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Molly Ivins, the liberal newspaper columnist who delighted in skewering politicians and interpreting, and mocking, her Texas culture, has died in Austin.
Ivins waged a public battle against breast cancer after her disease was diagnosed in 1999. Betsy Moon, her personal assistant, confirmed her death Wednesday night. Ivins died that day at her home surrounded by family and friends.
In her syndicated column, which appeared in about 350 newspapers, Ivins cultivated the voice of a folksy populist who derided those who acted too big for their britches. She was rowdy and profane, but she could fillet her ideological opponents with droll precision.
After Patrick Buchanan, as a conservative candidate for president, declared at the 1992 Republican National Convention that America was engaged in a cultural war, she said his speech "probably sounded better in the original German."
"There are two kinds of humor," she told People magazine. One was the kind "that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity," she said. "The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule.
Hers was a feisty voice that she developed in the early 1970s at The Texas Observer, the muckraking biweekly that would become her spiritual home for life.
To her, the Great State, as she called it (Texas), was "reactionary, cantankerous and hilarious," and its Legislature was "reporter heaven."
Her Texas upbringing made her something of an expert on the Bush family. She viewed the first President George H.W. Bush benignly. ("Real Texans do not use the word 'summer' as a verb," she wrote.)
But she derided the current president, George W. Bush, whom she first knew in high school. She called him Shrub and Dubya. With the Texas journalist Lou Dubose, she wrote two best- selling books about Bush: "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and "Bushwhacked."
Her first newspaper jobs were at The Houston Chronicle and The Minneapolis Tribune, now The Star Tribune.
Covering the statehouse, she found characters whose fatuousness helped focus her calling and define her persona, which her friends saw as populist and her detractors saw as manufactured corn pone.
In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by "truly impressive amounts of beer," landed her a job at The New York Times.
She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans, going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive.
While she drew important writing assignments, like covering the Son of Sam killings and Elvis Presley's death, she sensed she did not fit in and complained that Times editors drained the life from her prose. "Naturally, I was miserable, at five times my previous salary," she later wrote. "The New York Times is a great newspaper: it is also No Fun."
Covering an annual chicken slaughter in New Mexico in 1980, she used a sexually suggestive phrase, which her editors deleted from the final article. But her attempt to use it angered the executive editor, A.M. Rosenthal, who ordered her back to New York and assigned her to City Hall, where she covered routine matters with little flair.
She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town "that would have rooted for Goliath to beat David."
But the paper, she said, promised to let her write whatever she wanted. When she declared of a congressman, "If his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day," many readers were appalled, and several advertisers boycotted the paper. Her editors rented billboards that read: "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?" The slogan became the title of the first of her six books.
After The Times Herald folded in 1991, she wrote for The Fort Worth Star- Telegram, until 2001, when her column was syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
Summarized by Copernic Summarizer
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Originally Posted to Pam's Coffee Conversation at 4/04/2006 12:35:40 AM
Published on Friday, March 31, 2006 by TruthDig
Immigration 101 for Beginners and Non-Texans
by Molly Ivins
In 1983, I was a judge at the Terlingua Chili Cookoff, and my memory of the events may not be perfectfor example, for years I've been claiming Jimmy Carter was president at the time, but that's the kind of detail one often loses track of in Terlingua.
Anyway, it was '83 or some year right around there when we held The Fence climbing contest. See, people talked about building The Fence back then, too. The Fence along the Mexican border. To keep Them out.
At the time, the proposal was quite specifica 17-foot cyclone fence with bob wire at the top. So a test fence was built at Terlingua, and the First-Ever Terlingua Memorial Over, Under or Through Mexican Fence Climbing Contest took place. Prize: a case of Lone Star beer. Winning time: 30 seconds.
I tell this story to make the one single point about the border and immigration we know to be true: The Fence will not work. No fence will work. The Great darn Wall of China will not work. Do not build a fence. It will not work. They will come anyway. Over, under or through.
Some of you think a fence will work because Israel has one. Israel is a very small country. Anyone who says a fence can fix this problem is a demagogue and an ass.
Numero Two-o, should you actually want to stop Mexicans and OTMs (other than Mexicans) from coming to the United States, here is how to do it: Find an illegal worker at a large corporation. This is not difficultbrooms and mops are big tipoffs. Then put the CEO of that corporation in prison for two or more years for violating the law against hiring illegal workers.
Got it? You can also imprison the corporate official who actually hired the illegal and, just to make sure, put some Betty Sue Billupshousewife, preferably one with blond hair in a flipin the joint for a two-year stretch for hiring a Mexican gardener. Thus Americans are reminded that the law says it is illegal to hire illegal workers and that anyone who hires one is responsible for verifying whether or not his or her papers are in order. If you get fooled and one slips by you, too bad, you go to jail anyway. When there are no jobs for illegal workers, they do not come. Got it?
Of course, this has been proposed before, because there is nothing new in the immigration debate. As the current issue of Texas Monthly reminds us, the old bracero program dating from World War II was actually amended in 1952 to pass the "Texas proviso," shielding employers of illegal workers from criminal penalties. They got the exemption because Texas growers flat refused to pay the required bracero wage of 30 cents an hour. Instead of punishing Texas growers for breaking the law, Congress rewarded them.
In 1986, the Reagan administration took a shot at immigration reform and reinstated penalties on employers. They weren't enforced worth a darn, of course. In 2004, only three American companies were threatened with fines for hiring illegal workers. Doesn't work if you don't enforce it.
This brings us to the great Republican divide on the issue. Conservatives, in general, are anti-immigrant for the same reasons they have always been anti-immigranta proud tradition in our nation of immigrants going back to the days of the Founders, when Ben Franklin thought we were going to be overrun by Germans. But Business likes illegal workers. The Chamber of Commerce lobbies for them. It's lobbying now for a new bracero program. What a bonanza for Bidness.
Old-fashioned anti-immigrant prejudice always brings out some old-fashioned racists. This time around, they have started claiming that Mexicans can't assimilate. A sillier idea I've never heard. Why don't they come to Texas and meet up with Lars Gonzales, Erin Rodriguez and Bubba at the bowling alley. They can drink some Lone Star, listen to some conjunto and chill.
Racists seem obsessed by the idea that illegal workersthe hardest-working, poorest people in Americaare somehow getting away with something, sneaking goodies that should be for Americans. You can always avoid this problem by having no social services. This is the refreshing Texas model, and it works a treat.
Aren't y'all grateful that we're down here doing exactly nothing for the people of our state, legal or illegal? Think what a terrible message it would send if you swapped Texas with Vermont, and they all got healthcare. In Texas, we never worry about illegals taking advantage of social benefits provided by our taxpayers. Incredibly clever, no?
One nice thing about the benefit of long experience with la frontera is that we in Texas don't have to run around getting all hysterical about immigrants. The border is porous. When you want cheap labor, you open it up; when you don't, you shut it down. It works to our benefitit always has.
© 2006 Creators Syndicate
For more in-depth discussion on the Illegal Immigration Issue visit Get the Facts & Get Involved at 3/29/2006 04:05:17 PM
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Originally posted to Pam's Coffee Conversation at 7/30/2006 09:48:38 PM
Originally published on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 by TruthDig
Run Bill Moyers For President, Seriously
by Molly Ivins
Dear desperate Democrats:
Here's what we do. We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It's simple, cheap, and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.
The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy.
Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War. Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He's no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens mindshe doesn't scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others.
Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me.
Then why run him? Think, imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate
what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn't triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn't have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called "unpatriotic." And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.
It won't take much moneyfile for him in a couple of early primaries and just get him into the debates. Think about the potential Democratic candidates. Every single one of them needs spine, needs political courage. What Moyers can do is not only show them what it looks like and indeed what it is, but also how people respond to it. I'm damned if I want to go through another presidential primary with everyone trying to figure out who has the best chance to win instead of who's right. I want to vote for somebody who's good and brave and who should win.
One time in the Johnson years, LBJ called on Moyers to say the blessing at a dinner. "Speak up, Bill," Lyndon roared. "I can't hear you." Moyers replied, "I wasn't speaking to you, sir." That would be the point of a run by Moyers: He doesn't change to whom he is speaking just because some president is yelling at him.
To let Moyers know what you think of this idea, write him at
© 2006 TruthDig.com, LLC