Purple People Eaters: Update

Via David at TPM, an apology from the JIC:

Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the 3rd Street Tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed to additional unticketed entries.

Let’s not leave out the total lack of signage and personnel. I don’t believe organizers couldn’t have anticipated and prepared for record crowds since everyone’s been talking about them for weeks. John suggested yesterday that authorities should have had an outer barrier that only let ticket-holders into a certain area and then had a second barrier to do security screenings once ticket-holders had been able to move past the general masses. At least that way when the Mall hit capacity, a “huge flow” wouldn’t have mattered because it would have flowed right around the cordoned off areas.

Again, I’m not all that bothered personally because our tickets were a last-minute pleasant surprise, but if I had flown across the country or had gotten my tickets as a thank you for hard work invested in getting Obama elected, I would have been devastated by what appeared to be a complete disregard for making sure ticket-holders got access to where they were supposed to be.

Earlier: Parties and Purple People Eaters

Super See-Through

Is there such a thing as too much transparency?

Don’t get me wrong. I like knowing what’s going on. And after 8 years of secrecy and abuse of power, it’s certainly refreshing to know the new Administration is wholeheartedly committed to keeping business on the up and up. However, since 9:45am, I’ve received approximately 17 emails from the White House Press Office.

UPDATE: It’s 10:38pm, and we’re now up to 26 emails. Granted I wasn’t on the Bush White House press list so maybe this is the norm, but considering the emails are chock full of details, I doubt it.

Having A Ball

A fun write this morning from Seth Stevenson over at Slate:

I think I might be able to Segway straight through the checkpoint, but I’m stopped short when a Secret Service agent steps into my path and halts my forward progress, sticking his massive, barrel chest in front of my handlebars. He says nothing, appraising me with cold eyes. I suddenly realize I am dressed entirely in black, wearing a ski mask, and attempting to barge a Segway through a Secret Service blockade.

Tunnel Vision

So it turns out our Inauguration ticket experience was the norm rather than the exception. Here are some examples of other people’s experiences trying to get into the event.

We actually headed down into this very same tunnel and walked quite a ways before finding a cop who told us to go in a different – albeit just as useless – direction. As we were exiting the tunnel, John had the foresight to say to me, “You know, if we’re going to get stuck somewhere, I’d rather it be outside than in a tunnel. This is eerie. Like a bad zombie movie.”

I know the magic of the moment will undoubtedly overshadow any of the negativity, but there is something to be said for getting people all hyped up about having Inauguration tickets and then stranding them on street corners and in tunnels so they don’t just not get in, but they get nothing.

I feel really lucky that John and I gave up when we did and made it home in time to witness history, but in solidarity with those who decided to stick it out, I’m linking to other accounts of the morning.

The Washington Post Inauguration Watch has police reaction tonight, and I, too, believe they’re not telling the truth. Scroll through the comments. This wasn’t just a case of too many tickets. It was a case of bad logistical planning and no personnel. The cops had absolutely no command of the scene. Two police officers sent us in two different directions within 5 minutes of one another. It was chaos, and an apology rather than an excuse would probably be more appropriate and somewhat appreciated.

image courtesy Lonnee Hamilton via Facebook group “Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom”

Parties and Purple People Eaters

We went to The Huffington Post party last night at the Newseum. We saw Val Kilmer, Ron Howard, Diane Von Furstenberg (whom John recognized and named before I even saw her appear), John Cusack, Isaiah Washington, The Jonas Brothers, Richard Schiff, and Kevin Johnson. Sting was incredible but only played a couple of songs. It was a fun night. Crowded and supertough to get a beverage, but all in all, not a bad soiree.

This morning was a different story. We had tickets to the Inauguration (thanks to John Aravosis who unfortunately is fighting a flu and couldn’t go). We hopped on the Metro and expected smooth sailing down to Judiciary Square considering there was no one around by the time we got on the train. However, one stop later, the conductor announced a customer had been hit on the tracks at Gallery Place and the train wouldn’t be going any further than two stops from where we were. So we got out at Dupont Circle and started walking. We walked for more than an hour (we think about three miles) towards where we expected the purple gate entrance to be.

However, there were no signs, no volunteers, and no indication of where ticket-holders were supposed to go. There were massive crowds and arbitrary pseudo-lines. People with purple tickets like us were blending into large groups of just general revelers, and without any official organizers in sight, it started to look increasingly unlikely we were going to be able to get in.

I managed to take a couple of pictures (click on the images to see them larger) before we made an executive decision to turn back around and head home in time to catch the ceremony and speech on TV from the comfort of our warm and cozy couch.

What we did notice in the couple of hours we spent downtown was the enthusiasm and general good spirit of the masses. It was cold, and there were a lot of people packed into tight spaces, and yet everyone seemed to be staying upbeat and positive. There is definitely a spirit of hope and optimism in the air here in D.C.

It’s about time.

Know Thy Enemy

Robert Pear had an article in yesterday’s NYT about the privacy concerns inherent in putting health records online. He explains some of the safeguards Members of Congress and consumer rights groups are advocating:

One of the proposed safeguards would outlaw the sale of any personal health information in an electronic medical record, except with the patient’s permission.

Another would allow patients to impose additional controls on certain particularly sensitive information, like records of psychotherapy, abortions and tests for the virus that causes AIDS. Patients could demand that such information be segregated from the rest of their medical records.

Under other proposals being seriously considered in Congress, health care providers and insurers would have to use encryption technology to protect personal health information stored in or sent by computers. Patients would have a right to an accounting of any disclosures of their electronic data. Health care providers and insurers would have to notify patients whenever such information was lost, stolen or used for an unauthorized purpose. And patients — or state officials acting on their behalf — could recover damages from an entity that improperly used or disclosed personal health information.

Seems pretty reasonable, right? Well, here’s Ms. Karen Ignagni – the CEO of the health insurance lobby – arguing against protecting your privacy:

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for insurers, expressed “serious concern about privacy provisions being considered for inclusion in the economic stimulus bill.”

She criticized, in particular, a proposal that would require health care providers to obtain the consent of patients before disclosing personal health information for treatment, payment or “health care operations.”

Such a requirement, she said, could cripple efforts to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, which often require coordination of care among many specialists.

Ladies and gentleman, meet the head of AHIP. This is the same woman who is going to claim to be listening to you as she lobbies for health reform legislation that makes more money for health insurance companies and recommends a federal bailout should you fall into medical debt.

Health insurance companies exist to profit by denying you care when you need it most. As this fight heats up, don’t forget whom we’re up against no matter what convenient-in-the-moment claims they make to the contrary.

In The Papers

Our PA crew got noticed trying to get noticed. From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

As Obama’s arrival at the station drew near, the guessing game began. What route would he take to the station? About 40 volunteers of Health Care for America Now veered this way and that, trying to position their banners so Obama would see them.

Using Protection

I went shopping with a friend for a couple hours last night, and as we waited in line at one store, we heard the saleswoman ask the shopper in front of us for a whole slew of personal information. Name. Zip. Phone. Etc. It’s been abundantly clear since stores started collecting personal information that it all goes towards marketing so I always decline.

When we got up to pay, the woman started to go through the routine with me. I explained I didn’t want to give any personal information and then turned to my friend and commented that I get too much excess email as is. The saleswoman turned back from where she was folding my shirt and remarked, “It’s not for that. It’s for your protection.”

I looked at her. I looked at my friend. We shrugged, and then I replied, “Um. How…exactly?”

The saleswoman then launched into some corporate template talking point about how their system protects me if I use my credit card because they can pull my information up by my name and my phone number. I must have looked completely baffled because she then added this doozy:

“Like, for example, if you forget your credit card, we can call you and you can get it back.”

The saleswoman looked totally content with herself as if she had just delivered the definitive answer.

I, of course, couldn’t let it lie.

“Couldn’t you just call my credit card company, and they would let me know?”

The saleswoman looked like she wanted to stab me with the plastic security pin.

“Yes. But our system is faster.”

Congratulations. You win the award for most creative yet nonsensical excuse for trying to collect and sell my personal data. I really just wanted to buy a shirt and move along.

Anyway, since I was clearly preoccupied with less-than-pressing issues last night, I forgot to post the poem of the week which has been updated and reflects our current adoration of all things Spain.

John’s column will be up Sunday morning here and takes a slightly different form than columns past. Let’s just say he got clever with a certain impeached Illinois governor and a certain poet quoted by said governor.

Have an excellent weekend.

New and Of Use

Morning. Wind chills here in DC are below 0 this morning. I’m not sure I own enough layers to make a dent in that kind of cold. We shall see. There may be a fashion disaster on the horizon.

Speaking of fashion, the HCAN website went though a makeover recently, and there’s a new section to the website you should definitely check out. It’s our Steps To Win, and in addition to explaining how health care reform is going to move through Congress, it has very specific ways you and your friends can get involved. Plus the image above is actually an interactive graphic on the site. Roll over it with your mouse, and it will explain the different House and Senate committees, and who’s important in having a say in the process.

Happy Friday.

Just Plain Insulting

There’s a plane down in the Hudson River in NYC. I’m watching CNN, listening to Rick Sanchez flounder through coverage, and I’m thinking, “Gosh, Miles O’Brien’s aviation expertise sure would be useful just about now.”

I posted that sentiment on Facebook and then scanned down the page to see the following note sent from a CNN booker to Miles:

G-d I hope he says no.

Related: Miles To Go (12/4/08)