Saturday, January 31, 2009

Early Saturday Obama Roundup (excerpts, with video)

"Obama win makes GOP mull tactics" (Nancy Kruh-Detroit Free Press):
Though no longer in the seat of power, the Republicans are still working to influence the affairs of state, and the pundits, of course, still want to have a say in what the Republicans do.
"What A Difference Ten Days Make" (Isaiah J. Poole-BlogforOurFuture):
On Thursday, the Senate followed the House in passing a reauthorization of a child health insurance bill that will mean 4 million more children will have access to health insurance. When the Congress passed similar legislation last year, then-President Bush vetoed the legislation—twice. This time, President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law next week.
"Obama’s Economic Recovery Plan Is Almost As Pure As Ivory Soap" (Bernie Horn-BlogforOurFuture):
In fairness to all, the negotiations took place behind closed doors, leaving us little solid information on which to base opinions. And over the years, we’ve had good reason to be wary of backroom deals in Congress.

But there's good news. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a remarkably “clean” bill. Only between 1½ and 3 percent is being wasted on tax cuts for business. Put another way, the bill is about 98 percent pure—money dedicated to good, progressive causes.
"Replace Daschle with Dean" (Booman):
Howard Dean might not have equivalent connections and political savvy, but he does understand health care and he does deserve a job in the Obama administration. I say that the Obama administration should withdraw Daschle's nomination and replace him with Howard Dean.
Obama accepts lobbyists after all" (MSNBC, video (01:48).

"George Obama Arrested: Obama's Half Brother Charged With Drug Possession In Kenya" (AP).
NAIROBI, Kenya — The half-brother of President Barack Obama was arrested for alleged possession of marijuana on Saturday near his home in a Nairobi shantytown, police said.

George Obama, who is in his 20s and barely knows the president, had one joint of marijuana on him, said Joshua Omokulongolo, the police chief in the area.

"He is not a drug peddler," Omokulongolo told The Associated Press. "But it's illegal, it's a banned substance."

Friday, January 30, 2009

The party of "no"--"Is the GOP the Obstruction Party?" (with video)

The Nation (Gabriela Resto-Montero), with video (04:09):
The Democratic takeover in the House of Representatives left a smaller, more conservative Republican caucus that has little interest in going along with President Obama's proposals. The Nation's Washington editor Chris Hayes compares soliciting GOP advice on the stimulus to asking Quakers to draw up battle plans. He also discusses how the Democratic leadership might change their approach to bipartisanship in the Senate to pass the stimulus.
Howie P.S.: Do we refer to the "Grand Obstruction Party" now?

Rachel Maddow: "Matt Yglesias on GOP opposition of stimulus plan" (video)

MSNBC, video (10:41)

Stimulus Response(s) (Updated)

UPDATE: Greg Palast applauds Obama's moves on the stimulus bill: "Look, don't get your hopes up. But it may turn out the new President's ... a Democrat!"

Stuart Rothenberg:
“I think what the House Republicans did was totally right,” Mr. Rothenberg said. “There is no political benefit for them in being politically co-opted by the new president,” given that most come from districts drawn to be packed with conservative Republican voters.
Howie P.S.: Sounds to me like the "old politics" is alive and well, for now. E. J. Dionne lays out the differences of opinion on stimulus inside the Democratic "family." About the other "family," there's "Republicans in high-stakes challenge to Obama (Reuters)."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"A Free Math Class for the Children's Table"

Al Giordano:
If math were a required subject for blogger-punditry, various members of the Children's Table would have been held back to repeat 2008's class all over again.
But here's David Sirota, fresh off his 0.000 batting average of 2008, as if in a campaign to become Speaker of the Children's Table, romping around with his imaginary playthings again:

The pony riders from the psychedelic fantasyland continue to push the unfathomably stupid theory that Democrats are realistically hoping that by being nice to Republicans on the stimulus bill, Republicans will be more inclined to support the Employee Free Choice Act...

...the GOP will never, ever ever support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Indeed, that's exactly what Republican leader Mitch McConnell has already said...

Those who continue to forward the theory that Democrats are effectively lobotomized and thus think being nice to the GOP will help them pass EFCA are not living on Planet Earth. Democrats are a lot of things - but they aren't that stupid. The only people who are, are those voices who continue to make these inane claims.

Sirota's not alone in that viewpoint, although far fewer buy into that sort of thinking today than ever before, but he is one of the more convenient foils to use as a teaching tool, so, for today, he can be our Exhibit A.

What he is effectively saying, then, is that labor and everyone else ought to give up on the Employee's Free Choice Act - which would lead to the organizing of more unions in more workplaces across the country - because the simple math is that it cannot get approved in the Senate for the next two years without at least some Republicans to vote for "cloture."

If that kind of thinking were true, then you could also kiss goodbye to Immigration Reform, Health Care, a moratorium on home foreclosures, and other upcoming priorities, too, at least until January of 2011, and probably longer because failure now will lead to more failure in the 2010 elections.

I have to wonder aloud if maybe the mocosos at the wee-person's table want it to turn out that way, because perhaps they (errantly) think it would vindicate their complaining over the past year if nothing good happens this year.

But in the event that there is a sincere bone in their growing boy bodies, I'll offer some hot milk and cookies. Okay, kids, pull up your highchairs and gather round for a free math tutorial:

While it's true that in the US House, a simple majority of 50 percent plus one is all that's needed to approve a bill (and thus a tactic of intensive polarization at least temporarily would work fine there, if legislation were only up to the House), the rules are significantly different in the US Senate.

In order for a bill to be approved in the Senate (again by at least of 50 percent of those voting) there first has to be a vote for "cloture" which requires 60 out of 100 senators.

That will be true on the economic Stimulus Bill as well as all future legislation.

Currently, the make up of the Senate falls short of those needed 60 votes for the Democrats: The upper chamber has 56 Democrats, two Independents that caucus with the Democrats (Saunders of Vermont and the notoriously unreliable Lieberman of Connecticut), 41 Republicans, and one vacancy that will eventually go to Franken of Minnesota once the courts clear the way. But even with Franken out, Democrats still need 60 votes for "cloture" to get anything done. And that means, presuming they hold on to every single Democrat on any given vote (something that did not happen in the House on the Stimulus) they're still going to need at minimum two Republicans (one, later, when Franken joins the body) plus one additional for every Democrat or Lieberman that breaks with them on any bill.

Thus, to say that "the GOP will never ever ever" support a bill - in this case the Employee's Free Choice Act - if the tantrum-thrower means to say that no Republican will ever support it, is to predict that the bill will "never ever ever" pass or even be allowed to be voted upon.

Of course, political rug-rats who go around shouting epithets like "stupid" and "lobotomized" (such writers! Where did they ever get such a command of the language?) at those who argue for more strategic paths - probably should check the basic Senate math before throwing such terms around the playroom.

That's because to get anything through the Senate, President Obama and the Democratic leadership are going to have to get at least one Republican to go along on each vote (and two when Lieberman strays). And given the penchant of some conservative Senate Democrats to stray frequently, at key moments they will need even more of them.

Were Obama to follow the screeching advice from the Children's Table (essentially they're arguing that he should barrel in there full of arrogant bravado like Bill Clinton did in 1993, polarizing Congress along party lines - something that resulted, two years later in 1994, with the Democrats losing control of the US House for the first time in 40 years after Republicans ousted 54 of them), then not one major legislative priority would get through the Senate in the next two years.

The other thing that the aspiring spokesmen for the (increasingly shrinking) Children's Table fail to grasp is that nobody is making the argument that Obama and the Democrats should "be nice" to the Republicans because they think the GOP can be wooed with candy and flowers. Portraying it that way only wins, for the complainers, the slowest of the slow class for allies because most folks can plainly discern that a very different strategy is at play.

Rather, the most ruthless and brutal way to divide Republicans and pick up moderate GOP votes for upcoming bills - I used the term Machiavellian yesterday - is to not behave like Clinton did and to continue to put on a grand show of being reasonable in the face of the GOP hardliners becoming the "Party of No."

Nate Silver, as usual, "gets" it, with his essay on The Republican Death Spiral today:

...the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base -- but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.

By playing the role of "Mr. Reasonable," Obama is not only pleasing the crowd, but also throwing a life line to moderate Republican senators - on some votes that will be Northeasterners Snowe and Collins of Maine, Gregg of New Hampshire and Specter of Pennsylvania, on others it will be the regularly-forming axis of McCain of Arizona, Graham of South Carolina and Martinez of Florida (where Lieberman often resides, too), at others it will be the Midwesterners Voinovich of Ohio, Grassley of Iowa and Lugar of Indiana, and even sometimes someone like Hatch of Utah has been brought along by his pal Teddy Kennedy on specific legislation- giving those Republicans a sufficient lack of polarization to have the breathing room to buck their party with some regularity.

The surest path to shutting down the probability that those GOP Senators, in particular, can cross over in rotating combinations would be to follow the advice from the Children's Table and polarize, polarize, polarize.

Of course, polarizing the Senate is not something Obama will do anyway. He's said so again and again for two years now. Which also suggests there's something "not right" with the thinking over at the Children's Table, because they're advocating for something that is an utter impossibility to begin with. In a way, they're in the same kind of self-inflicted "death spiral" that Nate described for the Republicans above. The more they keep getting it wrong, the smaller the group around the table has become, and the more even their own former troops in their own corners of the Internet scoff at their BS.

But maybe it is more comforting to them to only take on causes that they know, in advance, they'll lose? That is one of the defining traits of a "beautiful loser." If so, they can look forward to being held back in math class in 2010 and in more years to come, too.

But do enjoy the cookies and milk, kids, even if you're still finding the math too hard to understand.

Update: Reports this afternoon from The Hill and the Huffington Post that US Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) may be nominated as Secretary of Commerce, and that his replacement would be picked by the state's Democratic Governor John Lynch, don't fully solve this problem for Obama and the Democrats even if, once Franken of Minnesota and the new New Hampshire Democrat are sworn in, the Democrats now have, on paper, 60 votes.

First, because they can't trust Joe Lieberman. Other reasons: Evan Bayh, Mary Landreiu, Ben Nelson, and even some "Netroots" senators (Mark Warner, Jon Tester) often stray on big issues. Some, like Bob Casey, are anti-choice on abortion, and now Kirsten Gillibrand is there to gum up the works as well. Add to that the health problems of Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd and Tim Johnson, and it would be a very fragile 60 votes. And the "cloture" rule requires 3/5 of all Senators - 60 votes - even if one or more are not in the chamber when the vote is taken. That number doesn't go down just because some senators may be out sick or away on any given day.

Finally, the Democratic leadership can itself be problematic, and Reid and Pelosi may be tempted to try and push and shove against the White House, particularly for earmarks and pork and against "good government" reforms that Obama champions, if they get that 60 vote (on paper) super-majority in the Senate while already having it in the House. It may, in fact, turn out worse that way, and provoke some 1990s style "triangulation" on other matters.
Howie P.S.: Any organizer, "community" or otherwise, has learned you have to know how to count heads in order to win. So far, Barack has been pretty good at it.

Thursday evening "Stimulus Package" roundup (excerpts-with video)

Gibbs: "Obama Wouldn't Do Anything Different On Stimulus":
The House of Representatives successfully passed a stimulus package last night, but it was viewed as a rebuke to the president that not a single Republican crossed the aisle to support it.

Asked, the next day whether the Obama administration, if it could go back in time, would change the way the stimulus was put together -- perhaps including less accomodations to GOP demands -- spokesman Robert Gibbs offered an emphatic no.

"If he had to do it all over again ... the president wouldn't do anything differently," he said. "The fact is the president didn't do anything differently last night after the vote..." when a group of Republican congressman came to the White House to meet with Obama. The vote did, however, come up in the largely social gathering held at 1600 Pennsylvania, Gibbs said.
Russ Feingold:"Preventing the pork in the stimulus"--MSNBC, video (07:50).

"Dems To Leadership: Cut GOP Loose" (Ryan Grim):
Rank-and-file Congressional Democrats had been willing to give Republicans the business tax cuts and other provisions they wanted in the stimulus. That is, up until every single one voted against the bill on the House floor Wednesday.

Now, in both the House and the Senate, angry members are lobbying Democratic leaders to yank those tax breaks back.
"Mark Halperin blames President Obama for being too partisan..." (John Amato, with video):
Mark "Matt Drudge Rules the World" Halperin was on Morning Joe earlier today and blamed President Obama for the fact that no House Republicans voted for the stimulus bill. One of the Village elders has spoken. I've heard him say foolish things before, but is he using Limbaugh's maid? What was Obama supposed to do, win the election, the House and the Senate and turn the stimulus package over to John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh? Is this man insane? I've written many times that I thought President Obama went too far in trying to wooooo Republicans for bipartisanship. They were never going to sign up.

"Perfect Storm" (with video)

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC-video (10:25).

Howie P.S.: Put Rachel down as not a fan of "post bi-partisanship." William Greider (The Nation), speaking on Democracy Now (audio and video) is more impressed by the passage of the stimulus bill in the House.

Thursday AM Obama Roundup (excerpts)

"Obama, Hill Democrats Diverge on Stimulus" (WaPo-Political Browser blog)
For all the talk of how one party controls all the levers of power in Washington, yesterday's stimulus vote provided a useful reminder that President Obama and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill have different constituencies, different promises to keep and different elections to worry about.
"Obama's bold first week" (LA Times-Rosa Brooks)
Barack Obama ended four wars during his first week as president. With just a few words and strokes of his pen, the president ended the war on terror, the war on Islam, the war on science and the war on women.
"Tech Industry CEOs Back Obama's Rescue Package" (Wall Street Journal)
President Barack Obama won a well-timed plug for his economic-rescue plan from the U.S. high-tech industry, a group he nurtured heavily during the campaign.

Mr. Obama's gathering with 13 chief executives at the White House Wednesday -- the first corporate sit-down of his presidency -- showed how much the two sides now need one another's support. Ten of the 13 executives run companies that would broadly be considered from the technology industry.
"Holder’s Hole Card" (Newsweek-Web Only)
Republican opposition to Eric Holder faded away Wednesday after the attorney general designate gave private assurances that he did not "intend" to target CIA officers who acted in "good faith" when conducting harsh interrogations of terror suspects.

But Holder's assurances, offered to GOP Sen. Christopher Bond, were carefully qualified—and left the door open for him to approve expanded Justice Department inquiries into agency interrogations once he takes office, according to White House and congressional aides who asked not to be identified talking about private meetings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BREAKING: "Holder assures GOP on interrogation prosecution" (Updated)

UPDATE: Aide--"Holder Has Made No Decisions On Prosecuting Bush Officials."

Washington Times:
President Obama's choice to run the Justice Department has assured senior Republican senators that he won't prosecute intelligence officers or political appointees who were involved in the Bush administration's policy of "enhanced interrogations."
Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, a Republican from Missouri and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview with The Washington Times that he will support Eric H. Holder Jr.'s nomination for Attorney General because Mr. Holder assured him privately that Mr. Obama's Justice Department will not prosecute former Bush officials involved in the interrogations program.

Mr. Holder's promise apparently was key to moving his nomination forward. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 to favorably recommend Holder for the post. He is likely to be confirmed by the Senate soon.

Sen. Bond also said that Mr. Holder told him in a private meeting Tuesday that he will not strip the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks of retroactive legal immunity from civil lawsuits--removing another potential sticking point among GOP senators.

In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Bond said, "I made it clear that trying to prosecute political leaders would generate a political firestorm the Obama administration doesn't need."

He added, "I was concerned about previous statements he made and others had made. He gave me assurances that he would not take those steps that would cause major disruptions in our intelligence system or cause political warfare. We don't need that kind of political warfare. He gave me assurances he is looking forward."

Mr. Bond also said, "I believe he will look forward to keep the nation safe and not look backwards to prosecute intelligence operators who were fighting terror and kept our country safe since 9-11."

Mr. Holder made a similar point to senators last week in a little-noticed written response to questions from Republican senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas. Mr. Holder indicated that he would not prosecute any intelligence officers who participated in the interrogation program and who had followed Justice Department guidance.

Prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts and no one is above the law, Mr. Holder wrote. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in 'reasonable and good faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions' authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.

The legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, Caroline Fredrickson, said Wednesday that she was alarmed by Mr. Bond's statements and was hoping, Kit Bond is not stating this in the way that Mr. Holder stated it to him. She added, We are hoping there will be a clarification. It would be extraordinary if our top prosecutor, before taking office, would have predetermined whether or not to pursue certain cases because of political pressure.

Mr. Holder testified for nearly eight hours during a confirmation hearing last week, but Republicans said they were still unsure about whether Mr. Holder would seek to prosecute soldiers and intelligence officials who were involved in so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" that some consider torture.

Mr. Holder received an important boost Tuesday when Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and ranking member of the judiciary committee, announced he would support the nomination.

Mr. Specter called "satisfactory" Mr. Holder's statements that interrogation techniques authorized by legal opinions would provide a strong cover from prosecutions. According to Mr. Specter, Mr. Holder could not make any more explicit statements without knowing the facts of specific cases.

Mr. Holder's quest to become the first African-American attorney general took a significant step Wednesday with the Judiciary Committee voting to send his nomination to the full senate.

The committee recommended President Obama's nomination for the nation's top law enforcement officer by a 17-2 vote. Only Republican senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma opposed the nomination; the committee's six other Republicans supported Mr. Holder.
Mr. Holder, 58, is all but certain to be confirmed by the Democrat-controlled senate and would become the first black person to lead the Justice Department. A vote on his nomination has not been scheduled, though a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said they are working to line up a vote for Thursday.
Howie P.S.: I remain hopeful that this is not the "final answer" on this issue. I see no reference to other instances of possible illegality, not involving "interrogation," by officials of the Bush administration.

Wednesday Obama Roundup (with video)

"Pundits React," video-Politico (01:24).

Chuck Todd gives another reason for Obama's outreach to the GOP.

"Press, public need to keep Obama open" (Ari Melber).

Melber suggests that citizens and the press can unite to pressure Obama.

Barack's "Five dollar bet" with Malia about Nick Jonas, video(01:12).

He could have won the same bet with me about Michelle Obama.

"Eric Holder Approved By Senate Committee."

A good thing, I hope.

Charlie Rose interviews David Axelrod, video (30:28).

Axelrod serves his "First Client" very well, as usual.

Looking back : Sanders Votes No on Geithner: “He’s More of a Part of the Problem…Than the Solution” (with audio and video)

Democracy Now, with audio and video:

We speak with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–VT) about his decision to vote against Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary, Obama’s $825 billion economic stimulus plan, and why the $700 billion financial bailout amounts to “the greatest financial scandal in the history of this country.”

Looking back: "The hordes at the inaugural ball"

David Horsey ('Drawing Power'--Seattle P-I blog):
The inaugural ball is an event that would disappoint Cinderella.
It's an occasion for political junkies, not romantics. And, of course, it's not just one ball but many, spread over two nights. This year, because the Obama inauguration planners wanted to be more inclusive, there were more balls than ever. Most were not held in anything resembling a ballroom. The Western States Inaugural Ball that I attended took place in the cavernous lower level of the Washington Convention Center. As a result, it had all the ambience and sparkle of a trade show. And, like the inauguration itself, it was a massive crowd scene.

Inclusiveness is a worthy democratic impulse, but true glamour is usually a result of exclusivity. My daughter, Darielle, bought two dresses in anticipation of going to an inaugural ball, even before I was sure I'd find tickets that I could afford. After it was all over, we agreed that we'd both been to high school proms that seemed more elegant. Still, I'm describing, not complaining. It was what it was. The ball provided a fitting end to the long inaugural day that began at 6:30 AM.

Rather than make the round trip to my apartment and back downtown to change clothes after the inaugural ceremony ended, we stashed tuxes and gowns at the Hearst Newspapers Washington Bureau the day before. My son Daniel, my friend Howie and I took off long johns and donned ties and cummerbunds in the glass-walled office of now-retired Hearst columnist Marianne Means while our ladies reassembled themselves in the rest room. Using the office space as a dressing room may sound daring, but it was not all that unusual given that several other of my journalistic colleagues had camped out overnight amid the cubicles and computers so they'd be well positioned to brave the inauguration crush.

The convention center was a short walk away. If it hadn't been so cold, we would have left coats behind to bypass the coat check system that the Washington Post said should be avoided at all costs. At the end of the evening we understood the warning as we waited 45 minutes to retrieve our outerwear. At the foot of the escalator that descended into the ball area, we encountered a sign that suggested buying drink tickets before proceeding further. At the end of a long line, we discovered the tickets were three dollars each and the price of beer, wine or a mixed drink was three tickets. I felt a twinge of pity for the folks who shelled out $500 for each of their ball tickets (I got mine for substantially less). You'd think they might not have to pay nine bucks for a beer.

Despite the enormous crowd, it was easy to cross paths with folks from back home. Gov. Chris Gregoire and congressmen Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott and Brian Baird were there. So, too, were travel guru Rick Steves and his lovely bride, Anne, plus political impresario Frank Greer and his wife, public policy strategist Stephanie Solien. Even P-I rock critic Gene Stout showed up looking like Mr. Establishment in his tux.

As if to give Gene something to write about, Jennifer Lopez made a surprise appearance singing a Latin number with her husband, Marc Anthony, the evening's celebrity performer. When Anthony's band began playing, my wife, Nole Ann, tugged at my sleeve. "Let's dance," she said – a thing easier said than done. At this ball, dancing was not a priority. The area in front of the main stage where one would expect to find a dance floor was, instead, packed with a few thousand people awaiting the arrival of the new president and vice-president. Brief appearances by the men newly installed in the nation's highest offices provide the focal point of these balls and the real reason anyone attends. We waded into the crowd just in time to see Joe and Jill Biden. The vice president said a few words, danced half a song with his wife and then was gone. The crowd stayed in place, anticipating the appearance of numero uno. I looked around and saw that the TV cameramen had left their posts. Figuring nothing was imminent, we pushed back through the masses and made our way to the far end of the hall where a band from Atlanta was belting out some very danceable music.

An hour-and-a-half later, the president and first lady showed up. We ran back to get a glimpse. Barack said a few words that he obviously had already repeated 10 times at other venues. A Marine band brought in for just this moment played the tune for the first couple's dance. Michelle and her man looked sleek and handsome.

And then they were gone. Most of the ball-goers who had spent the night standing and waiting for drinks or standing and waiting for Obama herded themselves to the escalators and the long wait for coats. Nole Ann and I returned to the dance floor and stayed to the last song.
It was a ball, after all.

Jay Inslee among Democratic stimulus skeptics--"Some See Long-Term Goals Going Unmet"

WaPo (page one):
Republican criticism of the stimulus package that the House will vote on tonight has focused on its soaring price tag, but some Democrats on Capitol Hill and other administration supporters are voicing a separate critique: that the plan may fall short in its broader goal of transforming the American economy over the long term.
President Obama, who promoted the $825 billion package at the Capitol yesterday, says the proposal serves two functions -- creating jobs and stimulating the economy in the short term, and laying the groundwork for overhauls in energy, health care and infrastructure that would be felt for decades. But some administration supporters say that while they appreciate Obama's intent, the two goals are competing with each other, and that the package could end up missing both targets.

In testimony before the House Budget Committee yesterday, Alice M. Rivlin, who was President Bill Clinton's budget director, suggested splitting the plan, implementing its immediate stimulus components now and taking more time to plan the longer-term transformative spending to make sure it is done right.

"Such a long-term investment program should not be put together hastily and lumped in with the anti-recession package. The elements of the investment program must be carefully planned and will not create many jobs right away," said Rivlin, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. The risk, she said, is that "money will be wasted because the investment elements were not carefully crafted."

For some House Democrats, the problem is less a matter of balancing the short and long term than a shortage of focus and will on the part of the administration. Their disappointment centers on the relatively small amount devoted to long-lasting infrastructure investments in favor of spending on a long list of government programs. While each serves a purpose, the critics say, they add up to less than the sum of their parts, and fall far short of the transformative New Deal-like vision many of them had entertained.

The bill to be voted on today includes $30 billion for roads and bridges, $9 billion for public transit and $1 billion for inter-city rail -- less than 5 percent of the package's total spending. Administration officials have said they did not push for more infrastructure spending because of concerns about how many projects are "shovel ready" -- a view that House members say is held most strongly by Lawrence H. Summers, Obama's chief economic adviser.

Even though most House Democrats say they will back the plan, many reject the administration's argument, saying that infrastructure projects could easily be expedited, that the economy will need additional infusions for years to come and that the real reason for shunning infrastructure was to make room for tax cuts. Obama, with a public mandate to do something big, is missing a rare opportunity to rebuild the country, they say.

"Every penny of the $825 billion is borrowed against the future of our kids and grandkids, and so the question is: What benefit are we providing them? What are we doing for the country? It's the difference between real investment that will serve the nation for 30, 50 years and tax cuts, and that's a very poor tradeoff," said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.). "I go to my district and people say, 'Yeah, I can use 10 extra bucks a week, but I would rather see more substantial investment.' We've gone through a couple bubbles that were borrowing and consumer-driven. We want a recovery that's solid and based in investment and productivity, and that points us at building things that will serve us decades to come."

Even some Republicans echo the call for more infrastructure spending, saying they would be more willing to support the bill if it showed more tangible and focused benefits, instead of being scattered across an array of existing programs. Rep. John L. Mica (Fla.), the ranking Republican on the transportation committee, called the proposed infrastructure spending "almost minuscule" and expressed regret that the administration had not crafted its plan around an ambitious goal such as building high-speed rail in 11 corridors around the country, which Mica said would cost $165 billion.

"They keep comparing this to Eisenhower, but he proposed a $500 billion highway system, and they're going to put $30 billion" in roads and bridges, he said. "How farcical can you be? Give me a break."

Administration officials and defenders of the stimulus package say that the plan should be seen as just a start of Obama's priorities, and that there will be chances to do more later, such as in the five-year transportation bill that will come before Congress this year.

"While many of the projects are a down payment on long-term goals, including energy policy reform, health-care reform and the expansion of infrastructure investment, the goal has never been to accomplish every legislative goal in one fell swoop," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

House members warn, though, that it will be hard to argue for ambitious undertakings after the stimulus package passes, and that Obama may never again have as good a chance as this to act boldly. "After this initial rush . . . a lot of people are going to begin to wonder about whether we're pushing the limits of our borrowing capacity here, and I'm afraid that when it comes time to do more robust investment . . . it will be 'pay as you go,' " DeFazio said.

The $825 billion package includes $275 billion in tax cuts, more than $300 billion in aid for laid-off workers and budget-strapped states (for food stamps, temporary health coverage, increased unemployment benefits, Medicaid funding, schools and police), expenditures that many economists agree will enter the economic bloodstream quickly and trim further layoffs by state governments.

The administration has sought to address Obama's longer-term goals with the rest of the package. To make the workforce more competitive, the plan includes $15.6 billion in Pell grants for college students, $6 billion for modernizing college buildings and billions more for expanding scientific research.

To start down the road of health-care reform, the package includes $20 billion toward what Obama says will be an eventual $50 billion investment in computerizing medical records to make health care more efficient. Health-care experts welcome the money but worry that the pressure to spend it fast for stimulus reasons could keep the new network from being implemented as effectively as it needs to be to reduce costs.

David Brailer, who oversaw health information technology under President George W. Bush, also noted that there would be few immediate hires for the work, because there is a shortage of people with the needed skills.

The potential savings in computerizing records "are pretty large . . . but they're not available if you just dump computers on doctors' desks," he said. "We thought health-care IT would be done in the context of comprehensive health-care reform, not when we were staring into this chasm. The risk is that we just end up with a bunch of technology and nothing to show for it."

The biggest long-term investment in the package is $50 billion intended to make the country more energy-efficient -- money for weatherizing government buildings and low-income housing; for expanding the electric grid to make it easier to transfer wind and solar power; and for tax credits to encourage the growth of renewable energy.

Energy entrepreneurs have particularly high hopes for a $4.5 billion investment toward a "smart grid," technology that would allow homeowners and businesses to make more efficient use of electricity. Industry insiders estimate that the money, combined with matching industry funds, could deliver the technology to nearly a third of American utility customers.

But they, too, worry that spending rapidly in search of a stimulative effect -- and without sufficiently educating consumers -- could keep the technology from meeting its full potential.

The biggest test of the administration's energy goals may come in spending the billions that have been devoted to states and cities for improving energy efficiency. To get the money out quickly, the plan sends it through a range of programs that are not accustomed to seeing funding on this scale. State energy offices that annually receive less than $100 million combined from Washington are slated to receive $3.4 billion.

In South Carolina, the state energy office is so small that its director, John Clark, answers the phone. He said his office, which receives $1.5 million per year, has put out an urgent call to state offices and school districts for energy-saving projects to use the $35 million he expects to receive. He will also have to advise the state's cities and counties, which have even less experience in big energy efficiency projects and are slated to get $35 million of their own from a separate $3.5 billion block-grant program in the package.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) said that he was heartened by the abundance of energy investments, but that he had been hoping for something even bolder and more transformative, such as more money toward developing lithium batteries for automobiles. He hoped that the package would be followed by further investments, but worried that this may be the last shot for a while.

"We need to think of it as a first step," he said. "The question is: Are we going to step up to the plate to sustain this effort?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why reach out to the GOP? (video)

MSNBC-Countdown, video (07:51)

Howie P.S.: Howard Fineman explains the "why" to Keith Olbermann.

Backstage at "We Are the One" inaugural concert: Barack Admits to Beyonce He’s a Fan of “Single Ladies” (with video) the Obamas greet Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Jimmy Henchman, and John Legend (with video):
It’s clear that our President is the new cool, but nothing shows this more than his recent meet-and-greet with various celebs at the Lincoln Memorial following the star-studded “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration” concert.

Captured on video by singer John Legend, the Obamas walked up to greet Beyonce. Michelle Obama says, “Mr. President, you didn’t tell Beyonce about 'Single Ladies'? Your rendition?"

"I'm not like Justin [Timberlake]” Obama says laughing, referring to Timberlake’s spoof of the video on Saturday Night Live. “I didn't put on the outfit. ...[But] I didn't want my girls thinking that I couldn't, you know...I got a lil something."

He then does the infamous hand flip. See all the meet-and-greet footage below.

Amazing Video on Stage of the Obama Inaugural Celebration
Howie P.S.: Like everybody else, you have to wait a few minutes for the Obamas to show up. Like everybody else you'll be glad you did.

"Larry Phillips for King County Executive" (video)

LarryRPhillips. video (03:14).

Howie P.S.: He mentions Obama by name in this campaign kick-off announcement. Is Ron getting a job out of town?

Rachel Maddow on the 'Stimulus showdown': "Didn't Obama win?"

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC video (11:30).

Howie P.S.:
In the clip above, David Sirota can find no reason for Obama to "reach out" to the GOP.

"REPORT: TV Media Cited Disputed CBO ‘Report’ At Least 81 Times In Past Six Days"

Think Progress:

Last Tuesday, the AP reported on a leaked Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “analysis” that had concluded that “it will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed” by President Barack Obama “will boost the economy.” Conservatives, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), quickly pounced on the story, claiming the CBO had proved that “government spending isn’t going to get our economy back on track.”

After the AP first wrote up the “report,” the rest of the media piled on the story. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that since the AP’s report last Tuesday, the CBO report has been cited at least 81 times on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, the Sunday shows and the network newscasts in order raise questions about Obama’s recovery plan. Here are a few examples:

– “There’s a Congressional Budget Office report out today that suggests that the $825 billion stimulus proposal from Democrats, which is supposed to be timely and temporary, actually offers most of its spending a couple years from now,” — Carl Cameron [Fox News, 1/20/09]

– “Even the Congressional Budget Office is very skeptical about the rapidity with which that stimulus, this set of proposals, can move through, and that it could be four years before we see the results,” — Andrea Mitchell [MSNBC, 1/21/09]

– “Well that was another question raised in this Congressional Budget Office study. It was suggesting that a lot of the spending proposals in the original plan would not really take effect for a couple of years, so it wouldn’t clearly help create jobs in the first two years of the president’s administration,” — Ed Henry [CNN, 1/23/09]

– “There was a report out earlier this week from [the] Congressional Budget Office pointing out that the appropriated funds, that portion of the stimulus package that, you know, less than half of that was really going to be spent even within the next two years,” — Karen Tumulty [CNN, 1/24/09]

As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and the American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz reported last Friday, the CBO report being touted by conservatives and the media isn’t an actual report. “We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.

Instead, the CBO “ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula” to determine how quickly money will be spent. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lily notes, even that CBO analysis is based “almost entirely on a review of historical data on program performance,” which likely applies “less during an economic crisis like the one we currently face.” OMB Director Peter Orszag says that 75 percent of the stimulus plan “will be spent over the next year and a half.”

The CBO is working on a full analysis of the plan to be released shortly.

Update--The full CBO report is now available here. It finds that roughly two-thirds of the plan's recovery investments will come in the first 18 months after it is enacted.
Update--In a blog post, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf notes that the full report is "the first cost estimate that CBO has prepared" for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "in its entirety."
Howie P.S. This tall tale was also picked up in other print media (Reuters).

"Obama takes on the GOP" (video)

Countdown (MSNBC), video (07:16). Chris Cillizza (WaPo-The Fix) comments:
Republican congressional leaders are well aware of Obama's current political strength and must weigh carefully how far to push him when it comes to concessions on the stimulus package. Being on the wrong side of Obama at this point (and probably on this issue) doesn't make for smart politics so watch for GOP Senators and House members being targeted in 2010 to think very carefully before casting a "no" vote on the package.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"John Conyers Subpoena Of Karl Rove"

MSNBC (Rachel Maddow), video (03:28).

Karl Rove Subpoenaed By John Conyers--'Time To Talk' (Rachel Weiner):
On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) issued a subpoena to Karl Rove, requiring him to testify regarding his role in the Bush Administration's politicization of the Department of Justice, including the US Attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The subpoena calls for Rove to appear at deposition on Monday, February 2, 2009.

Rove has previously refused to appear in response to a Judiciary Committee subpoena, claiming that even former presidential advisers cannot be compelled to testify before Congress. That "absolute immunity" position was supported by then-President Bush, but it has been rejected by U.S. District Judge John Bates. President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as "completely misguided."

"I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an important step along the way," said Rep. Conyers. Noting that the change in administration may impact the legal arguments available to Mr. Rove in this long-running dispute, Mr. Conyers added, "Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it.

After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk."
Talking Points Memo Document Collection:

MTP: "Take Two, Web Only, Lasting Inaugural Impressions" (video)

MSNBC, video (08:31).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Helen Thomas on 8 Years Of George W Bush" (video)

VOTERSTHINKdotORG, video (09:59) from the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Howie P.S.: If you think Helen is willing to cut Obama some slack right now, you'd be wrong. H/t to Darryl.

"Republican Senators resort to extortion on Holder nomination"

Ken Camp (NPI Advocate):
In an effort to derail the nomination of Attorney General-designate Eric Holder, it seems Senate Republicans are now resorting to extortion. They'll confirm Holder if he promises not to prosecute any Bush Administration officials for any involvement in acts of torture, according to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse(D-RI).
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have asked Eric Holder to make a commitment, before he is even confirmed, that he will not prosecute any Bush Administration officials for their involvement in acts of torture during the last administration.

Anyone familiar with the criminal justice system - especially those with experience as prosecutors or judges - should know that a prosecutor should make no determination about who to prosecute before he or she has all the facts, and particularly not in response to legislative pressure.
Senator Whitehouse makes a good point about the separation of powers. It isn't for the legislative branch to hold up executive branch appointments, in order to extract promises from those appointees, especially with regard to potential future prosecutions. But it's much more than that.

I understand that President Obama wants to get beyond the partisan divisions and rancor and look to America's future. That's all good and well, but the United States was founded on the rule of law. You often hear that "we are a nation of laws, not men." If the rule of law were not important, what would separate our nation from countries like Myanmar (Burma) or North Korea?

If Eric Holder, or any other Obama appointee subject to confirmation by the Senate, were to agree not to investigate alleged wrongdoing Bush Administration officials and forward alleged crimes for potential prosecution, it would be an egregious abdication of responsibility, not to mention an act of questionable legal ethics. It would say to future generations that at a time when the Bush Administration felt it was above the law, Democrats did nothing but stand idly by and let it happen.

And then we'd be no different than them.
Howie P.S.: I'm sure the GOP senators would say this isn't "extortion," just the usual negotiation that goes in politics--just like Blago! Jeepers, maybe they are afraid there is some real evidence of criminal wrongdoing!

"Rachel Maddow Show - Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) discusses the stimulus and infrastructure" (video)

firedoglake, video (09:32):
Rachel Maddow Show - Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) discusses the stimulus and infrastructure, noting that very little money is actually devoted to the huge list of projects waiting for funding.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Frank Rich: "No Time for Poetry"

Frank Rich (NY Times):
PRESIDENT Obama did not offer his patented poetry in his Inaugural Address. He did not add to his cache of quotations in Bartlett’s. He did not recreate J.F.K.’s inaugural, or Lincoln’s second, or F.D.R.’s first. The great orator was mainly at his best when taking shots at Bush and Cheney, who, in black hat and wheelchair, looked like the misbegotten spawn of the evil Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Such was the judgment of many Washington drama critics. But there’s a reason that this speech was austere, not pretty. Form followed content. Obama wasn’t just rebuking the outgoing administration. He was delicately but unmistakably calling out the rest of us who went along for the ride as America swerved into the dangerous place we find ourselves now.

Feckless as it was for Bush to ask Americans to go shopping after 9/11, we all too enthusiastically followed his lead, whether we were wealthy, working-class or in between. We spent a decade feasting on easy money, don’t-pay-as-you-go consumerism and a metastasizing celebrity culture. We did so while a supposedly cost-free, off-the-books war, usually out of sight and out of mind, helped break the bank along with our nation’s spirit and reputation.

We can’t keep blaming 43 for everything, especially now that we don’t have him to kick around anymore. On Tuesday the new president pointedly widened his indictment beyond the sins of his predecessor. He spoke of those at the economic pinnacle who embraced greed and irresponsibility as well as the rest of us who collaborated in our “collective failure to make hard choices.” He branded as sub-American those who “prefer leisure over work or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.” And he wasn’t just asking Paris Hilton “to set aside childish things.” As Linda Hirshman astutely pointed out on The New Republic’s Web site, even Obama’s opening salutation — “My fellow citizens,” not “fellow Americans” — invoked the civic responsibilities we’ve misplaced en masse.

These themes are not new for Obama. They were there back on Feb. 10, 2007, when, on another frigid day, he announced his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Ill. Citing “our mounting debts” and “hard choices,” he talked of how “each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility” and “some measure of sacrifice.” His campaign, he said then, “has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship.” But the press, convinced that Obama was a sideshow to the inevitable Clinton-Giuliani presidential standoff, didn’t parse his words all that carefully, and neither did a public still maxing out on its gluttonous holiday from economic history. However inadvertently, Time magazine had captured the self-indulgent tenor of the times when, weeks earlier, it slapped some reflective Mylar on its cover and declared that the 2006 Person of the Year was “You.”

It was in keeping with the unhinged spirit of the boom that three days after Obama’s Springfield declaration, a Wall Street baron, Steven Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, a private equity and hedge fund, celebrated his 60th birthday with some 350 guests in the vast Seventh Regiment Armory on Manhattan’s East Side. To appreciate the degree of ostentation and taste, you need only know that Rod Stewart was the headliner, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

That same week the National Association of Realtors told less well-heeled Americans not to fret about its report that median home prices had fallen in 73 metro areas during the final quarter of 2006. “The bottom appears to have already occurred,” said one of the N.A.R. economists. Another predicted: “When we get the figures for this spring, I expect to see a discernible improvement in both sales and prices.”

We have discerned what happened to those sales and prices ever since. As for the Blackstone Group, it went public four months after its leader’s 60th birthday revels. Its shares have since lost 85 percent of their value, and Schwarzman’s bash has become a well-worn symbol of our deflated Gilded Age.

Yet the values of the bubble remain entrenched even as Obama takes office. In the upper echelons, we can find fresh examples of greed and irresponsibility daily even without dipping into the growing pool of those money “managers” who spirited victims to Bernie Madoff.

Last week’s object lesson was John Thain, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch. He was lionized as a rare Wall Street savior as recently as September, when he helped seal the deal that sped his teetering firm into the safe embrace of Bank of America on the same weekend Lehman Brothers died. Since then we’ve learned that even as he was laying off Merrill employees by the thousands, he was lobbying (unsuccessfully) for a personal bonus as high as $30 million and spending $1.22 million of company cash on refurbishing his office, an instantly notorious $1,405 trashcan included.

Thain resigned on Thursday. Only then did we learn that he doled out billions in secret, last-minute bonuses to his staff last month, just before Bank of America took over and just before the government ponied up a second bailout to cover Merrill’s unexpected $15 billion fourth-quarter loss. So far American taxpayers have spent $45 billion on this mess, and that’s only our down payment.

In less lofty precincts of the American economic spectrum, the numbers may be different but the ethos has often been similar. As Wall Street titans grabbed bonuses based on illusory, short-term paper profits, so regular Americans took on all kinds of debt wildly disproportionate to their assets and income. The nearly $1 trillion in unpaid credit-card balances is now on deck to be the next big crash.

This debt-ridden national binge of greed and irresponsibility washed over our culture not just through the Marie Antoinette antics of a Schwarzman and a Thain but in mass forms of conspicuous consumption and entertainment. Cable networks like Bravo, A&E, TLC and HGTV produced an avalanche of creepy programming catering to the decade’s housing bubble alone — an orgiastic genre that might be called Subprime Pornography. Some of the series — “Flip This House,” “Flip That House,” “Sell This House,” “My House Is Worth What?” — still play on even as more and more house owners are being flipped into destitute homelessness.

The austerity of Obama’s Inaugural Address seemed a tonal corrective to the glitz and the glut. The speech was, as my friend Jack Viertel, a theater producer, put it, “stoic, stern, crafted in slabs of granite, a slimmed-down sinewy thing entirely evolved away from the kind of Pre-Raphaelite style of his earlier oration.” Some of the same critics who once accused Obama of sounding too much like a wimpy purveyor of Kumbaya now faulted him for not rebooting those golden oldies of the campaign trail as he took his oath. But he is no longer campaigning, and the moment for stadium cheers has passed.

If we’ve learned anything since the election, it is this: We have not remotely seen the bottom of this economy, and no one has a silver bullet to arrest the plunge, the hyped brains in the new White House included. Most economists failed to anticipate the disaster, after all, and our tax-challenged incoming Treasury Secretary may prove as evanescent as past saviors du jour. As we applauded Thain in September, we were also desperately trying to convince ourselves that Warren Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs would turn the tide, and that Hank Paulson, as Newsweek wrote in a cover story titled “King Henry,” would be the “right man at the right time.”

Obama couldn’t give us F.D.R.’s first inaugural address because we are not yet where America was in 1933 — in its fourth year of downturn after the crash of ’29, with an unemployment rate of 25 percent. But no one knows for sure that we cannot end up there.

On Tuesday, our new president did offer one subtle whiff of the Great Depression. His injunction that “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off” was a paraphrase of the great songwriter Dorothy Fields, who wrote that lyric for “Swing Time” (1936), arguably the best of the escapist musicals Hollywood churned out to lift the nation’s spirits in hard times. But Obama yoked that light-hearted evocation of Astaire and Rogers to a call for sacrifice that was deliberately somber, not radiantly Kennedyesque.

That call included the obligatory salutes to those who serve by parenting, firefighting or helping strangers when natural disaster strikes. But he also cited one less generic example: “workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job.” There will be — there must be — far larger sacrifices in that vein yet to come. No one truly listening to the Inaugural Address could doubt that this former community organizer intends to demand plenty from us as we face down what he calls “raging storms.”
Last weekend, Bob Woodward wrote an article for The Washington Post listing all the lessons the new president can learn from his predecessor’s many blunders. But what have we learned from our huge mistakes during the Bush years? While it’s become a Beltway cliché that America’s new young president has yet to be tested, it is past time for us to realize that our own test is also about to begin.

WNPR: "Dean: Obama Reflects Desires of Youth" (with audio), with audio (01:26):
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was in Wallingford last night to speak at the prep school Choate Rosemary Hall.
The former Vermont Governor is credited with creating the 50-state strategy that helped Barack Obama win the White House. Dean talked with students about the difference between his own generation and theirs. Dean says voters under age 35, a generation that sees itself as multi-cultural and independent, is now powering American politics, and Barack Obama is their first president. "It isn’t that Barack is so much the leader. Its that he is accurately reflecting the sentiments and the desires of this young generation and then reflecting them back to them. That’s how politics works. "

Dean says his generation got a lot of things done, but the style was different…more confrontational. The former DNC chief admits that President Obama’s bipartisan approach marks a change. "I, as a child of the sixties of course, have a sort of a reaction..what d’ya mean? What d’ya mean? But the truth is, that’s what the country wants right now. Stop fighting about the things you’ve been fighting about for thirty years and haven’t agreed on and start working together to get something done on the other things."
Dean says his generation’s biggest mistake was believing it could, in his words, “take a break from politics to build families and careers”. That, he says, led to the Bush administration and its expansive views on executive power. He warned students to stay engaged, not only during national elections, but by serving their local communities.

From Seattle to the Inauguration; One Person's Journey

Silenced Majority Portal:
I left last Sunday night on a red eye from Seattle, ending up in Newark in the middle of the night with a plane but no crew.

So this is what we did.

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When we got to the city, the vendors were ready for us!

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As were the stores.

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In Georgetown, Shepard Fairey's "Manifest Hope" was opening, right across from Peace Mural Gallery's thousands of antiwar images by a Vietnamese artist and Dance Obama (more on that later.)

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After a good night's sleep, I got up early for some Obama orange juice and a walk past many more vendors.

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I joined others and headed toward the signs to "The Mall." Two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, three shirts and a big Army coat and hat with ear flaps and a camera!

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We got into the kind of muddles non-lines leading to who knows where and hoped for the best, sometimes going over barriers (families, included) or scurrying up embankments.

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Past McDonalds, where families chowed down in preparation of a long day, or made plans for sticking together or not getting lost (check out the yellow hats!)

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As the Mall filled up, entry points closed and the crowd had to try to enter further back toward the Washington Monument, and some people were almost crushed. "Remember Walmart!" Military police, Red Cross, FBI, National Guard, Capital Police and local police were all swamped, and people did help each other. Witnessed panic attacks.

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No shortage of "authority figures" or rules, though many of them had cameras!

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It was crisp and chilly and the anticipation was building. Most people could hear speakers and at least see a JumboTron. People reached two miles back to the Washington Monument and beyond - 2.8 million, according to the city, with more outside and literally thousands of busses.


I think Reverend Warren was speaking about now - I saw a few people turn their backs. Photographers were climbing up on dumpsters for better angles and people were exercising their free speech, such as this man with his "76" flag and sign.

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Wireless systems were taxed and everyone had a camera. Children stared transfixed when the Obamas were shown on the screen. People were a mix of reverent and somber, and joyful and thrilled.

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I took video during the part of the oath when Bush was no longer President but Obama was, and a cheer goes up and flags wave wildly. Here are some of the first ecstatic celebrators I saw!


During Obama's speech, people hung on every word. A child looked like he was praying. A mother held her child. A man held his wife. Someone talked on a cell phone but they were talking to someone in Hawaii.
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People displayed their creations and expressions, took photographs as they left the Mall whether for their bus, the Metro, the parade or just rather lost but changed.

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People took group photos as they moved out of the area.

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Some of us trudged past FEMA and the FCC (notice the finger!), looking for a warm bus or a way to walk that wasn't barricaded, a Metro that was open and running or a bathroom not yet discovered.

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Here are some huddled masses, waiters and seekers. The one Subway that was open was down to tomato sandwiches, yet we were energized with the realization of our new President and First Lady. (Those on Pennsylvania Avenue at this time were perhaps seeing them walk down the street.)

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These people waited for hours in the cold to get into the Metro.

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I walked - from 7 AM or so til maybe 4 PM hardly stopping - never really cold or hungry but then shaking with fatigue and chill when I finally got to my friends' apartment on Capital Hill, having had to go around the Mall and Capital and circumvent closed streets on foot.


Not that it wasn't beautiful! Alot of things were different - not just the promise of political change - but strangers were acting like old friends! Chinese businessmen were buying handfuls of Obama books, stores were selling out of the Obama Batman comic and people were getting Obama tattoos. People greeted each other with "Obama!" (thumbs up)

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It's been a little commercialized but Obama now has the iconic stature of Elvis and Che Guevara put together and it's not bad to have a little entrepreneurial stimulus in these times! Already in this first week he is both cleaning house and kicking ass in ways that transcend what many of us even hoped for!