admirable and only perfect mothers are admirable. Too bad if you can't make this choice or don't want to make it. Then you are on your own. Actually, whatever you choose, you'll be on your own. Now, pass the popcorn."

Mummy Wars do give us all free entertainment, including those of us who are fathers. Yet there are no Daddy wars. Now, I'm not one of those goddesses who did things with immaculate conception. For there to be babies, mothers are needed, but so are fathers. And their place is not in the stands, munching on popcorn and rooting for one of the favorites or not. Come to think of it, most people who are in the stands shouldn't be there.

Take a different view of the Mummy Wars. One I took on a lovely, bright day while being adulated by my snakes.

The human cultures have a biased view of women. Mostly, men are seen as individuals, but women are seen only partially as individuals and largely as members of an amorphous mass 'womanhood'. Think of actors: male actors are not asked the sorts of questions that women actors are, about how they cope with combining family and career, about how they stay beautiful. Men are asked individual questions about their acting choices and lives. Women are asked largely 'woman' questions (how do you compare to other women?). And so on.

So all humans, to some extent, see women as a mass and men as individuals. If these humans happen to be women themselves, they will partly view themselves as individuals, but also keep asking themselves how they compare to others in the mass 'women'. All other women then affect their self-esteem; others' choices affect how right our choices look. If a woman stays at home with the children and another one works outside the home but also has children, their choices are not seen as independent of each other. One woman affects the other, her self-esteem and the society's judgment of her 'goodness'. And this effect goes both ways. A working mother will be blamed because she is not at home, a stay-at-home mother feels that her choices are made unimportant by the existence of women who appear to be able to both work for money and care for children. Thus, both feel exposed and criticized by the existence of the other's different life. Sisterhood? Not likely. But it doesn't have to be so.

There are three secret devices that cause the Mummy Wars. Two I have already referred to: the way work is organized in this society and the tendency to see women as an undifferentiated mass of femaleness, both by men and by women themselves, when in fact we are all individuals with different temperaments, talents, limitations and life situations. The third one is the presumption that if two women make opposite choices, one of these choices must be wrong. This I call false duality. It is false, because we don't apply it to people's choices in general. Matt may choose to enter into engineering, Jessica into medicine. Yet nobody would argue that EITHER Matt OR Jessica must be right.

But when we talk about the 'female' kinds of choices, suddenly one choice must be right and the other wrong. This is because we see all women as essentially the same woman in this sphere, and therefore it appears obvious that one of the choices is better than the other. This is wrong, an example of false dualism, and it is false because all women are not the same woman.

These two devices also explain why women often have the tendency to be more judgmental towards other women than men. What other women do affects the self-esteem of the judging woman. What men do has no such effect in general cases, because the same false dualism is not applied to men.

So we women (I'll count myself here as one, to look less judgmental here...) can be cruel to our sisters, we sometimes keep them in line, because if we don't do so, our own self-image might shatter. This is all so sad and all so unnecessary. If we could only climb over the obstacles of regarding womanhood as one amorphous lump and of making snappy falsely dualistic judgments we could actually approach some idea of realistic sisterhood, lower our weapons in the Mummy Wars and start to plan the truly necessary military campaign: how to reorganize work and family life to bring about a more humane world for both women and men.

Some Food For Thought...

By Bill O'Reilly, my current favorite wingnut talk show host:

O'REILLY: Finally, the ACLU -- we talked about this yesterday and I -- and, you know, I have to pick on the ACLU because they're the most dangerous organization in the United States of America right now. There's by far. There's nobody even close to that. They're, like, second next to Al Qaeda.

Yep. Civil liberties are very scary things to wingnuts. And of course both the ACLU and Al Qaeda have an 'A' in them, which proves that O'Reilly is right. Or something like that.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

American Job Creations Act of 2004

This act*, introduced in the House, is a very interesting one. It has article after article of new tax relief for our poor suffering corporations. Even fishing tackle boxes are specifically freed from the horrible burden of excise taxes on their liberty!

But what really caught my eye in this act which so very hard tries to create Americans some more jobs are two tiny sections on churches. The first one of these is endearingly entitled "Safe Harbor for Churces". Yes, a safe harbor for churches is urgently needed in this country where horrible secularist communists are holding all power in the House and the Senate and rampaging all over the mainstream media. Just think of the Fox News and you know what I mean.

Anyway, the safe harbor churches now have is the one of being allowed to engage in political speech inadvertently without any serious consequences. Slip of the tongue sort of stuff. Anyone could be guilty of accidentally hosting a Republican campaign meeting in the church hall! So of course we shouldn't be such sticklers about the separation of the state and religions. This is a Christian country, after all, as the Texas Republican party so powerfully recently told us.

The changes make such inadvertent crimes something easier to forgive.
In the past, meddling in politics would have cost the church a fine equal to the maximum tax that could be levied on its annual gross revenues. Now the first 'inadvertent' meddling costs only the church the maximum tax on its weekly revenues! And we need to see three 'inadvertent' meddlings before the church loses its tax-free status for one year. Such a relief! Especially as the Republican party has launched a church-centered campaign in the state of Pennsylvania. This little amendment guarantees that any new pals the Republicans might make this way don't get their fingers slapped.

Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with job creation, but neither do many of the other clauses in this act. Mostly it's payback time for all that corporate support.

*I can't get a permalink to the exact text of the act, but you can search for it at the website I link to. Here are the exerpts of interest from the act:

FROM SECTION 4955:`(2) UNINTENTIONAL VIOLATIONS- An organization described in section 508(c)(1)(A) (relating to churches) shall not fail to be treated as organized and operated exclusively for a religious purpose, or to have participated in, or intervened in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, for purposes of subsection (c)(3), or section 170(c)(2) (relating to charitable contributions) unless such organization or any of its religious leaders so participates or intervenes on more than 3 separate occasions during any calendar year. This paragraph shall not apply with respect to any such participation or intervention which constitutes an intentional disregard by such organization or any of its religious leaders of the prohibition of such activity under subsection (c)(3) or section 170(c)(2).

`(a) IMPOSITION OF TAX- There is hereby imposed on each organization described in section 508(c)(1)(A) which is an organization exempt from tax under section 501(a) by reason of section 501(q)(2), a tax equal to--
`(1) the highest rate of tax specified by section 11(b), multiplied by
`(2) the gross income of such organization for such calendar year.
The tax imposed by this subsection shall be paid by the organization.
`(b) REDUCTION FOR LESS THAN 3 VIOLATIONS- In the case of an organization described in subsection (a) which committed not more than 2 acts of participation in, or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office during such calendar year, the amount taken into account under subsection (a)(2) shall be the amount which would have been taken into account under subsection (a)(2) (but for this subsection) divided by--
`(1) 52 in the case of one such act during such calendar year, or
`(2) 2 in the case of 2 such acts during such calendar year.
`(c) COORDINATION WITH SECTION 4955- The tax imposed under this section with respect to any act shall be reduced by the amount of any tax imposed under section 4955 with respect to such act.'.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Silly Stuff

I'm busy writing to a deadline, plus doing some research on breast implants for this blog. In the meantime, I'm going to offer you something that seems to sell well in the mainstream media:

1. Possibly some completely unfounded gossip on our current president. I can't guarantee that any of this is true, but if you like to worry or need another reason for it, this should keep you going for a few sleepless nights.

2. An IQ test. Guaranteed to make you feel bad, even if you score the maximum as internet tests are not real. Of course, IQ has very little to do with intelligence in the first place, but we all love tests that will tell us everything we never knew about ourselves through all these decades of inhabiting our bodies, yet all this can be told to us in one simple test by perfect strangers! Whom to marry! What color to wear! Whether we should have our penises or breasts artificially engorged! What fun!

The real reason I'm including this is of course that I got a good report. Sort of. Here it is:

Your Intellectual Type is Visionary Philosopher. This means you are highly intelligent and have a powerful mix of skills and insight that can be applied in a variety of different ways. Like Plato, your exceptional math and verbal skills make you very adept at explaining things to others — and at anticipating and predicting patterns. And that's just some of what we know about you from your IQ results.

I do resent the comparison to Plato, though. But of course this writeup justifies my having a blog from which to preach to the world.
Am I getting too obnoxious? It's hard to know sometimes when one is a goddess.

On Ronald Reagan

I'll let the voices of those who mourn for him speak:

I love Ronald Reagan because I feel that he stands for good, period. I agree with everything he says and everything he does. I would never say the same thing about anyone else, other than the Pope and Michael Jackson."
Penned in behind a strip of yellow police tape outside number 668 St Cloud Road in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of Bel Air, Paul Whitney was witnessing a small moment in American history and mourning the death of the country's 40th president.
"I'm overwhelmed," he said. "It's a big surprise. I thought he'd just go on and on, like Bob Hope. He lived to be 100."

As the news spread, people gathered to pay their respects and - occasionally - voice criticism of Reagan's policies. "I grew up in the 80s, I was a Reagan kid," said Jim Frye. "The thing that was different about Ronald Reagan was that he made you feel good about being an American. He had core principles and stuck to them."
"He was an idiot," countered LaShan Bramtam, who worked for the Reagan and Ford administrations. "I didn't agree with his politics. He was good in foreign policy but in domestic politics, the economy, we went into debt under him. Either you love him or you hate him. He wasn't one of those people you could stay in the middle."
Ms Bramtam, along with her friend Jacqueline Washington, were unlikely mourners for Reagan, both describing themselves as Democrats. "It's sad when someone dies," said Ms Washington. "We came here out of respect."

At 5.15pm the gates of the Reagan estate were opened and a hearse slowly made its way down the drive. Inside was a coffin draped with the American flag. Four assistants walked alongside the vehicle, each with one hand on its roof. The hearse negotiated the corner into the lane and Ronald Reagan left 668 St Cloud Road for the last time.
"I'll tell you something about this place," said Ms Hinton, who has lived in the area for 26 years. "It used to be number 666, but the Reagans petitioned to get the number changed