Saturday, January 31, 2009

We have a winner

It's official. Sinfonian won the South Florida Daily, Post of the Year. Thanks to everyone who put up with my incessant badgering and voted. It wouldn't have happened without you.

And a special thanks to the community at Balloon Juice who came through with a major blitz at the last minute. Balloon Juicers are good people. They rock my socks off.

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Rest in peace Molly Ivins

Today is the second anniversary of Molly Ivins death. To mark the occassion, here's a few of her quotes.
I still believe in Hope - mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas.

You can't ignore politics, no matter how much you'd like to.

It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.

Conservatives have been mad at the Supreme Court since it decided to desegregate the schools in 1954 and seen fit to blame the federal bench for everything that has happened since then that they don’t like.

There's never been a law yet that didn't have a ridiculous consequence in some unusual situation; there's probably never been a government program that didn't accidentally benefit someone it wasn't intended to. Most people who work in government understand that what you do about it is fix the problem -- you don't just attack the whole government.

What you need is sustained outrage...there's far too much unthinking respect given to authority.
I really miss her. She left us too soon.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear elite journalists - it's not all about you

I generally think of David Cay Johnston as one of the better investigative journalists, as the establishment types go, but this piece at CJR just set my teeth grinding this morning. Johnston scolds the new White House press office for failing to respond properly to his inquiries. He tells the press office that 'us little people' get our news mainly from guys like him, the implication being that they should treat him with more deference. Actually, scold may be the wrong word. The piece comes off as vaguely threatening.

He irresponsibly publishes the phone number for the press office, twice, in the piece. Ironically, even as he complains about the technical problems there, the CJR site is apparently having technical problems of its own, having twice told me that my comment was rejected. Judging from the doubled comment posts, mine will either also appear twice or not at all. Assuming it may be the latter, I'll post my comment here.
Remembering the thousands of times that the media uncritically regurgitated White House propaganda proffered by "unnamed sources," I'm having a little trouble understanding the substance of your complaint here. This administration is coming into office at a time of extreme turmoil far beyond any administration in recent history. And it's entirely possible the outgoing admin, crashed the communications system, deliberately or inadvertently, making it more difficult to manage incoming calls.

And surely you realize that publishing the phone number for the press office is likely to generate a huge wave of calls from every nutcase with a complaint, who will pretend to be a journalist. A cynical person might think you were trying to make the transition even more difficult. Which I guess would be good for some trivial 'gotcha' piece like this. For the good of a smooth transition, not so much.

And what was this earthshaking story that you're so offended they wouldn't give their undivided attention to? Frankly, "how the Obama press secretary’s office is operating and what its tone will be" is only important to the media. Trust me on this. The average Jake on the street doesn't give a flying leap about it.
To be fair, Johnston also posted his own phone number. Maybe a few hundred people should call him today and ask him to spell his name and give his title and ask him what exactly he's investigating. That ought to do wonders for his ability to get some real work done.

Update: There's a note with the comment section that tells you it may take a few minutes for your comment to appear. It doesn't say you'll get an erroneous message telling you it was rejected. So, my comment did get published -- twice. Guess even the mighty press can suffer quirky technical issues. Perhaps Mr. Johnston can investigate that and report back with the name and job title of the person who will be repairing it along with full details on how CJR is operating and what its tone will be.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

They have no shame - Updated

Word has it the financial industry, those inventors of the 'creative instruments' that got us into this mess, who are sitting on $350 billion of our tax dollars, passed out some $18 billion in bonuses in 2008. That's apparently not much less then they got in 2004. Our president is not pleased.
"It is shameful," Obama said from the Oval Office. "And part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility."
I suppose industry wide, there were some rank and file workers that really did deserve a bonus, but I'm betting the bulk of the money went to upper level management who really didn't. Either way it makes the stimulus harder to sell. Remembering the last minute rule change by the White House to the conditions of that bailout, a cynical person might think this was a feature of Bush's contribution to the TARP plan.

Update: The Caucus has a fuller quote. Unsurprisingly, the wire story paraphrased. Part of the problem here, besides the obvious greed, is it makes the stimulus bill harder to sell. Here's a key added sentence:
The American people understand that we’ve got a big hole that we’ve got to dig ourselves out of — but they don’t like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they’re being asked to fill it up.
I'd also note that the figures only represent monetary bonuses and don't include stock options so the real numbers are possibly much higher.

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Media Bytes - Time has come today

Song in my head thanks to TKK. Meanwhile, I'm off for what I hope is my last dentist appointment for a long time so here's some quick reading to amuse you while I'm gone.

Equal pay for equal work. Obama signs the Ledbetter Act.

Surprising no one, the stimulus bill passed the house without a single GOP vote and ten turncoat Blue Dog Dems joined in to vote for a failed economy.

Mark Halperin at Time blames Obama for not allowing the GOPers to write the bill.

But Hilzoy points out, the bi-partisan strategy worked in that it draws a bright line between Obama's willingness to listen and the GOPer's outright obstruction.

There's a anti-Limbaugh petition circulating and a boycott of his advertisers as well.

The UN's point man on drug issues wonders if TARP was really a drug money laundering operation.

Save alt-weekly comics.

You can now see Dick Cheney's house from anywhere.

And ending on a musical note today. This a'capella Finnish group is amazing.

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The 'liberal' media

Judging from the lineup of guests on the teevee, the blitherati of the elite media apparently didn't notice that the GOP is no longer in control of anything.
In total, from 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 24 times. Surprisingly, Fox News came the closest to offering balance, hosting 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. CNN had only one Democrat compared to 7 Republicans.


This on top of the nearly non-stop bloviating about an irrelevant preliminary CBO report that was mentioned 81 times on Sunday. I don't have numbers for who reported on the actual final report, which came to a much different conclusion, but I'm willing to bet it was a lot less. Probably close to zero.

And how ironic is it that Faux News showed the most balance on their guest list?

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random thought

It must be very weird for our Congresslizards to be dealing with a President that actively engages them after eight years of being virtually ignored.

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Drunk with power

This should be an interesting party. President Obama is hosting 22 Congressional leaders at a little reception at the White House tonight. The guest list is equally divided between Dems and GOPers, including the usual suspects like Reid, Pelosi, McConnell, Cornyn and Boehner.

The cocktail chatter ought to be very interesting coming on the heels of today's expected vote on the stimulus bill. And who knows? Maybe an evening of free booze will foster that elusive bi-partisan spirit where appeals to higher ideals have failed.

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One giant Ponzi scheme

I was calling Bushenomics a Ponzi scheme way before it was cool, but even I didn't suspect the full breadth of the scam. The investment bankers, and the hedge funders and guys like Madoff get all the press, but it appears there were probably hundreds of mini-Madoffs who are just now being discovered as panicked investors try to snatch back their cash from the greasy palms of snake oil salesmen. Too late.

[graphic via gaping void]

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The oldest con game in DC

Yes it's the myth of bi-partisanship and for some inexplicable reason the GOPers get to set the rules whether or not they're in power. I understand the lofty ideal that Obama is striving for here, but face it Mr. President, the GOPers cheat. They marked the cards and they're pulling the oldest bluff in the book. So you can pull all the sensible provisions they demand be eliminated, like money for family planning and they're still going to pull that royal flush out of their sleeve when it comes to the roll call.

It's not even about the money
The Medicaid provision had become controversial over the past few days not because of its monetary value -- in fact, it would save states an estimated $400 million over 10 years -- but because Republicans had loudly moaned that it amounted to "taxpayer funding" for "the abortion industry."
You can try to placate them and take out every piddling thing that will benefit working class people from education funding, to the token few million for the arts and rehabbing the National Mall. You can ante up more of the same failed tax cut strategies that got us into this mess. They're still going to leave you empty handed when it comes to the votes.

Screw bi-partisanship. The GOPers have nothing to gain by helping you and they won't do it. You made a good faith effort. Just call their bluff for a real change. Take ownership of the stimulus, on your own terms, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

House subpoenas Rove

This could get interesting. The House Dems are taking another shot at testing the limits of Rove's claimed executive privilege by forcing him to testify.
Michigan Rep. John Conyers, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Monday issued a subpoena to Mr. Rove, seeking his appearance at a deposition Feb. 2. Mr. Conyers wants the former aide to President George W. Bush to answer questions on the Justice Department's firings of U.S. attorneys in 2006, among other matters.
The courts already held that Rove is required to appear, even if he refuses to speak. Of course, he ignored the order as long as Bush was there to protect him. Now we'll get to see how Obama handles this call for transparency.
"Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it," Mr. Conyers said. "After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk."
Part of me wishes Conyers had waited a while on this one. It's not like we don't have more pressing problems or even more important inquiries into Bush administration misconduct. But if the end result is that Rove is finally held accountable, for anything, it could be worth it.

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Quick reads

I've had terrible connectivity problems this morning, so here's a few links that I don't have much to say about to get you started.

The contest for RNC chair gets uglier by the minute. The GOPers are now eating their own.

Professional malfeasor Eliott Abrams and perverse incentives.

Memories. Thain, in case you haven't heard is the ex-Merrill CEO who spent $1.2 million remodeling his office, including a $1,400 trash can.

Who could have predicted that the GOPers would deal in bad faith? Besides all of us I mean.

YouTubes of a BBC documentary on US health care. Not otherwise available in the US. Watch it before someone takes it down.

Foods that are good for you. Beets and cabbage top the list and Swiss Chard is really easy to grow. I thought it most interesting that they listed purslane which was a common weed that always took over my gardens up north. I used to compost mountains of it. Good to know it's edible. The way things are going, we might all be eating roadside weeds before it's over.

And just for fun. I loved the perfect juxtaposition in this photo.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane - Updated

Assuming it's true, since it comes from the just barely above tabloid NY Post, Citigroup, recipient of some $45 billion in bailout bucks, is purchasing a $50 million corporate jet.
The French-made luxury jet seats up to 12 in a plush interior with leather seats, sofas and a customizable entertainment center, according to Dassault's sales literature. It can cruise 5,950 miles before refueling and has a top speed of 559 mph.
Granted they put in the order a couple of years ago when they believed the bubble would never burst but now that they're on the government dole, you might think they would have cancelled it.

The investment bank bailout has become simply ridiculous. These guys should be flying commercial instead of taking private jets and taking cabs instead of paying hundreds of thousands for private limos. But they have no incentive to answer the call to sacrifice as long as the Fed keeps showering them with billions of dollars for nothing of any real value in return.

At this point nationalizing the banks for the short term looks rather attractive. It would seem to be the only way to ensure some measure of accountability and responsible stewardship. I think it's time.

Update: No one can accuse the White House of inattention. Someone from Treasury called Citigroup and told them to get real and either sell it or lease it out.

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Bread, not bombs

Diane catches an op-ed by George McGovern that speaks to my life long belief.
So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war -- unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?
McGovern suggests we use the war funds for a food program that would deliver the equivalent of free school lunches to every child in Afghanistan and other poverty stricken countries where hunger is as big, or bigger, a threat than terrorism. Maybe extend it to a food program for mothers along the lines of the WIC program here. He uses as an example his own agency that is currently doing such work and co-ordinating under the UN umbrella.

With the mere mention of the UN sending Republicans into apoplexy, I'm not sure Obama could sell the idea in that form, but the basic plan is sound. You can win a lot more hearts and minds with a belly full of food than you can with a bevy of bombs and bullets. And as a added bonus, we might be able to at least partly solve the long neglected problem of world hunger.

I'm going to contact President Obama and tell him I think it's a great idea. I'd urge you to do the same. [hat tip Avedon]

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Bad faith objections

Krugman slaps the stimulus plan objectors this morning. The opening graf sums it up.
As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.
To paraphrase Krugman, the sum total of their arguments is to throw as much crap at the wall as they can and see if anything sticks.

This would be more amusing if they weren't frightening so many low info folks with their bogus arguments. I don't see how this sort of irresponsible partisanship can be called anything but traitorous.

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Kristol kicked out at NYT

The only part worth reading is the very last line. This is William Kristol’s last column. Oh happy day. Now if they would just take him off my teevee...

Update: Attaturk gets the last laugh. Click over, if only for the graphic.

Update II: Thanks to our fine wingnut welfare system, Kristol will not be standing in the unemployment line. WaPo will be scraping up the NYT's leavings.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Barack: Don't drop bombs

I've been feeling like a kid at Christmas who got all the presents she asked for and then some since Obama stepped into office. I've been awestruck by the scope and breadth of the orders he's signed so far. But he disappointed me greatly with this airstrike in Pakistan.

It's unclear how many people died, but it's indisputable that some innocents were mixed in with the terrorists we might have killed with bombs dropped from unmanned drones. Even worse, to my knowledge, there has been no official statement on it from the White House.

This is wrong on so many levels, but Cernig sums up one of the most important reasons.
And I simply don't believe the possible death of a "possible terrorist leader" is worth three children's lives under any circumstances. There's no point to reclaiming the moral high ground by closing prisons and banning torture if you're going to hand it away again with indiscriminate airstrikes - and airstrikes are by their nature indiscriminate despite what the PR brochures on "precision" bombs might say.
Exactly. Anonymous airstrikes like this don't eliminate the power structure of the terrorists and for every innocent that dies, a thousand potential terrorists are born. Bad strategy. It's simply not worth it.

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Sad

Well I just made it official. With tears in my eyes, I formally announced my indefinite hiatus from Newshoggers. I'm just in an impossible place right now, struggling against the blackest depression and most amped up anxiety I've ever experienced. I'm feeling the need to hunker down here with you my dear friends and readers, where I feel safe. Still it makes me very sad to think this is my last post at Newshoggers for the foreseeable future.

I, of course, will still be reading their fine work and I hope you still do too. If you only read one blog, Newshoggers should be the one. Well make that two. You should also be reading my colleagues at The Reaction, where I'm still on the masthead, even though I've contributed nothing of late.

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Media Bytes - Just My Imagination Edition

Song in my head. I miss the old Motown. Meanwhile, I imagine I'll never keep up with all the new blogs my friends are starting. American Nihilist has some familiar names on the contributor's list.

On the other hand, we're also losing bloggers. I was sad to discover Hart Williams is hanging up his keyboard. His goodbye posts are here and here.

One blogger who isn't quitting is the man of a million blogs, NTodd. Today he's inventing chants. [via Hecate]

John Perr posts an impressive collection of graphs and studies that show how Democrats do economy better.

Stone Soup Kathy has something to add about the not so smart GOP policies.

Kevin Hayden says. It's not the conservatives. "It’s Republicans that have gone mental. So don’t dignify their words and deeds with the dubious claim that they are conservative. They conserve nothing."

Dan muses on failures of courage - not law.

NBFHubris has something for the anti-choice, hetero relationships only crowd to reflect on. (Warning, this is a disturbing post.)

I've been looking at where wingnuts live. I hear little Tommy Friedman has exchanged his FU for the new Friedman window. Looking at his house, I guess he should know from windows.

And of course, head GOP gasbag, Limbaugh's house doesn't resemble my humble shack. Neither does his lifestyle resemble my own. Sadly, hatemongering seems to pay well.

But to end on a cheery note, what is it with drunken talking heads on the teevee lately. Tell me if you think Anderson Cooper looks buzzed in this clip. And Jules has a short Jon Stewart clip that's amusing. I guess the comedians will still be able to find material even though Bush has finally skulked out of town. So there's that.

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Defanging the fanatics

Capt. Fogg has been blazing lately. In today's must reads he fricassees the Chicken Littles of Faux News:
The people who watch Fox usually don't watch anything else. They have no idea that the lies and distortions they've been hearing are often repudiated and disproved by all the other news services. They haven't a clue that one of the largest anti-American campaigns, indeed the most organized program of treason against truth, justice and democracy is broadcasting 24 hours a day. Fox is using and will use everything they can find to undermine confidence in our government and anything it does and as you can see is hoping our country will fall and our hopes will fail. To me, it constitutes as great a danger to our future as any foreign enemy or global economic collapse. Traitors, saboteurs, liars and purveyors of irrational hate, Fox News is the enemy and anyone who hopes not just for our survival, but our improvement owes it to the world to use every opportunity to expose them.
Really. Read the whole post and then read his takedown of Limbaugh from his unique perspective as Limbaugh's neighbor.

I go back and forth on whether to ignore these cretins to deny them the attention they crave or to actively work to derail them at the risk of simply spreading their hateful rhetoric. I think Fogg probably gets it right. To the extent that we can expose their lies, we should do it.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Media Bytes - Take Me to the River edition

Song in my head. Love these guys almost as much as I love finding out a friend has a blog I didn't know about until they unexpectedly drop in to comment. Like my long time list serv pal, R. Clayton McKee.

Wingnut pearl clutching obsession of the day, is Obama vs. Limbaugh. Our president apparently said “You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get anything done." This is widely interpreted in certain circles as a nefarious plot to silence the fetid gasbag. I would think the operative word here was just, as in you can't only listen to Rush and expect to make intelligent decisions.

Yesterday it was Barack's refusal to turn an informal meet and greet into a press conference that had the cheeto eaters howling about his fear of substantive questions. Watch the video and decide for yourself if Obama looked intimidated.

Phila looks at things to come.

I liked the poetic justice of this. Former US Atty David Iglesias, who was purged by Bush during Attorneygate, gets a great new job in Obama's administration.

Jim Hightower in a piece on Ponzi schemer Madoff, notices that only in America: "If you steal a little you go to jail. If you steal billions, you go to your penthouse." [via]

Not that you probably care, but Palin's fabulous $180,000 campaign wardrobe has been returned to the RNC. It's now reportedly stashed at RNC HQ in trash bags. GOP donors are not happy.

People who are happy. The people around the world celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama.

And if you were wondering what was really happening behind the scenes on inauguration day at the White House ...

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Tasteless

Hardly earthshaking items but this makes me very sad. In the early 70s, I used to go to The Lafayette Bakery all the time. They always had the most beautiful pies in the window. I would often take one home when I left the city. But now, these cookies aren't just tasteless, they're ugly and I hope the bakery goes out of business.

Same for the Ty corporation and their lame-brained marketing of what I'm told is their first ever African-American beanie dolls, "coincidentally" named Sasha and Malia. Michelle Obama called it inappropriate. I might have used the words scum-sucking greedheads, and I don't have enough insulting adjectives for the Neanderthal commenters at the post who suggest that the girls were used as props on the campaign trail and are thus "fair game." And even more confounding, these brain dead, dead-enders use the Palin kids as a counter example.

Odd that I don't remember seeing the Obama daughters more than a few times in two years on the campaign trail and only for the big events. Otherwise, they were home with grandma. On the other hand, it was rare indeed to see a rally or interview where the unfortunate Palin kids weren't dragged into the spotlight by their mother.

And I was going to let this one pass, but really, how obtuse do you have to be to blame the books? I mean, how difficult could it be for a college professor to make the logical connection between an empty store and a failing economy?

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McConnell softens stance on stimulus

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell toned down the rhetoric against the proposed stimulus bill in a speech at the National Press Club yesterday. We almost had a live report from the scene but our correspondent was pre-emptively kicked out for consorting with The Pink.

Now it may be that McConnell was cowed by Obama's pithy reminder about who holds the political capital on Capitol Hill but I think it's more likely the GOPers read the results of lead Republican pollster Frank Luntz's latest survey.
A near unanimous 94% of Americans are concerned about our nation's infrastructure. And this concern cuts across all regions of the country and across urban, suburban and rural communities.
A breakdown of the figures shows that a vast majority of Americans want the government to spend money to improve the infrastructure and are even willing to pay more taxes to see it happen. This includes a startling 74% of Republicans. With numbers like that I believe we can expect to see that particular bit of GOP obstructionism to disappear as if it had never existed.

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On the radio...

It was kind of crazy day here yesterday so I didn't get around to blogging. I did do something rather stunning though. I stepped way out of my comfort zone and called in to NTodd's live podcast, Paxlive, and talked on the air. I couldn't hear it while I was talking so I listened to the archived audio this morning. Ridiculously, my heart started pounded when it was coming up to my segment. But I sounded a little better than I thought I did while I was babbling live. I had to wince a little though, hearing how often I said, "you know." It made me feel a bit like Caroline Kennedy on her first interview after declaring for Hillary's seat.

If you want to listen for yourself, the show is available on the left sidebar at NTodd's blog. It's the top one called, "In Living Pink." I don't come on until about 40 minutes into the hour long show.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Listing Liberals

I don't think Forbes quite understands what Liberal means when they include little Tommy Friedman and Fred Hiatt high on the list of the 25 most influential Liberals, but it's still worth a click to see who they chose and view the photos. I don't think I've ever seen one of Kevin Drum for instance. He didn't look anything at all like I imagined.

Also interesting is how many bloggers made the list. All of them are the usual suspects among the A-listers and associated with big media in some way, but still, four years ago I doubt they would have featured any bloggers. So there's that.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trusting Obama

What a difference two days make. For all the fringe right sniping about the Obamessiah, nothing about the man speaks of ego. I don't recall a president in my lifetime saying this:
Speaking to his senior staff, Obama said, "However long we are keepers of the public trust, we should never forget that we are here as public servants, and public service is a privilege. It's not about advantaging yourself. It's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It's not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization. Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans."
Get that? He thinks of himself as a public servant and he expects the rest of the Beltway to take that notion to heart. I, for one, am finding this kind of language very heartening.

To put in context, he was also unveiling new rules to lock the revolving door between K Street and the halls of power. Yesterday Barack announced that government officials would "not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or White House agencies you lobbied during the last two years." Today he announced that "His aides are barred from lobbying any executive agency for the life of the Obama administration. That means an appointee who leaves the White House in, say, 2010 would be barred from lobbying the executive branch until 2017 if Obama were to serve two terms."

I know he's likely to disappoint me eventually but so far, all I'm feeling is awe and relief. It's like I woke up from a really scary nightmare and found myself safe in familiar surroundings again.

Update: Joe Gandelman describes it as a return to normalcy.

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Give the people what they want

The smug blitherati of the Beltway, self-appointed keepers of the conventional Beltway widom, insist daily that they know what Americans think. The polling suggests otherwise. It seems a majority of Americans don't want us to torture, do want to see Gitmo closed, want due process in US courts of law, even for alleged terrorists and think the Bush White House should be at least investigated to determine the extent of their illegal activities.

The only Americans who don't want this are the elite media and staunch Republicans. Shocking. Think it has anything to do with complicity?

Update: Barack gets it. He shut down the secret CIA prisons today.

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Shorter White House press corps

ZMOG! It's been almost two whole days. Why has Obama failed to change everything?

Longer: Gibbs did well on his first outing with the smug WATBs that dare to call themselves journalists. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad to see them asking questions again instead of simply taking steno, but we need better questions. Maybe they just forgot how to do it. The only two who deserved to be in the gaggle were Helen Thomas and I think it may have been David Corn who asked something reasonably intelligent.

Meanwhile, I missed Barack's presser. Anybody catch it?

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Hello Accountability

Goodbye executive privilege. Via watertiger:
For Immediate Release January 21, 2009
EXECUTIVE ORDER
- - - - - - -
PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish policies and procedures governing the assertion of executive privilege by incumbent and former Presidents in connection with the release of Presidential records by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, it is hereby ordered as follows:

... Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.
BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
Mojo explains the significance.
"[Obama]'s putting former presidents on notice that if you want to continue a claim of executive privilege that [Obama] doesn't think is well-placed, you're going to have to go to court," says Anne Weismann, the chief counsel for Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW).
Let the FOIA requests begin...

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Media Bytes - Nothing Compares to You Edition

I still have Sinead in my head this week. Damn you and your addictive game Simels.

In the excitement of the regime change, I didn't get around to some links worth reading so a quick catch up post starting with the man who started a world wide meme, the throwing of the shoes. The Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who is still being held in prison, will be applying for asylum to Switzerland.

More signs of "liberal bias" in the media. Cooking the books on inaugural costs. It's hacktacular!

This was heartwarming. An Iraqi dog and his soldier are reunited. I only wish we would be seeing stories like this about orphaned Iraqi children.

Biggest disappointment of the inaugural. CNN's satellite image of the crowd. Maybe it was just the big buildup but I didn't find it that exciting. By the way, as always the estimates vary wildly, but 1.8 million seems to be about right to me. And all of them smiling and joyous. No egg throwing at the limo this time around.

JP's catblogging is always a treat, but he adds an bonus link to a punch drunk Diane Sawyer who was allegedly just exhausted after broadcasting for 24 hours at the inaugural. I don't know. She sounds pretty much just drunk to me. Hilarious stuff.

Over at the Swash Zone, my pal Fogg follows the trail of slime that Cheney left behind and translates the Faux News tribute to our departing Dear Leader as only he can, while our favorite cephalopod rounds up the international opinion on the Bush legacy.

Another Impolitic alumni, ex-pat Brian is once again Proud to be an American. Me too.

For the record. I loved Aretha's hat. Not everyone could carry that off, but I thought it suited her.

Heretik says it all with photoshops. The great escape and the new rules. Read the posts too.

Moving on to the unpolitical, DLB has some new bread porn and my sister, finds some new ice that looks nice.

And ending a sad note today, belated condolences to Mad Kane. Tough to go through so much loss at once.

[As usual, some links come from Avedon, whom you should be reading daily.]

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Media Bytes - Do You Believe in Magic Edition

Song in my head. I'm believing in it, for today at least and so apparently are a lot of other people.

This is the funniest post of the inaugural. Facebook Status Updates from Bush Devotees, Dimwits & Dead-enders.

And this was inspiring. Yes, there was shoe throwing but I was more impressed by the spontaneous tribute to that other dictator. The analogy feels so apt.

It was even mentioned by the MSM. Amazing that with 2 million people in attendance, there were no arrests. The article also gives a shout out to Code Pink and their brilliant pink ribbon action.

Speaking of Code Pink, our favorite Pinker, NTodd has lots of photos of yesterday's events. Rumor has it due to the wind chill factor he was wearing pants. (Rumor also has it, sometimes he doesn't -- wear them I mean.)

Also, Code Pink gets a bad rap as being vandals but really they have the most creative protests. Make out, not war.

Meanwhile, Uncle Blodge braved the cold and crowds and has more photos. I can't get enough of them myself.

You can't bullshit babies. They just know what's real. You can see it in their eyes.

It takes a long time for kids to learn the subtle devices of grownups. Until then they have the best innate wisdom.

Some never lose it, even when they grow up. Like Tom Tomorrow who posts A Farewell Salute. [h/t GWPDA]

And if you were wondering what the stars were doing last night, they were at this party.

Late addition: JP has the cutest kittens, but click over to this post and check out his links to drunken MSM women. Punch drunk Diane Sawyer. Priceless.

It was such a transformative day. Like magic.

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More change to believe in

Truthfully, I don't understand the significance of this sort of geekery, but it sure sounds like a new transparency in governance. The robots.txt file from whitehouse.gov yesterday had some 2400 lines of code that looks like this:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /query.html
Disallow: /omb/search
Disallow: /omb/query.html
Disallow: /earmarks/search
Disallow: /earmarks/query.html
Disallow: /help
The new code today under the Obama administration
User-agent: *
Disallow: /includes/

That's it! BTW, the robots.txt file tells search engines what to include and not include in their indexes.
Supporting material at the link for you geeks. Maybe I'm just overly impressed by the mysteries of coding, but it looks like a huge difference to me.

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First day on the job

I can't imagine that our new president got much sleep last night, but he has an ambitious schedule for his first day. His first official phone calls were to leaders in the Middle East, which he described as warm conversations.

Of course there were first day glitches. The incoming staff were having computer problems but business is still being conducted. The White House announced several policy mandates. Salaries of White House aides making over $100,000 a year will be frozen. Every federal agency and department has been instructed to make best faith efforts to comply with FOIA requests and the revolving door between K Street and Capitol Hill was slowed down considerably.
He said there would be a two-year, rather than a one-year, waiting period for government officials to be able to work on such issues and said they would "not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or White House agencies you lobbied during the last two years."

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this administration," Obama said in a statement to reporters.
Call me a kool-aid swilling Obamabot who's been co-opted by hope but I have a good feeling about all of this. In any event, it's a welcome change to read the news without raising my blood pressure to unhealthy levels. I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.

Update: How refreshing. No more dress code.

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We Have a Winner! Please vote for Sinfonian

Last Update: This was the most poorly run contest I've ever seen, but in exploring the site further, I see the voting ended at 10:00am this morning. The site now says we have a winner but it doesn't say who but when the voting closed Sinf was ahead by 7 votes, so it had better be him. Thanks to everybody for voting.


UPDATE: I'm bumping this back up to the top because Sinf is down by 20 votes. This is the last day of voting. We need a blitz to put Sinf over the top. If you haven't taken a moment to vote for him, please do.

My on-line friend Sinfonian has been going through some hard times. He is up for a important local award and needs your votes. In times of trouble, a little bloggy love helps. Please take a moment to click through and vote for entry number two, Blast Off - My Date with Debbie.

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Still sinking in...

I have to admit a lot of the joy I felt yesterday wasn't so much about inaugurating a new president as it was to finally be able to say, the former President Bush.


I can still hardly believe that we somehow survived the reign of error.

Update: Apparently I wasn't the only one who found the departure joyful. I didn't hear it in the coverage I watched, but they say there was singing. And some booing.

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Hitting the ground running

One of the biggest reasons I voted for Obama was that I believed we needed a younger person with a lot of energy to tackle the repair job after 8 years of deliberate incompetence. On that score at least, Obama is living up to my expectations. I was exhausted just watching the events unfold and fell asleep before they made it to the last inaugural ball. Yet despite that brutally long day of pomp and ceremony, Obama managed to sign a few executive orders.

His 120 day suspension of all pending Gitmo cases is getting the big press today. I don't know what that means in terms of ultimately shutting down that hell hole, but it seems to me that an executive review is at least a good start. What's clearer is that there will be big changes at the Office for Legal Counsel. The new staff bodes well for a restoration of the rule of law:
Lederman, another former Clinton Office of Legal Counsel lawyer, is perhaps the most prominent of several high-profile opponents of the Bush Administration's executive power claims joining Obama, a mark that he intends not just to change but to aggressively reverse Bush's moves on subjects like torture. With hires like Barron, Johnen, and Lederman, Obama is not just going back to Democratic lawyers: These are anti-Bush lawyers.
President Obama is also making his intentions on the Middle East turmoil clear with the naming of former senator George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy. Mitchell was a key player in Northern Ireland back in the day and the appointment seems to signal that Obama is going to get serious about trying to broker peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Also on Obama's agenda today are meetings with the key military brass and the National Security Council "to launch a reassessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." One hopes it's with an eye to start withdrawing troops.

And finally, the order he signed yesterday calling for a halt in implementing Bush's 11th hour regulatory rule changes will at least stem some of the damage. Sadly, not all of it. Bush beat the clock on some of them.
For example, just six weeks ago, the Bush administration issued revised endangered species regulations to reduce the input of federal scientists and to block the law from being used to fight global warming. [...]

Another Bush administration regulation that went in effect this month overturned a 25-year-old federal rule that severely restricts loaded guns in national parks.
Obama vows to reverse these sort of changes but the process will be lengthier. Still, considering what he got done in the first 24 hours, for the moment I have great hope that our new president will be able to accomplish much more than his critics, or even his supporters, believe is possible.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our new First Family

Mikevotes found the perfect first photo.



Nice to have kids in the White House again.

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Historic firsts

President Obama is not just the first black president. He's not just the first president that wasn't part of the 60s turmoil. He's also the first president with a White House blog. He didn't write the first post, but nonetheless I think it signals a big change for government transparency.

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Send a healing thought

They're reporting that Ted Kennedy just collapsed at the luncheon. Apparently, Sen. Byrd has some kind of medical issue as well. Both seated at the same table. Weird. Send Byrd a healing thought too.

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Finally.... (Updated)

Over. Still looking for a shot of the helicopter leaving with Bush in it. But savor this. A shadow lifts a little and a new age begins as they wheel out the Prince of Darkness. Many are remarking of the resemblence to Mr. Potter.


It's hard to believe we made it to the end without them bombing Iran. I'm so glad I was wrong about that. [photo via]

Finally found photos of Bush leaving at my own Detroit News.





I wonder if they walked him to the helicopter to make sure he would really leave. This was the moment I finally heaved that great sign of relief. He's really gone. It's really over. I still can't believe we survived it.

And I swear Justice Roberts screwed up the oath on purpose. I hear Alito refused to show up at all. Petty little bastids. TP has the video and a transcript of the inaugural address.

I'm still processing the address. It was a powerful speech. Very serious. No sense of jubliation but strong on outlining the way forward. In complete sentences. Takes longer to parse. I need to mull it over for a while.

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Happy Inauguration Day

We did it! We survived the worst presidency of our lifetimes. Yeah for us. As the dirty effin hippies used to say, "It's a new dawn."

Videos from local DC teevee. I'm told they're doing great live coverage if you get the station. [h/t Jac]

Michele looks gorgeous. I'm watching CNN instead of CSPAN even though it's irritating because they promised to show a satelite picture from space of the crowd.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Almost there...

We're so close to the end of this long national nightmare. I'm going to make this a sticky post at the top. New content below.

RANDOM THOUGHT: Is anyone else wondering what's going to happen to the countdown clock when it hits zero? I'm hoping for a fireworks display or something. Also, technically, it's 12 hours off since they don't give the oath till noon.

NOTE: The countdown clock was a huge disappointment so in a fit of pique I decided to delete it. Don't need it anymore and it didn't do anything cool like turn into fireworks at noon.

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A change of rhetoric on military spending

Via Avedon, Mary catches Rahm making a suprisingly encouraging analogy when he appeared on Charlie Rose.
For decades our politics have been driven by a call to increase spending on defense so much so that it truly has been the classic third rail of politics. What Rahm said that surprised me was when he was talking to Charlie Rose about being smarter about how we spend money, his very first example was "you can't have a $200 billion cost overrun by the Pentagon when other people are being asked to tighten their belt."
Add that to the announcement that Obama is meeting with Pentagon brass on his first day in office and I'm feeling some hope for the kind of change I can believe in.

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Krugman gets specific

I take back all my unkind complaints about Krugman doing too much generalizing. This opener is rather clear, and amusing besides.
Old-fashioned voodoo economics — the belief in tax-cut magic — has been banished from civilized discourse. The supply-side cult has shrunk to the point that it contains only cranks, charlatans, and Republicans.
And he offers a straightforward suggestion on bailing out investment bankers.
Why go through these contortions? The answer seems to be that Washington remains deathly afraid of the N-word — nationalization. The truth is that Gothamgroup and its sister institutions are already wards of the state, utterly dependent on taxpayer support; but nobody wants to recognize that fact and implement the obvious solution: an explicit, though temporary, government takeover. Hence the popularity of the new voodoo, which claims, as I said, that elaborate financial rituals can reanimate dead banks.
Neither does he mince words when assessing the ideologues among economists. I love it when he talks like that.

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Best inaugural tribute


I just love scale models of all sorts, and the tinier the better so I wish I lived close enough to see the inaugural exhibit at Legoland, CA.
The massive project features more than a thousand mini-figures, including President-elect Barack Obama and his family, vice president-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill, George and Laura Bush, Dick and Lynn Cheney, and George Bush Sr and Barbara Bush.
The figures are amazing easy to identify considering they're made of plastic blocks. I thought the Babs Bush was especially good. [h/t, oddly enough, to jammie guy]

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Going to ride that train to glory

I'm seeing some complaints that the inaugural events are over the top, but I can't get enough of it myself. Looking at the photograhs and watching the videos, I can feel the joy of the people radiating from the computer screen. It makes me smile. If you like it too, The Caucus has a very good rundown of events at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday and mikevotes has a couple more great photos.

I also really liked the little gallery at DR of people who were lined up along the tracks just to watch the train pass by. Clearly a lot of people are feeling connected to our new president in a way that I've never witnessed in the half century I've spent on the planet.

It may be that it's partly simple relief to have a president that speaks so well but it's hard to deny the man is inspiring. I think it bodes well for the future, as difficult as it will be in the short term. [graphic]

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

This land is our land

It does feel like our land again. I'm glad Pete Seeger lived to see the fruits of his labors realized.



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Live Stream from Lincoln Memorial - Updated

Inaugural concert streaming live right now.

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Update: You can still see the whole archived program at the link.

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Wingers go wild over flag desecration - Updated

The wingnuts are getting desperate to find something to complain about. Today's nutosphere selective outrage is over the defacing of the US flag by Obama supporters. I expect they'll be calling the dogs out on Discover Card, Navy Gear store and FlagClothes.com next.

Funny, I don't recall any mass outrage when Bush desecrated a flag on camera. And this insult to Old Glory of course, somehow escaped our wingnut patriots' attention.


Come to think of it, this photo should be on the cover when they write the book about Bush's legacy.

Update: Repsac checks into comments with more horrible flag desecrations by McCain and Mitt Romney among others.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Media Bytes - Emperor's New Clothes Edition

You can blame Steve Simels for the song in my head today. I'm addicted to his weekly Listomania contest.

Say hello to Brian Krenz who kindly linked to The Impolitic on his sidebar at Political Panorama and didn't even tell us. Some good stuff over there. I've added him to the sidebar. I'm also adding regularly to the Atriots section, so check it out if you're looking for new reading.

Meanwhile it's just a little more than two days before we can say goodbye to Bush at last. I'm sure I'm not the only one that's literally counting the minutes since he's going out with a approval rating at 22 percent.

Looking at Doonesbury's straw poll may offer a clue to those dismal numbers.

And TMV says it with pictures. I'm planning to clear out my photo file with a similar post probably tomorrow.

This is a Bush memorial that any DFH can approve of and what a striking study in contrasts.

Bush's handpicked Justice Alito shows his class. Those two are birds of feather.

More victims of the Bushenomic boom. Time was when failed Wall St types would jump out of buildings. Now they just try to disappear.

In the world of science, there is now proof of my theory that nothing is really absolute. They found a measureable blip in the space-time continuum. We may be living in a giant hologram.

Furthermore, I don't think it's aliens, but these lights in the sky are very cool.

This Obama Bacon Man video is also very cool. I loved it and I don't really like that kind of music that much.

And finally for a little eye candy, Andy has a beautiful tribute to his departed kitty and I loved this sunset picture.

[I forgot where these links came exactly but h/tips to various Atriots and I'm sure some of these came from Avedon. They always do.]

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Deducing seducing

Jonathan Martin makes bi-partisanship sound so dirty. His headline at Politico shouts, Obama tries to seduce Republicans! In an apparent attempt to drum up some left wing outrage, he lists the many ways that Obama is reaching out to the opposition in a good faith effort to build bi-partisan consensus.

It's true that some of us have been fighting so long, and have been burned so many times by GOP perfidy that we just can't believe it's possible to deal in good faith with Republican power brokers. Obama apparently believes he can do it. Time will tell who's right, but in the interim, it's clear that Obama is giving it his best efforts despite the constant sniping from both sides of the fence. One suspects that his adversaries fear more for their own future than any sense of what's best for the country.
Said Charles Krauthammer, the longtime conservative columnist who was at Will’s dinner, on Fox News: “You see that since his election he has kind of reached out to people that may not be ideological allies, to Rick Warren, the pastor who will be at his inaugural, to John McCain, whom he has treated with a lot of dignity and respect, and to a bunch of right wing columnists last night, in part, because I think he is a guy who is intellectually curious and wants to exchange ideas, but also in part he wants to co-opt the vast right wing conspiracy.”
Gracious is apparently not in Krauthammer's vocabulary. Notice he uses co-opt instead of co-operate. It's difficult not to notice if Obama succeeds in bringing comity to the process, guys like Chuck will end up looking like cranky old geezers shouting at the kids to get off his lawn if they stick with their same tired memes. They can't exactly accuse Obama of playing partisan politics when he seeks to include everyone.

Meanwhile, it's clear the media elite like Mr. Martin are freaking out that Obama will succeed at putting country above party and personal glory. Going to make it hard to gin up any controversy if everyone is getting along too well. Hell, they might have to do some real reporting, on hard news and important issues and stuff.

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Bush appointees won't go quietly

Two beneficiaries of the infamous Attorney Purge scandal, U.S. Attorneys Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh and Alice Martin of Birmingham are refusing to resign as is customary with an new incoming administration. They're claiming they must stay because they're in hot pursuit of corrupt Democrats and it would be 'unseemly' for the transition team to ask for their resignations.

Buchanan, BFF with Sen. Rick Santorum, was the 'brains' behind the $12 million project, Operation Pipedream, which ultimately sent Tommy Chong to jail for selling art quality glass bongs. Her outstanding case, a partisan witch hunt against "one of the country’s most prominent medical examiners, Dr. Cyril Wecht," who happens to be a bigshot PA Democrat, is predicated on a bucket of petty charges remarkably similar to a complaint made earlier against Santorum that she declined to pursue.

Alice Martin is the 'mastermind' behind the failed prosecutions of Richard Scrushy and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. The Siegelman case was such a glaring example of prosecutorial misconduct that 60 Minutes did a segment on it. "Her conduct has been the subject of repeated investigations by Congress and the Justice Department’s ethics office, several of which are still pending." Maybe she wants to hang on until she can be indicted herself but let her do it as a private citizen.

I could say more, but I think I'll let John Cole handle this one:
Dear President-Elect Obama,

I know you hate confrontation, and that is commendable. However, there needs to be a complete and total wingnut purge at Justice, and these two need to be thrown out on their asses. No questions.

XOXOXOXO,

John Cole (joined by Libby Spencer)
Final word to the Moody Blues -- Go Now.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Better Brooks?

I've been wondering if the dinner party was going to have any effect on the writing, so I broke my pledge of abstinence and read David Brooks today. I think the Obama charm thing may have worked at least a little. It was an interesting column. He's dancing around the far edge of the language but BoBo seems to be saying, maybe promoting the concept that greed is good wasn't such a great idea after all.

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Don't call them entitlements

When I read the headline at the WaPo, Obama Pledges Entitlement Reform, my heart sank. To begin with I hate the term "entitlement program." It makes it sound like something people don't deserve. Congressional salaries and perks are an "entitlement program." The Pentagon's budget is an "entitlement program" for military contractors. Tax breaks for corporations and top wealth holders are "entitlement programs" for rich people. Social Security and Medicare are social safety net programs. The term entitlement to describe them is a Republican device used to demonize the recipients and shred that net. Not the sort of rhetoric I want to hear from an incoming Democratic president.

Of course, as it turned out, Obama didn't really pledge any such thing. His exact quote, buried at the bottom of the article was:
"Social Security, we can solve," he said, waving his left hand. "The big problem is Medicare, which is unsustainable. . . . We can't solve Medicare in isolation from the broader problems of the health-care system."
That I can live with, assuming it's a signal he understands part of the solution to the rising costs of Medicare, which granted are alarming high, is reforming the health care delivery system with an eye towards universal coverage. At least that's what I hope he means.

Nonetheless, I also hope he drops the wrong-headed framing of reform opponents.

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Bush's farewell address

The best I can say for Bush's farewell speech is it was mercifully short. It was so boring, apparently Cheney dozed off for a moment. But leaving aside the robotic delivery, the sense I came away with was that Bush really doesn't understand how awful he was and maybe doesn't fully grasp that in three days, he's not going to be a revered former leader. He's always going to be a failed president.

I didn't really expect him to apologize, but the pep talk using the same banal slogans that defined his fraudulent policies and the brazenly false claims of his 'successes' struck me as so out of touch as to signal a psychotic break. I think he's been "pushing the propaganda" for so long that he actually believes it himself.

David Corn has a list of the failures he didn't address. It's not comprehensive but it's long enough to partly document the epic fail. This bizarre farewell speech will only cement the image of a man-child president who couldn't see outside of a self-created bubble of alternative reality. History, I think, will not be kind to him.

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The rule of law

Krugman nails it in today's column.
And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.
If we don't hold the Bush administration accountable for its crimes, it's a sure bet that the next time the Republicans take power, it will happen again -- see Iran-Contra.

There's no political will inside the Beltway to pursue it because clearly many of the power brokers on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the fence, would be found to be complicit in enabling the abuses. All the more reason the people need to demand "bi-partisan" accountability.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

No room at the table for Palin

President Obama is holding a series of dinners to honor bipartisan champions as part of the festivities for inaugural week. Honorees include Joe Biden, Colin Powell, and John McCain. Notably missing from the McCain guest list is Sarah Palin. John will be introduced by his BFF Linsday Graham.

It's not clear whether she was even invited. I'm guessing if she wasn't, it was by McCain's request. After that last interview I saw, I can't imagine their chilly post-election relations have warmed up very much. I also can't fail to notice that the third Musketeer, Joe Lieberman hasn't been mentioned either. I wonder if he's on the guest list?

The local perspective is at Progressive Alaska and be sure to follow the link to Celtic Diva at that post. It seems our Sarah is playing politics with the stimulus funding and couching her rhetoric with an eye towards the lower 48 at the expense of her own constiutents. They're not happy about it.

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US Air pilot lands in Hudson River - Updated

This is the kind of pilot you want on your next flight. The media is calling it a crash but really the pilot landed that plane safely. A US Airways twin engine plane carrying 150 passengers apparently hit a flock of geese as they were gaining altitude and lost both engines over Manhattan. The pilot managed to land the plane in the only safe place possible -- the Hudson River. All passengers reported injuries but none appear to be major. Incredible. As one airline consultant put it, "Ditching an aircraft is a significant accomplishment on the part of the pilot, as opposed to crashing one. There’s no place for an airplane of that size to land in Manhattan.”

Really. If he had hit a building they would all have been dead. The pilot deserves a commendation. [photo WNBC]

Update: I'm glad to see the pilot, "Sully" Sullenberger, is being hailed as a hero. He already has a fan club on Facebook. He deserves it. I'd also note in passing that no one seems to mention that the Hudson River is a very busy port and it just adds to the awesomeness that he managed to land that plane safely without hitting any boats either.

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The Bailout Game

Found this game at watertiger's place this morning. The background music is annoying but the game is fun. Save the economy without launching the country into a depression. I actually made the leaderboard and had money left over.

My strategy was to explode most of the big financial houses and save the small banks. It was especially satisfying to explode Lehman and AIG.

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The Official Obama portrait

First portrait taken on a digital camera, done by Pete Souza, the new official White House photographer.


I like it. He looks presidential and isn't he really an attractive man? I don't know how much I'm going to like his policies but I think he'll be a good leader, maybe even a great one.

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