“Give My Regards to King Tut”

President Obama this week gave a speech in Schenectady NY. And apparently he also opened the Stargate?

(Photo: http://www.timesunion.com/).

We Need a Hero

Jon Stewart had a pretty good take-down of the president this week (starting around 4:39):

Whether or not there is more that the president can do, he needs to convince the American public that he is doing all that he can. Every classic story has a villain and a hero. We have a villain: BP and Big Oil. Now we need a hero. Especially if the computer models are correct (via Discovery News) or if a hurricane (or two) blow through the Gulf.

Socialism!!!

top tax rate

(Via Chart Porn)

He’s There to View the Tapestries!

From the White House Flickr stream:

President Barack Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010.

tapestries

He went to view the tapestries! But he is neither a Scottish lord nor Mickey Mouse.

Just as long as he hasn’t gone and caught a sniffle.

All the President’s Pens

From The White House:

Why do presidents use so many pens to sign legislation? White House Staff Secretary Lisa Brown explains.

AND!!!   Brown confirms my speculation back in December that Obama’s pens are left-handed pens!

(Nod: Nagle)

Things That Go Bump in the Mess Hall

Well, those crazies did try to warn us President Obama was intent on destroying the country from within.   This weekend he was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan converting/recruiting unsuspecting U.S. troops with the super-secret, infectious move: the terrorist fist bump.

bump

From the White House Flickr stream.

Just a Bill?

He’s not just a bill.   No, not only a bill:

bill

See here if you missed the joke.

(Nod: Nagle)

Approved

From the White House Flickr stream today:

approved

In case you’re concerned that the president can’t draw a circle, his name contains 11 letters, but he used 20 pens to sign his name, so more than one pen was used for some letters.

Toles

Another brilliant cartoon by Tom Toles:

toles

“This Is What Change Looks Like”

White House photographer Pete Souza captures President Obama applauding the House passage of the health care bill last night:

obama

“Tag, You’re It”

From Funny or Die, President Obama is visited by past presidents trying to convince Obama to fight for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. All-star cast and directed by Ron Howard:

A CFPA overview from the LA Times:

The core idea behind the proposal, supporters say, is to pull together consumer oversight powers that are now scattered among various agencies, and to put consumer interests where they should be much higher on the priority list than they were during the years leading up to the housing and credit bubble and bust.

Along with something else, a consumer protection agency is an area where we lag behind of other Western nations.

Obama Caught Lip-Syncing Speech

From The Onion:

(Nod: The Daily Dish)

Why Obama Can’t Fire Anyone

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post argues Obama can’t fire anyone because he can’t be guaranteed they’ll be replaced in a timely manner because of the extreme gridlock in the Senate.   Quote:

The Treasury Department is a good case in point. This may be the most turbulent economy since the 1930s, but the agency tasked with navigating it is still waiting for a number of key nominees to be confirmed, including the undersecretary for international affairs and the undersecretary for domestic finance. Meanwhile, the boss himself, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, is under tremendous criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. Some even want him fired.

But he can’t be fired, and it’s not because he’s doing a bang-up job. It’s because Obama can’t be confident that he could be smoothly replaced. The only thing worse than an unpopular Treasury secretary is no Treasury secretary at all.

The problem gets worse as it goes deeper. It’s not just that Geithner can’t be fired. It’s that he, in turn, can’t fire anybody. Treasury is understaffed, and there’s little reason to believe that the Senate will consider its nominees anytime soon. If Geithner is displeased with the performance of an appointed subordinate, he can’t ponder whether America would be better off with another individual in that office. Instead, he must decide whether America would be better off if that office were empty.

Klein’s solution?

The easiest way to fix all this would be to reduce the number of positions requiring Senate confirmation. It’s obvious why the nominee for Treasury secretary must come before the Senate, but do we need a hearing for the director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development? The undersecretary of commerce for export administration? The co-chair of the Northern Border Regional Commission? How many senators, exactly, do we think have an informed opinion on these positions, much less on the nominees to fill them? There’s a reason that a board of directors will pick a company’s chief executive but not vote on each and every product manager.

I’m not familiar enough with the appointment process to know if Senate confirmation is necessary on these lesser positions by tradition (aka “we’ve always done it this way, so that’s they way we’re going to do it,” like voting on a Tuesday) or by codified law, but if confirmation is necessary by tradition, perhaps we need to rethink the tradition.   When said tradition no longer makes any sense, we need to move on.

Fired Up, Ready to Go

A few quick reactions to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight:

  • This was the Barack Obama I voted for in November 2008.   This Barack Obama got lost somewhere in the White House.   Now that he’s been found, I hope he stays a while.   This was Obama fired up and ready to go and was a reminder of how good he can be when he tries.   Now that he’s drawn the blueprints, he needs to ensure his plans are built correctly.   He said he doesn’t quit.   We must hold him to his words and we can’t quit either.
  • Several points in his speech were significant co-opts of Republican policies (all the talk about small businesses, nuclear power, off-shore drilling).   How can the party of “no” oppose these?   If Obama is serious about these proposals, he’s forced the GOP to work with him, not against him.
  • As he said, the idea that no matter what you think about global warming, a robust energy policy for the sake of efficiency and creating jobs is something we all can and should agree upon.
  • I was both saddened that he had to and pleased that he did play the role of angry parent scolding his two children who can’t play nice: the GOP who oppose his policies for the sake of opposing them, and his fellow Dems who don’t have the balls to govern.
  • Obama said, “In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education.”   I fully agree.   Education can be the silver bullet to many of society’s problems if only it were treated as such.
  • Justice Samuel Alito had tonight’s Joe “You Lie” Wilson moment.   Obama called-out the Supreme Court for their recent decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the supposed-to-be-impartial-at-a-political-speech Alito visibly showed his distaste for the president’s words and appears to have mouthed “not true.”   Watch the video at about the 0:38 mark.   Alito was the only justice of the six in attendance to react.
  • Any time these types of events roll around, I always enjoy seeing how many Washington faces I can name.   I’m getting pretty good.

With his State of the Union address, President Obama seems to have reinvigorated himself and likely many straying supporters.   Let’s see if he can keep the fire going and deliver on his calls to action.   Our future is waiting.   The status quo simply doesn’t work anymore.

Totally Random: Presidential Pens

Totally random thought here.   While browsing through some recent uploads to the White House Flickr account via my RSS reader, I came across this photo:

obama pens

These are pens for a bill-signing.   What intrigued me about this photo is the direction of the signature on each pen.   Because the signature reads from the top of the pen to the bottom while the pen’s tip is pointing right, this pen is a left-handed pen.   If you pick up this pen to write with your left hand, the signature is right-side up; pick this pen up with your right hand to write, and the signature is upside-down.   A left-handed pen for a left-handed president?   No detail overlooked or just a coincidence?

Just for the heck of it, I tried to find some presidential pens in official use by past presidents.   I found President Bush’s pens here:

bush pens

These are right-handed pens.   If you take the cap off and stick it on the non-tip end of the pen, the signature will remain upright in your right hand but upside-down in your left hand.   A right-handed pen for a right-handed president?

My guess is that the Bush pen likely used a standard direction because a majority of people are right-handed, but the Obama pen was specially made to be a left-handed pen.   How’s that for an exciting Friday night?

My New Dream Job?

Back in January, I discovered via the then-just-redesigned White House website what I thought to be my dream job: White House Director of New Media.   I wrote this:

If there ever were a perfect job for me, I’m fairly certain White House Director of New Media would be it.   Where else beside the Obama White House could I marry my love of politics with my skills and awareness of technology while serving passionately for the greater good?

Well, I think I found a job that I would enjoy even more: the official White House photographer.   I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I love taking pictures as you’ve undoubtedly been aware from my road-trip posts.   This job has so many pluses.   Working at the White House?   Check.   Taking photos all day?   Check.   Being privileged to experience the inner-workings of the presidency?   Check.   Traveling the country and the world with the president?   Check.

Maybe they can make a hybrid position for me. :-)

Anyway, I recently discovered the “Official White House Photostream” on Flickr.   Seeing what these photographers capture makes me want their job.   From the first 30 (of 68) pages, here are a few of my favorites:

white house photos

white house photos

white house photos

white house photos

white house photos

white house photos

white house photos

All photos except the last one were taken by Pete Souza.   The last one was taken by Samantha Appleton.   Fantastic work.   I want your job!

The Cabinet

A neat photo just released on the White House’s Flickr photostream:

cabinet

From the description:

Seated from left: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Standing second row, from left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Back row, from left: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer.     (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

“We Did Not Come to Fear the Future. We Came Here to Shape It.”

obama address

I went into President Obama’s Wednesday night national address with very high expectations.   After watching the White House essentially sit back and watch the health care debate run away from them, I anticipated an effort by the president to start changing the debate.   What I watched Wednesday night was exactly what I expected and was hoping for.

Obama’s address was both decisively strong and aggressively determined.   I wrote last month about the differences between Candidate Obama, who seemed to always have the appropriate response at the appropriate time while his opponents ran around with their collective hair ablaze, and President Obama, who seemed to allow his administration’s collective hair to burn.   I felt the Obama White House had not been aggressive and vocal enough with their argument in favor of health insurance reform.   Well, on Wednesday, Candidate Obama must have had some words with President Obama, because both Obamas showed up for the address.   We saw the passionate, rhetorically-superb campaign-trail Obama together with the calm, reasoned I’m-president-now Obama.

From the I-know-how-to-fire-up-a-crowd Candidate Obama:

Well, the time for bickering is over.   The time for games has passed.   (Applause.)   Now is the season for action.   Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do.   Now is the time to deliver on health care.   Now is the time to deliver on health care.

His address reminded me somewhat of his acceptance speech last summer in Denver: excellent rhetoric coupled with details and specifics.   Anyone (read: me) who argued the president was too timid in his pitch for reform was silenced on Wednesday.

Obama skillfully positioned himself as a reasoned centrist.   He made comments about and gestures toward the left and the right and talked about how his plan borrowed ideas from both (including two past rivals: Hillary Clinton and John McCain) and that it wasn’t, in fact, an enormous plot to “destroy” the system we have now:

Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.

This is what he outlined:

The plan I’m announcing tonight would meet three basic goals.   It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance.   It will provide insurance for those who don’t.   And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.

In the address, the president touched on a critical hurdle to reform: convincing those with coverage that reform is necessary:

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem for the uninsured.   Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today.     More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too.   More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care.   It happens every day.

In his address, the president also fought-back against the unfounded lies being told about reform plans in perhaps his strongest language yet on the matter:

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.   The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens.   Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible.   It is a lie, plain and simple.

In calling members of Congress to action, Obama said this:

I understand how difficult this health care debate has been.   I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them.   I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that is not what the moment calls for.   That’s not what we came here to do.   We did not come to fear the future.   We came here to shape it.   I still believe we can act even when it’s hard.   (Applause.)   I still believe I still believe that we can act when it’s hard.   I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress.   I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.

Because that’s who we are.   That is our calling.   That is our character.

Finally, he expanded on what I have always thought was the most important reason for reform: the moral case.   The president invoked a letter he received posthumously from Senator Ted Kennedy:

“What we face,” he wrote, “is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.” […]

That large-heartedness that concern and regard for the plight of others-is not a partisan feeling.   It’s not a Republican or a Democratic feeling.   It, too, is part of the American character-our ability to stand in other people’s shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

Obama gave strong and assertive speech Wednesday night, one that surely invigorated a stagnant and discouraged base.   Now the hard work begins: making reform a reality.

(Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“A Colleague, a Mentor, and Above All a Friend”

obama

President Obama’s eulogy of Senator Ted Kennedy was personal and poignant.   This mood was set forth from the start:

I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.

I expected a blend of personal remembrances of Kennedy and a passionate call to continue his work, but the president chose not to bring politics into his eulogy.   He spoke of the man, not the politician:

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death because what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country that he loved.

obama

Selling Health Care Reform

One can argue the Obama campaign was almost flawless in its execution of message, presentation, and marketing.   They found their message early, stuck with it, and hammered away with it at rivals who often changed messages and strategies.   Then they get to the White House and are tasked with following through on one of their campaign promises: bringing real change to health care.

Now, one can argue that that message and marketing discipline of the campaign has evaporated and the Obama Administration has had difficulty selling their plan.   I suppose one can also argue they don’t have a concrete plan.   Instead, they have goals and have given Congress the job of drafting the plan on achieving those goals.   Surely this is a direct lesson learned from from President Clinton’s failed efforts to bring about health care reform in the 1990s.

But has the Obama Administration gone too far and been too hands-off in this process?   I suppose only history can know for sure.   All I know is that seeing the team that ran such a strong and successful campaign for president now run a seemingly-substandard and struggling campaign for policy change is strange.   During the campaign, every move by Obama seemed measured, calculated, and deliberate and often proved to be advantageous for him.   Is he playing the same game and biding his time?   Sacrificing some battles to win the war?   Perhaps.

I’m not the only one wondering this.   Jon Stewart talked about this this week (skip ahead to around the 3:05 mark for the meat of this):

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:241005

Via AmericaBlog, I discovered this article on Daily Kos by George Lakoff, a professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.   In the very long article, Lakoff discusses the missteps of the administration and offers some suggestions to win the war:

Insurance company plans have failed to care for our people. They profit from denying care. Americans care about one another. An American plan is both the moral and practical alternative to provide care for our people.

The insurance companies are doing their worst, spreading lies in an attempt to maintain their profits and keep Americans from getting the care they so desperately need. You, our citizens, must be the heroes. Stand up, and speak up, for an American plan.

Language

As for language, the term “public option” is boring. Yes, it is public, and yes, it is an option, but it does not get to the moral and inspiring idea. Call it the American Plan, because that’s what it really is.

The American Plan. Health care is a patriotic issue. It is what your countrymen are engaged in because Americans care about each other. The right wing understands this well. It’s got conservative veterans at Town Hall meeting shouting things like, “I fought for this country in Vietnam, and I’m fight for it here.” Progressives should be stressing the patriotic nature of having our nation guaranteeing care for our people.

A Health Care Emergency. Americans are suffering and dying because of the failure of insurance company health care. 50 million have no insurance at all, and millions of those who do are denied necessary care or lose their insurance. We can’t wait any longer. It’s an emergency. We have to act now to end the suffering and death.

Doctor-Patient care. This is what the public plan is really about. Call it that. You have said it, buried in PolicySpeak. Use the slogan. Repeat it. Have every spokesperson repeat it.

Coverage is not care. You think you’re insured. You very well may not be, because insurance companies make money by denying you care.

Deny you care… Use the words. That’s what all the paperwork and administrative costs of insurance companies are about – denying you care if they can.
Insurance company profit-based plans. The bottom line is the bottom line for insurance companies. Say it.

Private Taxation. Insurance companies have the power to tax and they tax the public mightily. When 20% – 30% of payments do not go to health care, but to denying care and profiting from it, that constitutes a tax on the 96% of voters that have health care. But the tax does not go to benefit those who are taxed; it benefits managers and investors. And the people taxed have no representation. Insurance company health care is a huge example of taxation without representation. And you can’t vote out the people who have taxed you. The American Plan offers an alternative to private taxation.

Is it time for progressive tea parties at insurance company offices?

Doctors care; insurance companies don’t. A public plan aims to put care back into the hands of doctors.

Insurance company bureaucrats.   Obama mentions them, but there is no consistent uproar about them. The term needs to come into common parlance.

Insurance companies ration care. Say it and ask the right questions: Have you ever had to wait more than a week for an authorization? Have you ever had an authorization turned down? Have you had to wait months to see a specialist? Does you primary care physician have to rush you through? Have your out-of-pocket costs gone up? Ask these questions. You know the answers. It’s because insurance companies have been rationing care. Say it.

Insurance companies are inefficient and wasteful. A large chunk of your health care dollar is not going for health care when you buy from insurance companies.
Insurance companies govern your lives. They have more power over you than even governments have. They make life and death decisions. And they are accountable only to profit, not to citizens.

The health care failure is an insurance company failure. Why keep a failing system? Augment it. Give an alternative.

The debate in the coming months after Congress returns from its recess should be very interesting.   The question remains, though: will the Obama Administration return to its campaign roots and commandingly drive home its message of health care reform?   Or will they allow others to drive the message and derail the entire process again?   Obama the candidate would know what to do.   Will Obama the president?

“The Born Identity”

Back on 22 July, Jon Stewart ran this segment taking on the “birthers,” those who “believe” President Obama is not an American citizen:

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:239148

Here’s Obama’s birth certificate, released during the campaign:

obama birth certificate

And what does the certificate read just above the “Any Alterations…” text?

This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding.

Yet there are still questions.   Fine if people on The Internets wish to continue debating this, but this topic deserves no time to be considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.   Representative Bill Posey (R-FL), however, thinks it is and has introduced legislation (H.R. 1503) that would:

amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution.

The Orlando Sentinel reported in March:

As for his own opinion on Obama’s nationality Posey won’t say.

“I told you, I think that’s irrelevant,” Posey said. “I don’t want this to be an issue with the bill.”

He added: “I haven’t looked at the evidence. It’s not up to me to look at the evidence…. I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn’t.”

Right.   And as Stephen Colbert said, we can’t swear whether or not Rep. Posey is part alligator either.

“He’s Barack Obama”

JibJab does their first Obama video. Cue the hilarity:

http://aka.zero.jibjab.com/client/zero/ClientZero_EmbedViewer.swf

NBC Goes Inside the Obama White House

oval office

If you didn’t get a chance last week to watch NBC’s Brian Williams’s two-part special going inside the Obama White House, you can catch the video online via MSNBC here.   Also while you’re there, be sure to check out the awesome interactive tour of the White House.

(Photo: Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News)

Obama’s First 100 Days

…according to Facebook.   Christopher Beam and Chris Wilson at Slate imagine President Obama’s Facebook news feed for his first 100 days.   Terrific.

obama_facebook

(Nod: The Daily Dish)

Barack-etology

Back in March, SportsCenter aired an on-going segment titled “Barack-etology” that featured President Obama’s bracket for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament.   Here’s the initial segment with Andy Katz and Obama as he filled out his bracket:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fjHWJJeyBY

That bracket board now has a home in the ESPN cafeteria:

obama bracket

obama signature