Tag Archives: president

Awareness

If Mos Def were President

I’m not sure where these are coming from, but this little video of what Mos Def would do if he was president is amazing.  Most of his ideas aren’t really that surprising based on the stuff he’s said in the past, but I particularly cared for the way he ended things….by declaring a 100 year moratorium on several phrases including “in the club”, “that’s hot”, and “shortie”. 

The best part is that he even says he’s not sure how the world would get better if he banned the word shortie, but he’s sure it will.  Hell, I’m sure it would too.

 

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.

Politics

John McCain’s Double Talk Express

Obviously take it with a grain of salt since all political videos are created with a certain set of biases.

This is clearly no exception and 4080Records does not endorse it by any means. It could be inaccurate, it could be outright wrong or conveniently edited. Still, it’s a pretty interesting look at a man who claims to speak “Straight Talk”.

This video compares John McCain’s various statements over time. To be fair, I can’t honestly fault him for the Iraq thing. It’s clearly a misstatement for him to claim that he always knew it wouldn’t be easy. But it is more important for politicians to come to terms with the way a situation like Iraq is now then for them to be right about the way they viewed it before. I’d way rather have him change his mind on this issue than have him stick to the line that everything is peachy in that area of the world.

Either way, take a look.

Politics

Obama’s Race Speech

Like him or hate him, you have to admit that Barack Obama is a helluva talented speaker. And, to top it all off, what CNN’s political pundit Bill Schenider calls the “most sophisticated speech on race and politics I’ve ever heard.”, was written by Obama himself.

You can check out all 38 minutes of Obama’s speech below.

More importantly, in case you have trouble focusing or just don’t have an hour to spend listening to a speech, HuffPo has the full transcript of the speech here.

For those of you not following the story, here it is in a nutshell. Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a nutbag. He has made way too many controversial statements, both racially and politically.

He criticizes “White” Americans and castigates the American government. MSNBC has this to say:

A videotape of one sermon captures Wright using a harsh racial epithet to argue that Clinton could not understand the struggles of African Americans.

“Barack knows what it means, living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Wright said on Christmas Day of last year. “Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a [N-word]!”

In another sermon, delivered five days after the 9/11 attacks, Wright seems to imply that the United States had brought the terrorist violence on itself.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York, and we never batted an eye,” Wright says. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought right back in our own front yards.”

In a later sermon, Wright revisits the theme, declaring: “No, no, no, not God bless America — God damn America!”

Pretty tough stuff to deal with, and really damaging to Obama’s claimed attempt to transcend racial politics. After the furor in South Carolina, Obama has to deal with it at some point. So he did. In Philadelphia, ahead of one of the last big primaries, he held a speech that dealt with race in an obvious way.

Responses to the speech have been mixed. The New York Times and LA Times both gave ringing endorsements to the speech, comparing it to visionary statements by people like Lincoln and Kennedy.

Even articles that are critical of his speech lend him some credit. The Houston Chronicle says “Holding a tough hand of cards, Obama responded to Wright’s outbursts with admirable finesse. He downplayed their outrageous, sometimes demented, nature by labeling them “divisive,” a moderate word. He refused to disown his pastor. He couldn’t. Doing so would have seemed craven after their long history together.”

The International Herald Tribune offers a more complex portrait of his speech, including an analysis of other media outlets.

Media analyses, in the United States and abroad, were overwhelmingly positive in describing Obama’s speech, which he felt compelled to deliver amid a firestorm of criticism of Wright. They also said it had unalterably changed the face of his campaign.

The Daily Telegraph of London called Obama’s speech “a spellbinding display of rhetorical brilliance,” but also said that he would never again be able to campaign as an American politician “who just happened to be black.”

“With this speech, he has become a black man running for president, taking on the mantle of Martin Luther King,” the newspaper wrote. “That makes it a great gamble, a move on to new terrain.”

Writing in The Guardian of London, Michael Tomasky noted that Obama had “seemed, as someone’s one-liner put it, ‘just the right amount of black’ ” – but that he had now presented Americans with a more complex and challenging self-portrait.

“I am sure it helps us, as a society, to hear it all put out there with intelligence and subtlety,” Tomasky wrote. “I am less sure about whether it will help him.”

One of the only truly negative critiques comes from the lovely (read: evil) Ann Coulter. I won’t do her a favour and link to her article, since it’s full of the typical juvenile vitriol we come to expect of the blonde lunatic, the Howard Stern-ette of the political sphere. The same woman who came out and accused 9/11 widows of profiting off the deaths of their husbands has the gall to claim that she is the authentic post-racial American and Obama is not.

For a smarter conservative critique, we can look to the National Review Online. That’s not a sentence that is normally written, but in this case it is true. Even they admit that the speech was well written and moving, but that it still dealt with some difficult material. Their argument that the sheer fact Obama had to ever downplay comments like this is problematic. That is difficult to argue with. I think everyone wishes Wright hadn’t said these things. Heck, I’m sure Wright probably wishes he hadn’t said some of this stuff now.

The San Francisco Chronicle speaks a little about the speech too, and seems to be overwhelmingly positive. They say that not only does it address the fears and the problems with Wright’s sermons, “But for those who were willing to listen, Obama’s Philadelphia speech provided a context to his relationship with Wright, as well as a fascinating discourse on the role of race in the framing of the U.S. Constitution, the culture of the black church, resentments among blacks and whites, and even the complexities of attitudes within his own biracial family. He spoke of his white grandmother who “loves me as much as she loves anything in this world” yet also feared black men passing her on the street uttered “racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

Overall, the speech is full of good points and some bad ones. Obama may gloss over some of the problems but he does do a good job of defusing the issue. One of the more unlikely defenders of Obama and Wright is former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He suggests (rightly so) that no politician should be held 100% accountable for what those around them say. Huckabee also says that pastors sometimes get carried away in their sermons and often things come out that aren’t exactly how they meant to say it.

He also correctly points out that these ridiculously offensive statements from Wright are not the only thing he’s done. Wright is a more complex man and has done a lot of good for his community. Those things should not be overlooked, but it should also not excuse him from his rants.

I’ll leave you with this little section of his speech.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

It’s impressive oration no matter if you believe him or not. And in truth it’s hard to agree with the idealism behind it. Practically it may be a different matter. However, I believe that any discussion on race that talks about it in terms of uniting instead of dividing, agreeing to accept flaws in a group’s views and not completely counting them out about it, can only be useful.

Obama declares that “there is not a black America and a white America… . There’s the United States of America.” If only this were true. Though with more open discussion about these issues, maybe it will be.