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November 27, 2008

President-Elect Obama's Thanksgiving Day Address

I almost wrote President Obama.  It seems like we have a split presidency right now.  Obama is doing the real leading - like dealing with the economic collapse and bolstering our confidence; Bush is attending to the ceremonial functions like talking to the APEC leaders in Peru and pardoning the national turkey. 

So, here is our real president's Thanksgiving Day Address.  Lovely

Arianna Huffington talks about why she is thankful to the Obamas.  She clarifies what makes me tear up the most about having Barack and Michelle preparing to move into the White House.  Their total decency.

I'm particularly thankful for all the non-political teachable moments we are getting from the Obamas: It's not worth holding a grudge (see asking Hillary to be Secretary of State). There is no one better to help you raise your kids than grandma (see asking "First Granny" Marion Robinson to move into the White House to help Malia and Sasha adjust to life in DC). No matter what they throw at you, stay calm, centered, and collected (see "Muslim," "Socialist," "palling around with terrorists"). All great lessons to bring home with us this Thanksgiving holiday.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 27, 2008 at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 25, 2008

T-Minus 57 Days and Counting

DarkSyde, a leader in the DailyKos community who specializes in science and global climate issues, posted a piece today at DailyKos, with the title I am also using.   Darksyde shares a NYT opinion piece written by Alan Stern, a NASA upper echelon scientist.  Stern wrote about the ineptitude and corruption that's been rampant at NASA.  This is bigtime whistleblowing and could be the beginning of a flood of current and former government workers telling us what isn't working so we can have a crack at fixing it.  

Endemic project cost increases at NASA begin when scientists and engineers (and sometimes Congress) burden missions with features beyond what is affordable in the stated budget. The problem continues with managers and contractors who accept or encourage such assignments, expecting to eventually be bailed out. It is worsened by managers who disguise the size of cost increases that missions incur. Finally, it culminates with scientists who won’t cut their costs and members of Congress who accept steep increases to protect local jobs.

The result? The costs of badly run NASA projects are paid for with cutbacks or delays in NASA projects that didn’t go over budget. Hence the guilty are rewarded and the innocent are punished.

<snip>

This cancer is bad, but it is curable. The new presidential administration could begin by accounting for cost increases more honestly, using the initial basis on which missions are started, rather than today’s practice of neglecting certain kinds of cost escalation. Further, scientists and engineers should be required, when formulating missions, to ensure their scope matches their budget. And NASA should be charged to reduce or cancel development projects that are not performing to cost. Of equal importance, Congress should turn from the self-serving protection of local NASA jobs to an ethic of responsible government that delivers results.

Yes, controlling the costs of space missions, while ensuring their success and safety, will be a steep challenge for NASA, but NASA’s workforce, from technicians to top executives, is among the government’s most dedicated and capable. This is a challenge that can be met with appropriate leadership.


I'm guessing that Obama's team is a magnet for folks who have been horrified at how inept and corrupt the Bush Administration has been.  It will be interesting to see how much the folks from the inside will be able to assist in uncovering some of the huge problems that we will have to deal with.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 25, 2008 at 06:22 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 23, 2008

Lieberman Stinks up the Place on MTP

Joe Lieberman appeared on Meet the Press this morning in an effort save his reputation, but he's still the Democrats' number one traitor. He lied and played the refusenik whenever Brokaw pressed him on why he hasn't apologized for campaigning for the Republican presidential candidate and for supporting Palin's most offensive statements about Obama.


"I regret some of the things I said" just isn't going to cut it. Not with Democratic voters, anyway. Obama made a serious mistake letting this backstabbing creep retain his powerful chairmanship of the Homeland Security Commmittee, a position he has already stained with his incompetence. And, please, don't anybody bore me with that tired old saw, the magical number of 60. Lieberman looks out for nobody but Lieberman. How this reality escapes anyone simply boggles the mind. 

I'm sickened by the current fetishism of bipartisanship. It's especially loathesome when one considers that Republicans are not/will never be interested in working with Democrats. The people who brandished the "nuclear option" are still in power and still in control of their party. They are only interested in obstruction. Dday, over at Digby's place, elaborates on this point quite well, first by quoting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and then by coming to the obvious conclusion:


“What I’m saying to the new president and the new administration: ‘Do big things, and do them in the center, and you’ll be surprised at how much support you might have,’ " he said at the news conference.

Otherwise, McConnell warned, his party would stand together and block a far-left agenda.

“You're likely to have very significant unity among Republicans," he said.


(under the Employee Free Choice Act, if 30% of the workforce wants an secret ballot election they get one. Thought I'd put some facts into the mix)

This is what Barack Obama is stepping into. He's going to offer a hand of friendship and Senate Republicans are going to bite it off. They are thoroughly disinterested in compromise. They view it as a threat.

Posted by shoephone on November 23, 2008 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2008

A Couple of Gems

There have been so many items I've seen over the last two weeks that have touched my heart about why Obama and the Democrat's win is going to make a difference.  Here are two:

Desmond Tutu

Let's begin with Desmond Tutu's take, as he considers the impact on the world, in an article entitled, "The Man of Tomorrow: His election has turned America's global image on its head", published a few days after the election.

But it is true, exhilaratingly true. An unbelievable turnaround. I want to jump and dance and shout, as I did after voting for the first time in my native South Africa on April 27, 1994.

We owe our glorious victory over the awfulness of apartheid in South Africa in large part to the support we received from the international community, including the United States, and we will always be deeply grateful. But for those of us who have looked to America for inspiration as we struggled for democracy and human rights, these past seven years have been lean ones.

<snip>

Because the Bush years have been disastrous for other parts of the world in many ways, Obama's victory dramatizes the self-correcting mechanism that epitomizes American democracy. Elsewhere, oppressors, tyrants and their lapdogs can say what they like, and they stay put, for the most part. Ordinary citizens living in undemocratic societies are not fools; they may not always agree with U.S. foreign policy, but they can see and register the difference between the United States, where people can kick an unpopular political party out, and their own countries.

<snip>

The renowned African scholar Ali Mazrui has pointed out that Obama could never have gotten as far as he has without an exceptional level of trust on the part of white Americans. In this, his achievement is similar to what Nelson Mandela had achieved by the end of his presidency; Mandela's party may never have drawn a majority of white votes, but he has come to be revered by white as well as black South Africans as the founding father of our democracy.

Mazrui likens Obama to Mandela in other ways, saying that both men share a readiness to forgive and show "a remarkable capacity to transcend historical racial divides." Both, Mazrui says, are "potential icons of a post-racial age which is unfolding before our eyes."

<snip>

Obama is the son of a Kenyan man and a Kansan woman. He spoke movingly about his background during his long campaign. Now he's the president-elect. His triumph can help the world reach the point where we realize that we are all caught up in a delicate network of interdependence, unable to celebrate fully our own heritage and place in the world, unable to realize our full potential as human beings, unless everyone else, everywhere else, can do the same.


Lawrence Tribe

One of the best jurists of our time, Lawrence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard, a man considered to be, according to wikipedia, "one of the foremost constitutional law experts and Supreme Court practitioners in the United States" writes about a former student of his.  Tribe said that Obama was the most impressive student he had ever taught.

In 1989, I had met Barack Obama and hired him as my research assistant while he was still just a first-year Harvard law student. His stunning combination of analytical brilliance and personal charisma, openness and maturity, vision and pragmatism, was unmistakable from my very first encounter with the future president.

<snip>

Barack Obama's unique ability to explain and to motivate, coupled with his signature ability to listen and to learn, and linked with the calm that marked his nearly flawless campaign, will serve him--and all of us--well as we grapple with as daunting a set of problems as the nation has faced in three-quarters of a century. It is of course true that only time will tell just how successful this brave, brilliant and caring man will be in charting a new course for the country, something that will depend only partly on decisions that Obama will make as president.

But one thing is already certain: The very fact of Barack Obama's election at this defining moment--quite apart from the programs he pursues and the ways in which he pursues them--already speaks volumes to everyone on the planet. His election in and of itself displays how dramatically America has moved to transcend the divisions of its past and bids fair to give us a new lease on life in a world that had come, and not without reason, to see us in an awful light--a world that will now give this nation a fresh look and a second chance.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 22, 2008 at 06:42 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Municipal League to Port of Seattle: Don't Do It

The Municipal League has a message for the commisioners at the Port of Seattle: 


The Port of Seattle has not been transparent about what particular economic development the additional taxes will purchase or the necessity to spend the money in 2009.


(snip)


We were quite disappointed by the Port's misleading attempt to portray the agency's proposed $8.1 million increase in the levy as a tax decrease for homeowners. It is true the Port is proposing to lower the levy rate per $1,000 of property value from $0.225 to $0.219. That's a decrease of 2.7 percent. However, this reduction is more than offset by the double-digit increase in the assessed value of the average residential property in King County. The Port states that a homeowner with property assessed at $300,000 would pay less in 2009 than it paid in 2008. This argument is misleading because property assessed at $300,000 for tax purposes in 2008 would almost certainly be assessed at a much higher value in 2009, with the result that the homeowner would pay a higher tax, even at the lower rate. The Port's position is even more troubling because many homeowners cannot sell their homes at current tax appraisal values due to the recent decline in home prices.

Posted by shoephone on November 22, 2008 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2008

The More We Trust the Obama Crowd, the More We Can Do Ourselves

I feel like I'm at a workshop that is being very well run.  I don't have to try to help the process.  They've got it handled.  Or riding in a car with an excellent driver. 

When the folks in charge do a good job of "process", it allows us the opportunity to focus on "content".  In a less needy time, that might mean fully enjoying our personal lives; now it also means figuring out how best to help out with this project of holding our country and the planet together.  Personally it allows me to read and write more about the perils of stormwater on the health of our waterways, and then to use that information to take immediate action by commenting at the Puget Sound Partnership hearings or on learning to make movies so that I can talk about the importance of organizing our neighbors better.  There is a lot to be done but having Obama and his folks moving to take charge is very heartening.

The transition seems to be moving along well.  There is a tone I really like, a tone of non-arrogant confidence.  And, aside from the drama that inevitably hangs around the Clintons, there has been a very clean roll-out so far.  I may not agree with all the choices, but I love the process and I am encouraged by what I see.

I feel like we are in good hands.  These guys are going to run a good government.  Not to say they won't make mistakes.   But I think we will see a thoughtful vision behind what is being done.  Obama is doing a range of smart things in a business-like fashion; this is just what he did as he got himself elected.  He is also avoiding distractions.  Whew!  Is that ever a relief.  When I consider even that the Joe Lieberman thing might be a way for Obama to set a different tone and not get caught up in disabling distractions, I have to give pause to my dismay on that as well. 

Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security.  The idea of a sane person running that agency takes me a while to get my mind around.  Is it possible we might rethink what we call "homeland security"?  Every time I go through a security line at the airport, I  think we are spending huge amounts of money on the dumbest things.   

Also, we hear that Tom Daschle will take on Health and Human Services.  Ezra Klein, a writer and journalist, explains why this is such good news:

You don't tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That's not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress. You tap him because he understands the parliamentary tricks and has a deep knowledge of the ideologies and incentives of the relevant players. You tap him because you understand that health care reform runs through the Senate. And he accepts because he has been assured that you mean to attempt health care reform.


Much of the famed Obama team will be with him at the White House.  Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod will both be senior advisors.  Hurrah!  Every time I see Jarrett on the news, I am struck by her basic common sense, confidence and calm.  This is going to be so interesting. 

So, what are you doing?  What might you do?

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 20, 2008 at 07:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 18, 2008

Lieberman the Traitor Survives

TPM commenter GMFord sums up my feelings precisely:


I sent an email to my Senator pointing out how hard I and millions of others worked to elect more and better Democrats this year. I contrasted that to Joe Lieberman not only working to defeat Democrats at every level but speaking out against a Democratic majority, advancing the notion that Obama might not be patriotic, and applauding when McCain's audience boo'ed our presidential candidate.

Perhaps some of us could have had an hour or two more sleep leading up to the election if we weren't also fighting against a traitorous member of our own party.


The vote of the Democratic Caucus was 42-13. They must be proud of themselves, continuing to enable this traitor. Want to know how your senators voted? Don't waste your time. It's a secret ballot.

 

Update: FDL reports that Patty Murray stood with Harry Reid at a press conference to defend the outrageousness of their actions.

Posted by shoephone on November 18, 2008 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 17, 2008

Puget Sound Needs Our Attention Now

Over at the Institute for Washington's Future website, I wrote last week about the Draft Action Agenda that the Washington State government-led Puget Sound Partnership developed as a last reasonable plan to save the Puget Sound as we know it.  This week, a private nonprofit organization, People for Puget Sound (PPS), called for people to actively make our voices heard.  "The Partnership’s Action Agenda is a golden opportunity to carry out a recovery plan that is accountable, effective, transparent and decisive with sustained funding that will restore this national treasure to health by 2020." 

They would like us all to weigh in.  It will take a few minutes but far less that a couple hours volunteering on a political campaign took last month and we were glad to do that. 

1) Read or skim through the Draft Action Agenda on the PPS Website.

2) Take a look at the PPS's thoughts about what to focus on:

"Praise the Partnership’s hard work and effort thus far, but suggest that the Partnership also include those issues that most matter to you, some of which might be on this list:

* Benchmarks- Clearly identify benchmarks and sustained funding to get us to a healthy Puget Sound by 2020.
* Sustained Funding- Clearly identify sustained funding to get us to a healthy Puget Sound by 2020.
* Stormwater- Present a comprehensive program on stormwater that gives the roadmap, with benchmarks, for reducing stormwater pollution enough to achieve recovery of Puget Sound by 2020 and that addresses all sources of stormwater pollution – municipal, industrial, construction, roads, etc.;
* Toxics- Significantly beef up toxic pollution prevention elements of the Action Agenda;
* Regulatory Tools- Offer improved regulatory tools for habitat protection, such as habitat standards that will achieve net gains in forest cover, riparian, nearshore and marine vegetation;
* New Funding- Describe in detail the new funding sources dedicated to Puget Sound that will be needed to fully implement the Action Agenda and achieve recovery by 2020."

3) Click here to make a comment.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 17, 2008 at 06:25 PM in Environment, Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2008

Citizens Request Human Rights Commission in Snohomish County

Live in Snohomish County?  Care to help create a citizen-led Human Rights Commission that “has the authority, and the resources, to provide equal opportunity and safety for all of the residents and visitors to Snohomish County.”  A citizens group, which has been meeting for a year, proposed an ordinance that would create a small staff, with guidance from a 7-person Commission and the originating citizens group, to do outreach, education and dispute resolution.  

First thing that is needed is for people to show up and tell the Snohomish County Council this Monday morning at 10:30 – TOMORROW - in Everett to tell the council-members that you agree it is needed and is worthy of being created and supported by the Council.   You can do that by email or by phone.  Go to the organization’s website for info on how to have input to the hearings. 

Why do it?  According to the site,

This ordinance provides tools for individuals to use when they feel they have been the victims of any sort of discrimination. It seeks to bring parties together through dispute resolution methods. The committee came together in response to incidents which occurred in the county that demonstrated a need for such resources.


Date/Time/Place or Email - More from the site:

Council Hearings are held Mondays at 10:30am in the Council meeting room in the Henry M. Jackson Board Room, 8th Floor, Robert J. Drewel Building (Admininstration Building East), 3000 Rockefeller, Everett. Please call the Council office at 425-388-3494 to confirm events or for additional agenda information, or e-mail to contact.council@co.snohomish.wa.us.

The meeting on November 17 is the last date before the new budget will be adopted.  Show support for the Ordinance by being there.  Public testimony will be taken so plan to tell your story if you have one that demonstrates the need for the Human Rights Commission.  It must be brief.  Each speaker is limited to three minutes.


To read more about why the ordinance is needed in Snohomish County, click here.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 16, 2008 at 10:45 AM in Current Affairs, Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 15, 2008

This Focus on Obama's Race is an Attempt at Face-Saving

Ever since election night and the focus on the historical nature of Obama's win, I've wondered about that.  From the perspective of the huge range of people I've talked with over the last year about this election, Obama's race has seemed like such a small part of why his candidacy has been so important. 

It's been his focus on the practical, on the straight-forward task of rebuilding our democracy and our economy and our sense of self-respect.  It's been his lack of ego; he doesn't get in his own way and he doesn't seem to allow others around him to either.  It's about their dedication to us and their request for our dedication to ourselves as well.

It always has been historic for African-Americans and perhaps for all people of color.  That I completely get.  But for Republicans?

Nevertheless, the Republicans - McCain, Bush, Palin, Cheney, one after the other, congratulate Obama and the American people for the historic nature of this election.   In the process, they were more gracious than one might have thought given their nastiness during the campaign.   I puzzled over it in some remote part of my brain.

Then, I saw a transcript of a Q&A of Laura Bush on her visit with Michelle Obama.  She said the the same thing.  Here's the transcript between the correspondent, Elaine Quijano, CNN White House correspondent, and Bush:

QUIJANO: Last question then. Your husband, the day after the election, talked about it being a stirring sight to see the Obamas because of the historic nature of having the nation's first African-American president. I wonder if you could share your thoughts on that, as well?

L. BUSH: Well I also think it's very, very important. I think it's important for American history. I think it's a message to everybody in the United States of what's possible. But it's also a message around the world because I know, because I heard from them, that there were leaders in the -- around the world who didn't think the United States would elect an African-American man. And so, I think it's a really important message about our own democracy to people around the world.


And I got it.  Because Obama's race makes this a more understandable historic moment, it allows them to graciously point to something we can all agree on.  We're not likely to agree that the Republicans came close to destroying this country in the last 8 years.  We're not likely to agree, at least in public, that McCain is just a grumpy, reckless old man whose selection of VP candidate made it clear he has no respect for this nation.  

So, yes, Obama being an African-American is a historic win and a safe thing for Republicans to talk about.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 15, 2008 at 03:08 PM in Candidate Races, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)