Saturday, January 31, 2009

Missing Molly for 2 Years Now.

Every time someone down the line is irreverent about authority, I’ll have my monument. Every time some kid who was born a nigger, a kike, a wop, a Polack, a gook, a gimp, a fag, or just a plain maverick lifts up her head and dares anyone to stop her, I’ll have my monument. Every time they peaceably assemble to petition their government for redress of a grievance, I’ll be there. Whenever they worship as they please (or not at all), I’ll be there. Whenever they speak up and speak out and raise hell, I’ll be there. And every time some blue-bellied, full-blooded nincompoop who holds elected office is called to the floor for deciding to keep us safe by rewriting the Constitution, or by suspending due process and holding a citizen indefinitely without legal representation, I’ll be there. Now that is immortality. I don't have any children, so I've decided to claim all the future freedom-fighters and hell-raisers as my kin. I figure freedom and justice beat having my name in marble any day. Besides, if there is another life after this one, think how much we'll get to laugh watching it all.

Molly died two years ago today.

The Department of Betsy has more at
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Clever Girl

Cartoon by XKCD (From the fabulous cartoonist XKCD; hattip to Jesse)

Clever Girl

After I moved back to Texas in 1989, I resurrected a friendship with someone I'd known in college named Mary. She lived in Dallas, I lived in Austin, and in addition to visits to each other's homes, we began going camping once or twice a year during a season when the smaller jewels of Texas state parks would not be overrun. (This was before the Bush Governorship, which gutted funding for state parks.)

Acrocanthosaurus tracks from Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas (Acrocanthosaurus tracks from Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas; photo by Glen J. Kuban)

Thus, in October 1990 we agreed to meet partway between our homes at Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, Texas. We'd gone to this park with other friends back when I was still in college. It has some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world, including a chase sequence between a carnosaur and a sauropod. Many of them were excavated during the 1920s and taken to the American Natural History Museum in Washington, DC, but hundreds still remain. Most of the tracks are located in and around the limestone-ledged Paluxy River, best seen when the water levels were low, as they would be in the fall when we went. We collaborated by phone on a menu and arrived after work on Friday, grabbing a quick look at some therapod tracks before moving into the screen shelter we'd rented, which was simply a wooden roof over a small concrete pad enclosed by screen.

We made dinner, talking animatedly with the ease of old friendship. There was nobody else camping in our entire leg of the park. Mary blew up her air mattress and put it in a far corner: She didn't like her sleep to be disturbed. I put my pad in the opposite corner and spread my down bag on it. It would get cold at night, and the wind was up. By 9:00, Mary was ready for bed, being the early riser type. I had forgotten to bring anything to read, but Mary had gone by the Dallas Public Library on her way out of town to pick up best-sellers she had on hold. She offered my choice of these.

I looked them over. One was by Michael Crichton, whom I knew as a good writer from The Andromeda Strain and The Great Train Robbery. [Note: This was long before he lost his mind over climate change.] This new book was called Jurassic Park. Neither Mary nor I had heard anything about it, but there was a dinosaur on the cover, so with a laugh, I chose it. I crawled into my bag with my pocket flashlight, covered my head with the flap to keep light out of Mary's face, and began reading.

At midnight, I was in paroxysms of terror and my flashlight died. Going to sleep was not an option. I was no longer able to think very clearly, if truth be told. I knew there was a good flashlight in the toolkit of my Honda: the issue was how to get to the car without being run down by velociraptors. I eventually made the sprint and got back to the screen shelter in record time, wheezing enough to need to use my inhaler. I found no way to lock the screen door, then realized it didn't matter, we were simply in Saran wrap from a giant carnivore's perspective. I huddled in my bag again and began draining the battery on a second flash.

An hour later, I realized I should have taken the chance to piss while I was outside the first time. My bladder was stretched tight, from fear and cold, and I wouldn't be able to last until morning. The nearest bathrooms were five minutes away -- we'd deliberately chosen to be away from traffic areas. I scanned the dark for as long as I could bear it, looking for signs of raptors and finding plenty. Finally I bolted outside the door, dropped my pants and let go. In my mind, I'd traveled a dangerous distance from the shelter. In reality, I was two feet from the door and on a slope where the stream traveled down and pooled on the sill, which I didn't realize at the time.

I finished the book right before dawn. I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, still shivering, only to be awakened half an hour later when Mary ventured outside in her moccasins to walk to the bathroom.
Cartoon by XKCD (From the fabulous cartoonist XKCD; click on image to enlarge)

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**Hot, SexXxy, Young**

Teen Prostitution in Oakland

(The EMBEDDED VIDEO isn't linking properly. Sorry. Please go to Huffington Post and watch the video there. Then you can come back here. Again, sorry but we just can't get the embed to work properly. -Jesse)

I know this part of Oakland well.

And these girls.

I've had them in my rig, over and over again.

This is where I worked. This was my territory. These were my clients.

Daughter #1 is 22 -- a hair stylist in West Seattle, formerly on the Junior College All-Star Team as a Defensive Starter for the Western half of the State of Washington in Soccer, her freshman year.
Daughter's 2 & 3, about to turn 21 & 19 are sophomore and freshman at Evergreen State College in Olympia, a really fine liberal arts college.
My son is 16, a sophomore, is in high school down in Olympia.

Given my own background as a teen and in my twenties, I am happy my children made it through their teens (*crosses fingers over my son*) without major lasting damage. We're a first world nation, and life remains unsafe, as near as the streets of our larger cities.

Want to think of something to spend our nation's money on?
Taking care of children at risk, and lost, sounds damn fine to me.

h/t Huffington Post.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Battlestar Galactica is on tonight

"The Oath" at 10 (9 Central) tonight. (Season 4.13)

Opposition to the Cylon alliance turns violent and supporters find themselves under attack. if you want to see the preview, or see free viewings of previous episodes.

iTunes has the previous episodes available for download in both standard and HD.

Anyone who posts a spoiler for a FUTURE episode will be banned from GNB.

Warning to Central/West Coasters: Once the episode starts to air on the East Coast (10 PM ET) we will be discussing it. Do NOT read comments after 7 PM Pacific unless you want to be spoiled for tonight's episode.

In my view Battlestar is the best series I've ever seen, including The West Wing and BtVS.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Breaking: Blagojevich Convicted

Only 8th gov in U.S. History to be impeached and convicted.

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"Born Again American"

(Born Again American lyrics by Keith Carradine, performed by various artists)

Born Again American was conceived and midwifed by Norman Lear, who collaborated with Keith Carradine and Mark Johnson of Playing for Change. It's a project of Declare Yourself!, a non-profit dedicated to increasing young voter participation and civic involvement.

I'd call it an exercise in citizenship, myself. Despite the evangelical overtones, I don't believe there's any intent here to marginalize other religions or lack thereof, merely an effort to use an existing frame that provides instant context and understanding. As President Obama said in his inaugural address, there is a price, as well as a promise, of citizenship.

The Pledge:

I am
a born Again American
I am my Country's Keeper
My President and my
Congress report to me

And so --
I will stay informed and involved
I will make my voice heard
And not just at election time
I can make a difference
I matter
I am an American, Born Again

Born Again American original lyrics, by Keith Carradine:

Just a workin’ man without a job
It got shipped off to China via Washington, D.C.
And I know I’m nothin’ special, there are plenty more like me
Just the same
I thought I knew the rules of the game

I stood up for this country that I love
I came back from the desert to a wife and kids to feed
I’m not sayin’ Uncle Sam should give me what I need
My offer stands
I’ll pull my weight you give me half a chance

I went up to a congressman and said to him “you know
Our government is letting people down”
He said he’d need a lot of help to buck the status-quo
I said there was a bunch of us around

I’m a Born Again American, conceived in Liberty
My Bible and the Bill of Rights, my creed’s equality
I’m a Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

My brother’s welding chassis at the plant
He’s earning what our granddad did in 1948
While CEOs count bonuses behind the castle gates
How can they see
When all they care about’s the do re mi

It’s getting where there’s nowhere left to turn
Not since the crash of twenty-nine have things been so unfair
So many of our citizens are living in despair
The time has come
To reaffirm that hope’s not just for some

The promise of America’s surrendering to greed
The rule is just look out for number one
But brace yourself ‘cause some of us have sown a different seed
A harvest of the spirit has begun

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and The Bill Of Rights
My creed’s equality
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

It’s clear my country’s soul is on the line
She’s hungering for something that she lost along the way
The principle the framers called upon us to obey
That in this land
The people’s will must have the upper hand

I felt the calling once before and took a sacred vow
And faithful to that vow I have remained
I hear the calling once again, my country needs me now
And to her cause I have been re-ordained

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and the Bill Of Rights, all people living free
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea

Aside from being a clear progressive anthem (with strong evocation of evangelical christian fundamentalism*), Born Again American is also a new experiment in crowdsourcing.

* I note that the original lyric is "My Bible is the Bill of Rights", according to Keith Carradine, but the one used in the song generally is "My Bible and the Bill of Rights".

If you go to the site, you'll be presented with an opportunity to "sign the pledge", but more interesting is the remix options. You are encouraged to add your own video (of you singing, presumably), and to remix a copy of the video with the existing videos on site, plus a lot of stock footage of "America Then" and "America Now". There's even a place to add your own lyrical variations. You can also see at least some full length videos of the various versions of the song (here's Keith Carradine's, for instance).

It's for sale in iTunes (iTunes link), and on YouTube (as seen above).

I'll be interested to see what emerges from the crowdsourcing piece of this. I find the song itself inspiring.

(h/t to Seeing the Forest)

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tech Issues

You're not imagining it - the GNB header and subheads are wonky.

Some of the time they're there. Some of the time they're not. People are reporting other problems as well.

We're working to get this resolved. It's taking a while, so please be patient.


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Sourdough Bread Bowls

Bread Bowls Are Perfect For Your Superbowl Chili & Dips

The first thing you need is a sourdough starter. This is a very easy thing to do. Make a slurry of equal parts flour and water, stir until smooth and leave it on a window sill for a few days. It will attract wild yeasts in the air and begin to bubble and work. If you want to hurry things along you can add a couple teaspoons of dry yeast and a spoon of sugar here and there. The traditionalists will condemn you for your modern ways, but, like, fuck them. Be sure when working with sourdough to use wooden or silicone spoons and mix it in a crockery or plastic bowl. No metal.

Once your starter has begun to work you can put it in glass jars in the fridge. Feed it once or twice a week with a cup of flour, a cup of water and a tablespoon or two of sugar. As you develop your relationship with your starter you'll begin to know what makes it happy and active and what to do to keep it growing. If your starter begins to grow beyond a reasonable container, or gets to a size of more than six cups, stick some in a jar and give it to a friend.

For bread bowls you take:

1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
2 cups of bread flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix well, knead for ten to fifteen minutes. I have a dough hook attachment for my stand mixer that I almost never use. I like the feel of working the dough with my hands. I'll hook it if I have other stuff to do, but if I have the time I work the dough by hand.

When the dough is smooth and elastic, form into a ball and put the ball into a lightly oiled bowl (again, no metal), cover with cloth and stick it in a warm, draft free place for a couple hours until it has doubled in bulk.

Punch it down (I reccomend that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi use the bread dough method with the Republicans in Congress -- Everytime they rise, punch them the fuck down) and separate into two portions. Work each portion into a ball, slash an "X" across the top with a very sharp knife, place on a well greased sheet that has been sprinkled lightly with cornmeal. Cover with a cloth, loosely, and allow to rise again for about an hour (or, until doubled in size).

To get a harder, deep golden brown crust, take an egg white mixed with a little water and brush over the rounds before you put them into a 400° oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes brush the crusts down with the egg wash again, then give them 15 more minutes.

When the rounds are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when you thunk them with a finger take them out of the oven and cool them on a rack.

To use as a bowl, slice the top off right about where the curve of the round begins to slope sharply down. Dig out as much or as little of the bread as you care to use. The chunks of bread that I pull out always go onto a staling sheet to be used for making bread crumbs or bread pudding.

This bread isn't the greatest eating bread in the world, but it will hold a soup, stew, chili, or dip just fine. There's also the added advantage of zero cleanup.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The G.W. Bush Presidential Library

Frodo failed

The G.W. Bush Presidential Library

Found in my e-mail today (h/t to Adrienne):

Dear Fellow Constituent:

The George W. Bush Presidential Library is now in the planning stages and accepting donations.

The Library will include:

1. The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.
2. The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.
3. The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don't even have to show up.
4. The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.
5. The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.
6. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.
7. The National Debt Room, which is huge and has no ceiling.
8. The Tax Cut Room, with entry only to the wealthy.
9. The Economy Room, which is in the toilet.
10. The Iraq War Room. (After you complete your first visit, they make you go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth visit.)
11. The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shooting gallery.
12. The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.
13. The Supreme Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.
14. The Airport Men's Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.
15. The Decider Room, complete with dart board, magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.

Note: The library will feature an electron microscope to help you locate and view the President's accomplishments.

The library will also include many famous quotes by George W. Bush:

1. 'The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country.'
2. 'If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.'
3. 'Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.'
4. 'No senior citizen should ever have to choose between prescription drugs and medicine.'
5. 'I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy -- but that could change.'
6. 'One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is 'to be prepared'.'
7. 'Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.'
8. 'I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.'
9. 'The future will be better tomorrow.'
10. 'We're going to have the best educated American people in the world..'
11. 'One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.' (during an education photo-op)
12. 'Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.'
13. 'We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.'
14. 'It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.'
15. 'I stand by all the misstatements that I've made.'...George W. Bush to Sam Donaldson


Jack Abramoff, Co-Chair
G.W. Bush Library Board of Directors

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Buffalo Wings Are a Pain in the Ass

For Our Superbowl Party We Go Pocho

Instead of little messy buffalo wings, we serve what has come to be known as "Mexicali Thunder Thighs."

This was begun on account of I hate the fuss for the food that is presented by your average buffalo wings. I mean, hey, it's bar food. Even though it's been nearly seventeen years since I have had a drink, I've still had to go into bars to work. I still know bar food. Most Americans do not have what I would call a cultured palatte. Shit, most of the Americans I have met in bars would eat steamed toenail clippings if you stuck a neon red sauce on them and served it with a half price pitcher of watery ass lager.

These have the advantage of actually being food. A chicken thigh is a whole piece of food. Way better than a silly little wing. More food, less trash.

So, let's start with the chicken itself.

Get a couple packages of chicken thighs, skin on. Skin on. That's important. Take the thighs and put them into a large pot, with a steamer tray, over boiling water. Steam the thighs covered for 20 minutes. Remove, place on a bed of paper towel to drain and cool. At least an hour.

Place a sheet of baking parchment on a sheet pan, put the chicken thighs on to the parchment and bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Turn the thighs with tongs, and bake another 15 minutes.

While the chicken is baking take equal parts ketchup and Tapatio® picante sauce, toss in a healthy dose of granulated garlic, a few shakes of red wine vinegar, if the spirit moves you a pinch or two of Coleman's English Mustard Powder and mix with a fork until smooth. Don't worry about the proportions. Play with the ingredients. You'll have a great time trying and adjusting this. Just remember to use equal parts ketchup and Tapatio and you'll do just fine. If you don't have a good enough Mexican department where you shop I pity you. There really is no substitute for it. Be bold and be adventurous and you'll hit upon a perfect mix. Try substituting lime juice for the vinegar. Anything goes.

When the chicken comes out of the oven, arrange on a serving platter and brush liberally with the sauce. Put more sauce in little bowls for dipping. Also serve with a good, chunky bleu cheese dressing and cut crudites.

Serve this and you'll be a hero. Go Cardinals! I really want to fucking rub it in when I'm in Pittsburgh for the Netroots and walk around wearing my Pat Tillman jersey.

Plus, I'm grateful to Kurt Warner for making the world a little cooler for old, washed up guys everywhere.

If there are any readers from Pittsburgh who would like to get onto some creative betting, drop me a comment or an email. I'll bet Raspberry Truffles, come up with something good and I'll give you some action. Your beloved Steelers are going the fuck down. Make peace with it now, you'll thank me later.

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Republicans Put Hold on Holder

photo credit:

Senate Republicans Seek Assurance of No War Crimes Prosecutions

Ken Camp, writing for Northwest Progressive Institute Advocates cites several Republicans as willing to stop the process of confirmation unless Holder gives them a garauntee that Bush administration officials need not fear prosecution for crimes alleged. (if by alleged you mean they fucking confessed).

Here's my advice for Mr. Holder.

Lie to them. Tell them "We're interested in moving forward, not backward." Tell them "These men tortured and eavesdropped from a sense of deep patriotism and committment to Jesus." Tell them "We will not do that."

Then do it.

Look, the mere fact that torture is a subject of debate disgusts me. The analogy I like to use is that if you find yourself explaining to a truckload of teenagers that the proper way to dispose of unwanted puppies does not include tossing them at highway signs from a speeding vehicle, there is already a high level of social failure in place.

As soon as torture became a subject of debate we had already lost. As soon as Americans tortured people, however guilty they might have been, we gave the victory to the terrorists.

At the outset of the Pelopponessian War, Pericles gave a funeral oration for the first among the dead. He deliniated the many differences between Athens and Sparta. The telling point of the oration comes at the halfway point. He talks about what makes Athens great. It isn't their military. The Spartan military was its main claim to reknown (even though the Spartan military existed mainly as a defense against slave uprisings, their force on force conflicts were few and far between). No, what made Athens great was their love of theatre, and architecture. Pericles warns the Athenians that if they give up their love of art, music, monuments, commerce, all the things that had made them rich and great then the Spartans would have won regardless of the outcomes on any battlefield.

That's exactly what happened. In their surrender to fear and panic, the White House of George W. Bush moved away from the very foundation of American thought and action. The rule of law, not men. It's that devotion that led great men, like John Adams, to defend British Soldiers after the Boston Massacre. It's a mindset and rigorous morality that led Washington to specifically order that no prisoners taken by the American Rebels be tortured or mistreated. Even the Hessians, who had a reputation for torture and sadism against captured soldiers. Washington, in his wisdom, realized that our tactics define us. By ordering torture and having it done, Bush made torturers of all of us. He made us become who the terrorists said we were.

It Must. Be. Answered. The U.N. Commissioner for Torture has already warned President Obama that if the U.S. refuses to act on this issue, the U.N. will. Phillipe Sands, the lawyer who prosecuted Pinochet, has warned the same.

Mr. Holder, anyone who makes a demand like that on a prospective Attorney General, a demand that requires you ignore clear crimes while serving as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of our nation, does not deserve to be told the truth.

Lie to them. Get the job. Then follow your heart, your conscience, and your legal training.
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Sunday, January 25, 2009


Weekend Update 7/11/07

"...and you say this guy Tanbark does political prognostication and can fart whole english phrases in his sleep?!?!?"

"Yeah Chevy!!! Listen to this...":

"Push hard and he'll quit. Thassit, Drift. :o) I'm up to $80 in bets that BOTH he and Cheyney will resign before the elections. :O) I fart 'We told you so!' in my sleep". -Tanbark

Weekend Update 1/17/09 (re-aired 1/24/09)

"This breaking news just in... George W. Bush still has not resigned from the office of President Of The United States."

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What Happened To High MPG Ratings?

What Happened To High MPG Ratings?

Okay, here's a question for ya'll that may betray some ignorance on my part.

I've been more or less bedbound for a few days and have watched way more "regular" TV than usual. Like, I'm now up to date on Lost, g*d help me. As a result, I noticed a Honda commercial I've never seen before, where a bunch of giant insect gas guzzlers (like a cross between Starship Troopers and a Chevy Tahoe) are thwarted from attacking a Honda Fit by a big bug zapper which is equated to gas mileage of 33 mpg. It's very futuristic and the announcer's voice is robotic.

I sat up and said "Whoa" when I saw this commercial. The outright confrontation in it is something I've not seen so directly portrayed since the last gas crisis of the '70s. I thought it must be brand new, but when I went looking for it online, I discovered it was on the air at least as early as September 2008. Have you all noticed this commercial -- is it on the air where you live? Did it strike you as radically different in tone?

And to the bigger question: That mileage of 33 mpg hardly seems revolutionary to me. In 1976 I bought a Honda CVCC which got a reliable 40 mpg highway, 35 in the city, for the next almost 200,000 miles. It's why I kept buying Hondas, despite accusations of being unpatriotic from my American-car-obsessed mechanic brother. But even then, there were cars getting over 50 mpg. What happened to them? Why aren't those kinds of fuel-saving engines available (or being marketed, as the case may be) any more? Seems to me like they'd be an affordable intermediary between the current crop of hybrids and all the projected imaginary cars of the future.

Geeks, come forth to enlighten. And other pertinent commentary as well, of course.

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photo of diamond encrusted elephant downloaded from the cited post

Welcome Back To Pottersville

Has it all. I especially appreciated the number one assclown. All I gots to say to you JP, is "I know you are, but what am I?"
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Traveling Home today

Glad we did the coverage and trip.

Glad for the stories posted and the MANY stories still to post by both
LM and myself. First, because it's the kind of coverage expected from Group News Blog.
Second, because being there was so absolutely
amazing every single day. And third, because it will be the event of
a lifetime. Being there in person will STILL be amazing when I'm
telling my grandchildren and great-grandchildren bedtime stories
twenty, thirty and forty years from now about how...

"I saw IN PERSON the helicopter of the evil former President Bush take
off and fly, fly, fly away over the National Mall as President Obama
and the First Lady (and it sure doesn't get old saying THAT) and they
smiled sweetly and waved, before holding hands and walking inside the
Capital to get to work setting the United States back to being the
America we love and cherish today."

"Tell us again, Grandpa... Was the evil former president angry?"

"No baby cakes. Just sad. Like how, seeing the 3-4 million people
there celebrating President Obama, he FINALLY, just for a second, got
what a failure he was, how big time he'd screwed up. Bedtime kids."

"Oh Gramps. One more. Please? Pretty-please?"

"Well, okay. But don't tell your Mommies. How about the election of
President Gillbrand?"




Traveling takes SO much out of me. In a normal day I walk about 150
yards, carrying perhaps 5-10 pounds of computer and paperwork. Here
I've been walking MILES daily, with a 30-50 pound load. Even going at
what most of y'all would call 'barely moving' and I call slower than
my normal pace, it has been very hard. Getting to JFK is worse as I
have my computer bag with two computers and many books and papers -
the vital stuff I can't ever check, a small bag with a sleeping bag,
and a rolling overhead bag (small) with a few days of clothes, a
jacket, dress shoes, computer cords (extras), and gifts for friends
and family. All told it's 120-140 pounds.

LM helped me get "here" (below). He's gone, so when I move I'll I
stack everything on the rolling suitcase, wrap the handles of the
lighter bags around my wrist and the rolling case's puller handle, and
roll the whole thing along. That's how I did it getting TO LM's subway
stop from JFK back a week plus ago. That was much harder than today as
I didn't know where I was going and had to transfer in weird ways and
up/down LONG stairways and hallways. Abso-fracking-lutely brutal.
Today we just hopped one train to Grand Central, and then I'm on the
Express Bus which will drop me at the door of check in to my airline.
As opposed to multiple train changes including at Jamaica and then the
Airport Train which still leaves you a one mile walk, even if some of
it has horizontal escalators.

This is better.

The only days remotely tolerable of the trip (including today, 'cause
while this is better, it's still so rough I'm breaking it up into
segments with big breaks between them) were the scooter days (Sara's
recommend Totally saved me, as in TOTALLY; without it our entire D.C.
trip would have been a FAIL), and I can't have a scooter in NYC as
LM's spot while really great, has stairs, not an elevator - no way to
keep a scooter safe and inside at night.

Am sitting at the Starbucks at Park and 42, about to get on an express
bus to JFK and then Jetblue and home by midnight. Tomorrow is a day
off, and Monday is back to work. Will have more stories from the last
week, from D.C. and New York City, including dinner last night at
Sylvia's. Tasty. Mmmmm.

Later my dears.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Remaking of the State Department

Mark Ralston-AFP/Getty Images

I was a big supporter of Obama over Clinton all through the 2008 elections, and was skeptical of her cabinet appointment, but you know what-- I think she is going to do a good job at State. And I know that her arrival is going to be a huge relief to the staff and diplomatic corp all over the world.

I know many folks who work for the embassy here in Japan and others around the world.

This group, more than most, has been truly held hostage for 8 years. Most are career foreign services members-- and believe profoundly and deeply in diplomacy, cultural understanding, global cooperation and good will. Imagine that is your core belief and you have to work under the Bush administration for 8 years. Many former state folks left, and others held on-- feeling that if they abandoned their posts things would get worse. That at least by hanging in there they could try to mitigate some of the anger and justified disgust at the USA's foreign policy under Bush and Co.

The film footage of Hill's arrival at the State Department says it all. There was cheering and yelling and ear to ear grins. And this from a normally pretty sedate and understated crew of folks.

If Bill stays out of the way, and If Hillary allows herself to be guided by her better angels-- this could turn out to be a fantastic decision. Time will tell.

cross posted from Fighting Liberals

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A Little Bit Better

A Little Bit Better

I've been dealing with two days of fever and joint lockdown, but I wanted to express my happiness at the good news flowing out of the Oval Office. A year ago, I made a list of my top ten issues I wanted to see addressed by a new government. At the very top was "Restore the Constitution". This had several subcategories, including limiting so-called executive privilege, restoring transparency, enforcing accountability, returning checks and balances -- you know the rest.

I believed (still do) that if these Cheney-spored rots were scrubbed out, all else would follow much more easily. Which is why when Obama caved on FISA, he went down on my list of Presidential picks.

But damn, the Constitutional scholar in him is coming forth, ain't it? So far, I'm happy as a gator in a chickenranch.

I wanted to alert you all to an interesting website run by the St. Petersburg Times called "The Obameter: Tracking Obama's Campaign Promises". As of this morning, out of about 500 campaign promises, here's the scoreboard so far:

Promise Kept -- 7
Compromise -- 0
Promise Broken -- 0
Stalled -- 1
In The Works -- 14
No Action -- 488

Go to the site for more details. And bookmark it for future reference. Remember, happiness depends on noticing what's going right as much as it does expressing your expectations for improvement.

Or, to quote Jennifer Warnes in the working-class anthem for Norma Rae:

Bless the child of a working man
She knows too soon where she's from
And bless the hands of a working man
He knows his soul is his own

So it goes like it goes
Like a river flows
And time, it rolls right on
And maybe what's good gets a little bit better
And maybe what's bad gets gone
Maybe what's bad gets gone

There's more...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dinner with Jen Last Night

Two conversations to share

Dinner was wonderful, deliciously tasty. Near Bellevue Hospital, meaning rigs busting past over and over and over again throughout. Truly old home week. How fitting. *smiles*

As wonderful as the food was, the conversation was even better.

If Jen ever privileges you with a dinner invitation, accept. Quickly. *grins*
I predict the company, food and conversation will be wonderful.

Two pieces of our conversation, I'll share with you:

  • Jen loves you all very much, as do I.
  • Would that Gilly had seen Obama take office. *sighs*

Dinner was otherwise private.

Feel free to express your feelings and thoughts on the above points.
There's more...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Talking 'Bout 'Nauguration

(From SomeEcards)

Talking 'Bout 'Nauguration

On my sixth birthday in 1961, my family was living in Pecos, Texas, in a trailer park which would be massively damaged by multiple tornadoes a year later. My mother had finally given up on my father ever changing to a job which would bring him home at nights. She agreed to selling our ranch-style three-bedroom in Lafayette, Louisiana and buying a trailer, a 10x50 New Moon with three bedrooms if you count the closet-sized room assigned to me as a bedroom (it was so narrow I had to pull my feet onto on my twin bed to open the dresser drawers). We began moving every few months as my father's crappy job demanded. But Mama thought this meant we'd be together for dinner at night, on weekends, holidays, birthdays.

She still didn't know my father, really.

However, all that slow decline in despair was ahead of us. On my birthday in 1961, I was given a "Have Gun -- Will Travel" toy rifle with a Paladin style black hat and, most thrilling of all, a small set of calling cards embossed with his logo. To keep my little brother Bill, who was two, from feeling left out, he was given a similar set from "Wanted: Dead or Alive" with a plastic sawed-off shotgun.

Have Gun, Will Travel calling card
The first time I took my rifle to the playground in the middle of the trailer park, a little boy named Corky stole it, saying it was not something a girl should have. I went home crying and told Mama. She steamed over to his trailer, where his mother flatly denied he'd come home with anything that didn't belong to him. My mother got into a screaming fight with her, wherein Mama unleashed her legendary ability at profanity and called the woman "white trash". The woman slammed her trailer door in Mama's face. Mama walked around in a rage the rest of the day and unloaded on my father when he came home two hours past dinner time.

It's a milestone memory for me, an initial slam into class and gender walls.

The day before that birthday, Barack Obama had been born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

(Barack Obama as a young boy)

I work nights, sleep days, usually being sound asleep by 8 a.m. But not yesterday. I was too excited to drop off, and wound up flipping from channel to channel for eight hours. I cried a lot. Here are some non-chronological impressions.

There was no smirk on McChimpy Flightsuit's face, not once that I could see. What a fucking relief to see him looking like something might be penetrating that beady-eyed, alcohol-damaged frontal lobe, especially if it might in any way be noticing he is Mr. Epic Fail. How long will it take Laura to divorce him, I wonder? Here's a contest we should start: Which will occur first, McCain admitting he has recurrence of melanoma, Laura divorcing Dubya, or Palin being arrested on corruption charges?

I knew immediately when I saw Cheney in a wheelchair that smart-mouthed teenboy progressives were not going to be able to resist making cheap swipes about it. And I was right. They've jumped on the bandwagon, comparing him to every movie villain they can name. Have you dickheads never stopped to consider why it is that movie-makers (especially the Bond series) feel so free to make the bad guys disabled or having an obvious physical difference? Because it's okay to play on that hatred. Can't pick on blacks or women any more, but wheelchairs, man, that's the kind of difference that's fair game. (Almost as good as swish jokes. And talking about fat chicks.) I mean, I hate the man enough to give me serious pause, but him being in a wheelchair has nothing to do with the issue, pro or con. No wonder FDR hid his braces, with the likes of you losers itching to make comment.

I loved the music quartet, the joy on their faces as they played, the music itself. As a prior attender of Quaker functions, I've heard "Tis a Gift To Be Simple" more times than I can count, but this was an original take on it. (Although, I have to confess, I always think of a parody a friend of mine wrote: "Tis a gift to be pimple / Tis a gift to be wart / Tis a gift to be a blemish of any sort...") I do wish they'd been in a better line of sight. Maybe they should have been to the left of Biden and Obama, and move Darth and Dubya up to the nosebleed zone. I also wish they'd once done a close-up of the pianist (the only woman) performing. But the guys always get most of the camera action -- unless the woman is partially nude and playing a sex kitten, of course.

And Aretha -- the first album I bought on my own was by Aretha. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Yowza. Perfect choice.

I am always glad to support poetry read in public and included in ceremony. However, it was a poem that needed editing, and the poet reader was far too stiff. I kept wishing for Sonia Sanchez or Sharon Bridgforth to be reading up there, now THAT would have been something to see.

I ADORED seeing Obama led in by two powerful women, setting aside my differences with those women at various times. I also adored how many non-white faces were filling the lenses. It's like my chest got full of air for the first time in ages, you know? It got all tight again when I looked at the wide shot of the Congressional luncheon later -- almost all white men over 40, how can this be considered representative leadership? You have to ignore so much about the planet, about human history, to accept that logic.

And speaking of which: My lizard brain is hoping for retribution against John Cornyn. He kept Hillary from being confirmed on Inauguration Day just because -- like the dog licking its genitals -- he could. One more CDS prick-slap. Or do you really buy his argument about transparency?

I found Obama's speech to be EXCELLENT. He was direct, was clearly speaking to the rest of the world as well as America, and he spoke truth to power (take THAT, Bushies). I particularly liked his reminder we don't have to give up civil liberties to be "safe".

I was also glad to hear a few direct references to race, more than his usual allegory. (Excepting the single "race speech", whose title right there tells you how often Obama raises the issue concretely.) He's elected now, he no longer has to play to the majority of white supporters who want proactive redemption for a guilt they deny feeling, who want him to speak in terms of "we" and "it's gonna be better" instead of pointing to the elephant in the room. White people prefer not to move on the issue of race unless it seems like it was their idea in the first place -- or the National Guard is involved. He did it deftly enough that commentators like Charlie Gibson and Bob Schieffer felt a sanctified glow in repeating his remarks, sure the troubles he referred to are all in the icky past.

So, now we have one out of 44 Presidents who is Not White. I have mixed feelings -- incredulous relief at it occurring in my lifetime, followed immediately by noticing the pathos of needing to feel such relief. If the next four Presidents are African American, the next five after ten or eleven after that Latino, then at least one Asian and Native American, we'll reach actual racial diversity in Presidential representation. Of course, every one of those plus another 27 Presidents (until 2184) will need to be women for us to reach gender equality.

(From SomeEcards)

Now, as for the prayers. Let me begin by saying I'm so fucking ready to take g*d out of all these oaths and falderol. If you don't believe they'll tell the truth without bringing g*d into it, then they're not who we should have as leaders, right? And either g*d loves us all and supports us in everything we do (even Dubya) or g*d is not much of a supreme being, more like a Britney kinda parent.

I multitasked during PRick Warren's ridiculous display. I did sit up straight and sing "America the Beautiful", thinking about the end of the second stanza (America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw / Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!) and the author's 25-year relationship/residence with her beloved Katherine Coman. But I also read the captioning on my TV screen and when I'd finished singing, I listened critically to the style of PRick's prayer as well as trying to hear if there was any resistance coming from the audience. Flipping between channels, I noticed at first the camera showed quite a few people who were obviously not "praying along", looking bored or disgusted. Eventually the networks all found folks with closed eyes and clasped hands, and stayed with this stereotype until he was done.

I grew up listening to fundies preach, and the thing is, he simply wasn't very good. Aside from the obvious offenses in his content (I'll get to that), it didn't hang together very well, it was overly exhortational or groveling, alternating between the two, without any good hooks to suck in the emotion of the listener. And the expression on his face looked to me like that of a man who was busy sucking off the sweat behind a largish pair of balls.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As for offense: You don't introduce Jesus as g*d in a prayer designed for people of all faiths. You'll notice Lowery didn't do it, nor did the Chaplain who prayed at the beginning of the Congressional luncheon, both of them devout Christians, I'm sure. It's as offensive as if he had insisted on using the term Allah instead of the agreed-upon generic g*d. But -- this is a man who earns his living by refusing to see the full humanity of others. No big surprise there.

He also appropriated the Sh'ma and altered it (perhaps botched it). Again, fundies think they have a right to claim Judaism, and too many right-wing Jews in the last few decades have allowed them to get away with it. In lesbian-feminist circles, you'll be met with torches and pitchforks if you refer to "Judeo-Christian" anything or allow gentiles to lead Jewish prayer without obtaining prior consent.

It was, in short, a pitiful effort, definitely not worthy of the cost to Obama to include this vermin on that platform. Plenty of that example on the other side of balcony.

Reverend Joseph Lowery would definitely have looked better by comparison, in any event, but he did everything right. He spoke the language of actual inclusion, he caught us up, and he ended with humor. It's the kind of prayer an atheist can listen to and find enough relatable to accept as speaking for all of us, not just "believers" (as if nonbelievers have no beliefs). Below is a YouTube copy of his benediction.

I kept watching after the ceremony was over, mainly in hopes of seeing President Obama sign some key executive orders right away (didn't happen) and wondering if the networks would also block out the lesbian/gay portions of the parade, as HBO did to Gene Robinson this weekend (didn't see all of the parade, so I can't say for sure). During the parade, all three main stations made some comment about how the Obamas were expected to make D.C. their actual community, to go out in it and do community organizing, eat at local restaurants, and make friends there, in contrast to the Bushes who had no locally made friends after eight years. They also put up a photograph from the podium looking down the length of the National Mall to show the vast crowds attending, juxtaposed with the same shot from Bush's inauguration which drew perhaps one-fourth the number of attendees. (So much for a fucking mandate.) Why wasn't this sort of analysis ever done by the mainstream networks while Bush was in office?

I also have to say, I think people who don't wear a warm, buttoned-up coat when they have to be out for hours in that kind of weather look stupid. It's painful to see that much insecurity on display (i.e., my looks are more important than my well-being.) When will my sisters be "free at last" from that imprisonment? And don't try to tell me it was a choice. You know damned well that all anybody would be talking about is if the First Lady had dressed appropriately instead of an object on display. But reverse it: Imagine if Barack had been in shorts and a light dress jacket. At least they put their daughters in coats.

I'm reminded of a story about Sam Houston, the first President of the Republic of Texas. (He was a slaveowner but was opposed to the extension of slavery into new American territory, and was forced to resign his later governorship of Texas because he refused to sign an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. He proclaimed "A house divided against itself cannot stand" eight years before Lincoln did.) When the Republic was new, a group of visitors from the East came, bigwigs in fancy clothes whose report on Texas would be instrumental in gaining future assistance and favor. Houston was showing them around the grounds of a new building, and in the back near the kitchen, a pot of cornmeal mush was hung over a fire, simmering. Houston picked up a spoon and took a mouthful, not knowing it was near boiling. He promptly spit it out onto the earth near the feet of his horrified visitors. Houston remarked "There's many a damned fool who would've swallowed that!"

As for all the "designer" obsession, let me just report that my cat Dinah chose to wear full-length tortoiseshell to her Top Of The Bookshelf Inaugural Ball.

When I finally gave up on there being anything covered except fluff, I came back to my computer where I had an e-mail waiting from a friend living in the Boston area, but formerly from Texas, saying "Happy New President! I'm so sorry you have to take the old one back now." Ah, you and me both, Amanda. You'll notice he went to Midland first, where there's still enough of the deluded to gin up a crowd for him. (I say that having lived in Midland as a child.) You'll also notice he's chosen Dallas, not Austin, as his future residence. Dallas can have him. I only wish we could give all of Dallas from Central Expressway to Irving away to Oklahoma and not have it affect Texas elections any more.

I opened my blog's layout and removed the Backwards Bush Clock, which for six months has been counting down the days until he was gone. It's amazing this day has come. I'm glad I watched, totally worth it to lose an entire cycle of sleep over. Then I made dinner and, in the words of Jeb Bartlet, said to myself "Next?"

(Image by Alvin Blair.)

There's more...

Back in NYC

Drinking Coffee and Taking it Easy

Back in NYC having driven up this morning.

Before leaving D.C. we got memento copies of The Washington Post to store away. Once we got here, I got Final copies of The New York Times, New York Post, and Newsday. The inauguration and I was there. *smiles* About which I will write my own story -- and many more -- once I've had time to let them sink in and simmer.

Of the hundreds and hundreds of people I've spoken to so far, many only briefly, NOT ONE has said having President Obama in office sucks, stinks, is bad, or even suggested it may not be all it's cracked up to be. The closest is someone today said that no one person could possibly measure up to all these expectations. Oh, wait... that was me.

It was n a conversation with a New York financial analyst (we were having lunch at a deli over by the main library; I had lox on a plain bagel plus tomato and lots of onion) who was worried about four years going by and what will people think if not everything is done?!! I reassured him the Obama team is keenly aware of the problem and is concentrated on what needs to be done NOW, not on everything which could possibly be done given unlimited money and time. Where is the most bang for the buck, given their concerns?

For me, the biggest bang is in shifting the fundamental basis of the dollar from being backed by petroleum (which is a scare commodity) to a dollar being backed by renewable "green" energy (which are abundant commodities, or will be as we develop and move the technologies for them from developmental technologies to production commodities with economies of scale.)

This will result in a contextual shift first to an economy in which the world's reserve currency is backed by abundance rather than by scarcity, to a world where people naturally THINK and then ARE, that is, a world in which people LIVE THEIR LIVES FROM ABUNDANCE as the default condition instead of a world in which people live their lives from scarcity by default. Changing the backing of the dollar -- the world's reserve currency -- from increasingly scare petroleum to renewable and increasingly abundant "green" energy WILL be as large a shift in human development and human rights as the invention of technology (tools) themselves.

Yes, I mean to make this large a claim. The creation of tools contextually arose along with the invention of identity, which brings with it that there is a "me" and there is "all you people." Which in turn brings into existence, especially given the conditions under which human beings lived 20,000-30,000 years ago, their smaller brains, the smaller linguistic space within which they invented their world... the world invented naturally and I assess inevitability, brought with it, scarcity. An "us" v. "them" world of competing for scarce, natural resources which man harvests from the heavens, the seas and the earths (which are infinite, even though the resources they contain ultimately may be scarce.)

Water is scarce. Food is scarce. Fertile virgin women of good families are scarce. Strong powerful men with property and wealth are scarce. Real estate is scarce. Oil, beaver pelts, tulips, cocaine, Percocet, votes, and rivers to build dams on are scarce.

Our economy, the very dollar itself, is build on hydro-carbons which while once seemingly black gold, an endless sea, are now obviously increasingly scarce.

The world-wide economy built from the time of early man till today, build on scarcity down to its very core, is crumbling, rumbling, cracking, crumbling. What we don't think through clearly is this: should the economy actually collapse, the half of the world which is dead broke would probably live. You and I (perhaps not literally you or I, but the so-called First World) would die by the billions. A world-wide economic collapse would produce a species die-off.

An economy built on scarcity has got us this far. Now the world must shift on its foundations. Revolution to the way "everyone knows it is" must occur or the world as we know it will end.

The context of money must change.

Enough For Everyone

This contextual shift means that for the first time since human beings invented tools, captured fire, learned how to slay animals at a distance, planted crops, and began to invent a future together, for the first time, there WILL BE ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE AND EVERYONE WILL KNOW THAT IS TRUE. Abundant energy as the backing of money means there is enough energy for everything for everyone, and the government backs the money supply with its guarantee. That the full faith and credit of the United States says THERE IS ENOUGH. So says the United States. Count on it.

Having dinner with Jen at 6 tonight.

MUCH more about the inauguration (and New York). Call it, LM and Jesse's excellent adventures... as we get them written. Plus PHOTOS and VIDEOS.

Including the best video GNB has EVER posted. True.


Just spent an hour or so in the the reading room at the Main Library. Then ZOOMED down 42nd with New York pedestrians JUMPING FOR THEIR LIVES as my scooter bore down on them. Muhahahaha.

Seriously. I scared the hell out of the mid-town insurance types. The nice ladies I went out of my way to be careful with. And the asshole's so busy on their phone they were knocking the little old ladies out of their way, I made jump for their lives. *smiles sweetly*

Aggressive? Who's aggressive? (*reaches into red bag and takes meds I should have taken last night and this morning. Checks* 'Hmm. Perhaps I forgot to take them. ' *takes meds for entire day...*)

Dropped off the scooter with Alex on the east side of Lexington between 42 & 41. I'll write more about Alex Wong and Big Apple Mobility later - he and his scooters are worth an entire wonderful post. Renting a scooter from Alex was one of the three best decisions of the entire trip. We'd have failed without the scooter, no question.

Walked back over to Park, and up towards 42nd. I'm in the Starbucks on the east side of Park, just short of 42nd.

More from me tomorrow. Today I'm relaxing from the intensity of the last six-seven days, laying back, catching up on a tiny tiny bit of my email, but mostly, relaxing and letting sink in what is happening.

Once it's started to sink in a bit, I'll start writing post after post after post about everything. So much happened, and I want to write. For the first time in a long time -- I've been really wiped out -- I have a need to sit down and pour out good posts.

Sitting here, reading, drinking an enormous coffee, then dinner with Jen tonight.

Talk with y'all soon.

There's more...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Aretha's Hat

Wasn't that a thing?

A millenary confection in grey felt, glittering with rhinestones, trimmed in black grosgrain. My. Oh my.

I'm hearing from white friends who thought it was, well, tacky and overdone. I think they missed the point entirely.

Aretha's hat was a full-on diva crown, in the best African-American Sunday Suit tradition.

Hats are tremendously symbolic in the AA community, with a whole lore surrounding them. In traditional black churches, you don't show up on Sunday without your crown -- the sartorial sign of the nobility of black women. You may clean hotel rooms or sling hash in a crummy uniform six days a week; but on the seventh day, your church hat puts the world on notice that you are nonetheless a beloved daughter of God.

That (well, that plus the bitter cold) is why you've been seeing so many men and women wearing them to inauguration events over the past few days. In black culture, hats are still an important mode of self-expression, and a potent statement of respect for yourself and the event you're gracing with your presence.

I was halfway hoping Michelle would make a nod to that tradition, and sport some fabulous headwear of her own. No such luck: she's more modern than that. But Aretha's showstopping topper more than took up the slack.

And it also may have been the first sign of an emerging fashion trend. It's entirely possible that with African America finally Having Arrived -- as of today -- that the love of a great hat will finally make its way back out into the larger culture.

You read it here first. Love that hat or hate it, you're going to see more of them.

There's more...

Keep Your Lamps

Dani's playing hookey with me today. We watched Barack Obama take the oath of office. What a great event.

We are about to start making some sourdough french loaves for tonight's dinner. While we work the dough I can shout "Keep Your Lamp" and she answers with "Trimmed and Burning!"

Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning My Friends.

There's a lot of work left to do.

There's more...

Inaugural - President Obama

The Oath of Office

The crowd. rejoiices. Me too.

Last night I read a press release from the PIC. At the bottom it said,
after 12:01 PM ET go to I started to weep.
Suddenly, truly for the first time, I got it. And now it is here.

I am happy this afternoon. I have hope.

The President's Inaugural Address.
(Comments in the appropriate thread please.)

Poetry reading: "What if the mightiest word is love?"

Inclusion, not exclusion

Singing of the National Anthem

Presidental Party Leaves

The WORLD rejoices.

There's more...

Whoo hooo!

(Video Source: The Lion King, Walt Disney
Video Production: Evan Robinson, Group News Blog)
There's more...

Obama's Inaugural Address

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the
trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our
ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as
well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this

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.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics.
Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across
our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and
that the next generation must lower its sights.

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.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that
greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never
been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path
for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or
seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the
risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but
more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us
up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled
across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the
lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg;
Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked
till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They
saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions;
greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous,
powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than
when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods
and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or
last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of
standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off
unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today,
we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the
work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the
economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only
to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will
build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that
feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to
its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health
care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the
winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we
will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the
demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who
suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their
memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has
already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is
joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

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.

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.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once
more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -
even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will
begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned
peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work
tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of
a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will
we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims
by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that
our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us,
and we will defeat you.

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. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn
from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter
swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter
stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old
hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon
dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall
reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a
new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual
interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who
seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know
that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you
destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit
and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of
history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench
your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make
your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved
bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that
enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to
suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's
resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we
must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with
humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol
far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us
today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through
the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our
liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness
to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at
this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely
this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the
faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation
relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees
break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours
than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest
hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled
with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that
finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them
may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard
work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity,
loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true.
They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.
What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required
of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part
of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and
the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize
gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to
the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a
difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on
us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women
and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration
across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than
sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can
now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

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.

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Oath of Office

Joe Biden icame out. Giving love all around.

Dick Cheney is in a wheelchair... they had to PUSH HIM OUT; it's the
only way they could get him out.

Bush came out. No one loves him, 'cept maybe his mother.

Obama's coming out. What... You mean Obama's black?

The crowd at 7 am was alread 2.5 million. Now it's a waving sea going
two miles all the way from the Capital to the steps of the Lincoln

The crowd goes WILD. Obama shaking hands. Calm, cool, the man.

The Invocation... Blew. And was Long. Stupid preacher. Not only a
bigot, but a long-winded bigot. *spits*

.Ms. A. Franklin lays America the Beautiful on us, the breath smokey
on her smokey voice. I've never heard it better - her or the song.

Biden is sworn in by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.


Kisses and handshakes all around.

Music like you can't beliieve (I can't spell all the names on the fly,
sorry) - Perlman, Ma, McGill

Obama IS now the President of the United States as per the
Constitution, as it is past 12:01 pm ET

Barack Obama takes the oath of office as given by Chief Justice Roberts.

Hail to the Chief is played.

21 guns are fired.


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Cool! Blogging by Cell Phone!

Instead of having to locate a wireless hotspot...

Instead of having to turn on my nationwide Internet broadband cellular...

Instead of having to drag around a COMPUTER everywhere...

Look Mom. Look children. Look wonderful readers!!!

I'm blogging using EMAIL. Ain't it COOL?

Which means, all I need is my cell phone, and I can throw up a post, ba-bing, ba-boom, from ANYWHERE, ANYTIME.

Now I'm sure there are tricks to the thing. Such as how to format with italics, put in links, and all the good stuff. But for now, just knowing I can throw in a post NOW and not have to wait. It's better than cold beer. 'Specially considering (those bastards) my doctors won't let me drink the stuff anymore. *grins*

Talk with y'all later today. Six hours, twenty minutes till the swearing in. Time for us to haul ass. Later...

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At Last

President Barack Obama (LOLObama created by little gator, not to be confused with The Littlest Gator)

At Last

When was the last time you felt like grown-ups were in charge of the country?

When did you last trust authority? I'm not talking about Questioning Authority -- for me and my cohort, at least, that's still a daily practice of rationality. But trust?

For me, it was when I voted for Bill Clinton as President, Ann Richards as Governor, and Glen Maxey (an out gay male liberal) as my District Representative all on the same day, back in 1990. It was the first time in my life I'd voted for people I trusted who WON. I was 35 years old.

I trusted Bill about as much as I trust Barack now -- that is, with reservations about their clear stance to the right of center. My expectations are similar. But oh, what a relief those expectations are, in comparison.

A good life, and access to happiness, I believe comes from allowing myself to feel all the emotions as they come along. Grief, fear, anger, and despair, feel 'em and let 'em wash through. And joy, relief, security, connection -- feel that just as deeply. I'm going to spend the day letting myself Feel.

Plus maybe Chicago-style deep-dish pizza for dinner.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Every Voice Lifted And Singing

Yes, The Most Soulful White Man To Ever Dig Grooves Into Vinyl Was On The Mall Too...

In the bevy of events planned for this weekend / week-start of the whole world's singing “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” with the “B”-side of “Funky President”, the “We Are One” concert on the Mall was the one event I was not necessarily up for. Outdoor concerts just generally sort of leave me a bit cold. I hate how the elements can muck with the audio, and contending with huge crowds in the hundreds of thousands all trying to get home at once is a serious comedown. Did I say they leave me “cold”? Oh yes. They do. And in some cases, literally. Extreme heat is bad enough at an outdoor performance, as I found out at Diana Ross' infamous Central Park summer concert that was punctuated by a massive and sudden wind and thunderstorm, but ass-clenching cold is a whole other smoke. Or icicle if you will. If you've been in the northeast this week, you have no doubt felt the “Hawk's” bite as winter has moved in forcefully. It's cold here in D.C. too. Everyone who came down from New York brought ungainly-assed bags of extra coats and sweaterings. Getting about in the cold was going to be tough enough, but standing there in it for hours for a concert—I don't care WHO is singing—was going to be a bitch. But, with press credentials in tow for what would end up being amazing positioning, off we went.

D.C.'s Metro subway system is as I remembered it—pretty damned efficient, but still echoing of the seventies design styling so prevalent when it was primarily constructed. And folks, we used the hell out of it yesterday, and will today and tomorrow as getting around town by car is increasing in difficulty by the hour. Streets are being barricaded with huge cement slabs fork-lifted from flatbeds every few minutes to secure the place. We drove to the Hilton downtown, bailed there and walked down to Dupont Circle and nabbed the Metro to Metro Center where we transferred to the Vienna / Fairfax Blue (Orange) line and got off at Foggy Bottom—a place with a name so entertaining, that every American citizen should go there once, just to say “Yeah, I rode out to Foggy Bottom...yep.” in their lives. From there we trundled down to the Lincoln Memorial end of the National Mall where the concert was taking place. Let me amend that. Thanks to our press credentials, we were just off to the side of stage left and the orchestra pit. Close as all hell, and well within the view of the sharpshooters who binocular-swept the area for troublemakers. Press from all over the world was there, and some familiar faces, too. David Corn of Mother Jones stood next to me, peering over the riser at things going on, too. And then...

There was a bombastic blurt of the “HBO Feature Presentaion” theme from the loudspeakers, eliciting a massed leap of surprise from most, and perhaps a few sudden urine icicles of shock from others. Joe and Jill Biden came out from behind a moving, trompe l'oeil wall and I looked down the mall for the first time and saw the massive crowd in full for the first time—stretching all the way back to the Capitol dome. This was not Thursday night at Wingate Field in Brooklyn to see a much-decimated version of Morris Day and The Time kludge through four tunes with 5,000 folks “listening”.

This...was a crowd.

The Bidens stood at a podium and then The President-Elect and his wife were introduced and the Mall fairly twinkled like a Christmas tree as thousands of flashes went off to catch their entrance. The four stood there waving, and then went right—to their seats behind a bullet-proofed glass partition. No hates for the fellas as they sat with their wives and the adorable Malia and Sasha, who would tuck her head between her mom's left arm and side for warmth and a little extra love. Denzel Washington led off things as the first actor of many speak and quote Lincoln and other figures from history and how they related to the nascent Obama presidency.

These folks were interstitial—dropped in between the acts that performed. From a “Why him?” appearance by Kal Penn, to a “When Is he gonna break into a mock-metal guitar howl and air guitaring frenzy?” (But he never did!) Jack Black, to the odd but rewarding pairing of Steve Carell and Jamie Foxx for a reading, capped off by Foxx's eerie impersonation of Senator Obama's Grant Park speech, you never knew what was coming next. Tom Hanks' appearance brought not groans, but a few “Sigh! Well of course Tom Hanks. Mr. Gravitas...blah-blah-blah” from some in the crowd. But he was good. Typically every-mannish and good guy-esque, Hanks was Hanks and most said “Thanks”—for his statesmanly handling of his part.

The music though...the performers were a whole 'nother smoke.

The festivities kicked off with “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen doing the do with a live Gospel choir augmented blast of “The Rising”. Bruce was intense, guitar held high up, as is his want when he's really feeling it. A smart move to kick off with one of the best live performers in Rock over the last 25 years. A rousing start indeed!

Southern Soul Goddess Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi sang a stunning rendition of “A Change Is Gonna Come”—with LaVette's Memphis horn-like voice, sweet and squalling, and Bon Jovi's noting for me, (for the first time) an odd, Sam Cooke-ish influence (more on Sam later). Jon Bon Jovi can flat-out sing. And didn't seem to look at the massive, lyric-crawling TelePrompter even once. End of story, folks.

Will.I.Am and Sheryl Crow, who last teamed up in Denver for the convention were a little off with their rendition of Bob Marley's “One Love”. A flubbed note here and there and a bit of disconnection between the two kind of washed that performance out. Eh.

Usher's and Shakira's opening take on Stevie Wonder's “Higher Ground” was a tight-wire act, with many wondering if Usher would break into some of his signature moves—spins, spine-snaps and crucifixion poses, and the rest fearing Shakira's “hips not lying” and Michelle suddenly having to slap hands over Malia and Sasha's eyes over the ensuing display. Thankfully, this did not transpire, but what did next was stupendous. The song's scribe, one Steveland Morris, a.k.a. Stevie Wonder emerged on piano and was as Stevielicious as ever, elevating the song to the ground its lyrics inferred. When Stevie gets to hammering out block chords with his left and hitting those jazzy light counterpoints with his right while singing, he starts killing it, folks. He had Barack and Michelle on their feet stomping and clapping the two and four with more perfection than any other President and First Lady in memory—sorry Bill and Hillary. Stevie found the pocket, and took everybody else in with him. He ended his time with a melismatic acapella singing of Barack Obama's name to the tune of his “Take Me Up To Paradise” as he was led off. Just an impromptu, emotion-filled blurt that kind of summed up the feelings of many of the assembled.

Garth Brooks was a high point. I've never seen him live, but have heard that he is a blazing performer. You'd best believe that. His energy is next-level. He ran to the lip of the stage and you thought he'd perhaps stage-dive into the orchestra pit, he was so fired up. He did a pitch-perfect “American Pie”, roaring through the song and looking heavenward with glee. He medley-segued into The Isley Brothers' “Shout!” with the massed hundreds of thousands pogo-ing in all the right spots as you looked down the Mall. He turned and “conducted” the choir along, cajoling them into a frenzy with the crowd. He had the press section jumping as well, and I admit to being fully ready to fall on my back and “waterbug” like John Belushi in “Animal House” when the time came...but thankfully for all gathered, I chilled. He ended his segment with a heart-pumping “We Shall Be Free”, with him skipping across the stage, whipping off his wireless mic and hat, and again Toscanini-ing the choir into the D.C. sky with their voices. I don't like “Country” music, but this son-of-a-bitch rocked the bells yesterday. I now understand those who've raved about his stage presence. Totally.

And then, there was James Taylor. “JT” is one of my favorite all-time performers. He is for me, one of the most naturally “soulful” White performers who've ever released a record or mounted a stage. You see, “Soul” isn't a sound. It's a feeling. There have been folks like The Righteous Brothers' Bill Medley who could sort of get the sound, if not quite the feel, and those like the dreadful Michael Bolton who think that “Soul” is vocal stress, grimacing, and histrionics. That ain't soul, foilks. Soul is a bouncy, singing from the very heart—its beat and the whoosh of blood after its thump. It's easy and just sort of natural. It's never forced. It skates between beats and lands after a timed hover...justso and makes you go “Mmmmph!” when it's right. James Taylor does this easily (Along with George Michael and the much unheralded Boz Scaggs). There's a Country, folk-y sound to him and a simultaneous and free-flowing bit of the Sam Cooke sound to his style. Little vocal runs on a lyric, doubling the beat, adding breaths and ad libs and landing on that “Mmmmph!” note. Taylor came out alone with his baby blue Strat singing his classic “Shower The People” and sounding as good as ever, his slightly nasal twang curling the ends of his smooth tenor notes as we've always heard it do. He was joined by the ubiquitous John Legend and Jennifer Nettles. Taylor was able to do more with less (in my mind), complementing on his fills unlike Legend and his tendency to over-sing when he should be supporting as a background player. Legend's leads on the Taylor chestnut kind of reeked of, “Watch me take this song and make it my own with its owner right next to me!”

It didn't work John...sorry.

Taylor wrested his song back from Legend's tune-twisting hands and brought it back to the sing-along it was meant to be—and not the one-upmanship show it could have become. And he exhibited more effortless “Soul” than JL could conjure with far more work involved. Take a note, br'uh...and take it easy. It won't hurt you.

The show was capped off with Springsteen returning for a rousing “This Land Is Your Land” with one of its venerable old-school interpreters, Pete Seeger, plaid-shirted and banjo in hand as you've always remembered him. As the song hit the three-quarter mark, Seeger swapped with Springsteen, letting The Boss hit the main melody as he took the 'tween moments to presage the next line quickly, neatly and with such a breezy effervescence that you easily forgot that he was 89 years old—until you remembered he's had that white beard for the entire forty years since you first saw him on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”. This unabashed former young Communist, and later civil rights activist whose decidely left-of-center views would hold him hard in the sights of wingnut central from the days of McCarthy until stood at Lincoln's feet as a guest of a president and was ushering him into office on a musical wave of positivity. The Boss, feeling it again brought his guitar up high, to hear those notes up close, and he looked over at Seeger and smiled a “This is unbelievable!” smile and closed his eyes to strum a little harder seemigly savor the moment. BeyoncĂ© would come out and lead all who performed—spoken and sung—in a well-turned “America, The Beautiful”, with Stevie chiming in on harmonica and everyone else assembled, including many on the Mall proper filling in “We Are The World” style in unison. The diva did not fail, saving up a big, high note whoop for the song's end while radiating an rare (for her) understated fabulousness. Not the most lyrically expressive singer, as she like Legend is also prone to over-tickle a melody to where nothing stands out, she turned in a nice job on this one. Still more eye candy to me (and what eye candy she is, honestly) than a voice to be reckoned with, she was surprisingly good. And that's a lot coming from me as I'm still hating on her a bit for her exuberant performance while in Destiny's Child for Bush's 2000 Inaugural Ball at the behest of Education Secretary and shyster from her home town of Houston, Rod Paige. The “Crazy In Love” video did a lot (ahem!) to move me into “B's” camp, but as for her singing, which can get a little screechy, I give her a thumbs-up here. Very “Inaugural-icious” as she might intone.

With that, we were done and backtracking on the Metro to our base in Arlington for the night. Travel back was much easier than coming in, thanks to the many native Washingtonians who were so courteous and helpful with us getting around. A stop in Dupont Circle for food, and then home for the night where we passed out after many, many hours runnin, plannin' and writin'.

In the was worth every one of the recuperative forty winks we got.

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