Saturday, January 31, 2009

Grating moments ...

This compilation has been emailed to me three times now and it still makes me laugh. So, in case you missed it, here's our blessedly former president showing his usual eloquence and class.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Funeral with Full Honors for Slain homeless U S veteran and three other homeless or indigent veterans

Scenes from an effort to recover some dignity for U.S. military veterans who fell on hard times and died in South Florida. A funeral with full honors was held Saturday Jan. 24 at American Legion Post 29 in Miami to memorialize five veterans including one, Ernest Holman, 67, a Vietnam veteran found beaten to death behind a bus bench on Nov. 17, 2008. The others were homeless or indigent vets.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dan Gelber joins Kendrick Meek in 2010 race for U.S. Senate

Dan Gelber announced for the U.S. Senate this morning, putting two Miami-Dade Democrats in the race to occupy the seat being vacated by one-term Mel Martinez. The election is in 2010 -- right around the corner.

Gelber has been my state representative (District 106) and now my state senator (District 35), and I like his work. The formidable opponent he faces, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (FL-17), showed up Saturday at a funeral for homeless veterans and spoke well about a cause I support. I like Meek, too. So this blog will be neutral and positive, and if others announce their candidacy, I hope to find they are good candidates, too.

Here are links to web sites of the two candidates, and I'll add them to the list of links in the right-hand column.
There's also a post on Daily Kos today about Gelber, with the excellent theme that this is an election -- not an appointment. Good for Florida to have an election, right? Well, we don't have a choice. Unlike New York, Illinois, Delaware and Colorado, our U.S. Senate seat hasn't suddenly become open in the middle of the term, and Mel Martinez seems to plan to serve it out. No appointment needed. Thank goodness, since like some of those other states we do have a dynastic politico lurking in the wings -- Jeb Bush -- and he's of the same party as the governor. Ugh, what an unwelcome thought.

So just to remind us that Jeb remains a possibility even though he's declared himself out of the race, I'm putting up a link here to a post from last year with a blizzard of ammunition that J. Bush has left behind. Jeb, if you run, you're dead meat. Also let's note that no Republican has announced yet for this seat. This will not last.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who else went to the Inauguration?

Anyone who went to Washington for the Inauguration is encouraged to put their thoughts up on this blog. You can do it two ways:
  1. Post a comment to my post below about my experiences in DC.
  2. Send me an email and I'll put it in a separate post naming you as the author. The email address is in the right-hand column, below the entry for Tips.
Enjoy! And don't forget that anyone can post a comment -- you don't have to have gone to the Inauguration.

Larry Thorson

Skywriting for Obama on the National Mall

Cold and bright was the weather. Warm and celebratory was the mood. High over the National Mall were big circles skywritten before 11 a.m. Must be O’s for Obama! A cheer rose from the purposeful throng marching along 23rd Street to spill onto the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. Greeters were wearing inauguration-volunteer watch caps. They high-fived everyone, saying Welcome to the National Mall.

What a day! And that was only getting there.

Your blogger can’t enter that area without paying respects to fallen comrades from the 199th Infantry Brigade, their names inscribed among over 50,000 on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, so I walked the short distance over there, too choked up to speak to two young men who stood aside and let me page through the thick book of names. Ah, here are Lt. Harold W. Winget and SP4 Larry E. Smith, dead now 42 years but still mourned as wasted lives. When will we ever learn about mixing in civil wars?

The map of Washington is overfull of war memorials, and soon we’ll be looking for space for Iraq and Afghanistan. These are reminders of why we need ever-better leaders, and why so much hope is invested in Barack Obama. Can we find ways to disarm and charm the foes? Can we stem our own swagger? It would be great if we can make health care available for all and turn the economy around, but the issues of war and peace are vastly more important. This is how nations rise and fall before the lens of history.

Growing crowds rimmed the frozen Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, centered on big television screens. At the east end, still over a mile from the Inaugural event at the Capitol, three screens drew me and tens of thousands of others, and we settled down together, strangers and friends from our full American diversity, facing toward the Capitol and the Washington Monument and staring mostly quietly at the unfolding spectacle. Early arrivers had climbed up on stone pedestals of the World War II Memorial. A few sat on the cold ground. Everyone else stood and, when the speeches started, cheered and applauded without boisterousness.

Readers of this blog have seen the speech and already have their own ideas. I won’t go into that much but, instead, try to depict some of the surrounding and subsequent atmosphere.

THE CROWD: George W. Bush got a little booing when his name was called, but a man near me, black like the majority of this DC crowd, shushed the booing and said, “Let’s give him a hand.” “Yes, a hand on the way out,” someone agreed.

“I love Michelle,” a woman cried. “Oh, I love her so much.”

We noted right away when the Chief Justice, too vain to write it down, flubbed the oath of office. “What a dope,” I yelled.

A young man wore a powder-blue cape with Obama and the campaign Hope logo on it. A woman carried a framed poster of “SuperObama” in red/blue tights, and she had a pair of shoes around her neck labeled Bush. There were a lot of fur coats worn by majestic DC women, and when they moved sometimes they were in strings of 6-10 people holding the ends of each others’ scarves to keep together. A man carried a tall flagstaff with US and Canadian flags on it.

A surprising number of bikes had been brought to the Mall. After the ceremonies, when I had trudged 2 miles to the north, I saw lots of bikers huffing up Connecticut Avenue beyond Dupont Circle. One young woman with a light road bike stopped there and opted for the 42 bus, complaining that her feet were frozen -- not that she didn’t have strength to go on.

Yes, it was cold, but in the crowd the packed closeness kept the wind away. The temperature may have been below freezing, but it didn’t bite so bad -- until I started home, and the wind cut freely past the edges of the thermal Underarmor that made the day bearable.

Obama’s rhetoric, though fine, somehow lacked the perfect phrase. “Remaking America?” “New era of Responsibility?” Yes, OK, but the words didn’t keep me warm against the building wind. No doubt I wished for too much. In fact, all I had really wished for was to be present at a momentous occasion. It was what had drawn me to Denver so that I could be personally present at Obama’s acceptance of the nomination. This was something I had worked for. And now the thing to do was to get to work -- much too long after election day, I fear. Our sclerotic system of government must be streamlined to get rid of these almost three month between election and inauguration.

A big helicopter flew over as the crowd moved away when the poem and benediction were finished. Someone guessed wrongly that it was now Obama in the chopper. No, this was the last we’ll see of George W. Bush. That was a good thought.

NEXT? The day before the Inauguration was instructive. I attended a two-hour seminar sponsored by Alliance for Justice ( on the coming mission for activists under the Obama administration.

Panelist Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn, stressed a need to create a “sense of shared experience” and not through the mass media but through organizing work. “Hope spreads through human contact,” he said. He saw an opportunity now “to create really big change in a short time.” Conversely, he warned that this could be a dangerous time when demagoguery could rise “and the right wing is very good at this.” He named Rudy Giuliani as one who might be adept at raising law and order as a rally cry for the right.

Van Jones, another panelist and founding president of Green for All (, was emotional as he described the role of Martin Luther King, whose birthday it was, in setting in motion processes that led to Obama’s election. Jones said he took his mission now from the example set by Nelson Mandela after he was freed from prison in South Africa. This is not a time to dial back, but rather “now is the time to intensify the struggle,” Jones said.

The other side will be ready for a fight. On my 1,100-mile drive back to South Florida I kept the radio scanning to find the right-wing message. There was Rush playing some comedian’s song ripping off Simon and Garfunkle’s “I am a Rock” to have the “president” sing “I am Barack, I am the messiah.” Glenn Beck remixed the words of the Inaugural address to have Obama saying crap like “Today I say to you that … America’s decline is inevitable.” Ridicule seems to be the weapon of choice, childish as it is. Some listeners called in to complain, sending Rush into a fit of temper at one point after a loyal-listener caller advised him to quit acting like a little boy. Dennis “the human laugh track” Miller suffered a caller to assert that Obama was going to put us all in drab housing projects like East Germany without any tut-tut of objection. The guy was a former trainer of Iraqi military, and Miller, as usual, congratulated him for keeping Miller’s freedom safe.

And I heard the religious right vow to keep fighting, this on a broadcast of the AFR, American Family Radio (, where morning talk guy Matt Friedeman can probably be found in the archives saying that he’s ready to keep fighting.

Well, of course we can’t expect any of these people to give up their highly paid jobs on the side of money and guns, but one wonders if they listen at all to the bipartisan tone coming out of Barack Obama and the call to pull together to deal with trouble facing all of us. It seems not, at this point. Rush said he was worried that Obama’s order for more openness and less secrecy might make it easier to release information that would lead to prosecutions for torture. Funny, he sounded as if he’s in favor of torture.

Anyway, note how the FOI Act order is excerpted on Wired’s updated report.

FLORIDA DEMOCRATS: Monday afternoon the Florida Democrats in the U.S. House had a jammed reception in a truly grand venue, the Members’ Room of the Library of Congress. Wow. Lovely paneling and tapestries. And the Democrats! I got there rather far into the 2-4 p.m. event and soon had seen my member of the County Commission, Sally Heyman; my member of the State House, newly elected Richard Steinberg; U.S. Reps Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) with her new relaxed hairstyle very nice and Ron Klein (FL-22); former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, who might be thinking of running for office again; state Committeeman Bret Berlin; Bob Goldstein of Democrats of South Dade club; Josh Berkowitz, campaigner and practicing lawyer in Miami Beach; Kenny Newman of soccer ref fame and also a member of the Dade DEC. No doubt many other prominent Dems were there, too, but my eyes could only take in so much.

OTHER FESTIVITIES: With great luck I contacted our Italian volunteer, Andrea Liberati, who was back briefly from Italy to observe the Inauguration and collect notes for the last chapter of his book on having helped Obama win the presidency. With his connection, I crashed a super reception sponsored by the Italian American Democratic Leadership Council. Great snacks and the red wine flowed like water. Two comedians kept the joint laughing, the first, whose name I never caught, said he was half Indian and half Japanese, “So I get my sushi at the 7-11.”

Later to the expensive-ticket party sponsored by DailyKos/Netroots Nation and others, where more good food and drink competed with loud music for attention. I had the pleasure of bumping into Tampa blogger Susan Smith and her husband Norwood, along with fun and interesting people from DC, California and all over. The shrinking mainstream media came up often in conversation, and I heard that the San Francisco Chronicle had not sent extra staff to cover the Inauguration, relying solely on the Washington bureau. Well, what else do we expect? Have they started to cover Washington from Bangalore?

P.S. In coming days I hope to solve some of the mystery of a new camera and be able to post more photos. Anyone able to deal with the Panasonic DMC-LX3 is encouraged to volunteer help.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snowy on I-95 en route home

The white stuff ran out in the center of South Carolina. Finally.
Still cold into Florida but the white stuff in the parking lot at
supper-time Denny's is sand.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crowd is tight

This is in front of three big TV screens south of the Washington
Monument a half-hour before the oath of office.

Your blogger ready for the Inauguration

Freezing this Tuesday morning down on the National Mall but bright
sunshine. Some daring pilots carved big O's in the sky for the new
Commander in Chief. Bravo!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Great crowds in Waahington Monday

First souvenir of the Inauguration

A kind staffer in the Shady Grove Metro station gave me this case for
Metro tickets as I started my trip into D C on Monday.

Gotta stop tearing up so much ...

This is sent from my iPhone on the run. I will try to send short
reports like this from time to time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Safely reached DC area

After 600 miles of I-95 on Saturday, I conquered 500 more miles on Sunday and have reached my temporary hosts in the Maryland suburbs. On Monday I'll be at several pre-inauguration events and hope to have time to do some reporting for us here on Miami-Dade Dems.

On the road again -- Washington, here I come

On I-95, heading for DC

This apparition in the sky greeted me on I-95 not far south of the Daytona area. What the heck was it, anyway? From a distance, when I first saw it well south of this (iPhone) photo, it looked like weather, because the white cloud on the top was more visible. Then as I got closer, it looked more like smoke. Abreast of it, it was very dark smoke from a fairly concentrated fire source. Nothing to take me off the ribbon of concrete and asphalt connecting me with the Inauguration. So it remains a mystery. What the heck was it, anyway?

It’s a thoughtful time, to be driving alone for most of two days. En route to a historic event, with the radio blaring AM and FM, talk shows, music, religion, sports, a smidgeon of news now and then. Where have all the announcers gone? Long time passing. Where have all the DJs gone? Long time ago. Where have all the voices gone? Gone for software every one …

Except on NPR. There still are voices and brains there. Wonder why NPR fades away and can’t be found for a long stretch in east-central Florida. All those low FM freqs occupied by the Lord and his/her minions.

Leaving Miami-Dade, I recalled that Nicole Sandler had sent an email a few days ago about being on the radio Saturday morning, and by some miracle of memory, I correctly tuned the Mustang radio to AM 850, and there the former voice of progressive South Florida on early morning AM 940 was sitting in for Stacy Ritter, the Broward commissioner and tireless campaigner for Barack Obama. Great feat of memory, Larry, and then I decided to try to get into the conversation over what to do about all the misdeeds of the Bush (mal)Administration.

On the second try, I got through to the screener and was put on the queue. Most of the callers were for serious prosecutions of the Bush miscreants, but I had a slightly different idea in mind. It was getting closer and closer to the end of Nicole’s time, and I worried that I might be left out. But about 10 to the hour, I was on. I blurted out that I was on the way to the Inauguration, barreling up I-95, and I wanted to make a different point about the difficult decision on whether to unleash all the powers against the loyal Bushies, or whether to let them get away with vast crimes against humanity and the US Constitution.

My drift was this: I don’t know exactly what to do but I hope that Barack Obama will find a wise course, and since he seems such a wise person, there is hope. I remember what John Dean, once a loyal Nixonite, is saying these days about the spectrum of political tendencies we find in the population. Is this a conservative country? Sometimes it seems terribly conservative, but this may be a temporary phenomenon caused by the luck and skill that the conservative minority has had in winning too many elections lately – until 2006. Research shows that there’s a firm minority with authoritarian tendencies, and they may number 25-30 percent. This may be why, though Bush is clearly the worst president in a very long time, he still seldom drops below 30 percent approval. The other thing about the people in that minority of 25-30 percent is that they’re loyal to a fault, and they tend to be heavily represented in the military and the first responders – in other words, they’re important for taking care of the rest of us slackers.

So my final point to Nicole Sandler was that I hope the resolution of this issue – prosecute or let them off? – does not alienate this large minority, because we need them.

Nicole then jumped back in and started agreeing with most of my line of thought, though I didn’t hear exactly all of it, because the screener came up in my earpiece (I was hands-free-talking into the iPhone’s throat mike) and said “Thanks for calling, sir” and cut the phone connection. It took me quite a few seconds to get the earpieces out and turn up the car radio again, so I missed a lot of Nicole’s wrapup. And of course there had been a delay of a couple seconds in releasing me for broadcast in case I said one of the seven deadlies.

Anyway: Thanks, Nicole Sandler, for letting me get in the last call, and we wish you more and more gigs!

It was satisfying to get in a little broadcast punditry en route to Washington, and I mulled over in my mind what I’d left out, such as reference to the South African brilliance of truth commissions after the end of apartheid. Grant absolution in advance as long as the miscreants tell everything. What an idea. Is it still working? I don’t know. It was better in the early years, at least, than the Yugoslav experience, in which the ethnic hatreds were forcibly held down for decades under Tito rather than being illuminated and, perhaps, reduced through the experience of public confession.

Then, an hour or two up the road, the radio gave me a jolt in the other direction – away from mercy for the miscreants who have dragged this country through the mud for the last two presidential terms. What was it? A voice from 40 years ago – Chuck Colson. This country is so good at redemption. Here is the guy known as Nixon’s Hatchetman. He went to jail after Watergate, got religion, and now is a guru of the religious right. The program had a host who led us listeners to the brink of buying both the printed book and the audio version of one of Colson’s books. “This way you really get it packed in,” he said, or something like that, not having the brain to connect this with brainwashing.

And then there was Colson’s voice down the telephone with all the combination of fundamentalist Christianity and “well, I guess I’m conservative” political thought.

(This entire "interview" with Colson revealed itself to be pretty stale. Though it sounded sort of current, Colson dated it to last summer by saying that the Democratic ticket was still undecided, and it was down to two candidates. Guess the listeners in north Florida will be surprised when one of the Democrats gets inaugurated on Tuesday.)

Now I can only paint myself pretty na├»ve to think that there’s a good alternative to thorough investigation and prosecution. If miscreants like Colson and G. Gordon Liddy can be admired gurus decades after the disgrace of felony jail time, what can the following generations expect to emerge from the debris of loyal Bushies and their crimes? They will become billionaires and media royalty, especially if they get a slap on the wrist.

What else from the first day on the road to Washington?

  • In the Jacksonville area I caught a black station for a few minutes (92.5 FM?) with two talkers who surprised me as they started pondering what to do about such a lot of people getting shot lately. Huh? What’s going on in JAX? They seemed to have good ideas about ways to try to keep youth busy. Pity that it takes money.
  • There’s this from the NY Times website. Good stuff coming for the first full-tilt cyberspace Inauguration.
  • I also note that other newspapers up the Florida coast are reporting good local participation in the National Service Day that Barack has called for on Monday. Here's a snip from the Palm Beach Post. The NY Times site (above) has ways for ordinary people to offer their photos and stories to the national spread of Inauguration events.

There is a true tingle to this. This is the best pre-inauguration mood I’ve experienced, going back to JFK when I was 20.

Pray keep us all safe and happy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kendrick Meek for Senate: news coming soon

The announcement seems to be expected on Tuesday. Here's the Herald and the AP predicting that Kendrick Meek will run for the seat long held by Bob Graham in honorable fashion -- Thanks for voting against Iraq, Sen. Graham! -- and more recently by the yes-man Mel Martinez. Will Rep. Meek (FL-17) be the first to announce?

Good luck to all candidates.

See our presidents, listen to Ravel

Here's the link, thanks to a friend:

I note that Grover Cleveland was our last bearded president.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Moon over Miami

Don't try to blow up this photo. The moon will become an octagon.

Experimenting a little here with a still captured from a video taken with the Flip camcorder, the latest technology trick in my bag.

This scene was taken early in the morning looking west from Miami Beach, with the moon about to set over a corner of Biscayne Bay. In this view, the moon is not exactly over Miami, rather over Surfside, starting on the right edge of the photo.

The video can be seen at this link:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Better biking on Rickenbacker to Key Biscayne

Inauguration event Saturday morning ... David Henderson, county bike coordinator, is on left.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Comprehensive FAQ on Inauguration Day in Washington

Thanks to my likely hosts in the capital, here's the Washington Post's FAQ on how to deal with Inauguration Day in Washington DC.

Note there will be people out there with calipers to measure your back pack to make sure it's not too big.

Free country?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

First rosy dawn of 2009

Happy New Year!