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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Ladner Report On Lowery and the Inaugural Benediction

Can you imagine the Negro National Anthem as a key tone in a Presidential inauguration? Heavy!!! RGN

Rev. Joseph Lowery, the iconic civil rights era Baptist preacher and a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, gave a sobering benediction fitting for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. He started by quoting the lyrics of James Weldon Johnson, who wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing," in 1901 and often called the Negro National Anthem.

"God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land."

For the full post see The Ladner Report

Victor Navasky on Obama and "The Center"

Victor Navasky has been Lion on the left for many years. His enthusiasm for an Obama presidency seems to be boundless. He trusts the President. Here he provides a perspective on the claim that President Obama is a centrist. What Obama seems to be doing is carrying out a progressive agenda by casting a wide net of inclusion. As a "centrist" in his inaugural ceremony he acknowledged not only the evangelicals but non-believers, as well. Navasky makes the point that Obama is redefining politics in America when he asserts that the President is a "liberal wolf in a centrist's sheeps clothing." RGN

Seeking Obama's Center
By Victor Navasky
January 21, 2009

Whatever one's feelings about our new president, there was something thrilling about being at the the Huffington Post/Atlantic Philanthropies pre-inauguration bash at the Newseum in Washington with 1,500 journalists and pols, all of whom seemed to be celebrating and exulting in Obama's coming to power.

One had the same feeling earlier in the evening at the home of Myra MacPherson, Izzy Stone's biographer, where left-liberal journalists predominated.

And the next day, as I listened to his inaugural address, although I think I harbored no illusions about the difficult task ahead, I still felt that I was swimming in the same sea of happiness, as I heard him gently but firmly declare the country's liberation from the past (and reject "as false" the Bush administration's notion that national security was incompatible with constitutional liberty, that it is not a question of choosing "between our safety and our ideals"); and then simultaneously rejecting the Clinton administration's notion that the era of big government was over ("The question we ask today is not whether government is too big or too small but whether it works").

Therefore, there was something off-putting the next morning when I turned on my TV only to see pundit after pundit--be it Pat Buchanan on the right, "Morning Joe" Scarborough on the center-right or Mike Barnicle in the center--all praising him as a "centrist."

I had three problems with that:

First, as our friend and backer Paul Newman used to remind us, The Nation was valuable because it helps define where the center is. The center can shift. When Obama added to his ritualistic description of America as "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus" a new category--"nonbelievers"--it was almost unbelievable, as he quickly helped redefine where the center was.

Second, based on what we know about Obama--his books, his initial intuitive stand against the war in Iraq, his Senate voting record, his campaign, his inaugural speech--I don't believe it. At most, he seems to me a liberal wolf in centrist sheep's clothing.

And finally, faced with the ever-more-dire economic crisis, his commitment to a Keynes-based economic stimulus and renewed regulatory rigor (see his inaugural reference to not letting the market "spin out of control") suggests that, at a minimum, he flunked Centrism 101.

Rather, I prefer to believe that his reach across the aisle, his cabinet appointments and his opening to the renegade Joe Lieberman and his erstwhile opponent John McCain himself are part of his pragmatic plan to advance an agenda that goes beyond anything the so-called center might contain. Whether or not it will work, that is the question.

About Victor Navasky
Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation, was the magazine's editor from 1978to 1995 and publisher and editorial director from 1995 to 2005. He is currently the director of the George Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism at Columbia University. His books include Kennedy Justice, the American Book Award winner Naming Names and, most recently, A Matter of Opinion.

Remaking America: Halt Tribunals

Obama Acts "In the Interest of Justice" To Halt Tribunals
posted by John Nichols on 01/21/2009 @ 08:45am

Apparently Barack Obama took his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" a tad more seriously than did his predecessor.

Lawyers for the United States government -- the one now led by Obama -- acted even as the inaugural celebrations were going on to halt the Guantánamo Bay military commission trials.

Obama, in one of his first official acts, ordered a suspension of the trials, which had been adjourned in anticipation of the transition of authority from former President George Bush to his successor.

The motion filed by Obama's lawyers called for a 120-day moratorium on legal proceedings so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration that initiated the controversial trials, joined in the motion.

The order to halt to the tribunals was issed "in the interests of justice," according to the official request to the military judges.

"The suspension of military commissions so soon after President Obama took office is an indication of the sense of urgency he feels about reversing the destructive course that the previous administration was taking in fighting terrorism," declared Gabor Rona, the international director of Human Rights First.

Obama must, of course, do much more in the interest of justice. "It's a great first step but it is only a first step," notes Rona. "It will permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration to undertake a thorough review of both the pending cases and the military commissions process generally."

But Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Guantánamo suspects told BBC Radio 4: "It's going to take some work but what he [Obama] is looking at I think here is a very clear-cut distinction between this administration and the last."

That would seem to be a fair assessment of the moment, and the beginning of definition of change we can believe in.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Sworn In: History Made

January 21, 2009
Obama Takes Oath, and Nation in Crisis Embraces the Moment

WASHINGTON — Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday and promised to “begin again the work of remaking America” on a day of celebration that climaxed a once-inconceivable journey for the man and his country.

Mr. Obama, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, inherited a White House built partly by slaves and a nation in crisis at home and abroad. The moment captured the imagination of much of the world as more than a million flag-waving people bore witness while Mr. Obama recited the oath with his hand on the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used at his inauguration 148 years ago.

Beyond the politics of the occasion, the sight of a black man climbing the highest peak electrified people across racial, generational and partisan lines. Mr. Obama largely left it to others to mark the history explicitly, making only passing reference to his own barrier-breaking role in his 18-minute Inaugural Address, noting how improbable it might seem that “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

But confronted by the worst economic situation in decades, two overseas wars and the continuing threat of Islamic terrorism, Mr. Obama sobered the celebration with a grim assessment of the state of a nation rocked by home foreclosures, shuttered businesses, lost jobs, costly health care, failing schools, energy dependence and the threat of climate change. Signaling a sharp and immediate break with the presidency of George W. Bush, he vowed to usher in a “new era of responsibility” and restore tarnished American ideals.

“Today, I say to you that the challenges we face are real,” Mr. Obama said in the address, delivered from the west front of the Capitol. “They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America, they will be met.”

The vast crowd that thronged the Mall on a frigid but bright winter day was the largest to attend an inauguration in decades, if not ever. Many then lined Pennsylvania Avenue for a parade that continued well past nightfall on a day that was not expected to end for Mr. Obama until late in the night with the last of 10 inaugural balls.

Mr. Bush left the national stage quietly, doing nothing to upstage his successor. After hosting the Obamas for coffee at the White House and attending the ceremony at the Capitol, Mr. Bush hugged Mr. Obama, then left through the Rotunda to head back to Texas. “Come on, Laura, we’re going home,” he was overheard telling Mrs. Bush.
The inauguration coincided with more bad news from Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 300 points on indications of further trouble for banks.

The spirit of the day was also marred by the hospitalization of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, whose endorsement helped propel Mr. Obama to the Democratic nomination last year. Mr. Kennedy, who has been fighting a malignant brain tumor, suffered a seizure at a Capitol luncheon after the ceremony and was wheeled out on a stretcher.

The pageantry included some serious business. Shortly after he and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were sworn in, Mr. Obama ordered all pending Bush regulations frozen for a legal and policy review. He also signed formal nomination papers for his cabinet, and the Senate quickly confirmed seven nominees: the secretaries of homeland security, energy, agriculture, interior, education and veterans’ affairs and the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

When he arrives in the Oval Office on Wednesday, aides said, Mr. Obama will get to work on some of his priorities. He plans to convene his national security team and senior military commanders to discuss his plans to pull combat troops out of Iraq and bolster those in Afghanistan. He also plans to sign executive orders to start closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and could reverse Mr. Bush’s restrictions on financing for groups that promote or provide information about abortion.

Delays in the confirmation process have left both the State Department and the Treasury Department in the hands of caretakers. But Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to win Senate confirmation as secretary of state on Wednesday, and the Pentagon remains under the control of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was kept on from the Bush administration and did not attend the inauguration so someone in the line of succession would survive in case of terrorist attack.

In his address, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Bush “for his service to our nation as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.” But he also offered implicit criticism, condemning what he called “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”

He went on to assure the rest of the world that change had come. “To all other peoples and governments who are watching today,” Mr. Obama said, “from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”

Some of Mr. Obama’s supporters booed and taunted Mr. Bush when he emerged from the Capitol to take his place on stage, at one point singing, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” By day’s end, Mr. Bush had landed in Texas, where he defended his presidency and declared that he was “coming home with my head held high.”
The departing vice president, Dick Cheney, appeared at the ceremony in a wheelchair after suffering a back injury moving the day before and was also booed.

The nation’s 56th inauguration drew waves of people from all corners and filled the expanse between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. For the first transition in power since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, much of the capital was under exceptionally tight security, with a two-square-mile swath under the strictest control. Bridges from Virginia were closed to regular traffic and more than 35,000 civilian and military personnel were on duty.

Mr. Obama secured at least part of his legacy the moment he walked into the White House on Tuesday, 146 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 108 years after the first black man dined in the mansion with a president and 46 years after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared his dream of equality.

Mr. Obama, just 47 years old and four years out of the Illinois State Senate, arrived at this moment on the unlikeliest of paths, vaulted to the forefront of national politics on the strength of stirring speeches, early opposition to the Iraq war and public disenchantment with the Bush era. His scant record of achievement at the national level proved less important to voters than his embodiment of change.

His foreign-sounding name, his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and his skin color made him a unique figure in the annals of presidential campaigns, yet he toppled two of the best brand names in American politics — Mrs. Clinton in the primaries and Senator John McCain in the general election.

Mr. Obama himself is descended on his mother’s side from ancestors who owned slaves and he can trace his family tree to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. The power of the moment was lost on no one as the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, one of the towering figures of the civil rights movement, gave the benediction and called for “inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.”

The Rev. Rick Warren, a conservative minister selected by Mr. Obama to give the invocation despite protests from liberals, told the crowd, “We know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.”

For all that, Mr. Obama used the occasion to address “this winter of our hardship” and promote his plan for vast federal spending accompanied by tax cuts to stimulate the economy and begin addressing energy, environmental and infrastructure needs.
“Now there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” he said. “Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.”

He also essentially renounced the curtailment of liberties in the name of security, saying he would “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” He struck a stiff note on terrorism, saying Americans “will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.”

“For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken,” he said. “You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

But Mr. Obama also added a message to Islamic nations, a first from the inaugural lectern. “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama said. “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history — but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Mr. Obama’s public day started at 8:45 a.m. when he and his wife, Michelle, left Blair House for a service at St. John’s Church, then joined the Bushes, Cheneys and Bidens for coffee at the White House.

The Obamas’ daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, joined them at the Capitol, as did Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain, as well as former Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush.

While emotional for many, the ceremony did not go entirely according to plan. Mr. Biden was sworn in by Justice John Paul Stevens behind schedule at 11:57 a.m., and Mr. Obama did not take the oath until 12:05 p.m., five minutes past the constitutionally prescribed transfer of power.

Moreover, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stumbled over the 35-word oath, causing Mr. Obama to repeat it out of the constitutional order. Instead of swearing that he “will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States,” Mr. Obama swore that he “will execute the office of president of the United States faithfully.”

Following time-honored rituals, the Obamas attended lunch with lawmakers in Statuary Hall at the Capitol, then rode and walked to the White House, where they watched the parade from a bulletproof reviewing stand. They planned to attend all 10 official inaugural balls before spending their first night in the White House.

In his Inaugural Address, Mr. Obama seemed at times to be having a virtual dialogue with his predecessors. “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility,” he said, “a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly.” Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton likewise called for responsibility at their inaugurations, but Mr. Obama offered little sense of what exactly he wanted Americans to do.

Mr. Obama also seemed to take issue with Ronald Reagan, who declared when he took office in 1981 that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Mr. Clinton rebutted that in 1997, saying, “government is not the problem and government is not the solution.”

Mr. Obama offered a new formulation: “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”

Mr. Clinton, at least, applauded the message. In a brief interview afterward, he said Mr. Obama’s installation could change the way America was viewed.

“It’s obviously historic because President Obama is the first African-American president, but it’s more than that,” Mr. Clinton said. “This is a time when we’re clearly making a new beginning. It’s a country of repeated second-chances and new beginnings.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rabbis Call on Obama for Mid-East Cease Fire

Last update - 16:00 14/01/2009

U.S. rabbis urge Obama to push for immediate Gaza truce

By Natasha Mozgavaya, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Staff

A group of rabbis and other religious leaders bought advertising space in the New York Times this week to call for U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to push for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

The ad, placed by the Network of Spiritual Progressives and claiming to represent more than 2,800 other religious, cultural and community leaders, urges Obama to convene an international Middle East peace conference to "facilitate a lasting and just settlement for all parties."

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, who convened the group, said the group had to buy the advertising space because the national newspapers would not make room for their perspective.

"They feel that AIPAC's choice is overwhelming, and there's no space left for empathy or objective coverage - the media, according to the group, simply ignored the voice of the Jewish opposition to war in Gaza," Rabbi Lerner said.

Eleven prominent British Jews, including Baroness Julia Neuberger, published a letter in The Observer newspaper last weekend expressing their "horror" at the Gaza conflict and calling on Israel to stop its military campaign.

Israel has been waging an offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip since December 27. The operation, launched in order to halt cross-border rocket fire, has come under heavy criticism for the high number of civilian casualties.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama and discussions of Race....

On the first Sunday of January 2008, just days before the Iowa primary, Nell Painter was the guest in C-Span's 3-hour long "In Depth." During the call-in, a white female caller asked Dr. Painter what she would think of race relations in America should Barack Obama get elected president? After a very startled expression, a look of disbelief, Dr. Painter said that should the American people elect Obama president, we would talk of race in America in terms of "before Obama, and after Obama."

The article by Sarah Kershew bespeaks of which Nell Painter spoke. Obama being who he is, a black man raised in both and white and very ethnically diverse world, as president of the United States, does by definition change the discourse on race in America. As such, the definitions are and will be changing. The first change is that many whites see Obama as being BOTH black and white. Bi-racialism is a relatively new phenomenon. Historically, race operated on what Mualana "Ron" Karenga often referenced as the Jesus theory, one drop will make you whole. Until recently any amount of "black blood" made you black, by law. That Barack is to be president of the U.S. and given America's white nationalist history, discussions of race will be, for the foreseeable future, examinations of race and racism will be a part of our oxygen.

The Obama phenomenon has sparked discussions of America transcending race, or being post racial. Barack has never made such a claim, even though he did not run his campaign with race as the primary issue with which he was concerned. His campaign was universalistic. Even so, that he was black was a central issue to the campaign. The election was a referendum on white nationalism and white nationalism lost. With Obama as president race, will be ever present as he changes the face of America. RGN

January 15, 2009
Talk About Race? Relax, It’s O.K.

THE awkward conversations usually start with something like, “You look like Tiger Woods.”

Or, “Your last name is Rice — are you related to Jerry? Condoleezza?”
In bolder moments, maybe after a few drinks at a cocktail party, a white acquaintance might say to George Rice, 45, who is biracial: “You don’t seem that black. I have no worries with you.”

In what Mr. Rice calls the “everydayness” of race relations, his interactions with whites can be stilted and strained, even when there is no overt racism.

Even Mr. Rice’s wife, Becca Knox, 43, who is white, said that despite being married to a black man for six years, finding a comfortable way to talk about race with people of other races, particularly African-Americans, that is sensitive but not self-conscious, candid but not offensive, is still “a constant, constant struggle and process.”

But over the last few months, both Mr. Rice and Ms. Knox, who live in Washington, have been struck by the slight easing of these examples of what psychologists describe as “interracial anxiety” between blacks and whites. That is because there is a now an omnipresent icebreaker: Barack Obama.

“There’s a more readily accessible conduit into the conversation about race if it begins with Barack Obama,” said Mr. Rice, the executive director of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials — International, a professional law enforcement group. “In my experience over the last few months, it’s easier because it’ll begin with who he is, the differences between his parents, what he had to deal with.”

In his one major speech on race relations during the campaign, during a furor over remarks by his former pastor, Mr. Obama chided anyone so naïve as to think that “we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy.” He warned that race is something in American history and life “that we’ve never really worked through.”

But in the person of a president-elect who is the son of an African father and a white mother, Mr. Obama does seem to have inspired many to take a step on the road to improved relations — namely, conversation.

Cross-racial discussion about the topic of race seems to have become more common, and somewhat less fraught, with the rise of Mr. Obama, according to historians, psychologists, sociologists and other experts on race relations, as well as a number of blacks and whites interviewed around the country.

“All this exposure to this very counterstereotypical African-American has actually changed — at least temporarily — what is on the tip of the tongue,” said E. Ashby Plant, a psychologist at Florida State University and an author of a new study examining the impact of Mr. Obama on the attitudes of whites. “It may have very important implications.”

In Dr. Plant’s study, 400 white college students in Wisconsin and Florida were asked, between Mr. Obama’s nomination and his election, questions like, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of African-Americans?”

The unpublished study found that the answers revealed little evidence of antiblack bias, in sharp contrast to many earlier studies (including one by Dr. Plant) showing that roughly 80 percent of whites have some degree of bias.

Polls have captured increasing optimism among Americans about the future of race relations. The day after Mr. Obama was elected, a Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans believed a solution to black-white racial problems would eventually be worked out. Gallup said that it had been asking the same question for four decades, and that a poll last summer also reflected substantially more optimism than previously. The polls did not account for the race of respondents. A New York Times/CBS News poll in July showed sharp differences between blacks and whites on a similar topic: Nearly 60 percent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, while only 34 percent of whites agreed.

Psychologists and sociologists have long drawn a link between the amount of anxiety that occurs in interracial interactions and one’s previous exposure to the other race; a guiding principle of desegregation was that it could help detoxify race relations by making whites more comfortable with blacks in daily life.

Christophe E. Jackson, 28, a black Ph.D. candidate in biology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who is also pursuing a medical degree, recalled that in the past he had uneasy conversations with white students and colleagues about affirmative action. He believed that many whites thought he had an edge, and were sometimes blunt about saying so. But Mr. Obama’s campaign and election seem to have changed those perceptions.

“Before Obama, there was always this thing — ‘He’s a black doctor,’ ” Mr. Jackson said. “But now I’m going to be a physician who also happens to be black. That’s become the perception now, which is really nice.”

At the same time, some African-Americans said they were skeptical that Mr. Obama’s presidency would meaningfully whittle away at the discomfort between races, or decrease the frequency of their own sometimes painful interactions with whites. Some said the president-elect’s sheer star power, their growing sense that he is viewed by whites as an individual who transcends race — a Michael Jordan or an Oprah Winfrey — would do little to improve race relations.

“I think they will see Obama as the star,” said Gilda Squire, 39, who owns a public relations firm in Manhattan. “That’s already begun, if you ask me. Yes, we’re celebrating the historical event and it’s a major feat, I get it. But in terms of the day-to-day, I don’t know.”

“I remember people saying Michael Jordan’s ‘not really black,’ ” Ms. Squire added. “It’s like Obama supersedes race. And this doesn’t mean that Gilda Squire who lives in New York City isn’t going to have to deal with the issues of racism every day.”

Denene Millner, 40, who is black and moved to a small town outside Atlanta from northern New Jersey three years ago, has been debating her husband, who is also black, about whether an Obama presidency will smooth interracial communication. He thinks so, she does not. She often experiences what psychologists call “strategic colorblindness” on the part of whites, even among her friends, who can be so uncomfortable talking about race that they think the most sensitive approach is to avoid the subject entirely — such as not describing African-Americans as black in conversation.

“I can’t stand it when folks feel like they have to watch what they say around me,” said Ms. Millner, a columnist for Parenting Magazine and a book author. Recently a white friend from New Jersey was visiting; Ms. Millner wanted to have a movie night where she screened her favorite black films. She started a discussion about the difference between bad black movies (“Soul Plane” tops her list) and good ones (“Love & Basketball” is her favorite), but her white friend became flustered and embarrassed.

“She turned 40 shades of red,” said Ms. Millner, who said she later worried that she had been too blunt. “This is a learning experience for both of us.”

Two studies on strategic colorblindness conducted by researchers at Tufts University and the Harvard Business School (the former appeared in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in October, and the latter in Developmental Psychology in September) concluded that whites, including children as young as 10, may attempt to avoid talking about race with blacks, or even acknowledging racial differences, so as not to appear prejudiced.

The studies also found that blacks viewed that tactic as evidence of prejudice.
“There really are still some issues that have to do with the historical legacy of race and racism in this country, and we can’t deal with those in a serious fashion if we have this hypersensitivity whenever race comes up,” said Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, a history professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and the author of “Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Sensitivity Training, and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution.”

Mr. Obama “was so careful not to let his candidacy use those usual messages about race, so he really stands for something different,” Ms. Lasch-Quinn added. “This shakes up the status quo because here we have someone who is willing to talk about race, but doesn’t talk about it in the usual ways. Once we have one person doing that, we now have a model for how other people can do that.”

During his campaign, Mr. Obama almost entirely avoided the topic of race, as did the other candidates, continuing a tacit understanding among national leaders dating from the close of the civil rights era that race is just too explosive an issue for public discussion. The one exception was the speech last March in which Mr. Obama was forced to defend inflammatory statements by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Mr. Obama described the nation as still deeply beset by black anger and white resentment, especially older generations, who might not express themselves freely among co-workers or friends of the opposite race, but give vent when safely among members of their own race.

In the end, Mr. Obama was elected with 43 percent of the white vote and 95 percent of black voters.

The actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, whose work has often focused on race relations, said she was heartened that the historic victory didn’t somehow make it seem like the race problem in America has been solved, and that people of different races are still soul-searching about how to talk to each another. She was encouraged, she said, by the notion that Mr. Obama’s election had appeared to ease some interracial tension, adding: “But I don’t think that’s just the white man’s work. Plenty of people of color still have great anxieties about white people.”
On the morning after the election, Kristin Rothballer, 36, who lives in San Francisco, kissed her female partner goodbye on the train while commuting to work. A black woman who sat down next to her turned and said she was sorry that
Proposition 8, the amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, looked like it was going to pass.

“We grabbed hands,” Ms. Rothballer recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, I really want to congratulate you because we have a black president and that’s amazing.’ ”

“Our conversation then almost became about the fact that we were having the conversation,” she said.

Something moved her to apologize to the black woman for slavery.

“For two strangers riding a train to Oakland to have that conversation about race, it wouldn’t have been possible if Obama hadn’t been elected,” she said. “I always felt open with my colleagues, but to say to a stranger on the train, ‘Hey, I’m sorry about slavery,’ that just doesn’t happen.”

Barack and the BlackBerry

Barack is a man for the time. Not only has he made history with the white "cross over" vote, he is "in" with the technology. While not a serious matter in the realm of his major responsibilities as president, Barack is in time with times, including his devotion to the BlackBerry. A part of his charisma, his cool, is that he is so "in". Not to be snide, that is not the intent, but McCain was said to not know how to turn on a computer. And now we have a president who has grown with the evolution of the technology. BlackBerry has found a great pitch man with Obama trying to stay connected with his own BlackBerry, of which the Secret Service is trying to deprive him. While the Cabinet appointments has been the major reason for his 70%+ favorable ratings, no doubt being a man "in" with the time helps. RGN

January 9, 2009
For BlackBerry, Obama’s Devotion Is Priceless

This week, Michael Phelps signed a deal worth more than $1 million to advertise Mazda in China. Jerry Seinfeld earned a reported $10 million to appear in Microsoft’s recent television campaign.

But the person who may be the biggest celebrity pitchman in the world is not earning a penny for his work.

President-elect Barack Obama has repeatedly said how much his BlackBerry means to him and how he is dreading the prospect of being forced to give it up, because of legal and security concerns, once he takes office.

“I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times. “They’re going to pry it out of my hands.”

What could the “BlackBerry president” charge for his plugs of the device if he were not a public servant? More than $25 million, marketing experts say, and maybe as much as $50 million.

“This would be almost the biggest endorsement deal in the history of endorsements,” said Doug Shabelman, the president of Burns Entertainment, which arranges deals between celebrities and companies. “He’s consistently seen using it and consistently in the news arguing — and arguing with issues of national security and global welfare — how he absolutely needs this to function on a daily basis.”

Mr. Obama is an ideal marketing representative, other agents say — popular, constantly in the news and explicit about his attachment to the product.

“You always want the celebrity to be a good fit with your brand, and is anybody considered a better communicator right now than Barack Obama, or a better networker?” said Fran Kelly, the chief executive of the advertising agency Arnold Worldwide, who estimated that an endorsement by Mr. Obama would be worth $25 million. “It couldn’t have a better spokesperson.”

Mr. Shabelman put the value even higher, at $50 million or more, because the endorsement is worldwide.

“The worth to a company to have the president always talking about a BlackBerry and how it absolutely is a necessity to keep in touch with reality?” he said. “Think about how far the company has come if they’re able to say, ‘The president has to have this to keep in touch.’ ”

The maker of the BlackBerry, Research in Motion, recently introduced advertising campaigns and products like the touch-screen Storm that are meant to position BlackBerry as not just a business device but a consumer product like the iPhone. The company, which declined to comment on Mr. Obama’s enthusiasm for its product, also struck a sponsorship deal with John Mayer, a popular guitarist but hardly the leader of the free world.

“The most powerful man in the country is saying, at this moment, basically, I can’t live without mine,” Lori Sale, the head of artist marketing at the agency Paradigm, which pairs actors like Adrien Brody and Katherine Heigl with advertisers. “It represents their now complete and final crossover to a device that people adore.”

Ms. Sale said that Mr. Obama had essentially participated in what is called a satellite media tour for BlackBerry by discussing the product with reporters. Just a single day of a media tour, “with the most A-list of A-list of A-list, would probably be 10 to 15 million dollars,” she said.

That he is not paid to promote BlackBerry is even better for R.I.M. “What makes it even more valuable than that is how authentic it is,” she said.

Mr. Kelly said the endorsement went both ways: while Mr. Obama was doing a lot for BlackBerry, BlackBerry had helped Mr. Obama’s image by making his message seem more relevant.

“The BlackBerry anecdotes are a huge part of Obama’s brand reputation,” he said. “It positions him as one of us: he’s got friends and family and people to communicate with us, just like all of us. And it positions him as a next-generation politician.”

Inevitably, perhaps, marketing executives dream about creating an ad featuring the president-elect, something Gene Liebel, a partner in the Brooklyn agency Huge, said would be a “fantasy assignment.”

Asked what tagline he might use for the campaign, Mr. Liebel repeated one his employees had thought up: “If Blagojevich can pick my replacement, I can pick my device.”

R. Vann Graves, the chief creative officer of the UniWorld Group, suggested a campaign showing Mr. Obama in the Oval Office. “In the foreground, you have the desk, but instead of having the proverbial red phone, you have a red BlackBerry,” Mr. Graves said, with the tagline “Shot Caller.”

Matt Reinhard, the executive creative director of DDB Los Angeles, suggested Apple try to steal Mr. Obama away from BlackBerry as a spokesman for the iPhone.

The message could be, “It’s time for change,” Mr. Reinhard said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Barack to Malia and Sasha: What I Want for You

Here is a letter the President-elect wrote to his daughters. He lets them know that his mission is about them and every child in America. It is about making the world better for them. It is a letter about hope, justice and service to the society. RGN

'What I Want for You — and Every Child in America'
By President-elect Barack Obama
Publication Date: 01/14/2009

Next Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th President. On this historic occasion, PARADE asked the President-elect, who is also a devoted family man, to get personal and tell us what he wants for his children. Here, he shares his letter to them.

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me—about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time wit h their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country—but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free—that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better—and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so muchâr”although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every da y for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hagopian: History Matters--Gaza/Israel in Context

There is so much to be said to be said about the outrage that Israel is perpetrating upon the Palestinians in Gaza. Unfortunately, I have been pretty much unaware of Israel's murderous aggression. A very serious family illness took precedence over the news. Having said that, Israel's reaction to Hamas' shelling is disproportional and violates International law. Regardless of how the so-called "Israeli Lobby" tries to justify Israel's behavior, there can be no justification for such wanton disregard for human life. Israel places places the blame for this assault on Hamas. While there can be no justifications for the taking of innocent life on either side, the non-combatant casualties in Gaza from the bombs of Israel are crimes against humanity and must cease. Below is a piece that places this aspect of the conflict in its proper historical context. RGN

Weekend Edition
January 9-11, 2009
Why Hamas is Not the Issue
Gaza: History Matters


Mohammed, age six, marched with determination to his bedroom, put on a record of the Fatah marching song, picked up a wooden toy rifle and marched out to the balcony. He pointed the rifle to the sky where minutes ago, Israeli planes flew over dropping bombs on Palestinian refugee sites. Mohammed told me he wanted to be a pilot so he could fight Israeli warplanes. “But Mohammed, the Palestinians do not have planes.” “I don’t care, I will fight them whatever way I can.” Was a resistance fighter born this minute or was he a “future terrorist”? (Beirut 1973)

How does one explain the horrific fate that has befallen caged Gaza – a land saturated with rubble and body parts – carpet-bombed by air, invaded by ground, attacked by sea? Put to the test of history, Israeli “explanations” fail the credibility test.

History matters. Israel conquered and occupied Gaza (along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem) in 1967. Hamas was an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers. In Gaza, it provided a network of social welfare institutions supporting the poor. During the first Palestinian Intifada (literally “shaking off” the occupation), a Hamas resistance military wing was formed. Israel and the US favored and met with Islamic Hamas leadership as a counterforce to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Fatah faction then dominant in the Intifada. As Hamas later strengthened, Israel reversed the process.

History matters. Palestinians have consistently resisted Israeli dominance over their lives. Gazan resistance has been especially problematic for Israel. In the 1970s, before Hamas, Ariel Sharon was charged with “pacifying” Gaza. Sharon imposed a brutal policy of repression, blowing up houses, bulldozing large tracts of refugee camps, imposing severe collective punishment and imprisoning hundreds of young Palestinians.

Domination and colonialism are contrary to the United Nations Charter. The legitimacy of struggle for self-determination by peoples under colonial and foreign domination was reaffirmed in U.N. General Assembly resolution 2787 (December 6, 1971). As others before them, Palestinians have and do exercise the legal and moral right to resist.

History matters. In 2005, Israel withdrew its illegal colonial settlers from Gaza. Israeli scholars Uri Davis, Ilan Pappe and Tamar Yaron noted in a Counterpunch article at the time that the primary motive of the evacuation of the settlers was to remove them from harm’s way in anticipation of an intensified future mass attack on Gaza.

History matters. After Hamas won elections in 2006, its leadership accepted a two-state solution based on the pre-war June 4, 1967 borders, but this was unacceptable to Israel. Earlier, Israel destroyed secular Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Arafat for failing at Camp David in July 2000 to comply with its demands to accept permanent Israeli control over Palestinian life and land confined in enclaves. Hamas became the new challenge to Israel’s vision.

The facts of history affirm that Israel will not accept a sovereign Palestinian state on any part of historic Palestine. Hamas is not the issue. All Palestinian leaders sooner or later, secular or Islamic, are declared unacceptable partners for peace no matter how much they concede to Israel. That Israel hides behind the “Hamas Islamic threat” today to destroy it as a potential partner is becoming transparent.

Today, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s Fatah “security force” is used against Hamas supporters on the pretense that Abbas could be accepted by Israel as a satisfactory “partner” but for Hamas. Both before and after Hamas won the 2006 elections, Abbas fared no better than Arafat though he conceded more. In fact Jonathan Cook’s new book, Disappearing Palestine,” describes the persistent Israeli strategy to achieve the diminution of Palestine. Nonetheless Abbas continues to comply with Israeli/US demands, faulted by his people and humiliated by his keepers.

The picture changes when history matters. Treating Israeli war crimes as historically detached events, unrelated to its Zionist ideology and militaristic strategy to control all of Palestine, becomes more transparent each day.

Israel has a choice: by accepting Palestinian rights under international law now and jettisoning its exclusivist ideology and militarism, Israel secures the future of its people in a shared Israel/Palestine; or by continuing its present policy of ruthless repression of indigenous Palestinians and denying them self determination, it cultivates an intensified and unyielding native resistance. Israel has always chosen the latter. Will President-Elect Obama have the courage to help Israel embrace the first?

Elaine C. Hagopian is Professor Emerita of Sociology, Simmons College, Boston