Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Final Post

By Ben Trott

This will be the last post to this blog. A few quick words before shut down, however…

This project began in September 2008. The idea was to try and provide a space in which to discuss and debate the meaning of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy from the perspective of the global left. It was originally intended to run until election day on November 4. Original texts were commissioned from political activists, intellectuals, academics, journalists and others. News and opinion by, about, or likely to be of interest to the left was aggregated from elsewhere on the web.

As a number of people pointed out at the time, however, the period of transition which began with Obama’s election and came to a close with his inauguration on January 20, provided an important opportunity for the left to build pressure on the then president-elect to start delivering on his promise of ‘change’. The transition was also, it was thought, likely to serve as an indicator of the directions his administration might take. The blog, then, tried to reinvent itself as a location in which these processes were tracked and debated.

Of course, the policy decisions the administration is likely to take remain open for contestation now that Obama has entered office. It is the domestic constellation of forces – to Obama’s left and right; in Congress and on the streets – as well as the economic, military, social and political transformations taking place on a global level, which will largely determine what the administration can or cannot achieve. Whether or not, for instance, Obama is able to deliver a ‘New New Deal’ will depend in large part on the force with which it is demanded; its form and content determined by the competing interests that seek to shape policy and influence the direction of social development.

Throughout Obama’s election campaign, the period of transition, and the first few days of his Presidency, numerous comparisons have been drawn with those who have occupied the office before him. JFK’s often ‘professorial’ style, his ability to enthuse the country’s youth, and his promise of generational change; and Obama’s own series of nods towards the governing style of Abraham Lincoln have all been widely discussed. And while the parallels between both the current economic crisis and that of the Great Depression, as well as between Obama and FDR, have been overstated, the left can nevertheless draw a few lessons from the 1930s. In response to the demands placed on him by the left, Roosevelt has often been paraphrased as saying, ‘I am convinced. Now go out and make me do it.’

The real question which this blog has sought to address, then, and which the global left needs to continue asking itself, is not really how progressive, liberal or leftwing is Barack Obama? It is rather: How can those of us on the left, in the US and beyond, develop a means of building pressure on the incoming President to push policy radically to the left – whatever his own ‘natural’ inclinations may be? This is, of course, a question to which this blog – and its contributors – have certainly not found any definitive answer; and it is one, I suspect, which will continue to be asked elsewhere. I hope, however, that these pages have made some small contribution to this important debate.

On which note, I would like to thank all of those who - directly and indirectly - contributed to this blog, and whom I imagine will continue to address this and other questions in the future.

First and foremost, my thanks go out to all those authors who contributed texts either to this blog or the magazine:
Doug Henwood, Gary Younge, Jo-ann Mort, Betsy Reed and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Graeme Chesters, Rayyan Mirza, Tadzio Mueller, Stefano Harney, Keir Milburn, Sue Katz, Raffaele Sciortin, Imran Ayata, Ewa Jasiewicz, Geoffrey Whitehall, Immanuel Wallerstein (also, here), Valery Alzaga, Patrick Bond, Rob Augman, Bill Fletcher Jr. (also, here), and Peter Tatchell.

Secondly, I would like to express thanks to all those columnists, bloggers and commentators on whose work I drew and to whom I often linked. I hope readers of this blog will continue to follow them. They include: Michael Tomasky at Guardian America, Gary Younge at the Guardian, Naomi Klein, Scott Horton at Harper’s magazine, John Nichols and Katrina Vanden Heuvel at the Nation, and Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch.com.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Tadzio Mueller, Manuela Bojadžijev, Imran Ayata and Dont Rhine for numerous conversations (and endless forwarded emails!) which have somehow influenced this blog.

And, naturally, thanks to everyone who has been reading!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

'The Audacity of Dope'

By Ben Trott

There have been some fairly unusual attempts to cash in on Obama's current popularity, beyond the usual badges, fridge magnets and T-shirts that often accompany political campaigns.

IKEA set up a replica Oval Office (photo) in a Washington DC's Union Station, using slogans including 'Fiscally Responsible Home Furnishings', 'The Time for Domestic Reform has Come', and 'Change Begins At Home'. They even launched a website to allow you to recommend IKEA furnishings to the White House.

Pepsi have launched a Refresh Everything campaign. And Ben and Jerry's have released a new flavour of ice cream, Yes PeCan. The most recent addition to the unofficial Obama merchandising drive: Obama heroin. Seriously!

Inaugural Protest Events

By Ben Trott

As I am sure you are aware, enormous - probably record - numbers attended Obama's inauguration last week. To get some idea of the size of the crowds, take a look at this satellite image. Amongst them were a number of protest groups (although some described their planned activities as 'presence' rather than 'protest') seeking to build pressure on the Obama administration from the left.

Democracy Now! have a short report on CODE PINK's activities at the inauguration, with an interview with one of the organisation's founders Medea Benjamin. (See also this blog entry on the Washington Times website).

The Hope from People bloc planned for the inauguration, and previously mentioned on this blog, would appear to have drawn rather low numbers. This was despite being endorsed by several prominent leftists such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and groups like Unconventional Denver who helped coordinate protests around the Democratic National Convention in August, Wooden Shoe Books Collective who run an anarchist Infoshop in Philadelphia, the San Francisco-based Friendly Fire Collective, and - again - CODE PINK. Participants gathered to distribute a flyer advocating anarchist alternatives to the notion that change can take place through the presidency. However, according to a frustrated comment posted to the bloc's blog, the event attracted 'no more than 15 to 20 people.' At present, no other report from the events in DC has been posted to the bloc's website.

In San Francisco, over the weekend prior to the inauguration, 5,000 people threw shoes at a cardboard cut-out George Bush in a form of protest which became rather widespread in the last days of his presidency. The protests were organised by Courage to Resist and Direct Action to Stop the WarAccording to David Solnit, an activist and author of Globalize Liberation and Army of None, many throwers also signed the following Peace Pledge,
'President Obama,

'We take it seriously when on election night you said, "This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change." We publicly commit that that "we the people" will organize ourselves and our communities to take action to make those changes. We agree with your statement, "I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."

'We urge you to join us in working for these five essential changes to end the war and to begin to "end the mindset that got us into war:"

Including "non-combat" troops, private contractors (i.e. Blackwater), and close all US military bases in Iraq.

Give reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stop the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future.

* No escalation of war in Afghanistan; troops should be withdrawn.
* Stop attacks inside Pakistan. Don't attack Iran.
* Cut military aid to governments that violate human rights or international law, such as Israel in what Amnesty International calls an "unlawful attack on Gaza."
* Close Guantanamo and all secret prisons

* Close all 800 foreign US military bases.
* Reduce military budget and troops; Stop wasting hundreds of billions needed for health care, housing, education, and green energy/jobs.

* Amnesty for all GI resisters who refuse illegal war.
* Full benefits, adequate health care (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.

'a better world is possible.


'Concerned People in the United States'
In an article by Solnit for New York's Indypendent newspaper shortly before the inauguration he wrote,
'Barack Obama’s election seems to have dispelled some of the despair that grew up in the repressive war-making aftermath of September 11 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq and Bush’s re-election. This is good for organizing - people step up out of hope, not despair. Many of us who have a deep critique of Democrats, political parties and politicians, however, are left conflicted or confused. Whether we will see the opening of a space for real positive changes or an era in which movements and resistance get co-opted depends on whether and how we organize - and if we learn key lessons from past global justice (and other) organizing and understand how Obama’s campaign (and the independent efforts for Obama) communicated, organized and inspired.'
He then goes on to suggest five lessons which could be learned by radical movements in the Obama-era.

The 'Economist' on Obama and the Question of Betrayal

By Ben Trott

The 'Lexington' column in this week's Economist focusses on Obama's betrayal of the left - either real or perceived. It lists some of the criticism which have so far been made of Obama by progressives, liberals and those further to the left - many of which have also been flagged up on this blog.

Unsurprisingly, when the paper ask the question (which one cannot help feeling is being asked somewhat rhetorically) 'Should Mr Obama worry about all this?', there answer is: 'Not much.' The column continues,
'For one thing, he is still hugely popular. A whopping 79% of Americans approve of him. Two days before the inauguration, when a preacher told a crowd that Mr Obama was not the Messiah, he was booed (in jest, one hopes). For another, Mr Obama is not breaking as many promises as his former fans imagine. Mostly, he is breaking only promises they think he made. Had they read the small print, they would have seen that he left himself some wiggle room. During his campaign Mr Obama was, as he put it himself, “a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project[ed] their own views”. He gave a lot of people the strong impression that their most urgent goals were also his. As president, he can no longer maintain this illusion.

'He must make trade-offs. He wants to cool the planet, but without stifling growth. He wants to close Guantánamo, but without freeing anyone who will then shoot up a shopping mall. He cannot govern from the centre without upsetting his left flank from time to time; nor should he try. He also wants to be re-elected and, if the past is any guide, he will pursue this goal with ruthless pragmatism. During the campaign, for example, he said he favoured civil unions but refused to endorse gay marriage. Cynical observers suspected a fudge—that he said this only to dull the sting of Republican attack ads. It seems the cynics were right: last week a gay paper dug up a long-lost questionnaire from 1996 in which he strongly endorsed gay marriage. In this case, Mr Obama really is more liberal than the image he projected. In others, the opposite may be true. The world will know soon enough.'
The LGBT paper referred to is the Windy City Times, which as the name implies is based in Obama's former hometown of Chicago. Politico.com have uploaded the relevant pages of the newspaper's report here.

The Windy City Times website also provides a link to the following White House policy statement on LGBT rights, published as Obama was sworn in as President on January 20.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gitmo to Close Within a Year; CIA Secret Prisons to be Shut; Torture Banned

By Ben Trott

On his second day in office, Obama - as was widely expected - announced the closure of Guantánamo Bay detention centre within a year. He also signed executive orders closing the CIA's network of secret prisons and banning torture.

The New York Times yesterday wrote,
'Mr. Obama’s orders struck a powerful new tone and represented an important first step toward rewriting American rules for dealing with terrorism suspects. But only his decision to halt for now the military trials under way at Guantánamo Bay seemed likely to have immediate practical significance, with other critical policy choices to be resolved by task forces set up within the administration.

'Among the questions that the White House did not resolve on Thursday were these: What should be done with terrorists who cannot be tried in American courts, either because evidence against them was obtained by torture or because intelligence is too sensitive to use in court? Should some interrogation methods remain secret to keep Al Qaeda from training to resist them? How can the United States make sure prisoners transferred to other countries will not be tortured?

'Members of Mr. Obama’s national security team have expressed a wide variety of views on interrogation and detention policy, and there is likely to be robust internal debate before the questions are resolved.'
In a statement published on the organisation's website, Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Council for Civil Liberties, who have been running the Close Gitmo campaign, said,
'These executive orders represent a giant step forward. Putting an end to Guantanamo, torture and secret prisons is a civil liberties trifecta, and President Obama should be highly commended for this bold and decisive action so early in his administration on an issue so critical to restoring an America we can be proud of again.

'There are, however, ambiguities in the orders regarding treatment of certain detainees that could either be the result of the swiftness with which these orders were issued or ambivalence within the Obama administration. We are hopeful that as the process unfolds and gets clarified, there will be no doubt that detainees must either be charged, prosecuted and convicted or they need to be released. That’s the American way; our legal system, while not always perfect, is the best in the world. Adherence to American legal principles requires unconditional action; there is no room for a middle-ground. It would be an enormous mistake for the Obama administration to allow for indefinite detention in any case, or to endeavor to create any system other than our centuries-old justice system for prosecuting detainees. If President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates hold on to any part of the Bush administration’s legal farce, they will soon end up in the very same legal morass that the prior president found himself in over the last eight years.'
David Iglesias has been appointed the Judge Advocate General who will serve as prosecutor in the Guantánamo cases. Harper's magazine blogger on legal affairs, Scott Horton, describes Iglesias as a 'good man' and the appointment as marking,
'a distinct upgrade to the quality and caliber of the prosecution effort, which recently has been beset with controversy concerning its independence. Six Gitmo prosecutors have resigned or requested reassignment, many noting that political officials of the Bush Administration improperly interfered with their management of the cases or suggested the existence of vital evidence which was being withheld from the defense.'
Much of the left have, of course, been pleased with the announcement - even if several important issues regarding the detention and treatment of terror suspects still remain unresolved. Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, for example, wrote in the Guardian,
'It is, of course, right that the trials should be immediately suspended and the prison itself be closed as soon as possible. However, what follows will be just as important. If, as some have argued, secret trials on the basis of waterboarded confessions were to be repackaged and transported to the mainland, the Bush legacy of legal exceptionalism would become a permanent part of US constitutional furniture.'
Perhaps more immediately controversial, however, is likely to be the Obama administration's probable continuation of Bush-era policies on the running of wire-taps without warrants.

More Thoughts on the Speech

By Ben Trott

Florida International University law professor, Stanley Fish, in a post to the New York Times' website blog, 'Think Again', reflects on Obama's speech. He wrote, yesterday,
'It is as if the speech, rather than being a sustained performance with a cumulative power, was a framework on which a succession of verbal ornaments were hung, and we were being invited not to move forward but to stop and ponder significances only hinted at.

'And if you look at the text – spread out like a patient etherized on a table – that’s exactly what it’s like. There are few transitions and those there are – “for,” “nor,” “as for,” “so,” “and so” – seem just stuck in, providing a pause, not a marker of logical progression. Obama doesn’t deposit us at a location he has in mind from the beginning; he carries us from meditative bead to meditative bead, and invites us to contemplate...

'There is a technical term for this kind of writing – parataxis, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the placing of propositions or clauses one after the other without indicating . . . the relation of co-ordination or subordination between them.”

'The opposite of parataxis is hypotaxis, the marking of relations between propositions and clause by connectives that point backward or forward. One kind of prose is additive – here’s this and now here’s that; the other asks the reader or hearer to hold in suspension the components of an argument that will not fully emerge until the final word. It is the difference between walking through a museum and stopping as long as you like at each picture, and being hurried along by a guide who wants you to see what you’re looking at as a stage in a developmental arc she is eager to trace for you.

'Of course, no prose is all one or the other, but the prose of Obama’s inauguration is surely more paratactic than hypotactic... The power is in discrete moments rather than in a thesis proved by the marshaling of evidence...

'One day after the occasion, USA Today offered as an analysis of the speech a list of the words most frequently used, words like America, common, generation, nation, people, today, world. This is exactly the right kind of analysis to perform, for it identifies the location of the speech’s energy in the repetition of key words and the associations forged among them by virtue of that repetition.

'In the years to come what USA Today has begun will be expanded and elaborated in a thousand classrooms. Canonization has already arrived.'
I believe that the following photo, posted to Flickr, is in fact of the USA Today story mentioned by Fish. It resembles, of course the tag cloud image produced by ReadWriteWeb.com mentioned here a few days ago.

The Obameter

By Ben Trott

PolitiFact.com, a website connected to Florida's St Petersberg Times newspaper, has put together a list of 500 promises made by Obama prior to becoming President. They will be tracking whether or not he makes progress towards achieving that which he promised.

Coolio Cries

By Ben Trott

A recording of Obama's inauguration was broadcast into the Celebrity Big Brother house where, for the Channel 4 programme, a number of (semi-)well known personalities have been living over the past few weeks. By following this link, you can watch some of the housemates discussing the inauguration. They include Coolio (best known for his 1995 hit Gangsta's Paradise) who breaks down in tears, the fifth born child in the Jackson family - La Toya, Verne Troyer (who played Mini-Me in one of the Austin Powers films), and Tommy Sheridan the socialist Scottish politician.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

'It seems like Obama is saying: I will only be as good a president as the people who will organize to move me'

By Ben Trott

A friend of mine, Dont Rhine from the sound art collective Ultra Red and who is based in LA, yesterday sent me an email with his thoughts on the inauguration. I found them insightful and he agreed to letting me post them here:
'First, best parts of the inauguration: Aretha's hat and Lowery's benediction. Worse part: Warren's prayer and its insufferable surfer dude platitudes and that wretched poem.

'About Obama's speech. One could mistake his call to responsibility, self-determination, and independence from Government as more of the same Reagan libertarianism; but for the fact that he always frames this with a denunciation of the failures of the state, the failures of the market, the failures of greed, and the failures of poor stewardship. I've begun to notice an implicit but, to my ears, very clear rhetorical style Obama uses in his speeches. It seems like Obama is saying: I will only be as good a president as the people who will organize to move me.

'Recently, Robert from Ultra-red reminded me that Abraham Lincoln waited a very long time to sign the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in the U.S. Lincoln's delays made the abolitionists furious. At one point, they met with him and asked why he hadn't done ratified the Amendment. He said the time wasn't right. The abolitionists took this as a signal to increase their efforts, to raise the pitch on the masses demanding abolition. Hearing Obama list all the crises that we face (about which no one doing social justice work needs to be reminded), the kind of change actually needed to address those crises are so monumental that they can only happen with mass support. The demand for change on the scale of the New Deal requires such pressure from below that any opposition would lose legitimacy. I hear in Obama's speech an attempt to lay out 1) the depth of the problem such that it really does put fear in our hearts, 2) that people began to demand something be done, 3) that people begin to imagine and demand huge changes and not the usual standard of change offered by the democrats.

'As for Obama surrounding himself with hawks, conservatives and imperialists there are two ways to read this. First, we can say that Obama is weak and will succumb to Washington consensus politics. Nothing will change because of all these conservatives close to him. This has become the standard charge on the left - one I have made myself, particularly in relation to Clinton. The second is riskier, but also more political. We can say that Obama knows that the best place to keep your enemy is close by your side. Very very close. This was a strategy taken by Lincoln as well who surrounded himself with people ideologically opposite from himself. If Obama can persuade and win the support of the hawks and the pro-imperialist democrats of his own party (who will either follow him or undermine him) then the strength of the opposition will be diminished. I know this is a far-fetched reading. In the same way that it's an very risky strategy. But perhaps it's less useful to think of this being the truth (or not) than being an opening.

'Anyway, Bush and Co. are gone. The euphoria over this fact has intoxicated the country.'

The Obama and Bartlet Administrations

By Ben Trott

Regular readers of this blog will know that the similarities between the Obama candidacy and that of fictional presidential candidate, Matt Santos from TV's the West Wing, has been a recurring theme. See for example these two posts here and here. For fans of the show, in which Martin Sheen plays the sitting Democratic President, Josiah Bartlet, the Guardian have put together an article detailing which real-life White House staffers now occupy the various positions held by the programme's principle characters.

While we are at it, someone has put together a YouTube video, in the style of the West Wing's opening credits, introducing Obama's senior staff.

Here is Martin Sheen talking about Obama.

And here is Elie Attie, a former speech writer for Al Gore who also worked on the West Wing, talking about Obama and Santos.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration Speech

By Ben Trott

As of yesterday, at exactly 12:00 Eastern Time, Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. The full text of his inaugural speech can be read here, or viewed in the video player below. (Tradition pretty much obliges thanking the out-going president for his 'service to the country', but note the brevity with which Obama does so.)

Reactions to the speech are already in abundance. See, for example, the remarks by Michael Tomasky (editor of Guardian America), Arianna Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post), Ted Sorensen (Kennedy's speechwriter), Peter Hyman (one of Blair's old speechwriters), and John Nichols (the Nation's Washington correspondent).

The New York Times have assembled a team of speechwriters who have written for presidents Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Reagan and Bush Sr. to assess the inaugural address. Numerous commentators, such as the Washington Post op-ed columnist, George F. Will, Ken Silverstein the Washington editor of Harper's, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, David Corn, and the Sierra Club's Carl Pope have all chipped in. As has Hendrik Hertzberg over at the New Yorker. The Daily Kos website has put together an 'abbreviated pundit round-up'. The Guardian's Oliver Burkeman live-blogged the whole thing. And the web technology blog, ReadWriteWeb.com, ran Obama's speech through a tag cloud generator. They then did the same with Clinton and Bush's second inaugural addresses, Reagan's first, and both of Lincoln's. It is quite an interesting way of comparing key themes and phrases. Take a look, here.

Every other aspect of the day is, of course, also being examined. From Michelle Obama's outfit, designed by Cuban-born fashion designer Isabel Toledo, to Aretha Franklin's rendition of My Country 'Tis of Thee (and predictably, her most spectacular of hats), and Elizabeth Alexander's poem, Praise Song for the Day (transcript here).

Tom Englehardt, in the preamble to his latest article at TomDispatch.com website, wrote,
'Inauguration Day!
'Gazillions of Americans descended on Washington. The rest of us were watching on TV or checking out streaming video on our computers. No one was paying attention to anything else. Every pundit in sight was nattering away all day long, as they will tomorrow and, undoubtedly, the next day about whatever comes to mind until we get bored.'
Hyperbole aside, the speech and Obama's taking of office has - understandably - generated an enormous amount of discussion and debate. I hope the links provided above enable you to find a way in. As planned, I will be winding down this blog over the next couple of days.

Julie Burchill Misoverestimates Bush

By Ben Trott

Whilst now former-Vice President Dick Cheney was doing his back in moving out of Washington, I spent Monday writing a response to Julie Buchill's thoroughly absurd article in the British tabloid newspaper, the Sun. In the article, which I mentioned on Sunday, she tries to demonstrate the hypocrisy of those who criticise W.

In replying, I realised there was every risk I was taking her argument more seriously than she took it herself. The reason I decided to write the piece, though, was because I felt there was, in fact, an element of truth to what she was saying. Bush-whacking has tended to involve some real analytic reductionism, as well as an obscuring of both the record of previous US administrations and the role played by other governments and non-state actors in, for instance, the 'war on terror' and its facilitation. But, in true Burchill style, she ends up taking things far too far in the opposite direction, portraying him as a peace-nik defender of gay rights who dealt with the Katrina disaster splendidly.

My reply was published on the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' site earlier today. Here is the link again, in case you missed it above.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gary Younge on Ikea, Engels and Obama

By Ben Trott

Gary Younge had an article in yesterday’s Guardian. He began by describing some surreal sounding scenes in Washington DC – where, for example, Ikea have apparently built an Oval Office in the city’s train station, advertising ‘fiscally responsible furniture’ under the slogan ‘Change begins at home’. He went on to argue,
'For those on the left who have sneered at this joy [in Obama’s election, not cheap shelving], tomorrow is their last chance to join the rest of the people whose liberation they claim to champion. Anxious to get their disappointment in early and avoid the rush, they have been keen to point out the various ways in which Obama will fail and betray. Their predictions may well prove correct. The best is not the same as adequate. He has been elected to represent the interests of the most powerful country in the world. Those will not be the same interests as those of the powerless.

'And yet, in the words of Friedrich Engels: "What childish innocence it is to present one's own impatience as a theoretically convincing argument." Obama was the most progressive, viable candidate possible in these circumstances. A black American, propelled to office by a mass popular campaign pledging income redistribution and an end to torture and the war in Iraq, has defeated the Republicans and is about to replace the most reactionary president in at least a generation.

'The global outpouring of support for Obama suggests a constituency for a world free of racism and war, and desperate to shift the direction of global events that is in dire need of leadership and an agenda. Dancing in the streets tomorrow afternoon doesn't mean you can't take to those same streets in protest from Wednesday.

'As one African-American activist said shortly after election day: "As much hell as we've caught over the past few hundred years, we should enjoy this one."

Olbermann on The Case for Prosecuting Bush for Torture

By Ben Trott

Some of you may recall Keith Olbermann's 'special comment' on the passing of Proposition 8 back in November (to watch it again, click here and scroll down to the end of the article). In his latest comment, made at the end of his Countdown show, Olbermann makes the case for prosecuting Bush for the war crime of torture.

Coverage of Today's Events

By Ben Trott

As promised, here are a few links to coverage - both 'mainstream' and otherwise - of today's inauguration and the surrounding events.

The Huffington Post are providing video, live blogging and Twitter coverage of today's proceedings. I imagine they will also be assembling commentary, which can likely best be found via their inauguration 'Big News Page'. They are also streaming live video of the inauguration from MSNBC.

The Guardian's Oliver Burkeman will be live blogging the event here, as of later today.

CNN will be covering the day from 11.00 Eastern Time, including live online video streaming. The BBC are covering the event here, and the Company's Radio 4 will also be broadcasting on the events throughout the day. If you can not pick the channel up on your radio, you can tune in online here. Al Jazeera's English-language coverage of news in the Americas is posted here and the channel is live streamed here. The channel's website carries the most detailed explanation of what will take place when and where today that I have been able to find. Here is an extract.
Tuesday January 20th...
9:00am: Church service.

Coffee at the White House with George Bush, the outgoing president.

Procession to the capitol with Bush.

11:35am: Invocation from controversial evangelical pastor Dr Rick Warren.

11:46am: Joe Biden's swearing as vice-president, by John Paul Stevens, a supreme court judge.

11:56am: President's swearing-in by John Roberts, Chief Justice of the US supreme court.

The oath of office, as laid out in the US constitution: "I (Barack Hussein Obama) do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

They usually add "so help me God" at the end as George Washington did...

This year, as it has for the past several inaugurations, the swearing in ceremony will take place on the west front steps of the US congress.

Obama will be surrounded on the platform by his family, the Bushes, past and future Cabinet members, the justices of the Supreme Court, and dignitaries.

12:01pm: Inaugural address by Obama, now president of the US...

12:32pm: Departure of former president and Dick Cheney, the former vice-president: In past years, the new president and vice-president have escorted their former counterparts out through a military cordon.

12:52pm: Signing ceremony, where Obama will make his first official executive acts. He will sign executive orders possibly fulfilling campaign promises.

Some possibilities are: Lifting the ban on stem cell research, closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, banning harsh interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects, or allowing abortion services at overseas family planning centres funded by the US government.

1:05pm: Inaugural luncheon - this is one of the few times when the top tier of the US Government is in one room.

The president, vice-president, supreme court, cabinet nominees, and members of the congressional leadership will all attend.

Obama will also address members of congress and probably ask them to sign the $850bn stimulus package...

The Obamas and Bidens then review troops present at the event.

2:36pm: Trip between the US congress and the White House.

Newly sworn-in presidents and their families traditionally drive and walk the 2.7km along Pennsylvania Avenue between congress and the White House...

This year's parade will include 90 music, cultural, and community groups. About 5,000 tickets were sold to the general public for seats along the parade route.

After the parade ends, hopefully before dark, the Obamas have a bit of time to get ready for the inaugural balls...

There are 10 official balls that the Obamas will attend, including ones sponsored by Obama's home states of Hawaii and Illinois...

Wednesday January 21:
The Obamas and Bidens have invited dignitaries to attend a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday morning.

It is the last inaugural event.
Democracy Now!, the daily independent liberal-left news show, will be covering today's events and will also be running a 'morning after' show tomorrow. For more details on scheduling and content, click here.

A number of protests and other events are planned for the day (see reports from this blog here and here). I imagine many of them may be covered on Washington DC's Indymedia website who are also going to be reporting on the inauguration.

And finally, the now infamous Obama Girl, whose first YouTube video launched during the primaries has now received almost 13,000,000 hits, is also said to be in town. With her web-video team from the political satire site, Barely Political, she is apparently also going to be covering the events.