Saturday, January 17, 2009

Smiles and Tears to Washington

President-Elect Obama's train journey from Philadelphia took him through Wilmington, Del. where he picked up his VP Joe Biden, and Baltimore, where this photo was taken in the crowd greeting the train (by the New York Times.) A NYT description of the trip is here. The stirring (10 min) Philadelphia speech is below. Added to the 35,000 in Baltimore and the crowds in Philly and Wilmington were people at stations along the way, where the train didn't stop. From the Time magazine coverage: Most people could only see Obama's train for a matter of seconds. It rarely slowed, and Obama only stepped outside the caboose to wave on a few occasions. But none of this seemed to dent the enthusiasm of the crowds. They cheered as if the train was coming to see them, as if Obama's victory had been their victory, and it was only now just beginning. For miles and miles, for people in dress coats and work clothes, it was the same--Americans literally jumping for joy over a president who has changed his country without yet taking office.

Towards A More Perfect Union

“While our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.”

Three Days to Change

Because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Change is logical. Live long and prosper. ["photo" from]

Friday, January 16, 2009

You'd Do the Same For Me

When the plane hit the river and water started flowing into the cabin, passengers helped each other to the exits. The plane came to a stop in front of a river ferry, which immediately rushed to its side, and its passengers began a rescue operation, without instruction, authorities or hesitation. Passengers on the plane sent women and children to the ferry, and on the ferry, men helped them aboard while women gathered coats to warm them...It's the impulse and the ethic that holds a society together and makes it strong. Less ambiguous than the Golden Rule, it is the human rule: you'd do the same for me.

4 Days to Change

This cover for The Nation this week fantasizes the Obama Inauguration as witnessed by figures in history that made possible the election of the first African American as President, from Thurgood Marshall (administering the oath to Obama) to Chief Joseph, Harvey Milk, Nelson Mandella, Barbara Jordan and Susan B. Anthony. And of course, Abe Lincoln. Here's the key to who all the figures are, and a blog post by the artist explaining his choices.

Starting to Happen

Barack Obama is four days away from becoming President, but his presidency is starting to happen. While his cabinet selections are being considered for confirmation by the Senate, PE Obama has begun to take the reins of economic recovery.

Thanks in large measure to how the Bushites bungled the first montrous half of the $700 billion TARP bailout, there was congressional resistance to approving the second half for Obama. But he and his administration said straight out what they intended to do with it, and how transparent they were going to be with exactly how they would spend that money. Obama also let it be known that if Congress balked, he would use his first veto to free the funds.

And whatever else he said, it worked. Wrote Time's Jay Newton-Small: Yesterday really was something to watch with Senate Dems openly going into the meeting voicing skepticism about supporting the second half of the bank bailout, an issue on par with President Bush in public approval ratings, both are at 27%. “I don't think the climate warrants it,” said Senator Evan Bayh walking into the luncheon with PEOTUS Obama. “The first half has done its work, the banking sector is far more stable than in September.”

Yet somehow, 45 minutes later, nearly everyone emerged in support of the bailout. “It was really something to watch,” marveled Michigan's Debbie Stabenow. “He convinced a lot of people to come to his side. It was just amazing to see what kind of president he'll make."

So on Thursday, a key Senate vote assured that Obama would get the remaining $350 billion as soon as he takes office.

Meanwhile, his own economic recovery plan has changed some, partly in response to criticisms and ideas, and it has also become more specific. Ambinder lays it out this way:

Moolah -- a large expansion of unemplyoment benefits, increasing the duration and amount of the money; also: a big expansion of the (highly stimulative) foos stamp program.
Education: $41 billion for school repair; nearly $80 billion to states and local governments to prevent criticial services from being cut; $15.6 billion for Pell grant expansion; $6 billion to colleges and universities.

A passel of other items, like a few billion for home heating subsidies.
COBRA -- $39 billion worth of new spending to allow folks who've lost their job to keep their employer's insurance even longer.
Highway/Road/Rail: $30 billion for projects; also, billions for light rail, upgrades and repairs and Amtrak.
$11 billion for the electricity grid, $8 billion in loan gaurantees for new power station / transmission projects, $6.7 billion to make government buildings more energy efficient, $6.2 billion to help poor families make their homes more energy efficient; $600 million for new, energy efficient cars for the federal fleet; $2.4 billion for carbon capture research;

Businesses: $430 million for small business loans; $100 million for rural business grants; several hundred million to help foster job growth in the manufacturing sector and in localities hit hard by the recession.
Science -- $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $2 billion more for the NIH, hundreds of millions for high energy physics, satellite development, construction grants, the U.S. geological survey, NASA climate change programs and more.

Tax Cuts -- Obama's downpayment on payroll tax relief -- $500 per person, $1000 per couple. The Earned Income Tax Credit will be expanded.
Digital conversion -- $650 million in new coupons for the digital television transition.

The recovery plan also comes with blueprints for oversight, both institutional (Overseeing the economic recovery spending, House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D-WI) said today, will be a seven-person board composed of assistant secretaries and inspectors general of various agencies. Obey described the board's mission as "early warning of funding management problems" as the bill is implemented in states and towns across the country) and by providing information to--well, everybody: Contracts and data on where the stimulus money is heading will be posted online... But the best part of all: Any member of the public who has concerns with a particular element of the spending disbursement can post their questions for the oversight board to investigate.

Soon-to-be President Obama remains the most popular incoming president in generations (71%), and his economic recovery program is especially popular--but here's the really fantastic news, so note it well ye conventional wisdom nonthinkers: "the idea of creating jobs through increasing production of renewable energy and making public buildings more energy efficient" gets the approval of 89% of the public.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Five Days to Change

In five days the torturers-in-chief, the boss barbarians, will leave the building. Never again.

Arcatan Sunset 2

These bright days and these sunsets may not be normal for us here at this time of year, but why ignore them?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Six Days to Change

"...for the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common wealth."--Emerson

Arcatan Sunset

We've had uncharacteristically bright days this week (this should be the rainy season), with spectacular sunsets. I've seen most of them from the patio at Wildberries--hence this photo. I'm still learning this little digital job--more pixels but I like it less than my old one. It's much more temperamental. Click photo to enlarge so it actually looks like something.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Year Ago: Yes We Can

The New Hampshire primary was on the second Tuesday of January one year ago. Though Hillary Clinton unexpectedly won it, the night is likely to be remembered for Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech, which led to--among many other things--the best-known political video of all time. It's never a bad time to watch and listen to it again, but tonight might be an especially good time.

Seven Days to Change

"Are you sure you can get to the Inauguration that way?" (By the way, I've received my official invitation in the mail. But as it didn't include an airplane ticket and hotel voucher, I'm going to have to watch it from one week!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eight Days to Change

One more "playing with the moon" photo because that's what I just did: we've had a weekend of clear night skies and the brightest moon of the year--for several more years, since the moon is closer than it will be for awhile--and even though it's started waning tonight, it was directly overhead and I cast a dark if foreshortened shadow, which I jumped around with for awhile. And since this is a peace sign of sorts, we'll also make it part of the pre-Inaugural countdown.

Born to Be Wild

The Sierra Nevada mountains, one of the areas newly protected in the omnibus wilderness protection bill passed in the U.S. Senate on Sunday.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

9 Days to Change

"Hang on, Captain--in just 9 days this Bush brain torture will be over!"