Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: Even More Pictures






PICTURES (reverse chronological order)
1.  Obama merchandise being sold outside a Metro station
2. Store window.  Representative of pretty much every single store in the city.
3. Capitol building
4. Crowds after the speech.  You can see the Mall in the background, but all the people within our vicinity were "overflow" from the Purple section.
5.  Me, Marissa, Alyssa, and Candance.  FINALLY THERE!

Thank you again, Bridget and Senator McConnell's office!

Inauguration Weekend: Even More Pictures






PICTURES (reverse chronological order):
1. Purple ticket holders on a statue trying to catch a glimpse of the proceedings
2. Purple ticket holders in a tree
3. From the mob outside the gate.  People holding up their tickets chanting "Pur-ple! Pur-ple!"
4. The mob outside the Purple gate.
5.  The line in the street once we escaped the tunnel.

Inauguration Weekend: More Pictures






PICTURES: (in reverse chronological order because of the way they load)
1. Exit ramp, final leg of the tunnel.
2.  Soon after we got inside the tunnel.  Notice how far out it goes and in the background you can kind of see the Silver line being rerouted.
3. Me trying to keep warm in the line outside the tunnel.
4. At the back of the line looking toward the tunnel.
5. Beginning of the exit ramp.  These were the people who had been standing in like since 2:30am.

Sorry for the multiple posts, but it will only let me load 5 pictures at a time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Letter to the President

Dear President Obama:

You seem to be a bright person, as evidenced by degrees from Columbia and Harvard, but it is obvious that you never took an economics class. I am writing this letter to educate you and hopefully to help you avoid some bad decisions for yourself and the American people.
You have proposed spending over a trillion dollars (that's $1,000,000,000,000) on a stimulus package to help our economy. Actually, that would be a good idea if the government had a trillion dollars saved up somewhere. The problem though is that the government is already in a deficit position and would have to borrow the money. Also, it would have to borrow an additional few hundred billion to pay the interest that will accrue on the debt over time. Borrowing is how we got into this mess in the first place and borrowing that much money would be even more devastating to our economy, as explained below.
A government's only significant source of revenue is taxes. To repay the trillion plus in debt, you are going to have to raise taxes significantly. That will take money away from people so that they will not be able to buy as much as they want. That means that many of the people who produce all our products and services will lose their jobs, and they in turn will be forced to buy less. This will result in a downward spiral of job losses and diminished economic opportunity for everyone.
Also, it does not really matter who you tax, it will all have the same effect. Actually taxing the "rich" will have the most negative effect because they buy the majority of the products that the middle class and poor produce.
What you should do is cut taxes. This will put more money back into the private sector so that people can buy more of what they want. This will create more jobs and an upward trend of economic opportunity for everyone.
This is not rocket science and quite frankly I am surprised that you did not learn it somewhere at those fancy schools you attended. That is okay though, we all have gaps in our education and this area just happens to be yours. I hope that you have found this helpful and that you can now make wiser decisions regarding our economy.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bunning Not Feeling the Love

Pressure -- both on the record and off -- continues to grow for Sen. Jim Bunning to announce that he will not seek another term.

Politico ran a big piece that considered the slim odds that Bunning could prevail. In particular, it noted that he has only raised $175,000. That's not even enough to run for a local judgeship, let alone U.S. Senator. What's worse, he has no fundraisers planned until April. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spent $21 million to defend his seat this past November.

Despite Bunning's insistence that he will run, and though this is not a great job market for Republican operatives, not a single member of McConnell's campaign has signed on to work for Bunning. Bunning's lack of fundraising makes his campaign look like a pro bono adventure with no likelihood of success.

Politico speculates that Trey Greyson or Cathy Bailey might run. Either would stand a much better chance of election than Bunning, and the point, after all, is to win. More is at stake than Bunning's career: the country and the Republican caucus need his seat to stay Republican to maintain a check on Democrats who are close to a filibuster-proof supermajority.

Bunning's colleagues in private urge him not to run and in public damn him with faint praise:

Asked if Bunning was the best candidate to run or if there were better GOP candidates, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas demurred: “I don’t know. I think it’s really up to Sen. Bunning.”

Here's Bunning's response:

Bunning’s office declined to comment on reports he’s being urged to retire.

“It’s a free country,” Bunning said in a statement. “Anybody can run for anything they choose. I am gearing up, and I look forward to the challenge of taking on whoever comes out of the Democrat primary in May of 2010.”

Note Bunning's implicit assumption that he will have the privilege of facing the Democratic nominee. To be sure, Bunning is correct that "it's a free country" and that he can run for anything he chooses. So can Cathy Bailey and Trey Grayson.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: 1/20/09






PICTURES! (It loaded in reverse chronological order and would only allow me to post five on here. No worries, more to come!)
From Top:
1. Vendor selling sweatshirts with an image comparing Obama to Martin Luther King Jr. There were a ton of things like this one, along with things comparing him to Lincoln and JFK.
2. Vendor selling pins in the cold.
3. The crowds outside the Judiciary Square Metro Station at 7am.
4. The platform of the Judiciary Square Metro Station at 7am.
5. The crowded Metro.

Hello all. Sorry for the delay on this post, but I have spent most of that time either sleeping or driving back to Boston and have only just now gotten the opportunity to write.

We woke up on Tuesday morning at 4:30, got dressed, ate breakfast, and made our to the Metro station by 6. The crowds on the platform weren't too bad, but the train itself was already pretty full. We didn't have any problems getting on, but within a few stops the train was so packed and the platform was so crowded that people were unable to get into the car. We got off at Judiciary Square, as suggested by the map on our tickets, around 7. The crowds were already enormous. Everyone moved in one cohesive rhythm along D Street toward the corner of the Purple Gate. The atmosphere was clearly celebratory as people in the crowd joked with each other and gave advice on how to get where you needed to go. Along the road were hundreds of vendors, peddling more ridiculous Obama gear, hand warmers, and coffee.

We quickly made it to the corner of D and 1st Street and joined a massive crowd talking about the Purple Gate. People started saying that there was a line forming around the building and headed in that direction, so we followed. The line not only went around a building, but continued for several blocks until it was swallowed by a tunnel and blocked off by police checking for tickets. We showed our purple tickets and entered the unknown depths of the I-495 tunnel.

Alyssa compared the scene to some kind of sci-fi movie emergency scene. Literally, thousands of people we huddled inside this tunnel. We heard from some that those in the MIDDLE of the line had been waiting since 2:30am, leading us to assume that those at the beginning of the line had been camping out for a while in the cold. We walked and walked and walked and eventually sprinted until we saw the light at the other end of the tunnel. Only it wasn't the end of the line. The line continued for another half of a mile. It was 7:30 by the time we secured a place in line.

And that's where we stood until 8:30 when they opened the gates. At 8:30, we knew the gates were open and celebrated every few steps forward. Meanwhile, hundreds more people joined our line, and thousands migrated across I-495 as they rerouted the Silver Section line. We made it back inside the tunnel around 9:45.

Being inside the tunnel was a nice break from the cold. Despite lots of layering, our fingers and toes were soon numb. The entire line seemed to be participating in some kind of spontaneous, simultaneous dancing, until one realized we were simply shaking our hands and legs to keep warm. I thought my feet were safe for awhile in my Ugg boots; however, even those did not offer complete protection. Nevertheless, we spent the majority of our time in the tunnel, so it wasn't all that bad.

However, the tunnel was not all fun and games. As the line moved forward, parts of the crowd shifted at different paces and the order of the mob began to stagger from how it had originated. As everyone got colder and the wait dragged on, tempers started to flair. At one point, a guy in front of us began to yell at an older woman for apparently cutting him. This woman had been standing with us the entire time and clearly had been moving with the line. We got to see mob mentality first hand as the crowd started chanting "Don't cut! Don't cut! Back of the line! Back of the line!" The woman refused to back down, seeing as she hadn't done anything wrong, and so the man stormed into the tunnel threatening to get her kicked out. I would have loved to have witnessed the conversation between him and the police. "Excuse me, someone in the tunnel of 10,000 people just cut me. Please kick them out." "Well we have other things to worry about, like getting millions of people into the Mall safely." Except there were no event personnel or police anywhere near the tunnel. The police who checked our tickets when we went inwere the only officials I saw throughout the entire process.

If you've read anything about the "Purple Ticket Fiasco" or the "Purple Tunnel of Doom" it is clear that the estimates of how many people were shut out are way off. At first, the police reported that everyone with tickets got in. Then, they said about 4,000-5,000 didn't get in. In reality, the numbers were much larger than that. It's clear that the police had no idea what was going on because they were nowhere near the action. But more on that later.

Around 11:00 we finally emerged from the tunnel. We made our way back to the exact corner where we began when the crowd started to disperse. People were turning around and heading towards the Mall, saying that the gates were closed and our only chance at seeing the Inauguration was to try and find space on the Mall. Other stayed in line convinced that the people leaving didn't know what they were talking about. Finally, after about 10 minutes of just standing around not knowing what was going on, a man with "Special Events" credentials came by and told us that the gate was closed, they weren't letting anyone through, and we might possibly be able to see something if we headed toward the Capitol Building.

We basically started trucking it toward the Capitol. Ignoring our frozen toes and dampened spirits, we weaved through the masses until we saw another purple banner. This time we were at the Purple section exit, I think. There was another mob assembled against the barriers chanting "Pur-ple! Pur-ple!" After the debacle in the tunnel, I assumed that there were so many people because some were trying to sneak in without tickets. All around us people started yelling "If you don't have a ticket, please leave so that those of us with tickets can have a chance!" Nobody budged. Then someone held their purple ticket up in the air to show the security personnel that this was a mob of ticket holders. Immediately every single person in the crowd was holding a purple ticket above their head. I was shocked that so many people with tickets were still stuck outside the gates at 11:30, as the ceremony was beginning.

At this point, I was getting text messages from my aunt, my mom, my best friend, and an 11-year-old boy that I babysit all saying "Which section are you in? We're looking for you on TV! Wow, there are SO MANY people." Obviously this is not what one is wanting to hear as she stands outside the gates with history unfolding just hundreds of yards away.   I called my mom to at least get a play-by-play from the televised version since I was convinced there was no way that we were going to make it through in time.  She told me everyone had come out except for Barack and that I should be able to hear the crowd soon as he appeared.  "You probably won't be able to hear me when they start cheering," she said.  Soon enough, I heard a soft roar coming from the direction of the Capitol.  Soft, as in barely audible.  "Wasn't that loud?!" she yelled into the phone.  This was when I thought all hope was gone.

All of a sudden the crowd began to push.  At first, the pushing came in bursts where you would inadvertently knock into the person in front of you, go back to pretty much the same spot as before, and apologize to a complete stranger for the recklessness of the mob.  Pretty soon there was no more stopping.  The crowd just pushed forward in one huge motion as, I'm guessing, they started allowing people through the gate.  One of my roommates described the experience saying "I'm pretty sure I could have picked my feet up off the ground, and the mob would have carried me inside anyway."  As the crowd got closer to the 15 feet wide entrance the pushing got harder, and people tried to maneuver their way through the gate.  People then held up their purple ticket to the handful of officers along the edges of the gate.

Once through the gate everyone scrambled to a security checkpoint.  However, calling the process a security check would be an overstatement.  The officials asked everyone to unzip their coats and purses but made really no effort to check anyone.  I had someone barely glance in my bag as I went through a metal detector and it started furiously beeping.  The process what very efficient though.  I cleared the security line and waited for my roommates on the other side.  When they came out we all began a mad sprint toward the Capitol.  Thank goodness I had decided on Uggs instead of heels.  We weaved through the hurried masses of people, shouting every once and awhile to make sure we hadn't lost anybody.

We had finally made it to the Inauguration.  The swearing in began right as we ran up.  There were police standing on the stairs leading up to where the Purple section was supposed to be, but when we tried to get in they turned us away, saying that all the people around us had Purple tickets too, but they were over capacity.  It was unbelievable how many people were "over capacity."  There were thousands of people standing in this random strip between the Purple and Silver sections.  People had climbed up the statues, the trees, and on top of Porta-Potties.  We found a spot to the left of the Capitol with a mostly uninhibited view (meaning unblocked by the hundreds of Porta-Potties) as the 21-gun-salute began.  To be honest, I thought the thousands left in Purple mob had begun to riot because the shots were coming from that direction.  I grabbed my roommate's arm and started freaking out as an older woman turned to me and said "Honey, don't worry.  I've been to five inaugurations and that happens every time.  It's all a part of the program."  I let out a huge sigh of relief and focused on the speech.

So in the end it all worked out.  Despite being blocked out of our actual spot, we were still able to see (mostly) and hear the swearing in and speech, which were amazing.  If you google "purple ticket holders" or "purple tunnel of doom," you'll find a ton of articles and editorials describing the horror stories of the Purple tickets; however, I am hesitant to complain because I am sure that without my Purple ticket, I would not have had this opportunity.  As a freshman in college asking for five prized Inauguration tickets, I highly doubt that I would have been on the top of the list and probably wouldn't have gotten tickets at all had not thousands of extras been printed.  Without the tickets, I wouldn't have even made the trip to DC and wouldn't have this fantastic story to tell my grandchildren.  I sympathize with all those who were left out in the mob, but most of the thousands who were standing with us outside the actual section probably wouldn't have made the trip either without tickets, and I'm sure that they are all thankful to have been a part of the experience.  

Thank you again to Bridget Bush and Senator McConnell's office for this opportunity.  Without your help and consideration, none of this would have been possible.

Reaganesque Obama's Address Was Not, But "It Was Worthy, Had Weight, And Was Adult"

Here is an excerpt of what Peggy Noonan -- the woman who knows how to write a speech -- had to say about President Obama's inaugural address:

It was a moderate speech both in tone and content, a serious and solid speech. The young Democrat often used language with which traditional Republicans would be thoroughly at home: The American story has never been one of "shortcuts or settling for less," the journey "has not been . . . for the fainthearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasure of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things" who have created the best of our enduring history.

Obama named in stark terms America's essential foe: "For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror . . . we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." This had the authentic sound of a man who's been getting daily raw intelligence briefings and is not amused.

Noonan adds, however, that Obama's address "was not an especially moving or rousing speech." Nonetheless, "it was worthy, had weight, and was adult."

It just wasn't at the level of Reagan. Obama is simply not as good an orator (or speech writer for that matter), but perhaps he will be once he has attained the depth of life experience Reagan had when he assumed the presidency. Obama, though, certainly met or exceeded the standard set by those who have occupied the White House since the man who addressed the boys of Pointe du Hoc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome And We Wish You All The Best!



From White House.gov:

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush walk out on the North Portico of the White House Tuesday morning, Jan. 20, 2009, to welcome President-Elect Barack Obama to the White House. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: 1/19/09



PICTURES!
From M Street.

Ok, so this day ended up far more exciting than we had originally planned.  

We began the day driving down to the Georgetown area for lunch with a friend from school and a friend of mine from home.  M Street was crazy with Obama-mania.  The streets were packed with cars and people of all ages, most of whom were decked out in Obama shirts, hats and buttons.  Storefronts were either filled with more Obama-gear or a greeting along the lines of "------ Welcomes President Obama."  There was one art gallery with a window painting of the now-iconic-pop-art-portrait of the new president with the White House and the Capitol taking over the entire store front window, while the glass doors of the gallery had huge profiles of Obama and Biden.  My friend from Georgetown said that all this excitement was not new M Street, just that it was typically seen only on Saturday nights, not early Monday afternoons.

After lunch, one of my roommates, Alyssa, and our friend from school decided to split from the rest of us and do some sightseeing of the ethnic neighborhoods and the Pentagon.  My other two roommates, Marissa and Candance, Candance's brother, and I hopped on the Metro and headed downtown to be complete dorks and check out the National Portrait Gallery before it closed at 7pm.  The gallery is directly across the street from the Verizon Center, which we soon discovered was hosting a free youth concert featuring the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus, and so the area outside the Metro was even crazier than M Street.  

Inside the Portrait Gallery we could barely move.  In one of the first hallways was a huge line to get a picture with the newest addition to the gallery, the official portrait of Obama.  Also, we saw tons of people in tuxedos and floor-length formal dresses and assumed there was some exclusive event going on somewhere in the building.  With only an hour and half to explore, we quickly skimmed the first floor of the museum and then moved upstairs to the American Presidents and American Art exhibits.  We were, however, puzzled by a guard at one of the doors and what looked to be a stage outside.  We assumed it was part of the Jonas Brothers/Miley Cyrus event and moved on.  

We found all the action upstairs.  First, tables with wine and martini glasses were set up in one of the obscure hallways in the American Art exhibit.  I assumed they were for some kind of ritzy private party set to begin after the museum had closed because we had found many restraunts closed throughout the day for such events.  

Marissa and I slowly moved ahead of Candance and her brother so that we could see everything before the gallery closed.  We darted through the special exhibits and the Presidential Portraits into another large hallway.  Here, we found more cocktail-ready tables, more dolled-up crowds, and large TV screens and posters saying "Green Inaugural Ball 2009."  The event wasn't starting after the museum closed, it was already in full swing.  So as tourists wandered throughout an exhibit of Lincoln's Inaugural Ball, the real deal in honor of the first African-American President was going on simultaneously.  Ok, we thought, this is pretty cool, but we moved on nonetheless to see the American landscapes.  As we sat admiring a Bierstadt painting, Candance called saying "He's here! He's here!  Blackeyed Peas! He's here!"  While obviously not has exciting as if HE were there, yet still a fantastic event for three 18-year-old girls, Marissa and I bolted back through the ball for a chance to see our first celebrity of the weekend.

Will.I.Am. strut through the gallery with an entourage of about five people and his own personal camera man.  Aside from being the front man for the musical group Blackeyed Peas, Will.I.Am. was famous during the campaign season for organizing the "Yes We Can" video in which over 30 celebrities performed one of Obama's speeches (if you haven't already seen this video, I highly recommend it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY).  He didn't really look like he was absorbing much of the artwork but every once and a while he would pause in front of a portrait, and a short little man would run to his side and give a short description of the president in question.  Although Candance desperately wanted a picture with him, nerves got the best of Marissa and me, and we bailed as Candance approached him.  What can I say?  A celebrity is intimidating enough without an entourage and camera man...

Until tomorrow.  THE BIG DAY!

Obama Pre-Inaugural Extravaganza Disses Bishop Gene Robinson

When it comes to inaugural prayers, the Obama team is challenged, to put it charitably. First, there was the flap over inviting the Reverend Rick Warren to pray because of his support of California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. Undoubtedly to compensate, the President-elect then invited the Reverend Gene Robinson, the Kentucky native and first openly gay Episcopal bishop, to deliver a prayer at yesterday's pre-inaugural bash at the Lincoln Memorial.

That might have ended all the brouhaha, except that Robinson was scheduled to deliver his prayer 5 minutes before the HBO broadcast of the event commenced, and not only that, the sound system wasn't even turned on until after he had left the lectern. As a result, no one except God heard all of Robinson's vespers, and mostly only listeners of today's "Talk of the Nation" broadcast on National Public Radio have heard even a portion of what the Bishop had to say.

What the latest snafu by the Obama team means isn't exactly clear. Was yesterday's snub of Robinson yet another slight of gays, lesbians and transgenders by the incoming administration? Or was it simply a reflection of the fact that HBO did not give a rat's you-know-what about anything religious competing with the secular extravaganza staged before Lincoln's marble feet?

We certainly have come a long way from the days of the Reverend Billy Graham's inaugural prayers. But then again, he never had to compete with a Beyonce bounding to upstage him either.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: 1/18/09-1/19/09

Hello Elephants of the Blue Grass!

My name is Elizabeth Fryman, and I am from Lexington, KY. This weekend three of my college roommates and I are in DC for the Inauguration, thanks to Bridget Bush and Senator McConnell's office. We are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to witness this historic event, and I am very excited to be keeping everyone back home updated on the proceedings. I have sparse Internet access where we are staying, but I will try to post as often as possible about our DC adventures. Also, once I get back to school and have my camera cord, I'll be uploading some of my pictures from the DC tourist sights and the Inauguration.

We began our journey Saturday with an eight hour drive from Boston to where we are staying in Bethesda, Maryland. Unlike most schools, ours has this bizarre exam schedule with a reading period after Christmas and finals during the few weeks of January. Thankfully, I had my last final Saturday morning and my roommates have their last ones on this upcoming Thursday, leaving a perfect three day window for the Inauguration Festivities. We arrived in Bethesda around 1:30 am and quickly hopped into bed in anticipation of the day to come.

My alarm rang all too soon at 9 am, and I headed downstairs to dissect the Metro map with the friends of my parents with whom we are staying. After mastering the Red line, my roommates and I emerged from Union Station, maps and cameras in hand, to explore the world of Washington. Senator McConnell's office told us to arrive there at the Russell Senate Building sometime between 2 and 4 to pick up our tickets; however, being overly anxious about navigating the unknown city, we made it to the corner of Constitution and Delaware by 1:10 pm. This gave us ample opportunity to explore the Capital, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress buildings before gathering the tickets. These areas were fairly deserted probably due to a celebrity-filled concert, including Usher, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Shakira, Josh Groban, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp, going on at the Lincoln Memorial at 2 pm.

There was, however, a group of women carrying an Obama cut out and posing for pictures with it at each monument. Along the streets, especially around Union Station, were flocks of vendors with Obama shirts, buttons, wallets, tote bags, picture frames, hats, and anything else someone might possibly want to maybe spend their money on. The presidential paraphernalia seemed to be selling surprisingly well, as we saw many tourists in bedazzled Obama hats and buttons.

We managed to find an open door into Russell Senate Building at exactly 2 o'clock. The building itself is gorgeous. The hallways have marble floors, chandeliers, and cherry doors, with each senator's office represented with two plaques: one with the senator's name and state and one with the state's seal. Two majestic marble staircases led us up to the third floor, where we were able to peak into the Caucus room, the site of hearings on the sinking of the Titanic and Watergate. Senator McConnell's office is decorated with pictures of various Kentucky landscapes and photos of notable interactions between government and our fair state, such as former President Reagan with the Derby's Rose Blanket draped over his shoulders.

Along with the tickets that we present on Tuesday, we were given packets of commemorative engraved invitations, a program for the event, and pictures of Obama and Biden. Our tickets are in the West standing area of the Purple section. I think these will be fantastic. From what I can tell on the map, we are right in the center of the ticketed seating and should have a great view of the ceremony. My only concern at this point is getting into the city on Tuesday. We may very well be leaving Bethesda at 5 am to beat all the crowds on the Metro into the city. But that's a story for Tuesday.

We had planned on attending the Lincoln Memorial concert right after getting the tickets but got distracted by the offices in the Russell Building. Once I had taken a picture next to the Kentucky seal outside Senator McConnell's office, my roommates insisted on finding the seals of their states: Massachusetts, Ohio, and Georgia. As we tried to find those offices, we came across the states of our friends from school and had to take pictures of those. Then we found the offices of John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Biden, the former offices of JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Harding. It was especially cool to get a picture with the plaques of Clinton and Biden, considering they must be coming down relatively soon. Unfortunately, they had already replaced Obama with Burris.

Eventually, we made our way out of the building and headed toward the Lincoln Memorial. We walked along Constitution and Pennsylvania Ave past the National Gallery of Art, the Newseum, the Department of Justice, and a statue in honor of General Meade, who led the Union troops in Gettysburg. We made a pit stop at Ollie's Trolley to refuel before the concert with some fantastic burgers and fries. As we started walking toward the Washington Monument, mobs of people and cars filled the streets, signaling the end of the show. A little bit bummed, yet exhausted from a busy day of walking, we decided to head back to Bethesda for the night.

The Metro was absolutely insane. The first train that came was nearly empty for the first few cars, but they became progressively more full until the train finally came to a stop and the doors opened. People were literally stuffed in like sardines, but the crowds on the platform insisted on pushing their way in anyway. Considering there were an estimated 800,000 people at the concert and the newspapers are expecting around 5,000,000 for the actually Inauguration, the Metro on Tuesday should be even more ridiculous.

Today, we are planning a trip to Georgetown for shopping and lunch, then back into the city to hit up the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and perhaps the Air and Space Museum. I don't expect anything post-worthy to be going down, but if it does, I'll update. If not, check back in for a play-by-play of the big day on Tuesday night!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Is Jim Bunning Really Our Best Candidate?

Senator Jim Bunning's capriciousness -- skipping important Senate business this week to attend family events -- raises a real question about whether Kentucky Republicans can risk nominating him to seek reelection.

Bunning barely squeaked by six years ago; he won by one percent. He ran a weak campaign and only pulled out a win when Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell stepped in to campaign with Bunning, and by many accounts, took control of the campaign.

Six years ago, prominent Democrats spread rumors about Bunning's health, and even suggested that he was suffering from dementia. Given the effectiveness with which national Democrats played the age card against Sen. John McCain, we can count on rumors about Bunning's health to grow nastier and more frequent through the election. In part, this is because, at 77, Bunning is older than McCain.

Certainly, Bunning has a responsibility to be honest with the people of Kentucky if he has a serious health issue. Regardless, Democrats once again will suggest that Bunning is incapable of fulfilling the duties of office. And they will trot out actuarial tables to give us the odds that Bunning might not survive another term. God forbid that anything happens to Bunning. Democrats well know, however, that Kentucky's governor, Steve Beshear -- a Democrat -- would appoint a replacement in the event of Bunning's death or incapacity.

Bunning was hospitalized with pneumonia for a week before this past November's election. Pneumonia must be taken seriously, but in a 77 year-old, it's alarming.

Perhaps this recent hospitalization is why Bunning insisted that he would attend family events and skip Senate votes, hearings and Republican strategy meetings. It's understandable: a brush with a serious illness often forces people to re-prioritize.

While Democrats speculate on whether Bunning can serve, Republicans should ask ourselves whether he really wants to keep up the relentless pace that the Senate demands. We cannot afford to reelect a Senator who might decide to retire part-way through his term (like Trent Lott did, last session).

In addition to leaving Kentuckians unrepresented this past week while visiting family, Bunning left Republicans short a vote at a time when we don't have very many.

If Republicans lose Bunning's seat, we will no longer have the 40 seats necessary to filibuster the massive expansion of government that the left is preparing to unleash. If Bunning's seat changes parties, Democrats will have a filibuster-proof super majority. One seat -- Bunning's seat -- can make that difference. This fact is not lost upon the Democrats.

The Washington Post already has deemed Bunning one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. This race will draw massive amounts of money from the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a variety of left-wing special interest groups. Look for a visit from President Barack Obama, no less, in support of whomever the Democrats nominate.

Yet Bunning has raised almost no money -- which further suggests that he is not serious or at best is ambivalent about whether he really wants to serve another term.

Bunnning has been the darling of conservative talk radio on the bailout and other issues. To be sure, the conservative movement needs his voice, but not necessarily in the Senate. He can influence public policy from the sidelines and still have plenty of time to enjoy his family. There is still time for Bunning to forgo a campaign that will be ugly and might be fruitless.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Senator Bunning: Kentucky Needs Both of Our Senators

Senator Jim Bunning has been AWOL from the Senate -- missing key votes and the opportunity to question three nominees of the Obama administration. James R. Carrroll reached Bunning on his cell phone last night:

Bunning said he was fulfilling "a family commitment six months ago to do certain things, and I'm doing them."
"I have another life besides the U.S. Senate," he said. "My family is more important than the U.S. Senate. It always has been and always will be."


I admire his devotion to family but do not understand why the family obligation could not have been moved to Washington and scheduled for after the Senate's adjournment.

Now if the Senator or a member of his family is ill, we understand his absence and extend our prayers. His comments suggest, however, that this was more along the lines of a vacation or optional event over which he had some control.

The U.S. Constitution give us two Senators and we are entitled to have both of them show up and represent us. Bunning's absence disenfranchised us, regardless of whether his vote would hve changed an outcome. (Apparently, it did not -- this time.)

Bunning missed a key strategy meeting with Senate Republicans. We don't have many troops in the Senate at present; we need them all, every last one of them. And if Bunning is serious about running for reelection, he should bear in mind that his truancy will not motivate Republicans to dig deep when his campaign calls looking for contributions.

Before entering politics, Bunning was a celebrated professional baseball player. He'd do well to remember the advice of Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, who made 2,632 games even when he was battling an injury or illness or a competing family event. Ripken taught that 80 percent of life is just showing up.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Furlough Tips For the Hawpester

The Courier-Journal's parent corporation, Gannett, has announced that it will force most of the employees at its newspapers to take a one week furlough -- essentially an unpaid vacation. Gannett owns 85 daily newspapers including the C-J and USA Today. The company said that the furlough is an attempt to cut costs and avoid layoffs.

According to the New York Times,

A second memo to Gannett employees says that some categories of “essential employees” will be exempted from the enforced time off, as will newly hired employees, but it adds, “there will be no individual hardship exceptions.” It also says that to comply with federal and state labor laws, a furloughed employee must strictly observe a no-work rule, not even “reading or responding to e-mails, calling or responding to calls from colleagues.”

The prospect of a furlough at the C-J raises some issues. First and foremost, who is an "essential employee"? Does that include David Hawpe? His narcissistic meanderings suggest that he is essential, at least in his own mind.

But if Hawpe is not deemed essential, then an issue arises as to how he should spend his week of unpaid vacation.

Hawpe could go to D.C. to attend the Inauguration and in between events picket Gannett's headquarters just across the Potomac. Then he might be able to deduct the trip as a business expense. He could ask the nominee for Secretary of the Treasury -- that poster-boy for government competence -- about the deductibility issue, but to play it safe, Hawpe should get a second opinion from H&R Block.

Hawpe might not get much of a welcome from the Obamas, given his support of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps he could leverage his support of the incoming Secretary of State into a furlough boondoggle with an international twist. Hawpe could shield Clinton from sniper fire the next time she goes to Bosnia.

If the furlough comes sooner rather than later, Hawpe could hang out in Frankfort for a week and spin conspiracy theories. Last year, he opined that Kentucky universities were forced to cut spending because the state had failed to raise taxes. This failure to tax, according to Hawpe, stems from a secret command from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to hold the line on taxes. That's right, Hawpe asserts that our senior U.S. Senator somehow has prevented our Democratic governor and his Democratic General Assembly from taxing and spending sufficiently.

Fuloughed employees, however, cannot read or send email. Frankfort might be too much of a temptation in that regard. Hawpe might do better communing with nature for a week.

The Age of Obama has made green chic, and Hawpe has long regaled us with his environmental bona fides. Last year, he joined Al Gore's call for civil disobedience to stop coal production. He wrote approvingly of those who tied themselves to steel drums to block construction of a coal plant. If Hawpe plans to spend his furlough strapped to steel drum, he'd better pray for a break in the weather.

Although the Hawpester apparently loved Alaska in December, so much so that he treated us, his loyal readers, to a list of everything he ate. And drank. Man of the people that he is, Hawpe indulged in

Other gastronomic delights, such as moose chili and cornbread at a special neighbor's house, and, another night, an office Christmas supper at The Turtle Club (I ordered escargots and a pile of Alaskan King Crab legs with hot butter), followed later, at home, by some Banyuls Grand Cru 1949 to settle the stomach.

The lousy thing about furloughs is that they are unpaid. So if Hawpe needs to "settle the stomach" during his week off, he might better skip the $187 a bottle wine and opt for Pepto Bismal. The upside of a Hawpe furlough is that we the readers will need less Pepto Bismal while we await his return.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

President-Elect Obama's Inauguration To Produce "State of Emergency", President Bush Declares

What a hoot! President Bush has been forced to declare a "state of emergency" in order to pay expenses related to the excesses of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. The UK's Daily Mail explains:

As the Obama team went into damage control over Geither, President Bush declared a state of emergency in Washington - because so many people were expected to attend the inauguration.

A president mostly uses the power to declare a state of emergency during a crisis, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster.

The bulk of the cost for the event will be on security with more than 10,000 police and troops forming a ring of steel around Washington DC.

Obama has managed to raise £30m towards the cost of the event with a host of Hollywood stars, including Sharon Stone and Halle Berry, contributing the maximum amount of £33,000.

His money will fund many of the extravagant balls and also for giant TV screens to be placed along The Mall to allow visitors to witness the historic moment when America swears in its first black president.

A spokesman for Obama said they wanted as many people as possible to be able to witness the event.

But it will be the US taxpayer who picks up the main part of the bill to cover security and transport costs.

Officials in Washington DC and neighbouring states have sent a request to Congress for £50m to cover a variety of inaugural costs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Calling John Galt

Chris Derry from the Bluegrass Institute passes along a terrific piece by Steve Moore on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I first read Atlas Shrugged in the 1980's when I learned that it was one of Ronald Reagan's favorite books. As we return to conservative principles, this book is worth another look.

Though it became an instant hit after it was published in 1957, the book was never made into a movie. And now there's no need: we can watch its plot unfold on the nightly news. Moore writes,

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

Moore notes that Rand would have nothing but contempt for the bailout fever that is sweeping D.C. It is exactly what she predicted.

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

The Age of Obama challenges us to keep in mind the appropriate relationship of the individual to the state. Rand made the case, better than anyone, that the only way to encourage initiative and hard work is to let individuals keep the fruits of their labor. Only economic growth can cure this recession; forcing one taxpayer to give to another person is not growth, it's just confiscation followed by a redistribution of wealth.

Without spoiling the ending, Atlas Shrugged gives us hope to survive the current explosion of government spending and the resulting loss of economic freedom and productivity. This won't last forever. Eventually, voters will see through the ruse and fire the "altruists."

Lobster Burgoo, Anyone?

The Miami Herald reports today that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's power to lead Republican Senators in the new Congress may hinge on coming up with policy recipes to entice three particular members of his caucus -- Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania:

The three Northeastern senators were supporters of some Democratic-backed social policy issues in the past, hail from a region of the country where the GOP's legislative ranks have significantly thinned and represent many left- to moderate-leaning voters.
Democrats have a 57-41 Senate majority, with seats in Illinois and Minnesota still being contested.


''Compared to having 49 senators, [McConnell] is in a much worse position. If he didn't have 41, he would have no power at all,'' said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

"Collins, Snowe and Specter will stick with Republicans on procedural and business and labor votes, so on some issues he will be able to hold the caucus together -- especially if Democrats ride roughshod over them. But on social issues, they have to survive an environment that has killed off Republicans in the Northeastern area.''

This puts the three Northeastern lawmakers in a prime position to negotiate with McConnell and Republican leadership, said former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who became an independent after losing his 2006 reelection bid to represent Rhode Island.

''He'll appeal to make sure they don't abandon the entire Republican caucus,'' Chafee said.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

While He Was Krogering

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell celebrated becoming Kentucky's longest-serving U.S. Senator yesterday by letting Bill Goodman interview him for KET at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center.

In the course of the interview, McConnell noted that President-elect Barack Obama had called McConnell on his cell phone Friday while McConnell was grocery shopping at Kroger. That's the second time Obama has called McConnell at Kroger.

Many of us get phone calls at Kroger. Usually it's one of my boys calling to remind me to pick up the Tostitos. So the thought of strolling down the produce aisle and answering the phone to find the leader of the free world on the other end -- it's just surreal.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Obama Nominates Harvard Law Dean to S.G.

Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan has sent an email to alumni to announce that President-elect Barack Obama will nominate her to be Solicitor General. If confirmed by the Senate, she will take a leave of absence from Harvard.

I have accepted this nomination because it offers me the opportunity, working under the leadership of the President-elect and his nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, to help advance this nation's commitment to the rule of law at what I think is a critical time in our history. I am honored and grateful, awestruck and excited, to be asked to contribute to this most important endeavor. And perhaps, for me, it adds a special touch of sweetness to the occasion that the person making the nomination, in whose capacity for greatness I deeply believe, is himself a member of the group to which I am writing.

At the same time, I feel today real sadness - a sense of loss of what, if confirmed, I will be leaving that is every bit as strong as my sense of anticipation of what will be to come. Now isn't the time for me to attempt a grand wrapping-up or final farewell; I don't in any way want to presume the outcome of the Senate's consideration. For the present, I'll say only this: it has been both the joy and the privilege of my life to serve as dean of this most wondrous law school. I love it, and I love the extraordinary community of people - you - who make it up. I look forward to staying in close touch.

Although I don't know Dean Kagan personally, she has made some outstanding appointments to the law school's faculty that demonstrate an interst in seeking opposing viewpoints. That is, she's appointed true conservatives (Federalist Society members!) who have done much to enhance the ideological diversity of the school.

She'll make a great S.G.