Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Democracy is back on the rails

What makes Obama run?

The Obama Reader
Barack Obama in 1995
Knocking on doors in '95

Lawyer, teacher, philanthropist, and author Barack Obama doesn't need another career. But he's entering politics to get back to his true passion—community organization.

Originally published in the Chicago Reader on December 8, 1995, as the future president-elect was running for his first term as state senator.

When Barack Obama returned to Chicago in 1991 after three brilliant years at Harvard Law School, he didn't like what he saw. The former community activist, then 30, had come fresh from a term as president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, a position he was the first African-American to hold. Now he was ready to continue his battle to organize Chicago's black neighborhoods. But the state of the city muted his exuberance.

"Upon my return to Chicago," he would write in the epilogue to his recently published memoir, Dreams From My Father, "I would find the signs of decay accelerated throughout the South Side—the neighborhoods shabbier, the children edgier and less restrained, more middle-class families heading out to the suburbs, the jails bursting with glowering youth, my brothers without prospects. All too rarely do I hear people asking just what it is that we've done to make so many children's hearts so hard, or what collectively we might do to right their moral compass—what values we must live by. Instead I see us doing what we've always done—pretending that these children are somehow not our own."

Today, after three years of law practice and civic activism, Obama has decided to dive into electoral politics. He is running for the Illinois senate, he says, because he wants to help create jobs and a decent future for those embittered youth. But when he met with some veteran politicians to tell them of his plans, the only jobs he says they wanted to talk about were theirs and his. Obama got all sorts of advice. Some of it perplexed him; most of it annoyed him. One African-American elected official suggested that Obama change his name, which he'd inherited from his late Kenyan father. Another told him to put a picture of his light-bronze, boyish face on all his campaign materials, "so people don't see your name and think you're some big dark guy."

Jordanian shoes

Jordanian protesters throw their shoes at a huge photograph of George W. Bush during a symbolic farewell to former U.S. resident George W. Bush as the inauguration of new U.S. President Barack Obama took place in Washington, in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Jan. 20. 2009. Dozens of activists gathered to throw shoes at a large photograph of George W. Bush, recalling Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi who threw his shoes at resident George W. Bush during a visit to Iraq.

Vice Presidential Handlers Lure Cheney Into Traveling Crate

WASHINGTON—A team of nine specially trained handlers have successfully lured outgoing vice president Dick Cheney into a reinforced steel traveling crate in order to transport him back to his permanent enclosure in Casper, WY, official sources reported Monday. "He's a smart one. Once he sees the crate, he gets pretty nippy, but we've learned a few tricks over the years," chief VP wrangler Ted Irving breathlessly said while applying pressure to a deep gash on his forearm. "If we break a rabbit's legs and throw it in there, he will eventually go in to finish it off. Doesn't work with dead rabbits, though. Cheney only eats what he kills." Irving said that the latest vice presidential relocation went much more smoothly than September's diplomatic trip to Georgia, which was delayed for several hours after Cheney mauled three secret service agents and escaped inside the White House walls.

Obama orders 120-day halt at Guantánamo

In one of its first actions, the Obama administration late Tuesday instructed military prosecutors to seek a 120-day halt of legal proceedings involving detainees at the Guantánamo Bay naval base — a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — In one of its first actions, the Obama administration late Tuesday instructed military prosecutors to seek a 120-day halt of legal proceedings involving detainees at the Guantánamo Bay naval base — a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.

The instruction came in a motion filed with a military court handling the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11 attacks. The motion called for "a continuance of the proceedings" until May 20 so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration (can) review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

The same motion was filed in another case scheduled to resume today, involving a Canadian detainee, and will be filed in all other pending matters.

Such a request may not be automatically granted by military judges, and not all defense attorneys may agree to such a suspension. But the move is a first step toward closing a detention facility and system of military trials that became a worldwide symbol of the Bush administration's war on terror, and its unyielding attitude to foreign and domestic critics.

Simon and Garfunkel - America

Bush Street Disappears in SF Overnight Signs covered with new pres.

Prankers bring "change" to Bush Street.

Republicans have an extra reason to feel a little lost in San Francisco today. Some pranksters in San Francisco had a little presidential fun overnight by changing out several Bush Street signs into Obama Street.

They made a cover for the metal signage that looks pretty darn professional.

Someone tipped off to the stunt just before sunrise on Inauguration Day.

At least four blocks of signs had been changed in the heart of the city's Financial District.

There were also chalk drawings on the ground pointing up to get pedestrians to notice the "change."

It's not clear how serious a crime this is or if police will bother to prosecute. 

We assume crews will take them down at some point.  People could get lost you know, this is a tourist town.

There is a rally that is expected to be held at Bush Street and Presidio later today ––  where Bush Street officially stops with a little "end" sign on the street corner.

44 takes office with blunt rejection of 43

WASHINGTON -- Looking westward into the sun and speaking to more than 1 million people on the Mall in front of him and to millions more around the world, President Barack Obama delivered a tough inaugural speech that must have made members of the outgoing Bush administration squirm in their chairs.

After thanking President George W. Bush for his service to the nation and for helping during the presidential transition, Obama veered sharply, offering no attempt at sugar-coating, no deeper genuflection toward the Bushes, who left the Capitol by helicopter soon after Obama's blunt speech and headed for Texas.

Instead, Obama hit his theme early and often in his 18-minute address: The presidential inaugural oath is sometimes taken "amidst gathering clouds and raging storms." Now is one of those times, he said.

Obama declared "we are in the midst of crisis" and recounted wars, a badly weakened economy that he blamed on greed on the part of some and "also on our collective failure to make hard choices."

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, business shuttered, he recounted. Health care is too costly, schools fail too many students and we waste our energy.

There was no affable reference to Bush's eight years in office or mention of the wonders of the Bush legacy, nothing warm and fuzzy. It was a putdown, a repudiation of the Bush years.

Obama was just warming up.

Just Hours Away ...a note from Michael Moore


This happy, happy day!

We have made it through the Dark Ages and here we are, in one of the most redemptive moments history has ever witnessed. Barack Obama is our best hope to get it right, to heal our national soul, to reach out to the rest of the world with an olive branch instead of shocking brutality.

I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has worked to make this day happen. For many, the madness goes back, not eight years but twenty-eight years, to the tragic day Reagan was sworn in to dismantle our precious "government of the people" and our beloved way of life.

To all of you who have spoken up and spoken out, who have written letters and marched for peace, for all of you who never gave up, you are the true heroes today. Many of you have suffered great economic losses. Some of you have endured a loved one being shipped overseas to senseless and shameful wars, and thousands of you have seen those loved ones returned home, no longer alive. It has been a heartbreaking time.

But the sun comes out at noon today. The disgraced outgoing president will slide out the side door and head to Crawford to sell the Hollywood set known as the Bush "ranch" before he settles down in an exclusive neighborhood in Dallas. I would encourage Mr. Bush to issue one final pardon before noon today -- his own. He had better issue a blanket pardon for all crimes that may have been committed since 2001 by himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the whole gang. Serious laws were broken, a war was concocted on a lie, and now, please, justice must be carried out.

So let us move forward and fix the horrible mess we are in. We are fortunate to have a new president who is smart and kind and committed to serving his country. Take a moment today and think about what you can do to join him in helping him do his job. We're all in this together. Our country has been so profoundly wrecked by an administration who decided to mug our constitution and then steal what they can for their Wall Street cronies on the way out the door.

Yes, THE Vladimir Putin

Obama Inauguration Speech Ruined By Incessant Jackhammering

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama's Inauguration Day address—a speech that many believed would jumpstart the healing process of an ailing nation, foster hope and goodwill across the world, and serve as the ultimate stamp on the Democrat's historic win—was ruined Tuesday by nearly two hours of nonstop jackhammering.
Obama paid tribute to those brave Americans who paved the something for something something faith something history.

According to D.C. officials, the jackhammering interrupted the landmark address on 30 separate occasions and came from the nearby U.S. Botanic Garden, where it was being used to break up pavement for a new Heroes of Horticulture exhibit.

"My fellow—," began Obama, who then stopped when he and the 2.5 million citizens present, some of whom had traveled thousands of miles to experience the once-in-a-lifetime event, were startled by loud, metal-on-concrete banging. "My fell…my fell…my—."

"Is that a jackhammer?" Obama added.

Though Obama first acknowledged the incessant jackhammering with an impromptu joke, saying, "Well, I know one guy who doesn't need a job," the typically poised orator grew gradually more annoyed as it became clear that the shrill thumping was not going to stop.

Helicopter of Happiness

Homophobic “Nike” Ad Causes Stir

A Nike print ad making the rounds on the Web is causing a stir for its homophobic copy -- except it's not a Nike-commissioned ad. It's part of a student project for CMYK Magazine.

A Nike print ad making the rounds on the Web this week is causing a stir for its homophobic copy, which reads, "The only thing worse than going to the ballet is going to the ballet to see your son."

But unlike previous ads that raised eyebrows among gays for their homophobic content -- à la that Snickers Super Bowl ad that featured two men appalled when they accidentally kiss after eating through the candy bar from opposite ends -- this ad wasn't commissioned by Nike.

In fact, Nike says the company didn't even know about the ad until it popped up on the Web.

The Nike ad in question ran in CMYK Magazine , a publication distributed quarterly to advertising and design professionals, as part of a quarterly student ad design competition.

Students Nicolas Schmidt-Fitzner and Tara Lawall created the mock-up under instructors Niklas Fing-Rupp and Jan Rexhausen. They attend one of the Miami Ad School's satellite locations in Hamburg, Germany.

The ad was selected by a "leading professional" in the advertising industry as one of the best ads submitted for the quarter. Student projects in areas of art direction,copywriting, design, illustration, and photography appear in each issue of the magazine.

The Bush Years: All Circus, No Bread

by Patrick Sean Farley

Trying to explain what was wrong with the Bush Era feels like trying to vomit up a cannonball. I don't think my jaw can stretch that wide.

Seriously, where does one even begin? Abu Ghraib? Ahmed Chalabi? Mission Accomplished? The "Battle of Iraq?" Valerie Plame? No-bid contracts? The billions of dollars the Pentagon can't account for, and apparently never will? The Department of Justice firings? The blue Iraqi flag? The staged press conference? The fake Thanksgiving turkey? Terry Schiavo? Freedom Fries?

I can at least say this for Bush: he *didn't* plant any WMDs in Iraq.

But really, Bush himself wasn't the problem. Bush was a cipher, the perfect vacuum at the center of a perfect storm -- an ideological superstorm which rotated, like some slow, sick, wobbling hurricane of raw sewage over America for 8 years, like some brown, shitty version of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. This Neo-Conservative Superstorm, as I'll call it, had three major sources of energy feeding it:

a) a panicked population in need of a Protective Patriarch,

b) a Republican party crowded with brazen and reckless ideologues,

and most significantly:

c) A network of Conservative Think Tanks with deep pockets and a fearsomely coordinated army of media pundits.

As for the first two factors: I'll leave the question open as to how so many Americans could be so gullible, or how so many elected officials got it into their heads that they were entitled to do WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANTED simply because they belonged to God's Own Party. Stampede voters and the thieving fuckwits who prey on them have always been with us. Nothing new there.

What is new and unique about these past 8 years was the rise of the Conservative Think Tanks. To explain who they are, how they operate, and what kind of mischief they've caused, is to try and throw up the mother of all cannonballs.

Think of the Conservative Think Tank system as a parody of the university system; a network of "institutes" all founded to support an ideology, whose "scholars" write "reports" and conduct "studies" which surprise! -- all re-affirm the correctness of their institute's ideological premise.

If you're thinking of "Creation Scientists" whose papers are "peer-reviewed" by other Creationists, you already understand how Think Tanks operate. It also helps to picture a crowd of lunatics clustered together, peeing down each others' legs.

Satellite image of inauguration

This half-meter resolution image of the United States Capitol, Washington D.C. was collected by the GeoEye-1 satellite on Jan. 20, 2009 to commemorate the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. The image, taken through high, whispy white clouds, shows the masses of people attending the Inaugural Celebration.