January 2009 Archives

They still haven't fixed the body armor

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Here is a tour de force post on the current state of the body armor given to our troops. That's a topic that I wrote about in 2006 on the johnkerry.com blog. Unbelievably our military is still losing their lives because of the greed that suffuses the military-industrial complex and its long penetrating fingers of control in the Pentagon's acquisition process.

Go read.

Items of Interest

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~ In another well-done analysis from Daily Kos bloggers, lawyer NCrissieB explains what's wrong with the news articles that have trumpeted that Obama is siding with the Bush administration in the El Haramain case.

~ EJ DIonne has done a thoughtful analysis of Obama's inaugural speech. He's made several good points worth consideration.

~ Not sure just how well this concept will work: printed blogs. Right. [via]

~ A little off the beaten track but innovation is always interesting. It's even better when it's a kid who thought it up: "Ottawa boy's invisible invention warns birds about deadly windows". [via]

Changing what's valued in our economy

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I was discussing what must change about how our economy is viewed this morning with my husband as I was making coffee. Then I sat down and found this powerful bit of analysis about Pfizer's bid to acquire Wyeth. And it illustrates my point beautifully.

This assessment of the proposed merger by a WSJ commenter sums up the first part of the problem identified by the blogger:

I don't get it. Why do the investment analysts and business journalists go along with this sham? The previous mergers have not worked in providing value to the shareholders as other posters have noted. The analyst and journalist should be screaming against this merger if they were true to the principles of long term growth and value. There seems to be a conspiracy of idiots looking to make a quick dollar.

Comment by Anonymous - January 23, 2009 at 12:23 pm

The blogger Minerva concludes:

The bulk of US innovation in the past decade appears to have occurred in variations on bogus financial instruments, and in the concoction of outrageous ponzi schemes.  

Meanwhile, as marketers, financial whizzes, and patent attorneys slowly crushed the life out of our world-class research labs - and out of our world-class scientists - many of our brightest students in younger generations deployed a cold-eyed calculus to abandon science and engineering and pursue easy $ millions on Wall Street or in "hedge funds" (i.e., legalized gambling).

Not a good outcome for society.

We woke up last year to the reality that most of the US economic growth over the last decade has been pure illusion, amounting to little more than a zero-sum transfer from the many struggling to get by to the few super-rich.

Meanwhile, our infrastructure for real innovation - that drives real economic growth - and in the pharmaceutical area can make a real difference in people's lives - has been badly battered, twisted, and atrophied.

And its not just pharma - many elements of this decline echo loudly across the empty corridors in other industries - think electronics or automotive - that the US broadly dominated in the 20th century through the consistent introduction of innovative products.

And after Pfizer buys Wyeth (assuming that the gravitational force of the black hole proves irresistible) and empties out all Wyeth's labs - and another half of its own labs - our capacity to innovate (however its been misdirected of late) will be that much smaller and that much weaker.  

Dozens of programs will be abandoned.  No drugs will be closer to approval.  Thousands of fed-up scientists will likely abandon the industry.  

Enbrel commercials may get a little bit snappier.  The sales reps will be hotter.

And the bottom line: Pfizer pursuing "it's only option" will look like a great deal to Wall Street.  

At least until the next round, probably circa 2012, by which time Pfizer's stock price will be in the single digits.

Which brings us back to what I think is the most profound question posed by the Obama transition:

Was the Bush Administration, with its myriad failings in every policy and regulatory sphere, the disease -- or really only just a symptom of something bigger, and worse?

It's a symptom.

We need to refocus on valuing the industrial part of our economy - the part that creates and makes real things whether they be pharmaceuticals, cars, or green energy technology. The part that employs tool and die makers, master carpenters, scientists, people who create and make real things.

Too much emphasis on the ponzi scheme that is Wall Street and the service industry has left our economy in shambles. To the extent that Wall Street damages industry's ability to create and make real products, it is damaging the future of our country.

People need to understand that.

That Wall Street traders are doing this solely for short-term gains in wealth among a select population without regard to its impact on the long-term future of the country is the behavior, the ethos that must be changed.

What Israel has done

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The US inaugural festivities did what the Israeli administration and military planners hoped they would do.

Take the limelight off Israel.

Fortunately, the BBC is still on the job. Their reporter, Jonathan Miller, has a report that is appalling in the level of destruction.



As ThinkProgress noted on Jan. 8th:

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC correspondent Richard Engel discussed Israel's refusal to let reporters into Gaza. "I've called everyday and said 'when are we going to be allowed in?'" he said, adding that one Israeli official "had an interesting explanation" for the situation. The official told Engel that Israel doesn't want reporters in Gaza documenting the humanitarian situation or revealing military tactics. Israel is trying to "manage the image" of the war, Engel reported, adding this:

ENGEL: This official told me he expects this operation, while negotiations are taking place, will last several more days. And that after that, reporters would eventually be allowed in. But at that stage, Israel is assuming the United States will mostly be focused on all of the coverage around the inauguration, and that viewers simply won't care at that point.

Miller quotes one man he interviewed as saying "the people who did this never want peace". He goes onto point out that over 50% of the population in Gaza is under the age of 14 and that such wanton killing and destruction has sown hatred in another generation.

Combine this destruction with the deaths of Dr. El-Aish's children and all of the other children and civilians' deaths which were not caught on camera or audio and an appalling picture emerges.

Diarist Inky99 pointed out this evaluation from human rights expert Richard Falk:

UN human rights expert and retired Princeton law professor Richard Falk said today that there is compelling evidence that Israel violated the laws of war by "conducting a large-scale military operation against an essentially defenseless population."

"There needs to be an investigation carried out under independent auspices as to whether these grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions should be treated as war crimes," the professor said, adding that he believes "that there is the prima facie case for reaching that conclusion."

"This is the first time I know of where a civilian population has been essentially locked into the war zone, not allowed to leave it despite the dense population and the obvious risks that were entailed," Falk pointed out, "the civilians in Gaza were denied the option of becoming a refugee."

Who is going to hold Israel to account?

U.S. tax dollars paid for so much of the overwhelming equipment and munitions that were used to destroy Gaza. Seems to me our government has some culpability in this result.

Items of Interest

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~ WaPo's David Ignatius makes a stupid comment. Hunter points out just how ignorant it was and how irrelevant Ignatius is in his pithy yet eloquent style.

~ Here's an interesting view from The Moderate Voice blog of why Republicans are partly responsible for helping Obama become President. {via]

~ Talk about detective work. People worked really hard on tracking down the photo that was used as the original source of the iconic Shepard Fairey poster of Obama.

~ The NY Daily News has a photo gallery of front page coverage of the Obama inauguration by newspapers around the world.

~ Time has a behind-the-scenes slideshow that has a few different shots from Newsweek's version. Time also has a slide show of people around the world watching Inauguration ceremony and celebrating Obama in other ways.

~ Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog is one of my long-time fav bloggers. I've noted more than once that we seem to channel the same thoughts. Her blog needs some fund-raising attention if you're in a position to help out.

Wingnuts dissing reality again

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The wingnut blogosphere is operating a few facts short of reality once again. Someone posted a diatribe complaining that Obama dissed Medal of Honor winners because he didn't attend the American Legion Medal of Honor ball which was not one of the 10 official balls. Needless to say this has generated a whole slew of wingnut blog posts about how our new president is dissing the troops.

And you wouldn't believe what the 101st Chairborne, as John Cole calls them, are saying about our new prez or maybe you would.

At any rate, they're all spitting into the wind. And pretty soon (let's hope) they'll figure it out.

The American Legion sponsored the Commander in Chief ball this year which President Obama DID attend.

And guess what? The Medal of Honor winners WERE THERE. In fact, they lined up for a picture with the new president and you can actually see them in one of the pictures accompanying this article from Stars and Stripes.

What's really interesting is that comments pointing out the oversight in the post are edited or removed from the blog. Well, I guess the blogger is just fulfilling the expectations we've all come to have for the wingnut blogosphere ... creating their own reality because they can't deal with actual facts.

NSA whistleblower speaks up

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Now that the Bush administration is history, Russell Tice has decided to step forward with more information about the illegal warrantless surveillance that Americans have been subjected to by their government during the last 8 years. Keith Olberman interviewed him on Countdown last night and has asked him to come back again tonight. Wikipedia has a good summary of Mr. Tice's past revelations in the section titled "Whistleblower".

Dkos diarist RiderOnTheStorm who has written explanatory diaries on the general topic of surveillance before has taken the time to explain what is inferred by Mr. Tice's statements last night. He identifies what can be determined from examining metadata. Update #5 on "positioning of assets" is particularly illuminating.

Transparency and the rule of law

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The traditional media are all talking about the rule changes regarding lobbyists in the Obama administration which was announced during Obama's first gathering of senior staff and cabinet secretaries. But they've missed the real story in Obama's statement.

Which is this:

But the way to make a government responsible is not simply to enlist the services of responsible men and women, or to sign laws that ensure that they never stray. The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they're being made, and whether their interests are being well served.

The directives I am giving my administration today on how to interpret the Freedom of Information Act will do just that. For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.

To be sure, issues like personal privacy and national security must be treated with the care they demand. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.

I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.

Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

This is why we elected President Barack Obama.

Items of Interest - UPDATED

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~ The agenda for President Obama's first day in office.

~ Following up on their other behind-the-scenes looks at the Obama campaign, Newsweek has posted photos taken from behind the scenes during yesterday's Inauguration. My favorite is the one where Obama has his eyes closed. They have more slide shows up including this one of photos from around the world. Zimbio also has pictures.

~ GlobalPost has done an incredible job rounding up reports about Obama's inauguration from around the world. There's a lot of expectations riding on that man's shoulders. Be prepared to spend some significant time dipping through all the links.

~ Al Jazeera English has a roundup of world leaders' comments on Obama's inauguration. Another item from Al Jazeera to consider:  The article on Obama's first full day in office is interesting for the views of other leaders that they solicit and quote.

~ This is truly unfortunate. The imperial vice president strikes at our nation again.

~ Here's another unfortunate legacy of the neo-con Republicans and their politicization of our military.

To the military officer who thinks that he failed: I am so sorry you were placed in that position. In my book you are not a failure. We all do what we can.

~ If John Podesta's opinion counts, Obama is keeping his Blackberry. UPDATE: Marc Ambinder confirms that Obama will get to keep his Blackberry after it's been appropriately modified. He has more technical details.

~ What do Rush Limbaugh and Osama Bin Laden both wish for the US? In Rush's own words: "I hope he fails." The "he" in question being President Obama, of course. So much for your so-called patriotism, Rush. You've just defined yourself as the fringe of the fringe. One last loony-tune outpost of hate.

"words spiny or smooth"

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Elizabeth Alexander's poem for the inauguration whipped by too fast. It was overwhelmed by the events that surrounded it.

Our local NPR station sent a reporter to Yale to watch the Inauguration with some of Alexander's fellow professors. The resulting story with their commentary on her poem brought out new highlights. It was also not without its humorous elements.

I tried to figure out how to embed what is obviously an mp3 file but couldn't so you'll have to go to their site to listen.

Here's the text of the poem, courtesy of the New York Times.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

This was the line that stood out for me:

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

Words have power. And consequences.

The goal we were always aiming for

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Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was moved yesterday.

It is the curse of the journalist always to be present, but never really There.

The job requires that we stand slightly apart, seeing but not believing; hearing without being seduced. …

Then comes the rare instance that penetrates the armor, when something causes you to put down the pad, turn off the camera in your head, and become part of the moment. The short list in recent history includes the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the signal marches on Washington, the terrorist attacks of 9/11. To those we may now add Inauguration Day 2009. …

We knew it was coming. … And yet, when the hour finally arrived and Obama raised his right hand, his presidency was somehow not quite imaginable.

Sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, extremities numb despite layers of wool, and seeing so many gathered to witness this thing they called "change" was, dare I say it, awesome. That most-annoying hipster term for anything remotely acceptable is suddenly useful for its intended purpose.

For awe is the truest word to describe what transpired and what was inspired. …

It is awe for what is, in fact, not change, but the natural, if difficult, progression of an ideal that is true and good and transcendent through time. Barack Obama's presidency isn't a change from, but a continuation of the American experiment toward its hoped-for destination.

Obama hinted at this in his speech by invoking American values of hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism. In honoring all those who came before, who fought and died from Concord and Gettysburg to Normandy and Khe Sanh, he reminded us that change is not a single event on Election Day, but an evolutionary process.

The change we've been waiting for? No, the goal we were always aiming for. …

It is now the day after. Work awaits, bills remain, wars persist. The afterglow is hard to sustain as the promise of yesterday becomes tomorrow's challenges. Armor on, cameras whirring, pens poised. The march toward a more perfect union continues.

Good luck, Mr. President.


Kathleen, I know you haven't always been a fan of Mr. Obama but I salute you for this column which captures so well the awe and essence of what occurred yesterday.

Thank you.

Items of Interest

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~ A roundup of newspaper covers from around the world. Here's what the World has made of what we accomplished today.

~ The best 404 error page ever. [via]

~ Features of the new presidential limo - the tank that thinks it's a car.

presidential-limo.jpg

President Barack Hussein Obama

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obamalincolnbible.jpg

He's taken the oath of office. Via Ann Althouse and Jeff Toobin of CNN, Chief Justice Roberts screwed it up.

His speech has a number of high-points. The full-text of the prepared remarks is here.

Here are some of the phrases or parts that caught my ear as I listened.

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.

[...]

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.

[...]

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.

[...]

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.

[...]

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.

[...]

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.

UPDATE: If you happened to miss it, you can watch it for yourself, courtesy of Politico.

The Journey

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It started in Springfield in 2007. We got a big boost in January 2008 in Iowa and the next 10 months led us to this:




And thus to today at last:

January 20, 2009

Yesterday my daughter was walking around saying in a gleeful voice, "Just think. Today is the last day that George Bush is president."

Yes We Can ... Yes We Did.

Olbermann's 8 Minute recap of 8 years of the Bush Administration

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See how much you've forgotten about.



Damn, so much, so wrong. [via]

155 Living Reasons to Support Unions

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emptywheel pointed out that the rescue of all passengers and crew in Thursday's US Airways crash has its roots in unions. She outlines how each unit that worked together to rescue the passengers is part of a union that has insisted on safety training, equipment and protocols. [via]

Tim Fernholz at the Tapped blog noted:

For those who are skeptical about organized labor, it's worth remembering that unions strive for workplace safety and emergency preparedness, with clear repercussions for consumer safety. The individuals who performed heroically yesterday, as well as the passengers, who apparently remained calm and helped women and children off the plane, deserve all the credit for what the tabloids are calling "The Miracle on the Hudson," but we shouldn't forget the structural factors that contributed to the success of yesterday's rescue.

Palestinian Doctor's Daughters killed while he is interviewed on Israeli TV

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The title of this Daily Kos diary pretty much says it all. The diarist is a self-identified former member of the IDF living in Israel. He shares the local news and newspaper reports of a Israeli news anchor on the phone with a Palestinian gynecologist whose children are killed by IDF rocket fire while he's on the phone with the anchor.

It's heartbreaking. Assaf's insights are worth consideration as well.

Needless to say, the diary has generated the usual storm of comments but this one in particular struck, if only because it's so familiar.

How can the oppressed so comfortably become the oppressor, and in so short a time?

I have asked this exact same question so many times since the intifadeh started again. Why do we, the United States, tolerate behavior by Israel that we would not tolerate from any other country in the world? Why don't their human rights abuses get criticized? And now this very lop-sided war ... 13 Israelis killed, 7 of them by friendly fire versus the 1200 dead, 5000 injured in 21 days. 300+ of those are children such as Dr. Ezz-El-Din Abu El-Aish's children.

It's so NOT right.

Yes, Hamas's resistance arm is not right either. But two wrongs never make a right and Israel has firmly placed itself in the company of countries that oppress others through war, violence and abuse.

Obama's People - NYT Photo Gallery with Narration

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The New York Times has put up a remarkable photo gallery with narration by the photography team that took the pictures of people who are or have been affiliated with President-Elect Obama. There's a short bio on each person as well interesting tidbits which the narrators divulge. Just maximise the gallery, turn your volume up and click through the pictures. Great photography.

The Obamas in 1996

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An interesting inside look at the relationship between the Obamas in 1996 from the New Yorker.

Yes We Can

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Almost a year ago, this video appeared.



It was based, of course, on the soul-stirring words that Obama delivered in New Hampshire on January 9, 2008.



That speech inspired the conservative denizens of Red State to comment positively on the power of Obama's vision and oratory. Even a waiter in Marrakesh was so impressed by this speech that he memorized and recited it to his customers.

...in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready or that we shouldn't try or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

 
~ transcript link

In this week before President-Elect Obama's inauguration, the phrase "Yes We Can" rings with new resonance and clarity. If his inaugural speech approaches the clarity and inspiration of his New Hampshire speech, Obama will offer hope to millions more.

Items of Interest

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~ Read this WSJ public health oped on doctors and health care staff and the cleanliness or rather the lack of cleanliness of their scrubs and uniforms. And then plan on avoiding touching any area that one of them has touched, sat in or otherwise had contact. The comment at the end that the only cleaning method that killed the bacteria was bleach was a nice touch.

~ Though Joe Klein was late to the party on so many points, he did get this one right. Though it is so hard to pick just one 'most despicable act' -- there are so many from which to choose. [via]

~ Ron Kampeas tells us about 'the best reporter in Gaza'. His name is Ibrahim Barzak. [via]

~ And a heads-up from NIST. If you've got a real Christmas tree up, this is what can happen if you don't take it down now. [via]




That's under 60 seconds. Ouch.

Items of Interest

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~ In the "a picture is worth a thousand words" vein, Jonathan Tasini has posted a good one. He has this to say about the chart.

Basically, the basic bargain was roughly this--if you worked hard and became more productive, you would see that sweat of the brow in your wages. And from the post-war era until the 1970s, that deal basically held--as you can see from the lines that are basically close together until the 1970s.

Then, the lines diverge--dramatically. You can see it yourself. If the lines had continued to track closely together as they did prior to the 1970s, the MINIMUM WAGE would be more than $19 an hour. THE MINIMUM WAGE!!!

So, in short: people had no money coming in in their paychecks so they were forced to pay for their lives through credit--either plastic or drawing down equity from their homes. There are lots of reasons that this happened--greed, the attack against unions, de-regulation, dumb trade deals.

$19/hour minimum wage. A living wage. What a concept. Wonder how this chart would compare to the rise in wages and benefits of the top 10 employees of every Fortune 1000 company.

~ Obama's choice of Leon Panetta to head the CIA appears to have surprised many but in the end, it appears to be a sound choice. David Ignatius does a good job of summarizing why.

~ This post by Daoud Kuttab at WaPo's PostGlobal.com website begins to cover some of the complexities in Gaza in a way that we don't see in much of the US media coverage. I've thought more than once that part of the Hamas issue is that they need to separate the political-governance arm which provides services to the Palestinians from the radical military resistance arm, as the IRA did with Sinn Fein. Eventually the resistance arm was choked off while the British developed a truce and eventually peace with the political arm.

~ Thomas Friedman does a good job summarizing the challenges facing Obama in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

It's the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: "Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn't we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?"

That is, Gaza is a mini-version of three great struggles that have been playing out since 1948: 1) Who is going to be the regional superpower -- Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Iran? 2) Should there be a Jewish state in the Middle East and, if so, on what Palestinian terms? And 3) Who is going to dominate Arab society -- Islamists who are intolerant of other faiths and want to choke off modernity or modernists who want to embrace the future, with an Arab-Muslim face? Let's look at each.

There are so many nuances and complexities in this arena that a simple summary will never do it justice but as an attempt to gather the larger issues together and create an addressable framework, Friedman's summary works well. A challenge that we all hope the Obama administration is well prepared and uniquely situated to address.

Not Ready to Make Nice

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Mark Morford points out the cynical repackaging of Bush's legacy that's beginning to show up here and there. As the Dixie Chicks put it, I'm not ready to make nice with someone who dragged our nation so low.

Echoing Krugman

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Like thereisnospoon, I've been on hiatus during the holidays but dipping back in now and then to see what's going on. And like thereisnospoon, I must urge you to read Paul Krugman's column, "Bigger Than Bush".

He has so succinctly described the moral bankruptcy of the Republican party. His indictment follows John Dean's in Conservatives without Conscience.

Let's hope Mr. Krugman's column breaks through the wind barrier in the chattering classes. Of course, this has been discussed before on dkos as thereisnospoon points out in his post. Perhaps if they read dkos, they'd have better input for their crystal balls.