Friday, April 30, 2010

Asked to grade Obama's presidency

Robert P. Watson, Ph.D.
Coordinator of American Studies at Lynn University Email:

I am always being asked to grade Obama's presidency.
In place of offering him a grade, I put together a list of his accomplishments thus far. I think you would agree that it is very impressive. His first six months have been even more active than FDRs or LBJs the two standards for such assessments. Yet, there is little media attention given to much of what he has done.
Of late, the media is focusing almost exclusively on Obama's critics, without holding them responsible for the uncivil, unconstructive tone of their disagreements or without holding the previous administration responsible for getting us in such a deep hole.
The misinformation and venom that now passes for political reporting and civic debate is beyond description. As such, there is a need to set the record straight. What most impresses me is the fact that Obama has accomplished so much not from a heavy-handed or top-down approach but from a style that has institutionalized efforts to reach across the aisle, encourage vigorous debate, and utilize town halls and panels of experts in the policy-making process.
Beyond the accomplishments, the process is good for democracy and our democratic processes have been battered and bruised in recent years. Let me know if I missed anything in the list (surely I did).

1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending
2. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices
3. Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women
4. Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB
6. Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information
7. Ended media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier's family
8. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act
9. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible
10. Limits on lobbyist's access to the White House
11. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
12. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date
13. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren't even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan
14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research
15. Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
16. New federal funding for science and research labs
17. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards
18. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect
19. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools
20. New funds for school construction
21. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out
22. US Auto industry rescue plan
23. Housing rescue plan
24. $789 billion economic stimulus plan
25. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying
26. US financial and banking rescue plan
27. The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed
28. Ended the previous policy; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards
29. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops
30. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010
31. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols
32. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic
33. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
34. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office
35. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job
36. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast
37. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles
38. Cash for clunkers program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulated auto sales
39. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government
40. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children
41. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program
42. Instituted a new policy on Cuba , allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones
43. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
44. Expanding vaccination programs
45. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters
46. Closed offshore tax safe havens
47. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
48. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back
49.. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry's predatory practices
50. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources
51. Lower drug costs for seniors
52. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings
53. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel
54. Improved housing for military personnel
55. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses
56. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals
57. Increasing student loans
58. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program
59. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy
60. Established a new cyber security office
61. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.
62. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts
63. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness
64. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient
65. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced
66. Improving benefits for veterans
67. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration68. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud
69. The FDA is now regulating tobacco
70. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules
71. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports
72. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons
73. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive
74. Making more loans available to small businesses
75. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare
76. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court
77. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans
78. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,00079. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel
80. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan
81. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan
82. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans
83. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production
84. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters
85. Paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket
86. Held first Seder in White House
87. Attempting to reform the nation's healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more under insured
88. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform89. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform
90. Has announced his intention to push for education reform.

Oh, and he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alas, I did not know ye

In Memorium
Frank Winship Redding
August 19, 1955 ~ April 23, 2010
Decoration by Edward Shenton
for 1939 editionThomas Wolfe's
Pg 28

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What I like about the Putney
I like it when it rains and the street lights reflect on the wet pavement below;
I like it when the rain drips down the steadfast masonry of the ancient limestone building,
and it sounds like you're in a tent when the rain drums on the three skylights;
I like it when the floors from the 1880's creak beneath the hallway carpeting;
I like it that those halls are so wide and the doorways are Victorian-cornered;
I like it that the 18 inch walls insure absolute quiet;
I like it that the 18 foot ceilings give you spaciousness;
I like living above the Five Points where the stuffed fox and I hold forth in a second floor loft looking down at the street;
I like being able to walk everywhere. Dave's, the Rochester Deli and a popcorn shop are only a few paces away. Panos' fresh fruit and vegetables likewise.
And that's just me. +++ Dee has her own reasons.......

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Don't fall this time

She is known as FESTOON FOX in these Waukesha parts. She once was named in a contest in the late 1960s during the DDD incarnation. She stood as proudly as she could in her stuffed state, in a small shop window on Grand Ave in the downtown, not far from the mighty Fox River which flows pleasantly through our mutual environs.

She has been restored, in a manner of speaking, and has returned to downtown Waukesha at last, just now in April 2010. She is risen from yearas in a disregarded dusty basement to a rarified high loft ledge. Friend Mel Stark, not a taxidermist by trade but multi-talented, reattached Festoon's right ear and brushed her out, bringing back her reddish luster.

Customers in Dave's Restaurant front booth across the Five Points intersection can look up and see, when the lights are on up here, a smiling (albeit fixed) Festoon holding forth, looking out over her beloved Waukesha, high on the top floor of the historic Putney building. Appropriately, we are in a restored and subdivided hall where the local chapter of the Odd Fellows once held their meetings.

There is something poetic about Festoon's return to the downtown. Look up and see her from Dave's as you dine on their reasonably-priced and happy fare. Festoon's presence is not glaring. She is just there, in the background.
Festoon is this time clamped down so she won't fall from her high perch. She relates well to the sewer raccoons, BTW.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Raccoon News and Entourage Move to Five Points Is Complete
As of yesterday the exodus from the old stand was effective, and the address here is 308 South Street, No. 311 Waukesha WI 53186
Phone 262 547 1427 (same)
Email (also same)

Several years ago we penned a poem about the Five Points, the historic city hub, and the original formation of this convergng street pattern we now look down upon. At that time it was not known that we would someday live here. Irony of ironies. And we wrote:


We don’t think about it very much anymore

but the ghosts of Native Americans might;

we walk, or alas, drive their ancient trading trails

paved many times over;

even our later inter-urban streetcar tracks

are now out of sight,

buried like their lightly-beaten paths

by time and poured concrete,

and newcomers can’t get the gist of traveling downtown,

can’t figure these streets out because so many diagonals

cut through strangely, they say.

But it was all so simple then

for the woodland people

to follow their converging spoke-like paths

to the now downtown five points trading posts,

no doubt

going through thick woods

from their outlying settlements,

intending to live forever in their homeland

upon which they trod so gently.

Pioneers built great improvements

on their sacred burial grounds

and cannons stand in the library park

passing time’s additions, tentatively,

muddying the purer water of days

dim to us, unknown;

but not to the ghosts

who watched the flowing streams

clear away many other silty stirrings

only for a moment hiding customary clarity.

We are being watched by these patient spirits,

these spector ‘savages’ who knew so much.

Their way to our downtown

is abiding.

(Originally printed in LANDMARK, the quarterly of the Waukesha Historic Society)


Here we are today in a loft while the sewer raccoons we began writing about in Dec. 2007 romp - or ceremonially, somberly progress in and out of their primary meeting chamber - which is beneath the old post office. Only one block from here.

Unlike before, the SRN is very close to the raccoonage zeitgeist. We feel the electricity. And we are plugged in through the help and muscle and kindness of many friends and relatives to whom we tender great thanks!

These are early pictures. Things are not arranged as they will be. Pictures are unhung and leaning against the walls, objets d'art scattered about, boxes to be unpacked; some order to be established.
But we are here, be it known, and the South (Street) -land shall rise again.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Light, more light


Lux desideriumuniversitatis:

light is the desire of the universe;

tonight the moon is on its side,

partially lit,

and patiently waiting for

more light,

while Lucinda sings that if wishes were horses

she'd have a ranch;

and in an old storefront on 38th the windows are bright

with the people inside

learning to dance;

the street lamps shine on

November's last stubborn leaves.

The dancers

are moving their mouths,

counting, counting and wishing,

with each breath for I don't know what

horses, maybe,

or more light,

or something

gold that will stay.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

not written by me except copied in my hand
from something I read
(it must have been something I read....)
spied while cleaning out a bookcase:
(click to enlarge)
Stone above found at Northport, Door County WI
long ago

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Slipping silently into the desert.....

It is with some anguish that the Raccoon News packs up to relocate to another home. But 'times change', as we echo, 'and with them their demands.'

We will be broadcasting to you soon on our old MONEY CANNOT BUY basis from a new locus. As the Waukesha raccoon sewer networks do ostensibly run, we will now be only one block from the central meeting place in the historic downtown, which, we are led to believe, is beneath the old post office. That's a good thing.

As we've dug out of this old protective nest, there have been several poignant moments. We will mention only two now. (We're keeping a photographic catalog of several.)

One was the finding of the long lost embosser, headed ZEP, Yibawean Society. Search 'Zep' and 'Yibawe' on the SRN.

Another was the taking down of Erin's bed made from Lake Michigan driftwood that Erin and I collected on the wave-tossed shore at the Schlitz Audubon Center north of Milwaukee.... in 1987.

Dismantling this piece of noble furniture is not something I ever expected to do myself.

click to enlarge all images

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Near head-on with the Graf Zeppelin

Magnificence in the air!

Whilst aeroplanes of the bi- and mono-winged nature circle the gaseous airship and pilots leaned out over their fuselages, clicking perhaps 4 x 5 Speed Graflex camera shutters at the wondrous phenomenon, the Graf glided, was taciturn, and posed willingly.

The ship was known as the LZ 127. Powered by five Maybach 650 HP engines, it coud reach a maximum speed of 80 MPH. The Graf briefly thrilled people around the world. It never crashed and burned.

(Search 'Zep' and 'Zeppelin' in the raccoon news)