Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's really at stake



Any day now, health insurance reform will come up for a vote in the Senate.

We're hearing a lot about what's at stake with this vote for President Obama, the Democrats who are fighting alongside him, and the Republicans who have lined up in opposition.

But let's talk about what's really at stake for America. The Senate health reform bill will:

-- Extend coverage to 31 million Americans, the largest expansion of coverage since the creation of Medicare.

-- Ensure that you can choose your own doctor.

-- Finally stop insurance companies from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

-- Make sure you will never be charged exorbitant premiums on the basis of your age, health, or gender.

-- Guarantee you will never lose your coverage just because you get sick or injured.

-- Protect you from outrageous out-of-pocket expenditures by establishing lifetime and annual limits.

-- Allow young people to stay on their parents' coverage until they're 26 years old.

-- Create health insurance exchanges, or "one-stop shops" for individuals purchasing insurance, where insurance companies are forced to compete for new customers.

-- Lower premiums for families, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office -- especially for struggling folks who will receive subsidies.

-- Help small businesses provide health care coverage to their employees with tax credits and by allowing them to purchase coverage through the exchanges.

-- Improve and strengthen Medicare by eliminating waste and fraud (without cutting basic benefits), beginning to close the Medicare Part D donut hole, and extending the life of the Medicare trust fund.

-- Create jobs by reining in costs -- fostering competition, reducing waste and inefficiency, and starting to reward doctors and hospitals for quality, not quantity, of care.

-- Cut the deficit by over $130 billion in the next 10 years.

It's a long list. But that's only because this bill represents the most significant health reform our nation has seen since the creation of Medicare.

And it's important that every American knows what's really at stake this holiday season.

So please pass this email along to friends, family, and neighbors today -- or click below to share this list on Facebook and Twitter, or print out a copy to share with others:

http://my.barackobama.com/SenateReformBill

We wouldn't be this close to enacting these powerful reforms without all your hard work. Now, we're in the final stretch -- let's keep it up.

Thank you,

David Plouffe





Paid for by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee -- 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

(posted by Javin James)

Where we stand


Message from the President (Dec. 21st)

Early this morning, the Senate made history and health reform cleared its most important hurdle yet -- garnering the 60 votes needed to move toward a final vote in that chamber later this week.

This marks the first time in our nation's history that comprehensive health reform has come to this point. And it appears that the American people will soon realize the genuine reform that offers security to those who have health insurance and affordable options to those who do not.

I'm grateful to Senator Harry Reid and every senator who's been working around the clock to make this happen. And I'm grateful to you, and every member of the Organizing for America community, for all the work you have done to make this progress possible.

After a nearly century-long struggle, we are now on the cusp of making health insurance reform a reality in the United States of America.

As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process. But I'm pleased that recently added provisions have made this landmark bill even stronger. Between the time when the bill passes and the time when the insurance exchanges get up and running, insurance companies that try to jack up their rates do so at their own peril. Those who hike their prices may be barred from selling plans on the exchanges.

And while insurance companies will be prevented from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions once the exchanges are open, in the meantime there will be a high-risk pool where people with pre-existing conditions can purchase affordable coverage.

A recent amendment has made these protections even stronger. Insurance companies will now be prohibited from denying coverage to children immediately after this bill passes. There's also explicit language in this bill that will protect a patient's choice of doctor. And small businesses will get additional assistance as well.

These protections are in addition to the ones we've been talking about for some time. No longer will insurance companies be able to drop your coverage if you become sick and no longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for treatments that you need.

Under this bill families will save on their premiums; businesses that would see their costs rise if we don't act will save money now and in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare and extend the life of the program. Because it's paid for and gets rid of waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.

Finally, this reform will extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who don't have it.

These are not small changes. These are big changes. They're fundamental reforms. They will save money. They will save lives.

And your passion, your work, your organizing helped make all of this possible. Now it's time to finish the job.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama




Paid for by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee -- 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

(posted by Javin James)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One million calls


If we don't pass health reform, millions of Americans will be trapped in a broken status quo, unable to pay their bills or see a doctor when they need one.

More and more employers will drop coverage for employees. And Medicare and Medicaid will blow a hole through our budget.

There's too much at stake not to get this done. That's why OFA supporters have made 849,856 calls to Congress in support of health reform since August.

And that's why today, with the Senate locked in last-minute negotiations, our goal is to hit one million calls.

Can you help? Please call your senators now and help us "ring in reform." Then click here to let us know you called.

According to our records, you live in New York. Please call:

Sen. Chuck Schumer at 202-509-0651
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at 202-559-7171


(Not your senators? Click here to look yours up).

This holiday season, millions of Americans will go without desperately needed care simply because they can't afford insurance.

But insurance lobbyists are desperate to pull apart the bill and derail reform, so your voice is needed now.

Your senators are fighting hard for health reform. Please call today, thank them for their work, and let them know we need them to keep fighting.

Just dial the numbers above, then tell the staffers who answer where you live -- so that they know you are a constituent -- and that you support reform.

Then click here to make sure you call is counted in the race to a million:

http://my.barackobama.com/RingInReform

Thanks for standing up,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America





Paid for by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee -- 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

(posted by Javin James)

Monday, December 14, 2009

NO. NO COMPROMISE WITH LIEBERMAN! WE'VE GIVEN UP ENOUGH. TIME, MR PRESIDENT, TO GROW A PAIR. CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN NEEDS TO BE REPLACED BY LEADERSHIP WE CAN DEPEND ON. MORE LINCOLN, LESS CARTER. PLEASE!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

President of Peace

Dec. 10, Oslo, Norway -- President Barack Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize witnessed by a 1,000 member audience at Oslo City Hall, where the traditional Nobel Prize Award Ceremony was held. Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace. (www.nobleprize.org)

In awarding the President the Peace Prize, the Noble Committee has placed confidence on HOPE. "The Noble Committee said in October the President had made extraordinary efforts to strengthen International diplomacy and coorperation and that it hoped this would this would strengthen democracy and human rights. (Metro News) President Obama has won for showing a willingness to talk to such states as Iran and North Korea, which former President George W. Bush referred to as being part of an "axis of evil."

While accepting the award with "deep gratitude and great humility, Mr. President spoke at length about America's wars and the drive to build lasting peace and a just world. He took the opportunity to offer his perspective on war in general and his knowledge of the "considerable controversy" the decision had caused.

A realistic President Obama stated with clarity his position as "commander-in-chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars." One of which the president noted was in fact "winding down", the other he said, "one in which we are joined by 42 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 ..."

The President in his peace driven message recalled moments in world history, when America and the rest of the world moved to secure peace by, "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." Also noting that there has been no World War III.

View the President's nobel lecture at http://nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=1221

J.J.

(posted by Javin James)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

President Obama's Nobel Peace speach

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. (Applause.)

END
2:20 P.M. CET

(posted by Javin James)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 04, 2009 Media Matters: On Afghanistan, Fox News decides, then reports

December 04, 2009
Media Matters: On Afghanistan, Fox News decides, then reports


President Obama never had a chance ...

It didn't matter what decision he came to regarding troop levels in Afghanistan, or what he said about the ongoing conflict there, because Fox News and the rest of the conservative media had already reached two conclusions. First, he took too long. Second, he was wrong.

Since the Bush administration stuck him with the untended-to mess in Afghanistan, Obama had to make a choice -- more troops, fewer troops, withdrawal. When Obama signaled that he actually wanted to consider his options before making a decision, the Fox News followed the lead of Dick Cheney -- one of the primary authors of the Afghanistan debacle -- in accusing the president of "dithering" and "inaction." Glenn Beck, never one to be subtle or reasonable, accused the president of "letting our troops literally bleed and die" and said Obama would "pay for it" in the hereafter.

Of course, Cheney's idea of "dithering" is another man's idea of a "substantive discussion" that came as part of a "good" process. That other man just so happens to be Gen. David Petraeus, who was asked by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on December 2 if Obama had been "dithering" as Cheney alleged. Petraeus responded: "This process was actually quite good, Joe. It was a very substantive discussion. Everybody's assumptions and views were tested. I think out of this have come sharpened objectives, a very good understanding of the challenges and the difficulties and what must be done in a much more detailed and nuanced fashion."

But the big moment finally arrived, and Obama made his decision -- 30,000 more troops, with a set time limit of July 2011. The decision was announced during a prime-time speech to the nation on December 1. Before the teleprompters had even cooled down, Fox News got right to the mischief. Bill O'Reilly chastised the president for not "saying, 'Look, these are bad guys. We're fighting evil.' " While it's true that Obama didn't use those exact words, he did use some that sounded awfully similar, like when he called Al Qaeda "extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam ... to justify the slaughter of innocents," and when he called the Taliban "a ruthless, repressive, and radical movement."

Other Fox News personalities got in on the fun -- the crew of Fox & Friends complained that Obama never said the word "win" during the speech, even though he spoke several times about the "successful" conclusion to the war. And when they weren't complaining about things that Obama didn't (but really did) say, conservatives were complaining that it wasn't the best speech the world had ever seen. O'Reilly said it was "not exactly the Gettysburg Address." Sean Hannity said: "I didn't hear Winston Churchill, I didn't hear Ronald Reagan, I didn't hear George Bush." Charles Krauthammer was hoping to get his Shakespeare fix, lamenting that it wasn't "exactly the kind of speech that you would have heard from Henry V."

And speaking of history, conservatives took the occasion of Obama's speech to do a little rewriting of the historical record. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove said Obama was "in no position whatsoever to criticize what President Bush did" in Afghanistan because "at the time, he didn't speak out on this." Rove must've been too busy ignoring subpoenas to have noticed the many, many, many times that Obama spoke out against the Bush administration's Afghanistan policy. And then there was Hannity, who disregarded the many thousand troops Obama sent to Afghanistan earlier this year in claiming that the president has "had a "less-than-consistent stance on the issue of Afghanistan."

The bottom line is that for conservatives, there are plenty of substantive ways to disagree with Obama's policy prescriptions. He's a Democrat, he's going to propose policies that fall on the left side of the spectrum, and conservatives can and should bring to the table what facts they can in making their counter-arguments. But judging by their treatment of Obama's Afghanistan policy, Fox News isn't interested in that. They're simply going to reflexively gainsay anything Obama does. That's why you get superficial, ludicrous, and transparently false claims like these -- the point isn't to be right; the point is to say the other guy is wrong.

Other major stories this week

Snapping the "Climategate" shut

It's no secret that the American right has had a contentious relationship with science. They've made clear that they don't really care all that much for practical science (embryonic stem cell research, for example), but also have a soft spot for anti-science (creationism) and anti-science dressed up to look like science (intelligent design). When forced to choose between scientific fact and ideological purity, they'll more often than not show anyone wearing a lab coat to the door.

And in that great conflict between science and ideology, there is no greater battle than climate change, and the weight of scientific evidence stacked against the right has put it into a precarious position, forcing it to engage in asymmetrical warfare. Take, for example, the email messages illegally hacked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that, according to the right-wing commentariat, are prima facie evidence that climate change is nothing more than an elaborate hoax perpetrated over many generations by legions of scientists who want to undermine capitalism across the globe.

Or something like that.

Here's what it comes down to -- much of what the right is saying about those emails is wildly out of context, an outrageous distortion, or just plain false. But let's assume, just for one moment, that these emails actually do say everything that the right claims. If that were the case, then the emails would be a damning indictment of the scientists whose names appear on them. What they would not be, however, is compelling evidence that the entirety of climate change science is "unproven" or a "hoax," as conservatives are claiming. They've put themselves in the laughably silly position of claiming that a few private messages between scientists outweigh the glut of scientific data accumulated over the decades, the volumes upon volumes of peer-reviewed publications on the topic, and the findings of thousands of scientists working with several independent scientific bodies.

To use a subject-appropriate metaphor, it's as if they pulled a pebble from a glacier and held it up as proof that the glacier weren't made of ice.

This week's media columns

This week's media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert looks at how the press views Obama hatred as "populism," and Jamison Foser documents the conservative media's increasingly lame attacks.

Greg Lewis notes the braggadocio on display in The Friday Rush, a review of Limbaugh's radio shows over the past week.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and Digg

Media Matters maintains active online communities on the nation's leading social networking sites. Be sure to join us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and Digg and join in on the discussion.

Do you listen to podcasts? Try the Media Matters Minute

For months now, radio shows and stations throughout the country have been carrying the Media Matters Minute, a daily, minute-long recap of our work topped off with the "most outrageous comment" of the day. We encourage you to subscribe (iTunes / RSS) to the Minute's daily podcast, hosted by Media Matters' Ben Fishel.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled and edited by Simon Maloy, the deputy research director at Media Matters for America. Maloy also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web, as well as original commentary.


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(posted by Javin James)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Host a community job forum

On Thursday, President Obama is hosting a discussion at the White House to explore every possible avenue for job creation. Small business owners, CEOs, economists, financial experts, and nonprofit groups, as well as Americans who have felt the impact of this economic crisis firsthand, will be there to share ideas.

But you don’t need to be here on Thursday to participate. You can join the discussion by organizing your own jobs forum with your family, friends, and co-workers -- because these conversations can take place in living rooms and conference tables, not just arenas and convention centers.

We’re looking for community leaders like you from all across the country to host discussions from now until December 13th. Your community jobs forum will be a source of insights and ideas that will inform the President’s approach to job creation.

To get started, let us know you’re interested, and we'll send you information that may help you organize a successful jobs forum in your community:



In the coming days, we’ll follow up with discussion questions and other materials to help make your event as productive as possible. We’re not able to offer an events center where anyone can find events already happening, so if you haven’t heard of one in your area, start your own and reach out to your network for participants.

After the event, we’ll provide a simple online tool for you to submit job creation ideas and thoughts. Back here at the White House, we’ll compile your feedback and send it to the Oval Office for review.

With all of us working together, we’ll get America working again. Get started organizing a jobs forum in your community today.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Valerie

Valerie Jarrett
Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
The White House







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