On track: Barack Obama’s conjunction junction


Can’t get enough of Obama’s January 17 train ride. Here it is again.

Even before today’s inauguration, Barack Obama‘s whistle-stop trip to D.C. brought the best of two worlds to America.

Besides being just a really cool thing to do — complete with speeches by the mellifluous new president to cheering crowds — that trip was truly astonishing.

As a Oklahoma boy who used to ride his bike to the train station to see the 8:55 Oil Flyer pull into Bartlesville in the ’50s, I would sometimes sneak into the “colored” waiting room just to try to soak up the inequality.

I did it when I thought no one was looking, and then I raced outside to take a quick sip at the “colored only” water fountain.

It’s not a protest if no one else sees it. I didn’t face danger. The worst that could have happened was a scolding by the stationmaster. Big deal. A black person who refused to sit in that waiting room and tried to take his or her place in the regular waiting room would have earned much more than a scowl.

Still, that was as much rebellion as I dared, and it wasn’t much, because I was overcome by fear — unlike Rosa Parks, who had to fight off mortal fear to risk the consequences. Nearly a century after “emancipation,” she dared to keep her bus seat on December 1, 1955.

And now there’s a black president? And he took the train to D.C. in a great, old-fashioned whistle-stop tour? That really is the best of two worlds and just as significant a victory for white Americans as it is for blacks.

No more separate waiting rooms. Black Americans aren’t being forced to ride out of town on a rail.

A black president is riding into town. The day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A conjunction that your imagination couldn’t have invented.

If you feel like tearing yourself away from today’s historic moment, here are some clickables:


Newsday: ‘Experts: Plane that crashed had prior engine problem’

An aircraft that aviation experts say is the same one that crash-landed in the Hudson River Thursday experienced engine problems in mid-flight just two days before, according to passengers.

Whether that problem had any role in Thursday’s crash of the same plane remained unclear, but the [prior] incident on Jan. 13 proved a harrowing experience for passengers.


Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to revitalize Coney Island could mean the end of the original Nathan’s Famous hot-dog stand.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Who Won the War?
Israel Touts Overwhelming Victory, Critics on the Right Disagree’

New Yorker: ‘A Lonesome Death’ (The Wire‘s David Simon)

N.Y. Times: ‘Billionaire Reaches Deal On Funding For Times Co.’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Is Cablevision meddling in Newsday’s coverage?’

Newsday: ‘Newsday, Cablevision execs mum on rumored firings’

Dolan clan said to have axed top editors over Knicks coverage, but a Newsday story disputes details.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Student auctions her virginity, bids reportedly reached $3.7M’


N.Y. Times: ‘For the Jobless, Hope and Fear for a New Day’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘New York to lead U.S. in job losses’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘NY, TX top list of states with strong housing markets’


The credits rolled but the blood kept flowing. A Long Island security guard allegedly stabbed a moviegoer after a showing of the gruesome splatter flick My Bloody Valentine 3-D

New York: ‘Barack Obama, Party of One’

Without entirely realizing it, America elected its first Independent president.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Fiat to Take Stake in Chrysler’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘BAM launching $300M capital campaign’

The Brooklyn Academy of Music plans to build new theaters, grow its endowment and finance several ambitious artistic endeavors, despite the economy’s woes.

New Yorker: ‘Back Issues’

If the newspaper has a doomsday, it may be coming soon. That makes this a good time to ask: what was the beginning about?…

New York: ‘The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady’

What are these renegade cybergeeks doing at the New York Times? Maybe saving it.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Gazans Rally Behind Hamas’

N.Y. Times: ‘Anxiety Grips Restaurants, New Ones in Particular’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Inauguration means big bucks for prostitutes, coke dealers’

N.Y. Times: ‘At the Office, Taking a Break for the Oath of Office’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Suit: Man died after being jailed for parking tickets and missing chemo’

Unpaid parking tickets proved fatal for a terminally ill Queens man who died after callous cops locked him up for four days for a minor traffic offense, a lawsuit claims.

N.Y. Times: ‘Bush Commutes 2 Border Agents’ Sentences’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Deficits Restrict Obama as His Promises Come Due’

New York: ‘Christopher Hitchens Blames Torture on Common Americans, Demands “Tongue” From Andrew Sullivan’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Nearly 1/2 of all women and 1/3 of men prefer the Internet to sex’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Hebrew School for All?’

New York is about to witness a historic experiment in the nature of Jewish engagement in American society: the planned opening in August 2009 of the city’s first Hebrew-themed public school.

The school, to be known as the Hebrew Language Academy, will be organized as a charter school, publicly funded but operated by a private not-for-profit association. It must be open to all applicants regardless of religion or background, and its curriculum is to be strictly secular, with no preaching of religion.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Prominent politician posts picture of herself in shower on Facebook’

‘Madoff’s Ponzi Case Leaves PETA Cowed’

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Brody Mullins:

The downfall of Bernard Madoff has claimed a far-flung, new victim: a plan by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to lobby Barack Obama at the inaugural festivities to be a vegetarian.

The animal-welfare organization viewed Mr. Obama’s election as a turning point. So when PETA saw that Mr. Obama would win the election last summer, the group began looking for a way to get an audience with Mr. Obama.

Unfortunately, the plan it cobbled together — which required bidding in an online auction and recruiting a former professional-basketball star/vegan — also involved an investment firm with ties to Mr. Madoff, the billionaire investor who recently confessed to running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘The Gargantuan Gonif’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Cuomo Subpoenas Madoff Investor’

Madoff investor J. Ezra Merkin was subpoenaed by New York’s attorney general, over whether his funds defrauded nonprofit groups.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Vienna Banker in Spotlight as Madoff Fallout Spreads’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘The Long Arm of Halacha: Jewish Law and the Madoff Scandal’