Virtually every class of accommodation within reasonable proximity to President-elect Barack Obama’s Inaugural ceremonies is being led by money-hungry Americans hoping to cash in on the much-anticipated arrival in the nation’s capital of the country’s 44th president.
Shell out enough bucks, for example, and the inauguration-goer can rent an entire town house in Foggy Bottom for a mere $15,000. If it’s a room you’re after, the starting bid is only $6,000 for a four-night stay in a king-size bed at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (the peddler, obviously, was smart enough to book the room many moons ago). Rest assured, there’s lodgings in the offing for every budget and pocketbook.
“Obama Inauguration Trailer Park Reservation,” reads an ad we discovered Sunday. “This is a reservation for a spot at Cherry Hill RV Park for your van or RV on the day before and the day of the Barack Obama inauguration. Cherry Hill RV park and campground is the closest campground to Washington, D.C.” Hitch price at the College Park site in the Maryland suburb: $150.
Three weeks to go until Inauguration Day, and organizers of the corresponding pomp and ceremony are keeping their fingers crossed that any frigid temperatures keep glued to the north. Time will tell.
”The coldest weather of the winter season should be around the early to mid-January time frame,” predicts Harris-Mann Climatology in its long-range forecast for the Northeastern United States, including the nation’s capital.
Noses and toes won’t ever forget Jan. 21, 1985 (Jan. 20 fell Sunday, so the president privately took the oath of office that day at the White House), when sub-freezing temperatures ushered Ronald Reagan’s public Inauguration into the Capitol Rotunda and rendered his parade trombones and the lips that blow into them inoperable.
It would become the coldest Inauguration Day on record, with a noon temperature of 7 degrees.
PARK YOUR BIKE
Given organizers of the 56th Presidential Inaugural are striving to make inauguration week the most “open” of any in American history, the U.S. Secret Service is being tested like never before.
In cooperation with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the federal agency that is responsible for protecting the president and vice president has now been tasked with developing the overall security plan for next month’s many inaugural ceremonies — designated a National Special Security Event.
Among myriad security measures we know about: Attendees will be subject to thorough security screenings before entering the inaugural parade route, the White House reviewing stand and the inaugural balls. (The agency is already warning that lines may be long.)
Those items, among the obvious weapons and ammunition, prohibited from the inaugural parade route and the White House reviewing stand: bicycles, backpacks, packages, large bags, aerosols, coolers, thermal or glass containers, laser pointers, animals other than guide dogs, and supports for signs and placards. (Signs and placards should be made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and have dimensions no greater than 3 feet in width, 20 feet in length and one-quarter inch in thickness.)
Private pilots should be forewarned that a combined air-security plan will be implemented to provide airspace security over the entire Washington metropolitan area during inaugural week, while boaters should know that there will be an enhanced security presence on the waterways through and around Washington.
LAND OF LARCENY
“Imagine the surge of pride Illinois drivers will experience when making cross-country trips displaying this remarkable symbol of our beloved state!” writes column reader Stan Welli of Aurora, Ill.
Mr. Welli forwarded a mock vehicle license plate bearing photographs of former Illinois Republican Gov. George Ryan (convicted of corruption in 2006, he is currently serving a six-plus-year prison term) and current Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich (who was arrested earlier this month and awaits a court appearance on corruption charges).
As for the license plate’s slogan beneath each gubernatorial portrait: rather than “Land of Lincoln,” it reads, “Where Our Governors Make Our License Plates.”
BLAGO TO GO
Crime and politics often go hand in hand, thus Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender’s annual Top 10 Legal Predictions for the coming year always includes a well-known politician or two. His 2009 list does not disappoint:
”Blago will go. Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will leave office either after his upcoming impeachment by the Illinois legislature or even before the actual impeachment vote when he begins to read the writing on the wall that shows he will lose the impeachment vote. It is even odds that at some point in the process, he is likely to cop a plea to the ‘pay-to-play’ federal charges against him.”
Also of note, Mr. Olender predicts an increased workload for regulatory lawyers as newly-elected President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress “reverse the current deregulation of business and start enforcing strict safety standards.”
In addition, he sees appointments to federal courts taking “a swing to the left with more centrist judges being appointed and confirmed. Civil rights will be in fashion again.”
Mr. Olender’s past predictions have a better than 90 percent success rate.
Have Americans cooled with the economy?
This columnist has discovered a recent downward trend in the number of “unruly passengers” aboard U.S. aircraft continued in 2008, according to preliminary Federal Aviation Administration data.
Following a peak of 304 FAA enforcement actions in 2004 (excluding security violations, which are handled by the Transportation Security Administration), 2008 witnessed only 95 cases brought against rowdy passengers, through Nov. 24.
Besides the 304 FAA enforcement actions in 2004, 203 cases were brought in 2005, 134 (the lowest number since at least 1995) in 2006, and 147 in 2007.
“Interfering with the duties of a crewmember violates federal law,” the FAA states. “[N]o person may assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”
Fines for unruly passengers can be as costly as $25,000 per violation, although the FAA stresses one incident can result in multiple violations.
The Federal Election Commission ruled that the campaign committee for Missouri Sen. Christopher S. Bond not be allowed to pay the senator’s co-author for expenses related to a book project because the payments would constitute personal use of campaign funds.
That said, the FEC also ruled that KITPAC, the Republican senator’s leadership PAC, can make the payments because the book is of interest to the PAC irrespective of Mr. Bond’s candidacy for office and because there is no personal obligation on the part of the senator to compensate his co-author.
READ YOUR NEWS
New Year’s resolution for investors, as recommended by the investment management firm Darrell & King: “Turn your TV off!”