Thankees and Spankees

I dream of blogging. Seriously. I took a nap this evening, and dreamt I was reading a very interesting post by Steve Benen (aren’t they all?), and writing several posts of my own. I wish I could remember most of them.

One I do remember, though, was a thank-you letter to President Obama. And even in the dream, I was thinking, “Yeesh, isn’t that a little much sap?” After all, I have concerns. Some of his DOJ’s arguments recently have been concerning. I’m not at all sure over his Treasury Department. But, of course, every time I go to haul him to the woodshed, he does something that mitigates the concern, and then a little more. So I save my smackin’ for them as deserves it more richly.

But a thank you letter? Oh, for crying out loud. I refuse to be that mushy-gushy.

However, I may have to rethink that position:

The establishment media, never one to turn down an easy story controversy slap fight might be focused on Limbaugh—they are the ones that have asked questions of Gibbs, Emanuel, etc., after all—but “Team” Obama seems focused on fixing the fucking the disaster left to them by “Team” Bush-Cheney. The Recovery Act, the budget fixes—hell, the whole damn budget—today’s healthcare summit, Clinton’s Mideast initiative, the initiative to cut military waste, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, this week’s release of the OLC memos. . . that’s what the White House is focusing on.

Where is the Republican “loyal” opposition focusing? They are busy fearmongering about “socialism,” saying “no” without proposing any implementable alternatives, and seeing who can kiss Rush’s butt closest to his anus.

And how’s that workin’ for ya’? As the latest NBC/WSJ poll will tell you, not very well:

President Obama’s favorability rating is at an all-time high. Two-thirds feel hopeful about his leadership and six in 10 approve of the job he’s doing in the White House.

. . . .

By comparison, the Republican Party — which resisted Obama’s recently passed stimulus plan and has criticized the spending in his budget — finds its favorability at an all-time low. It also receives most of the blame for the current partisanship in Washington and trails the Democrats by nearly 30 percentage points on the question of which party could best lead the nation out of recession. [emphasis enthusiastically added]

Really, the kid’s not doing a bad job. When you kind of put it all together like that with the little NBC/WSJ Poll cherry on top, it’s kinda eye-popping. So, y’know, Mr. President – thanks. And keep up the good work.

That work, o’ course, would be easier if it wasn’t for the abundance of assclowns he’s having to deal with:

Via TPM, Bloomberg:

“President Barack Obama’s economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate’s delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week.


You know what’s coming, don’t you? Oh, yes, you do:

“There are some objections on the Republican side that we are trying to deal with,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid.”

As Josh said: Please Grow Up.

Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Menendez and other anonymous Senators have blocked two of Obama’s science advisors. This isn’t just bad for science, it’s bad for the economic stimulus package, which contains a lot of science funding:

“The holdup could slow timely science and environmental policy work between Congress and the administration, particularly the spending of roughly $21.5 billion dedicated to science in the economic recovery package.”

Now mind you, Obama has managed to accomplish all of the amazing things highlighted above and more in a political zoo where Cons obstruct everything in sight and a good chunk of the Dems can’t figure out whether they’re supposed to be Democrats or not. (New Dems, Blue Dogs, a word if I may: fiscal conservatives are typically Republicons, you dumbfucks. How’s about we hold off on the concern trolling until after the economy has recovered, eh? Or you can join the ranks of the outrageous idiots over on the other side of the aisle. Good luck getting reelected with that.)

So, once again: Thank you, President Obama, for managing to do so much in so little time while navigating so many obstacles. And for not mangling innocent English sentences every time you open your mouth.

That, together with all the other stuff, means a lot to this writer.

And, Senate? I’m carrying Josh and Hilzoy’s motion, here: Grow the fuck up.

(Update: you know what they say about great minds thinking alike… or at least on related grooves. What was I saying about the Treasury?)

Thankees and Spankees

Another Noxious Bush Reg Bites the Dust

A few months ago, I alerted you to Bush’s little scheme to allow healthcare providers to redefine birth control as abortion and then refuse to provide the service. At the time, I gave you what I considered wise advice:

We can’t rely on Obama’s ability to roll these rules back. Better for the country if they’re never implemented at all.

It’s nice to be half-wrong sometimes. Looks like we can rely on Obama after all:

Today, the Obama administration plans to rescind the controversial “conscience rule,” which “allows healthcare workers to deny abortion counseling or other family planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs.”

That’s my President, that is. He’s not got a perfect record in rolling back Bush abuses – in fact, if a few things don’t change over the next week, a trip to the woodshed will be in order – but he’s doing a tremendous amount of good very, very quickly.

This is why I find it rather difficult to apply the Smack-o-Matic in his case. Every time I pick the damned thing up, he does something that makes me put it right back down. Y’know, little things like, oh, I dunno,

Ending the war in Iraq.

Restoring Superfund, making polluters pay, and ending tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

Planning a budget even Paul Krugman can love.

Going for healthcare reform.

Delivering a kick-ass speech that helps prepare the country for progressivism.

And that’s just a few items from the last few days.

It’s a good thing the Cons have been such raging idiots, or the poor Smack-o-Matic would be gathering dust. We can’t have that.

The following illustration describes the situation precisely:

Our President is practically MacGuyver. I’m loving this.

Another Noxious Bush Reg Bites the Dust

President Obama – My Woodshed. Now.

Explain this:

This is just wrong:

“In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.

In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured. The Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed because even discussing it in court could threaten national security and relations with other nations.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama harshly criticized the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees, and he has broken with that administration on questions like whether to keep open the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But a government lawyer, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument on Monday, startling several judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

“No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.

Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”

Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.”

You know this is wrong. I know you’re busy trying to rescue your stimulus package from the Cons and the centrists who are busily destroying it. I appreciate that you have a gargantuan amount of things on your plate. But your Administration, after such a lovely start, is headed down the slippery slope to Bush-style buffoonery. And it needs to stop now.

This is a man whose genitals were sliced up by people we handed him to for torture because he looked at a joke website. And you want to play the State Secrets game with this? This is utter bullshit.

You are smarter than this, and you are better than this. Fix it.

President Obama – My Woodshed. Now.

Telling It Like It Is

So I’m at work today, and when it finally slowed down, I was able to hop on Think Progress, where I read this bit of Obama’s speech to the Dems:

“When you start hearing arguments on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things. Number one, when they say, well, why are we spending $800 billion — we’ve got this huge deficit? First of all, I found this deficit when I showed up.”

Burst out laughing, didn’t I just? Priceless. That’s the Obama I’ve been wanting to see. So I read it out loud to my coworkers, who don’t spend their lunch hours pounding out blog posts but spend the time watching teevee in the breakroom. One of them tells me, “It gets better. He said he found it wrapped up with a bow.”

At first, I couldn’t believe them. I mean, all we’ve been getting lately is post-partisan Obama, who wouldn’t dream of saying something so snarky. But then again, he tried to be inclusive and accomodating and attempted to make Cons happy, and they ran over him with the spiked boots. That could tend to make someone stop playing nice and reach for the can of whoop-ass with a double-shot of snark.

And wouldn’t you know it? He did:

Good on him:

Obama, speaking to about 200 House Democrats at their annual retreat at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa, dismissed Republican attacks against the massive spending in the stimulus.

“What do you think a stimulus is?” Obama asked incredulously. “It’s spending — that’s the whole point! Seriously.”

Stabbing hard at Republicans who once aligned themselves with his predecessor, Obama made it clear that the problems he seeks to address with his recovery plan weren’t ones of his making.

“When you start hearing arguments, on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things,” he said. “No. 1, when they say, ‘Well, why are we spending $800 billion [when] we’ve got this huge deficit?’ – first of all, I found this deficit when I showed up, No. 1.

“I found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.”

He’s not just telling it like it is. He’s doing what he always did best – using razor-sharp wit to cut his opponents into manageable pieces. It’s what we’ve desperately needed ever since the Cons started demanding the winners make all the concessions to the losers. They don’t understand the concept of playing nice – they see it as weakness. Give them a millimeter and they’ll take megaparsecs, then whine it’s not enough. I do believe Obama has realized that. The post-partisan gloves have come off. It’s a beautiful thing.

Note to Cons: you had a chance to get something. You’re about to end up taking your teeth home in a hat. Enjoy.

Telling It Like It Is

End of Week One: Sea Change

I’ll be honest with you: the night before Obama became the 44th President of the United States, I was preparing myself for pain. He’d tacked a bit too far center for my taste. There were disturbing signs he’d pander to Cons in the name of bipartisanship. And I fully expected most of those glorious campaign promises to go unfulfilled.

Day One, I thought, would see a sharp pulling back. I figured he’d use the economy as an excuse to sweep the thorny problems of Guantanamo and torture under the rug. Transparency would give way to opacity. And the expanded powers of the presidency bequeathed by Cheney and his minion Bush would prove too tempting to discard. We’d see a few empty gestures, and some decent work on economic issues, but not much else.

Well, this is one of those times when I’ve been thrilled to be wrong. Utterly, completely, gloriously wrong.

I can’t even keep up with him. If he keeps up this pace, all of the abuses of the Bush years will be rolled back by next week, all of the major issues resolved by next year, and who the fuck knows what he’ll find to do with the remaining three in his first term?

Yes, that’s hyperbole. But after this week, perhaps I can be forgiven a little exaggeration. Let’s just take a quick gander at some of the many highlights.

Ending the Ill-Conceived War on Terror

On his first day, Obama had a draft executive order circulating to close Guantanamo and called a halt to kangaroo trials. By Thursday, he’d taken a wrecking ball to Bush’s blunders:

With a few strokes of a pen Thursday, President Obama undid years of policy that was the cornerstone of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” He ordered the prison at Guantánamo to be shut down within a year, the detainees moved to other countries or to regular U.S. courts; forced the CIA to stop torturing people, to close secret “black sites” around the world and to follow the Army Field Manual rules on interrogations; and told the entire government to stop relying on legal opinions issued by the Bush administration to justify policies that were never justifiable except in the eyes of the people who hatched them up.

He’d also ordered the Red Cross have access to any and all detainees held by the U.S. government. And he’d signed an order ending extraordinary rendition. He’s not stopping at rolling back Bush’s abuses, but fixing Clinton’s mistakes as well.

If anyone was looking for a clean break with the past, this is it.

Reproductive Rights and Global Health

Most politicians pussyfoot around Roe vs. Wade. Not Obama:

“On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.”

It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard a president come out this strongly for my rights. And at, it becomes even more clear he knows and understands the issues women face.

The day after Roe’s anniversary, he lifted the global gag rule. The world will be a far healthier place for it.

White House Ethics and Transparency

On his first full day in office, Obama tightened ethics rules and froze pay* for those White House staffers making more than $100,000 a year.

But that stuff wasn’t as breathtaking as the sweeping changes in transparency. You know it’s serious when the White House press are the ones wanting to withhold information while the government wants to release it. Can we say sea change?

The most important thing Obama did was overturn Bush’s records secrecy order. Talk about night and day:

Under Bush’s order, former presidents had broad ability to claim executive privilege and could designate others including family members who survive them to exercise executive privilege on their behalf.

Obama’s new order gives ex-presidents less leeway to withhold records, Aftergood said, and takes away the ability of presidents’ survivors to designate that privilege.

Separately, an Obama memorandum issued Wednesday also appears to effectively rescind a 2001 memo by President Bush’s then-Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft giving agencies broad legal cover to reject public disclosure requests.

“For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. This administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but with those who seek it to be known,” Obama said before a gathering that included his senior staff. “The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

Under Obama, the Freedom of Information Act will mean that information is free:

According to Obama’s memo: “All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.”


“The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and down by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.”

And as if this isn’t awesome enough, is now actually a site worth visiting. There’s even a blog.

Science and Environment

The long war on science is finally over, and America is filled with happy scientists:

After some very frustrating years, it seems the scientific community finally has reason to celebrate. The New York Times reported today that many scientists are “exuberant” about Barack Obama becoming president, and staff members throughout the government’s scientific agencies “reported being teary-eyed with joy.”

“If you look at the science world, you see a lot of happy faces,” said Frank Press, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former science adviser to President Jimmy Carter. “It’s not just getting money. It’s his recognition of what science can do to bring this country back in an innovative way.”

When a politician can make scientists cry for joy, you know science is going to do all right.

And, glory be, despite all the nattering about clean coal, Obama’s EPA has already put the kibbosh on new coal plants, demanding they meet stringent standards before they’re approved.

There’s even scientific claims that Obama makes you smarter. The study’s methods seem a little questionable, but that does not prevent me from enjoying its conclusions thoroughly.

Peace In Our Time

In his first moments in office, Obama rang up “the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to talk about next steps for peace.” In his next few moments, he appointed George Mitchell to take care of bidness. I’ll have more on this man later. For now, the key facts are that he’s so even-handed that the extreme right-wing allies of Israel are in a blind panic, and he helped bring peace to Northern Ireland. I do believe Obama’s serious about getting this peace thing right.

“No More Fake Optimism”

Naomi Wolf, reflecting on Obama’s inauguration speech, captured the essence:

The great leaders in the US weren’t the cheerleaders who promised ­morning in America. They were the ones that forced us to look in the mirror. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we’re the best, the city on the hill.

In fact the great American task is self-scrutiny. Abraham Lincoln gave speeches about the civil war in which he said, in essence, “We’ve brought this on ourselves by enslaving Americans.” Obama’s speech was a diagnosis: “We have to take steps to rebuild our nation.” I’m not saying, “Hooray, he offered a tough, dark recognition of our reality.” I’m saying “Hooray” because he has recognised that the only way to save America is to confront it.

I think we can safely say he’s doing just that. No more fake optimism. This is the real deal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go lie down. The pace of change has been absolutely dizzying.

*I know, I know. But one waiver does not destroy the implications. I’ll feel differently if this becomes a habit.

End of Week One: Sea Change

Exponential Change

A friend stopped by my desk on his way home and asked what the news was. How’s President Obama doing on his first day?

I had to point him to the intertoobz. Obama did so much on his first day in office that I couldn’t keep up. Luckily, Joan Walsh has a snapshot for us:

By noon on his first day in office, Obama had called the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to talk about next steps for peace; asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to halt Guantánamo trials and circulated a draft executive order to close the prison within the year; and attended a prayer service that included the first-ever sermon by a woman minister and the prayers of a Muslim imam.

In the afternoon he signed two executive orders and three presidential memoranda, tightening ethics rules for his staff, strengthening the Freedom of Information Act and giving the public greater access to presidential records. “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” he said as he signed the documents. Then he watched Vice President Joe Biden swear in his senior staff, and stayed to shake hands or embrace every one of them. After that he met with senior economic advisors and top military staff to discuss plans for the economy and Iraq; later, he hosted an open house for the American people, a new symbol of his commitment to access and transparency.

All of this, and retaking the Oath of Office, too.

As for those wondering if the abuses of power so recently enjoyed by the Bush regime will continue, I think we have got our answer:

It’s encouraging, then, to know who’ll be sitting in John Yoo’s office for the foreseeable future.

A Georgetown source forwards over an email from that school’s administration, reporting that Professor Marty Lederman’s class will be canceled — because he’s joining the Obama administration.

Lederman, another former Clinton Office of Legal Counsel lawyer, is perhaps the most prominent of several high-profile opponents of the Bush Administration’s executive power claims joining Obama, a mark that he intends not just to change but to aggressively reverse Bush’s moves on subjects like torture. With hires like Barron, Johnen, and Lederman, Obama is not just going back to Democratic lawyers: These are anti-Bush lawyers.

Damn straight. Lederman has been a leading opponent of Bush’s torture policies, and the legal reasoning behind them. He’s even suggested that the former administration officials committed crimes in this area. Now, thankfully, Lederman is headed to the OLC.

And what an OLC it will be. The Lederman announcement came shortly after David Barron was named Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the OLC. Barron has been a staunch opponent of Bush’s executive-branch power-grabs and war-time legal arguments.

Both Barron and Lederman will, of course, join Dawn Johnsen, who’ll head the OLC, and whose record on these issues is sterling.

President Obama’s not going to be 100% perfect. No one ever is. But it looks like I’m going to have to struggle hard to come up with more than quibbles with the job he’s doing, and when I have the low-hanging fruit of right-wing idiocy to pluck, it’s hard to muster the energy for more than a rousing shout of “Huzzah, an adult in office at last!

Update: You can thank Obama for hitting the ground at Mach Three here.

Exponential Change

Satisfied Now?

President Barack Obama retakes the oath of office:

Wednesday evening, Barack Obama was sworn in as president again, and this time he and Chief Justice John Roberts got it right.


“We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the President was sworn in appropriately yesterday,” new White House Counsel Greg Craig said in a statement. “But the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time.”

A pool reporter was present for the swearing-in. According to the pool report, as Roberts prepared, Obama joked, “We decided it was so much fun…” and later told the chief justice, “We’re going to do this slowly.” After the two men completed the process successfully, Roberts congratulated the president again, and there was applause. Then Obama turned and quipped, “The bad news for the pool is there’s 12 more balls.”

There. All sworn in with the words in the right order and everything. Is this enough to make the right-wing noise machine realize that Obama is really, seriously, and for sure the President of the United States now?

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, either.

Satisfied Now?

President Obama: "This Is the Journey We Continue Today"

Ladies and gentlemen, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama:

Photo courtesy New York Times

I’ve been struggling all day with some strange sensations. They’ve been hard to identify, it’s been so long since I felt them in connection with a president. There’s a sense of something eager, as if tomorrow is going to be even better than today… my goodness, it’s optimism. And this glorious, feel-I-could-fly lightness in my chest… I do believe it’s hope.

Like Hilzoy, I don’t know how to put this into words. Thankfully, Natalie Walker does:

Pinch me
Is this real
This feeling of release

That’s how today has been. I kept wanting to ask people to pinch me. And I felt a little ridiculous, feeling this way over the inauguration of a president. I wasn’t going to admit this to you, but I kept randomly weeping. I’d see something like this:

Less than twelve hours after assuming office, President Obama ordered a 120-day halt of the trials at Gitmo. At about 11 p.m., Keith Olbermann reported that Reuters had the story.

This story was posted on the website of the Canadian Press at about the same time:

The new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has verbally ordered the prosecution to seek a 120-day adjournment in war-crimes cases at Guantanamo Bay.

A commissions spokesman says the order was made through Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. The prosecution has filed a motion with the military commission in the case of Canadian Omar Khadr and those of the men accused of plotting the 9-11 attacks.

Source ~ Canadian Press

and I’d tear up again. I wanted to jump up, punch the air, shout “Yes he did! That’s change we can believe in, bitches!” but I was at work, and so I had to refrain.

Photo courtesy Seattle P.I.

Just when I’d gain control over my emotions and return to being the calm, collected tech support rep, I’d click over to Daily Kos in between calls and see something like this:

Science is one of those rare instances where economic stimulus, unity, jobs, social benefits beyond compare, national security, pride, and even a bit of inspiration and hope, all converge. Today, finally, the one missing, essential ingredient lacking in that potent mix — grand vision and wise leadership from a President that gets it — is at last officially added to

Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House: Restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on ideological predispositions. … Invest in the Sciences: Double federal funding for basic research over ten years, changing the posture of our federal government to one that embraces science and technology. … Invest in Climate-Friendly Energy Development and Deployment: Invest $150 billion over the next ten years to enable American engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure …

Welcome to the pages of history, Mr. President.

and I’d be blinking back the tears once again.

So why am I destroying what little reputation I had left as a hardcore political snarkmeister by admitting that I blubbered like a little girl? It’s because I’m not the only one:

I wept. No matter how you feel politically, I can’t imagine how anyone could fail to be moved by what we just witnessed. I am a cynic, but I wept. The common misconception is that cynics are merely cold and negative, people who always find the worst rather than the good, but the truth is that every cynic is a frustrated idealist. Only someone who holds an ideal in mind can be bothered when they see that ideal undermined and ignored.

I wept because Obama spoke so eloquently about the importance of those principles and ideals that animate this nation. The only form of patriotism that has ever mattered is allegiance to those powerful ideas expressed with equal eloquence by Thomas Jefferson 233 years ago in the Declaration of Independence, however imperfectly he and the other founders may have applied them.


There will be plenty of time for second guessing, for criticism and for pointing out hypocrisies and failures. But for today, let us all embrace the spirit of this moment. And let us weep.

If Ed Brayton, who’s a Libertarian, not one of us far-left liberals, invites us to weep over Obama’s inauguration, then by all means, let us weep.

Photo courtesy Daily Kos

We now have a President of the United States of America we can be proud of, who is determined to take this country down a different path, who hasn’t wasted a second before he’s started undoing the abuses of the past administration, who is a tremendous human being and can speak in complete English sentences to boot. All of that would be awesome enough. But there’s something a little extra-special for the atheists here, because he’s serious about this inclusion stuff (h/t):

By several small choices of word or phrase, Obama made big leaps of inclusivity.

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.”

Mentioning Muslims and Hindus is a small act of courage. But what other recent president-elect or presidential candidate would have gone out of his way to acknowledge the agnostics and atheists?

Certainly not the one we just waved good riddance to. All of this together tells me that Obama is truly different. We made the right choice.

Image courtesy Seattle P.I.

Obama has swept us all up in this journey. He’s thrown the doors to our own government open wide and invited us to walk in, brought us together and encouraged us to work together for a finer world. I was afraid to believe, but now I’ve seen enough evidence to stop fearing and start believing: the next four years are going to be an extraordinary journey. There will be times when we get lost and argue over whether to ask for directions or try to get the GPS working. We’ll get hungry, thirsty, tired and bored. We’ll bicker and argue and then stop speaking for a few hours. But those will just be the typical, minor irritations, swept away by the wonders we see on the way.

We can do wonderful things. We’ve done it before, and now that we’ve got the right man in the driver’s seat, we can do it again. Yes, we can.

Senator Diane Feinstein said it just right as she got us underway:

In a world where political strife is too often settled with violence, we come here every four years to bestow the power of the Presidency upon our democratically elected leader. Those who doubt the supremacy of the ballot over the bullet can never diminish the power engendered by nonviolent struggles for justice and equality like the one that made this day possible. No triumph tainted by brutality could ever match the sweet victory of this hour and what it means to those who marched, and died, to make it a reality.

Our work is not yet finished. But future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change in this nation. They will look back and remember that this was the moment when the Dream that once echoed across history from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial finally reached the walls of the White House. In that spirit, we today not only inaugurate a new Administration; we pledge ourselves to the hope, the vision, the unity, and the renewed call to greatness inspired by the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

And I’m sure you’ve heard what our President said, but just in case you missed it, here you go:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today.

In our travels, my darlings, it may be a good idea to remember a Taoist proverb, just so we remember to enjoy ourselves along the way: The journey is the reward.

I can already tell it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime.

President Obama: "This Is the Journey We Continue Today"

One More Night

Nightwish best expresses my sentiments tonight:

One more night to bear this nightmare.
What more do I have to say?

Ocean Soul – Nightwish

You know what nightmare I’m talking about.

Let no locked doors thwart George W. Bush as he gets the hell out of our White House. In fact, let’s make sure there’s doorkeepers standing by, just in case.

Thank you, President Obama, for ending the nightmare. Come on in.

You can laugh a lot
And bring out that smile

For now we’re hanging in
Even though we’re blessed with sin
You make my heart…
You make my tired heart sing

Tender Trip on Earth – Tristania

As ridiculous as it sounds, you do indeed make my tired heart sing. And judging from the evidence, I’m not the only one.

One More Night

Dream Come True

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19th, 2009

Dr. King,

Tomorrow, America swears in its first African-American president. He is the fruit of your labor, the fulfillment of your dream. Because of your work, your passion, and your determination, he was judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

Tomorrow, we will watch Barack Obama take the Oath of Office. He will lead this nation as you once led a movement.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate him.

Today, Dr. King, we celebrate your life and work.

From a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955;

To a March on Washington and a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial;

From a letter from a Birmingham jail;

To the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama;

From injustice to justice, from segregation to freedom, Dr. King, you led us to a finer world.

No thanks are ever enough. Regardless: muchas gracias, Dr. King.

“I Have a Dream”

delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mis
sissippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Yes, we did.

Dream Come True