Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fantasy inauguration

1  Barack Obama
2. Michelle Obama
3. Martin Luther King Jr.
4. Thurgood Marshall
5. Rosa Parks
6. Barbara Jordan
7. Cynthia Wesley
8.Carole Robertson
9. Denise McNair
10.Addie Mae Collins
11. Emmett Till
12. Susan B. Anthony
13. C.T.Vivian
14. James Meredith
15. Homer Plessy
16. Harvey Milk
17.  Ida B. Wells
18. Malcolm X
19. Bayard Rustin
20. John Lewis
21. Mahatma Gandhi
22. Abraham Lincoln
23. Frederick Douglass
24. Cesar Chavez
25. Sojourner Truth
26. Nelson Mandela
27. Stephen Biko
28. Oliver Brown (Brown v. Education)
29. Chief Joseph
30. Lyndon Johnson
31. Medgar Evers
32. Rev. James Reeb
33. Fred Shuttleworth
34. W.E.B. Du Bois
35. Ralph Abernathy
36. Viola Gregg Liuzzo
37. Marcus Garvey
38. Andrew Goodman
39. James Chaney
40. Michael Schwerner
41. John Brown
42. Jackie Robinson
43. Dolores Huerta
44. Mary White Ovington
45. William Lloyd Garrison
46. Wang Dan
47. Stephen Samuel Wise
48. Harriet Tubman
49. Dred Scott
50. Booker T.Washington
51. David Richmond (and)
52. Joseph McNeil (Greensboro Four)
53. Martin Delany
54. The Little Rock Nine
55. William Still
56. Thomas Garrett
57. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
58. Samuel Burris
59.Thomas Paine
60. Abigail Kelley Foster
61. Jesse Jackson
62. Eugene V. Debs
63. Lucretia Mott
64. Paul Robeson
65. Henry David Thoreau
66. Shirley Chisholm

Fili-Buster Watch

Which Senate Republicans have voted the most often with the Obama Administration so far?

Yes, the Senate is actually voting on stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but there are perhaps seven nontrivial votes for us to chew over. These include confirmation votes for Tim Geithner and Hillary Clinton, the bailout extension, both a cloture vote and an up-and-down vote the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and both a cloture vote and an up-and-down vote on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act.

One Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine, has taken the administration's position on all seven votes, as indicated by a blue square in chart below. Two, David Vitter of Louisiana and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, have gone 7-for-7 in opposing the administration (as denoted in red). A couple more thoughts follow after the graphic.

After Snowe, two Republicans have supported the administration on 6 of 7 votes: George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Voinovich, who always ranks as among the most moderate Republicans, isn't really a surprise, but Gregg, who has a fairly conservative voting record, perhaps is. Such are the perils of running for re-election in a state that Obama won by 10 points.

Fix the mess

Roman Polanski

Francesco Vezzoli, Christopher Bollen

Roman Polanski may soon be permitted back into the U.S., but he's made some of his most compelling films while in exile from the Hollywood machine. As he collaborates with artist Francesco Vezzoli on a commercial for a fictional perfume starring Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams, the director talks about the Perils of the movie world and the pleasures of skiing drunk at night.

When Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli went looking for a director to help him make his latest artwork, he went straight for the biggest. Vezzoli's productions have always served up larger-than-life spectacles studded with Hollywood mythos and celebrity. His piece, Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal's Caligula (2005), which starred luminaries Gore Vidal, Helen Mirren, Milla Jovovich, and Courtney Love, was an orgiastic "preview" for the 1979 film Caligula. For his live play reading at the Guggenheim of Right You Are (If You Think You Are) in 2007, Vezzoli cast actors such as Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Diane Wiest. This time, he had his mind set on creating a commercial and an ad campaign for an imaginary fragrance called Greed (heavily indebted to Marcel Duchamp's own fictional perfume piece, 1921's Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette). The artist selected two leading Hollywood beauties who pointedly did not already have fragrance contracts—Portman and Michelle Williams—to be the faces of the perfume. He had Miuccia Prada specially design the costumes. He had art dealer Larry Gagosian produce the project, which will be exhibited at Vezzoli's show at Gagosian Gallery in Rome this month. Naturally, for a work this overloaded with talent, he could think of only one man to direct: Roman Polanski. Last October, in a suite at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, the 75-year-old director shot his glamorous testament to a substance that everyone wants but no one can ever get their hands on because it doesn't actually exist (the metaphor couldn't get any better, could it?).

What's going on in Bush's mind here?


This long NYT retrospective on the seminal news-photos of some guy named George Bush during his presidency ends with photos of the man on his way to his farewell address, during which it appears that he's been crying in the bathroom. I've looked at it several times now and I'm not sure I agree that's what's going on -- this facial expression seems to contain a lot more than mere sorrow.

And I turned to one of my editors — First I said, "Oh, my God." And he said, "What?" And I said, "You've got to see this picture of Bush. This is really stunning." And I flipped it over to him to process and his first reaction was, "Wow." And I said, "If he wasn't just back there behind that door crying, I don't know what that look on his face is." Because he just looks absolutely devastated as he comes through this door after essentially ending his eight year presidency. And it's just really striking. He just looks absolutely devastated.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

It's snowing on Mars ...

... or at least in the sky above it. This is just one extraordinary piece of information being sent back to us by the landers, probes and rovers scanning the planet. Home to the largest mountain in the solar system and a canyon as long as the US is wide, it is a world as fantastic as any imagined by JG Ballard

Cape St Vincent, Mars
Cape St Vincent, one of the cliffs of the Victoria crater. Photograph: Nasa/Reuters

High in the sky above Mars, it is snowing right now. Very gently snowing. The snow does not settle on the rubble-strewn land below - not these days, anyway - but instead vaporises into the thin atmosphere long before it reaches the ground.

The first flakes of snow, on a planet that until fairly recently was believed to be waterless, were spotted just a few months ago. A Nasa lander near the planet's north pole was scanning the sky with a laser when it noticed the telltale signs of snowfall. The probe, called Phoenix, announced the news in a radio signal that was picked up by an overhead orbiter and beamed back to Earth. Nothing like it had ever been seen before.

Global warming is 'irreversible'

Generating station in Sun Valley, California
Politicians must offset damage from man-made pollution, the report says

A team of environmental researchers in the US has warned many effects of climate change are irreversible.

The scientists concluded global temperatures could remain high for 1,000 years, even if carbon emissions can somehow be halted.

Their report was sponsored by the US Department of Energy and comes as President Obama announces a review of vehicle emission standards.

It appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists have been researching global warming and the consequences for policymakers.

The team warned that, if carbon levels in the atmosphere continued to rise, there would be less rainfall in already dry areas of southern Europe, North America, parts of Africa and Australia.

The scientists say the oceans are currently slowing down global warming by absorbing heat, but they will eventually release that heat back into the air.

They say politicians must now offset environmental damage already done by man-made pollution.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 year - that's not true," said researcher Susan Solomon, the lead author of the report, quoted by AP news agency.

More radiation, less popcorn fumes from Bush


The Bush administration said it would try to finish writing its last regulations before Election Day. Instead, that's when things really got popping.

In their last 13 weeks, the lame ducks churned out 48 rules that didn't quite become law by noon Jan. 20 when George W. Bush helicoptered into history.

Before his exit, agencies in the bowels of the federal bureaucracy sent up a wide variety of proposals: One would allow more exposure to radiation, another makes an effort to protect the public from the dangers of microwaved popcorn butter.

All have one thing in common: They were issued long after a May 1 deadline the Bush White House set for itself on proposing new measures. The administration also in many cases ignored its November deadline for completing work on new regulations.

Besides the four dozen proposed regulations that didn't clear the necessary hoops to go into effect by Jan. 20, hundreds remain piled up in the pipeline. Dozens more became effective before President Barack Obama took office and placed a hold on pending measures.

"They continued to put out rules after the deadlines passed," said Reese Rushing, director of regulatory and information policy for the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based policy organization that supports Obama. "If it was about good government, they would have stopped," Rushing said.

You Can Call Me Arne

Another federal employee checks in from the trenches:

I work at the Department of Education headquarters in DC. Today completed our 2-day introduction to Arne Duncan. Yesterday he had lunch in our cafeteria (Edibles, ha ha), with his wife and children. His wife wore jeans and a sweater and Arne looked like an average joe in khaki dress pants, white shirt and tie. They stood in all of the lines and talked to anyone who approached them. They probably stayed 90 minutes. It was definitely the highest cafeteria attendance ever.

Yesterday afternoon he visited every floor of our building and introduced himself to everyone. We all came out into the hall and he shook everyone's hand with a "Hi, I'm Arne."

By the end of the day yesterday, everyone was aglow, since this was already more attention than we'd received from Spellings or Paige. Today, however, was the all-staff meeting, and I can say that the morale in the building increased ten-fold by the end of it.

Rob Newman - From Caliban To The Taliban

Depression-era wisdom: How they survived

The nation's deepening recession recalls the lessons of the Great Depression, which shaped the lives and financial philosophies of many local elders.

As a child, Bill Cable remembers his parents sweating over finances at the kitchen table, struggling through the years that would come to be known as the Great Depression.

Itinerant people in the 1930s set up camps — called Hoovervilles, a reference to the Hoover administration's policies. This one was south of downtown Seattle. "They thought they would be in debt the rest of their lives," the Seattle man said.

Such experiences taught Bill, 80, and wife Donna, 79, to save what they could, keep their bills manageable and live without credit-card temptation. "That's probably why we've survived and why we're all here," he said.

Through nearly 60 years of marriage, "we never bought anything unless we saved the money and paid for it," Donna said. "We were always afraid something would go wrong."

The Cables passed on the lessons they learned, and their children mostly have fared well. Faced with the current economic crisis, however, "they are feeling it, and they're scared," Donna said.

As the nation heads deeper into recession, the longest and possibly most severe since World War II, it's worth remembering that once upon a time, things were much worse. Those who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s emerged with experiences that would shape their lives and financial philosophies, providing lessons many passed on to their children and a lens through which they see today's situation.

Torturers out of work

Under the Radar



ECONOMY -- CONSERVATIVES PEDDLE MYTH THAT STIMULUS SPENDS $275,000 FOR EVERY JOB CREATED: Over the past few weeks, conservatives  have been staking out their opposition the economic recovery package by peddling a variety of myths. One favorite is that taxpayers will be forced to pay $275,000 for every job created by the plan. "All told, the plan would spend a whopping $275,000 in taxpayer dollars for every new job it aims to create, saddling each and every household with $6,700 in additional debt," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said. "It is more than likely the private sector could have created more than one job for $275,000," according to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Nobel laureate Paul Krugman addressed this "bogus talking point" yesterday in his New York Times column, saying that it "involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years," Krugman wrote. Time's Joe Klein called the number "phony-baloney propaganda," while economist Dean Baker noted that "the media have been typically derelict in simply reporting this number without making any assessment to evaluate it." And as Center for American Progress Action Fund senior fellow and budget expert Scott Lilly pointed out, the actual cost per job is closer to $50,000, without taking into account the "substantial number of additional jobs [created] beyond 2012."

At the hinge of history


Stop me if you've heard this one before. "Guy walks into a bar ..." No, not that one -- this one: "This is the most critical year ever for Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy. It is five minutes to midnight. If we don't get diplomacy back on track soon, it will be the end of the two-state solution."

I've heard that line almost every year for the last 20, and I've never bought it. Well, today, I'm buying it.

We're getting perilously close to closing the window on a two-state solution, because the two chief window-closers -- Hamas in Gaza and the fanatical Jewish settlers in the West Bank -- have been in the driver's seats. Hamas is busy making a two-state solution inconceivable, while the settlers have steadily worked to make it impossible.

If Hamas continues to obtain and use longer- and longer-range rockets, there is no way any Israeli government can or will tolerate independent Palestinian control of the West Bank, because a rocket from there can easily close the Tel Aviv airport and shut down Israel's economy.

And if the Jewish settlers continue with their "natural growth" to devour the West Bank, it will also be effectively off the table. No Israeli government has mustered the will to take down even the "illegal," unauthorized settlements, despite promises to the U.S. to do so, so it's getting hard to see how the "legal" settlements will ever be removed. What is needed from Israel's Feb. 10 elections is a centrist, national unity government that can resist the blackmail of the settlers, and the rightist parties that protect them, to still implement a two-state solution.

Because without a stable two-state solution, what you will have is an Israel hiding behind a high wall, defending itself from a Hamas-run failed state in Gaza, a Hezbollah-run failed state in south Lebanon and a Fatah-run failed state in Ramallah. Have a nice day.

So if you believe in the necessity of a Palestinian state or you love Israel, you'd better start paying attention. This is not a test. We're at a hinge of history.

I have a dream... come true