And Here We Are…

The U.S. presidential election stunned a lot of my friends.  It stunned me.  There was no way I could see an openly xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic candidate actually being elected the President of the United States.  Indeed, that is exactly what has happened.  It is a small salve, to me, that he did not win the popular vote.  But it is equally sobering that the vote shows a very polarized nation.  And now we have to wait and see what happens, like the rest of the world.

I pondered this election for many a sleepless night and have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you.  I’ve been voting since 1972.  I’ve watched a lot of elections.  I actually remember elections as far back as Johnson vs. Goldwater in ’64.  But this has been one of the craziest elections I’ve ever seen. Being an armchair amateur of U.S. politics and elections, I will attempt to write about what I see, in retrospect, that might help explain what we’ve all just witnessed.  Perhaps it will bring solace and hope.  Perhaps not.  Either way, take it with a grain of salt.

Without further adieu, here are my thoughts:

  1. Hillary (and her hubby Bill) couldn’t escape the baggage of the now forgotten Democratic Leadership Council which proposed a “Third Way” of mixing conservative and liberal ideas together to create a new economy that would offer benefits to business and workers back in the late 80’s to early 90’s. This was the beginning of the Corporate-Friendly Democratic Party.
  2. The move toward corporations for support of Democratic goals changed the Democratic goals, as evidenced first by NAFTA, and the embracing of free trade agreements.
  3. The move toward big money for funding campaigns made the corporations, celebrities, and other rich folks much more influential in setting priorities for the Democratic party. Worse still, the voices of the working class were eventually ignored while the leadership chased dollars of the rich and famous.
  4. The free trade agreements decimated factories, which decimated the working class.
  5. The free trade agreements required concessions from labor to keep their factories open, which again decimated the working class.
  6. The rise of automation had an incalculable effect on the working class.
  7. And the love of money, celebrity, and status became the Democratic Party’s, the Clinton’s, and Obama’s eventual downfall due in large part to the plight of the working class not being addressed.
  8. Have we all forgotten that Obama, when in the Rust Belt some years ago, mentioned how the folks there, the working class who were no longer working, “cling” to their guns and their bibles? Well, what else did they have?
  9. And no one can forget Hillary’s “deplorables” statement because, while partially true, it also was aimed, again, squarely at working class whites. (Nothing like kicking ‘em while they’re down.)
  10. The Democratic Party leaders embraced corporate crony capitalism with the goal of bettering all citizens. I have no doubt they believed this was the best way.
  11. But in so doing, the Party left its roots behind: the working class.
  12. Working class whites rebelled. They gave into fear and hate of that which is different. For they had 35 years of continued economic erosion.
  13. Working class people of color are rebelling due to the Democratic Party not keeping it’s promises to create better lives for all people who have not known economic opportunity.

And here we are.

Hillary, who makes more in a speech than I do in several years, trying to convince voters, and the working class, that she cares about them. I believe she does. But her ties to corporate influence, celebrities, and rich folk appeared more important than issues of the working class.

Obama tried. But he too was consumed by his own “celebrity” status and loved coming to my city, Los Angeles, for fundraisers. Gawd, he and Hillary and myriad other Democratic leaders flew in to L.A. so often to raise money from the rich and famous that it became a running joke every time traffic was jammed on the 405 freeway!

Would that they had spent more time flying in to Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, and Ohio to commiserate with the working class as often as they went to fundraisers. Just to let them know they care and they are trying.

I’m sure Democratic leadership cares. But then again, I think Republican leadership cares. But I’m also sure they didn’t try very hard to address the issues of the working class.

To me that’s the lesson. Jettison the corporate fundraising, the corporate approach to influence, and get back to your roots, the Working Class, now!

If not, we’re all in for a very rough ride from a charlatan who took advantage of human suffering without having a lick of sense on how to alleviate it.

But hope is not lost.  Perseverance and patience are the order of the day.  Human kindness is still the biggest salve on the planet for bettering ourselves and resolving issues.  Don’t forget, behind all these phobias that are now being expressed; behind the bullying and the hate speech are people who are basically fearful, not knowing their place in society, and in the future.  They’d rather “burn it down” than face an unknown future.  That’s what they’ve told us, in my opinion.  Give them hope.  Give them an economy that does allow them to provide for themselves and those they love.  And, finally, give them compassion even when it is very difficult to do so.  It is our only way forward.

(Clarification: I am not a member of any political party)

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President Obama’s Inauguration Speech (Jan 21, 2013)

TRANSCRIPT OF SPEECH… [bold highlighting added by helen]

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

This Is What’s in President Obama’s Gun Control Package [gawker.com]

By Robert Kessler / gawker.com

A few minutes ago, President Obama announced a $500 million package, synthesized from suggestions put forth by Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control, aimed at curbing gun violence in the U.S. in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. The President called on Congress to take action in a number of ways, including:

  • Establishing universal background checks for anyone looking to buy a gun
  • Banning military-style assault weapons, as well as a 10-round cap on gun magazines
  • Confirming Todd Jones as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (Jones is currently acting director, as Congress has not confirmed a director in six years)

Immediately following the announcement, Obama also signed 23 executive actions, which do not require congressional approval. They are the following:

  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety
    Commission).
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns
    recovered in criminal investigations.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it
    widely available to law enforcement.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper
    training for active shooter situations.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to
    research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective
    use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop
    innovative technologies.
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients
    about guns in their homes.
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits
    them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental
    health.

During his announcement, Obama stated that in the month since the massacre in Newtown, more than 900 Americans have been killed by guns. Obama, who at parts of the speech was both emotional and forceful, urged several times he will do everything he can to curb gun violence in America.

http://gawker.com/5976447/this-is-whats-in-president-obamas-gun-control-package