Wednesday, November 19, 2008

#62: Dreams From My Father


My copy of Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father arrived today; I ordered it on November 6, and it took 12 days to ship. Amazon is usually super fast, but I suspect that orders for this book were numerous and backed up.

I wanted the hard cover version, but I didn't want to pay $25.95 for it, and Amazon discounts significantly its hardbacks ($15.57). It's a First Edition, but not really--this volume was a re-release, issued once the publishers realized that Obama was going to run for President, so this is a First Edition of a re-released book. And they probably ran 1,000,000 First Edition copies...


I look forward to reading it soon (I have to finish some other reading first, but I will read it before the inauguration).

Obama originally published this book in 1995, when he was just 33 or 34. Even then, he was thinking about his legacy and his place in the world. It's rare for a young person to pen a memoir (unless he or she is a celebrity), and from what I have gleaned just from a quick glance, it seems to be a cerebral book.

Did he know, even that long ago? Could he see into the future?

He certainly ran like a candidate running for his life.

Interesting times ahead--both good and bad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

#63: Bailout for Automotive Industry?


Should Congress Bail Out The Auto Industry?



I must admit, this proposed automotive bailout sounds like another big government handout that rewards bad behavior and fiscal irresponsibility. My husband and I (and many other citizens) work hard for our money, and we spend what we have responsibly. Does it seem fair that our hard-earned tax money will go to greedy capitalists who couldn't keep their spending in check?

Given the current state of the economy, I see why a bailout might be necessary, but I don't have to like it, and I would definitely like to see some MAJOR restrictions placed on how that money should be spent by the industry. These CEOs can whine all they want about government non-intervention (on how the money is to be spent), but they have demonstrated that pure capitalism does not work, that self interest will almost always trump the greater good (which is also why pure communism/socialism does not work either).

President-elect Obama and the Congress had better get this one right; otherwise, in two years, we'll see a political massacre of Democrats in both the Senate and House, and in four years a Republican President-elect. So on January 21, 2009, President Obama had better hit the ground running.

As an ordinary citizen, this is what I would like to see in an automotive industry bailout:

--That this is a LOAN, not another bloated government giveaway.

--A specified repayment plan, with prevailing interest rates; if payments don't arrive on time, then the government should have the power to begin seizing assets.

--Mass firing of the CEOs who took huge incentives and threw big parties at their stockholders' expense and replaced by temporary bean counters whose only job is to lead the company out of its financial morass. These CEOs would be paid well and fairly, but absolutely no bonuses and no golden parachutes should they be fired for a job not done well.

--The bailout plan should have absolutely no pork attached--this should be a clean bill with no special interests embedded. The American people sent a very special message to the powers-that-be by cleaning out the Republican cancer from the Presidency and Congress:


And the voters will not hesitate to send the same message to Democrats. Seriously. Your mandate is predicated on the fact that you're not George W. Bush.

Part of the bailout should be designated for energy innovation and alternative fuels research. For example, why hasn't the industry been working on fuel cell technology?

--The bailout should come with strict government oversight and rules and regulations; every penny needs to documented and accounted for. Government CPAs should be placed on site and be capable of calling for an audit at any time.

--No frills allowed, no lavish parties, no fancy cars and clothes.

--Union workers will also have to tighten their belts (sorry, but you shouldn't get a free pass here). You will be fairly paid and have good health care coverage, but you may have to forgo yearly raises and other perks, at least until this country is out of the recession. But you will still have jobs; the alternative is the unemployment line. We're all going to make sacrifices, I'm afraid.

--If the bailout appears to be failing, the government should not hesitate to step in and take over; after all, it will be OUR tax money being squandered.

Aside from the proposed bailout, the Obama administration ought to consider reinstating the "natural monopolies": utilities, mass transit (train, airline, bus, roads), and the postal service. These areas should have never been handed over to the private sector; they are too huge and too necessary to the common good to be left in the hands of profiteers who see only dollar signs. At the very least, these companies should be heavily regulated.

The Republicans got into this mess, but it will be up to the Democratic majority to get us out.

And if the Dems don't succeed, they will be blamed.

It's just that simple.

Monday, November 17, 2008

#64: How Some Cartoonists See History in the Making




Sunday, November 16, 2008

#65: Barack Obama's November 15 Video Address



#65: "...Because Someone Marched."


"I'm here because someone marched."
--Barack Obama, March 4, 2007,
Brown Chapel A.M.E.,
Selma, Alabama

Barack Obama recognizes the debt he owes his predecessors; without Martin Luther King and the unsung heroes who put their lives on the line, this defining moment in history would not be possible, and quite likely our brilliant President-elect would be working a minimum-paying or low-wage job or, perhaps, even in jail (a fate suffered by most of the early civil rights leaders and writers)--or not even born.

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor," Martin Luther King once said. "It must be demanded by the oppressed."

Sad, but true; those who enjoy the status quo are not likely to give it up for purely altruistic reasons--it happens only when the oppressed begin grumbling and then embarking on peaceful or even violent protest.

Or, in the case of Rosa Parks, a simple refusal to give up her seat to a white person. Park's refusal, heard around the world, was a not an intentional political act designed to change the world, but the weariness of a working woman whose aching feet hurt like hell, darn it!

I come from an era when Martin Luther King was often vilified for "not knowing his place." Even in the North, I often heard rumblings from both friends and relatives that Blacks needed to "stop all that rabble-rousing."

Shortly after MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, my late grandmother said, "That Rev. King has a bullet with his name on it."

Even as a child, I was horrified that someone I loved would even think of such a possibility, but I now understand that she wasn't afraid of King but afraid for him. Even if I didn't, she understood that trail blazers often pay a steep price for their forward-thinking viewpoints.

In a sense, Barack Hussein Obama is also a trail blazer, the first African-American to win the highest office. Whatever he does in office will be scrutinized by all ethnic and racial groups.

Right now, expectations from the African-American community run high, perhaps too high as Obama tries to placate and unite the entire nation. Yes, he's Black, but he also represents all Americans and will have to work for all groups.

"I'm here because someone marched." What a humble statement from a man who is known to have significant high self-esteem (albeit earned) and ego.

(((((Barack Obama)))))


Obama Commemorates the 1965 Civil Rights March, Brown Chapel A.M.E. in Selma, Alabama, March 4, 2007

Read the full story behind this speech at TheBlueStateDOTcom



Saturday, November 15, 2008

#66: Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State?

Senator Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton would be a good choice for Secretary of State, but I can think of two reasons why she might want to decline.

First, the job is temporary, no more than eight years. And then what? Another presidential run? (Or has her time passed?)

Second, Clinton might feel that she will be able to wield more power in the Senate, which is probably true.

Those concerns aside, she would be a good choice for this cabinet position.

And what about Bill Clinton? Might he have a place in Obama's administration (if he can behave himself and stay away from interns)? He is still relatively vibrant, and I wonder if the charming Bill of the 1990's might show up if he held a position of significant power.

Interesting question.

#67: Huge Expectations? Will Obama be Able to Deliver?

FDR Comparison: Time Magazine Cover, November 24, 2008

Probably the most recognized photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt (AP Photo)

Today, I was mildly amused to see the November 24 cover of Time and predict that it will become more collectible and important than the November 17 election issue cover, a rather straight forward depiction of Barack Obama's November 4 victory.

This Arthur Hochstein and Lon Tweeten collaboration is well on its way to becoming a modern classic.

Could there be a little snark behind this photoshopped representation of what our new president will face starting on January 20, 2009?

Are the photoshoppers doubting (maybe just a bit) that this 47-year-old greenhorn will be able to live up to the campaign hype? Should the voters expect one human being, albeit one of the most brilliant minds on the planet, to assume the weight of a financial meltdown, two wars, terrorism, environmental disasters, etc. on his narrow shoulders?

The Time cover conjures up all kinds of implied fears, specifically, the Big D-word.

Are we in a depression or heading there fast?

The cover also suggests hope; after all, FDR is considered one of our greatest presidents, his administration the architect of social programs that helped America pull out of the 1930's - 1940's depression. I remember that each month as my husband's Social Security appears in our bank account.

Barack Obama's presidential history is yet to be written, but it's an exciting time to be alive and to be able to witness firsthand one of the most important times of the modern era.

We need to believe again in our government; the past eight years have been a depressing and embarrassing time as George W. Bush mangled the English language and made policy decisions that have left us scratching our heads.

Just after the 2004 election, Bush bragged about his slim victory handing him "political capital," and that he was now going to "spend" it to promote the policies he wanted.

Squandered is more like it.

Barack Obama has earned true political capital, but I doubt very much if this articulate man will go on national television and brag to the people who did not vote for him; he's much too classy.

I predict that President Obama will spend his political capital carefully, for the policies that really matter.

Will I agree with every decision he makes? Probably not. But it sure does feel good to be able to BELIEVE again.

Note how the following FDR New Deal Speeches echo some of the same issues we are facing in 2008:




Thursday, November 13, 2008

#68: Are Some People Doomed to Permanent Poverty?


Are some people simply doomed to perennial poverty and/or chronic indebtedness?

I think so. For whatever reason--drugs, overspending, misplaced generosity--some people will allow a windfall to simply slip through their fingers.

I once saw clips from a documentary called Reversal of Fortune; filmmaker Wayne Powers wanted to carry out a social experiment in which he would give Ted Rodrigue, a Pasadena homeless man, $100,000, with only one string attached: that Powers be allowed to film Rodrigue as he spent his unexpected windfall. Powers wanted to prove or disprove the social theory that money is the way out of chronic poverty.

See these stories about how Ted spent his windfall:

A Homeless Man Blows $100,000 of Free Money As Seen on Oprah

What would you do with $100,000 if you were homeless? Find out what this man did with it.

View more »


The Power of Personality: What Happens When You Give a Homeless Man $100k?

by Bryan Caplan

The homeless are different from you and me, and it's not because they have less money. It's because they are extraordinarily low in what personality psychologists call conscientiousness. That's my theory, anyway. A quite watchable documentary on Showtime (and that's high praise from me, I strongly prefer fiction) puts my theory to the test. It's called "Reversal of Fortune," and it's got a simple set-up: The film-makers picked Ted, a homeless man in Pasadena, gave him $100,000, and filmed the results.

We initially see Ted's life on the streets. He sleeps under a bridge and does enough recycling to pay for beer, cigarettes, and a little food. He is surprisingly articulate - low IQ is not his problem. It would be easy for someone to argue that Ted has simply been unlucky, and that his drinking is "just a response to the hopelessness of his situation."

Then he gets $100k.

View More >>
Ted's case suggests that money alone is not the way out of poverty. Evidently, Ted felt comfortable in his life, that the windfall was actually a source of conflict for him.

Of course, Ted's case is not definitive proof; had the windfall been given to a working person who was temporarily down on his luck, the outcome probably would have been different.

I have often thought about what I'd do with a $100,000 windfall (if I were homeless and down on my luck, that is, and not an alcoholic or druggie).

1. I'd find a modest furnished place to live. Having a roof over my head and decent bathroom and kitchen facilities would be top priority.

2. I'd buy some decent clothes (for every day and job hunting) and lots of soap and towels for bathing.

3. I'd invest in a used car; these days, flexible and reliable mobility is almost as important as having a place to live (unless I lived in a metropolitan area with reliable public transit).

4. I would buy myself a decent meal and then go grocery shopping for staples.

5. I would invest the rest of the money in a short-term CD (so that I could think about what to do with it without making an impulsive decision). I would be willing to work at any crap job, just to get on my feet.

6. For long term, I would buy a modest house or condo and furnish it with furniture from Goodwill--just the basics: table and chairs, sofa, bed, maybe a cheap TV (but no cable). I would go to the library for internet and books and other reading.

7. I would look into job training or college (I would continue working, although I would always be on the lookout for a better-paying job).
For me, a $100,000 windfall would be an opportunity to better my life.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

#69: Some Caveats on Ownership Society and Social Responsibility


On the campaign trail, Obama discussed "Ownership Society"



Yesterday, I posted an Obama quote on Ownership Society; while I agree with much of what he says about society's responsibility toward the down and out, I have some reservations, which, I suspect, is felt by most of the middle class.

Let me begin by way of example:

Back in 1989, after five years of financial struggle, my husband and I bought our first house together (we both had been married before).

It was a tough time to be buying a home; home mortgage rates were high, 10-11 percent, as were home prices, but we knew that if we didn't buy soon, a window of opportunity for home ownership might close. I was in my late 30's and my husband in his late 40's, so the prospect of having a mortgage payment well into our 60's and 70's was a bit daunting.

We could not afford the house we *wanted*, so we had to settle for a modest city home at our maximum price of $67,500 (at that time, the average home was about $150,000), which was, because of credit card and other loan debts, our absolute limit.

So we opted for a no-down payment VA fixed-rate mortgage at nine percent, with closing costs folded in.

For the next seven years (as we paid down other debt and sent a son through college), it was tough going; many months, we wondered where we were going to scrape up the house payment, but somehow we made all our loan payments and always on time.

Slowly, we crawled out of debt and started saving; once we retired a loan, we would continue making payments--to our own bank account. Old car payments? Right into the new car account. When my son graduated from college and he was safely on his own, we funneled that money into the bank on the premise that we wouldn't miss what we never had. That became our "travel" account.

In 1999, we refinanced the mortgage at a six-percent fixed rate, and a 15-year note. We could do this because we had the 20% down payment saved up and a little equity in the house. As our salaries increased, we also increased our mortgage payments, eventually making double payments each month. In 2006, with a small inheritance, we decided to pay the house off; we could do so with a comfortable cushion. (Without the inheritance, we would have paid the loan off by November 2008--this month!)

Had we bought our $150,000 dream house, no doubt we would have sunk into a nightmare scenario and fast; the money simply wasn't there. Most certainly, we would have ended up in bankruptcy and foreclosure and in even more debt.

It never occurred to us to ask for government help or to file for bankruptcy; pay by pay, we simply paid down our debt until it was gone. After all, for better or worse, these were OUR financial obligations.

We didn't ask anyone, government or anyone else, for a handout.

On the positive side, my husband has a good job with great benefits, so we haven't had to worry about medical bills; also his salary has increased steadily. The financial and health Gods have been on our side.

I believe in fair taxation and re-allocation of tax funds for social programs--"spreading the wealth," if you will, but here's where I would draw the line:

Harry Homeowner, a college professor, and his wife Harriet, a teacher's aide, earn $100,000 per year; they buy a $500,000 McMansion with a five-year interest-only mortgage with a balloon payment of the principal at the end. After struggling during those five years, the day of reckoning has arrived, and they still owe the bank the original $500,000. Meanwhile, due to downsizing, Harriet has lost her job, and they don't qualify for refinancing, so now the bank has foreclosed and they must move.

Sorry, I'm unsympathetic; Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner simply bought more house than they could reasonably afford. They wanted a fancy house and allowed themselves to be snookered into thinking that a no-principal loan would be a good idea.

It was a risky proposition, and they lost. Why should I, a responsible borrower, be taxed to support the greedy aspirations of less responsible borrowers? Why should they be able to stay in their expensive McMansion on my dime while I continue living in my more modest home?

This is my main fear: those of us who did the responsible thing will be forced to subsidize those who were greedy. That doesn't seem very equitable.

Now let's look at Harry's brother and sister-in-law: Joe Homeowner, a construction worker, and his wife Jane, a food-service worker, make $75,000 per year. After doing a lot of financial calculations, they realize that they can't afford more than $150,000 for a house and that is pushing it to their limit. They decide on a $125,000 home--not exactly their dream home, but with $25,000 down (saved over the past five years), they will get a six percent fixed 30-year mortgage. The plan is to prepay whenever possible and pay the loan off within 20 years. However, five years into the mortgage, Joe suffers a major heart attack and is laid up for six months. While Joe receives disability pay, it is only 50% of his take-home pay. Also, because of his illness, Joe can no longer do heavy construction work, so he loses his job and insurance coverage; they fall behind on their mortgage payments, so their bank will be foreclosing, and they will have to move.

This is a case where "spreading the wealth" makes sense. Joe and Jane did all the right things, but unexpected circumstances threw them behind the eight ball. Joe and Jane should be given stop-gap mortgage help and medical and tuition relief for Joe as he retrains for another career.

In Obama's plan, I hope that there will be a mechanism in place so that the responsible Joe and Jane will get the relief they need, and yet Harry and Harriet will not be rewarded for their irresponsible financial behavior. Yes, they should also receive some limited help, but they may have to move from their fancy home and into more modest digs or assume a 40-year loan. Irresponsible behavior should carry serious and difficult consequences.

And what about a tax credit for those middle class families who have paid their bills on time and do not require a government bailout?

The idealistic Barack Obama is on the right track when he says that all Americans, no matter how poor, should enjoy the basics of life, such as food, shelter, clothing, education, work, and health care.

But here's the bald truth: no matter how many social nets we set up, we will always have the poor among us. Short of committing every indigent person to institutions and removing their children from their homes and placing them in orphanages, there isn't much a government can do to save people from destructive behaviors that keep them in poverty.

It's just the way the human race is wired.

I promised that this blog would not blindly espouse every opinion that Obama holds; I deeply admire him, but he's human and subject to gaffes and I don't agree with his policies 100%.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

#70: Barack Obama's View of the "Ownership Society" Model

The Ownership Society doesn't even try to spread the risks and rewards of the new economy among all Americans. Instead, it simply magnifies the uneven risks and rewards of today's winner-take-all economy. If you are healthy or wealthy or just plain lucky, then you will become more so. If you are poor or sick or catch a bad break, you will have nobody to look to for help. That's not a recipe for sustained economic growth or the maintenance of the middle class. It's certainly not a recipe for social cohesion. It runs counter to those values that say we have a stake in each other's success.
--Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope,
New York: Vintage Books, July 2008. 213.


I have to ponder this for a bit; although I agree, to a certain extent, with this premise, I have some caveats...

Meanwhile, here's what Michael Moore has to say:


Michael Moore on "Ownership Society"

mmflint (Michael Moore) says,

The wealthy that have been calling the shots here for so long, their party has been in power for 20 of the last 28 years -- the Republican party -- and I think that they know that they're probably on their way out ... they're like guests at a dinner trying to steal the silverware on their way out the door. ... Everything that's going on right now, all the hiring that the Treasury Department is doing, all the consultants they're bringing in, all the million dollar contracts -- these people are just going to get rich over and over again as they try to pull themselves out of a mess that they created because it was one big check-kiting scheme: Using money they didn't have to buy other money to make more money. Again, if an average person did that, they'd be in jail, but not these guys.

-- Michael Moore on Larry King Live, Thursday, October 23rd, 2008



Monday, November 10, 2008

#71: More Photos of the Historic Meeting Between President Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama

Before embarking on his historic November 10, 2008, meeting with President Bush, President-Elect Barack Obama sends Sasha and Malia, his children, off to school.

The current First Couple pose with the future First Couple (November 10, 2008). _________________________________________________________________________

George W. Bush and Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office (November 10, 2008).


#71: Barack Obama Now Meeting with President Bush

AP Photo: November 10, 2008, Meeting Between President George Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama

A few minutes ago, NBC cut into programming to show live coverage of President-Elect Obama and wife Michelle Obama arriving at the White House for a special meeting with President Bush. According to Brian Williams, this is a historic event; typically, the White House meeting between current and future president usually takes place much later, some time in December.

AP Photo: November 10, 2008, Meeting Between President George Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama

In light of the contentious campaign season, this is an unprecedented move. Obama was particularly harsh on George Bush and his archaic policies, so it may seem puzzling that Bush would offer such a warm welcome to a man who tore into his policies.

But I think I understand why Bush is being so accommodating.

Remember the Clinton-Bush transition? How outgoing White House staffers removed all the "W's" from the White House keyboards? How the Clintons removed some expensive trinkets from the premises that weren't really theirs to take? Unfortunately, such antics cast a dim light on a presidency that had been fairly successful (well, minus the Lewinsky nonsense and the impeachment proceedings).

Granted, the 2000 election was utter chaos, and we'll probably never really know who won Florida and, consequently, the 2000 election, but the Clinton antics reflected more negatively on Clinton than George W. Bush, who, at that time, was making grandiose promises to engage in "compassionate conservatism" by reaching across the partisan aisle. Among the American people, who were largely willing to offer Bush the benefit of the doubt, the new president enjoyed the glow of the Honeymoon period, and Clinton simply looked like ugly sour grapes.

I suspect that Bush is making an attempt to salvage some of his legacy by not acting out against the new president-elect; let's face it, Bush's presidency has been a disaster, and history is going to be harsh on the bumbling and stammering Number 43, who made unsound decisions, both foreign and domestic.

Also, from all accounts, Bush has a genuine fondness for Barack Obama and is able to separate the personal from the political, a trait inherited from Bush, Sr., who still maintains a friendship with Bill Clinton.

Okay, so today is kumbaya time, but what about the immediate future?

Will the rest of the transition go as smoothly? Or as Obama's agenda begins to gel against Republican policies and conservatism, will the knives come out?

According to Valerie Jarrett, co-chairman for the President-elect transition team, Obama, on January 20 (or shortly thereafter), may overturn some of Bush's more controversial policies, such as his ban on stem-cell research. Will Bush take these probabilities as personal affronts?

This will be interesting to watch.

I have almost finished reading the Newsweek article (see yesterday's post)--now enjoying the the "dishy" antics of one Sarah Palin.

Unfortunately, we haven't seen or heard the last of the "Gotcha Girl."

#72: Full Text of Barack Obama's November 8, 2008, Radio Address


Here's the full text of his address:

On Tuesday, Americans stood in lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen. It didn’t matter who they were or where they came from; what they looked like or what party they belonged to – they came out and cast their ballot because they believed that in this country, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. We should all take pride in the fact that we once again displayed for the world the power of our democracy, and reaffirmed the great American ideal that this is a nation where anything is possible.

This week, I spoke with President Bush, who graciously offered his full support and assistance in this period of transition. Michelle and I look forward to meeting with him and the First Lady on Monday to begin that process. This speaks to a fundamental recognition that here in America we can compete vigorously in elections and challenge each other’s ideas, yet come together in service of a common purpose once the voting is done. And that is particularly important at a moment when we face the most serious challenges of our lifetime.

Yesterday, we woke to more sobering news about the state of our economy. The 240,000 jobs lost in October marks the 10th consecutive month that our economy has shed jobs. In total, we’ve lost nearly 1.2 million jobs this year, and more than 10 million Americans are now unemployed. Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes. Their stories are an urgent reminder that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them.

In the wake of these disturbing reports, I met with members of my Transition Economic Advisory Board, who will help guide the work of my transition team in developing a strong set of policies to respond to this crisis. While we must recognize that we only have one President at a time and that President Bush is the leader of our government, I want to ensure that we hit the ground running on January 20th because we don’t have a moment to lose.

We discussed several of the most immediate challenges facing our economy and key priorities on which to focus in the days and weeks ahead to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity.

First, we need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provides relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life savings disappear.

Then, we’ll address the spreading impact of the financial crisis on other sectors of our economy, and ensure that the rescue plan that passed Congress is working to stabilize financial markets while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners, and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance.

Finally, we will move forward with a set of policies that will grow our middle-class and strengthen our economy in the long-term. We can’t afford to wait on moving forward on the key priorities that I identified during the campaign, including clean energy, health care, education and tax relief for middle class families.

Let me close by saying I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead. We’ve taken some major actions to date, and we will need further actions during this transition and subsequent months. Some of those choices will be difficult, but America is a strong and resilient country. I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and work together as one nation. And that is what I intend to do.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

#72: Transition Team Co-Chair Valerie Jarrett Discusses Priorities on "Meet the Press" and other Tidbits


It looks as though the Obama team has started the hard work of getting the President-Elect's administration set up early and ready to roll on January 21, 2009 (Let the country party on the 20th).

Also, Obama's team has set up his new website:

Wow, how hip is that?

Some elitists in the domaining community (those who buy domain names to resell and/or set up mini-sites) are criticizing Barack Obama for not acquiring ("Dotcom is King"); however, this man has already pulled off the near-impossible, so I have no doubt that will become THE hippest address on the web.

Remember: I said it here!

The special issue of Newsweek arrived in the mail,

but finding the Time issue proved almost elusive. I finally found one copy at CVS for the regular price of $4.95, although if I wouldn't have found it, there's a copy for sale on eBay for $5,000.00 (Yeah, right).

I look forward to receiving The New Yorker issue (if no one swipes it). I'm still reading the Newsweek coverage, about halfway through--wow, what in-depth coverage. Newsweek reporters, embedded for almost two years in all the campaigns (Obama, McCain, and Clinton), essentially were gagged until after the election; that is almost a permanent job.

Although I'm not a huge fan of People magazine, the cover looks smart, so I picked that up as well. Plenty of those copies left.

I'll skip the stuff about Beyonce (or whatever her name is these days). Anyway, I'm getting my Obama collectible fix (although these items will be more of a historical value than monetary since everyone is collecting this memorabilia).

In the Newsweek issue, some of the campaign dish is quite interesting, particularly in the McCain and Clinton camps (although the Obama team hasn't gotten off scott-free). I'm sure that the McCain camp enjoyed some high drama in that last two months of the Palin era.

I'll probably have more to say once I have finished savoring, uh, reading it.

Until next time...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

#73: The People's President

JFK, The White House, July 11, 1963 (Photo by Cecil Stoughton)

When Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961, I was 10 years old, and John F. Kennedy had been president for just seven months.

As a Catholic, I was ecstatic when I first heard that Kennedy had been selected as the Democratic nominee. I rode my bicycle throughout the neighborhood, whooping it up and yelling the news like a pesky town crier. It never occurred to me that anyone else would feel any differently; in my mind, Kennedy's nomination and eventual win were inevitable as apple pie, the American flag, and the True and Apostolic Church. Certainly (in my 10-year-old mind), Kennedy would be a good Catholic president.

So I understand completely how African-Americans might feel that Obama is their president, at least in these early days. No doubt that this is truly a historic time in our country and an "about time" moment.

However, just as Kennedy proved definitively that he was not taking direct orders from The Vatican, Obama is not likely to take orders from the NAACP or any other group. He will listen, of course, but he will do what is best for the country as a whole--at least this is my hope.

Right now, Obama is enjoying rock star status among African-Americans and young people, but here's my fear: the honeymoon will come to an abrupt end when it sinks in that Obama may not be able to deliver instant results in African-American issues or that these issues may not even be the highest priority.

In fact, I see a bit of a backlash, especially in the area of affirmative action in that the the victim card will be less compelling now that an African-American (who basically started life without special connections) has achieved the highest office; in fact, I have already heard this argument among some friends and family. Right or wrong, it's there.

Once the headiness of victory has diminished, we should all take a look at our expectations of this young president-elect and ask what our country as a whole needs from him, not just any one ethnic group.

Like Kennedy, Barack Obama will be the people's president and will need to make some difficult decisions that may not please everyone. Thanks to Bush, Obama will have a lot of messes to clean up, and I would be surprised if he'll be able to achieve it all in the first four years (assuming he wins a second term).

Back in 1961, I was just a child, without the awareness that the world is a more complicated place than just Catholic vs. non-Catholic, so throughout my childhood, JFK, for me, was the Catholic president. Later on, of course, it turned out that JFK saw himself as being a Catholic second and politician and leader who represented everyone, not just Catholics.

He was truly the people's president.

Had Nixon won the presidency, I would have surely been crushed and disappointed.

John F. Kennedy, Inauguration 1961, Part 1 of 2


John F. Kennedy, Inauguration 1961, Part 2 of 2


Luckily, I got my way, and on January 20, 1961, Kennedy was sworn as our 35th President. I vaguely remember a very old man named Robert Frost reciting from memory a poem called "the Gift Outright" (originally he had planned to read "Dedication," but the brilliant sunlight caused too much glare on the page and he couldn't read the handwritten poem).

I clearly remember JFK's most famous quote: "...Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

Even at 10, I realized the historical importance of that plea; Obama would do well to consider those historic words as he embarks on this very exciting and frightening adventure.

Full Text of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom — symbolising an end, as well as a beginning — signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do — for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom — and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge — to convert our good words into good deeds — in a new alliance for progress — to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support — to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective — to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak — and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course — both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.

So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms — and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to "undo the heavy burdens ... and to let the oppressed go free."

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our cause. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.


Friday, November 7, 2008

#74: President-Elect Barack Obama's First Press Conference

Photo released by the President-Elect's transition team (November 7, 2008)

Today, President-Elect Barack Obama held his first post-election press conference:



Full text of Obama's prepared remarks, delivered at his November 7, 2008, press conference (Chicago, Illinois).

Released by the Obama transition team:

This morning, we woke to more sobering news about the state of our economy. The 240,000 jobs lost in October marks the 10th consecutive month that our economy has shed jobs. In total, we've lost nearly 1.2 million jobs this year, and more than 10 million Americans are now unemployed. Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes. Their stories are an urgent reminder that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them.

The United States has only one government and one President, and until January 20th of next year, that government is the current Administration. I have spoken to President Bush, and I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that his economic policy team keeps us fully informed as developments unfold.

Immediately after I become President, I will confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity.

This morning, I met with members of my Transition Economic Advisory Board, who will help guide the work of my transition team in developing a strong set of policies to respond to this crisis. We discussed several of the most immediate challenges facing our economy and key priorities on which to focus on in the days and weeks ahead:

First, we need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provides relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life savings disappear. A particularly urgent priority is a further extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who cannot find work in the increasingly weak economy. A fiscal stimulus plan that will jump-start economic growth is long overdue - and we should get it done.

Second, we must address the spreading impact of the financial crisis on other sectors of our economy: small businesses that are struggling to meet their payrolls and finance their holiday inventories; and state and municipal governments facing devastating budget cuts and tax increases. We must also remember that the financial crisis is increasingly global and requires a global response.

The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces - hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry. The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I would like to see the Administration do everything they can to accelerate the retooling assistance that Congress has already enacted. In addition, I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars here in the United States. I have asked my team to explore what we can do under current law and whether additional legislation will be needed for this purpose.

Third, we will review the implementation of this Administration's financial program to ensure that our government's efforts are achieving their central goal of stabilizing financial markets while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance. It is critical that the Treasury work closely with the FDIC, HUD and other government agencies to use the substantial authority they already have to help families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.

Finally, as we monitor and address these immediate economic challenges, we will be moving forward in laying out a set of policies that will grow our middle-class and strengthen our economy in the long-term. We cannot afford to wait on moving forward on the key priorities that I identified during the campaign, including clean energy, health care, education and tax relief for middle class families.
My transition team will be working on each of these priorities in the weeks ahead, and I intend to reconvene this Advisory Board to discuss the best ideas for responding to these immediate problems.

Let me close by saying that I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead. We have taken some major actions to date, and we will need further actions during this transition and subsequent months. Some of those choices will be difficult, but America is a strong and resilient country. I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and work together as one nation. And that is what I intend to do.
Questions from press corps

With that, let me open it up for some questions. And I’m going to start right here with you.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I wonder what you think any president can accomplish during their first 100 days in office to turn the economy around? How far can you go? And what will be your priorities on day one?

OBAMA: Well, I think that a new president can do an enormous amount to restore confidence, to move an agenda forward that speaks to the needs of the economy and the needs of middle-class families all across the country.

I’ve outlined during the course of the campaign some critical issues that I intend to work on.

We have a current financial crisis that is spilling out into rest of the economy, and we have taken some action so far. More action is undoubtedly going to be needed. My transition team is going to be monitoring very closely what happens over the course of the next several months.

The one thing I can say with certainty is that we are going to need to see a stimulus package passed either before or after inauguration.

We are going to have to focus on jobs, because the hemorrhaging of jobs has an impact, obviously, on consumer confidence and the ability of people to ... buy goods and services and can have enormous spillover effects.

And I think it’s going to be very important for us to provide the kinds of assistance to state and local governments to make sure that they don’t compound some of the problems that are already out there by having to initiate major layoffs or initiate tax increases.

So there are some things that we know we’re going to have to do, but I’m confident that a new president can have an enormous impact. That’s why I ran for president.

Q: (OFF-MIKE) from House Democrats that the stimulus package may be in trouble, that it’s going to be a hard time getting out of a lame-duck session. Are you still confident that you would be able to get something done before you actually take office?

OBAMA: I want to see a stimulus package sooner rather than later. If it does not get done in the lame-duck session, it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States.

Q: Senator, for the first time since the Iranian revolution, the president of Iran sent a congratulations note to a new U.S. president. I’m wondering if, first of all, if you responded to President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad’s note of congratulations and, second of all, and more importantly, how soon do you plan on sending low-level envoys to countries such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, to see if a presidential-level talk would be productive?

OBAMA: I am aware that the letter was sent. Let me state ... repeat what I stated during the course of the campaign.

Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable. And we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening.

Iran’s support of terrorist organizations I think is something that has to cease.

I will be reviewing the letter from President Ahmadinejad, and we will respond appropriately. It’s only been three days since the election. Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-jerk fashion. I think we’ve got to think it through.

But I have to reiterate once again that we only have one president at a time. And I want to be very careful that we are sending the right signals to the world as a whole that I am not the president and I won’t be until January 20th.

Q: Picking up what we were just talking about, your meeting with President Bush on Monday. When — he is still the decider, obviously, stating the obvious. When you disagree with decisions he makes, will you defer? Will you challenge? Will you confront? And if it becomes confrontational, could that rattle the markets even more?

OBAMA: Well, President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to — to meet with him and first lady Laura Bush. We are gratified by the invitation. I’m sure that, in addition to taking a tour of the White House, there’s going to be a substantive conversation between myself and the president.

I’m not going to anticipate problems. I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship and a sense that both the president and various leaders in Congress all recognize the severity of the situation right now and want to get stuff done.

And, you know, undoubtedly there may end up being differences between not just members of different parties, but between people within the same party.

The critical point and I think the critical tone that has to be struck by all of us involved right now is the American people need help. This economy is in bad shape. And we have just completed one of the longest election cycles in recorded history.

Now is a good time for us to set politics aside for a while and think practically about what will actually work to move the economy forward. And it’s in that spirit that I’ll have the conversation with the president.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. With the country facing two wars and a financial crisis, do you think it’s important for you to move especially quickly to fill key cabinet posts, such as treasury secretary and secretary of state?

OBAMA: When we have an announcement about cabinet appointments, we will make them. There is no doubt that I think people want to know who’s going to make up our team.

And I want to move with all deliberate haste, but I want to emphasize deliberate as well as haste. I’m proud of the choice I made of vice president, partly because we did it right. I’m proud of the choice of chief of staff, because we thought it through.

And I think it’s very important, in all these key positions, both in the economic team and the national security team, to ... to get it right and not to be so rushed that you end up making mistakes.

I’m confident that we’re going to have an outstanding team, and we will be rolling that out in subsequent weeks.

Q: Yes, sir. To what extent — to what extent are you planning to use your probably pretty great influence in determining the successor for your Senate seat? And what sort of criteria should the governor be looking at in filling that position?

OBAMA: This is the governor’s decision; it is not my decision.

And I think that the criteria that I would have for my successor would be the same criteria that I’d have if I were a voter: somebody who is capable; somebody who is passionate about helping working families in Illinois meet their ... meet their dreams.

And I think there are going to be a lot of good choices out there, but it is the governor’s decision to make, not mine.

Lynn Sweet?

Q: Mr. President-elect...

OBAMA: What happened to your arm, Lynn?

Q: I cracked my shoulder running to your speech on election night.

OBAMA: Oh, no.


Q: (inaudible)

OBAMA: I think that was the only major incident during the ... the entire Grant Park celebration.

Q: Thank you for asking. Here’s my question. I’m wondering what you’re doing to get ready. Have you spoken to any living ex-presidents, what books you might be reading?

Everyone wants to know, what kind of dog are you going to buy for your girls? Have you decided on a private or public school for your daughters?

OBAMA: Let ... let me list those off.

In terms of speaking to former presidents, I’ve spoken to all of them that are living. Obviously, President Clinton — I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.

I have reread some of Lincoln’s writings, who’s always an extraordinary inspiration.

And, by the way, President Carter, President Bush, Sr., as well as the current president have all been very gracious and offered to provide any help that they can in this transition process.

With respect to the dog, this is a major issue. I think it’s generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything.

We have ... we have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic.

On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So ... so whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household.

And with respect to schools, Michelle will be — will be scouting out some schools. We’ll be making a decision about that in the future.

Q: You are now privy to a lot of intelligence that you haven’t had access to before, in fact, much of what the president sees, I’m sure all of it.

First of all, do you — what do you think about the state of U.S. intelligence, whether you think it needs beefing up, whether you think there’s enough interaction between the various agencies?

And, second of all, has anything that you’ve heard given you pause about anything you’ve talked about on the campaign trail?

OBAMA: Well, as you know, if ... if there was something I had heard, I couldn’t tell you. But...


OBAMA: I have received intelligence briefings. And I will make just a general statement: Our intelligence process can always improve. I think it has gotten better. And, you know, beyond that, I don’t think I should comment on the nature of the intelligence briefings. That was a two-parter. Was there another aspect to that?

Q: Well, just whether — you know, absent what you’ve heard...

OBAMA: OK, I get you.

Q: ... whether anything has given you pause.

OBAMA: I’m going to skip that.

Q: Mr. President-elect, do you still intend to seek income tax increases for upper-income Americans? And if so, should these Americans expect to pay higher taxes in 2009?

OBAMA: The ... my tax plan represented a net tax cut. It provided for substantial middle-class tax cuts; 95 percent of working Americans would receive them.

It also provided for cuts in capital gains for small businesses, additional tax credits. All of it is designed for job growth.

My priority is going to be, how do we grow the economy? How do we create more jobs?

I think that the plan that we’ve put forward is the right one, but, obviously, over the next several weeks and months, we’re going to be continuing to take a look at the data and see what’s taking place in the economy as a whole.

But, understand, the goal of my plan is to provide tax relief to families that are struggling, but also to boost the capacity of the economy to grow from the bottom up.

All right. Thank you very much, guys.
Other news:

U.S. President George W. Bush makes remarks on the presidential transition as Vice President Dick Cheney listens at the South Lawn of the White House November 6, 2008 in Washington, DC. Bush thanked his cabinet and staff for their work throughout his administration.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

Bush crawled out of his hidey-hole and met with his White House staff yesterday. He addressed his people, who are (at this moment) dusting off their resumes and getting ready to flee Titanic Bush.

Suddenly, 73+ days to inauguration look awfully long.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

#75: North Carolina's 15 Electoral Votes Go to Barack Obama


Total Electoral Votes: 538

Barack Obama/Joe Biden: 364

John McCain/Sarah Palin: 162

According to the Wiki map, Missouri is still too close to call.

#75: Obama Announces Rahm Emanuel for Chief of Staff Position

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois

President-Elect Barack Obama has announced his Chief of Staff today.

"I announce this appointment first because the Chief of Staff is central to the ability of a President and Administration to accomplish an agenda," said Obama. "And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel."

From 1993-1998, Democrat Rep. Rahm Emanuel, 48, was a senior advisor to Clinton at the White House. He was also a leading strategist for Clinton's failed universal health care initiatives.

More about Emanuel

As a citizen, I have some reservations about Emanuel (who is considered to be a political insider), but much will depend on Obama's other staff. For now, I will trust that Obama has made a wise choice.

I would hope that the President-elect, in keeping with his campaign promise of change, would also select some "outsiders" for his staff and Cabinet.

Other possibilities for Obama's staff:

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Caroline Kennedy

Colin Powell

Mike Huckabee (a definite long shot ultra-conservative, but someone to take seriously)


About Rahm Emanuel and other possible Obama picks



#75: Reality Day


The World Reacts to Obama Victory


Today is brick wall reality day.

Yesterday, after posting Barack Obama's stunning victory speech and Martin Luther King's classic "I Have a Dream" speech, I sank into a political funk; over the past month or so, I had become a political and news network junkie, surfing between CNN and MSNBC, and, yes, even Fox network (more on that later).

I promised my better half that I'd go cold turkey on November 5, but that hasn't quite worked out yet. It seems as though the siren call to the talking political heads is still much too seductive. The Morbid and Mortality analyses of the Republican party are quite fascinating to note, especially from the same experts who warned of an extremely close election. Funny how the same old info takes on new meaning the days after the election.

Bottom line: I'm thrilled that Obama was elected, but now that the Adrenalin high is gone, I'm feeling a bit flat line, so there is a slight spike upward when I tune into Keith "The Chief" Olbermann, Larry King, Rachel Maddow, Rick Sanchez, Bay and Pat Buchanan, Paul Begala, and, yes, Mike Huckabee.

Here's the reality part:

I have spent the last month wondering if we were going to experience another Florida (or Pennsylvania or Ohio) and that an Obama defeat would be snatched from the jaws of victory--I'm highly suspicious of Republican mucky mucks, especially those Bushies.

Now it's the waiting game, which is why I'm doing a countdown to inauguration; I'm both excited and anxious. As much as I adore Barack Obama, I wonder: Will our President-elect be able to fulfill even a portion of his promises? During the campaign, he raised our expectations to a fevered pitch, but I have to wonder if we have to scale back some of our expectations. Urgent matters await Barack Obama:

The economy (and reigning in Wall Street; I'm a firm believer in strict government regulation for those who, obviously, can't regulate themselves)

The two wars

The war on terrorism

Universal health care


The environment
As citizens, we have to get past the campaign rhetoric and consider what is realistic for one man to accomplish.

I don't envy President-elect Obama's difficult job ahead.

I am a gung-ho Barack Obama supporter, but with some caveats (which is why I originally supported Hillary Clinton):

      1. He is largely unknown, for we have only his campaign speeches and behavior to go by. Do we really know his intentions for how he plans to govern this country?

      2. His great charisma scares me a bit because, as we all know, charisma without conscience can be a dangerous mix. So let's hope that his charisma is not a mask for anything nefarious. Fortunately, only a few negative issues arose during the campaign, Jeremiah Wright being the most troubling--we can't ignore this association, and Hillary Clinton and the Republicans were right to expose it (although for all the wrong reasons).

      3. His resume is a bit thin, although I believe that his astounding intellect and grace under pressure will serve him well. Also, his cabinet choices will reveal the direction of his presidency. As of today, Obama has asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a Democratic lawmaker known for a hard-charging style, to lead his White House staff. Emanuel has accepted the job.

      Also, Obama is considering Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker for the Treasury post. Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend, is heading up the transition team (Reuters).

      4. Which brings me to the cronyism issue: while I can appreciate why Obama would want to surround himself with close and trusted friends, I would also hope that he would go outside of his inner circle and select ethical experts, even Republicans, who would help steer him in the right direction should he lose his way. Everyone in power needs a point person who will not be afraid to tell the emperor when he's not wearing clothes.

      All during the campaign, we heard both candidates repeating the "reaching across the aisle" manta/cliche. Now will it really happen in an Obama presidency? I sincerely hope so.

      5. Finally (and this is big), will Obama be every one's president? As a Caucasian middle-aged woman, I voted for Obama because he was, in my opinion, the best choice. Race had nothing to do with how I voted. It would be dangerous if he became known as "The Black President"; there are too many people in this country who have not moved beyond race and their fears, and Obama will need to assure them that he represents all Americans.
Closing thoughts for today: while I was thick into my news junkie phase and my two favorite sources (CNN and MSNBC) were repeating programs I had already viewed, I flipped over to Fox, where I discovered Mike Huckabee's show.

Now I disagree with about everything Huckabee believes, but I was impressed by his demeanor and attitude toward his guests. He admitted that he loves having moderates and liberals on his show, and, evidently, they love being there. On the night I tuned in, Huckabee's guests were Richard Dreyfus and Bill Maher. There was no shouting or name calling, just smart discussion of political issues. Huckabee is anything but wishy washy on his views, but some other talk show hosts (specifically Olbermann, Matthews, and O'Reilly) could take a page from Huckabee's book by treating their guests with respect by truly listening. He does not interrupt or try to shout over their heads.

I can see why Mike Huckabee appealed to some voters during the primary; as President he would most likely reach across the aisle. Just watch this You Tube video and listen to Huckabee's overall approach toward Obama and other issues:





Wednesday, November 5, 2008

#76: President-Elect Barack Obama's Victory Speech and "I Have a Dream"


Barack Obama Presidential Victory Speech


The text of Barack Obama's 11/4 victory speech is breathtaking in its scope and beauty and will go down in history as one of the greatest rhetorical moments in history. Although Obama doesn't refer to Martin Luther King, Jr., by name, Obama's speech is an echo of King's classic "I Have a Dream" Speech, presented later in this post.

It is with joy that I post the full text of Barack Obama's stunning speech to the American people:

Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.

Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor (Sarah) Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best--the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way. To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics, you made this happen and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office.

We didn't start with much money or many endorsements.

Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give 5 and 10 and 20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy, who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organised and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime--two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years-- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those--to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons--because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves--if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

"I Have a Dream," Martin Luther King, Jr.

(August 28, 1963, The Lincoln Memorial)


Here is Martin Luther King's classic speech delivered on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial:

I Have a Dream (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Closing note:

Martin Luther King's dream has come true.

I never thought I'd EVER see, in my lifetime, this historical moment. I am speechless and joyfully stunned.

Indeed, Barack Obama owes a huge debt to Martin Luther King and others who have paved the way for monumental point in history.

Let us begin the countdown to Inauguration Day 2009.


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