Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Audacity Of Hats - More photos from Inauguration Week

I had hoped to have this up last weekend, but -  surprise, surprise - culling through, editing, color correcting and cropping 2,000+ images took a little longer than expected.

Below are a few images from the three days I was in DC for the Inauguration. To see ALL the photos, click on the following links:

The "We Are One" concert and California Democratic Party Ball

Jane Harman Inaugural Brunch and final preparations for the BIG DAY

Inauguration Day

(My apologies in advance for the watermarks. Shortly after I posted the first set of photos, some chuckleheads put the images up on their websites without attribution, so I'm hoping to head that bad behavior off at the pass this time around.)

Capitol grounds as Obama is sworn in


Watching the "We Are One" Concert from the base of the Washington Monument


Judiciary Square Metro Stop


Barbara Boxer and Yours Truly at the California Democratic Party Ball


Spectator taking photos of the Capitol grounds two days before Inauguration Day


The now-infamous Purple Gate


Security on the Mall during the "We Are One" concert


The Audacity of Hats - Fur was very popular, PETA be damned


Poster hung from the Yoko Ono "Wish Tree" at the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden


Cheery thought for the day


Representative John Lewis (D-Ga) at the Jane Harman (D-Ca) brunch


Spectator watches the Inauguration. Don't ask me how she got that dog past security.



Spectators hope their families will see these signs on TV


A few random thoughts...


  • African-American women in DC of "a certain age" have more style in their little fingers than I'll ever have.

  • When it's 15-degrees, you can get an ice cream headache just breathing.

  • Capitol Hill Police were useless when I left DC 21 years ago, and you know, they haven't improved since.

  • I've never seen the locals be so nice to tourists. Ever.

  • Obama-wear, and Obama hats in particular, are audacious!

  • DC has one of the best transit systems in the world. I pine for it here.

  • There's no real good way to describe the moment when you turn around and realize you're staring at a sea of two million people. 

  • I wonder what was going through George Bush's head when he heard those two million people boo him as he arrived, then sing, "Na, na, na, na! Hey, hey, hey! Goodbye!" when he left.

  • I was cold, squished, sleep-deprived, and my feet were killing me.......It was the worst three days I've ever loved.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Camp Courage - Taking The Fight For Marriage Equality To The People

This last weekend, I participated as a trainer (phonebanking - surprise, surprise) in an amazing empowerment workshop modeled after Camp Obama. 

Camp Courage was organized by the Courage Campaign to empower and instruct activists interested in preserving Marriage Equality in California. I had planned to do my own write up, but the week got a way from me, as usual. Instead, I bring you this excellent report from Calitics.

The next Camp Courage will be in Fresno, the weekend of February 28.


Of the countless meetings I've attended after the election, focusing either on the postmortem of the No on 8 Campaign (including Saturday's Equality Summit), brainstorming strategy, figuring out how to build coalitions, planning events and actions, and trying to determine next steps for the movement, I have not been to one meeting that was as effective, inclusive, practical and educational as the Courage Campaign's Camp Courage.

Held in West Hollywood and knowing that it was going to last from 8:30am-5:30pm, I thought spending my whole Sunday at the event made the whole thing seem daunting. And I was skeptical. After feeling let down after so many attempts to do what the Courage Campaign was attempting, I was prepared to get bored, lose interest in the speakers and eventually tune out altogether. But amazingly, they held my attention the whole time, and I learned a lot. Borrowing the mantra, "Respect - Empower - Include" from the Obama campaign, Camp Courage succeeded in doing just that.

Camp Courage kicked off strong with Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs telling the attendees that California is a "state that is tarnished" with discrimination. Indirectly referring to the Equality Summit and its panel of leaders who populated the stage throughout the whole event, he pointed to the empty stage behind him and said, "There are not a lot of people on this stage. You're the stage!" And that's how the rest of the day went.

Lisa Powell, lead facilitator who had worked with the Obama campaign, did a great job in leading the overbooked event, involving the crowd divided into predetermined groups with active sessions which lasted throughout the day and included:

* Story of Self: finding your voice as an activist. After hearing examples from people telling their stories as to why they're fighting to repeal Prop 8, Lisa broke down the storytelling technique, handed out a worksheet so that each person can shape their own story, and then each participant told their tale to their own group. Learning how to tell your own story is extremely effective in getting others involved in the movement, or opening the eyes of the opponents to the harm of Prop 8. After the sessions amongst the groups, a few were picked to share their story to the whole crowd. Many heart-wrenching tales were given, the unearthing of the motivation driving these activists. 

* Story of Us: the amazing Mike Bonin lead this session about building the movement, one leader at a time. 

* Voter Persuasion: how to talk to the others in one-on-one encounters. Led by Liz Moore of the SEIU, this was an extremely educational and effective session. After an improvised moment between Lisa Powell and Jenny Pizer, portraying a peaceful interaction between neighbors who voted differently on Prop 8, the groups were given worksheets with various scenarios that they had to improvise amongst themselves. Given tools in how to communicate with the opposition, many learned the power of proper persuasion without making those you disagree with uncomfortable or under attack. The emphasis of persuasion was on baby steps - you can't change someone's mind with one conversation. 

* Online Tech Tools: this session, led by Julia Rosen, Online Political Director for the Courage Campaign, debuted the organization's online, grassroots tool, Equality Hub, which allows individuals and grassroots organizations to effectively plan events, socialize and organize. It also includes a voter phone banking tool that allows the individual to make phone calls from their own homes, similar to the Obama Campaign site. Definitely worth checking out. 

* Into Action: this session broke out into groups that contained practical education on door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, tabling, organizing a political house party and online organizing (which went into further detail about the Equality Hub, but also networking and education about online tools that are effective for planning events and keeping your organization's members or participants active and updated). 

* Our Commitment to the Cause: Lisa Powell talked about the organization's commitment, to the movement, but as well as the activists, and referred to the Courage Campaign's project "Please don't divorce us . . . "

Inserted throughout the sessions were touching (and amazingly concise) speeches from married couple Jenny Pizer of Lamda Legal and Doreena Wong, who, speaking on the legal and political context of marriage equality, spoke about their years in activism and told the story that after 24 years together, Doreena's mother felt that Jenny was finally officially a part of the family after marrying her daughter; Torie Osborn spoke on organizing and movement building, focusing on respectful interaction with the opposition and learning how to actively listen; and Mike Bonin, telling his story of self, confessed that after working extremely long hours on the Obama campaign, and feeling ashamed that he didn't do enough for the No on 8 campaign, promised he will never allow himself to put an LGBT initiative "on the back burner."

With so much material covered in a relatively small amount of time, it's a marvel that it was all accomplished, and miraculously, on time and on schedule! These Obama-turned-LGBT and equality campaigners know how to lead a large meeting, communicate and educate, but above all, inspire. Led by multi-generational activists, some new and some experienced, Camp Courage offers something for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. Either this is all new to you and you learn the essential basics, or it's a refresher on old skills, you don't leave empty handed.

The Courage Campaign plans to hold many more Camp Courage sessions around the state. They are asking us to vote on where some of them will be. I recommend you do, find one near you (Fresno is already confirmed and they intend to schedule more in San Luis Obsispo, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco) and GO. In order for this movement to propel forward and succeed, we must be educated, we must know how to work together, we must be on the same page, and we must remain inspired. Camp Courage is the step in the right direction. Do not miss out. GO.

RNC to Rush Limbaugh: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, It's Yours


From D-Day:

Rush Limbaugh had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, where he decided to speak for the entire Republican Party (and who's going to stop him) in offering his stimulus plan:

Yes, elections have consequences. But where's the bipartisanship, Mr. Obama? This does not have to be a divisive issue. My proposal is a genuine compromise.

Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let's say the vote was 54% to 46%. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion -- $486 billion -- will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46% -- $414 billion -- will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me.

Then we compare. We see which stimulus actually works. This is bipartisanship! It would satisfy the American people's wishes, as polls currently note; and it would also serve as a measurable test as to which approach best stimulates job growth.


Did you know that we had a proportional representation based on the popular vote in this country? You doubtlessly remember George Bush getting 49% of his ideas passed in 2001, and Al Gore 51%.


Rush Limbaugh hasn't been this prominent since the Lewinsky affair. He's a preening, self-regarding fame addict, and because the Republican Party has basically handed the reins to him, he's going for it.

The talk radio king says Thursday he wants to personally present a stimulus proposal to the president.

“I am ready to build a road, build a bridge ... to the White House.”


Democrats are licking their chops at this, by the way. These radio ads are fantastic. (Click here to listen to the ad running in Pennsylvania)

“Every Republican member of the House chose to take Rush Limbaugh’s advice,” says the narrator after playing the conservative talk radio giant’s declaration that he hopes Obama “fails.”

“Every Republican voted with Limbaugh — and against creating 4 million new American jobs. We can understand why a extreme partisan like Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama’s Jobs program to fail — but the members of Congress elected to represent the citizens in their districts? That’s another matter. Now the Obama plan goes to the Senate, and the question is: Will our Senator"—here the ad is tailored by state to name George Voinovich in Ohio, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, and John Ensign in Nevada—"side with Rush Limbaugh too?”

Brilliant. Dems actually boxed the GOP in on this one.

Unleash The Beast - OFA Makes Its First Call To Action




Organizing for America, the campaign apparatus left over from Barack Obama's presidential run, sent out its first call to action on Friday in support of the president's agenda.

The organization, which is now housed within the Democratic National Committee, emailed everyone who has hosted a house party for the president, encouraging them to do the same in support of the White House-backed economic recovery package.

Organizing for American has roughly 13 million e-mail addresses and two million active volunteers, though its strength in helping to advance specific legislative items has yet to be tested.

There has been speculation over how often and to what extent the Democratic Party would take advantage of "the list," the concern being that over-saturation could blunt the response rate and reduce the investment voters had in the new administration. But clearly, Democratic leaders view the stimulus fight as one worth engaging aggressively. House parties aren't the most effective form of grassroots mobilization, but they should be enough to grab the attention of local and possibly state officials.



Below is the complete email sent out by the organization:

Last year, America lost 2.6 million jobs. This week, some of our biggest companies announced plans to cut tens of thousands more.

The economic crisis is deepening, but President Obama and members of Congress have proposed a recovery plan that will put more than 3 million Americans back to work.

You can learn more about how the plan will help your community by organizing an Economic Recovery House Meeting.

Join thousands of people across the country who are coming together to watch a special video about the recovery plan. Invite your friends and neighbors to watch the video with you and have a conversation about your community's economic situation.

The economic crisis can seem overwhelming and complex, but you can help the people you know connect the recovery plan to their lives and learn more about why it's so important.

Sign up to host an Economic Recovery House Meeting the weekend of Friday, February 6th.

The President's plan passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. But if it's going to move forward, we need to avoid the usual partisan games.

That's why supporters are opening their homes to talk with neighbors and friends about how the plan will work -- and what it means for their community.

The video will outline the basics of the plan and how it will impact working families. It will also include answers to questions from folks across the country. Invite your friends and family to watch the video, discuss the plan, and help build support for it.

Don't worry if you've never hosted a house meeting before -- we'll make sure you have everything you need to make it a success.

Take the first step right now by signing up to host an Economic Recovery House Meeting:


Time and again, you've demonstrated your commitment to change. Now you can help America move in an important new direction.

Please forward this email to your friends and family, and encourage them to get involved as well.

Thank you for your hard work,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Get Yer Arnoldbucks Here!




Back in December, it was reported that California's budget shortfall had become so dire that the 8th largest economy in the world -- yes, in. the. world. -- would have to start issuing IOUs if the legislature couldn't resolve the crisis. Arnold proceeded to call an emergency session and legislators came to a compromise. So, what did our great post-partisan Governator do?

Worked across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats to sign a compromise in the best interests of Californians?

Umm, no.

Robert at Calitics has the sad tale:

The budget crisis has many fathers, but one in particular stands out - Arnold Schwarzengger. For five years he railed against taxes and government spending, and because he failed to lead the state toward a stable budget, California is going broke. Yet the media persists in speaking of Arnold as a strong post-partisan leader. They don't tell Californians that he is a failure, that he is more responsible than anyone for the IOUs - particularly since he vetoed the Democratic majority vote budget plan that would have finally neutralized the 2/3 rule.

And where does Arnold's veto put ordinary Californians?

Sometime next week California is going to begin running out of money, and instead of sending checks that to people that are owed tax rebates, financial aid, or other forms of state assistance, they will either have their payment delayed or receive an IOU. This will make our recession even worse, and will make it more difficult for the state to begin economic recovery.

Yet the media still persists in portraying Schwarzenegger as some avatar of post-partisanship when the reality is that, as Robert says, he is the father of this meltdown. So, my friends at the Courage Campaign have decided to literally stamp his face and name on the crisis with the issuance of Arnoldbucks.

As California's economic crisis worsens, the last thing this state needs are IOUs instead of real economic stimulus.

But unless the public knows to hold Arnold Schwarzenegger accountable for this mess, he will blame Democrats instead of working with them to end the budget crisis. [...]

That's why we decided to try something a bit unorthodox -- raise awareness by using humor to highlight the absurdity of these IOU's, or what we are calling "Arnoldbucks."


Hey, if Arnold can issue IOUs, certainly we the people can too right?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate


From D-Day:

Yesterday the California Majority Report reported that Assembly Democrats unfurled a scroll of all their budget cuts that they have adopted over just the past 5 years.

Assemblymember Noreen Evans, Chair of the Budget Committee, along with Assemblymembers Saldana, De Leon, and Hayashi, unrolled a 150 foot long scroll listing all the budget cuts the Legislature has adopted since the 2003-2004 budget. The scroll stretched from the Capitol Rotunda to the Governor's Office and displayed over 180 cuts totaling over $19 billion.

I'm pretty sure they didn't do this because they were proud of the cuts. They impact the least of society, and make it harder for those who are struggling at precisely the time they need to access basic services.

No, the Assembly Democrats did this in the hopes that bipartisan fetishists like George Skelton and Warren Olney and the Sacramento Bee editorial board and California Forward could maybe tell the truth for once about what is holding up the budget. As the CBP noted yesterday, California is the only state in the entire nation with a 2/3 requirement for both the budget and tax increases. The "solutions" they have therefore had to provide for past budget gaps are often gimmicky and simply delay problems into the future. But the other consequence is that Democrats have OVER AND OVER AGAIN authorized often painful cuts to state services. This is not a problem of "the legislature" - it's a problem of one side willing (sometimes too willing) to compromise and the other unwilling to do so, protected by the dysfunctional laws of the state.

With the proposed federal stimulus bringing as much as $21 billion to the state over the next two years, there's a lot of talk about a budget deal, and given the Feb. 1 deadline for action, that's positive. But the only specifics we've heard is another set of debilitating cuts, offered by Democrats as well as Republicans. This is asymmetrical warfare, where Democrats act in the interests of the state and magical thinking Republicans whine and cry. And nobody helps Californians sort it out. 

This budget crisis is a media failure. The blood is on their hands.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Melding Obama’s Web to a YouTube Presidency


From the NY Times:

Lyle McIntosh gave everything he could to Barack Obama’s Iowa campaign. He helped oversee an army that knocked on doors, distributed fliers and held neighborhood meetings to rally support for Mr. Obama, all the while juggling the demands of his soybean and corn farm.

Asked last week if he and others like him were ready to go all-out again, this time to help President Obama push his White House agenda, Mr. McIntosh paused.

“It’s almost like a football season or a basketball season — you go as hard as you can and then you’ve got to take a breather between the seasons,” he said, noting he found it hard to go full-bore during the general election.

Mr. McIntosh’s uncertainty suggests just one of the many obstacles the White House faces as it tries to accomplish what aides say is one of their most important goals: transforming the YouTubing-Facebooking-texting-Twittering grass-roots organization that put Mr. Obama in the White House into an instrument of government. That is something that Mr. Obama, who began his career as a community organizer, told aides was a top priority, even before he was elected.

His aides — including his campaign manager — have created a group, Organizing for America, to redirect the campaign machinery in the service of broad changes in health care and environmental and fiscal policy. They envision an army of supporters talking, sending e-mail and texting to friends and neighbors as they try to mold public opinion.....

The White House also faces legal limitations in terms of what it can do. Perhaps most notably, it cannot use a 13-million-person e-mail list that Mr. Obama’s team developed because it was compiled for political purposes. That is an important reason Mr. Obama has decided to build a new organization within the Democratic Party, which does not have similar restrictions.

Still, after months of discussion, aides said the whole approach remained a work in progress, even after Friday, when the organizers e-mailed a link to a video to those 13 million people announcing the creation of Organizing for America. Mr. Obama’s aides know they have a huge resource to harness, but fundamental questions remain about how it will run and precisely what organizers are hoping to accomplish.

“This has obviously never been undertaken before,” David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager and one of the organizers of this effort, said in the video sent to supporters. “So it’s going to be a little trial and error.”

An Intimate Look At History


From the New York Post:

These dramatic photos provide an intimate glimpse into the historic first 48 hours of the Obama administration. Here, President Barack Obama rides an elevator in the White House after a long inauguration day.

Balancing The California Budget On The Backs Of Those Who Can Least Afford It




Legislators signal $6 billion in budget cuts

Both parties appear to be willing to reduce funding for public schools, colleges, transit programs and programs that help a wide range of people with special needs.

Although lawmakers continue to argue over how to resolve the state's fiscal crisis, they already have endorsed $6 billion in spending cuts that provide a painful preview of what is likely to be in store for Californians.

The proposed cuts would mean that money for the state's university systems would decrease. Transportation and schools would take a hit. Funds for regional centers that help treat developmental disabilities in babies and toddlers would decline. Cash to help the elderly, blind and disabled keep up with rising food costs would be slashed.

None of these cuts has been enacted. But the fact that they were included in the fiscal plan that Democrats passed last month -- and have been separately backed by Republicans -- ensures that they will be at the top of the list when lawmakers finally decide how to bridge a budget gap projected to exceed $40 billion within a year and a half.......

Ismael Maldonado, a 20-year old from Pacoima who has glaucoma and asthma, said he may have to skimp on medications if lawmakers cut his grant. 

The last time he did that, he said, "I ended up in the hospital emergency room" -- an expense the state's Medi-Cal program had to pick up.........

Both political parties have endorsed a plan to save $107 million through 3% reductions in payments to programs that help Californians live with cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy and mental retardation. These programs, delivered through 21 regional centers, assisted 230,000 people last year, said Bob Baldo, executive director of the Assn. of Regional Center Agencies. 

They provide diagnosis and early intervention for infants and toddlers with signs of development disabilities. These centers also provide rides for adults with developmental disabilities to day programs, provide them places to live and line up employment for them.

Baldo said the cuts are likely to mean that therapists working with children in schools will face larger caseloads, potentially reducing the time they can spend with each child. He said the cuts may be enough to force some providers of these services out of business........

More than $277 million would be cut from a program to fund long overdue maintenance in school buildings, including some scheduled "emergency repairs." Plans by many districts to fix leaky roofs, cracked sidewalks and broken heating systems would have to be put off another year. 

Money for the neediest students would be cut, as would programs to further the professional development and training of teachers. Nearly $110 million set aside for districts to preserve art and music programs would also be on the chopping bock.

State funding to train faculty in how to best teach math and reading skills would also be reduced, as would subsidies available to districts that provide after-school child care. And a program initiated to get high-speed Internet access in every district is endangered. Some schools are still using dial-up technology. 

The education reductions erode "the foundation schools are built upon," said Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist for hundreds of school districts. .......

The state universities would be faced with tens of millions of dollars more in cuts after already scaling back operations in recent months. Earlier this month, the University of California announced it would eliminate 2,300 freshman slots for Californians in the coming budget year. The total number of freshmen admitted will be reduced from 37,600 to 35,300.

"The lack of sufficient state funding leaves us no choice," UC President Mark G. Yudof said when the reduction was announced Jan. 14.......

"We are risking our long-term economic competitiveness as well as denying students the ability to attend college," said Jean Ross, director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit Sacramento research group that aims to help low- and middle-income people.

A college education, she said, "is the best guarantee of a job that brings with it sufficient income to support a family."


Saturday, January 24, 2009

President Obama's Weekly Address





Saying that we must "act boldly and swiftly" to avoid an even worse economic crisis, President Obama uses this week's radio YouTube address to outline the results he would expect from his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, in the areas of energy, education, health care, and new infrastructure.

Describing his program to "accelerate the creation of a clean energy economy," to lower health costs, improve care, and protect insurance coverage, to modernize schools, increase education grants and provide college tax credits, and through a plan to "rebuild and retrofit America to meet the demands of the 21st century," Obama makes the case that his plan will create three to four million jobs over the next several years, and explains why Congress cannot delay.

Acknowledging the concerns that greets a program of this size, Obama says:

I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results. We won’t just throw money at our problems – we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We will launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov.

Obama finishes by saying that while no one program will solve our current economic crisis, "rewarding hard work and responsibility," and working together in a bipartisan way, will allow us to "emerge from this trying time even stronger and more prosperous than we were before."


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Purple Tunnel Of Doom


I just landed at LAX last night and am going right back to work, so I still haven't had time to write up a report of the week's extraordinary events. But Dave Dayen over at D-Day has a good story on an aspect of the Inauguration I had wanted to get to right away.

The Purple Tunnel Of Doom.



Feinstein Must Answer For The Logistical Nightmare In DC

Go read some of the comments from the Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom, which now has nearly 2,000 members. These were all people who had tickets to the inauguration denied entry to the event because of bad planning by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The event ended up peaceful and largely injury-free, but it really could have been a disaster, as the scale of the crowds just overwhelmed the planning. That's maybe to be expected in one sense, but one of the cardinal rules of politics is that you take care of the folks who take care of you. Those who were denied access were the activists, staffers and volunteers who helped make President Obama's election successful. As Chris Bowers observes, making their lives miserable is just bad politics.

At the inauguration, thousands of activists and staffers with tickets were unable to get inside the event, and they are not very happy about it. Check out the comments on the Purple Tunnel Of Doom Facebook group for a few couple hundred examples. The problem continued last night, when several thousand more staffers and activists, all with tickets, were unable to attend inaugural balls. This is an epic fail of glue politics, and it could have not inconsequential repercussions.

Even as one of the purple ticket holders who was unable to attend to I don't want to dwell on what happened yesterday. Further, I doubt that this is an aspect of politics that many blogosphere denizens will view as valid, as it hints of patronage politics. However, the simple fact is that if this keeps occurring, it will cause the Obama administration problems in passing legislation, and during his re-election campaign. Simply put, they have to fix their problems in this area. Right now, the excitement over the trifecta is keeping a spirit of forgiveness afloat, but that won't last forever.

When people work their ass for you and your cause, they need to be made to feel welcome. As such, problems like this can be very damaging.

The Obama team put the responsibility for this area of logistics to the JCCIC. And they have put a letter on their website apologizing for the many problems. Dianne Feinstein was the head of that committee, and ultimately answerable to this constituency. It would be very concerning if the anger over bad treatment, because of the JCCIC's inability to recognize the historic nature of the event and the huge crowds exepcted, would have an impact on future legislative and electoral gains. I think people are willing to forgive but are looking for some answers. Feinstein is the one to offer them.

UPDATE: Feinstein has a new statement out:

"I have just spoken with Mark Sullivan, Director of the Secret Service, and I have asked him to convene all law enforcement and other parties involved in planning for this Inaugural to conduct a prompt investigation into two serious incidents that have been reported. These reports have prompted great concern by members of the Inaugural Committee, including Senator Bob Bennett, and by Congress in general.

The specific incidents include the report that a decision was made to cut off access to Purple and Blue standing areas, which meant that a large number of ticketholders could not reach their designated areas.

I am also aware of the incident involving the 3rd Street Tunnel, where thousands of people were stuck for several hours and apparently without any law enforcement presence.

There may have also been other irregularities, but I have heard enough to know that something went wrong and we need to find out what happened. Mr. Sullivan has indicated that he will provide a full report.

I would encourage people who have direct information about these incidents to contact the Secret Service, in addition to contacting the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies at>feedback@jccic.senate.gov."

That's a good start.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Day Of School


The first official press release from new White House Spokesmodel, Robert Gibbs:

At 8:35 AM, the President arrived in the Oval Office and spent 10 minutes alone in the office. He read the note left to him by President Bush that was in an envelope marked "To: #44, From: #43". At 8:45 AM, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel came in to discuss the schedule of today's events. The First Lady came into the Oval Office at 9:10 AM. We will release a picture shortly.

Nice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Speechless

Dear Friends,

I hardly know what to say, except that it's been an amazing three days.

And, of course, today being Inauguration Day, was the most amazing of all. I was one of the fortunate few who had the opportunity to view history up close, just a few hundred feet from the inaugural platform.

Please accept my humble gratitude - because without your dedication, hard work, passion, and commitment, today simply wouldn't have been possible.

I promise a full report soon, but for now I want to share a few of the photos I took during the Inauguration today.

And, yes, that's me in the first panel........... :-)





























Bush leaves town after the Inauguration......


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hundreds Protest Against Governor’s Spending Cuts to Disabled




Imagine living hand to mouth already, barely squeaking by. Come Feb 1 the State has warned you may not see another check for months. No Rent money, no money for food for 
medicine and even worse for some of the disabled, your Caregiver that comes by daily to feed, clean, shop, and generally make sure you are cared for, isn't coming anymore.







California's fiscal future lurched yet another step toward oblivion on Friday as state Controller John Chiang announced he could no longer make payments for services to disabled and blind people who need the money to pay for rent and food.

Chiang said payments would most likely have to be stopped by Feb. 1.

"Delaying these payments will hurt real families," Chiang said.

About one million people would be affected by the non-payments, Chiang said.

Disabled, Blind People to Lose Disability Payments


I am disabled but my check comes from Social Security, but my Significant Other, who is also disabled, gets her check from the State. It's not that much but helps with the bills like the cost of the electricity to run her oxygen machine that runs 24/7. She also has a daytime Caregiver paid for by the State because I cannot care for her like I used to. Her caregiver also rents a room from us which helps with the rent, but since he is going to be laid-off we are really going to be screwed.

I don't want to get too much into our personal business but to show just how damaging this will be just to my family alone I will have to use a few more details. I'm a chronic pain sufferer. I have what are known as Cluster Migraines which are just like your everyday migraine except they never go away. They don't have a clue what causes them but we do know that stress makes them much worse. I also have a extremely bad back and neck, emphysema, and a few other problems. 

My SO has Diabetes, COPD, CHF, emphysema, Fibromyalgia, and is considered Terminal. She is bedridden most the time and uses a electric wheelchair when she can. She can neither cook, or bath herself any longer, and can barely dress herself most the time. 

You can see why her Caregiver is so important to us. He does the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry as well as taking her to the Doctor at least once every two weeks. He does much more but that should give you a sense of what my life will look like after Feb.1 and I'm not alone.

Even if State Controller John Chiang finds a way to make these payments Arnold is trying to make major cuts on the backs of the Disabled and Poor. Arnold is good republican after all.

The Governor’s proposed cuts – including those proposed by the Governor and enacted by the Legislature in previous budget years, include major cuts to:

  • Medi-Cal

  • Regional centers

  • Mental health services

  • CalWORKS (State’s "welfare to work" program that includes thousands of parents and children with special needs)

  • In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS)

  • SSI/SSP (Supplemental Security Income/State Supplemental Payment) Grants to the lowest income persons with disabilities, the blind and seniors

  • The Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) that provides small state funded grants for legal immigrants with disabilities

  • The blind and low income seniors who do not qualify for SSI

  • Cuts that impact public and accessible transportation and housing and cuts to public education that impact special education for over 650,000 children with special needs.

It's my hope that someone on the Obama Team will read this and see that the States like California aren't let out of the coming Stimulus Money because it doesn't seem that the Republicans (are) in any hurry to fix this coming disaster. I now know how those in New Orleans felt as they watched Katrina come and go and no one there to help. 

This will be a State of Emergency in my home and millions like mine. Somehow I don't think FEMA or the Red Cross will be handing out food and water anytime soon. 


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Greetings From Washington DC.....The Happiest Place On Earth

Well, here I am, two plane rides, a short metro ride and car rental later (say it with me, kids, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"!) 

It's kind of hard to describe the feeling you get being here. The place is electric with excitement. (Those of you who were at Denver for the convention will understand instantly.)  Everywhere, people are ridiculously nice to one another. The cabin erupted in applause when the plane touched down at BWI. Strangers chatted each other up at the luggage carousel as they waited for their bags, then hugged and wished each other well and parted with promises to look for one another in Tuesday's crowd.......

It's going to be an amazing few days........

In other news,  the Obama campaign officially announced they'll be reorganized under a new name, "Organizing for America," which will leverage Obama's database of 13 million e-mail addresses and other supporter information to set up community organizations across the country. Interestingly enough, this organization will run both parallel and inside the official Democratic Party machinery.

Here's the YouTube announcement:




Friday, January 16, 2009

4 DAYS AND COUNTING



In about 10 hours I get on a plane to fly back to my home town of Washington D.C., where I'll catch up with a lot of other California folks who are making the journey too. I guess in a lot of ways we've been on this journey for a long time - ever since a skinny black guy with a funny name tossed his hat in the ring on the steps of the capitol building in Springfield, Illinois on another cold winter day 2 years ago.

The beginning of that journey ends next Tuesday, January 20th, at approximately 12 noon local time, when myself and about 2 million other Americans will stand in front of another capitol building and hear these words, "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear........."

It's not every day you're aware you're living through history. But at that moment we will know. We will be aware. And it's a day none of us will ever forget.

I'll be bringing my camera and a pair of sturdy shoes with me, so I'll do the best I can to capture the circus to share with all of you.

Be sure to check in for daily updates and photos.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The State Of The State Is, Well, You Know


From D-Day:

"For too long we have been split by ideology. Conan's sword could not have cleaved our political system in two as cleanly as our own political parties have done. Over time ours has become a system where rigid ideology has been rewarded and pragmatic compromise has been punished. And where has this led us? I think you would agree that in recent years California's Legislature has been engaged sometimes in civil war. Meanwhile, the needs of the people became secondary. Our citizens do not believe that we in government are in touch with their needs."
 - Schwarzenegger's "State of the State" Address today


Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered the State of the State Address at 10am this morning. Typically he has done this speech to coincide with the evening news. This year he's trying to hide it.

I don't blame him. As David Greenwald discusses, people pretty much know the State of the State already.

As Governor Schwarzenegger prepares to report on the State of the State tomorrow, California’s families today declared that “the State of the People” is increasingly grim with a record number of Californians having lost their jobs and health care and their homes. California educators, students, health care workers, seniors and people with disabilities said more state budget cuts are exactly the wrong prescription after they’ve suffered the consequences of more than $16 billion in state budget cuts to critical services over the last 3 years.

“California families are here to report what you won’t hear from the Governor tomorrow: budget cuts over the last three years have deeply wounded our families’ health and well-being, diminished our children’s opportunity for the future, and damaged our economy.” said Evan LeVang, Director, Independent Living Resource Center of Northern California.

Californians who have personally been affected by budget cuts detailed the severe consequences that the cuts, including $10 billion in cuts already this year, have had on California families who have already been hit hard by the nation’s economic meltdown.

“Before our elected leaders slash another dollar from our hospitals, they should think about what health care would be worth to them if their husband, their daughter, or their father needed care. Because every patient that comes to our hospital is someone’s parent, spouse, or child,” said Beverly Griffith, an environmental services worker and SEIU member at Summit Medical Center in Oakland. “While longer hours and staff shortages caused by budget cuts have been rough on hospital workers, they’ve been unbearable for our patients.”


And of course, this is bound to get worse. It's important to split the two major problems into their discrete parts - we have a budget crisis AND a cash crisis. Even if the budget hole is at least partially filled (and with any luck, we'll be able to access some federal stimulus money, either through direct payments or tax revenues on increased economic activity, by February), the cash crisis would persist, and we could see IOUs even after a budget deal because of the inability for California to go to the bond markets and borrow. And the converse is also true. In sum, it's a different problem which needs a different solution. The LAO is obscure here, but I believe "restricted funds" refers to Prop. 98 money:

The Legislature's budget analyst, Mac Taylor, says that schools, colleges and bondholders will have first call on the state's money if its cash flow crisis hits home in a few weeks.

But Taylor says in a report on the looming cash flow crisis that even if the Legislature fails to reach agreement on closing the state's budget deficit, the cash crisis could be relieved with some emergency legislation to allow more internal borrowing of restricted funds.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders have been conducting closed-door negotiations this week on both the budget and the cash crisis, which are related but separate issues. Controller John Chiang has said that the state will be forced to curtail state disbursements sometime in February unless there's rapid action on the budget and/or cash flow-related legislation [...]

The administration has asked the Legislature to approve measures that would free up about $2 billion in restricted funds that could be borrowed by the state general fund and thus stave off the cash crunch. It's also said that rapid action on the budget would allow the state to defer more than $1 billion in payments to schools that otherwise would have to be made.


As a budget solution would at least have some impact on loosening the bond markets, this could be the intent of Schwarzenegger's delay - so he can raid dedicated funds for schools and health care. It's important for us to start figuring out Arnold's gambit. When I talked to State Senator Fran Pavley at one of the election meetings last weekend, she said "It's hard to negotiate with someone if you don't know what they want." My next several posts here will seek to figure that out.