Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Green Technology Cheers Chu

Read the 10 Top green tech breakthroughs of 2008. Here's Steven Chu:

President-elect Barack Obama ran on the promise of green jobs and an economic stimulus package that would provide support for scientific innovation. Then, Obama picked Steven Chu, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, to head the Department of Energy. Chu had been focused on turning Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory into an alternative-energy powerhouse. The green tech community rejoiced that one of their own would be in the White House.
That's because green tech is going to need some help. With the world economy falling into recession, the price of oil has dropped, even though there are serious concerns about the long-term oil supply. When energy prices drop, clean tech investments don't seem quite as attractive, and the renascent industry could be in trouble. It's happened before, after all.
Back in the '70s, geopolitical events sent the price of oil soaring, which, as it tends to, created a boom in green tech. But the early 1980s saw the worst recession since the Depression. Sound familiar? In the poor economic climate, focus and funds were shifted away from green tech. The last nail in the coffin was the election of Ronald Reagan, who immediately pulled off the solar panels Jimmy Carter had placed on the White House. The green tech industry collapsed.
History has given U.S. alternative energy research a second chance and environmental advocates hope that a different president will lead to a very different result.

Get Your Official Inauguration Goodies

Get your official inauguration gear here.




NASA Chief's Wife Petitions for Husband's Job

NASA chief Mike Griffin and Lori Garver, who heads heads Obama's space policy transition team, have butted heads. Garver has been analyzing the effectiveness of the agency. Griffin, by the way, doesn't believe in global warming. You can read about all of that here.
Now, Griffin's wife Rebecca Griffin is petitioning for his job (here's the petition). How odd.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Late on Christmas Eve, one last wish was sent, by e-mail: Please let NASA Administrator Michael Griffin keep his job. It was from his wife.

Rebecca Griffin, who works in marketing, sent her message with the subject line "Campaign for Mike" to friends and family. It asked them to sign an online petition to President-elect Barack Obama "to consider keeping Mike Griffin on as NASA Administrator."

She wrote, "Yes, once again I am embarrassing my husband by reaching out to our friends and 'imposing' on them.... And if this is inappropriate, I'm sorry."
The petition drive, which said the President George W. Bush appointee "has brought a sense of order and purpose to the U.S. space agency," was organized by Scott "Doc" Horowitz of Park City, Utah, an ex-astronaut and former NASA associate administrator.
A cash-strapped NASA last week also sent — by priority mail costing $6.75 a package — copies of a new NASA book called "Leadership in Space: Selected Speeches of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, May 2005-October 2008."

And just before the presidential election, Griffin sent a letter to Obama saying, "I am deeply grateful to you, personally, for your leadership" on the vote to allow NASA to use Russian spaceships.

Efforts by those close to Griffin lobbying on his behalf are unusually bold, even for ego-heavy Washington. Past efforts on behalf of job hopefuls have been more behind-the-scenes so plausible deniability can be maintained.
Here's part of what the online petition says:
Petition in Support of keeping Mike Griffin as the NASA Administrator

Dr. Michael Griffin is one of the most technically and managerially competent administrators in NASA’s history. He has brought a sense of order and purpose to the U.S. space agency, guiding decisions in all programs with the firm belief that our strength as a world power is determined in a large part by our preeminence in space, particularly in human spaceflight. Dr. Griffin has guided the Constellation Program--the goal of which is to return the United States to the moon, and then explore Mars and beyond--out of the conceptual phase and into the factory, with contracts for all of the major elements, despite severe budgetary limitations. In the process he has helped NASA regain the respect of the Congress. Mike Griffin--a true rocket scientist and systems engineer and gifted administrator--is uniquely qualified to take NASA into the next era of space exploration. The undersigned hereby petition the new administration in the White House to retain the services of Dr. Griffin, holding the firm conviction that he is the best hope for the NASA’s future and for the future of U.S. leadership in space.

Background

On April 14, 2005 Dr. Michael Griffin became the 11th administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Mike Griffin is widely considered to be the most capable Administrator since the Apollo era. He has instituted substantial changes at NASA and is rebuilding capabilities that have atrophied and eroded since the days of Apollo and Space Shuttle development (it has been over 30 years since NASA or industry has developed a human rated spacecraft). It has been argued that the NASA administrator need not have the skills of a chief engineer or rocket scientist, but during this critical phase of developing the future of U.S. space flight, there is no more essential skill set this leader should possess. Mike Griffin is a leader of the highest integrity, with the knowledge and intellect to understand the most complex technical, programmatic, and organizational issues and to train and guide a new generation of technical leaders to make the right decisions. Under his direction NASA has made more progress in restoring America’s spaceflight design and development capabilities in the last 3 years than was accomplished in the prior three decades. 
One congressman, Bart Gordon, wants Griffin to stay on:
Michael Griffin should continue as NASA administrator, at least until President-elect Barack Obama sorts out his space policy agenda, the chairman of a key House authorizing committee said Dec. 18.

"I have recommended that, at a minimum, he be kept during the transition period," House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said, adding that he was also recommending that Griffin "be considered" to be kept on beyond that.

Gordon, whose committee oversees NASA, said the final verdict on Griffin is "something for the next administration. It's their decision."

Gordon praised Griffin during a Capitol Hill press briefing on the panel's agenda for the 111th Congress, which convenes next month.

"I've been pleased with the working relationship with Dr. Griffin," Gordon said, adding that the often blunt Griffin "understands what he's doing, in contrast to previous administrations."

Hillary to Travel To South Korea in April

The most powerful woman in the world will help drop the ball in Times Square tonight.

NY Daily News: The most powerful woman in the world.
So Hillary Clinton will become with the dawn of a new White House. Madam Secretary of State. A strong hand in a velvet glove, extended to the globe on behalf of the most anticipated presidency in generations.
Short of Barack Obama, no American today has a greater opportunity to shape international history than does New York’s departing junior U.S. senator.
And, short of Barack Obama, no American played a greater role last year in influencing the choice of the 44th President of the United States. Clinton galvanized 18 million voters and made her ultimately successful rival much the better by testing him vigorously.
For carrying the banner of a history-making candidacy with a resolve and class worthy of this city — in victory and defeat — we today salute Hillary Clinton as the Daily News New Yorker of the Year for 2008.
Besides being New Yorker of the Year, Hillary will likely be appointed to deal with the Gaza conflict asap, and she's expected to travel to South Korea, China and Japan in April.

A Very Funny Blago Cartoon

I don't want to rip it off and post it, so you'll have to go here.

Obama's Stimulus Includes Money to Fix Schools

Students don't need spiffy schools to learn well but they definitely need schools that won't fall on their heads.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama probably cannot fix every leaky roof and busted boiler in the nation's schools. But educators say his sweeping school modernization program — if he spends enough — could jump-start student achievement.

More kids than ever are crammed into aging, run-down schools that need an estimated $255 billion in repairs, renovations or construction. While the president-elect is likely to ask Congress for only a fraction of that, education experts say it still could make a big difference.

"The need is definitely out there," said Robert Canavan, chairman of the Rebuild America's Schools coalition, which includes both teachers' unions and large education groups. "A federal investment of that magnitude would really have a significant impact."

Educators argue that spiffy classrooms help children learn and also remove health risks. But they warn that Obama's school spending plan won't stimulate the economy if it requires matching funds from state and local governments whose tax revenues have been slashed by the recession.

Win Tickets to Inauguration

Obama swarmed in Hawaii. 

You have to write an essay. Contest rules here.

Media Reporting Where Obama Will Stay

The Obamas want to get their daughters off to school before inauguration, but the Blair House won't be ready because George is using it (for something very important, I'm sure), so in the meantime, the Obamas, apparently, are moving into the Hay-Adams Hotel.
The media was asked not to report where the Obamas were staying but they did anyway. I wonder if it won't just be a decoy. But that would be an awful lot of trouble for the surrounding residents of the Hay-Adams. I imagine anyone who really wanted to know where Obama was staying would know, and really, how could you hide the first family?
Obama's Secret Service had better be the best there is because there are plenty of serious loons out there who are doing whatever they can to keep Obama out of the White House. Their efforts have been futile and low key so far (the whole birth certificate idiocy) but the lunacy of some folks can't be dismissed.

NYT: At least he’ll have a good view of the White House. When President-elect Barack Obama moves to town this weekend, he will be staying in the famed Hay Adams Hotel just across Lafayette Park from his new digs.

Mr. Obama is bringing his family to Washington a couple weeks before his inauguration so his daughters can start school on Monday, but since Blair House, the government’s official guest residence, is booked until Jan. 15, the Obamas will be staying for a while in the presidential suite at the Hay Adams.

The transition office confirmed Tuesday that the Obamas were moving this weekend but declined to identify the hotel. But the Secret Service has begun notifying neighbors of the hotel that it will be tightening security around the building through the 15th because of its prominent new guests.

Obama's Economic Package To Hit Campaign Trail

Obama in Hawaii


Coming to a city near you: Obama's economic recovery plan. Obama and other staffers will even leave Washington as part of a marketing blitz to pass the stimulus, or what the Obama administration prefers to call the economic recovery plan.
LAT: President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to lead a full-scale marketing blitz to pass the massive new stimulus package that he says is needed to revive the slumping economy and put the nation on the course he laid out during his campaign.

Obama will move to Washington this weekend, checking into a hotel with his family. In the remaining weeks of the transition, and after he is sworn in, he will use the bully pulpit to make the case for passage of a stimulus package of up to $775 billion, an aide said.

Obama, now in Hawaii on vacation, may travel outside Washington after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, while others in the new administration scatter across the country to explain in minute detail the scope and purpose of the stimulus plan, said David Axelrod, a senior advisor to the president-elect.

"We'll fan out, and this will be a public process," Axelrod said in an interview. "We'll make clear to people why we need to do what we're doing, why it's the size it is, what the individual component parts are, and why they are an important part of the equation in terms of short-term recovery."

Obama, he said, "wants the American people involved in this discussion."

But his stratagem of mobilizing grass-roots support and using his popularity to sway public opinion could inflame partisan tensions.
As far as middle class tax cuts:
Aides would not discuss certain aspects of the package, including the tax cut, saying the details were still being worked out.

But a House leadership aide said the tax cut may come in the form of a payroll tax reduction so that "there'd be more in your paycheck." The cut would potentially apply to people earning as much as $250,000 a year, the aide said.

A House vote on the bill may come the week of Jan. 12, the leadership aide said. A Senate timetable is less certain.

By invoking the threat of a filibuster, the Senate could delay passage. So for Obama to win swift adoption, a Senate aide said, Republican collaboration is essential.

"We expect to move as quickly as possible, but in the end it depends on what kind of cooperation we get from Republicans," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

More money in our paychecks?
CNN: For many cash-strapped workers, Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the economy could mean more take-home money in their paychecks.

While details remain unclear, the president-elect's recovery proposal is likely to include a tax cut to boost spending. Exactly how much of a break that could mean for workers depends on how the tax cut is structured.

Survey Says: Obama Supporters Still Fired Up

I have noticed a decline of readers since the end of the campaign, but overall, the campaign has netted tens of thousands of people, many who've never participated in politics before (myself included) who still want to be engaged in government.
Visit change.gov and check out the number of people participating. A new Pew study also says people are in it for the long haul.

WaPo: "Well, people are still fired up and ready to go," he continues. "What's next?"

Therein lies the challenge for the Obama White House. His online team might have written the playbook on leveraging the Internet to campaign victory, building a grassroots network on My.BarackObama.com, amassing a record amount of online donations and collecting an e-mail list of more than 13 million addresses, by far the biggest in Washington.

Like Johnson, many of those people aren't going away. A survey released yesterday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 51 percent of online Obama supporters expect to get e-mail, text messages or other communications from the new administration.

But how will all that online energy be channeled from campaigning into governing?

Some of the Pew study findings:
62% of Obama voters expect that they will ask others to support the policies of the
new administration over the next year. Among Obama voters who were engaged online during the campaign, 25% expect to support the administration’s agenda by reaching out to others online.
46% of Obama voters and 33% of McCain voters expect to hear directly from their candidate or party leaders over the next year. Fully 51% of online Obama supporters expect some kind of ongoing communication from the new administration—34% of Obama-supporting email users expect email communication, 37% of social network site users expect SNS updates, and 11% of phone texters expect to receive text
messages from the new administration.
27% of wired Obama voters have gone online to learn about or get involved with the presidential transition process.1 Nine percent of online McCain voters have visited websites hoping to rebuild the GOP or elect conservative candidates in the future.

Summary of the study from CQ:
The survey of 2,254 adults, conducted between Nov. 22 and Dec. 4, was designed to take stock of a base consisting of a disproportionately high number of first-time and minority voters, as well as individuals under the age of 30. Many such individuals have been underrepresented in political polls and are more likely to get their news from the Internet, late-night comedy shows, or social networking sites than newspapers or network evening news programs.

A total of 1,591 respondents in the sample identified themselves as Internet users.

The survey found 33 percent of respondents who used the Internet for election news and voted for Obama have gone online to track or discuss the transition process. Only 4 percent of Obama supporters who use the Internet but were not politically engaged online have done the same.

A total of 51 percent of online Obama supporters expect some kind of ongoing communication from the new administration, either in the form of e-mail, text messages or appeals through social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

And 27 percent of wired Obama voters said they have used the Internet to learn about or get personally involved in the transition process, either by submitting questions and advice via interactive features or applying for a job with the incoming administration. Only 9 percent of online supporters of Republican presidential nominee John McCain reported visiting Web sites aimed at rebuilding the GOP or building support for future campaigns.

Bobby Rush Is Nuts Too

The congressman made a spectacle of himself yesterday. Here he is again trying to argue for racial equality in the senate. 
Here's what he said on The Early Show:

"All these folks who are opposed to Governor Blagojevich, they need to take a chill pill."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Madoff Screwed Charities and Kevin Bacon Too

Madoff's long list of people screwed includes Kevin Bacon.

Obama: Burris Good Blago Not

All of Illinois has to be embarrassed by now. See the wacky press conference here.

CNN: Senate Democratic leaders have said they will block the appointment and are urging the governor to step down after his arrest on corruption charges. It's a point that Obama agrees with.

"Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat," Obama said in a statement. "I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Gov. Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it."

FBI agents arrested Blagojevich on December 9 after federal prosecutors alleged, among other things, that he had tried to "sell" Obama's former Senate seat. Blagojevich denies any wrongdoing and has ignored calls to resign.
Burris defends himself. He raises questions in my mind -- why? Why would anyone want to jump into this craziness? Is Burris crazy too? Also, why did Blago choose Burris? What was Blago's motivation? What kind of discussions did they have? 

Activists in Hawaii Urge Obama To Rethink Mid East

See Cornell West's really good advice to Obama on tackling the MidEast and more advice from retired Gen. Anthony Zinni to engage Hamas early. Obama has said that he will engage early but he hasn't said how.

I'm hoping Obama won't be anything like Bush on dealing with this problem, which is going to take Courage, especially since he'll have to contend with the busy wingnuts still saying Obama's a stealth Muslim terrorist. 

HA: Eight activists marched with signs to the edge of the property's security perimeter, telling reporters that they want the incoming administration to take a fresh look at the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories, especially given the current fighting in the Gaza Strip. They also said Obama needs to take a more active role in the conflict, even though he doesn't take office until Jan. 20.

"We feel there's a great need for change. We need to stop giving Israel a blank check to do what it's doing," said Margaret Brown, a 66-year-old Honolulu resident who held a handmade sign that read "Yes we can change U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine."

"We just gave them a blank check to oppress the Palestinians, and this is the result," she said.

Israel continued its air attacks on Gaza on Tuesday and warned that a ground invasion could follow if rocket launches didn't stop. The United States has called for the militant group Hamas to stop launching rockets into Israel.

More advice. This makes sense:

Blagojevich Appoints Roland Burris Video

Story from MSNBC. NYT's take. 

What a crazy press conference. Congress Bobby Rush rushed the podium to talk about how it was absolutely necessary that a black man be in the senate. It just came off as Weird. 
How nutty is Blago? He says he's enjoyed the limelight in the past couple of weeks, and he really does seem to be enjoying the limelight. Burris praises Obama. Who is Burris? More from ABC on Burris. Think Progress has a video that speculates Blago is crazy like a fox. He's thinking of his trial. 

Cornell West's Advice to Obama on Middle East Peace

Cornell West and Tavis Smiley address questions on Middle East Peace at the Miami Book Fair.

Peace can't be attained without addressing the needs of the Palestinians and the anxiety of the Israelis, who live in fear of their survival, given the Holocaust and antisemitism. West says there needs to be an open and frank discussion.

Will Obama have the courage to address the needs of the Jewish people, while being fair to the Palestinians? What a great 10 minutes:

Viewing Rick Warren at the 30,000 Foot Level

I heard Sophia Nelson's viewpoint on Rick Warren last night on NPR and found it refreshing. It's how I felt before I spent too much time listening to Rick Warren's callous words about gay people. But in the end she's right. Obama's right. Nelson, by the way, has been a republican strategist for quite a while. If more republicans were like her, I might be a republican. 

Check out what she had to say about the ugly song that's all the rage within the republican party right now. Here is what she had to say about Warren: 

Political Intersection: The choice of Rick Warren is shrewd and bold, and exactly what the nation needs to see modeled in our leaders. Not just "tolerance" of other's views (I so hate that word)--but acceptance and respect of each other's differences and ideologies and why we see the world so differently at times. This is what I like most in Obama--he likes people--he likes to engage them--he is a thinker--he is unafraid to reach beyond the pail of what is "supposed to be" acceptable or politically correct.

To my friends on the right I say give this young President a chance--he may surprise you. To my friends on the left I say, open your hearts and listen, just as you wish to be listened to by others. Stop the name calling, the attacks on Pastor Warren and instead see if you can sit with him, engage him, pray with him and at least agree to disagree agreeably. Find out the genesis of why he feels as he does about Gay Americans--and make sure he hears from your side with civility and passion just the same.

It is time for this nation to heal because this nation is headed for very hard economic times. You may have to feed your Gay neighbor, or borrow some milk from the right wing evangelicals down the street. The black brother will have to help his white brother, and the Hispanic brother may have to employ his black brother. The point is, we need to come together not just in word but in deed. This is a good way to start that process at a 30,000 ft level.
I also recently re-read a Rolling Stone interview from a while back where Obama talked about gay marriage and that too, was refreshing. He said that for many, gay marriage is a culture shock (see Joseph Lowery, who's giving the benediction, talk about this) and it's not something that can be shoved down people's throats.

There is a learning curve and there are steps to take.

For those of us who have an intuitive sense of what constitutes a civil right or who are more accepting, or who live and work around a lot of gay people, people who oppose gay marriage can be hard to handle because when they speak their mind, it often comes out as hate. As they're pushed, they become more forceful in spewing hate. They have no other way of handling it because they don't know any better. For now.

But if more people can be included in the process, if there can be a meeting of the minds from both ends of the spectrum, perhaps, one day even Rick Warren might see things differently. He might be sitting on Oprah's couch explaining how God sent him his epiphany. Who knows?
Here's that passage from RS:
In Dreams From My Father, you recount the bigotry your parents faced because of interracial marriage, which was illegal then. What is the difference between that and the current bans on gay marriage?
Well, I'm always careful not to draw easy equivalents between groups, because then you start getting into a contest about victimization or who has been discriminated against more. What I'll say is that I am a strong believer in civil unions that would provide all the federal rights under federal law that a marriage contract would provide to people. I think that the country is still working through the idea of same-sex marriage and its entanglement, historically, with religious beliefs.

My sense is that a consensus has already established itself that when it comes to hospital visitation, the ability to pass on benefits like Social Security, that people shouldn't be discriminated against, everyone should be treated equally. I think that is a starting point — that consensus is what will grow over time. If you want to use the analogy of the civil rights movement, Dr. King and others didn't lead with assaults on anti-miscegenation laws. They focused on voting rights and civil rights. Once those rights were secured, the culture shifts.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Change.gov Open for Questions


Got a question for Obama? Ask it or vote on one already asked. Answers to come in the New Year.

Leading the foreign policy category are questions on how Obama will handle the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It's interesting to see what's on everyone's minds. 

Mid-East About to Self Destruct

Unfortunately, civilians sometimes pay the price, says Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, shrugging. What happens when they're done blowing each other to smithereens? More terrorism crops up, more poverty, more unrest.



Protests and background on Gaza and Hamas, the elected leaders of Gaza:

Response to Israeli's attacks:

Welcome to Gaza

Obama Needs To Eat His Tuna Sandwich in Peace

Hopefully, this will die down once Obama takes office. Otherwise, I think Obama and his family need designated press-free time.

Obama Solicited on Golf Course

The Secret Service may not be able to intercept shoes, but they can get in between an informational DVD.

HP: An interesting political moment occurred Monday as Barack Obama was set to play golf with a group of friends.

A couple approached the President-elect's security detail and begged them to deliver a set of "informational" DVDs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The group delivering the package expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people and concern that Obama's approach to the conflict would mirror that of George W. Bush.

Unfortunately for them, the Secret Service refused to deliver the box. And Obama went on to play his round of golf -- after hitting some poor range balls and instructing the press to stop watching him swing.

The Honolulu Advertiser tells a little about Obama's swing today and perhaps the media is getting a bit nutty covering Obama's vacation.

Obama-bilia Big Business in DC

Van Go Bama
Business is good for those selling Obama souvenirs. Some of the best Obama bilia are art posters and stickers. Those can be seen here. There's also bunches of handmade jewelry, buttons, inaugural note cards and other things here

In DC, they're making a killing: 
CQ Politics: Abner Richet, a social work student at the University of Washington in Seattle, had been on his first visit to the nation’s capital for only a few hours before he started shopping for souvenirs marking the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

“It was a historical moment for me when I got here,” Richet said, as he stood in a 5,000-square-foot all-Obama souvenir shop that has opened at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., just a block away from the White House. He proudly showed off his first purchase, a $3 montage poster of Obama and his family. “It’s for my mother. She’s a huge Obama fan,” said Richet, whose family lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Such shopping excursions are fueling a mini-boom in the Washington souvenir trade, keyed to the election of Obama and his Jan. 20 inauguration, which is expected to draw record crowds to Washington.

Already, the street vendors who set up shop on downtown Washington sidewalks have pushed aside the T-shirts and hats emblazoned with “FBI” or “CIA” to make way for Obama T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts. It’s practically impossible to find any souvenir with the likeness of departing President Bush. In the souvenir world, he’s yesterday’s news.
Everyone is getting in on it:
The interest in cashing in on Obama is spreading. The Borders bookstore in downtown Washington features a big window display of books by and about Obama, and chain stores like Walgreens and CVS also are selling Obama hats and shirts. For the upmarket trade, jewelers are planning Obama bracelets, pendants or earrings, with prices reaching four figures.
Watch here:

Sarah Palin is a Granny

In between the SNL shoots, shopping sprees, campaign stops and a mother-in-law busted for drugs, a baby is born. Happy birthday Tripp!

People: Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, gave birth on Sunday to a healthy 7 lb., 4 oz., baby boy in Palmer, Alaska.

"We think it's wonderful," said Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, who confirmed the news. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited."

The baby's name is Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, according to Jones.

Baby Tripp takes his surname from his dad, Levi Johnston, an apprentice electrician and former Wasilla High School hockey player who has been dating Bristol for three years.

Bristol Palin is currently residing in Wasilla and completing her high-school diploma through correspondence courses.

Johnston is studying to become an electrician. He told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol plan to wed in 2009 and raise the child together.

2008 Most Viral Videos


I missed this one and a few others. Here are the rest.

Bernard Madoff's Offshore Banking

I keep wondering how many more Madoffs are there. There can't be just one. It seems like the past decade has been a free for all for those who knew how to work the system.

WSJ: LONDON -- As investors around the world size up losses on Bernard Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme, one purveyor of investment services to the world's wealthy -- Swiss private bank Union Bancaire Privée -- is scrambling to explain its ties to the New York financier.

Half of UBP's 22 funds of funds, which channeled clients' money into other hedge funds, put at least some of that money into Madoff-related investment vehicles, including one run by J. Ezra Merkin, chairman of car-loan company GMAC LLC, according to a recent letter from the bank to investors.

Madoff's tax havens:
The accountants believe Madoff regularly sent bundles of money to offshore accounts in the Caribbean and Europe, the Observer newspaper in London reported yesterday.

Madoff, 70, has been ordered by a Manhattan fed eral judge to provide to the Securities and Exchange Commission by New Year's Eve a detailed list of all of his assets - in cluding investments, loans, lines of credit, business interests and brokerage accounts.

But tracking what happened to the estimated $50 billion Madoff is accused of making off with is already promising to be one of the longest and most complicated financial investigations on record, the Observer noted.

And should Madoff prove less than forthcoming regarding his offshore accounts, investigators could be in for an even tougher time.

The tax havens are designed under local laws to be nearly impervious to subpoenas or other investigative inquiries, making it notoriously tough for US officials to seize or even see what's there.

Kucinich Criticizes Israel

Dennis Kucinich always speaks his mind. It does seem a little irrational to me to wipe 300 people off the map when no Israelis were killed by Hamas, and Gazans say Hamas doesn't speak for them. (For an update, visit Haaretz).

I know the conflict has so many complexities, chief among them, no one ever criticizes Israel. If neither side budges, they will eternally blast each other to pieces and continue to incite violence in other parts of the world. Hillary!

Obama can't take office soon enough because the Bush administration is totally ineffective. But I'm not sure anyone can change the Middle East, where violence seems like a way of life.

The Hill: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is calling for a United Nations investigation into Israel’s attacks on Gaza, criticizing Israel for a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks.

The criticism stands in stark contrast to the statements of other Democrats, who have offered near-unanimous support for Israel amid the latest violence in the Middle East.
....
Kucinich likened the Israeli attacks on Gaza to its war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006. In both cases, he said, civilian populations were attacked and “countless innocents” were killed or injured.

“All this was, and is, disproportionate, indiscriminate mass violence in violation of international law,” Kucinich said in a statement. “Israel is not exempt from international law and must be held accountable.”

Inauguration Warning

If you're going to the inauguration, you'll need to have your calm and cool disposition on and be prepared because it's going to be crazy. Wireless companies are also gearing up for the crowds. Everything you need to know is at the official inauguration site.

NYT: The advisory says that ticket-holders should arrive at least three hours before the ceremony begins at 11:30. The place will be jammed. Streets will be closed and so probably will the bridges and major roadways into the district, unless you’re on a special bus. If you’re already staying within two miles of the Capitol, you should walk to the swearing-in. If you have special needs (like, you can’t walk), you’ll still have to walk, or use a wheelchair.

There will be “drop-off” points for people with disabilities, but “traffic conditions and restrictions may make reaching these drop-off locations extremely difficult.”
...
If you’re coming by Metro: “Be prepared to wait for space on a train for long periods of time, during which you will have to stand in close proximity to several thousand people. Many Metro escalators will be closed due to crowding and individuals will need to climb Metro stairs or wait to utilize the small number of elevators at Metro stations.”

If it’s raining? You can’t get through security with an umbrella. Bring a hat or poncho.

And if you’re on medication, like insulin, that you need to take at regular intervals, bring it with you. You’ll be there for many hours.

First Read also has some advice:
Be in line by 9 a.m., but don't bring your umbrella, even if it's raining.

That's the advice from the congressional committee responsible for the formal portion of the Jan. 20th inauguration.

The swearing-in program will begin at 11:30 a.m., so that the oath of office can be administered to Barack Obama at noon, as the Constitution requires.

Security checkpoints for ticketed guests open at 8 a.m., and the committee recommends that ticket holders arrive no later than 9 a.m. to get through screening.

More GOP Reaction To Saltsman's Foolishness

Attention GOP: The song (listen to it here) is offensive and if you don't get that you're way behind the curve and you need to catch up or slither off into a dark hole. Jose Can You See is insulting as well.
Jake Tapper adds some more to this story, including Obama's reaction -- or nonreaction (just like Obama) -- when he first heard the song.

This just in, another fool, Kate Obenshain, vice pres of Young America's Foundation (whatever the heck that is) defends Rush Limbaugh's song as parody of Al Sharpton. 
CNN: Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis also questioned Saltsman's judgment.

"In my opinion, this isn't funny and it's in bad taste," he said in a statement. "Just as important, anything that paints the GOP as being motivated in our criticism of President-elect Obama by anything other than a difference in philosophy does a disservice to our party."
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer -- who has reportedly been weighing a run for the party's top spot, but has not officially announced a bid -- released a Monday morning statement praising candidates who have weighed in against the "racially insulting song."

"As the GOP Chairman in one of our nation's most ethnically and culturally diverse states, I am especially disappointed by the inappropriate words and actions we've seen over the past few days," he said. "I am proud of those party leaders who have stood up in firm opposition to this type of behavior."

"Actions such as the distribution of this CD, regardless of intent, only serves to promote divisiveness and distracts us from our common goal of building our party."
Ken Blackwell thinks the song is brilliant:
Ken Blackwell -- one of two African-American candidates for party chairman -- agreed with Saltsman's assessment, defending him in a weekend statement.

"Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race," said Blackwell -- who, if elected, would be the first black chairman of the RNC. "This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African-American elected president.

"I don't think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."
Another reaction:
James Richardson, the RNC's online communication manager for the 2008 election cycle, called Saltsman's move "quite the revealing faux pas."

"Granted, he didn't pull a George Allen and personally call Obama a 'magic Negro,' but sending a CD with those lyrics shortly after electing the first African-American president -- one supported by nearly 97 percent of the African-American community -- shows a serious lack of judgment, tact and the necessary level of racial sensitivity expected of public officials," wrote Richardson, a Red State contributor, on conservative blog The Skepticians.

Huckabee weighs in. Not good enough:
Chip should have been more careful in his selection of Christmas gifts, but no one who knows him would ever suggest that he in any way would purposely disparage other people. Chip knows how sensitive such issues are. It shouldn’t be the main factor in the RNC race.

The election of Barack Obama is not only historic for our country but it is something all Americans, not just Democrats, should celebrate. As I have said many times the election of Mr. Obama is significant not because of his race or in spite of it, but with indifference to it. He was not my choice for President, but he will be MY President over the next four years and I will support him personally and pray for his success. I will certainly disagree with him at times, but I pledge that my disagreements with him will be over his policy decisions and not aimed at him personally. I ask that all of you will join with me in doing that.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist's reaction. Good enough:
As the GOP Chairman in one of our nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse states, I am especially disappointed by the inappropriate words and actions we’ve seen over the past few days. I am proud of those party leaders who have stood up in firm opposition to this type of behavior. Read the rest.

For Obama Everything's on the Front Burner

Why do reporters and pundits keep insisting that Obama will have such and such, pick your choice, on the front burner? Everything is going to be on the front burner. He'll have a big enough staff, one that's bright and efficient. Why can't the Obama administration pay attention to all of it at once?

Politico: Israel’s continuing attacks on Gaza serve as a reminder that President-elect Barack Obama and his nominee to be secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, will not get to choose the world they inherit Jan. 20.

The incoming administration had planned to focus on the economic crisis and recalibrating U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan in its early months — but the Israeli assault on Hamas may have instantly changed that calculus.

"For all the talk of putting the [Middle East] conflict on the back burner, it's going force itself onto the front burner," said Daniel Levy, a fellow at the New America Foundation. Levy said that if the conflict in Gaza is still ongoing when Obama takes office, he will face regional and international pressure to broker a settlement.

"It could involve the administration very early,” Levy said.

Obama's Melting Some Conservatives

Conservative Bill Kristol, a big fan of Sarah Palin, has some kind words to say about Obama but not without a slap to the left.

NYT: But I also have to admit that I look forward to Obama’s inauguration with a surprising degree of hope and good cheer.

For one thing, there will be the invocation, delivered by Rick Warren. I suspect he’ll be careful to say nothing pro-life or pro-traditional-marriage — but we conservatives have already gotten more than enough pleasure from the hysterical reaction to his selection by the tribunes of the intolerant left. And having Warren there will, in fact, be a welcome reminder of the strides the evangelical movement and religious conservatives (broadly speaking) have made in recent decades.
On the inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander, he says this:
I’ve looked at some of Alexander’s poetry, and am confident she’ll be a big improvement on Angelou. It makes me think our culture isn’t necessarily getting worse. It may even be getting better.
And on Obama using Lincoln's Bible to swear in:
But my (generous) interpretation of Obama’s choice of the Lincoln Bible is this: It’s an homage to Lincoln, not a claim to be like him. Obama intends to look back to Lincoln for guidance and to look up to him as a model. Lincoln, our greatest president and statesman, had a deep understanding of American exceptionalism. He thought long and hard about the relationship of American founding principles to political practice, and in his actions exemplified the prudent and skillful pursuit of a principled end. He was also a great war president. Obama could do a lot worse than study Lincoln and learn from him.
And on Obama's hard habit to kick:
Bah, humbug. Those of us who dislike finger-wagging nanny-state-nagging liberalism relish the prospect of President Barack Obama sneaking a cigarette on the second floor of the White House while rereading Harry V. Jaffa’s great work on Lincoln, “Crisis of the House Divided,” then taking a break to stroll over to take a look at the White House’s copy of Emanuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” then going back to the family quarters to tell his kids to get back to memorizing some patriotic poetry, all of this interrupted occasionally by calls from Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno — his Ulysses Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman — to discuss progress in the wars we’re fighting, or from Rick Warren to discuss their joint efforts to fight AIDS in Africa and to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. Read it all.

Cheney Unaware of America's Disdain

By way of Think Progress, soon to be history icky Dick Cheney told his hometown newspaper that he doesn't know why people don't like him. His out of touchness is exactly why, among other deeds.
Cheney hides behind the guise that he and Bush protected the nation against terrorist attacks, but as was pointed out on Meet the Press today, there were plenty of terrorist attacks off of US soil and US policy contributed to that.
Here he talks about Ken Salazar, Obama's new head of interior:

What impact will the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have on important Western issues like wolf management and natural resource development?

"I'd be reluctant to make predictions at this point. It will depend, of course, on who the people he has appointed perform and what kind of guidance and policy they get from the White House.

"I think it helps to have people from the West in some of those key jobs. I guess Sen. Ken Salazar from Colorado is going to take the interior (secretary) job. I think that's helpful to have somebody from Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, in that post. Now, you know I'd rather have a conservative Republican, given my view of the world. But Democrats won the election, and they get to fill those posts, and we'll see how they do."

What do you say to Wyoming residents who remember you fondly as their congressman but disagree strongly with the policy you've helped craft as vice president?

"I think the facts are that we were faced with a unique set of circumstances in the aftermath of 9/11, and we had to make some very tough decisions that not everybody agreed with. But I think they were the right decisions, especially in terms of defending the homeland.

"We've now gone seven and a half years without another attack. To do that, we adopted policies, such as the Terrorist Surveillance Program that let us intercept the communications of Al-Qaeda terrorists talking to folks inside the U.S., the High Value Detainee Interrogation Program, the Patriot Act. These were all measures we took that we felt were essential to defeat Al-Qaeda, to head off the next attack, and to defend the nation. Not everybody agreed with them; some of them have been controversial.

"Our critics have accused us of various and sundry deeds connected with those programs. I don't think the criticism is warranted. And I don't think anybody who has spent time looking specifically at the threat, and contemplating the fact that the next attack on one of our cities might not be just with airline tickets and box cutters as was true on 9/11, but rather with a biological and nuclear weapon.

"That's what we had to guard against, and that's what we had to take steps to prevent. Doing that has obviously generated a lot of controversy, but it goes with the turf."

How do you explain your low approval rating?

"I don't have any idea. I don't follow the polls.

"My experience has been over the years that if you govern based upon poll numbers, upon trying to improve your overall poll ratings, people I've encountered who do that are people who won't make tough decisions. And the job the president has and those who advise him is to make those basic fundamental decisions for the nation that nobody else is authorized or able to make.

"First and foremost among those is to defend the nation. If you're going to follow the polls, you are going to change your policy every week when the poll comes out. Secondly, I think you're adversely affected by the fact that you can get just about any result you want out of a poll.

"My own experience has been, in the administrations I've served in, for example Gerald Ford, a man who made a very, very tough decision when he decided to pardon Nixon, something that was extremely unpopular, universally condemned, but 30 years later he was praised as having done the right thing. So I think you need to have that kind of approach to it rather than watch the polls on any given day."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

CBS' 2008 in Review Video

The best part of 2008, the only shiny part of 2008 that I can think of at this moment, is the election of Barack Obama, which makes the prospects for 2009 exciting.

A look back from 60 Minutes:

Photojournalism 2008 Award Winning Campaign Photos

Be sure to check out all the photos-- love the Chilean cowboy Sebastian Iglesias in the singles category -- but here are the election shots. There are some amazing shots of Obama's campaign. Some great Hillary shots are there as well as a few shots of icky types, such as Mitt Romney, Rudy and one shot of McCain riding a limo. 

Here are a couple of winners from 2007.

Black Men Built the Capitol

The platform where Obama will be sworn in.

UPI: When Barack Obama takes the oath of office, becoming the first African-American U.S. president, he will be standing amid stonework laid by slaves.
The former Illinois senator will also appear on Inauguration Day on the National Mall , where slaves were once held in pens before going up for auction, The Boston Globe reported Sunday.

The Globe said the 200-year-old story of slavery in the nation's capital remains beneath the surface, noting there is no memorial at the spot near the Capitol where slaves were once kept and sold in a three-story building called the Yellow House.

"Many people come down to the National Mall and never realize that they are walking on the site of the slave markets," said Jesse J. Holland, author of the recent book, "Black Men Built the Capitol."
23 more days until Obama's inauguration:
Festivities surrounding the swearing-in ceremony will commence at 10 a.m. on the west front of the U.S. Capitol and will include:

• Musical Selections: The United States Marine Band, followed by The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
• Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks: Senator Dianne Feinstein
• Invocation: Dr. Rick Warren
• Musical Selection: Aretha Franklin
• Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will be sworn into office by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable John Paul Stevens
• Musical Selection: John Williams, composer/arranger with Itzhak Perlman, (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet)
• President-elect Barack H. Obama will take the Oath of Office, using President Lincoln’s Inaugural Bible, administered by the Chief Justice of the United States, the Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.
• President Obama gives his Inaugural Address
• Poem: Elizabeth Alexander
• Benediction: The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
• The National Anthem: The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters”

After President Obama gives his Inaugural Address, he’ll attend a luncheon in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. The 56th Inaugural Parade will then make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House with groups traveling from all over the country to participate. Later that day, the Presidential Inaugural Committee will host ten official Inaugural Balls.

The Vapid Year in Journalism

Salon slams Politico for its Top 10 political scoops. Oh what fun it is to ride! Salon is right. What a vapid year. Sure wish the media could have informed us of the impending meltdown. Wasn't it Judith Miller of the NYT who told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?

Salon, which writes a lot of long-form, investigative and thoughtful pieces, must feel out in the cold. The dying media hasn't yet realized that it, too, needs to rejuvenate and renew the focus that it once held of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. But it can't do that without proper funding.

We'll probably live without quality journalism for a while, which will eventually lead to demand and then some new model of journalism will spring up to fill the void.

Salon's sarcastic swat:

Salon: Politico's media reporter, Michael Calderone, does an unintentionally superb job of conveying the vapid, wretched soul of the American political media, with his list of what he calls -- without any irony at all -- "The Top Ten Political Scoops of 2008":
(1) Katie Couric's interview of Sarah Palin (CBS)
(2) McCain can't say how many homes he owns (Politico)
(3) Obama's "bitter" comment (Huffington Post)
(4) Sarah Palin's shopping spree (Politico)
(5) Turmoil in the Clinton camp (Washington Post and Atlantic -- "The behind-the-scenes tension was captured by the reporters in one memorable exchange: '[Expletive] you!' Ickes shouted. '[Expletive] you!' Penn replied. '[Expletive] you!' Ickes shouted again.")
(6) Jeremiah Wright tapes (ABC News)
(7) The Pentagon's military analyst program (NY Times)
(8) Bickering in the McCain camp (NY Times Magazine)
(9) John Edwards' affair (National Enquirer)
(10) Powell endorses Obama (Meet the Press)
....
Indeed. For a politically engaged person, it is truly difficult to conceive of how any year could ever be more satisfying than one marked by riveting scandals over shopping sprees, bickering among campaign operatives, and an extramarital affair of someone who, at the time of disclosure, held no political office and was running for absolutely nothing. Anyone surveying this mountain-high pile of Pulitzer-worthy investigations can do nothing more than echo the observation of Newsweek's legendary Senior White House Correspondent, Richard Wolffe, who famously gushed: "the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general." Who could review Calderone's glorious list of the year's top "scoops" and disagree with that?
In fairness to Calderone and his comrades in the political press, our media currently covers a country that has very few substantial problems and an administration that is renowned around the world for being competent, honest, conventional and quite uncontroversial.

Reporters Mad Obama Ditched Them

The press gets in a revenge story. (see an update below)

Seems Obama ditched the press to be alone with his family for a while and a Politico reporter writes that Obama is "bristling." I'd be bristling too.

News to the press: We don't have to know what flavor of shaved ice Obama buys for his daughters or what color pants he's wearing. It's interesting but not a need to know kind of thing.

Politico: HONOLULU – The media glare, the constant security appendage and the sheer production that has become a morning jog or a hankering for an ice cream cone – it’s been closing in on Barack Obama for some time.

Now the president-elect appears increasingly conscious of the confines of his new position, bristling at the routine demands of press coverage and beginning to chafe at boundaries that are only going to get smaller.

Obama even took the unusual step Friday morning of leaving behind the pool of reporters assigned to follow him, taking his daughters to a nearby water park without them. It was a breach of longstanding protocol between presidents (or presidents-elect) and the media, that a gaggle of reporters representing television, print and wire services is with his motorcade at all times.

Then when reporters finally caught up with Obama at Koko Marina Paradise Deli and he acknowledged them for one of few times since arriving in Hawaii last Saturday, he sounded resigned.
This is a funny update. CNN is bragging that it was the only press that got photos and witnessed the Obamas at the sea park:
CNN was the only news organization to witness the park outing.

After the park visit, the Obama group was joined by the press pool -- which arrived at the park about an hour after the Obamas but was not allowed in -- as they stopped for a sandwich and shaved ice. The reporters declined an offer from Obama to buy them some shaved ice.

The press was allowed to take photographs for more than 20 minutes -- much longer than the typical photo opportunity at such an event -- before Obama asked the crews and the large crowd that had gathered to "let me eat in peace."

The traveling press pool that accompanies high-ranking officials like the president-elect or the president is made up of about 15 representatives from all types of media -- newspaper, magazine, radio, television. Those representatives report back on their subject's movements for the rest of the media.
I especially like this paragraph explaining why the media has to haunt Obama when he's with his kids:
Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy.

Dec. 28 Meet the Press: Bush Will Be Judged Harshly

Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni says Hamas is to blame and don't you forget it. Israel attacked Gaza Strip after 2 weeks of rocket fire attacks by Hamas, which rules Gaza Strip. Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, says that Israel has been planning the attacks for 6 months. Haaretz is also reporting that Hamas has threatened to kill Livni and Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister. 

ABC: The Israeli Army says that over the last week militants have fired 300 rockets or mortars at targets in Israel. One Israeli died in a rocket attack on Saturday according to a report by the Associated Press.
Israel's response of killing nearly 300 people, many civilians, seems a little over the top. The New Republic says no it wasn't. 

Livni said it's acceptable for Hamas to stay in power if it accepts the requirements of the national community -- to accept Israel's right to exist. Hillary! We need your tenacity in the Mid-East.

David Axelrod was also on the show. David Gregory tries to squeeze something new out of him on Blago, taxes and Rick Warren, to no avail.

During the roundtable, it is a foregone conclusion, Bush really blew it (contrary to what Condi Rice says) and his lack of smarts ruined a lot of people's lives. But we can't really blame Bush because we elected him. Going forward, I'm hoping that we will be very careful about who we elect as leaders. It seems the election of Obama set a new tone, which says America is awake. Reset. 
Watch the whole show:

Some facts about Hamas:
Here are some facts about Hamas:

CAPABILITIES:

* Hamas is believed to have thousands of short-range rockets, as well as scores of longer-range Grad rockets that could strike Israeli population centers up to 40 km (25 miles) from the border with the Gaza Strip.

* Hamas is believed to have a limited number of shoulder fired missiles that could be used against helicopters or slow moving planes, but has little defense against Israel's force of fighter jets, the most technologically advanced in the region.

* First deployed on the streets of Gaza in May 2006, Hamas's main security apparatus, initially dubbed the Executive Force, has grown from an estimated 3,000 members to more than 13,000, divided in several security branches. At least 180 of Hamas's security men were killed in Israel's air strikes.

* Hamas's main security force has grown since its takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, in part because the Islamist group has money to pay salaries. The core of the force is mostly members of the Hamas armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, but it includes some members from allied militant factions such as the Popular Resistance Committees. More

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Focus on the Family Lays Off Workers After Prop 8

By way of an angry Frank Rich (read below), Focus on the Family is laying off workers after pouring money into passing Prop 8. The group, headed by James Dobson, are conservatives, the Palin kind. Focus on the Family co-sponsored this event. Some people say Dobson and Rick Warren share the same intolerance, which is why so many are opposed to Warren's participation at Obama's inauguration.

Colo Independent: Focus on the Family is poised to announce major layoffs to its Colorado Springs-based ministry and media empire today. The cutbacks come just weeks after the group pumped more than half a million dollars into the successful effort to pass a gay-marriage ban in California.

Critics are holding up the layoffs, which come just two months after the organization’s last round of dismissals, as a sad commentary on the true priorities of the ministry.

“If I were their membership I would be appalled,” said Mark Lewis, a longtime Colorado Springs activist who helped organize a Proposition 8 protest in Colorado Springs on Saturday. “That [Focus on the Family] would spend any money on anything that’s obviously going to get blocked in the courts is just sad. [Prop. 8] is guaranteed to lose, in the long run it doesn’t have a chance — it’s just a waste of money.”

In all, Focus pumped $539,000 in cash and another $83,000 worth of non-monetary support into the measure to overturn a California Supreme Court ruling that allowed gays and lesbians to marry in that state. The group was the seventh-largest donor to the effort in the country. The cash contributions are equal to the salaries of 19 Coloradans earning the 2008 per capita income of $29,133.

Here's Frank Rich, who's angry at Obama for inviting Rick Warren to the inauguration:
But we’re not there yet. Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does our president-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.

It is even more toxic in a year when that group has been marginalized and stripped of its rights by ballot initiatives fomenting precisely such fears. “You’ve got to give them hope” was the refrain of the pioneering 1970s gay politician Harvey Milk, so stunningly brought back to life by Sean Penn on screen this winter. Milk reminds us that hope has to mean action, not just words.

By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.

The Lord's Boot Camp

OMG. Did anyone see this on 48 Hours?
I appreciate that the Lord's Boot Camp wants to teach religion to teens, but the Lord's Boot Camp exemplifies exactly what's wrong with religion.
Instead of practicing the tenets of Christianity, the Lord's Boot Camp teaches these vulnerable teens to preach it, to convert even Jewish people. One evangelical teen was shocked at how wrong she perceived Mormons to be. Ugh. 

They teach these teens that anyone other than a Christian needs saved. As if a teen or a human could "save" anyone. 
It's dangerous when a religion claims it's right and everyone else is wrong. That's teaching intolerance, conceit, and to me, is morally wrong. I believe this kind of intolerance and self-righteousness is the root cause of the rift between the Muslims and the Jews in the Middle East. Intolerance for others' religious beliefs always seems to be at the heart of war. Iraqis certainly perceived that the purpose of the U.S. war in Iraq was, in part, to conquer Islam. Sometimes I wonder if that's what Bush meant when he talked of "freedom marching." Conservatives like to talk in code. 
It doesn't seem as though evangelicals are helping the orphans of Zambia for the sake of doing good. Good deeds aren't the motive. Rather, they seem to be doing good deeds to spread Christianity. 
I did like the feet washing. If evangelicals could do more feet washing and serving the poor as opposed to preaching that their way is the only way, they wouldn't bother so many people. 


Obama's Monitoring Gaza Strip Attacks

MSNBC: GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years.

Most of those killed were security men, but an unknown number of civilians were also among the dead. Hamas said all of its security installations were hit, threatened to resume suicide attacks, and sent at least 70 rockets and mortar shells crashing into Israeli border communities, according to the Israeli military. One Israeli was killed and at least six people were hurt.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday blamed Hamas for breaking a cease-fire with Israel.

"The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," Rice said in a statement.

"The cease-fire should be restored immediately," she said.

"The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza."

The assault on Gaza could harm stalled talks over Palestinian statehood.

I'm so tired of the Middle East. I sure hope Hillary can play a big part in creating some form of long-lasting peace there. If not peace, tolerance. Hillary seems like the right person to dig in there.
CBS: As the events unfold on the Gaza Strip, with Israeli planes attacking Hamas-controlled security compounds and Hamas vowing revenge, vacationing President-elect Barack Obama is keeping his own counsel.

“President-elect Obama is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza, but there is one president at a time," said Brooke Anderson, Mr. Obama’s chief national security spokesperson. Obama will be receiving an intelligence briefing today and the White House will stay in touch with the transition team, according to White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
......


In July 2008 Obama gave an indication of his views on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Obama views Hamas as a terrorist organization and as far as I know, he hasn't made clear how he might approach the Mid-East, other than tackling the problem as a regional issue, bringing all the neighboring players and other stakeholders to the table.
Contrary to what the right wingers have said, Obama doesn't consider Hamas a state and therefore, wouldn't meet with them as he would meet with Iran's leaders. Obama condemned Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas.
Obama was a co-sponsor of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006,
That's all I know.
Read what Obama wrote about his foreign policy:
or more than three decades, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab leaders, and the rest of the world have looked to America to lead the effort to build the road to a lasting peace. In recent years, they have all too often looked in vain. Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region -- a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah. Now more than ever, we must strive to secure a lasting settlement of the conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. To do so, we must help the Israelis identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient effort and the personal commitment of the president of the United States. That is a commitment I will make.

Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of instruments of American power -- political, economic, and military -- could bring success even when dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria. Our policy of issuing threats and relying on intermediaries to curb Iran's nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism, and regional aggression is failing. Although we must not rule out using military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear program by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran's uranium-enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. At the same time, we must show Iran -- and especially the Iranian people -- what could be gained from fundamental change: economic engagement, security assurances, and diplomatic relations. Diplomacy combined with pressure could also reorient Syria away from its radical agenda to a more moderate stance -- which could, in turn, help stabilize Iraq, isolate Iran, free Lebanon from Damascus' grip, and better secure Israel.

105 Year Old To Celebrate Birthday at Obama's Inauguration

AP: Ella Mae Johnson hasn't just paid attention to American history, she's lived it.
And come Jan. 20, she'll be part of the crowd to witness president-elect Barack Obama make history.
At 104 years young, the black woman from Cleveland plans to celebrate her 105th birthday by attending Obama's inauguration a week later. Johnson was invited by Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland, at the suggestion of Johnson's retirement home.
"It is fitting that she should mark her 105th birthday this January by witnessing the swearing in of our nation's first African-American president," Brown said in a statement. "I am honored to be part of her journey and humbled by her legacy."
Johnson, who was born in Dallas, experienced and overcame racial prejudice in America throughout the last century. She graduated from Nashville's Fisk University in 1925 and went on to get a master's degree at Western Reserve University School of Applied Social Sciences in 1928. The school is now known as Case Western Reserve University.
She said Wednesday that while she admired the incoming president, she was more impressed with Obama's young family, his willingness to show affection to wife Michelle and daughters, and with his roots to Kenya.

The Right Wrongly Gleeful over Rick Warren

This editorial in the Wall Street Journal is Wrongo. Just because many of us are voicing disgust and disappointment in Rick Warren having such an honor at Obama's inauguration, doesn't mean we'll be the thorn in Obama's side.

We can disagree, have a discussion and then we can find ways to move forward. The nature of the left is progression. The nature of the right is sameness.

The left doesn't appear to be like the right, which is without a doubt, hung up on abortion, immigration and gay rights.

WSJ: For about a generation, many on the left have believed that active and unapologetic intolerance of the right was justified because its views on matters such as abortion and gay rights were simply unacceptable. This moral somersault may work for them, but to the average American voter, a full-throated assault on the likes of Rick Warren for being "wrong" on two of many issues looks like simple intolerance.

The person in this drama for whom the leftwing Democratic habit of moralized intolerance could be a problem is Barack Obama. The left loaded up heavily in its support of candidate Obama, first against the Clinton machine -- always thought to be too willing to compromise with the center -- and then in the general campaign. These elements in the Democratic Party know what they want Barack Obama to deliver on judges, the environment, global warming and lifestyle rights litigation.

Mr. Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the Inaugural's invocation suggests that he is intent on using the momentum of his remarkable victory to build a governing coalition for the long haul. The silver lining for Republicans may be that the left won't let him do that.

Invest in the U.S.

Bob Herbert, as usual, tells it like it is:

NYT: The resolution may be difficult, but it’s essential. Americans must resolve to be smarter going forward than we have been for the past several years.

Look around you. We have behaved in ways that were incredibly, astonishingly and embarrassingly stupid for much too long. We’ve wrecked the economy and mortgaged the future of generations yet unborn. We don’t even know if we’ll have an automobile industry in the coming years. It’s time to stop the self-destruction.

The slogan? “Invest in the U.S.” By that I mean we should stop squandering the nation’s wealth on unnecessary warfare overseas and mindless consumption here at home and start making sensible investments in the well-being of the American people and the long-term health of the economy.

The mind-boggling stupidity that we’ve indulged in was hammered home by a comment almost casually delivered by, of all people, Bernie Madoff, the mild-mannered creator of what appears to have been a nuclear-powered Ponzi scheme. Madoff summed up his activities with devastating simplicity. He is said to have told the F.B.I. that he “paid investors with money that wasn’t there.”

The beef:
Somehow, over the past few decades, that has become the American way: to pay for things — from wars to Wall Street bonuses to flat-screen TVs to video games — with money that wasn’t there.

Something for nothing became the order of the day. You want to invade Iraq? Convince yourself that oil revenues out of Baghdad will pay for it. (Meanwhile, carve out another deficit channel in the federal budget.) You want to pump up profits in the financial sector? End the oversight and let the lunatics in the asylum run wild.

Larry Summers on Obama's Job Creation Plan

Larry Summers, Director of Obama's National Economic Council, wrote in the Washington Post today about Obama's plan for jobs and how boosting consumer spending isn't going to cut it. I agree. Consumerism can't continue to prop up our economy. It's also destroying the planet. We need a real economy. Meanwhile, conservatives are whining about corporate tax cuts.

WaPo: Our president-elect understands both the peril and the promise of the situation and the importance of responding to changing conditions. That is why his economic team is crafting a broad proposal, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, to support the jobs and incomes essential for recovery while also making a down payment on our nation's long-term financial health.

A key pillar of the Obama plan is job creation. In the face of deteriorating economic forecasts, Obama has revised his goal upward, to 3 million. For one thing, significantly fewer positions would be created in the absence of any recovery plan. Second, more than 80 percent of these 3 million jobs will be in the private sector, including emerging sectors such as environmental technology. This is a bold goal. But economists across the political spectrum recognize that it is far less risky to stand firmly against the forces propelling our economy downward than to be timid in the face of a mounting crisis.

Here's the beef:
Some argue that instead of attempting to both create jobs and invest in our long-run growth, we should focus exclusively on short-term policies that generate consumer spending. But that approach led to some of the challenges we face today -- and it is that approach that we must reject if we are going to strengthen our middle class and our economy over the long run. Far from being an excuse for inaction or delay, the magnitude of the work ahead is all the more reason to begin that work.