Archive for January, 2009

Taking a Mulligan on the Oath

January 21, 2009
Oath of Office Part I

Oath of Office Part I

After 24 hours of listening of everyone from conspiracy theorists to constitutional scholars weighing in President Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts decided to re-do the oath of office.
Obama Oath Pt. 2

Obama Oath Pt. 2

In a private White House ceremony in the Map Room the two retraced their steps out of what the White House called “an abundance of caution.”  Roberts put on his black robe and asked Obama “Are you ready to take the oath?” Obama responded “I am and we’re going to do it very slowly.”
The retaking of the oath is not without precedent, it has been done twice before both following the deaths of sitting presidents.
Chester Arthur taking the Oath Sept. 20, 1881 New York City

Chester Arthur taking the Oath Sept. 20, 1881 New York City In 1881 following the assasination of President Garfield, Chester Arthur took the oath in the living room of his New York City home. He took it again in Washington a few days later.

 In a similar fashion in 1923 the father of then Vice President Calvin Coolidge was the one who administered to him his first oath in the living room of their Vermont home.  (His Dad was a notary and woke his son with the news of the President’s death.)

Calvin Coolidges first oath August 3, 1923 Plymouth, VT

Calvin Coolidges first oath August 3, 1923 Plymouth, VT

Incidentally do you notice anything missing from Obama’s  second oath of office above?  No bible.   The President, who used the Lincoln Bible on Tuesday said he simply didn’t have one with him.   For the record you don’t need a bible for the oath to be binding.   Teddy Roosevelt didn’t use one when he took the oath following in Buffalo following the 1901 assassination of William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition.   John Quincy Adams is also said to have placed his hand on a book of laws, not a bible.  Gotta love it.

That was the easy part.

January 20, 2009
Obama's first Northeast Ohio visit as a candidate February 26, 2007

Obama's first Northeast Ohio visit as a candidate February 26, 2007

Obama's Last Visit before Inauguration January 16, 2009

Obama's Last Visit before Inauguration January 16, 2009

Northeast Ohio was one of Barack Obama’s first stops in his run for the White House, it was one of his last stops of the campaign and it was one of the last stops before taking the oath of office.

Inititially it was in deference to the state’s ability to consistently pick a presidential winner but the last stop was much more and he’d be wise to make a few more.

Winning the White House, as hard as it may sound, may likely be an easier feat than what faces 44 in the coming months and likely years.  The economy is in deep distress and we’re just beginning to see the trickle down effects of it with Governor Strickland’s declaration that without Federal help he’ll have to cut state spending next year by 25%.   Local governments and school boards will soon feel the same pinch.

President Obama came to Northeast Ohio last Friday to make a pitch for his economic stimulus package because he knows this is middle America, if his programs don’t fly here they won’t fly. 

He’d be wise to remember that in putting some of those programs into practice.   We were the first in the country to feel the effects of the foreclosure crisis so why not try to stop the bleeding here first.  If you’ve got a plan to put a bottom on this thing why don’t you bring it here,  sell it here, try it out here. 

You want to put Americans to work building bridges, let’s get shovels in the dirt on the Innerbelt.  You want to encourage wind and solar let’s back the efforts of the Great Lakes WIND Network.  Ohio was good to Barack Obama (primary aside) maybe it’s time to return the favor.

BONO, SINATRA, THE WORLD TODAY

January 14, 2009

sinatra

The following is a New York Times OpEd piece from Friday January 9, 2009;  It’s written by U2’s Bono on Frank Sinatra and the world situation today.  Worth a minute of your time.

Dublin:

Once upon a couple of weeks ago …

I’m in a crush in a Dublin pub around New Year’s. Glasses clinking clicking, clashing crashing in Gaelic revelry: swinging doors, sweethearts falling in and out of the season’s blessings, family feuds subsumed or resumed. Malt joy and ginger despair are all in the queue to be served on this, the quarter-of-a-millennium mark since Arthur Guinness first put velvety blackness in a pint glass.

Interesting mood. The new Irish money has been gambled and lost; the Celtic Tiger’s tail is between its legs as builders and bankers laugh uneasy and hard at the last year, and swallow uneasy and hard at the new. There’s a voice on the speakers that wakes everyone out of the moment: it’s Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.” His ode to defiance is four decades old this year and everyone sings along for a lifetime of reasons. I am struck by the one quality his voice lacks: Sentimentality.

Is this knotted fist of a voice a clue to the next year? In the mist of uncertainty in your business life, your love life, your life life, why is Sinatra’s voice such a foghorn — such confidence in nervous times allowing you romance but knocking your rose-tinted glasses off your nose, if you get too carried away.

A call to believability.

A voice that says, “Don’t lie to me now.”

That says, “Baby, if there’s someone else, tell me now.”

Fabulous, not fabulist. Honesty to hang your hat on.

As the year rolls over (and with it many carousers), the emotion in the room tussles between hope and fear, expectation and trepidation. Wherever you end up, his voice takes you by the hand.

 

 

Now I’m back in my own house in Dublin, uncorking some nice wine, ready for the vinegar it can turn to when families and friends overindulge, as I am about to. Right by the hole-in-the-wall cellar, I look up to see a vision in yellow: a painting Frank sent to me after I sang “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with him on the 1993 “Duets” album. One from his own hand. A mad yellow canvas of violent concentric circles gyrating across a desert plain. Francis Albert Sinatra, painter, modernista.

We had spent some time in his house in Palm Springs, which was a thrill — looking out onto the desert and hills, no gingham for miles. Plenty of miles, though, Miles Davis. And plenty of talk of jazz. That’s when he showed me the painting. I was thinking the circles were like the diameter of a horn, the bell of a trumpet, so I said so.

“The painting is called ‘Jazz’ and you can have it.”

I said I had heard he was one of Miles Davis’s biggest influences.

Little pithy replies:

“I don’t usually hang with men who wear earrings.”

“Miles Davis never wasted a note, kid — or a word on a fool.”

“Jazz is about the moment you’re in. Being modern’s not about the future, it’s about the present.”

I think about this now, in this new year. The Big Bang of pop music telling me it’s all about the moment, a fresh canvas and never overworking the paint. I wonder what he would have thought of the time it’s taken me and my bandmates to finish albums, he with his famous impatience for directors, producers — anyone, really — fussing about. I’m sure he’s right. Fully inhabiting the moment during that tiny dot of time after you’ve pressed “record” is what makes it eternal. If, like Frank, you sing it like you’ll never sing it again. If, like Frank, you sing it like you never have before.

If.

 

 

If you want to hear the least sentimental voice in the history of pop music finally crack, though — shhhh — find the version of Frank’s ode to insomnia, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road),” hidden on “Duets.” Listen through to the end and you will hear the great man break as he truly sobs on the line, “It’s a long, long, long road.” I kid you not.

Like Bob Dylan’s, Nina Simone’s, Pavarotti’s, Sinatra’s voice is improved by age, by years spent fermenting in cracked and whiskeyed oak barrels. As a communicator, hitting the notes is only part of the story, of course.

Singers, more than other musicians, depend on what they know — as opposed to what they don’t want to know about the world. While there is a danger in this — the loss of naïveté, for instance, which holds its own certain power — interpretive skills generally gain in the course of a life well abused.

Want an example? Here’s an example. Take two of the versions of Sinatra singing “My Way.”

The first was recorded in 1969 when the Chairman of the Board said to Paul Anka, who wrote the song for him: “I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it. I’m getting the hell out.” In this reading, the song is a boast — more kiss-off than send-off — embodying all the machismo a man can muster about the mistakes he’s made on the way from here to everywhere.

In the later recording, Frank is 78. The Nelson Riddle arrangement is the same, the words and melody are exactly the same, but this time the song has become a heart-stopping, heartbreaking song of defeat. The singer’s hubris is out the door. (This singer, i.e. me, is in a puddle.) The song has become an apology.

To what end? Duality, complexity. I was lucky to duet with a man who understood duality, who had the talent to hear two opposing ideas in a single song, and the wisdom to know which side to reveal at which moment.

This is our moment. What do we hear?

In the pub, on the occasion of this new year, as the room rises in a deafening chorus — “I did it my way” — I and this full house of Irish rabble-rousers hear in this staple of the American songbook both sides of the singer and the song, hubris and humility, blue eyes and red.

Bono, lead singer of the band U2 and co-founder of the advocacy group ONE, is a contributing columnist for The Times.

THE INAUGURATION AND FOOTBALL

January 12, 2009

pdn-eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have made it to two Super Bowls 15 & 39.   Both were in inaugural years.  XV came a few days after Ronald Reagan took his first oath of office in 1981 and XXXIX (yes I had to look up the roman numeral,  I doubted myself when it looked liked I was wrtiting hugs and kisses XOXOX.) That one came just after President George W. Bush took the oath for his second term.   Two Republican Presidents two NFC losses. 

Yes in the last 30 years, with the exception of San Francisco, when the SuperBowl is played in the days following the inauguration the AFC wins if it’s a Republican in the White House (2005-New England, 2001-Baltiomore, 1981-Oakland) and the NFC wins when the Democrats take the oath. (1997-Green Bay & 1993 – Dallas.)

So could we see two Pennsylvania teams playing days after Barack Obama takes the up Pennsylvania Avenue?  Possibly but if it happens fate might be with the  Eagles with Obama being a Democrat.

They still aren’t getting it

January 8, 2009

The politicians in Washington continue to come up with new ways to spend money.  Each with their own stimulus package or tax cut.  What they continue to ignore though is the root cause of the problem, the housing crisis.

You want to find a way to get Americans to spend address the millions of underwater mortgages that continue to fuel the foreclosures which further deepens the economic downturn.

Below is a post from October 5, 2008 that I wish somebody in Washington would address.  With 350-billion dollars in TARP money still available it’s not too late.

FROM OCTOBER 5, 2008; 

Over the final month of the campaign Barack Obama and John McCain will campaign across Northeast Ohio but it is unlikely they will see, in all of their campaigning, what I saw on a side street in Slavic Village the other night and that’s a shame because for my money it is the root cause of our nation’s financial problem.

 

            While my photographer and I were shooting some boarded up homes on the block I was approached by a woman who said “shoot this one they’re taking it in two weeks.”  She was pointing to the home she’s owned for 15 years that was now in foreclosure.

 

            She bought the place she told me for $39,000 and because of a bad loan, she still owes $39,000 (way more than the house is worth) on top of that she told me the place needs about $15,000 in work.  Her solution? Walk away, let the bank foreclose and just take the place.

 

            Home mortgages are no recourse loans.  If you default the bank can take your house but they can’t come after any of your assets.  So as the gap between what people owe on their homes and what the homes are actually worth continues to grow the temptation to do what the woman I met was doing will only be that much greater.

 

            The problem is that only causes home prices to fall further causing that negative equity gap to get even bigger causing more people to walk away which causes… (you get the spiral of a point.)

 

            Until this single problem is addressed the nation’s economic problem will continue to get worse.  Our economy’s been shot and the efforts in Congress are bandaging the wound and slowing the bleeding but ignoring the fact there’s still a bullet in the body.

 

            Harvard Economics professor Martin Feldstein estimates there are 10-million homes with negative equity and that half of those homeowners owe 20% or more over what the house is worth.  Housing prices fell 17% in the last year.  If nothing is done that 10-million will quickly grow to 20-million and that 20% will grow to 30 – 40% and the temptation to default will be too great to resist. 

 

            Feldstein, who was chief financial advisor to Ronald Reagan in his first term, suggests what he calls Mortgage Replacement Loans.  He proposes having the federal government loan homeowners up to 20% of their present mortgage at a very low interest rate.  The money would go to the holder of the mortgage and the homeowner would benefit from a substantially lower monthly house payment. 

 

The loans though would be with full recourse.   This guarantees the government getting their money back but it would also cause someone to think twice about defaulting after getting such a loan because there is no walking away from a loan, you’re still on the hook for it.

 

Is that the answer?  I have absolutely no idea but it’s something worthy of debate and if the candidates say it isn’t then tell me something that is. Until you do more and more people will be walking away and this hole will only get deeper.