Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shelby Steele Is Wrong About Barack Obama

Go here to see Shelby Steele's deconstruction of Barack Obama and his presidency. I disagree with him on several points.

First, Steele likens Obama to an emperor with no clothes. It's an inappropriate parable. After a campaign that lasted 1.5 years, the American people had ample time to learn about all the candidates. Obama campaigned on reforming health care. He did so. Throughout the campaign, Obama said Afghanistan is where we should have focused our resources all along. We are now doing so.

Second, Steele claims "Obama's economic thinking (or lack thereof) adds up to a kind of rudderless cowboyism combined with wishful thinking." Obama has assembled one of the more remarkable economic teams of this generation or any other. That they come to different conclusions than Professor Steele would like is not an indication of a lack of economic thinking. Obama's first economic priority was to stabilize the economy. People would not be investing in the stock market (from a low of 6,500 to 10,500 today) the way they currently are if the economy were not on more solid footing. Certainly, more has to be done to address unemployment, recession was never cured immediately. Steele must have forgotten the recession of 1979-1982. Reagan didn't cure his recession his first year in office either, yet Reagan is so often held up as the lodestar for conservative activists like Steele. Selective memory does not beget good arguments.

Third, Steele claims that Obama has an "inner emptiness." Apparently, Reagan "individuated." Again, he cites Reagan as the exemplar of such behavior because "he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity." I'm not sure how this doesn't apply to Obama too. Defending health care reform in the teeth of unified Republican opposition and selective logrolled Democratic opposition definitely decreased Obama's political capital and increased the chances that the GOP can recapture the House.

Obama didn't have to tackle health care. He could have ignored the issue, which would only make things worse in the long-term. Or, like Bush, he could have worsened the problem by adding an unfunded prescription drug benefit on to Medicare. Principled is doing things that aren't always popular. None of the following are (were) popular: accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, arguing on behalf of climate change legislation, health care legislation, the troop surge to Afghanistan, yet Obama pushes(d) because they are right.

Fourth, the comparisons to Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby are inappropriate. Their misdeeds are personal. Any that Obama would commit would be national and permanent. It's an insult to the president to draw comparisons down and instead of in a lateral manner to other presidents.

Finally, Steele can make good points, witness his earlier article on why the GOP can't win with minority.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Told You That This President Would Be Treated Differently

The microscope for a Black (biracial) man is almost always bigger. The comments from Republicans regarding Obama not being forceful enough about the incident on Northwest flight 253 have been ridiculous. I knew he wouldn't be able to relax during his family trip.

It's ironic that during his speech yesterday, he mentioned that Americans were united and that the nations resolve was greater than that of the extremists. My immediate response to the idea of Americans being united was.... No they aren't! It's ironic that he would make the comment at the very moment when we have so much Right wing commentary designed to weaken him and challenge his legitimacy as President. They are constantly hoping for his demise. Some of these jackasses would celebrate if something terrible happened to him. I don't recall Reagan or George H. W. Bush dealing with this kind of division and hatred. Clinton had a rough Presidency...and even I hated many of his policies....but even then the level of poison was not as bad as it is today.

And they are all blowing their dog whistles this week. Listening to these news reporters and pundits today gave me an upset stomach. I eventually had to switch to the History Channel. On MSNBC and CNN you had plain old stupidity on display... with idiot reporters asking where suspect Umar Abdulmutallab would be held - confusing this issue with Gitmo (when they are two completely different situations). They didn't seem satisfied when they were told that this terror suspect would be dealt with in the same way that all terrorists are dealt with who commit their crimes in the U.S. or on U.S. aircraft - he will be held on U.S. soil and prosecuted in a Federal District court. They didn't want to accept that answer....and continued to conflate and confuse the two issues of Gitmo and terrorist acts committed in the U.S. They didn't seem to have a clue that the issue of Gitmo involves non-State actors who were picked up overseas...and whose confessions may or may not have been coerced through torture or by some other less than constitutional means....making their cases difficult to adjudicate properly. But when that issue was addressed, they wanted to find something else wrong. I had to turn off CNN's Erica Hill. Great looking woman (Hot!). But she's as dumb as a potted plant. The same seems to be the case for most of the other "news" anchors.

And of course Faux News is doing what it always does.

What do I mean by the dog whistles? I mean blaming Obama.... which I knew they were going to do. Yes his administration allowed lapses. I have written for years about the gaping hole in Homeland non-Security...mainly the visa system.. which Al Qaeda apparently exploited once again. The visa problem was never fixed after 9/11 and it won't be fixed after this incident. There should be greater restrictions on Visa applications coming from certain Countries...and certain regions. Student visas and tourist visas should receive greater scrutiny. Applicants for student visas from certain regions should get tougher background checks...and there should be more limits on tourist visas... and they should be tied to watch lists in the U.S. and in other Countries (if such a program had been in place, this suspect would have never been able to gain access to the plane).

Obama should pay the price for that joke Janet Napolitano. If you recall... I slammed Obama for picking Napolitano for DHS Secretary. Now perhaps some people are able to understand why. The idea of someone with no background or real experience in Security...heading up the largest security conglomeration in the history of the World just rubs me the wrong way. It was purely a political appointment... in a post where such appointments should be avoided. An experienced person should be in that post... and Obama passed up a whole slew of well qualified people. Obama has himself to blame for the mistakes she made over the past week. But that's another story.

You can also hear the dog whistles saying something else.... They are attempting to blame Obama in other ways. They are suggesting a link between Ft. Hood and Abdulmutallab when there is really no such least there is no information that has been made public about such a link. Which begs the question... why in the Hell are these anchors and pundits working so hard to tie these two things together? They want to suggest that Obama is asleep at the switch and is weak on terror. Some even want to suggest that Obama can't be trusted because he too is African (his father being from Kenya and all)....and they want to suggest that this incident only proves that there is actually something to their lunacy. Yes... xenophobia and the Republican media propaganda machine are at work this week. In fact, it never takes a break.

That's what Obama will have to get used to for the rest of his time in office. Just because he wants to take a break...doesn't mean that the noise machine will give him one. The Right wing propaganda machine is always going full blast. It never takes a day off. More troubling... the so-called friendly or fair-er media like MSNBC and CNN often take their talking points from the Right...and will run with all sorts of strange narratives that don't make much sense...and are really aimed at weakening the Presidency. You have legitimate news organizations giving credence to the dog whistle nonsense from Faux and the rest of the Right wing simply mentioning these narratives (when they should know better.... and would know better if they had real investigative journalists).

Another year of this idiocy?

You couldn't pay me enough to be the President of these Divided States....or to be a politician in any setting in this Country. The reason = a stupid clueless, uninformed, gullible, fickle and unengaged citizenry.

New Year's Resolutions

Year 2009 was an amazing political year: Barack Obama's inauguration, the stimulus package, Tea Party activists, Town Hall meetings, the Rose Garden Beer Summit with Professor Gates and Officer Crowley, the Nobel Peace Prize, Afghanistan, health care reform, H1N1, rising unemployment tempered by a resurgent stock market. It reminds me of Billy Joel's We Didn’t Start the Fire.

This leads me to my political New Year's resolution.

There was one thing missing from politics this year. Me but not as a candidate. No one wants that. I am too truthful and no one would elect me. I would say things like, "You need to get on a treadmill and ditch the cigarettes. The government should not have to pay for you when you get sick because of your diet of Twinkies and Marlboros." Yep. I would lose.

Read the rest at The Loop.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Attempted Terrorist Attack Aboard Plane Coming Into Detroit-Nigerian National Charged

I've been following this story since it broke. Here are some of the highlights.

From the NYTimes:

Officials Point to Suspect’s Claim of Qaeda Ties in Yemen
Published: December 26, 2009

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities on Saturday charged a 23-year-old Nigerian man with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, and officials said the suspect told them he had obtained explosive chemicals and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda.

The authorities have not independently corroborated the Yemen connection claimed by the man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was burned in his failed attempt to bring down the airliner and is in a hospital in Michigan. But a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said on Saturday that the suspect’s account was “plausible,” and that he saw “no reason to discount it.”

Let's leave Al Qaeda out of it for right now. Let's deal with what we do know. We do know that this man got on a plane, coming to Detroit, and sometime before its descent for landing, attempted to ignite some sort of explosive. This guy is the second coming of Richard Reid - the shoe bomber. But, something happened, and this young man's attempt didn't quite work out, but there were flames coming his way, and passengers on the plane grabbed him, stomped out the fire and subdued the suspect.

The First Family On Christmas Vacation

The First Family is spending their Christmas Vacation in Hawaii.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, walk out of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24,2009, to start their journey to Hawaii for the holidays.
------------AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Percy Sutton Passes Away at 89

hat tip-morphus


from the NYTimes:

Percy Sutton, Eminent Black Politician, Dies at 89
Published: December 27, 2009

Percy E. Sutton, who displayed fierce intelligence and exquisite polish in becoming one of the nation’s most prominent black political and business leaders, died on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. He was 89.

Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Gov. David A. Paterson, confirmed Mr. Sutton’s death but said she did not know the cause, according to The A.P.

Mr. Sutton stood proudly at the center of his race’s epochal struggle for equal rights. He was arrested as a freedom rider; represented Malcolm X as young lawyer; rescued the fabled Apollo Theater in Harlem; and became a millionaire tycoon in the communications business to give public voice to African Americans.

He was also an eminent politician in New York City, rising from the Democratic clubhouses of Harlem to become the longest serving Manhattan borough president and, for more than a decade, the highest black official in the city. In 1977, he was the first seriously regarded black candidate for mayor.

His supporters saw his loss in that mayoral race as a stinging rebuff to his campaign’s strenuous efforts to build support among whites. But David N. Dinkins, who was elected the first black mayor in 1989, called Mr. Sutton’s failed bid indispensable to his own success.

“I stand on the shoulders of Percy Ellis Sutton,” Mr. Dinkins said in an interview.

Edward I. Koch, who won the 1977 mayoral vote, said only complicated political maneuvering stifled Mr. Sutton’s bid. He explained that incumbent Mayor Abraham Beame did not step aside as Mr. Sutton had expected, but ran himself, costing Mr. Sutton votes.

“I’m glad God intervened and I became mayor,” Mr. Koch said in an interview. He called Mr. Sutton “one of the smartest people I have met in politics or outside of politics.”

Mr. Sutton’s business empire included, over the years, radio stations, cable television systems and national television programs. Another business invested in Africa. Still another sold interactive technology to radio stations.

Mr. Sutton had an immaculately groomed beard and mustache; tailored clothing; and a sonorous, slightly Southern voice that prompted the nickname “wizard of ooze.” Associates called him “the chairman,” and he liked it.

Percy Ellis Sutton, the last child in a family of 15 children, was born on Nov. 24, 1920, in San Antonio, Tex. His father, Samuel Johnson Sutton, was born into slavery and became principal of a black high school. His mother, Lillian, was a teacher.

The 12 children who survived to be adults went to college, with the older ones giving financial and moral support to the younger.

S. J. Sutton, an early civil rights activist who did not use his first name for fear it would be shortened to Sambo, farmed, sold real estate and owned a mattress factory, funeral home and skating rink — in addition to being a full-time principal.

Percy milked the cows, then rode around San Antonio with his father in the same Studebaker used for funerals, distributing milk to the poor. He liked to attach strings to cans to pretend to be a radio broadcaster. He was an Eagle Scout.

At 12, he stowed away on a passenger train to Manhattan where he slept under a sign on 155th Street. Far from being angry, his family regarded him as an adventurer, he said.

His family was committed to civil rights, and he bristled at prejudice. At 13, while passing out N.A.A.C.P. leaflets in an all-white neighborhood, he was beaten by a policeman.

He took up stunt-flying on the barnstorming circuit, but gave it up after a friend crashed. He attended three traditionally black colleges without earning a degree. Their present names are Prairie View A & M University in Texas, Tuskegee University in Alabama and Hampton University in Virginia.

During World War II, he served with the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-black unit in the Army Air Forces, as an intelligence officer. He won combat stars in the Italian and Mediterranean theaters.

He entered Columbia Law School on the G.I. Bill on the basis of his solid grades at the colleges he attended. He transferred to Brooklyn Law School so he could work days. He worked at the post office from 4 p.m. until midnight, then as a subway train conductor until 8:30 a.m. He then reported to law school at 9:30. He kept this schedule for three years and became a lawyer.

Rest of obituary at link above.

RIP, Mr. Sutton.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Good Morning.


Linus Explains What Christmas Is All About

More here >>>

Thursday, December 24, 2009

President Obama's Weekly Address

Season's Greetings from the President and First Lady of the United States . . .

The Senate Passes Their Healthcare Bill


video hat tip-Icebergslim

The President's Remarks:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Malia and Sasha Obama Answer Kids' Questions

From Huffington

Obama Girls Answer Kids' Questions, Bo Barks At Santa (PHOTOS)
First Posted: 12-22-09 04:31 PM | Updated: 12-22-09 05:06 PM

The president said all he wants for Christmas is hugs from his daughters, but Sasha and Malia have other plans. During a Q&A with kids at the Children's National Medical Center on Tuesday, the girls revealed they're getting their father "sports stuff." They also talked about how Christmas will be different now that they're in the White House and what they're planning for the holidays.

Bo the dog came along for the visit. The pool report by Kevin Chappell of Ebony Magazine recounted:
As [Michelle Obama] began reading, Bo spotted Santa on the podium behind Sasha and Malia, and began to bark loudly.

"Quiet Bo," FLOTUS said.

But Bo kept barking at Santa, prompting Santa to retreat off to one side of the podium. Seconds later, Santa appeared on the other side of the podium. Bo seemed to be fine with that.

Don't Expect Uncle Sam To Bail Out Black Communities

Even in a watered-down form, Congress will soon pass a major overhaul of the nation's health care system. Absent from reforms will be any effort by the government to enter the private market via a public option. Capitalists and the uncaring killed that possibility.

The real, but hidden, lesson from this and the recent budget meltdown in California is that the social safety net is likely to shrink in the future. Cuts in social safety net spending programs are always easier than cutting military or law enforcement spending. By law, the feds must pay interest on the debt and each year entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare take increasingly large shares of the budget pie. Any programs left over will meet the chopping block.

Read the rest at The Loop.

Senator Roland Burris has words for his GOP colleagues

hat tip djchefron

Serena Williams Named AP Female Athlete of the Year AND Sports Illustrated's Female Athlete of the DECADE

-----PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images


Serena Williams: 2009 AP Female Athlete Of The Year
HOWARD FENDRICH | 12/22/09 11:13 AM | AP

Playing her best at the most important events, Serena Williams re-established herself as the top player in women's tennis in 2009 and was a landslide choice as Female Athlete of the Year by members of The Associated Press.

Williams received 66 of 158 votes cast by editors at U.S. newspapers that are members of the AP. No other candidate got more than 18 votes in the tally, which was announced Tuesday.

Clearly, Williams' most infamous on-court episode – a tirade directed at a line judge after a foot-fault call near the end of her U.S. Open semifinal loss in September – didn't hurt her standing in the eyes of the voters.

"People realize that I'm a great player, and one moment doesn't define a person's career," Williams told the AP. "And I was right, for the most part: It wasn't right the way I reacted – I never said it was – but I was right about the call."

She also noted that the outburst, which resulted in a record fine and two-year probationary period at Grand Slam tournaments, "got a lot more people excited about tennis."

The 28-year-old American tends to do that, thanks to her powerful, athletic play and her outgoing personality.

"We can attribute the strength and the growth of women's tennis a great deal to her," WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a telephone interview. "She is a superstar."

Williams, who is based in Florida, also won the AP award in 2002, a seven-year gap that is the longest between AP Female Athlete of the Year honors since golf's Patty Berg won in 1943 and 1955.

Rest of article at link above.


UPDATED with the info from Sports Illustrated.

From Sports Illustrated:

Serena Williams
Some might argue that Williams, 28, is the best story in sports (notwithstanding her temper tantrum at the 2009 U.S. Open). Consider her accomplishments this decade: She won nine of her 10 Grand Slam singles titles and two Olympic gold medals in doubles (with her sister Venus), and she recently reclaimed the No. 1 ranking. She boasts the most powerful game in modern tennis, and she is best when the stakes are highest. Throw in the nearly $29 million in prize money -- most of it earned in the aughts -- and it's an improbable haul for a woman who was schooled in the game along with Venus by their father, the self-taught Richard, on pockmarked public courts in Compton, Calif.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis


Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas at the White House

thanks to Michelle Obama Watch for the hat tip

The First Lady explains Christmas at the White House

Is This Soldier Your Ancestor? Spain wants to know.

hat tip-Booker Rising


From The Guardian:

Spanish quest to identify black soldier who fought against fascism in civil war
Giles Tremlett in Barcelona, Sunday 20 December 2009 16.50 GMT

As a volunteer in the International Brigades that fought in Spain's civil war, the unidentified black soldier in the photograph was one of the first Americans to die fighting fascism.

Now Spanish authorities want to put a name to him so they can present his picture to President Barack Obama when he visits Spain next year.

The black and white picture of the African American volunteer forms part of an extraordinary collection of civil war photographs that was bought recently by the Spanish state.

"All we know is that he arrived with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of American volunteers and that he died in the battle at Brunete [in July 1937]," said Sergi Centelles, whose father, Agustí, took the picture.

The soldier is one of more than 90 African-Americans who volunteered to defend Spain's elected Republican government from a 1936 rightwing military uprising that sparked a three-year civil war.

The New York-based Abraham Lincoln Brigades Association and New York University's Tamiment library have scoured their civil war archives to see if they could identify the man in the photograph, which was probably taken in February 1937. Two possible candidates have emerged: Milton Herndon, whose brother Angelo won a famous supreme court case against a sentence for "incitement to insurrection", and aviator Paul Williams.

"It is one of eight or nine photographs my father took of the Americans marching through Barcelona," said Agustí Centelles.

The photograph remained hidden for four decades after Agustí Centelles, known as the "Spanish Robert Capa", fled Spain as Franco's forces looked set to win the civil war in 1939.

"My father took his photographs with him in a suitcase because he was scared they would be used to identify people and carry out reprisals," said Sergi Centelles.

The photographer used the suitcase as a pillow in a French refugee camp to prevent it from being stolen. He later moved in with a French family in Carcassonne, in southern France, but had to flee again after the second world war broke out and the occupying Germans heard that he was using his camera to take photographs for false passports.


If you know who the man in the main photograph is, or can provide any information that might help identify him, please contact

Rest of article at link above.

Mayer Hawthorne - The Ills

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Getting Out the Vote and the Myth of the Stupid Voter

An important, highly intelligent and well-argued blog post at Open Left discusses the myth of "stupid voters" and the weaknesses of the Democratic Party in getting out the vote in elections. This is highly recommended reading. I would love to hear a response from an official Democratic Party official on it.

Key points made in the article:
Year in and year out, voter-discouragement is an important part of the ongoing Republican campaign.

The Democratic Party seems to fall asleep between elections, and it has been historically very poor at the kind of message development and dissemination done by think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Foundation, the Heritage Foundation

Democratic voter-registration and get-out-the-vote efforts have been spotty at best, and it’s notable that the individuals and groups doing the best job of this (ACORN recently and Jesse Jackson a couple of decades ago) have been very little appreciated by the ruling group in the party.

Key quote:
The Democratic Party is a business like any other, and just as newspapers get their money from advertisers, and not from readers, the Democratic Party gets its money from donors rather than from voters. Bringing new voters from the lower orders into the party would almost certainly require policy proposals which would negatively impact the big-money people, and even if the Democratic Party started winning elections that way, the boodle coming in would be reduced, and boodle is what pays the mercenary pros at the party headquarters.

In large part this explains the constant refrain from the Democratic leadership: we’d like to do the right thing, but political realities make it impossible. The truth is that the Democratic leaders are very happy with the political realities and don’t want to change them.
If it were "politically possible" to pass single-payer, for example, the Democratic Party would lose incredible amounts of money from key donors in the medical biz. Single-payer might make the voters ecstatically happy, but these happy voters are not at all likely to replace the money the party lost.

Some food for thought the next time you hear someone invoke the theme of "we agree with what you say in principle but what you want is politically impossible."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Yale Says Yes, 4 Times to Quadruplets

hat tip- Bossip


From The NYTimes:
Boola Boola, Boola Boola: Yale Says Yes, 4 Times
Published: December 18, 2009

DANBURY, Conn. — Ray Crouch, a senior at Danbury High School, logged onto the computer in his family’s living room just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday and entered the Web site of the Yale admissions office.

Suddenly the screen turned blue — Yale blue — and an image of a bulldog, the university mascot, appeared, followed by “Welcome to the Class of 2014.” Ray, 18, had been offered a spot in the next freshman class, under its early-admission program. Standing behind him, his mother, Caroline, screamed.

But that was only the beginning. Moments later, Ray’s brother, Kenny, also 18, went to the Yale site and got an identical message. He was followed by their sister Carol. Same news. Then the room fell silent. Ray, Kenny and Carol are quadruplets, and their sister Martina had applied to Yale, too.

“I was thinking, it’s going to be really awkward when I don’t get in,” Martina recalled Friday.

But the computer turned blue for her as well, which prompted such an outpouring of joy from their mother that she wrestled their father, Steven, to the floor in a hug.

The Crouches’ perfect batting average represents a first for Yale — the first time in anyone’s memory that it has offered admission to quadruplets. It is also, of course, no small milestone for the siblings, who were born more than two months premature. (Ray was the last to be released from the neonatal unit, more than four months later.)

They made up for that rough start. Their class rankings range from 13 out of a class of 632 (Kenny) to 46 (Martina) — and they have sky-high SAT scores (including Carol’s perfect 800 on the verbal part of that exam).

But whether any one of them, let alone all four, winds up at Yale remains an open question. Under Yale’s early-admission program, accepted applicants can apply to other colleges and need not make up their minds until May 1.

For one thing, money is still an issue. With a father who works for the State of Connecticut as a case manager in the Department of Mental Health, and a stay-at-home mother who is studying for her master’s degree in social work, the quadruplets say their decision will be heavily influenced by financial aid.

“We have to be practical,” Kenny said.

While the family has some savings, the four say they do not want their parents to have to pay much of anything for their education.

Rest of article at link above.

Congratulations to the Crouch quadruplets.

President Obama's Weekly Youtube Address

Friday, December 18, 2009

Minority Businesses Shut Out of Stimulus Loans

hat tip:Prometheus6

From New America Media

Minority Businesses Shut Out of Stimulus Loans

Loans handed out to struggling small businesses as part of President Barack Obama's stimulus package have largely shut out minority businesses -- especially those owned by Blacks and Latinos -- according to data provided by the federal government's Small Business Administration (SBA) to New America Media (NAM).

On June 15, the SBA, using money from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, launched the ARC program, America's Recovery Capital, giving banks and credit unions 100 percent guarantees so they're taking no risk when they make loans of up to $35,000 to previously successful, currently struggling small businesses to help them ride out the recession.

ARC Loans Ethnic Breakdown

Under the program, the borrower pays no interest and makes no payments for 12 months, then has five years to repay the loan. SBA charges no fees and pays interest to the lender at prime - the rate of interest at which banks lend to favored customers - plus 2 percent.

The Obama Administration does not report the racial breakdown of who's benefiting from these loans at, but data obtained by NAM from the SBA found that of the 4,497 ARC loans where the race of the borrower was reported, 4,104 (over 91 percent) went to white-owned firms, 140, (3 percent) went to Hispanic-owned businesses, and 151 (3 percent) went to Asian- or Pacific Islander-owned businesses. Only 65, (1.5 percent) went to black-owned firms.

Overall, white-owned businesses received over $130 million in loans through the program, while Hispanic-owned businesses got $4 million and black-owned businesses less than $2 million.

In five states - Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming -- every single firm that received an ARC loan was white-owned. In eight other states, including Louisiana and Nevada, all but one loan went to a white-owned firm.

Civil rights groups and representatives of the minority business communities reacted with anger when told of NAM's findings.

"It's just horrendous," said Anthony Robinson, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Minority Business Legal Defense and Education Fund (MBELDEF). "During this economic recession, there is no recognition or sensitivity to the need to support and benefit people of color."

"The data raises troubling questions" and should trigger an investigation," says Oren Sellstrom of San Francisco's Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. "This should be a red flag for the SBA and the banks. It gives us the indication that something may be amiss and further explanation is warranted."

Census figures put black business ownership at 5 percent and Hispanic business ownership at about 7 percent -- more than double the numbers getting these SBA-backed loans.

Rest of article at link above.

I guess that whole 'rising tides' thing isn't working out the way you said it would, Mr. President.

No wonder the White House couldn't be bothered to send someone over to Washington Watch last week, or send over the documents that Roland Martin asked for.

Media Alert - Iron Chef comes to the White House

hat tip: W.E.E. See You

From Obama Foodorama:

flotus chefs

First Lady Michelle Obama Graces Season Premiere of Iron Chef America; Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford Will Compete
Another first from the Obama White House Kitchen...First Lady reveals "secret ingredient"

First Lady Michelle Obama will make a special appearance on the season premiere of the popular Food Network show Iron Chef America in January, in a savvy move to extend her healthy food messaging to a new audience. Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford will compete on the show in a special two hour "super chef battle." Comerford's teammate is grill master Bobby Flay, who guest-cheffed at the White House for the Father's Day event in June, when he cooked up some lovely steaks with President Obama. Spoiler alert: Mrs. Obama will be revealing the "secret ingredient" that the chefs will use in their televised cook-off, which is a hallmark of the Iron Chef America series. The "secret ingredient" in this case is anything that grows in the White House Kitchen Garden, which leaves things wiiiide open, because the Kitchen Garden has produced a stunning variety of crops this year. Comerford and Flay are competing against the highly competitive team of celeb chefs Emeril Lagasse, who specializes in Southern/New Orleans cooking, and Mario Batali, an Italian cooking superstar. (Above: Mrs. Obama flanked by, from left, Flay, Comerford and show host Alton Brown; Batali is in the crocs, his signature shoe, and Lagasse is on right)

A Little Comedy from Al Franken

But very appropriate....

Franken basically tells phony _____ Joe Liebermann, the Senator from Aetna, to STFU.


See backstory here.

Another Example of Why America Is Headed For Decline

Rachel Maddow puts spotlight on the "Christian" right and their political allies, praying for God to intervene to stop Healthcare Reform.


These people are completely out of their minds. But this is the new America... where no meaningful legislation will be passed from a permanently gridlocked government. The U.S. has essentially reached a point where nothing can get done. The government is no longer functional. It will be nearly impossible for the U.S. to keep up with the kinds of rapid changes taking place in the world.

Healthcare reform (in any real sense) has already been killed in the U.S. Senate... so these "Christians" are already emboldened. But the video is an example of how Religion has poisoned the political discourse in this Country. I really wonder what God they are praying to...and what bible they are reading. This is why the American flag shouldn't be wrapped around the cross. When the two are mixed, religion is distorted, perverted and misused for political purposes.

America is finito folks! I'm more convinced everyday. Finished as the most powerful nation on earth. And when I say finished, I mean finished in relative terms. It may not happen in 10 or 20 years.... but it will probably happen in our lifetimes. Certainly sooner than people think. With a gridlocked government that, for all practical purposes, no longer functions.... the U.S. will continue to gradually fall behind. Gradual like the end of Rome.

America is a burning house. All I can tell you is.... buy all the ammo you can, hoard some food, and be prepared for the worst. Sit back and watch the house burn. (that's all you can do at this point). On the other side of this transition, I can envision an America that is closer to third-world status than the leading nation on earth. We already have big cities that are teetering on third-world status.

Canada is looking nicer all the time (not joking). Americans have to start considering other options for themselves and their families, in terms of possibly living elsewhere. We are reaching a point where it may be in their best interests to do so... particularly from an economic, health/personal welfare, and quality of life standpoint.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lanny Davis gets served on healthcare - 'who's paying you, Lanny?'

Daily Kos Blogger Nails Home The Point About the Lack of Progressive Media & Importance of Effective Strategy and Messaging

I have been trying to make this point for years. Those who have been reading this blog long enough have read my thoughts about the need for a Progressive media infrastructure and message machine to help Progressives control their own message. Without such an effort (combined with smart political strategy) Progressives really aren't on a level playing field with the opposition, and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to defend against the propaganda from Conservative media and its spinsters. This blogger does a pretty good job of highlighting the point even more in his response to the faltering efforts implosion ref. Healthcare Reform.

When will Progressives figure this out?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keith Olbermann Slams Healthcare Reform Sham

This Healthcare Reform is turning out even worse than I expected. It has clearly turned into a debacle.

Here, Olbermann tells it like it is.... tells it like it has been for the past 6 months. KO talks as if he is giving a concession a man finally coming to terms with the failure of something (Healthcare Reform) that he probably knew wasn't going to be successful a long time ago... or at least I would like to think KO was sharp enough to read between the lines back then. Perhaps he wanted his viewers to have some sort of hope to hold he kept coming out every night pushing it. I commend that.

This is an epic failure of sorts...
I have stated many times that this was a combination of bad timing and poor strategy on the part of Democrats, for a whole list of reasons that I won't rehash.

But clearly, Obama misread the national mood.... (I have mentioned that many times). He's an intelligent man for sure... no question about that whatsoever. However, I don't think he fully understands the Country... particularly in terms of voters, voter behavior, the national media, the racial dynamics, etc etc. Obama seems to miss the point (and even Keith Olbermann missed this point too) regarding how & why he is coming out on the losing end of this fight - and i'm not sure if we can even call it a fight since Dems didn't really participate. Obama seems to be clueless regarding the fact that this was a PR war for the most part and that the other side completely destroyed Progressives in that PR war. He seems clueless to the fact that this will continue to happen as long as there is no Progressive media infrastructure that can match and someday exceed the power and influence of Conservative media. Obama seems to be under the delusion that there is a level playing field and that the Democratic plan really had a fair chance.

This situation only reinforces some of the things that I feel about the Country....mainly that the nation is headed for an inevitable decline and we're in fact in the midst of that decline. This is partly due to the fact that the U.S. political system has become dysfunctional and that dysfunction will mean that the nation won't be able to keep up with future challenges and won't be able to make the Progressive changes that will be necessary to mitigate future threats and improve the lives of Americans. The changes to the world in the next few decades are going to be lightning fast...and there is little chance that this political system will be able to keep up in any meaningful way. Only those Countries that can keep up will be able to compete. Life will get tougher for people who live in Countries with archaic political systems... because these Countries will be left behind. For example... watch what happens with Climate Change legislation. I can tell you now that it is dead on arrival in the Senate. As is Immigration Reform. In fact, most of Obama's major initiatives (those requiring Congressional approval) are already dead.

With this kind of gridlock in place for the foreseeable future - not to mention corporate whores like Joe Lieberman contaminating the halls of Congress - and with K-Street literally controlling legislation, the U.S. is going to wither on the vine. With a government so inherently corrupt at its core, and with ideas like government of the people for the people having died a long time ago.... the citizens are left with a political system that doesn't work.


Besides moving to Canada or out of the Continent completely... I am running out of remedies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Princess & the Frog - my review and how it did


From The Hollywood Reporter
'Princess' reigns at weekend boxoffice
Disney's animated film pulls in $25 million

By Carl DiOrio

Dec 13, 2009, 01:11 PM ET

Updated: Dec 13, 2009, 02:25 PM ET

Disney's animated feature "The Princess and the Frog" leaped into first place in the domestic boxoffice with an estimated $25 million weekend performance roughly in line with pre-release expectations.

I went to see The Princess & the Frog this weekend. I wasn't the only single person there, and I was thrilled to see so many little Black girls with their parents.

As for the movie, I really liked it.

The animation was terrific, and it was so good to see ANIMATION again. Nothing against PIXAR or any of those other companies, but there's something still soothing about watching beautiful animation. Tiana was a beautiful intelligent child that grew up to be a beautiful, intelligent woman. I loved that she had 2 loving parents that supported her dreams, and saw that her talent for good food WAS her gift.

Tiana was a terrific choice for a Princess. She was relatable because, well, she was a BLACK Princess, and I don't mean her skin color. Her story was something many of the adults could relate to in the audience. She was told by her parents that if she had a dream, she had to work hard for it, because it just wasn't going to come to her because she wished upon a shining star. So, Tiana became single-minded in her pursuit of what she believed was her goal - to own her own restaurant. It was what drove her; why she worked numerous jobs. How many Black women grew up having parents to tell them that they better ' get that education if you want to accomplish something for yourself'. Tiana didn't have a formal education, but you could see that she took the craft of cooking seriously, and did what she had to do in order to improve her skills.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith Interview President Obama

hat tip: W.E.E. See You

Racial Tensions at South Philly High

I grew up in Philadelphia in the 1980’s and am an alumnus of Central High School, one of the city’s public schools. We had our share of racial tensions back in the day but it never got very bad from what I remember.

The Angry Asian Man blog has been chronicling racial tensions and violent encounters at South Philadelphia High School the past few weeks primarily between African-American students and Asian-American and immigrant students. These reports have been shocking me in a “I can’t believe these things are still happening in 2009” kind of way.

What the hell is happening in Philadelphia? Yesterday, 26 Asian students at South Philadelphia High School were attacked and beaten by a gang of other students throughout the day: Asian students under attack at S. Phila. High.

District officials said that ten students have been suspended. (That's it?) No arrests were reported, but students who were outside the school yesterday said they had seen students being led out of the building in handcuffs. Well, that's great -- but how about some actual arrests and charges?

This is just the latest in several ongoing incidents of violence against Asian immigrant students that were reported at the school last year. Can you blame these students -- many of whom came to the U.S. specifically to attend school -- for just wanting to stay home? It beats going to school under fear of getting your ass kicked every day, all day.

This week's spate of attacks began Wednesday, when a Vietnamese student was jumped by 14 students across the street from the school. Yesterday, the attackers were apparently roaming the halls "searching for victims class by class during school."

26 Asian Students Attacked at South Philadelphia High

Asian Students Boycotting South Philly High

Students Speak Out Against South Philly High School Violence

Superintendent Refuses Meeting With South Philly High Students

AALDEF to File Civil Rights Complaint Against Philadelphia School District

Fear and Loathing in South Philadelphia (

Asian Students Describe Violence At South Philadelphia High (

PA Human Rights Will Air Strife On South Philly High (

President Obama's Weekly Youtube Address

Friday, December 11, 2009

Media Alert

hat tips- Angelar, The 44 Diaries



oprah-obamas-xmas at wh
In this Dec. 3, 2009, photo released by the White House, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, left, pose with Oprah Winfrey, right, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington during a taping of a special, "Christmas at the White House," airing Sunday, Dec. 13, at 10:00 p.m. EST on ABC.

President Obama's Nobel Acceptance Speech

Loophole in Senate Bill Would Allow Insurers to Deny Care

A loophole in the Senate Healthcare bill would allow Insurance companies to place dollar limits on needed services, essentially allowing them to play the same games that they play now. It would allow insurance companies to deny coverage. Meanwhile, the insurance companies would be enjoying the benefit of all the new customers pushed onto their roles.

This is what I warned about in some of my earlier Healthcare reform posts - mainly that (if not done right) this Healthcare Reform debacle could end up being worse than the status quo.

In my comments about the public option I stated that the new Senate plan could work...and I took the position that I was willing to wait and see what the new plan would do before slamming the idea completely.... but I have to say... i've probably seen enough.

This report illustrates exactly why not having a public option is a problem... because then, insurance companies could simply game the system. Private insurers are not going to compete against themselves. The private sector can't be trusted to handle a fair Healthcare program under a co-op. These corporations are inherently incapable of providing a remedy to the current private system, because of the deep conflicts of interests involved. A for-profit insurance system is not really capable of achieving what Progressives had in mind for real Healthcare reform. It's not compatible for that role. This is something that even Michael Moore was able to point out a few years ago. This is the whole point behind the public option.

Healthcare Reform Bill Flirting With Defeat Yet Again

Doubts grow about the possibility of any Healthcare Reform bill at all. Give an inch and they'll try to take a mile. The Conservatives in the Democratic Party will keep playing this game until there is no bill left to pass. They want to water it down to nothing.

Funny how Republicans and their Conservative allies on the Democratic side are concerned about costs all of a sudden. I don't recall any of these do-nothing elite jackasses being concerned about the costs on bills where they were green lighting and co-signing wars, which have now cost taxpayers over $1 Trillion. When it comes to war.... or wasteful spending in their States and districts back home (for nonsensical pork projects), there always seems to be money... no problem.

But when it comes to the U.S. investing in its own people...there always seems to be a problem.

That's why I have been saying that the USA is finito long term as far as being a great power. In a few decades, the U.S. will be just another Country....and it may only barely manage to even hold that status.

That's why I have mentioned that I might consider Canada (was only half joking).

It's no coincidence that although Canada is our neighbor to the north, it is much more closely aligned with Europe and has a different view about what its fundamental priorities are. Most modern, advanced, industrialized Countries understand that a nation won't be able to go far if it doesn't invest in its people.

A Soulful Christmas Mix

Not really in the Christmas spirit. Christmas typically = the worst time of the year for me. But I love Soulful Christmas music.

Here's a Soul & Jazz Christmas Mix courtesy of Dave B. (The Heavy Soul Brutha)

Listen Here

Find more HeavySoulBrutha mixes here.

Also hear a bonus Christmas mix from guest podcaster.

Two for One - Maceo and Grover Washington Jr.

Maceo & All the Kings Men

Hard to believe that Grover Washington Jr. has been gone for 10 years (10 years this month). Hear the song "Masterpiece". which I couldn't embed.

On Being Black in a White Economy

I could have also titled this.... why I hate being Black or why being Black sucks. But I covered that territory and made that point plenty of times.

The experiences of Black job seekers in a recent NYT report seem to mirror some of my own experiences. I have been under-employed for quite a while now and have often wondered how much of a part race may be playing in my disappointing job search. Race certainly has played a part from a class standpoint, since the legacy of race and class did not provide me with the best opportunity to attend the most exclusive schools and have access to the kinds of networks that would get me in the door. If you are white and come from privileged circumstances, those things are sort of thrown in as perks. Granted, most of my job search interests have been in the government sector as opposed to the private sector (can't stand the private sector) but I have still had some of the same experiences described in the NYT report.

This was also covered on the FN blog a few days ago. (by Philadelphia attorney Wayne Bennett)

For example, I too have felt the need in recent years to "clean" my resume... to wipe clean anything that would indicate race. There has never really been anything too overt on my resume that was "in your face" race identifying... because that's just not what i'm about anyway. From a professional point of view, I have always known that this was not the thing to do...and I never had the urge or interest to do so.

However, years ago I was briefly a member of an organization called NOBLE... one of the most prestigious & impressive Black professional/social organizations in the U.S... but wiped it from the resume. I'm no longer a member...but even if I were... I wouldn't mention it. I also avoid providing too many Black references.... wiped my reference page almost completely....except for one co-worker. There are many great professors who I probably could have added.... but nope.

I have been on interviews where I sense a feeling of disappointment or confusion when I walk into the room (not that i'm not impecably dressed...but i'm not who they thought would walk in). I am not sure that the interview is over at that point, but I can tell that the normal hurdles get raised immediately, and I have to prove why I even belong at the interview. The signals that they give off = who do you think you are? and Why are you even here?.

I also leave the race box blank on any EEO forms that I fill out... or I will sometimes leave the whole form blank. There was one gov't employer that required that the box be filled in (still baffled by that...because I thought they couldn't compel an answer to that question). I will sometimes check the box for "other" just for fun. But I avoid "Black".... because this seems to be the equivalent of admitting to a disease that will prevent me from being hired (in the eyes of the wider society).

I am also someone who wants to avoid the whole victim thing... although I often joke with co-workers that the system is not for us. They don't know that i'm not always joking...they can't even conceive it... because in their minds, the existence of a Black President has made all of these problems magically go away. But I still don't like the victim branding.... because I think (I know) that I am just as good as anyone else, especially for the type and level of employment that I have applied for.

I also find that being Black and male seems much worse...than simply being Black. This seems to pan out in the stats.

And here's a twist... I don't completely blame white society. Sure, it shares most of the blame...but (in my mind at least) I assign some of the blame to so-called Black culture or the "Black Community" for fueling this situation. By virtue of being Black I understand that I am held prisoner to a race (whether I like it or not...and I hate it) that trashes and brings shame to its own image...and feeds the very stereotypes that so many people fought to overcome 40, 50, 60, 100 years ago. Some even gave their lives fighting for the dignity of Blacks.

Sometimes I see my skin as worse than prison bars... metaphorically that's exactly how I feel everyday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The President Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize laureate U.S. President Barack Obama poses with his diploma and medal after receiving the prize at the award ceremony in Oslo City Hall December 10, 2009. The Nobel committee is awarding the peace prize to Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples and cited his push for nuclear disarmament.
-----REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Norway Nobel Peace Obama
President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama poses with his medal and diploma at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at City Hall in Oslo, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009.
----AP Photo/Odd Andersen

The President's Remarks in Oslo:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2009
Remarks by the President at the Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize

Oslo City Hall
Oslo, Norway

1:44 P.M. CET

THE PRESIDENT: Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations -- that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 42 other countries -- including Norway -- in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict -- filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

Now these questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease -- the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

And over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers and clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

Of course, we know that for most of history, this concept of "just war" was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations -- total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of 30 years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it's hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations -- an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize -- America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty and self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

And yet, a decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states -- all these things have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another -- that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly inreconcilable truths -- that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. "Let us focus," he said, "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions." A gradual evolution of human institutions.

What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?

To begin with, I believe that all nations -- strong and weak alike -- must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I -- like any head of state -- reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don't.

The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait -- a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Furthermore, America -- in fact, no nation -- can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don't, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified.

And this becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That's why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America's commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries, and other friends and allies, demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they've shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That's why NATO continues to be indispensable. That's why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That's why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali -- we honor them not as makers of war, but of wagers -- but as wagers of peace.

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant -- the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor -- we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard.

I have spoken at some length to the question that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me now turn to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to actually change behavior -- for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure -- and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: All will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work towards disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I'm working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia's nuclear stockpiles.

But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma -- there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy -- but there must be consequences when those things fail. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This brings me to a second point -- the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet too often, these words are ignored. For some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation's development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists -- a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world.

I reject these choices. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent-up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests -- nor the world's -- are served by the denial of human aspirations.

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements -- these movements of hope and history -- they have us on their side.

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach -- condemnation without discussion -- can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

In light of the Cultural Revolution's horrors, Nixon's meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable -- and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul's engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan's efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There's no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.

Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights -- it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can't aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

And that's why helping farmers feed their own people -- or nations educate their children and care for the sick -- is not mere charity. It's also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement -- all of which will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action -- it's military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.

Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, the determination, the staying power, to complete this work without something more -- and that's the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there's something irreducible that we all share.

As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we're all basically seeking the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

And yet somehow, given the dizzying pace of globalization, the cultural leveling of modernity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish in their particular identities -- their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we're moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

And most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint -- no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or the Red Cross worker, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but I believe it's incompatible with the very purpose of faith -- for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. For we are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best of intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached -- their fundamental faith in human progress -- that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith -- if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace -- then we lose what's best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present condition makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him."

Let us reach for the world that ought to be -- that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. (Applause.)

Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he's outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school -- because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child's dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that -- for that is the story of human progress; that's the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you very much.

Will & Jada Pinkett Smith Slated to Co-Host Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Hollywood power-couple Will and Jada Pinkett Smith will lend themselves to the Nobel Peace Prize Concert according to the Associated Press.

The husband and wife will serve as co-hosts of the annual event on December 11 in Oslo, Norway. According to the AP, major acts such as Wyclef Jean, Toby Keith, and Donna Summer will perform as well.

The Smith's said in a statement, "The opportunity to recognize the laureate's contributions to the world peace movement will be an awe-inspiring experience. We are both humbled and honored to take part in the Nobel Peace Prize Concert this year."