Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tip to Cabinet Nominees: Pay your taxes

funny pictures
(moar funny pictures)

Several high profile stories have plagued Obama cabinet nominees recently, and they seem to revolve around their lack of paying their taxes in a timely manner.

Both former Sen. Tom Daschle (Obama's choice for Health Secretary) and Timothy Geithner (Treasury Secretary) have not only neglected paying a portion of their taxes, but the non-payment was only discovered during the highly-detailed economic vetting process.

This kind of pisses me off.

Not so much because some wealthy politicians apparently got confused when dealing with our nation's complex tax code, but the fact that if they weren't up for Cabinet positions, the non-payments would probably have gone undiscovered.

I'm sure the $34K that Geithner neglected to pay, and the $128K oopsie by Daschle are but microscopic droplets in our nation's tax pool, but still! There is something terribly wrong with our tax system when these "droplets" are not even missed by the government.

Maybe it's time to revamp our tax code to make it simpler. There must be other nations out there which have vibrant economies while utilizing a simple taxation system, but I can't think of any right now. Probably because I'm under the influence of Ny-Quil and a rather fine doctor-prescribed single malt scotch.

OK, so a doctor didn't really prescribe booze for me, but I'm just trying to defeat this awful cold I picked up recently. Hmmm...I wonder if standing outdoors last week in a 5-degree wind-chill all day long had anything to do with me getting sick?

(BTW, I despise everything about the concept of "lolcats"! But I'm semi-delirious right now, so I don't make much sense)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

DeLauro witnesses Equal Pay become law

Rosa DeLauro was instrumental in getting this bill passed. Bravo (brava?) to her and all her colleagues who worked so hard to see it reach fruition!

From Scarce over at My Left Nutmeg:
President Barack Obama, center, signs the Lilly Ledbetter Bill with Lilly Ledbetter, fourth from the left, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009, in the East Room at the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama signed an equal pay bill into law Thursday, declaring that it's a family issue, not just a women's issue.

The president picked the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for the first piece of legislation to sign as president.

He appeared before a packed East Room audience for a ceremony, and Ledbetter stood at his side.

His entrance in the room was met with hearty cheers from the many labor and women's groups represented there. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker in the history of Congress, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were present.
Gee, women are now legally entitled to equivalent pay that a man would get for the same job. We're just over a week in, and this is an example of the CHANGE that Barack Obama promised he'd make when he became president.

Somehow, I just couldn't imagine this sort of thing ever being passed by a Republican-majority Congress or signed by former president George W. Bush (goddamn, it feels so good to write the word "former" for that last bit!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My favorite cake

Chocolate mousse birthday cake. Mmmm-mmm good!

Monday, January 26, 2009

MN Senate recount LIVE on TheUptake

For all you politics junkies out there, is covering the Coleman v. Franken Election Ballot Counting trial, starting at 2PM Eastern and running until 6PM today, then 10-6 each day thereafter until the trial ends.

This is some great drama, as witnesses are now being called and questioned under oath. Including Norm Coleman's 27-year old campaign director Kristen Fuzer (pictured).

The new catch phrase for the trail is "It's above my pay grade."

And it's very strange to see Norm Coleman himself sitting behind the plaintiff's table. It's almost as if he's on trial.

Watch the live streaming video action HERE.

And a very useful "cast of characters" for this trial is located at The Daily Kos.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dick Cheney left behind

There was something very familiar about seeing poor ol' Dick Cheney in a wheelchair.

Caused, no doubt, by a groin pull from his trying to carry huge boxes of classified documents down to the nuclear-powered shredder they have in the basement of the White House.

Then I realized it reminded me of a scene from an old movie.

So I made this video. Extra points if you know the movie's title; which should be easy if you're a fossil like me (but it's not bothering me or anything!)

The Biggest Day of the Year

The biggest day of the year! No, I'm not talking about that little Inauguration thingy that happened last week, although that was nice too.

I'm talking about my birthday. (Speaking of which, the little honey above graced the calendar during the month I was born. Google image search rules!)

Yes, it's not just ANY's the big five-oh!

Believe it or not, on Tuesday, barring some unforeseeable calamity, of course, I'll have officially occupied this planet for a half-friggin'-century!

Some people might panic or become depressed by their impending step over the threshold to middle age, soon to be followed by the inevitable slow downward progression of decrepitude, and eventually ending in death, but not me! No sirree!

If anything, I embrace my impending oldness! I welcome the supposed wisdom that accompanies the vast sum of life experiences I've had. I even look forward to qualifying for a membership in AARP and spending hours watching QVC in search of discounts on hard-to-find but useful household items!

...ah, who am I kidding? I'm plunging headlong into the least desirable advertising demographic and it sucks.

On the plus side, maybe the telemarketers won't bother calling so much anymore.

Yup, that's me...

Good ol' "Mr. Glass Half-Full!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Science Returns!

What a day for putting politics in the back seat and bring science front and center in health care. Not only did President Obama signal that he will lift the ban on federal funding for stem-cell research in the U.S (a kick for the economy, seeing that the research was being done overseas), the FDA approved human tests on use of stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries.
This opens the door to more research on finding treatments or cures for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and leukemia. It's a shame Christoper Reeve isn't here to sign up for the study.

Also, the President signed an executive order today to restore U.S. funding to international family planning organizations that provide pregnancy termination services or counseling. It's important to note that funding doesn't fund abortions -- ALL funding was pulled from the organizations for ALL services -- including women's health care, HIV prevention, contraception, and a number of other services to poor people all over the world. Now, poor women will not be second class citizens when it comes to U.S financial contributions to their care.

And it's only the third full day of this administration.......

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration Parade Video Diary

This is the video from the big day!

I tried to observe as much as possible during the day, and focus on the little details of the event. I probably would have done a better job if I wasn't freezing my butt off!

More DC photos

A few more photos from Monday night.

The back of the Capitol Building at night. We walked across the exact spot where the helicopter landed to pick up Bush and fly him away the next day.

Joyce and Mike Brown at the Connecticut Delegation Reception in the Russell Senate Office Building.

Rep. Joe Courtney and me at the reception. BTW, I'm not wearing the hat indoors because I'm trying to look cool; everyone had to pile their coats on a big table, and I was worried it would get crushed if I left it there.

Joyce with Annie Lamont. We had a nice talk with Annie and she caught us up on what the kids are up to.

Sen. Chris Dodd and I spent a few moments together.

Finally, here we are with Rep. Jim Himes. We wanted to visit all our Congressmen's offices over in the Canon HOB, but because it took us two hours to get into the Rayburn HOB to visit Rosa's office, we ran out of time.

Meaning of Roe

(Bumped to the top of the page, because this is important - CTBob)

Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Fortunately, with President Obama, we are reasonably safe for the next 4 years, but must keep our flank guarded for legislation that tries to take away women's rights. And, I think it really is that simple. I don't know if I would choose an abortion, and have never had to confront that issue. But, I am certain that I am not so full of myself as to think I can make that decision for another woman. And I am certain that I don't want a bunch of men making those decisions for women.

I chose this image because I have yet to meet a woman who found the decision to terminate a pregnancy a simple one that follows a straight path. It is a complicated process, and one that we cannot make for others.

Abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Period.

And on this day, we need to embrace the true meaning of being pro-life. It means being in favor of stopping torture, and ending poverty, and practicing tolerance, and overcoming bigotry and hatred, and providing health care to all Americans, and halting war. That's what being pro-life means to me, and I am proud to be pro-life. How about you?

Photos part 1 of 3

I'm grouping these photos in three posts of five each, to make it easier to upload them. I'll work on the video and hopefully have it up shortly. As usual, click on any photo to see in their glorious full size!

Watch out for the flakes! Maura, Gabe and Melissa on the Metro. We arrived at the East Falls Church station around 6:20AM, and to our surprise there were still a few spaces left in the parking lot. We entered the platform and the first train pulled in, so absolutely full of people that nobody could get on.

An empty train pulled in from the other direction, and Maura decided to jump aboard to the end of the line, just four stops away. It turned out to be a good idea, because we had seats for what turned out to be nearly a two-hour train ride into DC.

By the time we went through East Falls Church again, the train was fully packed and nobody else could board. It was a smart decision on Maura's part.

A woman on the train was sporting a Michelle button.

At 8:30 we were in the Federal Triangle, waiting to clear security to get onto the parade route.

At about 10AM we cleared the metal detectors and the TSA workers, shown here checking bags. The ground and fences outside were littered with small flags because they didn't allow sticks into the secure area. Many people simply stripped the flags off the sticks and kept them to wave during the parade.

Photos part 2 of 3

Putting on the toe warmers. They didn't work as good as the hand warmers, but they were better than nothing.

The motorcade coming from the White House going toward the Capitol. People were waving and yelling "Bye-bye!". Someone said they recognized Cheney in one of the limousines. That's the FBI building on the right.

Looking back south from the top row of the bleachers at the 10th St. entrance. There were plenty of portolets available, and already long lines had formed for the two food and beverage vendors. There's the National Museum of Natural History in the background.

Joyce on the bleachers. The cold wasn't so bad until the breeze picked up after lunchtime.

Did I mention it was cold out there? This guys obviously thinks so.

Photos part 3 of 3

Rooftop spectators viewing the parade across the street.

A black-clad ninja scans the crowd with a pair of giant binoculars from atop the Dept. of Justice Building. The fellow next to me pointed at him and yelled, "It's Batman!"

There were several layers of security along the parade route. Camo'd National Guardsmen, DC Police, all branches of the military, and many other groups helped maintain security.

After the oath of office, the presidential helicopter flew overhead carrying Bush and Cheney away. The crowd roared with joy, and people in our bleachers started singing "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, good-bye!"

More rooftop ninjas scanned the crowd for signs of trouble. The crowd was uniformly well-behaved and very happy, despite the cold.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I blew it. I only had my Fuji J10 digital camera with me, which I used to shoot pictures and video. I didn't think it would be easy to get my big Canon video camera through security. Did I mention how cold it was out there? Working a camera while wearing gloves is hard. And I found out that when I use the full optical and digital zoom together, it turns the image into a blurry fucking mess.

I was shooting video right until they approached, then I switched to picture mode to capture this bit of digital magic, and then I turned it back to video to capture them walking away. So when I edit and post the video, at least you'll get to see them a bit. Plus you'll hear the sound of the crowd cheering, which is cool.

In the future I'll commit to one mode of shooting only, either pictures or video. But at least I have this to remember the historic event.

Before and After

We arrived at the Federal Triangle metro station at 8:30AM. We walked out to the 12th Street entry gate to this crowded scene. That's the IRS building in the background. Security was only letting about 100 people at a time through the entry gates so they could pass through the magnometers without crowding the TSA workers.

After being jostled and squeezed by the crowd for about a half-hour, one of the security workers yelled (without a megaphone) that the 10th Street entrance was wide open. We decided to give it a shot, so we squeezed out of the rabble and walked the two blocks to the other gate. The crowd WAS much smaller, and it only took about 20 minutes to clear security and gain access to the parade route.

Our bleachers were located right at the intersection of 10th and Pennsylvania Ave., right by the Department of Justice building and across the avenue from the FBI.

And then at 5:30PM, thoroughly frozen, we walked right through the gates to the Metro. Because so many people had already left, the Metro was hardly crowded. After about a 15 minute wait to allow the train platform to empty, the police let us enter the station. Just as we got to the platform, our train pulled in and it had room for us to board. 25 minutes later we were at East Falls Church, where we drove to an Applebee's for dinner.

We were able to watch the end of the parade live on TV from our table.

How cold was it?

According to what people were saying, the temperature topped out at 33 degrees. But with the wind chill, it felt as cold as 5 degrees. And when you're out in the breeze for more than eight hours, it feels even worse.

The ground was littered with the plastic wrappers from chemical hand warmers. People brought blankets (I didn't know they could) and food (I really didn't know that!), so we used a special Inaugural edition of the Washington Post as seats on the metal bleachers, and we feasted upon Tic-Tacs most of the day. The two food vendors nearby had lines that were at least an hour long, and they ran out of hot chocolate and coffee by noon.

These three photos probably tell the story of the cold more accurately:

8:30 AM

11:30 AM

3:00 PM

About a half hour after the President walked by and 80% of the spectators left, we were able to buy a hot dog at one vendor. The food gave us just enough energy to watch about 40 more minutes of the parade, but we called it a day at about 5:30.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Home at last

It took us until 2:30 to hit the road today, and we just got home. After unpacking the car and having a bite to eat, I'm barely awake enough to see. So I'm going to put up most of my pictures sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's one quick photo of a guy in our bleachers, and an observation:

Yes, that's a battered copy of "The Catcher In The Rye" that he was holding the entire time!

For anyone who isn't familiar with the significance of this book, you should know that both Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley were fanatical about it. So here we are, just as the new President and his family come strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, and this fellow is clutching a well-worn copy of the most subversive/anarchistic novel of its time. Talk about a bizarre moment!

Obviously, I kept half an eye on him until well after the President went safely by. But it was a bit unsettling, to say the least.

I Assure You, We're Open

(from Monday, in front of the Smithsonian)

It's just shy of noon on the 21st. Today is the first full non-Bush day America has seen in eight long years. I'd probably be a bit happier about it if I wasn't slightly hungover.

I'm at the internet cafe trying to post stuff, but it's very slow going. If I can't post my photos today, I'll try to get some of them online tonight.

Thank you Kirby for holding down the fort! You did a fantastic job yesterday with the updates and your original posts. Communications got difficult later in the day, and by the time the President and First Lady walked by, I couldn't dial out. After that, Joyce and I left the parade about half-way through and headed back to VA. I crashed hard about 8PM and slept for a couple hours, then Maura, Melissa and us talked and laughed for hours. I think I finally got back to sleep around 2:30 this morning.

I'm going to try to post photos now, but again, if they don't work I'll post them later.

And let's hear a round of applause for Kirby!!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And I leave you tonight.....

With the two most adorable, well-mannered children in America. Sasha is just scrumptious! I hope her joy permeates the walls of the White House for everyone to remember that this presidency is really about the world we leave to the next generation.

Thawing Out?

I hope Bob thaws out enough this evening to post his photos of the day and to let us know if the president got out of the limo near his seat at the parade! In the meantime, here is what the inauguration looked like from space

Governing Delayed

With the delay in the parade, and the fact that the President must sit in the reviewing stand for the whole thing, the executive orders initially said to be signed today may be put off to tomorrow. Here's the link on the new White House Web site directly to executive orders; we can see them right after they are signed.

Pardon Me?

Much to the amazement of many, including, I'm sure many Connecticut bloggers, it looks like this turkey and two border patrol agents are the only ones getting pardons from GWB. None were made public today -- so this will be an interesting footnote to a scandalous presidency.
And, in other random observations online -- a number of people commenting tongue in cheek that seeing Darth Cheney in a wheelchair was not nearly as satisfying as we thought it would be. Although, there appeared to be a chill between these two departing executives -- with the only apparent contact being a quick handshake at Andrews before W took off for Texas. Hmmmmm.

Obamas Walking

The president and first lady got out of the limo and walked for a bit. It was hard to tell where this happened on the parade route, and we will hear from Bob as to whether it was near him or not. The parade was delayed after Senator Kennedy collapsed at the luncheon following the outdoor ceremony -- to make sure he was OK before having a celebratory parade.

The invocation by Rick Warren was more about him than about the moment -- and it was totally eclipsed by the benediction by Rev. Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- full text here
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.

Gone! Finally Gone!

And the Bush error is over.

Obama is President

Just got a call from Bob who is in his bleacher seats on Pennsylvania Avenue waiting for the parade with CT Joyce and Gabe...the parade is still about 2 hours away. He said after Obama took the oath, a roar just rolled up the Avenue. They are sitting right across from the J Edgar Hoover building.

They are freezing -- and I didn't have the heart to tell him I was sitting here in front of the fire. Maura and Melissa had tickets at the Capitol, and CTBlogger is somewhere in DC. posted a serious makeover about 44 minutes ago, and is now shuttered. Go take a look.

Word from Bob

Bob reports in from the parade route -- he is cold, and says the security is amazing. He's with Gabe and Melissa -- Maura is at the Capitol, and I am sure he will have terrific pictures to post later.

Looking for Live Stream?

Since the traditional cable news site will be over run with traffic today, thought you'd like to know there is a nice, high quality stream on the front page of the NY Times

The Day is Finally Here!

It is hard to believe that after all this time, the day for Barack Obama to become 44th president of the United States is here. Bob is on the spot in Washington DC and I am here in CT with a dear friend sitting on the couch. Will keep you posted.

Maura got a Capitol ticket -- and deservedly so. More to come.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday in DC photos

It's closing time at the local Starbucks and because I don't have internet access at Maura's, I only have a few minutes to post these photos.

The Green Man graces the outside of the Environmental Protection Agency. Nice touch.

Joyce, Maura, Melissa and me at the East Falls Church metro station around noon.

John Mellancamp on the big screen during a rebroadcast of yesterday's concert.

A cool entry way in a government building on 12th St.

The Jumbrotron on the Mall, with the Capitol in the background.

Rosa with Joyce and me in her awesome office. She's got the coolest pictures and memorabilia from a long career in the House.

Dennis Kucinich with me in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Joyce in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building after the CT delegation reception.

Mayor Dan Malloy and his wife Cathy with me at the reception.

Ned Lamont with Mike Brown at the reception.

The Obama metro tickets.

OK, they're kicking me out. I'll be live-blogging style posting via Kirby tomorrow if communications goes well.