Democracy Has Prevailed.

January 31, 2009

Quinn Apologizes!

From January 30:

And a transcript:
But first I have a piece of business I want to do with you.

How do I start this out? Usually if I render an opinion on the air and I get howls of protests from leftists out there and they start calling me names on weblogs, then I know I've done a good job.

However, if my friends and people who love me cringe and say, "I don't believe you said that." Then I say, "Yea, but what I mean wa--" "Yea I know. But it just. The way it sounded it--"

Well, every once in a while, not very often, something like that happens. And so I have prepared a posting which will appear on the website but I want to share it with all of you right now. Because I feel that it's my responsibility to do that.

When you are on the air for as long as I have been. I suppose it's only a matter of time before you say something that cannot be adequately defended. My comments comparing welfare to slavery was one such event. The purpose of my comments was to make the point that servitude can be accomplished by pandering as well as by oppression. It was not my intention to discuss the fine points of the issue of slavery nor the moral hazards therein. However that does not excuse the fact that in making my point I treated a deadly serious issue in a manner so cavalier as to be indefensible.

While I still believe that my point was valid, the way in which it was presented was grossly inappropriate. Having seen my comments in print several times and upon further reflection I have decided that in the interest of our listeners, both fans and detractors, an apology is in order. No one has pressured or coerced me into taking this step. I have not been threatened by my company or anybody else. As a matter of fact, nobody knew about this except Rose. It is my conscience that moves me to post this. It is simply the right thing to do.

I was wrong.

Now as conservative it saddens me to see people's lives wasted by government dependence but this time the way that I expressed my feelings on the subject were poorly thought out, to say the least. And so to those of you who were offended, both friend and foe and my treasured co-host Rose I say please accept my most profound apology, you deserve better than that from me and from this show.

And this will be posted on the front page of the website later on in the day.
The website is here.

Quinn mentions seeing his words in print. So I took a look to see how far the story got. His words made it all the way to

Adrian McCoy has the scoop.

I think it's interesting that while he said this stuff back in November 6th (just after the election, by the way) it was only after this story in the local newspaper (also by McCoy) that his conscience actually kicked in enough for him to apologize. If Adrian hadn't written the story, would we be seeing an apology now?

I wonder if he'll be apologizing to NOW (and, of course, all its members) for calling it the "National Organization of Whores."

Happy Birthday Schubert

I almost missed Mozart's birthday. I cannot miss this one.

Franz Schubert, one of the preeminent composers in the history of (for lack of a better term) the western European art music tradition, was born this day in the city of Vienna in 1797. Mostly unknown in his own short lifetime and living almost completely within Beethoven's, Schubert nevertheless composed some of the masterpieces in that tradition. You can not go through this day without hearing Gretchen am Spinnrade:

This lieder was originally composed for voice and piano but since it's Renée Fleming singing and Claudio Abbado conducting I think should be OK.


The text is, of course, Goethe. His Faust Part I. Gretchen is sitting at a spinning wheel thinking about her absent lover, Faust. In German:
Meine Ruh' ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer,
Ich finde sie nimmer
Und nimmermehr.
Which roughly translates into English as:
My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.
Think of it this way. Her lover is gone. She misses him and everything inside her feels heavy and wooden. Who hasn't felt that way when a lover has gone?

Listen for the accompaniment. Schubert set it to sound like what the pedal of the spinning wheel does when spinning. It's obvious Gretchen is spinning throughout the song except when she gets to this point:
Und ach, sein Kuß!
She's just finished describing Faust and when gets to his kiss "sein Kuß!". The spinning wheel stops. Gretchen collects herself, tries to start again, and then stops. When she finally starts spinning she's singing the opening gesture of the song, "Meine Ruh' ist hin..."

It's an amazing moment.

Oh yea, Johnny Rotten was born today, too.

January 30, 2009

Someone had a really good week in District 2

First, candidate for Pittsburgh City Council District 2 Georgia Blotzer far outstripped her opponents in fundraising even though she had voluntarily set the lowest limits on campaign contributions.

Second, she got the endorsement of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The special election for Pittsburgh City Council District 2 will be held this Tuesday, February 3rd.

If, you'd like to get on board -- or just check out the candidate -- you can attend a Meet & Greet with Georgia tonight at Redbeard's:

What: Meet & Greet with City Council Candidate Georgia Blotzer
When: Friday, January 30th from 5:00-7:00 PM
Where: Redbeard's on Mt. Washington, 201 Shiloh Street, Pittsburgh PA 15211 (Map)
What Else: Free appetizers and drink specials. Stop by the sign-in table to get your wristband

More info here.
Obligatory Disclaimer: As mentioned before here, I've been paid by the Georgia for Council campaign to create and maintain her web site:

I have not been hired/paid to blog for her.

Obama Signs His First Bill: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

President Obama:
First of all, it is fitting that with the very first bill I sign – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act – we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.


Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job -- and she did it well -- for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits -- losses that she still feels today.

Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and the harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than 10 years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and lead to this day and this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied.


I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal -- it's bad for business -- to pay someone less because of their gender, or their age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.


And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

In the end, that’s why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her – that this bill wouldn’t undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It’s what we’ve always done in America – set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and grandchildren.

(Full text here.)


Follow up on keeping "The It's Alive Show" / WBGN on Comcast

Since last Saturday, the petition to keep The It's Alive Show / WBGN on Comcast Cable has gathered 973 signitures (see previous post here).

If you haven't already, sign the petition here and push it to 1,000.

You can also call Comcast at 412-771-8100.

Follow up on Allegheny County Council Nondiscrimination Ordinance

People have emailed me asking if there is any news or follow up action on the County Council Nondiscrimination Ordinance (Bill No. 4201-08) so I asked Sue of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents for an update and here it is:
From the sponsors:

Please tell people that the legislation is now being revisited in the Government committee in light of all the feedback that Council has gotten. Sue Frietche of the Women’s Law Project has been invited to provide expert testimony at the Committee meeting tonight (Weds).

Those who have not yet contacted County Executive Onorato, the two at-large council members and the council member from their individual council district should do so.

From Sue:

We need a lot of support on this. It is being framed as a freedom of religion issue rather than an equal treatment issue. The religious right is hijacking the Jesus card.

(More from Sue here.)
And, if you haven't already, please read the op-ed in the Post-Gazette by Angelle N. Guyette:
How do others see you?
I'm ashamed of my hate-filled fellow Christians


I'm straight but I support the legislation and wore a "Fairness to All" sticker, so some of the opponents made certain assumptions about me.

I've attended hearings on many topics where people angrily voiced their opinions, but the hatred evident at this gathering stunned me -- not only because of its ferocity, but also because of who was expressing it.

"They'll know we are Christians by our love" the song goes.

At this County Council meeting, you could know most of them by the hatred on their faces. The leaders of the religious opponents were the worst, displaying physical revulsion at having to stand near people they figured were gay. They looked like they'd have stoned Mary Magdalene, and her friends, too.

One minister's face contorted as he spoke, "Homosexuality is offensive because it is a sin. People choose to commit this sin. My congregants should not have to hire gays and condone a sinful lifestyle they find offensive."

One of his followers spat out, "I should not have to rent to those people. I don't want them sinning in my properties."


Of course, Christ taught we all are sinners -- a nondiscrimination policy if ever there was one.

It hurt my heart to see such intense hatred, to see a mob of ugliness, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To think, I chose to be baptized at age 12, to be a part of this?
You can read the rest here.

As Both Sue and Angelle point out, people want to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against others. And, as I will point out, a person can still be as bigoted as they like when choosing their friends, lovers, etc., but these people are demanding the right to practice their discrimination in the public sphere: who gets jobs, apartments, etc.

We do not let people discriminate in this way for race or gender -- even though people have in the past for religious reasons -- and we should not now for sexual orientation.

That's it in a nutshell.

January 29, 2009

More On Jim Quinn

As always, Chris Potter gets it right. And not because he reads this blog and has some nice things to say about it. He begins:
The good folks at 2 political junkies reminded me of this gem of a story in the Post-Gazette this weekend. The piece is about Media Matters for America, the liberal media watchdog group which has labeled local talk-show host Jim Quinn as a "radioactive" media personality.
And here's the nice:
Quinn invokes fear of the return of the "Fairness Doctrine," a long-discarded government policy of requiring equal time for diverse political viewpoints. The Junkies do a good job of showing how baseless the fear is, so I won't dwell on the fact that hardly anyone in Washington has shown interest in reviving the doctrine.
(Note to Chris: I love Maria, other political junkie, to bits but only one of us wrote the piece you link to. Many thanks for the shout-out, though!).

This is where Potter shows he's done his homework:
But Quinn's hysteria on the subject is a perfect example of how right-wingers love to play the victim card. They have little patience when, say, blacks complain of racism ... but when they get back from the commercial break, they'll indulge in their own delusions of persecution, fantasies that would embarrass Minister Farakkhan.

Apparently, Quinn also fears Media Matters because it has a base of "wealthy liberal donors." Quinn is OK with bloggers having speech rights, it seems, provided they have no money or power whatsoever. But if they get even a bit of leverage, Quinn cries "oppression!"

On some level, I understand the response. I mean, wouldn't pay Quinn any mind at all if he were just some old coot in the park, spouting his nonsense into a couple of tin cans joined with a piece of string. Instead, though, he's an old coot spouting his nonsense into a microphone paid for by Clear Channel, one of the country's largest media conglomerates. (And before that, his mic was paid for by the same folks who own City Paper.) So naturally I take him more seriously -- his ideas are silly, but the money behind them is serious.

But even so ... who knew that a conservative would distrust the speech rights of rich people? What next? Will Quinn espouse the dismantling of Fox News? Start arguing for a more progressive income tax, to relieve the wealthy of some of the money they use to control our discourse?

I think Quinn will just continue to blame everything on liberals and the creeping Alinsky-ism taking over this once great country.
America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster
Or whatever.

Protecting The Public At The Super Bowl

This Post-Gazette article informs us that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl Steelerstahl Whateverhisnameisnowenstahl will be attending Sunday's Super Bowl in Tampa.

The article duly notes that the public will not be paying for any of his trip expenses -- the same being true for Allegheny County Exec Dan Onorato who will also be going.

However, it seems that Lil Mayor Luke will taking along his bodyguards while Onorato will be sans protection.

Which makes me ask the question: Why does Lukey need bodyguards?

Which leads me to remember that the bodyguards will be there more to protect the public from "Cuffs" Steelerstahl Ravenstahl than vice versa.

January 28, 2009

The Trib Editorial Board Does It Again

I'll say this. The good folks on RickyCougarMellonScaife's editorial board have raised spreading innuendo and half-truths to an art. And sometimes they even just make stuff up!

Case in point. I read this this morning:
Lost in all the hoopla of the presidential inauguration last week was the fact that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed three top Obama administration officials -- Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod -- in the investigation of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of attempting to sell the president's old Senate seat. Oooh, this could get juicy.
That was something I hadn't heard. So I went to the google and tried to look it up. That's when things got confusing. When I googled "fitzgerald subpoena rahm" I found this from late December:
The Illinois House committee probing a possible impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich won't subpoena two incoming White House advisers, the committee chairwoman said Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asked the committee in a letter Friday not to subpoena President-elect Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Blagojevich's attorney had asked the committee earlier in the week to issue the subpoenas. Mr. Fitzgerald said any such subpoenas would interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation into Blagojevich's activities.

But that's the Illinois House committee. The Trib said that Fitzgerald subpoenaed Emmanuel et al. Then I found this:
As Barack Obama attempts to define himself as a new kind of president, the White House newcomer is finding it increasingly difficult to emerge from the scandalous shadow being cast by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released the list of subpoenas served in the current case being prosecuted against the Illinois governor.

The names of a number of key Obama White House players have found their way onto that list, a fact that could affect perceptions of the new administration.

David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, two key Obama advisers, were among those subpoenaed in the case where it is alleged Mr. Blagojevich attempted to sell Mr. Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, was also served a subpoena.
The Bulletin is another right of center news source, by the way. But that doesn't automatically mean they're wrong. They say that Fitzgerald released a list.

But then I found this:
It appears that Barack Obama won’t escape the Rod Blagojevich scandal as easily as first thought. Two senior aides to Obama have been served with federal subpoenas, calling into question how closely the Obama transition team may have been tied to Blagojevich’s attempts to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat is a reliably conservative news blog, by the way (again, no reason to automatically think they're wrong). However, all good intentions aside, it looks like this is where the Trib stumbled. Take a look at the sentence above. It says that "(t)wo senior aides to Obama" have been subpoenaed. But look at the link Hotair uses to support that. Here's how the article starts:
Sweeping federal subpoenas of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration include requests for records involving David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisers to President Barack Obama.

Among 43 subpoenas released by the Blagojevich administration Friday, one from Dec. 8 seeks notes, calendars, correspondence and any other data that relate to Axelrod, Jarrett and 32 other people and organizations. [emphasis added.]
So who just who was subpoenaed again?

To read the Trib, Emmanuel, Jarrett and Axelrod were subpoenaed. To read the AP (the initial source for the story), the Blagojevich administration was subpoenaed about its contacts with Emmanuel, Jarrett and Axelrod.

So I asked the the USAttorney's office for Northern Illinois (Fitzgerald's office) for a clarification. Just to be clear, I wrote that the Trib's editorial board said the three were subpoenaed but that others had posted on the net that the USAttorney's office had posted a list of those subpoenaed and that still others wrote that the material was released this weekend by Blagojevich's office. And they responded with:
These reports you cite were based on information released by the governor’s office and not by the US Attorney’s Office – we do not comment on or confirm or deny any information about grand jury subpoenas– thanks.
It's looking like the Trib's editorial board simply got it wrong and didn't bother checking to get it right.

Grow the fuck up already

Yes, I used the "f-word" in the headline because people fuck -- they also screw and sometimes even make love -- and when they do engage in these activities in a hetero kind of way without using contraceptives there's a chance they could, oh I don't know, make a baby.

And, don't any of you trolls out there start with the "keep your knees together" crap. People have been doing this for as long as there have been people. That's why you are able to be here reading this (yes, your parents did it -- don't cry).

We know that unintended bundles of joy do not exactly encourage personal financial stability and we know that Right Wing Republicans hate hate hate paying anything towards the healthcare, education, food, etc. of bundles of joy post-womb.

We also that Right Wing Republicans hate hate hate allowing women to have abortions (which contraceptives could, oh I don't know, help to prevent).

So why did Right Wing Republicans throw a huge hissy fit to drop a provision from the economic stimulus package that would have made it easier for states to expand coverage of contraceptives through their Medicaid programs?

Could be that can't let the cultural war go? Could be that as I've always said: they don't just want to stop abortions, they want to stop contraceptives PERIOD? Could be that they are just huge fucking douchebags hypocrites?

Could it also be that they did it because they knew they could? (DING! DING! DING!)

What also doesn't help is when the supposedly MSM mucks up the issue by claiming that the provision would, 'allow Washington "to regulate the amount of kids people might be in the mood for."' (Yes, Chris Matthews, President Obama and the Democrats are calling for mandatory sterilizations and forced abortions. But not to worry, we will make sure that they are green mandatory sterilizations and forced abortions and we will give out coupons for free cappuccinos after the procedures. Glad we cleared that up!)

Of course the Democrats caved.

I thought the adults were supposed to be back in charge now?

Everyone needs to just grow the fuck up.

January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Ein Musikalischer Spaß, Mvt 1

Adrian McCoy Writes About Quinn, Rose, and MediaMatters

This past Sunday. The article begins with:
Media Matters thinks Jim Quinn's hot-button speeches can be hazardous to listeners, so he gets a "radioactive" rating from the watchdog group.
Here's the "Radioactive" page at It links to the many many embarrassing things Quinn (and Rose - we can't forget Rose, can we?) has said on the public airwaves.

McCoy touches on one:
Media Matters called Quinn to task for several comments made on his program. In one show excerpt posted on Radioactive, he said: "You know, if you were a slave in the old South, what did you get as a slave? You got free room and board, you got free money, and you got rewarded for having children because that was just, you know, tomorrow's slave. ... Can I ask a question? How's that different from welfare? You get a free house, you get free food, and you get rewarded for having children. Oh, wait a minute, hold on a second. There is a difference: The slave had to work for it."
Here's Mediamatters page on that particularly idiotic rhetorical flourish. The part that McCoy didn't quote is what Tennant said immediately after Quinn favorably compared Welfare to slavery. She said:
Ah, the truth stings, does it not?
Tennant, a self-professed Christian had no trouble agreeing. The meek might not, I guess, inherit the Earth. But what do I know, I'm just an agnostic.

Hey, but did you know that the three days later he defended his point with:
Now, naturally, the point that I was making was that there are two forms of servitude: There's the servitude that you can be forced into, and there's the servitude you can be coerced into, I mean, the horrors of slavery notwithstanding -- naturally, that was my point.
And then:
[W]hen you think about it, the slave had more personal nobility than the welfare recipient, because he or she had no say in their station in life. The welfare recipient actually volunteers for it. It is the liberal plantation.
The world according to Jim Quinn. After a profoundly illogical charge by Quinn himself:
"Media Matters is not just a bunch of liberal bloggers exercising their First Amendment rights," Quinn warns, citing the nonprofit organization's financial support from wealthy liberal donors. "Any critique of media speech by Media Matters for America carries with it the implied threat of government censorship."
We reach the only I can find in McCoy's reporting. It's here:

Like many conservative talk hosts, Quinn and Rose raise the issue of a possible revival of the Fairness Doctrine. "It is a weak argument that suggests that speech may be stifled without the doctrine," Tennent says. "It's virtually impossible in today's environment to deny access to certain viewpoints -- or to find outlets that air them."

On the Quinn and Rose War Room Web site (, there's an online petition opposing the Fairness Doctrine that listeners can sign. The petition encourages listeners "to urge Congress and government officials to reject any and all efforts to censor, limit or restrain the right of conservatives."

But [Media Matters senior researcher Julie] Millican maintains that Media Matters isn't out to silence or censor these talk hosts. "It's important to keep an eye on what's being said on the public airwaves. People should be aware of what's out there. They can say whatever they want to say. But people are entitled to know that's what being said on their airwaves, and they're entitled to be offended about it."

Uh, wait. The "Possible revivial" of the Fairness Doctrine? By whom? Perhaps McCoy should have checked this page at Where it quotes Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly:
I've been fascinated of late with the far-right hysteria about the reemergence of the "fairness doctrine," because conservative activists are gearing up for a knock-down brawl against an enemy that doesn't exist. Everyone from obscure right-wing bloggers to Rush Limbaugh to Washington Post columnists are prepared for a fight that isn't going to happen.

And yet, the nonsense doesn't stop. Perusing the news this morning, there are still more conservative columnists railing against the "plan" to bring back the fairness doctrine, and unhinged propaganda about the "unprecedented government assault upon the First Amendment" that is allegedly on the way.

The New Republic's Marin Cogan asked around, trying to find Democrats who actually support bringing the fairness doctrine back, or media-reform liberals who might push for action on this. Cogan couldn't find any.

Benen adds that even Barack Obama opposes reinstating it.

Or McCoy could have checked this blog or even the Post-Gazette itself. Brian O'Neill wrote:
The Fairness Doctrine is not going to be reinstated, nor should it. Never mind that a restraint on free speech would be a betrayal of core liberal principles. It won't happen because President-elect Barack Obama has no interest in it, few Democrats in Congress care about it, and they all can read a map.
So why does Adrian McCoy write about a "possible revivial of the Fairness Doctrine"?

Fact-checking. It's all in a day's work.

AND A CORRECTION: I misread the mediamatters posting. For the record, Rose Tennant DID NOT say, "Ah, the truth stings, does it not?" after Jim Quinn (favorably) compared slavery with being on welfare. That was Jim Quinn himself.

There's no record of her agreeing with that rather grotesque statement. I would hope she disagrees with it but that's completely beside the point. The point is I should have gotten it right the first time.

My bad.

Help Save WBGN and "The It's Alive Show"

Let's face it folks, like it or not Pittsburgh is known for three things:

1) The Steelers
2) Primanti Brothers sandwiches
3) Zombies!!!

On Sunday, February 1, 2009 Comcast Cable is scheduled to drop WBGN-TV from its cable systems. WBGN is the region's only locally owned television station available on Comcast.

More importantly, WBGN honors Pittsburgh's rich horror and zombie traditions by airing The It's Alive Show on Saturday night.

If you've ever watched The It's Alive Show (or any other WBGN fare), then sign the petition to keep it on Comcast. (Please sign your full name.)

Keep WBGN and The It's Alive Show on the air.

Don't let Comcast take away our zombies!

Carbolic Smoke Ball gang on WBGN-TV's "It's Alive," 3/31/07

January 26, 2009

Ex-Merrill CEO John Thain On That $1.2 Million Office Redecoration

From Talking Points Memo:
He hasn't been on The View yet, but the chair-throwing ex-Merrill CEO did the next best thing this afternoon, talking to Maria Bartiromo of CNBC about his departure last week from Bank of America, why he's not to blame for Merrill's multiple billion dollar losses, and the whether it was a good idea to spend $1.2 million of Merill's money redecorating his office suite.


And about that redecoration, Thain said it was a "very different economic environment." He added: "It is clear to me in today's world that it was a mistake. I apologize for spending that money on those things."

Asked by Bartiromo why he couldn't have left the office as it was when his predecessor as CEO, Stanley O'Neal, took off, Thain replied:

"His office was very different than the general decor of Merrill's offices. It would have been very difficult for me to use it in the form that it was in.
Exactly how different was the office before the redo? Bartiromo didn't ask, so we went looking on the google and finally came up with a photo of O'Neal's old digs:

I guess Thain had a point.

Video of the interview:


January 25, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

This week's column in a nutshell:

Much has been made of the challenges confronting President Barack Obama, who assumes office in what appear to be the early stages of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. More should be made of the opportunities he faces.

We Americans are more than $2 trillion poorer, and counting, as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis, and our confidence has been badly shaken. But power is relative. The United States is more powerful today relative to our adversaries than at any time since Aug. 29, 1949, when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb.

Jack's first two paragraphs.

So to nutshell his nutshell description it's a situation of, "Yes, things are bad but they're so much worse elsewhere so in comparison President Obama should have the advantage."

Or something.

For example:
More beneficial than the relief the oil price collapse provides to our pocketbooks is the harm it does to our enemies.

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, who kicked out foreign oil companies from his country in 2007, is now begging them to return.

Oddly for Jack, this is more or less true. From the NYTimes:
President Hugo Chávez, buffeted by falling oil prices that threaten to damage his efforts to establish a Socialist-inspired state, is quietly courting Western oil companies once again.

Until recently, Mr. Chávez had pushed foreign oil companies here into a corner by nationalizing their oil fields, raiding their offices with tax authorities and imposing a series of royalties increases.

But faced with the plunge in prices and a decline in domestic production, senior officials have begun soliciting bids from some of the largest Western oil companies in recent weeks — including Chevron, Royal Dutch/Shell and Total of France — promising them access to some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, according to energy executives and industry consultants here.

Their willingness to even consider investing in Venezuela reflects the scarcity of projects open to foreign companies in other top oil nations, particularly in the Middle East.

But the shift also shows how the global financial crisis is hampering Mr. Chávez’s ideological agenda and demanding his pragmatic side. At stake are no less than Venezuela’s economic stability and the sustainability of his rule. With oil prices so low, the longstanding problems plaguing Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company that helps keep the country afloat, have become much harder to ignore.
Jack, of course, can't resist:
What is essentially a victory in Iraq, coupled with the harm done to Iran by the oil price collapse and rising Sunni Muslim fear of Iran and her proxies, gives President Obama a more tractable situation in the Middle East than President Bush faced when he assumed office.
Gee thanks, President Bush! This is the meme to watch, my friends. Now that it's "established" that there's "victory" in Iraq, any bad news coming out of Bush's war are now and forever will be on Obama's shoulders.

Of course, any bad news during Bush's administration were never his fault. (9/11? Blame the intelligence failures on Jamie Gorelick! Bush's first recession? The downturn started at the tail end of the Clinton Administration so it must be "The Clinton Recession." Bush's second recession? It all had something to do with the Carter-era CRA and something Barney Frank said! and so on). But now that there's a Democrat in the Oval, everything will be pinned on him.

Get used to it.

January 24, 2009

President's Weekly Address

The Text.

John Belushi

Today would have been John Belushi's



He was born in 1949. It's now 2009. That makes him sixty. The big six-oh. Three score. Twice thirty. Thrice twenty.


So in his honor:

January 23, 2009

An Hour Or So Ago

At Talking Points Memo:
President Barack Obama on Friday quietly ended the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option.
Grown ups are finally in charge in DC


For a balmy Friday Evening:

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act May Be the First Legislation Signed by Obama

Now that's change I can believe in!

From the Washington Post:
A wage-discrimination bill that narrowly failed less than a year ago moved closer to becoming law last night, when the Senate passed the legislation and sent it back to the House for final consideration.

The measure, approved 61 to 36, would overturn a Supreme Court decision to make it easier for women to sue employers for pay inequity, regardless of when the discrepancies took place. It may become the first legislation signed by President Obama, who campaigned in favor of it.

The bill, dubbed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, was introduced after a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 rejected a $360,000 award in back pay to Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman who worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber. Ledbetter had discovered a large gap between her salary and that of her male colleagues, stretching back years.
If you recall, the Supremes decided that Ledbetter should have known from day one that she was making less than her male coworkers -- cause everyone knows that private companies make it sooo easy to find out what folks are getting paid -- and denied her case based on statute of limitations that her claim was 180 days after the discrimination took place (despite the fact that the blatant discrimation was ongoing for the entire length of her employment).

Lilly Ledbetter

Natalia Rudiak's Kickoff Party

Natalia Rudiak is running in Pittsburgh's 4th City Council District. The district consists of the neighborhoods of Brookline, Beechview, Overbrook, and Bon Air and parts of Carrick and Mt. Washington.

You can read more about Natalia here.

What: Kickoff Party
Where: Natalia Rudiak for Council HQ, 754 Brookline Blvd., Pittsburgh PA 15226 (View map)
When: Thursday, January 29, 7:00 -9:00 PM
RSVP: Click here to RSVP

Natalia Rudiak kicks-off her campaign for Pittsburgh City Council three days before the kickoff of Superbowl XLIII, and you are invited to her office opening party. Natalia is in this race to win, and she needs your help. While the Campaign Kickoff party is free and open to the public, they will be accepting donations to help make sure Pittsburgh's southern neighborhoods get the voice they deserve on City Council.

Click here to make a contribution online, to sign up to volunteer, or to receive email alerts.

FREE and open to the public. Wear your black and gold!

Teh Crazie Continues...

We track it, so you won't have to.

From World Net Daily:

Barack Obama has retaken the oath of office that was administered by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at the ceremonial inauguration yesterday.

Legal experts had suggested the move because of the multiple stumbles and flubs at the original event.

Obama ended up transposing the word "faithfully" during his inauguration in Washington. When he should have said he would "faithfully execute the office of president of the United States," he instead said he will "execute the office of president of the United States faithfully."

True to form, it only took them 3 paragraphs to get their own reporting absolutely wrong. It was Chief Justice Roberts who transposed the word, as WND's next few lines show:
Roberts began administering the oath by stating the president-elect's name, but Obama cut him off before he could finish.

"I Barack …" Obama eagerly chimed in before Roberts could complete the first sentence.

Obama then allowed Roberts to continue.

"I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully," Roberts said.[emphasis added]

See? The oath (according to WND) continued thus:

"That I will execute …" Obama said.

Roberts repeated, " … faithfully the office of president of the United States."

"The office of president of the United States faithfully," Obama said.

"And will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God," he finally finished.

But that ain't teh Crazie. This is:
According to a Fox News report, Roberts went to the White House late today and administered the oath, correctly, to Obama. Also present were a pool reporter and a White House photographer.

The Associated Press reports, "The president said he did not have his Bible with him [for the second oath], but that the oath was binding anyway."[emphasis added]

Yep - that's teh Crazie. If you needed any help noticing, here's Glenn Beck (h/t to Think Progress):

Of course reality continues to elude Beck. Think Progress, again:
Beck is simply wrong. As Slate recently reported, official records kept by the Architect of the Capitol show that Teddy Roosevelt did not use a Bible in 1901; and Lyndon Johnson is rumored to have used “a Catholic missal aboard Air Force One after Kennedy’s assassination.” According to his own letters, John Quincy Adams placed his hand on a constitutional law book rather than the Bible. Beck’s vaunted devotion to research must have taken a dive when he moved from CNN to Fox.
They didn't get the words exactly right the first time so it was redone, in "an abundance of caution" to follow The Constitution. Fine. Given the ridiculous Crazie ranting about the "faked" Birth Certificate, it was probably a good idea to get the words exactly right - if only to head off another Crazie. But now teh Crazies are up in arms because there was no Bible present.

But let's take a look at the Constitution. Article II Section I Clause 8 states:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Please tell me where there's a Constitutionally mandated Bible.

Teh Crazies are here to stay.

Hillary Arrives at the State Dept. to Wild Applause


President Obama's Statement on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

From yesterday:
Statement of President Obama on the 36th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.


January 22, 2009

Fact-Checking The Trib Editorial Board

Today they wrote:
In other news: Perhaps lost in the transition of presidential administrations is word that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review has affirmed the government's constitutional authority to use wiretaps to collect national-security intelligence from foreign sources. And we'll bet -- and we pray -- that President Obama will employ this fully legal tool in pursuit of protecting us.
Always interested in pointing out what they left out. Despite the awful headline, the AP said this about the ruling:

In a ruling released Thursday, the court embraced the Protect America Act of 2007, which required telecommunications providers to assist the government for national security purposes in intercepting international phone calls and e-mails to and from points overseas.

The decision, which involves the gathering of foreign intelligence, was made last August but only released Thursday after it had been edited to omit classified information.

Note: It was about the Protect America Act of 2007. The AP even goes on with a quotation and some details:
"Our decision does not constitute an endorsement of broad-based, indiscriminate executive power," the court said. "Rather, our decision recognizes that where the government has instituted several layers of serviceable safeguards ... its efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts."

The decision does not address the legality of an earlier warrantless surveillance program that the Bush administration secretly put in place without legislation from Congress, and which The New York Times exposed in 2005. The 2007 law that was the focus of the court ruling expired in 2008, but intelligence gathering efforts that it authorized remained in effect.

As Glenn Grenwald rhetorically asks:
Is it really that hard -- especially for people who pretend to be experts in this controversy -- to tell the difference between (a) whether the President had the authority to eavesdrop on Americans in violation of a Congressional statute and (b) whether the Congress is constitutionally permitted to enact a statute authorizing warrantless eavesdropping? Apparently it is hard, because hordes of right-wing advocates, including those who claim to be "legal experts," are falsely claiming today that the FISA court did (a) (namely: found that the President had the power to order warrantless eavesdropping in violation of a statute), rather than what the court actually did: (b) (found that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit Congress from legalizing warrantless eavesdropping).
He goes on:
[A] copy of the actual decision became available (here - .pdf). The only question it addresses -- as I explained earlier today -- (here) is whether the Protect America Act is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment (see also Anonymous Liberal's update here). That's the only issue it addresses. It has nothing to do with the core of the NSA scandal: whether George Bush acted properly by ordering eavesdropping in violation of the law.
Now go back and read the Trib's blurb. Changes things, huh?

January 21, 2009

More Illegal NSA Spying

According to Tice, they spied on reporters.

Transcript (via mediabistro):
OLBERMANN: It has taken less than 24 hours after the Bush presidency ended for a former analyst at the National Security Agency to come forward to reveal new allegations about how this nation was spied on by its own government, exclusively here on COUNTDOWN.

Our third story tonight, Russell Tice has already stood up for truth before this evening as one source for the revelation in 2005 by the "New York Times" that President Bush was eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants. Tonight, the next chapter for Mr. Tice, a chapter he feared to reveal while George Bush occupied the Oval Office, that under the collar of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration was also targeting specific groups of Americans for surveillance, non-terrorist Americans if you will.

Mr. Tice prepared to name one of those groups tonight. The NSA was already estimated to have collected millions of transmissions, e-mails and phone calls of average Americans simply by patching into the networks of cooperative telecommunications companies. You will recall the infamous room 641A at the AT&T Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, in which the whole of AT&T's portion of the Internet was duplicated inside a room accessible only to the NSA.

Mr. Tice, however, was also involved in another program and told us that he was first directed to focus on these specific groups in order to weed them out from legitimate surveillance targets, but ultimately concluded that the weeding out was actually an internal NSA cover story for a real goal, which was simply spying on those Americans.

Initially, Mr. Bush told the nation all his surveillance was legal.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anytime you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires a -- a wiretap requires a court order.


OLBERMANN: After the "New York Times" revealed that to be a lie, Mr. Bush claimed his surveillance circumvented the constitutionally required process of obtaining a court-ordered warrant only in cases of clear links to terrorism.


BUSH: In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.

Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.


OLBERMANN: Joining me now in his first public revelation of these charges is Russell Tice, former analyst with the National Security Agency. Thank you for your time, sir.

RUSSELL TICE, FORMER ANALYST, NSA: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Let's start with the review. We heard the remarks from Mr. Bush in 2005, that only Americans who would have been eavesdropped on without a warrant were those who were talking to terrorists overseas. Based on what you know, what you have seen firsthand and what you have encountered in your experience, how much of that statement was true?

TICE: Well, I don't know what our former president knew or didn't know. I'm sort of down in the weeds. But the National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And that doesn't -- it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, you know, in the middle of the country, and you never made a communication -- foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.

OLBERMANN: To what degree is that likely to mean actual eavesdropping and actual inspection? In other words, if not actually read or monitored by the NSA, everything was collected by the NSA, recorded, archived? Do you have any idea to what degree the information was ever looked at, per se?

TICE: Well, it's actually, even for the NSA, it's impossible to literally collect all communications. Americans tend to be a chatty group. We have the best computers at the agency, but certainly not that good.

But what was done was a sort of an ability to look at the meta data, the signaling data for communications, and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected. Basically, filtering out sort of like sweeping everything with that meta data, and then cutting down ultimately what you are going to look at and what is going to be collected, and in the long run have an analyst look at, you know, needles in a haystack for what might be of interest.

OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted.
What group or groups can you tell us about?

TICE: Well, there's sort of two avenues to look at this. What I just mentioned was sort of the low-tech dragnet look at this. The things that I specifically were involved with were more on the high-tech side. And try to envision, you know, the dragnets are out there, collecting all the fish and then ferreting out what they may. And my technical angle was to try to harpoon fish from an airplane kind of thing. So it's two separate worlds.

But in the world that I was in, as to not harpoon the wrong people in some -- in one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations just supposedly so that we would not target them. So that we knew where they were, so as not to have a problem with them.

Now, what I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense. And that's -- I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me, to fire me. But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.

OLBERMANN: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the "New York Times?" Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?

TICE: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.

OLBERMANN: Do you have a sense of why, as you discovered this? I mean, do you have a sense of what this was, if it was used, to what end?

TICE: I do not know. I do not know what was done with the collection. I'm sure the information -- the collection was digitized and put on databases somewhere. I don't know what was done with it from that point.

OLBERMANN: And this bait-and-switch sort of idea, that this -- this is the discard pile, we are not going to look at the media, and then it becomes apparent to you that the discard pile is in fact the save pile.
How did that become apparent to you?

TICE: Well, as I was going for support for this particular organization, it sort of was dropped to me that, you know, this is 24/7. Because I was saying, you know, I need collection at this time, at this point for, you know, for a window of time. And I would say, will we have the capability at this particular point? And positioning assets, and I was ultimately told we don't have to worry about that, because we've got it covered all the time. And that's when it clicked in my head, this is not something that's being done on a onesy basis, onesy-twosie. This is something that's happening all the time.

OLBERMANN: In a broad sense, and I imagine this question could be asked a hundred times with much more specificity, but what other kinds of information are you aware of that was collected by the NSA on ordinary Americans?

TICE: On ordinary Americans? I don't know. The parameters that were set for how to filter that -- now we are back to the low-tech side
-- were things like looking for parameters like if a terrorist normally would only make a phone call for one or two minutes, then you look for communications that are only one or two minutes long. Now, that also could be someone ordering a pizza and asking their significant other what sort of toppings that they wanted on their pizza. That is about a one- to two-minute phone call.

OLBERMANN: We mentioned this idea of bait-and-switch, of this is the discard, no, it's not; this is actually the target. Can you explain the maneuver, another sort of bait-and-switch that was worked with the congressional committees that would have had to be asking questions about stuff exactly like this?

TICE: Well, the agency would tailor some of their briefings to try to be deceptive for -- whether it be, you know, a congressional committee or someone they really didn't want to know exactly what was going on. So there would be a lot of bells and whistles in a briefing, and quite often, you know, the meat of the briefing was deceptive.

One of the things that could be done was you could take something that was part of the Department of Defense, make it part of the intelligence community, and put a caveat to that, and make that whatever the intelligence community is doing for support will ultimately be given a different caveat. So when the defense committees on the Hill come calling, you say, you can't look at that because that's an intelligence program.


TICE: But when the intelligence program comes calling, you say you can't look at that because it is a Department of Defense program.


TICE: So you basically have a little shell game that you are playing back and forth.

OLBERMANN: It's brilliant in its simplicity. It's wonderful in its simplicity in a different context.

Last question here, what happens now? Can the Obama administration stop this? That is the first part. And, secondly, has anybody from the Obama administration been in touch with you about this?

TICE: No. Well, I've been in touch with -- basically, I volunteered for the Obama administration to act as a, you know, if they needed a consultant for intelligence. And this was last February. And they said they knew who I was, you know, my background with the agency, but they never really utilized me. I helped out as a volunteer yesterday in the inauguration, but certainly not in that capacity.


TICE: So, you know, I even said I would go on camera for them if they wanted a commercial, but they really didn't utilize that.

But I did send a letter to -- I think it's Mr. Brennan -- a handwritten letter, because I knew all my communications were tapped -- my phones, my computer, and I have had the FBI on me sort of like flies on you know what. And so I made sure it was handwritten. And I'm assuming that he gave the note to our current president, that I intended to say a little bit more than I had in the past.

OLBERMANN: And you have done that. I think, if it's all right with you, I think we are going to have to do another interview tomorrow.

TICE: Certainly.

OLBERMANN: There is much -- there are only about twice as many questions left.

Russell Tice, former NSA intelligence analyst. It sounds corny, thank you for doing this for the country.

TICE: Well, you know, I raised my hand, just like the president, and my oath was to support and defend the Constitution, not a director of an agency, not a classification on a piece of paper, but ultimately the Constitution. And these things were against the law that were happening. So I was just doing my job, really.

OLBERMANN: Well, yes, but doing your job sometimes earns you the lapel pin, the flag pin. Thank you, sir.

TICE: Thank you.

Good Morning


President Obama halts all regulations pending review
Via Talking Points Memo:
White House chief of staff orders federal agencies to halt all regulations pending review
AP News
Jan 20, 2009 18:11 EST
One of President Barack Obama's first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama's White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney Gives Obama Championship Game Ball


updated 5:49 p.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 20, 2009
WASHINGTON - One of Pittsburgh's "first families" welcomed the country's new first family at a bipartisan event on the eve of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney was in the receiving line before dinner at the "Yes We Did Celebration" Monday night. He gave Obama a game ball from the previous night's AFC Championship at Heinz Field.


The Inauguration Speech

Huffington Post has the text.

Some highlights:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

And then:
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

And an important section:
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Read those three paragraphs again. Note the breaks with the past = it's not the size of government, it's whether it works. An unregulated market can (and in this case did) lead to crisis. Deciding between safety and our ideals is a false choice. The rule of law, the rights of man will not be given up for expedience's sake.

And the former President had to sit there and listen. As he had to listen to this:
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
I wonder if it occurred to him that his administration and his policies were being dissed in front of 2 million people (and many more watching at home, work, on-line and so on).

This part warmed my old agnostic's heart:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers.
After years of hearing that "America is a Christian Nation," it's good to hear, you know, the truth.

And finally:
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America

January 20, 2009

Some News Updates

From Politico:
Ted Kennedy was taken out of the Statuary Hall luncheon after suffering an apparent seizure -- a few minutes after Sen. Robert Byrd was removed in his wheelchair under the supervision of medical personnel.

"He was there when the voting rights act passed….so I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now a part of me is with him, I think that’s true for all of us," Obama told dignitaries gathered at his Congressional lunch . "It’s a joyous time but it’s also a sobering time..My prayers are with him and his family."

Byrd was conscious and had been having trouble eating, according to a witness.

Kennedy, who underwent brain cancer surgery last year, was taken to the Rayburn room after suffering an apparent convulsion before being rushed to a hospital, House officials told our Patrick O'Connor.

A police radio picked up a call for paramedics to help someone stricken with a seizure, O'Connor said.

A Byrd update:

Sen. Robert C. Byrd's office says the 91-year West Virginian decided to leave an inauguration luncheon after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was stricken, but not because of any medical problem of his own.

Spokesman Mark Ferrell said that Byrd was sitting at the Capitol luncheon with Sen. Kennedy when the Massachusetts senator took sick.

Ferrell said, "Sen. Byrd did not have a medical issue - he is just fine."

Ferrell added: "Sen. Byrd made the decision to leave the luncheon once Sen. Kennedy was being taken from the room by medical personnel. Sen. Byrd is currently in his own office in the Senate Hart Building and is doing fine, though remains very concerned about his close friend Ted Kennedy."

Today's The Day

From Maya Angelou:
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Final Thoughts on the Exit of President George W. Bush

NOTE: I had hoped to finish this and post it yesterday, but a family medical emergency prevented me until today.

Late in the afternoon of September 11, 2001 after all the phone calls trying to track down friends in NYC (where I had lived for 15 years) and family members in the DC area, after all the feelings of sorrow and rage, and after I could no longer watch another minute of the day's events (but I couldn't make myself turn off the TV), I finally went outside and sat in my postage stamp-sized city yard and a thought occurred to me:

Thank God that Gore isn't president. After eight years of watching many in the Republican Party and the media do everything possible to pull down President Clinton, I didn't trust that they'd actually be able to rally around Gore if he was president. I thought they would crucify him for anything and everything he did.
And then I had a far darker thought:
Oh God, that shallow, ignorant, fake cowboy, cheerleader Bush will now get anything -- everything -- that he wants.
It wasn't but a day or two later that I heard talking heads on TV first throw out and test the waters with the word torture.

I wasn't familiar then with the Benjamin Franklin quote, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" but I would learn of it in the following years.

And, after all he many, many sins of the Bush Administration and the never ending attack on our Constitution, I feared this country would lose its soul.

Still, I believe it wasn't the loss of our liberties and moral high ground that turned the majority of the country against Bush -- it was the other half of the quote's equation -- it was Bush's inability to secure the safety of our citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

People finally woke up to the fact that politicians who say that government is the enemy cannot be trusted to govern.

Bush proceeded to fuck up everything he touched in his years in office.

The words of The Onion's January 17, 2001 post seem downright prophetic now: Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.'

This bit from A Tiny Revolution from May of last year is not meant as any slight against Obama's amazing victory, but damn if it doesn't hold some truth:
It's September 12, 2001. You're sitting in front of a TV, watching footage of the World Trade Center collapse over and over and over again.

All of a sudden, someone from seven years in the future walks out of a tiny temporal vortex, and tells you: George W. Bush is going to fuck this up so badly that in 2008, the United States of America will likely elect as president a black man whose middle name is Hussein and whose father was Muslim. Oh, and he also admits he's used cocaine.

I think it would have been easier to convince me of the reality of time travel. "No, no, I believe you really are from the future. But the other stuff, that's CRAZY."
Yes, Bush will properly go down in history as The Worst President Ever.

He gave us neither neither liberty nor safety.

He failed at everything that a president can fail at.

I feel almost like I have been holding my breath since the November election. That it can't be true that we will finally be rid of this horror show of the last eight years.

At noon today, at long last, I can finally exhale and breathe again.