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Featured Politics

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States

obama

It was an awe-inspiring day all around, and I have to say this is an amazing day for the United States of America.  Barack Obama was officially inaugurated as the 44th President.  He is the first black president, one of the youngest presidents elected, and a heck of a guy.

This is one of those days where you should forever remember where you were, when President Obama was sworn in at 12:00 pm EST.

Some things you may have noticed:

Rick Warren

What a guy.  Seriously!  He’s pretty notorious and controversial, but he gave a pretty solid prayer.  I think he did a decent job, even though he went way too long.   I’m pretty sure he was to get in around 2 minutes, but ended up closer to 5.

Aretha Franklin

She had the chance to sing “My Country tis of thee” and did a fantastic job of it.  She definitely took some creative license with it, but considering how long this Queen has been around for, she still sounds amazing.

Yo-Yo Ma

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill had a chance to play a new piece composed by John Williams (yeah he did do the scores for Indiana Jones and Star Wars) specifically for this.  Pretty awesome.

The Oath

Many people are saying Obama flubbed the oath.  You can see from the video below (providing that it’s still online) how it went down.

However, it should be noted that this is Chief Justice Roberts’ error. The cats over at Reuters caught this and are making it known.

Obama smiled slightly when he realized that Roberts, a fellow Harvard Law School graduate, misplaced the word “faithfully” during the oath. but the new president joined in the fun and repeated it the way Roberts initially administered it.  (Lest we forget, in the Senate Obama voted against confirming Roberts to the high court. Last week Obama met with him and the other Supreme Court justices during a courtesy call.)

Here is how the oath is supposed to be administered: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

And here’s how it went:

ROBERTS:  I, Barack Hussein Obama…

OBAMA:  I, Barack…

ROBERTS:  … do solemnly swear…

OBAMA:  I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…

ROBERTS:  … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…

OBAMA:  … that I will execute…

ROBERTS:  … faithfully the office of president of the United States…

OBAMA:  … the office of president of the United States faithfully…

ROBERTS:  … and will to the best of my ability…

OBAMA:  … and will to the best of my ability…

ROBERTS:  … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

OBAMA:  … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

ROBERTS:  So help you God?

OBAMA:  So help me God.

The Speech

Finally, we get to Obama’s inaugural speech, seen below.

A tremendous start to an already ambitious presidency.

Here is the transcript thanks to the BBC.

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

Serious challenges

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Nation of ‘risk-takers’

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and ploughed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

‘Remaking America’

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Restoring trust

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control – that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

‘Ready to lead’

As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

‘Era of peace’

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

‘Duties’

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honour them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

‘Gift of freedom’

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have travelled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world… that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive… that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

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

His speech was touching and reassuring.  It was a ncie mix of practicality with optimism.  It was significantly less hokey than many previous speeches (less talk of change, more talk of sacrifice and determination).  Overall I was impressed.

What a wonderous day.

Featured

The right-wing media gets nasty

Earlier this morning, Fox News announced that Alan Colmes (pictured above) will leave the network’s popular Hannity & Colmes debate program at the end of the year.  Apparently, after twelve years of ‘sparring’ with conservative counterpart Sean Hannity, Colmes is moving on “to develop new and challenging ways to contribute to the growth of the network.”  Whatever that means.

If you’ve ever seen Hannity & Colmes, you know that despite its billing as a “debate talk show,” the program offers neither enlightening discussion nor insightful commentary.  Colmes, ostensibly the duo’s liberal half, has been widely criticized for his submissiveness to both Hannity and the show’s overwhelmingly right-wing roster of guests.  Al Franken calls the show Hannity and Colmes, and refers to the “liberal on-air punching bag” as Hannity’s “goofy sidekick.”  Journalist Bob Garfield once asked Colmes if he was a “human straw man,” and John Stewart calls the show Hannity & Whatever.  To get a taste of why this criticism is well deserved, check out this particularly embarassing episode following the Biden-Palin debate (Colmes’s portion begins at around the 2:00 mark):

Clearly, Colmes’s departure will not jeopardize the journalistic integrity or intellectual excellence of Hannity & Colmes and Fox News, largely because neither has any.  What it will do, however, is give Hannity even more air-time to spout his conservative rhetoric.  It’s true: the New York Times, citing “two people close to the network,” reported that Hannity will likely become the sole host of the show following Colmes’s departure.

In addition to being absolutely terrifying in its own right, the decision to provide Hannity with his own sixty-minute time-slot in prime-time is indicative of a growing trend among right-wing media outlets.  With the Democrats firmly in control of both the legislative and executive wings of government, conservative television and radio stations are preparing a renewed assault on their perceived enemies – the ‘anti-Americans’ Palin alluded to on the campaign trail.  Indeed, no longer encumbered by the tedious task of defending Bush, right-wing firebrands like Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter are getting ready to spend the next four years mercilessly castigating the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressives of all stripes, and anyone else who happens to take the wrong position on any number of issues.  

The initial forays have already begun.   Shortly after November 4, Hannity explained that he was afraid that Obama “is the guy that has these radical associations 20 years ago” and that the President-elect will reveal himself to be “hard, hard left.”  Rush Limbaugh took it a step further, calling the current economic crisis an “Obama recession:”

“The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen.  Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression.”

CNN recently aired a segment on this topic, with further examples of how right-wing commentators are trying to paint Obama as a radical leftist:

And this is just a taste of what’s to come.  Truly, if you thought that the past eight years were bad, get ready for a period of intense, vitriolic bile from across the conservative airwaves.  It will dwarf even the worst attacks of the Clinton years, and will make the mainstream media’s tepid criticism of Bush (especially leading up to the Iraq War) seem positively benign.  Who knows – it may even make us yearn for the days when Hannity and Colmes ‘debated the issues’ and ‘interviewed’ guests.

Music Politics

Common leaks “Changes” from Universal Mind Control

To commemorate Barack Obama’s historic election on Tuesday, Common has released a track from his upcoming album Universal Mind Control. Called “Changes,” the song was written to “inspire the young world to believe that change can happen.” Common also envisioned it “as a great inaugural song for Barack Obama.”

Check it out:

Common – Changes (Universal Mind Control, 2009)

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Cool Politics

Wassup! gets political

On the eve of what is perhaps the most important US presidential election in a generation, the blogosphere is buzzing with commentary and prognostication. At 4080Records we’ve been following the race since the primaries, when it seemed inevitable that Clinton and Giuliani would be the candidates on tomorrow’s ballot. It has been a long and, honestly, exhausting two years. Tomorrow, once the results are tabulated and Obama is (hopefully) declared the 44th President, we will be relieved not only because Americans will have redeemed themselves, but also because the campaign is finally over and the constant barrage of poll numbers and punditry will have mercifully ceased.

Until then, check out this powerful video, starring (what looks like) the dudes from Budweiser’s classic ‘Wassup!’ ads:

Politics

Updates on the female candidates – Elizabeth May and Sarah Palin

I post this using the plural because I want to cover developments in both the Canadian and American elections.

Canada

In Canadian Politics, quite a lot has changed in the last few days.  Elizabeth May, the only female leader of a national political party will now be allowed to enter the TV debates, despite earlier reports.  Originally, the leaders of both the NDP and the Conservative Party had opposed the inclusion of May in the televised debates.  Stephan Dion, the Liberal Party leader, comes off looking very well after being the only major leader to openly support her inclusion.

The general public seemed quite upset, especially with NDP leader Jack Layton.  Intense pressure from supporters resulted in Layton backing down.  Once that happened, Harper immediately changed his tune and removed his opposition to May’s inclusion as well.  This will mark the first time the Green Party is included in the televised debate, and is a major shift in the Canadian Political landscape.  The big “fear” from the Conservatives and the NDP is simply that her and Dion will team up and represent some of the same platform points.  It’s a bit unfounded, because the NDP also shares many of the same platform points as both the Liberals and the Greens, and yet no one is worried about t heir inclusion.

America

In other news, Sarah Palin continues both to impress and anger at the same time.  She is also a pretty strong public speaker, but her speeches so far have been laced with more than a few examples of inflamatory rhetoric, and also more than one lie.

The big one?  Her purported opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere”.  She claims she said “thanks but no thanks” to Congress when they offered her $200 million dollars for this bridge.  However, local politicians from both major parties have come out against this.  The truth of the matter is that she was a major supporter and lobbier on behalf of this earmark, and once the money was received and the political winds changed, she changed her mind and said “no”.  But then she kept the money. That’s right.  This Yahoo! News article has much more information on some of the fiscal scandals plaguing her.  The other big issue is her opposition to a Federal oil profits Windfall tax (which Obama supports), while in her state she has done just this.  Alaska has had a major oil tax, but Palin rejigged the whole thing to make the state receive more of the income.

There is also a growing fear of Palin’s theocratic tendencies.  While faith in politics has been a major factor in American politics for the last two elections, here it becomes even more curious.  Over and above the accusations of Obama being a secret muslim, there are more serious accusations about Palin.  Juan Cole of Salon.com has written a scathing article.  Here’s a short piece: “But the values of his handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.

Cole goes on to compare Palin’s positions on abortion with a variety of Islamic countries, and notices that herr position lines up nearly identically with that of Iran.  Cole even notes that Tunisia allows abortion in the first trimester, while Palin vehemently argues it is always an “atrocity”. She’s also let it be known she doesn’t believe that climate change is man-made, which is diametrically opposed to the views espoused by both the Obama campaign and her own running mate, John McCain.

Despite these…questionable attitudes on certain subjects, Palin has been a huge source of strength to the McCain campagin.  As a staunch conservative, she has re-energized an unimpressed Republican base and has been a great source of funding for McCain.  Obama’s campaign has actually begun to fall behind in terms of fundraising in the weeks since she has been announced.

For a more detailed (and sligtly more balanced view) of Palin and some of her policies, check out this Newsweek article.

Conclusion

Overall, two strong women are participating in national politics in North America.  This is less of a “big deal” in Canada, which has already had a (albeitly short-lived) female Prime Minister.  However, this is still something to be proud of.  In both countries, this is likely to be one of the most interesting and engaging political races in modern history.

Politics

Best. Presidential. Race. Ever.

This morning, as I was recovering from the greatest live speech I’ve ever witnessed – political or otherwise, I thought the ’08 presidential race had reached its emotional peak.  And then I visited Slate.com, and learned that John McCain had picked little known Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.  McCain may not be my favourite politician, but the man clearly knows how to raise the stakes.  Palin is a stunning (pun intended), risky choice, and has added an entirely new twist to an already riveting campaign.

Just think of the new narratives, the fresh angles Palin offers the media.  Will she renew lingering doubts among Democratic supporters about Obama’s refusal to even vet Clinton as a vice presidential option?  Will her inexperience force McCain to stop attacking Obama for the same?  Will she falter in the spotlight?  How will she do against Biden in the vice presidential debate?  What about her support for drilling in ANWR, a plan McCain opposes

Indeed, Palin makes this race more exciting than I thought it could be.  In the span of a single summer, the Republicans and Democrats have completely altered the shape of American presidential politics.  Just four years ago, both slates were composed of affluent, middle-aged white men.  But in about two months, the White House will either be occupied by a black president or a female vice president. 

To qoute Terrel Owens, get the popcorn ready!

 

Politics

Black Guy Asks Nation For Change | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Black Guy Asks Nation For Change | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

God bless the Onion.

They’ve hit comic gold once again by running this article about Obama. It’s a little older (published back in March) but it actually does a pretty good job of bringing out some social commentary on the way media handles matters and can tend to … knead the truth.

The point the Onion seems to be that it’s really not that difficult to spin a set of facts to concoct whatever story you’d like to. Using some editorial license is not unheard of in the media industry, but for the most part Obama’s been on the positive end of things. His erstwhile rival Hillary, on the other hand, has not been so lucky.

Here’s what the Onion story has to say.

According to witnesses, a loud black man approached a crowd of some 4,000 strangers in downtown Chicago Tuesday and made repeated demands for change.

“The time for change is now,” said the black guy, yelling at everyone within earshot for 20 straight minutes, practically begging America for change. “The need for change is stronger and more urgent than ever before. And only you—the people standing here today, and indeed all the people of this great nation—only you can deliver this change.”

It is estimated that, to date, the black man has asked every single person in the United States for change

I don’t know why it’s funny, perhaps because it’s borderline offensive. Or maybe it’s actually offensive. It’s hard to tell sometimes. Either way, I give credit to the Onion for pushing the envelope, and for genuinely making people think sometimes.