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?

“Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare”

A central problem with the debate about health care reform is the many, many misinformed or under-informed people that are leading the charge against any civilized debate about the matter.   Likely in response to a story like this:

In other pockets of the state, the reaction to Democratic proposals has been strong, too. At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

“I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’ ” Inglis recalled. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”

…Public Policy Polling recently released a poll [PDF] that included this question:

Do you think the government
should stay out of Medicare?

The response?

Yes: 39%
No: 46%
Not sure: 15%

A staggering 54% of respondents were unable to accurately identify the question as something of a farce.   But because of this either misinformation or under-information, an intellectual debate over health care reform cannot take place.   In this factual-information vacuum, the White House should be leading the charge to educate the masses, but that leadership seems lacking as of late.

(Nod: ThinkProgress)

Voting for Disaster

Wired this week reported this interesting story:

Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, has patched a serious security weakness in its election tabulation software used in the majority of states, according to a lab that tested the new version and a federal commission that certified it.

The flaw in the tabulation software was discovered by Wired.com earlier this year, and involved the program’s auditing logs. The logs failed to record significant events occurring on a computer running the software, including the act of someone deleting votes during or after an election. The logs also failed to record who performed an action on the system, and listed some events with the wrong date and timestamps.

A new version of the software does record such events, and includes other security safeguards that would prevent the system from operating if the event log were somehow shut down, according to iBeta Quality Assurance, the Colorado testing lab that examined the software for the federal government.

I am continuously baffled as to why Direct Electronic Recording (DRE) machines aka electronic voting machines are permitted for use in elections.   Their track record is awful.   Read this nice Wikipedia summary of security issues regarding Diebold’s Premier Election Solutions’s machines.

If you’re really up for some reading, check out these reports that all clearly illustrate why electronic voting machines should not be used until overhauls can be made to these machines’ glaring security issues:

I guarantee you will be disgusted after reading those reports.   Manufacturers of these machines as well as the complicit federal government seem not to care that results of elections can be so easily hacked and stolen.

The idea of electronic voting machines is great.   We live in the digital age.   We live by digital devices every day, from cell phones, to computers, to ATMs.   Yet we can’t perfect a device that, if it fails, has the capacity to a) change the course of history, b) render the democratic process moot, and c) undermine citizenry trust of the entire system of government if indeed an election is hacked and stolen.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but the solution seems incredibly simple.   First, these machines should be built exactly to specifications defined by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), established in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act after the infamous Florida recount debacle, and a team of voting and IT security experts.   Much like the Pentagon orders Boeing or Lockheed Martin to build fighter jets to exact specifications, the EAC should dictate how machines are designed and built and how they function.

Second, testing should be paid for by the EAC, not the manufacturers of the devices.   Currently, the devices are sent to private testing labs, and the manufacturers foot the bill.   Does this not seem like a potential conflict of interest to anyone else?

Third, they must, must, must have a verifiable paper trail.   You use an ATM, you get a receipt.   You pay a bill online, you get a receipt.   You use an electronic voting machine, you likely don’t get anything to verify what just happened.   In the event of irregularities, without a verifiable paper trail, there is no mechanism to check the results of the election, so what happened happened.   Period.   End of story.

The flagrant disregard for adequate premier security standards is a punch in the gut and a stab in the back to the democratic process by private corporations more interested in making money and a federal government more interested in looking the other way.   Progress is being made, but not nearly as quickly and as comprehensively as it should.

Debunking Health Care Lies

The OpenCongress blog has a terrific post on debunking five lies concerning the health care legislation moving through Congress.   In this all-out war being waged by opponents of health care reform, knowing the facts and fighting lies with truth is imperative.   Here’s one on their list:

Lie #1: The Health Care bill would set up government death panels

This lie has been widely circulated over email and in blog posts, recently and most prominently by Sarah Palin, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and others. Their claim is that language in the bill relating to “advance care planning consultations” would set up mandatory meetings in which government “death panels” would force senior citizens and others to sign some sort of early death pact. In reality, the bill language seeks to require Medicare to cover the cost of counseling sessions with doctors on end-of-life issues if a person chooses to have one. Currently, these kinds of sessions aren’t covered by Medicare, and people without extra money often can’t afford to have them.

Read the actual provision on end-of-life counseling in the official bill text

Here’s an interview with Republican Sen. John Isakson of Georgia, the lawmaker who has been pushing hardest over the years to get this passed. He calls Palin’s comment “nuts” that her “baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s death panel,” and says the provision is about giving people the authority to decide if they want an end-of-life consultation. “It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.”

Unfortunately for those who would benefit from this provision, it has been dropped by the Senate Finance Committee who no doubt caved to the venomous misinformation.

Organized Riots Against Health Care Reform

The so-called “debate” about health care reform is not a debate, and is not anything like a debate.   A debate is:

a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints

What we’ve been seeing are no discussions.   Instead, what we’ve been seeing are near-riots incited by smear-and-fear politics aimed not at achieving a particular type of health care reform but instead absolutely no health care reform.

Let’s start with the video.   From CBS News:

Here’s Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) trying to hold a town hall forum in Tampa:

http://www.dailykostv.com/flv/player.swf

Another angle:

Here’s Rep. John Dingle (D-MI) trying to hold a town hall forum in Troy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeUVr1kNZLY

As Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) was trying to speak with constituents, a mob followed him around yelling “just say no”:

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) had to be escorted to his car by police after protesters got out of control.

Protesters hung an effigy of Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) outside his district office.

An attendee at a town hall of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ) dropped a gun and the police were called for safety concerns.

Some protesters have brought Nazi references to protests.

If left unchecked, this level of hatred brewing has the potential to boil over and produce despicable consequences.

Is this a true grassroots opposition to health care reform?   No.   Rachel Maddow explains:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl91YF1d3Kg

In the end, a few things seem clear to me:

There is no proposed “government takeover” of health care. There is merely a government-run public option being proposed to compete against the established health care insurance corporations.   You like your health care option you have now?   Great!   Keep it!   You want another option that may cost less and allow you to be covered even with pre-existing conditions?   Great!   There would be an option for that, too.   This is the debate: having options, having choices, saving money, saving lives.

Those who argue a government bureaucrat will stand between them and their doctor miss the point and the irony of their argument.   There already is a bureaucrat between them and their doctor: an insurance corporation. The difference between the two, though, is that the insurance corporation bureaucrat cares more about turning a profit than he does making sure you get the care you need at affordable prices.   Corporations are out for profit.   That’s what they do.

Government already runs health care. It’s called Medicare.   You don’t hear anyone demonizing Medicare.   Why?   Because it’s popular.   Seems to me, then, we have a working, satisfying government-run health care program already.

The health care problem is about three types of people: those without health care insurance, those with coverage but are under-insured, and those who cannot sustain the financial costs of their insurance plans.   Real health care reform must cover all three groups.

Those who argue people who have no health insurance still have access to health care via an emergency room overlook the cost and, again, the irony. The costs of emergency room visits are exorbitantly higher than the costs of long-term preventative care through regular visits to doctors.   The irony comes in because this, like Medicare, is also socialized medicine because the public foots the bill for those who can’t afford to pay for their emergency room visits (fact sheet from the National Coalition on Health Care).

People in states that are net beneficiaries of the federal government and receive more federal money than what they pay should think twice about castigating the federal government for not being able to do something right.   If these people find so much fault with the federal government that they think it couldn’t run a health care insurance option, perhaps they should lobby their politicians to stop allowing their state to accept federal dollars.   According to the Tax Foundation in 2005 (most recent available data), Mississippi received $2.02 in federal spending for every $1.00 of federal taxes spent.   The liberal elite in Connecticut, though, received $0.69 for every $1.00 spent.   Curious that states with higher populations of people that argue for a smaller federal government are those that need the federal government more. (Thanks, Charlie, for pointing this out to me).

Finally, those who call themselves Christians should must believe providing health care for all is a moral imperative.   Jesus taught Christians to love their neighbors as themselves.   Isn’t ensuring everyone has adequate coverage doing what Jesus would have done?   Caring for the sick and the poor?   So if any of you protesters call yourselves Christians, think about what it means before you argue against health care for all.

My point is this: health care is a serious issue we face today.   Costs keep rising; people can’t afford coverage or are denied or dropped because of so-called pre-existing conditions.   What we need is real debate: how do we cover everyone, how do we pay for it, etc.   Instead of these intellectual conversations, the health care debate has devolved into a neanderthalistic competition on who can shout-down and disrupt the most number of democracy-serving town hall meetings that aim to spur information sharing and gathering.

These organized riots are as sick as the current unsustainable health care situation in this country.   We can do better.   And we must do better.

Counting the 2008 Vote

I finished updating my thesis project “Counting the Vote: An Interactive Study of Electoral College Reform” to include the 2008 election.   You can see results by proportional allocation, district allocation, and popular vote.

counting the vote

counting the vote

Number Crunching

Swing State Project has compiled the results of the 2008 presidential election by Congressional District, listing which candidate won each of the nation’s 435 districts.   Having this data along with state-by-state results, I can now fully update my thesis project with the 2008 election.   Stay tuned for an update soon!

(Nod: FiveThirtyEight)

The Recovery Begins With Government Graphic Design

Last week, President Obama unveiled logos for two new administration programs, Recovery.org, aka American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery):

recovery logos

NPR interviewed creative director Steve Juras about the logos.   Juras provides a nice overview and insight to the Recovery.gov logo development.

Armin at Brand New writes:

The ARRA emblem feels decidedly American, it might just be the stars and the blue, but it definitely has an American pride aura to it. The design is clean and simple and touches on three key aspects: America (of course), the environment, and the industry. The design of each element could probably be discussed ad nauseam and hundreds of alternative drawings could have been made, but as quick signifiers these work great. I’m not a fan of the rounded corners of the quadrants, but that’s just me. This logo probably looks kick-ass in all black too.

The logo for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program may feel a little corny, with its tiger stripes. But, let’s face it, sometimes it’s too tempting to forego the obvious and this logo creates a very identifiable visual. The thing I love about it is the combination of dark gray (or is it black?) that could stand for the asphalt that millions of people drive on each day throughout the U.S. and the orange that is emblematic of all the workers that are regularly out there working the roads. The type choice for TIGER is odd though: Kabel (slightly modified).

I can’t argue with clean and simple, and I particularly enjoy the symbolism in the TIGER logo.   Construction road signs are what colors?   Orange and black, so using these two colors in the logo representing the U.S. Department of Transportation (you know, the road crew folks) is fitting (images from the Manual of Traffic Signs):

construction signs

If this is just the start of the high level of design the Obama Administration is going to introduce to the federal government, hats off to them, because good graphic design was one of the many things missing from the Bush White House.   Steven Heller, graphic design extraordinaire, blasted the Bush Administration’s use of fonts on the banners that appeared behind the president during major speeches (the “Mission Accomplished” variety) in an article for AIGA:

Whatever one thinks about [the Bush] administration’s domestic and foreign policies, the White House’s garish type selections are so thoughtless they trivialize rather than enhance the rhetoric of our POTUS (no, not a synonym for doofus or that substance he used to smoke but rather the Secret Service’s acronym for President of the United States). While his handlers would never allow the leader of the free world to go out in public wearing a rayon leisure suit and white bucks, they nonetheless use clownish shareware typefaces with hokey beveled edges and cheesy drop shadows to represent his ideas.

So here’s to more good design work from the Obama Administration in the future.   And do the jobs of creating the logos count as stimulus-related job creation?   If so, the stimulus is already working.

Why Do Governors Appoint Senators?

Because of Amendment XVII:

When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

Vacancies are to be filled by special election, but until said election, the governor of the state may, but is not required to by the U.S. Constitution, appoint a temporary Senator if state law says the governor can.   Any vacancies in the House, however, must be filled solely by special elections according to Article I, Section 2 no temporary appointments:

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

The Senate practice of temporary appointments is, according to the Congressional Research Service, a holdover [PDF] from the original election procedure of senators where, prior to the 17th Amendment, state legislatures would choose the senators for their state:

This practice originated with the constitutional provision that applied prior to the popular election of senators, under which governors were directed to make temporary appointments when state legislatures were in recess. It was intended to ensure continuity in a state’s Senate representation during the lengthy intervals between state legislative sessions.

Another aspect of our government and election system dictated by antiquated rules and practices (like voting on a Tuesday; more on that later), but not if Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold has his way.   On Sunday, Feingold announced:

The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators. They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people. I plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to require special elections when a Senate seat is vacant, as the Constitution mandates for the House, and as my own state of Wisconsin already requires by statute. As the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, I will hold a hearing on this important topic soon.

Given the recent, shall we say, circus with the vacant Senate seat in Illinois and the odd and ill-fated pseudo-campaign of a certain would-be senator for New York, the power to decide the representative of the people should be left to the people.

State of Excitement

When was the last time a cabinet secretary was greeted with such excitement arriving to his or her first day of work?   Below, State Department employees cheer the arrival of Secretary Hillary Clinton:

The Obameter

A very handy guide to track the progress on campaign promises of President Obama: The Obameter from PolitiFact.

obameter

(Nod: The Daily Dish)

One Fix Done, One Fix Needed, One Fix Erred

Here is an update in my ongoing interest keeping up with Washington’s constitutional shenanigans.

Back on 19 December I wrote about then-Senator Hillary Clinton officially receiving a Saxbe Fix to, according to Congress, make her eligible to become a cabinet secretary.   In the same post, I mentioned then-Senator Ken Salazar needed a fix as well.   Unknown to me until this morning, Congress passed Senate Joint Resolution 3 (S.J.Res.3) on 7 January 2009 making Salazar eligible for his cabinet post.

I also mentioned Representative Hilda Solis needed a Saxbe Fix to become the secretary of labor.   Thus far, there has been no fix for her, and she still has yet to be voted on by the Senate.

Finally, I wrote then-Representative Ray LaHood needed a fix as well, but I was mistaken: he retired from Congress and thus was not reelected.   With his term expiring at the end of the previous Congress, he is safe from Article I, Section 6.

So here’s to yet another Saxbe Fix and a debate on fixing the Saxbe Fix.

“Abundance of Caution”

oath 2

Last evening in the Map Room, Chief Justice John Roberts re-administered the presidential oath of office to President Obama to dispel any questions of whether or not Obama is the legal president.

In a written statement, White House Counsel Greg Craig said, “We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday. 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.” He was, of course, referring to this flub from Tuesday.

Ben Smith posts the White House pool report about the event:

At 735 pm, Roberts administred the oath of office again to obama in the map
room. Robert gibbs said the wh counsel, greg craig, believes the oath was
fine Tuesday, but one word was out of sequence so they did this out of a
“an abundance of caution.”
“We decided it was so much fun…” Obama joked while sitting on a couch.
Obama stood and walked over to make small talk with pool as roberts donned
his black robe.
“Are you ready to take the oath?” Roberts asked.
“I am, and we’re going to do it very slowly,” obama replied.
Oath took 25 seconds.
After a flawless recitation, roberts smiled and said, “congratulations,
again.”
Obama said, “thank you, sir.”
Smattering of applause.
“All right.” Obama said. “The bad news for the pool is there’s 12 more
balls.”

(Photo: Pete Souza/The White House)

My Dream Job?

At 12:01 PM EST yesterday, the White House website was switched over to reflect the new administration.   With the new website comes a White House blog, and one of the first posts explains the purpose of the blog: communication, transparency, and participation.

This I thought was interesting:

Participation — President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

But what I found most interesting was the title of the post author, Macon Phillips: White House Director of New Media.

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?

Watch out, Macon.   I may be coming after you!

Hope and Virtue

In President Obama’s inaugural speech, the core message was to break from and right the mistakes of the past with core American values while urging a greater sense of togetherness.   This speech wasn’t the lofty rhetoric Obama was oft criticized about all show and no substance.   No, this speech was all substance: it’s time to remake America, and that will require sacrifice and responsibility from all.

From the transcript:

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

This is the way I see Barack Obama: as a trans-partisan figure.   The debate shouldn’t be about red vs. blue, one party vs. another party; the debate should be about pragmatism.   Does the government work for the people it is meant to work for?

And this passage, a repudiation of the Constitutional distaste and unilateralism of the Bush Administration, also gives me hope for what to expect from an Obama Administration:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

I think it may be easy for many to dismiss this speech simply because it didn’t contain those one or two lines that generations will recite in classrooms.   But those who may dismiss the speech lose sight of the core message: we face problems not solvable by generic, lofty rhetoric.   The problems we face can only be solved by substance, and it’s time to get to work.

With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.

“Faithfully Execute”

It’s official now: Barack Obama is the President of the United States.   Today in front of a massive, tearful, and cheerful crowd, history was made and the peaceful continuity of government achieved.

The oath of office of the 44th President of the United States:

A small hiccup in today’s ceremonies, but no big deal.   It seems that President Obama’s talking over Chief Justice John Roberts may have shook his focus enough to then slightly scramble “faithfully” in the oath which then caught Obama off guard (because no doubt he practiced in the correct order).   Roberts then got the order correct, but Obama recited Robert’s initial wrong line, “execute the office of President of the United States faithfully” instead of “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.”

Knowing that both the president and chief justice are still human is pleasingly reassuring.

From Sea to Shining Sea

flag

Today, Inauguration Day, is a celebration of the moment and the future.   For me, the day is summed up in one word: wow.

Wow in the sense the United States will inaugurate its first African-American president.   One-hundred forty-six years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and forty-six years after Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech, the work and dreams of two men and countless others have been realized.   Collectively, we as a nation can judge beyond the color of someone’s skin.   After all, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Wow in the sense of the peaceful transition of power.   No matter the disagreements between outgoing and incoming presidents, no matter the personal feelings of the two men, no matter any animosity that exists between the political factions of the two men and their supporters, the dream of the Founding Fathers lives on today.

Wow in the sense of a more personal reflection.   I was a supporter and admirer of soon-to-be-President Barack Obama since well before he was a candidate for president.   When I saw him speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I realized this man was going somewhere, and he would take the rest of us with him.   I wrote about him, I talked to friends and family about him, I attended a rally of his, and I donated to and volunteered for his campaign.   The magnificent journey that was the 2008 presidential campaign and that I and so many others participated in comes to a close tomorrow.

But with that closure comes a new chapter.   I don’t think anyone envies Obama and the enormous task he and we face.   I have no doubt, though, as he’s demonstrated in the weeks leading up to his assumption of power today, he has the patience, the intellect, and the ambition to work for and with us to rebuild.

Tomorrow, though, we celebrate, from sea to shining sea.

Wow.

Three Words

Perhaps an overplayed video from the 2008 presidential campaign, but the message surely isn’t overplayed:


The text of Barack Obama’s speech given after the New Hampshire primary and quoted in the video:

But the reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago is because it’s not just about what I will do as president. It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it.

That’s what this election is all about.

That’s why tonight belongs to you. It belongs to the organizers, and the volunteers, and the staff who believed in this journey and rallied so many others to join the cause.

We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come.

We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

And so, tomorrow, as we take the campaign south and west, as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas, that the hopes of the little girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A., we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.

And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.

Past, President, and Future

On Tuesday, President Bush invited President-elect Obama and former-presidents Clinton, Bush, and Carter to the White House for a lunch and a lovely photo op:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25PUaAE5H1A

In photo ops such as this, I always wonder if aides to the gentlemen consult what color of ties the other gentlemen are planning to wear.   The two Bushes and Obama all are wearing a nearly identically-colored ensemble, but if you switch out the tie colors, a little variety and separation would be present.

Even in presidential debates, do both campaigns coordinate the tie colors as part of the myriad of rules for the debates?

Or am I overthinking this? :-)

The Tank

Here’s more on my November post about the new limousine for the inaugural parade from The Detroit News:

Spy shots of a test version of the new presidential limousine made the rounds on blogs this summer, with some suggesting it was built on GM’s medium-duty truck platform and had a diesel engine. But those photos didn’t have GM production panels.

Another company provides heavy armor that is reportedly at least 5 inches thick for the vehicle. The limousine also has run-flat tires, bulletproof glass and a completely sealed interior to ward off a chemical attack, among many other high-tech security features. It also has electronic communications equipment.

And this:

[GM spokesman David] Caldwell said it would be a mistake to classify the new vehicle as a truck or a sedan.

“The president is not riding in a medium-duty truck, nor he is riding in a sedan,” he said, adding that it is a “unique” vehicle.

Yeah, it’s not a truck or a sedan.   It’s a tank.   Just look at how thick the door is (!):

limo door

(Nod: Marc Ambinder)

Senator Clinton Is Officially Saxbe-Fixed

CNN is reporting President Bush signed the bill cutting the salary of the secretary of state so Senator Clinton can get around Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution.   With that, Clinton’s Saxbe Fix is finalized.   Now we just need one for Senator Ken Salazar (nominated for Secretary of the Interior), Representative Ray LaHood (nominated for Secretary of Transportation), and Representative Hilda Solis (nominated for Secretary of Labor).   Whew.   Anyone else?

The Race That Won’t End

Election 2008 still isn’t over.   At least not for Minnesotans. Incumbent Senator Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken are battling each other in a recount that doesn’t seem to end.   In question now are absentee ballots that may or may not have been unfairly rejected on election night.   The Coleman campaign, citing the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause, says they shouldn’t be counted until there is a uniform process for counting them.   I absolutely agree.   One county shouldn’t be using a different set of standards to count ballots than another county is using.

Today, we received some more news. From CNN:

Minnesota’s Supreme Court Thursday barred officials from including rejected absentee ballots in the recount of the state’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race unless both of the candidates and elections officials agree the ballot was improperly rejected.

What are the odds both of the candidates agree on which ballot to count and which one not to?   And this question begs another.   How long will this last?   And will there be a victor come 3 January when the new Congress is sworn in?   One possibility in this mess: Article I, Section 5, Paragraph 1 of the U.S. Constitution:

Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Emphasis mine.   So the Senate has the power to intervene in the Coleman/Franken race.   Will they?

Oh, and as an aside, a recount is one very strong reason why we shouldn’t popularly elect the president.   A national recount in a close election would be a nightmare.   But this is a discussion topic for a different day.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar Unconstitutional, Too

The LA Times is reporting Colorado Senator Ken Salazar will be nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to be Secretary of the Interior (nod: FiveThirtyEight).   From the LA Times:

If confirmed, Salazar would head a department with a broad portfolio, including managing the troubled Bureau of Indian Affairs. Salazar, 53, would also oversee the nation’s national parks and other large swaths of public lands, making him the country’s foremost landlord. And he would be responsible for the Bureau of Land Management, which sets policy for oil and gas drilling, mining and other resource extraction on public land.

But guess what?   Senator Salazar will be another senator appointed to a civil office that received a pay raise while the senator was serving his or her term.   So, like Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Salazar is constitutionally ineligible from becoming a cabinet secretary.   But I imagine, also like Senator Clinton, Congress will issue a Saxbe Fix for him.

So isn’t it about time we discuss changing Article I, Section 6?   I’m not saying remove it, but at least add language to the effect of “unless Congress shall by law provide for a Senator or Represenatative to be appointed to the civil office” etc. so the Saxbe Fix isn’t so questionable any more.

The ‘O’

Logo Design Love writes about some of the Obama logo ideas that were part of the development process getting to the final logo.

The three finalists:

Finalist #1:

obama logo finalist 1

The masked imagery is interesting, but still weak, and that image reminds me of the default desktop on Windows XP.   Clearly, though, the designers smartly realized early on the ‘O’ would go a long way.

Finalist #2:

obama logo finalist 2

The bubbles are a very interesting concept but seem wildly out of place in a political campaign.   This reminds me of the Charles Schwab “Talk to Chuck” commercials with the big quote balloons.   I can imagine these Obama balloons animating in a similar fashion.

One of the problems with #1 and #2 is the lack of the strong symbolism that people can subconsciously buy into like any great marketing brand/logo (Nike’s swish, Apple’s apple, McDonald’s golden arches, etc.).   A strong symbol that transcends ordinary design in the field and becomes instantly recognizable without any supporting text.   That leads us to…

Finalist #3:

obama logo finalist 3

Designer Sol Sender notes:

Originally the stripes were kind of symmetrically expressed across the horizon, and as we went into final refinements we felt that giving it a little bit more dimension, a little bit more motion, ways to enter into it a little bit more for the viewer was a better way to go.

And, of course, the final design:

obama logo

I can’t imagine an Obama campaign without that logo.   Like the campaign itself, the logo and graphic design of the campaign were a successful and remarkable exercise in discipline.   The logo skillfully symbolizes his theme (sunrise: a new day), America (flag allusion, rolling hills), and himself (the letter ‘O’).   Fantastic.

(Nod: Brand New)

Congress Saxbe-Fixes Senator Hillary Clinton

In regards to the constitutionality of Senator Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of state, people on the left, I think, might be quick to dismiss this case as silly and simply politically-driven, and people on the right might be quick to dismiss this case because it would widely be viewed as politically driven if they (other Senators charged with confirming Clinton) challenged her nomination based on the constitutionality of it (not to mention having a past lack of concern with the Bush Administration’s, shall we say, cavalier attitude to certain parts of the Constitution).

For a recap, here’s Article I, Section 6, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office

So, no senator or representative can be appointed to a civil office (e.g. a cabinet position) during their current Congressional term if that office received a pay increase during their term in Congress.   As I wrote last month, the Office of the Secretary of State received a pay raise this year, during Senator Clinton’s current Senate term.   Thus, according to Article I, Section 6, she is ineligible.

Congress, however, has dealt with this problem before in what has been called “the Saxbe Fix.”   President Nixon appointed Ohio Senator William Saxbe to be attorney general, but the office received a pay increase while he was serving his Senate term.   In response, Congress lowered his pay to the level before he began his term.   This again happened in 1993 when President Clinton appointed Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen to be secretary of the treasury.   This past Wednesday, Congress took up the issue again and passed S.J. 46, a joint resolution lowering the salary of the secretary of state to the January 2007 level before Senator Clinton was sworn in to her current Senate term.   Here’s the text of the resolution, now in President Bush’s hands:

  • (a) In General- The compensation and other emoluments attached to the office of Secretary of State shall be those in effect January 1, 2007, notwithstanding any increase in such compensation or emoluments after that date under any provision of law, or provision which has the force and effect of law, that is enacted or becomes effective during the period beginning at noon of January 3, 2007, and ending at noon of January 3, 2013.
  • (b) Civil Action and Appeal-
    • (1) JURISDICTION- Any person aggrieved by an action of the Secretary of State may bring a civil action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to contest the constitutionality of the appointment and continuance in office of the Secretary of State on the ground that such appointment and continuance in office is in violation of article I, section 6, clause 2, of the Constitution. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia shall have exclusive jurisdiction over such a civil action, without regard to the sum or value of the matter in controversy.
    • (2) THREE JUDGE PANEL- Any claim challenging the constitutionality of the appointment and continuance in office of the Secretary of State on the ground that such appointment and continuance in office is in violation of article I, section 6, clause 2, of the Constitution, in an action brought under paragraph (1) shall be heard and determined by a panel of three judges in accordance with section 2284 of title 28, United States Code. It shall be the duty of the district court to advance on the docket and to expedite the disposition of any matter brought under this subsection.
    • (3) APPEAL-
      • (A) DIRECT APPEAL TO SUPREME COURT- An appeal may be taken directly to the Supreme Court of the United States from any interlocutory or final judgment, decree, or order upon the validity of the appointment and continuance in office of the Secretary of State under article I, section 6, clause 2, of the Constitution, entered in any action brought under this subsection. Any such appeal shall be taken by a notice of appeal filed within 20 days after such judgment, decree, or order is entered.
      • (B) JURISDICTION- The Supreme Court shall, if it has not previously ruled on the question presented by an appeal taken under subparagraph (A), accept jurisdiction over the appeal, advance the appeal on the docket, and expedite the appeal.
  • (c) Effective Date- This joint resolution shall take effect at 12:00 p.m. on January 20, 2009.

To my point about people on the left blowing this situation off, Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central, a branch of left-leaning Talking Points Memo, had this to say last week:

Is Hillary really Constitutionally ineligible to be Obama’s Secretary of State, as some right-wingers are claiming?

Well, as I wrote here and last month, yes, she really is constitutionally ineligible, but I’m hardly a right-winger.   And he called the Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section VI) a “frivolous legal technicality.”   So I guess that would make the Constitution is a frivolous legal document as well?

For people on the left, complaining about the current president violating the Constitution while giving the president-elect a pass seems to make the former moot, no?   They’d argue that the former’s violations were detrimental to the rule of law, separation of powers, etc., but that the latter’s violation was okay because nobody got hurt from it and you’re willing to look the other way?

I’m not saying Senator Clinton shouldn’t be secretary of state.   Although I’m no fan of the Clintons, she’s an ambitious, smart person and has strong connections with and a strong rapport amongst world leaders.   But as I wrote last month, I’m fairly certain no one could argue Senator Clinton is receiving this appointment out of some corrupt practice, which the Emoluments Clause was to protect against.   Nor can anyone argue she’s taking this office for the money.   The Saxbe Fix ought to be enough to get her by the Emoluments Clause.

But the Saxbe Fix isn’t enough for the conservative no-fans-of-the-Clintons Judicial Watch.   Manu Raju at Politico reports Judicial Watch

is considering litigation to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming the next Secretary of State, saying Congress’ action Wednesday to clear a legal hurdle for her nomination runs counter to the Constitution.

I’m not sure what standing they would have to base their case on before the appointment and confirmation, but after is a different story.   Eugene Volokh quotes Michael Stokes Paulsen’s 1994 Is Lloyd Bentsen Unconstitutional? article:

A person adversely affected by a Treasury Department regulation promulgated by Secretary Bentsen say, for example, new Treasury or IRS regulations implementing President Clinton’s tax hikes would have standing to sue to have such regulations overturned on the ground that the Secretary of the Treasury was illegally appointed.

Likewise, someone could use this argument against a Secretary Clinton.   And I find it interesting that Congress built in a “Civil Action and Appeal” section to the joint resolution.

But before someone could bring a case against her appointment, she has to be appointed, and this week Congress cleared the way for said action.   We’ll see what comes next.   Again, though, this side-stepping of the Constitution is dangerous.   Adhere to the document or take the necessary steps to change it.   There shouldn’t be some dubiously-questionable middle ground like the Saxbe Fix.