Saturday, February 28, 2009

President Obama's Weekly Youtube Address

From Al Giordano over at The Field about the importance of this weeks Youtube Address:

Here's the money quote:

"I realize that passing this budget won't be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won't like the idea that they'll have to bid competitively to continue offer ing Medicare coverage, but that's how we'll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won't like the idea that we're ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that's how we'll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won't like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that's how we'll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

"'So am I.'

"The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don’t. I work for the American people. I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."

Okay, here's what I think just happened: The President has reframed the narrative from the stale dysfunction of Democrats demonizing Republicans and Republicans demonizing Democrats and stepped over that puddle of slime to create a more authentic narrative: The American people vs. the special interests (and note that the ones he mentions are universally from the corporate sector).

And let's keep in mind that the interests he mentions - "the insurance industry... the banks and big student lenders... the oil and gas companies..." - have their hooks and donations just as deeply into Congressional Democrats as they do for Congressional Republicans. They've all just been put on notice: oppose the reforms he's pushing and be portrayed as siding with those corporate interests against the American people.

This is is quite huge. It hasn't been done by a president since FDR. And the populist campaign rhetoric by Edwards, Clinton and even Obama in 2008 aside did not rise to this level of clarity by a longshot. Really, it hasn't been done this way by any Democratic presidential candidate since Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris ran in 1976.

This is the real "us against them" fight to be waged, far more important than the eternal and often childish skirmishes between Democrats and Republicans. He's just pulled the curtain to reveal those who are the real obstructionists behind the puppets. This is exactly to what I had referred to back on February 7 when I noted that bipartisanship is not all carrots, but is also a big stick to be wielded on Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike.

Tread carefully, oh members of Congress.

Love That Girl

Black History Month Daily Thread

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States and he is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today.

A Baptist minister,[1] King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president.

King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama Speech About Withdrawing Troops From Iraq

Official White House Portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama


Model Minorities Revisited

Here are two interesting articles on Indian Americans that I ran into recently. They illustrate the very old debate between those who would want to classify certain ethnic groups as the "model minority" and the burgeoning resistance by Asian-American communities in rejecting these ideologically-loaded ethnic stereotypes.

The author of the article, interestingly, is a fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. If this is the type of stupid propaganda that the AEI is coming up with these days in their effort to indoctrinate Americans they are gonna have to do better as Deepa Iyer deftly demolishes Richwine's condescending, racist argument. Despite this note which perspective got the wider and more prominent distribution in Forbes Magazine.

Indian Americans: The New Model Minority by Jason Richwine
The superior educational attainment, academic culture and likely high IQ of Indian Americans has already made them an economic force in the U.S., and that strength can only grow. Does this continuing success imply they will become a political force? Here, Gov. Jindal is actually a rarity. Indians are still underrepresented in politics, and they do not specialize in the kinds of fields (law and finance) most conducive to political careers. Time will tell if they are able to convert economic power into serious political influence, as a Jindal presidency could.

A much clearer implication of Indian-American success is that immigrants need not be unskilled, nor must their economic integration take generations to achieve. In sharp contrast to Indian Americans, most U.S. immigrants, especially Mexican, are much less wealthy and educated than U.S. natives, even after many years in the country.

Model Minority? No, Thanks by Deepa Iyer
From RaceWire: The Colorlines Blog
In reality, Indian Americans, much like other immigrants, have diverse experiences and backgrounds. Indian Americans are doctors, engineers and lawyers, as well as small business owners, domestic workers, taxi drivers and convenience store employees. Community members hold a range of immigration statuses and include naturalized citizens and H-1B visa holders, guest workers and students, undocumented workers and green card holders. Some have access to higher education while others struggle to learn English in a new country. As with all communities, Indian Americans do not come in the same shape and form, and cannot be treated as a monolith.

Another danger with the model minority label is that it creates divisions between Indian Americans and other immigrant communities. Beneath the seemingly positive use of the “model minority” label is a pernicious racist undertone: the purpose, after all, is to compare one set of people with another, and the result is to pit people of color against one another.

Media Alert

The President is on the cover of new Black Enterprise Magazine.


The First Lady is on the cover of the new People Magazine.

And for those who wonder, the dress is Tracy Reese.

Black History Month Daily Thread

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., National Hero of Jamaica (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and orator. Marcus Garvey was founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).

Prior to the twentieth century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam, to the Rastafari movement (which proclaims Garvey as a prophet). The intention of the movement was for those of African ancestry to "redeem" Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. The idea that African Americans should return to Africa was known as the Colonist Movement. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World entitled “African Fundamentalism” where he wrote:

“ Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… let us hold together under all climes and in every country."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The President's Speech: The Shock Doctrine Reversed

Al Giordano over at The Field had an interesting article about The President's speech. He brings up a point that was missed by plenty of the pundits.
About Last Night: The Shock Doctrine Reversed
Posted by Al Giordano - February 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm
By Al Giordano

After offering the soundbite heard ‘round the world - "We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before" - the President proceeded to make the case for three big domestic spending priorities: energy, health care, and education:
"The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. "

Those who liked to complain in recent weeks that the $787 billion dollar Stimulus Package was "not enough" behaved as if it were the only spending that would be proposed ever again from here to eternity. Yet we've already seen, just one day after the signing of the Stimulus, the rollout of $75 billion toward saving family homes during this housing crisis. And we'll look in a moment at what Obama, according to his speech last night, has on the docket for the immediate future.

First, it's important to note what is really going on here: The Obama-Axelrod-Emanuel war room has taken Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine - the observation that those in power use times of crisis to supplant the state with private sector capitalism - and turned it on its head. Instead, they're using the current economic crisis to bring back the New Deal (government stimulation of the economy and firmer regulation of the corporate sector) and the Great Society (domestic and social programs to create a safety net for American workers and the poor).


Another GOPer shows true colors

Hat tip: Prometheus 6

SEN. DAVE SCHULTHEIS, R-Colorado Springs, on Wednesday voted againt Senate Bill 179, which requires pregnant women to undergo HIV testing to ensure steps can be taken to reduce transferring the disease to the baby if the mother is infected.

* What he said during the debate: "This stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part and I just can't go there. We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly. I'm not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions."

* What he said afterward: "What I'm hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years ... begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior. We can't keep people from being raped. We can't keep people from shooting each other. We can't keep people from jumping off bridges. People drink and drive, and they crash and kill people. Poor behavior has its consequences."

From the The Rocky Mountain News

There really are no words. This is disgusting.

Schooling the GOP - Barney Frank Style

Barney Frank schools GOP Rep. Issa on the Budget

Senate Votes to Give DC Citizens Vote in Congress


Senate Votes To Give DC Citizens Vote in Congress
JIM ABRAMS | February 26, 2009 07:39 PM EST |

WASHINGTON(AP _ The right to a vote in Congress denied the District of Columbia when it became the nation's capital two centuries ago would be granted under legislation the Senate passed Thursday.

Congress is "moving to right a centuries-old wrong," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shortly before the 61-37 vote.

The House is expected to pass the measure with a strong majority next week and President Barack Obama, a co-sponsor when the bill failed to clear the Senate two years ago, has promised to sign it.

The measure is likely to face a court challenge immediately after becoming law; opponents argue that it is unconstitutional because D.C. is not a state and does not qualify for representation.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, expressed confidence that they could win the legal argument and noted that the bill contained an expedited appeals process to ensure a quick court decision.

The real issue, he said, is that the disenfranchisement of 600,000 residents of the nation's capital "is patently unjust and un-American in a sense of the best principles of this country."

"This is a historic moment," said Ilir Zherka, head of the advocacy group DC Vote. "In 2007 we were gaining tremendous momentum," he said. "The huge difference this year is that we have an advocate in the White House."

Rest of article at link above.

Could it be?

Taxation with sort-of representation for DC?

Rates of Incarceration Graphs

This decade has seen a noticeable increase in incarcerated whites, yet blacks still lead in this depressing statistic.

In another context, the race isn't even close. Per 100,000 blacks, more than 3000 are incarcerated, six times the rate for whites.

One obvious solution might be to move out of Louisiana to lessen your chance of going to jail.

Black History Month Daily Thread

Three women who sacrificed their families for ' The Movement' : Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Myrlie Evers Williams

Only picture of the three -hat tip, JJP reader


Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006) was an American author and activist, and widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. Alongside her husband, Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Scott King's most prominent role may have been in the years after her husband's 1968 assassination; following Dr. King's death, Mrs. King was responsible for finding a new leader of the civil rights movement.

The King Center:Coretta Scott King

Betty Shabazz


After high school, Shabazz left the comfortable home of her foster parents in Detroit to study at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), a well-known historically black college in Alabama. It was in Alabama that she encountered her first racial hostilities. She did not understand the causes for the racial issues, and her parents refused to acknowledge these issues. She mentioned this in an autobiographical essay she wrote in 1992, published in Essence Magazine: "They thought [the problems] were my fault."'

Shabazz moved to New York City to escape Southern racism, and enrolled as a nursing student at the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing. While in New York, Shabazz's friend invited her to hear Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam speak at an Islamic temple (Temple No. 7 in Harlem). According to the Essence essay, Shabazz's friend offered to introduce her to Malcolm X after his speech. Betty's initial reaction was "big deal". She continues: "But then, I looked over and saw this man on the extreme right aisle sort of galloping to the podium. He was tall, he was thin, and the way he was galloping it looked as though he was going someplace much more important than the podium... Well, he got to the podium and I sat up straight. I was impressed with him." They discussed the racism she encountered in Alabama, and she began to understand its causes, pervasiveness, and effects. Soon, Betty was attending all of Malcolm's lectures. By the time she graduated from nursing school in 1958, she was a member of the Nation of Islam. Muhammad bestowed of his followers the last name "X", representing the African family name they would never know. She changed her name to "Betty X" a result of her Nation of Islam influence.

When Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, the couple had four daughters. Shabazz was pregnant with twins at the time of his assassination. She was a registered nurse, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing in 1958. She continued her education by enrolling in Jersey City State College. Shabazz was determined to provide for her family and serve as a role model for her children. She received a Bachelor of Arts in public health education from Jersey City State College. She returned to pursue her Master of Arts in public health education from Jersey City State College in 1970. In 1975, she received her Ph.D. in education administration at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Betty Shabazz raised her six daughters, Attallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, and twins Malikah and Malaak, in the Islamic faith.

Myrlie Evers Williams

Myrlie Evers-Williams (born March 17, 1933, nee Myrlie Beasley in Vicksburg, Mississippi) is an American activist. She was the first full-time chairman of the NAACP and is the former widow of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers. She met him when they were students at Alcorn A&M College in 1950. They married on December 24, 1951 and she left school before finishing her degree.

They moved to Mound Bayou where her husband sold insurance for Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a civil rights activist. She worked for Howard as a typist until the couple moved to Jackson in 1954.

She and Evers had three children before his murder. In 2001, their oldest son, Darrell Kenyatta Evers, died of colon cancer.[1] Their two surviving children are Reena Denise and James Van.

Evers-Williams went back to school after Evers' death and graduated from Pomona College, in 1968, with a degree in sociology. She served as director of consumer affairs for Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), where she developed the concept for the first corporate booklet on women in non-traditional jobs. This booklet, Women at ARCO, was in great demand throughout many printings and revisions.

She twice ran for congress from California's 24th district. Both times (in a June 1970 special election and the general election later that November) she lost to Republican John Rousselot. In 1971 she helped found the National Women's Political Caucus.

In 1975, Evers-Williams married her second husband, Walter Williams. He died in 1995 of prostate cancer.

In 1987, Evers-Williams was the first African-American woman appointed to serve as commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. Evers-Williams was chairman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998. She is credited with spearheading the operations that restored the association to its original status as the premier civil rights organization in America. She is the author of For Us, the Living (1967) and Watch Me Fly: What I Learned On the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be (1999). In the best seller, I Dream A World: Black Women Who Changed America, Evers-Williams states that she "greets today and the future with open arms."



Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King by Octavia Vivian

Dare to Dream: Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Shelf Medearis (Author), Anna Rich (Illustrator)

Coretta Scott King: First Lady of Civil Rights (Childhood of Famous Americans) by George E. Stanley and Meryl Henderson

Coretta Scott King (Journey to Freedom) by Cynthia Fitterer Klingel

King (1978)-DVD
Starring: Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson

Boycott (2001)-DVD

Betty Shabazz, Surviving Malcolm X by Russell Rickford

Growing Up X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Betty Shabazz: Sharing the Vision of Malcolm X by Laura S. Jeffrey

Betty Shabazz: A Sisterfriends Tribute in Words and Pictures by Jamie Foster Brown

Malcolm X (Two-Disc Special Edition) (1992) - DVD

For Us, the Living by Myrlie Evers (Author), William Peters (Author), Willie Morris (Introduction)

Charlie Rose with Rob Reiner; Myrlie Evers- Williams & Bobby DeLaughter - DVD

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) - DVD

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Media Alert: Stevie Wonder Honored at The White House

Announcement from The White House:
Coverage Details about "Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize"

The 60-minute program, to be taped by WETA Washington, DC, will air Thursday, February 26, 2009, at 8:00PM ET on PBS stations nationwide. The concert will include performances by Wonder himself and Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Martina McBride, Esperanza Spalding,, and the gospel duo Mary Mary, among others. President Obama will confer the Gershwin Prize upon Wonder during the event.

Media Alert- NEWBOS: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass


Video Link

CNBC's "NEWBOs: The Rise of the New Black Overclass" Will Premiere Thursday, February 26th at 9PM & 1AM ET on CNBC
CNBC's "NEWBOs: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass," is an original one-hour primetime documentary about the growing wave of young black multimillionaires coming out of the sports, media and entertainment industries. This project examines the rise of "Newbos," -- young black athletes, entertainers, and creative entrepreneurs –

who, with the right amount of financial literacy, collaboration, intergenerational mentorship and social awareness, could have a profound, positive impact on black America. The special, hosted by Wall Street Journal reporter and CNBC correspondent Lee Hawkins, who coined the term "Newbo," is based on Hawkins' forthcoming book of the same title.

Media Alert: Roland Martin to fill in for Campbell Brown

CNN/U.S. made the following announcement today:

"In early April, Campbell Brown will take maternity leave for about 8 weeks and Roland S. Martin will fill in for her during that time.

"Roland is a solid journalist and a terrific communicator. He's been a regular part of the No Bias, No Bull family and our audience knows him well. He has also served as a contributor/analyst for CNN, and in fact, he's been transparent about whom he has supported for president, whether it was George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

"We look forward to Roland's smart, energetic and spirited reporting in this role, and in the future on CNN. Following his stint filling in for Campbell, CNN plans to develop a weekend program with Roland."

Bobby Jindal Wants the Nation to Be Like Louisiana:

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Black History Month Daily Thread


Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 – November 26, 1985) was an African-American surgical technician and operative surgeon who helped develop the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was an assistant to Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Without any education past high school, Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher to many of the country's most prominent surgeons.

From the very beginning Thomas showed an extraordinary aptitude for surgery and precise experimentation, and Blalock granted him wider and wider latitude in the execution of the protocols. Tutored in anatomy and physiology by Blalock and his young research fellow, Dr. Joseph Beard, Thomas rapidly mastered complex surgical techniques and research methodology. He and Blalock developed great respect for one another, forging such a close working relationship that they came to operate almost as a single mind. Outside the lab environment, however, they maintained the social distance dictated by the mores of the times. In an era when institutional racism was the norm, Thomas was classified, and paid, as a janitor, despite the fact that by the mid 1930s he was doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in Blalock's lab.

Together he and Blalock did groundbreaking research into the causes of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock. This work later evolved into research on Crush syndrome and saved the lives of thousands of soldiers on the battlefields of World War II. In hundreds of flawlessly executed experiments, the two disproved traditional theories which held that shock was caused by toxins in the blood. Blalock, a highly original scientific thinker and something of an iconoclast, had theorized that shock resulted from fluid loss outside the vascular bed and that the condition could be effectively treated by fluid replacement. Assisted by Thomas, he was able to provide incontrovertible proof of this theory, and in so doing, he gained wide recognition in the medical community by the mid 1930s. At this same time, Blalock and Thomas began experimental work in vascular and cardiac surgery, defying medical taboos against operating upon the heart. It was this work that laid the foundation for the revolutionary lifesaving surgery they were to perform at Johns Hopkins a decade later.

Jindal lays a big egg (and may have lied while doing it)

The best thing about President George W. Bush was that he was a pure red-blooded Republican. He is a conservative's conservative. He allowed the American people the opportunity to see what the Republican Party truly believed. He was Reagan on steroids. The problem wasn't just big government. It was government.
This brings me to the new darling of the Republican Party Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Jindal has an impressive personal story. He went to college at Brown University and was accepted to Harvard medical school but instead went to Yale for law school. He then got a Masters degree in political science. In 1996 he was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. From then through 2003 he was appointed to multiple different agencies at a state and national level. He lost a bid for governor in 2003. In 2004 he ran for Congress from Louisiana's first Congressional District. He won this election overwhelmingly. He ran for governor in 2007, again, and won. This brings us to the present.

The reason I mentioned President George W. Bush (in the first paragraph) was that Bobby Jindal's response (full text) was the typical conservative Republican response. He offered no new ideas (as I expected). He served up a smorgasbord of tax cuts, suggesting we "... create jobs by lowering income taxes for working families... cutting taxes for small businesses... strengthening incentives (tax credits) for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers... and stabilizing homeowners by creating a new tax credit for homebuyers." Wasn't this the exact plan that George W. Bush proposed and passed in 2001 or was that his 2003 tax cut plan? This is more of the same.

The Republican hatred of government was on full display. The governor told us a story about Hurricane Katrina, the moral of which was that we don't need government to help us with anything. (This is kind of surprising since the governor's mother used to work for the government.) That was a lesson that he and other Republicans learned from Hurricane Katrina. They learned the government just can't function. I may be wrong but if you're running an agency in which disaster management expertise is called for from an agency and it is headed by a guy that has no experience in that field, it would seem to me that the agency may not function as well as it should. President Clinton and FEMA evacuated over a million people from Florida ahead of Hurricane Floyd. Now no one is comparing Hurricane Floyd to Hurricane Katrina. What I am saying is that the government can work if you put competent people in charge.

Watch the Republican response.

Finally, I was surprised at how poor the governor's presentation was. His gestures were wooden and his speech was halting. He never seemed to flow. I can get over the mechanical gestures if he only had something of substance to add to the discussion. Not one new idea. Not one new theme. Not even a direction where we can find an idea. He is simply the latest new, young face that the GOP has thrown in front of the American people.

Update: Could Governor Bobby Jindal have been mistaken about his touching story about the Louisiana Sheriff during Katrina? Did the Governor lie? Could it be that he wasn't in New Orleans until days after the Hurricane had passed? It sure seems like his story is very similar to President of Jefferson Parish Aaron Broussard's story that he told on Meet the Press. Then again, I might be mistaken. I'm sure that a Governor wouldn't go on national TV and make up facts. No way.

Update 2: America loved Obama's speech!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Announcement of the Night

Madam Speaker, the President of the United States.

Video Here

I tried copying the embed code, but it won't work for me.

The Republican Response to The President by Gov. Jindal

Rude Pundit Asks: What fucking speech is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal responding to? Because what he's saying has fuck-all to do with what Obama just said


The President's State of the Nation Address

From The White House Website:

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 9:01 pm
Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to Joint Session of Congress
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

State of the Nation Open Thread

What did you think of The President's speech?

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger Speaks to Congress - Stresses Need for Better Pay and Conditions in Industry to Retain Good Pilots

The pilot & crew of U.S. Airways flight 1549 spoke to Congress today during a House Subcommittee Hearing. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger stressed the importance of providing good pay and benefits so that quality pilots can be recruited and retained in the Commercial aviation industry. To make his point, he highlighted recent pay cuts and the threat that this situation poses to the flying public.

Watch Video of Hearing

Black History Month Daily Thread

Mary McLeod Bethune


Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875--May 18, 1955) was an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for black students in Daytona Beach, Florida that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University and for being an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Born in South Carolina to parents who had been slaves, she took an early interest in her own education. With the help of benefactors, Bethune attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. When that did not materialize, she started a school for black girls in Daytona Beach. From six students it grew and merged with an institute for black boys and eventually became the Bethune-Cookman School. Its quality far surpassed the standards of education for black students, and rivaled those of white schools. Bethune worked tirelessly to ensure funding for the school, and used it as a showcase for tourists and donors, to exhibit what educated black people could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947, one of the few women in the world who served as a college president at that time.

Bethune was also active in women's clubs, and her leadership in them allowed her to become nationally prominent. She worked for the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and became a member of Roosevelt's Black Cabinet, sharing the concerns of black people with the Roosevelt administration while spreading Roosevelt's message to blacks, who had been traditionally Republican voters. Upon her death, columnist Louis E. Martin said, "She gave out faith and hope as if they were pills and she some sort of doctor." Her home in Daytona Beach is a National Historic Landmark, her house in Washington, D.C. in Logan Circle is preserved by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site.

Natural Mystic

Transportation In Heaven

Three men die and go to heaven. At the gate St. Peter tells them,
"Before you go into heaven, we are going to give you each a
vehicle with which to get around. The way we determine what type
of vehicle you will get is by how faithful you were to your
wives. Now," he says, turning to the first man,
"were you true to your wife?"

"Yes, I was, St. Peter," says the first man. "I never strayed.
From the day I married her to the day I died, I slept with no
woman other than my wife. I loved her very deeply."

"As reward for your complete fidelity," says St. Peter, "I now
give you these keys to a beautiful Rolls-Royce."

The man happily accepts the keys, and St. Peter turns to the
second man. "Sir," he says, "were you faithful to your wife?"

"Well, St. Peter," says the second man a little shyly, "I must
admit that when I was much younger, I did stray once or twice.
But I did love my wife very much, and after those minor
indiscretions, I was completely faithful until my dying day."

St. Peter looks down at the man and says, "As a reward for good
marital conduct, I am giving you these keys to a Pontiac."

As the man takes the keys.... St. Peter turns to the third
man. "Sir," he says, "were you faithful to your wife?"

"St. Peter," says the man, "I screwed everything I could, every
chance I got. There wasn't a week of my marriage that I didn't
sleep with someone other than my wife. But I must admit to you, St.
Peter, that it was a serious problem I had, because I really
did love my wife very much."

"Well," says St. Peter, "we do know that you did love your wife
and that does count for something, so this is what you get."
With that he rolls out a ten-speed bicycle and gives it to the
man. The gates of heaven open, and the three men enter.

Sometime later the man on the bicycle is riding along when he
sees that the man with the Rolls Royce has pulled over and is
sitting on the bumper of his car. He is sobbing uncontrollably.
The man pulls his bicycle up next to the man and says, "Hey, pal,
what's the matter? What could possibly be wrong? You have a
beautiful Rolls Royce to drive around in?"

"I know," says the man through his sobs,
"but I just saw my wife on roller skates!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Media Alert - State of the Union


President Barack Hussein Obama will be giving his
first State of the Union Message.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 9 pm EST, we will hear the following:

"MADAM Speaker, The President of the United States."


I admit. It's going to be a goosebump moment for me.
MADAM Speaker isn't old to me yet.

Economic Meltdown 101

I consider myself someone who tries to be informed about current events but sometimes the issues get so complex and events happen so quickly that it is all but impossible to keep up and still keep things in proper context and have a full understanding of what is going on. This is true, for me, of the economic meltdown and the after effects it has had in the worlds of politics and culture.

That is why I am sharing these resources for ordinary laypeople like me who are trying to get a grip on the economic issues. Here are three links that I discovered this morning that I feel are excellent primers on the economic meltdown and the chain of events that led up to it. Hat tip to the Common Cause blog for this information.

Common Cause Blog: The Economic Downfall for Dummies
The economic crisis exposed the myriad ways in which our financial institutions are interconnected in an intricate web of relationships. When one element of this intricate web turns toxic the rest of the web get infected and the whole thing starts falling down like dominoes. For me, the best look at each domino and how its toppling led to the next.

PBS Frontline: Inside the Meltdown (VIDEO SERIES)

Time Magazine: 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis

In Defense of Higher Education

In Sunday's Jackson Clarion-Ledger, I have a column in defense of the value of higher education. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Stimulus Plan Likely To Do Little For Small Businesses

Lloyd Chapman, head of American Small Business League, was critical of the stimulus package in an interview with Tavis Smiley over the weekend. Chapman echoes some of the problems with the stimulus Bill that I mentioned back in January.

Listen Here (you may need to disable firewall temporarily if audio does not load)

Black History Month Daily Thread

Four Little Girls
Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley


The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was a racially motivated terrorist attack on September 15, 1963, by members of a Ku Klux Klan group in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. The bombing of the African-American church resulted in the deaths of four girls. Although city leaders had reached a settlement in May with demonstrators and started to integrate public places, not everyone agreed with ending segregation. Other acts of violence followed the settlement. The bombing increased support for people working for civil rights. It marked a turning point in the U.S. civil-rights movement of the mid-twentieth century and contributed to support for passage of civil rights legislation in 1964.

The President and First Lady Host the Nation's Governors

The President and First Lady held their first formal dinner at The White House for the Nation's Governors

Time for Action to Fix The Banks & Bring Back Confidence - But Geithner Is Coming Up Short

Attention Team Obama - Peter Pan is not meeting the test.

I was skeptical about Obama’s choice for Treasury Secretary from the very beginning. Here is a man who had a hand in bungling the management of the financial crisis on Wall Street last year and who couldn’t keep up with his own Federal taxes. Now he is expected to be the chief financial steward for the nation? But I was willing to wait to see how he would perform. So far I have not been impressed. He has not instilled confidence, at a time when confidence is the key. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been mostly a failure so far and, in fact, appears to be exacerbating the nations financial situation.

President Obama has not dealt with this situation very well as a whole. We still don’t have a Commerce Secretary a full month after the inauguration. In the middle of an economic situation as bad as this, it seems to me that it would be important for Obama to have a full economic team in place. Obama wasted weeks with the Judd Gregg fiasco and the Lincoln bi-partisan nonsense. Enough already!!! It’s time to get to work. We are on a ship that seems to be taking on more water by the day.

At least half of the problem that Obama, Geithner and the rest of the economic team faces has to do with a lack of confidence… a lack of confidence from investors, from voters, from bankers, and from business owners. It’s psychological. But the actions of the Obama Administration - or lack thereof- have only added to the uncertainty and anxiety in the financial sector. They have not even made any serious efforts to bring calm and confidence to the markets. Instead, Obama has played up the crisis a little too much by talking down the economy at every opportunity. That doesn’t instill confidence.

Investors and voters, uncertain about the intentions of the Bush Administration, took a pause from the panic of last year because they wanted to see what the Obama Administration would propose. Since January 20th, Americans have been waiting for a plan. They want to see details about how Banks will be stabilized. Particularly, everyone has been waiting to hear how the Obama team would deal with taking bad assets off the hands of the banks so that the banking system could rebound. Keep in mind that Americans have already witnessed the bungling of the first half of the TARP funding. Americans have also witnessed the uncertainty from Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who offered one plan (buying toxic assets or somehow relieving banks of these assets temporarily) but then changed his mind a few weeks later, and failed to follow-up with any sensible cogent alternative plan. That kept the nation in limbo for weeks.

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, people were hoping for a sense of stability and a rebound in stocks. But that hasn’t happened. Geithner tried to offer yet another plan on February 10th, but that plan was rejected outright by observers. There were not enough details offered. The reaction of the markets should have been a clue to someone that another approach was needed.

The Geithner plan calls for a system of “Stress Tests” for the nations biggest banks to determine which institutions have the most toxic assets and the most liquidity problems. According to plan, the Government would buy a greater stake in the banks that are more susceptible to the pressures of the “Stress Tests” and would need more Capital.

But this is not the plan that people were waiting all this time for. People don’t want to hear anything about “Stress Tests”. This doesn’t seem to be a well thought out plan, and in fact, it’s only making matters worse. The lack of detail on what will happen next is also compounding the crisis. Investors and voters want to hear details on what the Obama Administration plans to do to remove the toxic assets from the balance sheets of the banks. This was the single most important thing that observers and investors were concerned with. But Geithner failed to address it.

Dealing with the bad assets is the most logical approach proposed so far. Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke should have stayed with this original plan of parking bad assets until their values could improve (and they would have improved once the housing market and the overall economy began to recover). So why did the Obama Administration decide to float this idea? It only introduced more uncertainty. The situation is not likely to improve anytime soon unless and until the issue of the toxic assets is dealt with clearly and with certainty.

Obama misfired in his initial attack of the economic crisis. He allowed himself to get bogged down in too much political nonsense, spending far too much time selling the Stimulus bill and impersonating Abraham Lincoln, and not enough time dealing with the task at hand. He lost several weeks on his bi-partisan experiment, which ironically ended up being extremely partisan, when time was of the essence. Obama should have attacked these issues simultaneously - the banking system - jobs/recession - and the crisis in the housing market. Instead, he tried to take on these issues, almost one by one…. And in the wrong order. The fact is, team Obama appears to be just as clueless about how to tackle this problem as the Bush Administration was. Obama has assembled two economic advising committees, made up of what are supposed to be some of the greatest economic minds in the nation. Yet, no one seems to understand that at least half the problem (if not the majority) is psychological and that confidence is key to restoring some semblance of order. Why is this so hard for these people to understand? This problem is just as much about human psychology as it is about economic theory.

And after the pathetic Geithner announcement earlier this month (Feb.) regarding the “Stress Tests”, while the market tanked yet again… the Obama Administration failed to offer any sort of follow-up. We haven’t heard anything from Geithner since then. They allowed the uncertainty to fester….allowed rumors to swirl and left too many unanswered questions lingering. This has only exacerbated the crisis. The stock market has dropped around 700 points since Geithners’ announcement.

Eight years of the Bush Administration and the constant negative news reports have led to a sort of psychological malaise among Americans. People are now sitting around waiting for the next batch of bad news to react to, rejecting anything positive. And we have been stuck in this mindset for years. Obama managed to use his hope message to break through some of that during the campaign, but now, when hope is needed more than ever, he seems to be embracing the old politics of fear.

And I’m afraid that the temporary reprieve that investors and voters gave Obama might be about to end. Americans might resume their panic, now that they see that the toxic assets won’t be managed as originally thought and since plans keep changing. Geithner’s “Stress Test” approach will likely only lead to more speculation (and less certainty and confidence) about which banks might be in trouble. This could lead to crashes in bank stock and potentially a run on those banks. A run on any major bank may spread to even the healthy banks, causing a run on those banks as well. Remember, much of the problem is psychological and Americans, especially investors, are not behaving rationally at the present time. Anything can spook the financial markets.

The stock market…and banks may tank even further in the next few days and weeks… unless Obama and his economic team can find their voice and begin to instill some kind of confidence. Obama will be giving a big speech on Tuesday and it will be a chance to instill confidence & hope. And it would be nice if he offered a plan to fix the financial mess.