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Showing posts from March, 2011

Michelle Obama on mentoring

In so many ways, I see myself in you all. And I want you to see yourselves in me...

- Michelle Obama, Ballou High School, March 30, 2011
Politicians are always finding ways to say things like "children are our future." Its a good line that makes everyone feel good. But when you look at how they spend their time and resources, it becomes just that...a line.

Perhaps I'm biased because I've spent my entire career working with young people. But I have this feeling that people who demonstrate - by their actions - a commitment to children (both their own and other people's children), are speaking volumes to us about their values. Barack and Michelle Obama have demonstrated this kind of commitment since day one in the White House.

Yesterday was such a day for Michelle Obama. In celebration of International Women's Day, she carried on a tradition she started when she first arrived at the White House - a day for successful women to inspire and mentor local Washing…

Obama: "America has done what we said we would do."

Obama just finished delivering a speech about our involvement in Libya. He made some points that over the next few days I'm sure will be dissected to develop what we can say about an "Obama Doctrine." I might even attempt to do that as I have time to dwell on things a bit more.

But my first reaction is that I heard what I hoped to hear about this particular situation. Like so many of us in this country, I was worried about things like "mission creep" and the potential dangers of getting involved in another quagmire of a war.

No one knows exactly how the situation in Libya will end. But Obama was clear about a few things that reassured me he's thought out our role very well.

For example, after recounting what has happened over the last couple of weeks and announcing that NATO will take over command as of Wednesday, he said this:

Going forward, the lead in enforcing the No Fly Zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and part…

Arrow's Story

Over the last week or so when people talk about our involvement in Libya, a comparison is often made to our intervention in Bosnia. How valid that comparison is will have to be the topic for someone else. Because bringing up Bosnia always reminds me of one of the most beautiful books I've ever read, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. It is a fictionalized account of 4 people's lives during the Siege of Sarajevo, which went on from 1992 to 1996.

It was fought during the Bosnian War between poorly equipped defending forces of the Bosnian government, who had declared independence from Yugoslavia, and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Bosnian Serb forces (Army of Republika Srpska) (VRS) located in the hills around Sarajevo, who sought to destroy the newly-independent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and create the Serbian state of Republika Srpska (RS).

It is estimated that of the more than 12,000 people who were killed and 50,000 who were wounded during the siege, 8…

What's the end game?

My title seems to be a prominent question asked mostly by those on the left about our current involvement in Libya.

Here is a brilliant response by a blogger in just such a discussion.

While I agree that it is a critical question, I also recognize that "end game" is a question that it is not the U.S. place to answer, if this was truly a humanitarian intervention. And since my support for it is predicated upon it having been a humanitarian intervention, "end game for Libya" is a question that has to be answered by Libyans, not pundits, or commenters or even policy analysts sitting in the U.S...

So, uncertainty has to be the price of our principles, and some lack of control.
Lack of certainty and control is a HUGE issue - including for those on the left. For years now we've been raging against the neocon's Pax Americana. But the hard truth is that being a partner rather than a dominator means giving up some control.

I've learned that same lesson on a tin…

Senators show lack of leadership

Something happened last week that I didn't have time to write about. But I think its an important event that indicates how we exhibit our tendency towards authoritarianism in this country rather than the democratic republic our founders envisioned.

Sixty-four Senators (32 Democrats and 32 Republicans) sent a letter to President Obama that said the following:

As the Administration continues to work with Congressional leadership regarding our current budget situation, we write to inform you that we believe comprehensive deficit reduction measures are imperative and to ask you to support a broad approach to solving the problem...

By approaching these negotiations comprehensively, with a strong signal of support from you, we believe that we can achieve consensus on these important fiscal issues. This would send a powerful message to Americans that Washington can work together to tackle this critical issue.
First of all, as Ezra Klein points out, Obama has already signaled support on t…

Imagining World

In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.

- Brian Andreas


Imagine My Surprise
by David Whyte

Imagine my surprise,
sitting a full hour
in silent and irremediable
fear of the world,

to find the body
forgetting
its own fear the instant
it opened and placed
those unassuming hands
on life's enduring pain,

and the world for one
moment
closed its terrifying eyes
in gratitude,

Saying,
"This is my body, I am found."

"As good as it gets"

Why, in spite of everything, I still love Barack Obama, by Christina Patterson (h/t to Blackwaterdog).

Obama, like every other person on the face of this planet, doesn't know if bombing certain targets in Tripoli, and Benghazi, and Misrata, is going to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi, or if it's just going to strengthen his resolve. He doesn't know if the bombs will just destroy machinery, and kill soldiers, or if they're going to kill men and women who are used as human shields. He doesn't know if the so-called rebels, who said they didn't want international help, and then that they did, but might change their minds again, and who are mostly about as experienced in using AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades as I am, will be able to stand up against a trained army, and highly paid mercenaries, and massive supplies of arms that the West sold them, and now wishes it hadn't. He doesn't know if this is the kind of military action that can be done quite quickly an…

Today in Libya

Here's a map of where all of this is taking place.

On "dithering" and...marshmallows?

We've all been watching over the last week as an attempt to define Obama as "dithering" over a decision about Libya has become the narrative of the GOP and some in the media. It doesn't, however, seem to be catching on with the American public. Recently Reuters conducted a poll asking people how they saw Obama. The results:

48 percent: Cautious and consultative
36 percent: Indecisive and dithering
17 percent: Strong and decisive

That 36% is likely representative of the GOP base that is open to any kind of attack on Obama. The rest were forced into a false choice, assuming that being "cautious and consultative" is somehow at odds with being "strong and decisive."

Timothy Egan wrote a great column defending "dithering" and pointed out what the GOP is doing with this one:

The real problem for Republicans is that they are perplexed over what position to take on an issue that defies partisanship. So, Obama’s least-thoughtful critics attack him …

Daydream

The Agitator

Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.

- Michele Obama
No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear. When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past can be washed away. When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place.

- Barack Obama, Rio de Janeiro, March 20, 1011
St. Louis, Missouri, USA


Chicago, Illinois, USA


Cairo, Egypt


Madison, Wisconsin, USA


Austin, Texas, USA


Benghazi, Libya


Change Square, Yemen


The people of Benghazi, March 24, 2011

Libyan protest flag

Obama on Obama

I suspect that most of us political junkies have seen this video by now. But I thought of it again when I read this post over at The Obama Diary about a Reuters poll and article.

People were given just three choices to describe President Obama, these were the results:

48 percent: Cautious and consultative
36 percent: Indecisive and dithering
17 percent: Strong and decisive

Note how they separate ‘cautious and consultative’ from ‘strong and decisive’, like being cautious and consultative are signs of weakness when you’re contemplating sending American men and women in to combat. If weakness is being cautious about taking military action against another country, before consulting widely to get the best advice, and then acting accordingly – then I love weakness!

Reuters’ headline? ‘Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader’!

Flower

Picture of the day...Father and Daughter

The silence of the left on El Salvador

Back in the 1980's I wasn't as politically attuned as I am these days, but I was engaged enough to know that one of the most prominent issues on the left was US support of the military dictatorship in El Salvador. Much of that was sparked by the assassination, in 1980, of Archbishop Oscar Romero. That atrocity was followed up later that year by the brutal gang rape and murder of four American nuns (Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, and Dorothy Kazel). But it was the murder of 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15 year old daughter in 1989 that finally mobilized a world-wide reaction.



All in all, 75,000 people were were killed during El Salvador's bloody civil war. And the US - through Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush - continued to financially support the regime that was responsible for most of these killings. According to Congressman Joe Moakley of Massachusetts (who was tasked by Speaker Foley to investigate the murder of the Jesui…

A simple act

Today we learned that President Obama will cut his visit to El Salvador short by a few hours. We know that there are weighty problems that the President is called on to address. But I'm so grateful that he still took the time to visit the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The importance of this simple act cannot be overstated. The United States - under both Republican and Democratic Presidents - supplied arms to the junta that is responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Romero...a man of peace who gave his life fighting for the poor and oppressed of El Salvador.

Thank you President Obama. And may this simple act be one that expresses our hope for healing and forgiveness from the people of El Salvador.

Obama visits "City of God"

First, some background...



Then, the preparations...



Finally, the visit...
















This little angel was running around fearlessly among the bigger kids.





President Dilma Rousseff and the story of Latin America (updated)

It seems as though the big question on the mind of the American press right now is "Why is Obama in South America with so many other crises going on in the world." Yesterday, he met with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and I believe her life story can begin to shed some light on why this trip is so important to the United States.

President Rousseff was born into an upper middle class family in Brazil. Her father was a Bulgarian immigrant and her mother a school teacher. In 1964, when Rousseff was 17 years old, the Brazilian military led a coup d'etat against the democratically elected government of left-wing President João Goulart. Anyone who knows much about the history of Central and South America will not be surprised that the military was supported in this by the US government in their on-going fears about the spread of communism.

Rousseff responded by joining left-wing and Marxist urban guerilla groups that fought against the military dictatorship. Eventually…

It's a marvelous night for a moondance...

...at least, according to NASA.



So here's hoping for clear skies and marvelous dancing!

What do teachers make?

Paying homage to Oscar Romero

As we watch the unrest in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa, it is easy to forget that these kinds of struggles occurred a few decades ago all across Central and South America. Listen to the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero and I'm sure you'll find them prescient in terms of the current situation in Libya.



And so tonight President Obama and his family leave for visits to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador. The last day of the trip will fall one day short of the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero. And President Obama has planned a visit to this great man's tomb.

This is a powerful testament to the different direction this President has taken as people of the world stand up and fight back for their dignity and freedom.

But the symbolism will also resonate profoundly with the people of El Salvador and speak to a healing of the wounds inflicted in the not-so-distant past.

Rest in peace Archbishop Romero...your words and legacy are still …

Another example of the "Obama Method"

Last Sunday, President Obama wrote a ope-ed in the Arizona Daily Star that called for a common sense conversation about gun violence.

Clearly, there's more we can do to prevent gun violence. But I want this to at least be the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people...

We owe the victims of the tragedy in Tucson and the countless unheralded tragedies each year nothing less than our best efforts - to seek consensus, to prevent future bloodshed, to forge a nation worthy of our children's futures.
And that was followed up by a meeting convened by the Justice Department.

On Tuesday, officials at the Justice Department will meet with gun control advocates in the first of what will be a series of meetings over the next two weeks with people on different sides of the issue, including law enforcement, retailers and manufacturers, to seek agreement on possible legislative or administrative actions.

The effort follows Mr. Obama’s call, in a column o…

Watch "Brick City"

I just finished watching Season 2 of the documentary Brick City. Many people have described this series as a real life version of HBO's "The Wire." I think there is some merit to that.

Anyway, I highly recommend it. Both seasons are available on itunes - Season 1 for $8.99 and Season 2 for $15.99.

Checkmate for Boehner

Now THIS is the kind of headline I love to see: Checkmate: No Good Moves for Boehner in Spending Fight.

The House of Representatives passed emergency legislation Tuesday to keep the government funded through mid-April and avoid a shutdown reminiscent of the one Newt Gingrich triggered back in 1995.

That was the broader result Speaker John Boehner wanted, and, indeed, House GOP leadership has insisted for months now that they don't want a shutdown, period.

But Tuesday's outcome was nonetheless a mixed one for Boehner. It illustrated a reality he'd hoped to escape -- that a large chunk of his caucus won't vote with him if he compromises. Indeed, the 54 Republicans who voted against the stop-gap legislation put him in an unenviable box: Either he kowtows to his right flank, and pushes initiatives that can't pass in the Senate; or he abandons them, as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has suggested, and passes consensus legislation. The latter option, however, would require sig…

Shifting enthusiasm gap

In a post reporting on some bad news for Governor Kasich in Ohio, Public Policy Polling draws some interesting conclusions:

Of course the reality is that Democratic leaning voters did this to themselves to some extent. It's a small sample but among those who admit they didn't vote last fall, Strickland has a 57-13 advantage over Kaisch. It was a similar story in Wisconsin the other week where Tom Barrett led Scott Walker 59-22 among those who had stayed at home in 2010. Democratic voters simply did not understand the consequences- or didn't care- of their not voting last fall and they're paying the price right now. But the winners of that realization in the long run may be Barack Obama, Sherrod Brown, and Herb Kohl- these states are already looking politically a whole lot more like 2008 than 2010.
Obama warned us over and over again that we shouldn't "give them the keys back." Now we're seeing the results of letting that happen. We'd better get &qu…

Republican Governors continue to demonstrate dominance over leadership

Last week I wrote about leadership and contrasted the style of Republican Governors (dominance) to that of Obama (partnership). In that piece I used Governors Scott and Christie as examples.

But now I see that I left an important player our of that group...Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan.

Perhaps lost in the Wisconsin shuffle is the story of what exactly is happening in Michigan. Newly elected Republican governor, Rick Snyder, is set to pass one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country – and almost no one is talking about it.

Snyder’s law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead. But that’s not all – whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn’t get much more anti-Democratic than that.

"We're all victims now"

From Leonard Pitts:

Indeed, one need not travel far these days to encounter signs of acute anxiety emanating from the nation's white majority, a visceral sense of dislocation and lost privilege.

You see it in the hysterical (in both senses of the word) reaction to the election of the first black president. You see it in the spike in the number of hate groups. You see it in the screeching that passes for debate on illegal immigration and in the clangor that seems to confront any Muslim who seeks to build a mosque anywhere. You see it in the apocalyptic rantings of Glenn Beck and in the peevish mutterings of Rush Limbaugh.

You see it also in a 2010 survey by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, which found that 44 percent of us believe bigotry against whites is a significant problem.

Among tea party followers, the number rises to 61 percent.

If you didn't know better, you'd think white kids were being funneled into the criminal justice system in obscenely …

Open - by David Whyte

It is a small step to remember
how life led to this
moment's hesitation.

How the door to the deeper world
opens, letting the body fall at last,
toward the few griefs it can call its own.

Oh yes, I know. Our wings catch fire
in that downward flight
and we come to earth afraid
we can never fly again.

But then we always knew
heaven would be a desperate place.
Everything you desired coming
in one fearful moment
to greet you.

Your full presence only in rest
and the love that asks nothing.
The rest where you lie down
and are no longer found at all.

Another hostage crisis looming

Remember when President Obama talked about the Republicans holding middle class tax cuts hostage in order to extend tax cuts to the wealthy? Well, that was just the beginning of this kind of scorched-earth strategy. They're in the process of doing it again, only this time their game of chicken has even more serious potential consequences.

In the next couple of months, Congress will need to vote to increase the debt ceiling. Steve Benen summarizes what is at stake.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said failing to raise the debt limit "would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said failure to raise the debt limit would lead to "financial collapse and calamity throughout the world." Fox News' Charles Krauthammer said the consequences would be "catastrophic." Fox News' Dana Perino said Republicans are inviting "economic disaster." George Will said policymakers …

They're protesting in Austin too!

From the Statesman:

Thousands of parents, teachers and other education advocates poured onto the Capitol grounds Saturday to rally against proposed state budget cuts that school districts say could force layoffs of thousands of teachers and other public education employees.

Demonstrators sprawled across the statehouse grounds, carrying signs scrawled with "Save Our Schools" and "Fund the Future."

Others carried umbrellas to underscore their desire that lawmakers tap into the state's rainy day fund to help balance the budget...

Organizers handed out stickers to attendees as a means of counting the crowd and said they ran out of the 11,000 stickers they had on hand...

Current state budget proposals would leave public education more than $9 billion short of the funding required under current law. Under the proposals, about 100,000 public school employees could be laid off, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities.