Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Politics’

Living History

It’s been 12 momentous hours.  More words have and will be written about this day than one person could read in a lifetime.  People far more qualified an insightful than I will dissect every aspect of this day.

There’s no doubt that President Obama is an outstanding orator and an inspiring leader.

“We will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. 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.”

“Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

“We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers.”

Wow.  And yes.  To it all.

Let me add just a few personal, and uncharacteristically non-sentimental observations on the day.

1.  President Obama spoke thousands of words today.  Many were well-crafted, profound, thought-provoking.  But these words, spoken near the beginning of his remarks at the Congressional luncheon after the swearing-in ceremony, stopped me in my tracks:

“I want to think the devoted staff and volunteers, including our wait staff here today who were putting up with me wandering through the tables.  It’s always hazardous duty serving in a room full of politicians, but I thank all of you for just an incredible, incredible event.”

In the midst of his 12 hour marathon academy acceptance speech, he thanked the luncheon wait staff.  Complete class.

2.  President Obama is left handed like me.  I didn’t know that until I saw him sign his first official documents, then I noticed immediately.  He is only the 8th left-handed president in history.  (I love the internet!)  Here’s the list.  This is also a cute article that discusses his lefty-ness.

3.  The watch President Obama wore to the inaugural balls was ugly!  A big clunky, chunky black thing – ugh.  But it’s interesting that he wears a watch.  So though he’s young, he’s not quite young enough to be of the “let me check my cell phone for the time” generation.  The 39 your old me likes that, because I am still a watch person myself.

4.  He’s been in office just over 12 hours and he’s already starting to fulfill campaign promises. Within the last hour, he suspended for 120 days proceedings involving prisoners at Guantanamo.  And there’s this from the new, improved, and completely redesigned www.whitehouse.gov website that went online at 12 noon:

“One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.”

What?  We get to SEE and COMMENT ON legislation pending signature? Yes.  And wow.  (Go sign up for the White House blog RSS feed – and if you don’t know how to do it or what “RSS” even means, I challenge you to go find out and learn something new!)

History’s been made.  The future awaits.

Criminal Government

To say I am outraged by the inactions of the government in Burma would be an understatement. Their actions over the last six months – really, over the last 56 YEARS – have been deplorable. But their actions over the last six days are crimes against humanity.

Some of the horrors these people were enduring BEFORE Cyclone Nargis are recorded here. “A young woman, a domestic worker in Rangoon, described how one woman bystander who applauded the monks was rounded up. “My friend was taken away for clapping during the demonstrations. She had not marched. She came out of her house as the marchers went by and, for perhaps 30 seconds, smiled and clapped as the monks chanted. Her face was recorded on a military intelligence camera. She was taken and beaten. Now she is so scared she won’t even leave her room to come and talk to me, to anyone.”

“Another Rangoon resident told the aid worker: “We all hear screams at night as they [the police] arrive to drag off a neighbour. We are torn between going to help them and hiding behind our doors. We hide behind our doors. We are ashamed. We are frightened.”

It sounds a lot like a holocaust to me.

And there’s more recorded here: “As reported in The Gathering Storm, the junta spends 40 percent of its annual budget on the military, with only 3 cents of every dollar going to healthcare – an average of about 40 cents per citizen.”

“In 2006, observed Beyrer, Burma’s military dictator, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, spent some $40 million on his daughter’s wedding, a short (but damning) video of which was later posted on YouTube. That compared with $137,000 for a nationwide program to combat AIDS.”

But when I read today on CNN that the government literally STOLE two plane-loads of food from the U.N., I about lost it. Now the junta is saying that they’ve reconsidered and are willing to accept aid. Well, sure they are – so they can steal it for the wealthy government officials. And listen to this: “Officials plan to go ahead Saturday with a national constitutional referendum aimed at strengthening the power of the military junta. The government has delayed voting in areas most ravaged by Saturday’s cyclone but refused to cancel the balloting countrywide.”

These government officials are utterly corrupt, unbelievably greedy, and criminally self-centered. The UN should go in there and take over Burma by force. Forget respect for a sovereign nation, this is cultural abuse on a massive scale and should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

Looking Backward and Forward

I recently browsed through my own blog, reading past posts and comments. I thought it was interesting how I have a different perspective on some of what I wrote just 15 month ago.

For example, here’s an excerpt from one of my earlier posts from January of 2007: “There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.”

Now we are less than 7 months from the general election and not only has Hillary started a serious bid for the presidency, but she and Obama are running neck and neck with both having already garnered more votes individually than any other past presidential candidates in a Democratic primary election.

And, yes, I considered voting for her early on, but after researching the candidates’ stands on various issues, listening to stump speeches, and seeing how they react in a variety of situations, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t vote for her, even though she is a woman and I sincerely do want to see a female U.S. president before I die. But I plan to live to be 101 years old, so there’s still plenty of time. (-:

So this year I am an Obama supporter and so have put away my, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Good Woman for President” button (obtained years before Hillary’s run), since I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression that I think Mrs. Clinton is that “good woman.”

An April 2007 post discussed my hopes for a congress that would stand up to President Bush. I wrote, “…my fear [is] that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him.” Hmm…looks like that fear has come true.

I also discussed Sunshine Week, a movement to keep discussion alive about the important of open government and freedom of information. Unfortunately, I heard nothing about Sunshine Week this year.

In contrast to my changed perspective politically, my perspective on the importance of organizing your digital photos hasn’t change one iota! Memory Manager is still the best program out there – and unlike the price of just about everything else these days, the cost of this software hasn’t changed! Everyone I know who has this program is sold on the features and ease of use. Read more about tis fantastic program here.

It will be interesting what perspective changes next year brings.

Informed Citizenship

I received a fascinating email today. The email me pointed to the results of a recent congressional vote on an amendment to invoke cloture on a habeas corpus amendment. This email expressed the forceful opinion that anyone who voted against the amendment was “a U.S. traitor.”

That email was quickly followed by a response from someone else wisely suggesting that the original author read the entire bill and all riders attached to it before judging those who voted. The author essentially reminded us that sponsors of amendments and riders often try to attach their legislation to “sure to pass” bills in an attempt to sneak pork through congress.

I did a bit of research myself and was about to “reply all” to add my two cents, when it occurred to me that the issues I was pondering would make for good blog conversation.

According to my brief internet research, “Cloture is the formal procedure used to end a filibuster. It can take up to three days and requires 60 votes. Cloture can also be used even if there is no filibuster underway, to ban non-germane amendments. If cloture wins, 30 additional hours of debate are allowed prior to voting, but they are rarely used. If cloture fails, debate would continue without limits. Instead, the bill is usually set aside.”

By my read, this means that voting FOR cloture truly means voting to limit debate on the issue, which in my mind is bad thing. Granted, failure often means the bill is set aside, but that’s a different matter and not the REQUIRED outcome of a nay vote on cloture.

Now, further research shows that this specific vote on cloture was held on a habeas corpus amendment which was attached to another amendment to the defense bill – how confusing! And trying to follow sound advice to read the bill and all the riders is practically (and I mean that literally) impossible. There are 96 different amendments to the original bill. The original bill itself is 12 pages of LINKS to text – and there are 4 different versions being considered in congress right now.

How can a relatively educated citizen desiring to be an informed democratic participant dig through this kind of bureaucracy to form an informed opinion?

Thomas Jefferson felt strongly that an informed populace was essential to the preservation of democracy and the avoidance of tyranny. According to data from the US Census Bureau, my attainment of a master’s degree places me among the top 12% of the U.S. population in terms of education. Yet I still often feel stupid when it comes to trying to be an informed citizen.

If we need to be educated and informed to preserve our democracy, yet even someone who should be considered educated often feels thwarted in her efforts to become informed, what does this imply for the future of our democratic republic?

If You Don’t Like the Weather…

I live in Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron. Although the last week has been uncharacteristically sunny, Cleveland is statistically one of the top 20 least sunny cities in the continental US. (http://www.weathertoday.net/weatherfacts.htm) The two funniest Ohio weather jokes are “We have 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction,” and “If you don’ t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.”

Like all jokes, these have a ring of truth to them – particularly the last one. The crux of the joke is that the weather can change quickly around here. Political events over the past few months have shown that the winds of political change can also quickly shift direction.

Just a few months ago, I was blogging about the President Bush’s blatant disdain for the Constitution and my fear that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him. Now it’s early April and Congress – after what I consider a rocky start – is finally starting to challenge the President.

Have you heard of “Sunshine Week”? No…it isn’t a description of last week’s Ohio weather. According to CNN, Sunshine Week is, “a three-year-old national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It is intended to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” During Sunshine week this year (March 11 – 17), the House passed three bills designed to open more government records to the public.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/03/14/congress.sunshine.ap/index.html

“For the past six years, we have had an administration that has tried to operate in secrecy, without transparency, without the public having knowledge about their action,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Well, this week, Congress is finally pushing back.”

All I can say is “amen” to that and what TOOK you people so long to get moving!

From the FBI’s abuse of the patriot act provisions (really now, is ANYONE surprised at THAT revelation?) to the deepening hole in which the Attorney General finds himself, the actions of this administration are finally being examined in a way they haven’t been since Bush first took office in 2000. I predict that future investigations will turn up even more egregious violations of the very laws and liberties Bush pledged to uphold and protect.

And, much to my relief, Nancy Pelosi is proving that you don’t need to be a man to have the …um… kahunas to stand up for what is right. From leading the charge to cut off funding for Iraq to visiting Syria in defiance of White House middle eastern policy, she is a strong symbol for the taking back of power by the people – the balance that the founders of this nation intended us to exercise.

According to CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney today said that Democrats are essentially telling U.S. troops to “retreat — with no regard whatsoever for the actual conditions on the ground in Iraq.” For once, Cheney has it right! The Democrats are simply reflecting the popular majority of the American people, who want a retreat – now. Congress is simply doing its job in representing the will of the people by voting to cut off funding.

For us in Ohio, it’s predicted to be a snowy Easter this year, but it looks like the sunshine is going to continue for a while in Washington D.C.. Let’s hope that it stays that way for more than the next 10 minutes, because we’ve been waiting a long time for this kind of political weather.

Whoa, Man!

Looks like 2007 is set to be a banner year for women in power. Today, Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female House Speaker in history, putting her 3rd in line for the presidency.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/03/female.speaker.ap/index.html

This is cracking a 200 year old tradition of men in power in the United States, but the breadth of British history has trumped us in this feat. For the first time in 522 years, the historic Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) have appointed a women to serve in their ranks.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/01/03/beefeater.reut/index.html

There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.

Shamefully, countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and even Iraq have a larger percentage of women involved in positions of governmental power than the United States. It is definitely past time for a change, but we do need to be careful as women HOW the change happens.

According to the CNN article, “Pelosi embraces her role as the first female speaker, but she wants to be judged by the same standards as the 51 men who came before her.” Unfortunately, this desire to conform to the standards already in place for men will simply propel women into roles that harbor the same stereotypes men currently face. What we need is a new set of standards!

The generation before mine came of age at a time when women were thought to be able to do anything and everything. Lost in this message of empowerment was the simple fact that everything cannot be done and had at the same time. The result was a generation of women burning themselves out trying to do it all and be it all.

My generation still struggles with these unrealistic expectations. Can we have a career. Most definitely – and with a variety that exceeds any other generation history. Can we put our children’s interests ahead of our own during the critical years when we are teaching them to be the best people they can be? Of course – no one can do it better than a motivated parent. Can we do these things simultaneously AND effectively? The way the business world is structured, I say no – not without breaking some pretty strong traditions. Just try looking for a job that fully utilizes the skills of a Case Western Reserve MBA graduate (with a 4.0 GPA) that allows a 9 am to 3 pm daily schedule and summers off. (And if you know if one, please let me know because I’m still actively looking!).

So yes – I’m happy that women seem to be making greater strides than ever in 2007. But I hope that we can use our new-found power to reshape and redefine the system rather than simply falling into the same old traps and pitfalls in the name of equality.

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