Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

>Discourse: Us v Them

October 18, 2010

>The public discourse over the last 100 years or so has really not changed. We think the current contentious campaigns for public office are something new. Conservatives act as though this is the first time liberals have threatened to implement a progressive agenda, and progressives are raising the alarm that Christian extremists will return us to the dark ages.

I was watching the PBS series God in America between football games yesterday and learned that during the 20th century the dominant debate revolved around the inerrant nature of scripture, highlighted by the “Scopes monkey trial” in Dayton, TN in 1925.

But let’s go back to 1895. In that year, the Woman’s Bible was published by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This challenged the traditional role of subservience for women that was the common Christian interpretation of the Bible. The nation was shocked. Some conservatives still resist the ways that women serve in the work place and in politics. Just ask Lilly Ledbetter.

In 1915, conservative Protestants published a series of pamphlets titled “The Fundamentals”. The series stresses the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth and the resurrection of the body. The Fundamentalist movement began and the name still identifies those with such strict beliefs.

In the 1920’s, commercial radio programming began, and Christian evangelists dominated the airways, as they still do. Billy Sunday, Sister Aimee McPherson and Father Charlie Coughlin were popular radio personalities of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

In 1925 the Scopes trial pitted fundamentalist orator William Jennings Bryan against trial attorney Clarence Darrow. While the trial focused on the accusation that high school biology teacher John Scopes was violating the law by teaching evolution, the underlying theme was whether the Bible should be interpreted literally or not. Darrow got the court to agree to let Bryan take the stand to defend the Bible. Darrow tore him up. The proceedings were broadcast nationwide over the radio. The trial judge throws out Bryan’s testimony, Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution, the decision is overturned on a technicality, and Bryan dies a few days later.

The press claims the trial is a big defeat for the fundamentalists, and thus begins (or reinforces) the animosity between conservatives and the mainstream media that continues today.

With Bryan’s death the fundamentalists retreated from the public sphere. Modernist thought expands.

Of course history tells us that the fundamentalists make a resurgence in the latter half of the 20th Century.

History also tells us that we can go back even further to document the divide in this country. President Obama is criticized for his statement that we are not a Christian nation.

“One of the great strengths of the United States,” the President said at a press conference in Turkey in 2009 , “is … we have a very large Christian population — we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

Maybe, rather than being an indication that Obama is not a Christian (he is) it is an indication that he is educated (many are not).

In 1797 president John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, assuring the Muslim nation that we will not start a religious war. Article 11 states:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Now Adams was present when the documents that created our country were written. In fact, he was one of the Founding Fathers and therefore should have a pretty good idea what the consensus was.

Religious conservatives want to deny history and deny science. The battle continues.

Update: A reader has strongly suggested seeing the movie, “Inherit the Wind” staring Spencer Tracy, about the Scopes Monkey Trial. Here it is on Netflix. I second his recommendation.

>The end of war

September 1, 2010

>Well the unjust war has ended. The work continues. The problems are not solved. The troops responded to the call honorably.

I wrote a letter to The Western Star in March 2003 before the war began, but President Bush didn’t read it. Or if he did, he ignored it.

Here is the letter, which followed an editorial the week before about patriotism.

March 5, 2003

I agree with your editorial comment about dissent being patriotic. It is hard to speak out against war when those who do so are criticized as being pro-terrorist. No one denies that Saddam Hussein is evil, or that he needs to be removed from power. But why is war the answer?

When we see or hear of violence among young people, everyone agrees that people need to be taught, at an early age, about conflict resolution, that violence is not the answer. Yet, what kind of example are our leaders setting for them when they have tunnel vision that can only focus on war? They are saying that violence is the only answer and do not want to give diplomacy and inspections a chance. Either they are blinded by this “ratings grabbing” war and their desire to control more of the world’s oil, or they just don’t have the brain power to think of any other way to resolve this crisis.

We hear over and over that terrorism is the enemy, yet the worst terrorist in the world hunkers down and hides for a year or so, and we forget all about him, while he regroups and makes plans for more acts against us. How many times have you heard President Bush speak of Osama bin Laden in the last year? All he had to do is hide and he is forgotten.

Saddam will probably do the same thing…we tear up his country, he tosses a few chemical weapons at our troops or Israel, killing our troops and our allies, then he can go into hiding for a while so we can forget about him.

How many of those leaders, from the president on down, have a son or daughter in the armed forces that is on the way or already in the Middle East? Probably none. I would be willing to bet that a large majority of citizens whose children or spouses are about to enter this war are not for it. Yet they, and the rest of us, find ourselves in the position of being loyal and supportive to our troops, while not supporting the cause for which they might die.

If we find, through war, that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction, we will have spent billions of dollars and killed thousands to discover what we could have learned through peaceful means. If fact if he does have weapons of mass destruction, no one thinks we will be able to find and destroy all of them before he has used them on someone, somewhere. Iraq is like Pandora’s Box, and by opening it who knows what the consequences will be.

Unfortunately, we will probably soon find out.

Then the war started and two weeks later the Western Star published another of my letters.

March 26, 2003

The war against Iraq has begun and our attention must now focus on supporting our troops and praying that this conflict will end quickly with minimal loss of life.

We do not know how far the effects of this war will reach, so let us remember in our thoughts and prayers not only for our soldiers and their loved ones, but those who are affected throughout the world, including the innocent citizens of Iraq, who have already suffered through two recent wars and years of repression and sanctions.

As we learn of the tragedies and casualties of this war, let us use this as motivation to become adherents of nonviolence, and to study the works of Gandhi and King, who taught us that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

President Obama was very generous in his speech last night, avoiding placing blame for the unjust invasion or saying “I told you so” about the weapons of mass destruction or the obvious truths about Iraq not being responsible for 9-11 or any of the other made up reasons that the prior administration used do fight “daddy’s war.”

I’ll just be generous too, other than that last paragraph, and wish only the best for the troops returning home, that they will be able to return to normal life, and for those who are being re-deployed to Afghanistan, I wish you safe passage and a quick resolve to the conflict in that country so that you, too, can return home safely, soon.

And let’s not forget the 50,000 troops that remain in Iraq. We hope for your safety and await your return home as well.

>The Party of Solutions

March 23, 2010

>AKA, the Democrats.

In contrast to the Party of No, the Democrats have now made law what generations of Americans have fought for for a century. Democrats and Republicans have been aware of the need, and have worked to pass health care reform since the time of Teddy Roosevelt.

However, with this president, the Republicans were replaced by the Party of No, whose strategy leading into this was to lead Barack Obama to his Waterloo.

This doesn’t look like Waterloo to me. This was the scene in the East Room just after Obama signed the historic legislation.

The Right to health care is now a reality. The Party of No is already working to take away this right, or, in effect, throwing children and sick people back off the rolls of the insured.

Great plan, John McCain and John Boehner and other “leaders” of the GOP.

No more speculating. No more hyperbole. Just facts.

In Alabama, 641,527 uninsured people will be able to get health insurance. Thank a Democrat (with a vote).

400,000 patients will become eligible for Medicaid. You will have access to health care where you did not have it before. Thank a Democrat (with a vote).

This year, before the November elections, children with pre-existing conditions will now be covered with insurance. Parents, thank a Democrat (with a vote).

This year, parents can begin to keep their young adult children on their policies until age 26. Parents, and young adults, thank a Democrat (with a vote).

Within three months, people in Alabama who have been excluded from insurance because of pre-existing conditions will have access to a national high-risk pool to get subsidized premiums. Thank a Democrat (with a vote).

Seniors, your benefits are safe and the donut hole in your prescription drug coverage is closing. Seniors, thank a Democrat (with a vote).

People with existing medical conditions who are using up their benefits, the lifetime dollar cap is being eliminated this year. Thank a Democrat (with a vote).

This year, tax credits for small business owners will make purchasing insurance for employees more affordable. Small business owners, thank a Democrat (with a vote).

Barack Obama has now taken a place in history, and is without a doubt the leader of the Democratic Party now. Here he is at the bill signing.

Whoever posted the comment the other day that progressives are a dying breed needs to re-think.

>Security does not come without a cost

December 15, 2009

>The following was written by a friend of mine, who gave me permission to reprint it here.

Recently, a few of our leaders have called for “war taxes” to help support our soldiers in the field and their efforts in the two wars in which our nation is involved. Typically, most of us don’t like taxes but we as Americans should stand behind those calling for such taxes because by so doing we will provide vital support for our soldiers who are serving, on our behalves, in dangerous places to defend our nation.

George Bush should have initiated those taxes when we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq (instead he cut taxes) and Barack Obama and all Americans, particularly those who are for military action in these two regions, should be for them.

We say we are for our military. We say we want to defend America. We say we appreciate all who are sacrificing to defend our nation from enemies domestic and abroad. We say we want to stand by our soldiers who have paid painful sacrifices on our behalves. But when we are asked to make a personal sacrifice to help pay for the cost of all of that we say “No!”

What hypocrites we are.

Yes, I know we’ve got to pay for our groceries and housing and car repairs and medical care. Those are necessary. But are we willing to do without that 50″ TV – or 60 to 300 channels of cable TV – or going out to eat two or three times a week – or upgrading our computer to something with all the bells and whistles – or taking a cheaper vacation – or making our car last longer? Are we willing to sacrifice some of the “comforts” of our lives to pay for what we declare that we are for? Or are we going to pass those bills on to our children and grandchildren?

Shame on us! Shame on our leaders! Paying taxes, particularly those that provide for the vital and essential defense of our nation, is an act of patriotism!

Richard B. Hanna

>Comedy among the pols

September 22, 2009

>On my site I’ve posted an open letter explaining Why marching in Washington is important. Please feel free to forward the link or the letter to those you know.

Who knew that Congressman Barney Frank was such a comedian. He appeared on Jay Leno’s 10 @ 10 last night. Rush Limbaugh deserved this.

And President Barack Obama showed his lighter side as well, on Letterman. (Sorry about the ads)

OK, I agree, the president was black before the election (and still is), but remember, 30 or 40 percent of people didn’t vote for him, and it’s from those people that the vocal racists are emerging.

My column in tomorrow’s Western Tribune gives three reasons we need to support the public option in health care. Here’s a clue, one of them has to do with Jesus.

>The Arc of the Moral Universe

July 9, 2009

>Many in the GLBT community feel that two of the many issues facing us are the most important: equality in marriage and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Favorable outcomes are inevitable, the only question is when? “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” to paraphrase abolitionist Theodore Parker (1853) (A phrase made famous by Martin Luther King, Jr in 1967, echoed by Barack Obama in 2008).

Three items of interest that make me think sooner rather than later.

1. Rep. Patrick Murphy D. PA) says it is his job to “quarterback” the effort to pass legislation to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He has 152 co-sponsors (and need 218 votes to pass). Murphy is an Iraq veteran and a blue dog democrat and recognizes that over 13,000 troops have been discharged, not because of sexual activity but because of sexual orientation.

Like Rachel says, he’s the right guy to be leading this fight.

2. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a suit in federal court seeking to void the Defense of Marriage Act. She says DOMA is discriminatory and puts her state in conflict with the Federal government.

“Among many of its arguments, Coakley’s suit argues that DOMA requires Massachusetts to violate the constitutional rights of its citizens by treating married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently when doling out Medicaid benefits and Social Security payouts to spouses. Coakley brought up another example: Massachusetts is given federal money to maintain a military cemetery that doesn’t allow the same-sex spouses of fallen soldiers to be buried there.”

My prediction, given the slow pace that lawsuits take, is that congress will overturn DOMA before the lawsuit does. Or, given the slow pace that congress takes, they may sit on their thumbs and wait to see how the court handles it.

At any rate, something will happen.

3. Steve Hildebrand said in an interview with Rex Wockner that President Obama is listening and is on top of things with the gay issues.

Photo Credit Rex Wockner

Openly gay Steve Hildebrand was Barack Obama’s deputy national campaign director. He has spoken with the president in the last couple of weeks. Here are some highlights.

Regarding the justice department brief that upset so many gays: “he did not read the brief in advance but he subsequently has read the brief and was not happy at all with both the direction as well as the language that was used — and that he expects much better from his administration.”

On Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: “Barack Obama as president and commander in chief is, and will continue to go through, a process, methodically, to get the ducks in a row in order to get the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell done in a successful way that isn’t just going to happen overnight.”

On the power of the gay community: “I think too many people in the gay community do not push their elected officials as hard as they should. If you had 20 gay people together in a room and asked how many of them actually have reached out and either called, e-mailed or sent a letter to their member of Congress over the last two months, I would say the vast, vast majority of them will have done nothing…We need more voices, we need louder voices, and we need to tell politicians at every level we’re not willing to take their excuses anymore.”

On gay frustration with the president: “He can’t change the world overnight and — I’m doing my best to say this without providing excuses — but this is a president who was handed a larger number of really big issues to deal with at the beginning of his presidency than any other president in history. He’s got to get an economy moving, he’s got to get the troops out of Iraq, there’s a lot of big, big problems. At the same time, he is working within his administration to try and get in a position to get some meaningful things done to help the gay community achieve equality.”

On Artur Davis (well, not by name, but): “… for too many decades now of people who say, “Yes, we support equality,” but then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything about it. They’re too wrapped up in figuring out how to win their next election and they’re not concerned enough about doing what’s right for the American people. “

So, these three items give me confidence that the arc of justice is getting shorter, as my patience is extending a little bit.

>Early Spring Gardening

March 6, 2009

> The early spring garden has been planted. Onions, lettuce, collards, mustard greens and cabbage plants are in the ground. More on gardening later.

I’m not going to write about the idiots today, although there are plenty around.

But if you read and watch that, then also accept this.
Obama Birth Announcement from Honolulu Advertiser Sunday August 13, 1961.

And this:
Obama Birth Certificate

And read this from which answers all the stupid questions that these racist, xenophobic, America-hating bigots are raising.

And let me say, that I will not post any comments about the above that are negative or even questioning about our president.

Now, on to gardening. I will post comments on this.

At Lowe’s you can by these little soil test kits.

I tested three areas and learned that the pH of the areas is fine but the soil is deficient in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. The raised bed, pictured above, was slightly better in nutrients than the other areas I tested, probably because of this.

That is a Nature Mill Automatic Indoor Composter. I put all of our scraps (except bones and celery) in it, and within a few days I have compost. You can include meat, shrimp shells, egg shells, coffee grounds, pasta, stale bread, leftover lima beans…everything. Every few days I get a little load of compost and spread it outside. So far all of the compost produced during the winter has gone on the raised bed. That’s one of the neat things about it, it produces compost all year. And it uses minimal energy and recycles all the scraps.

This is where my tomato seeds are planted.

We still have plenty of canned tomatoes from last summer (Disclaimer…the canned tomatoes came from the farmer’s market, not from out garden). This year we hope to produce a bumper crop.

You can see last year’s collard plants in the garden photo, still producing fresh young leaves. Remember I cooked some on Super Bowl Sunday? I picked about all the leaves that day, and now look, I can get another meal out of them.

>Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

February 6, 2009

>Congratulations to Hank Tyler, fellow columnist for The Western Tribune for picking up the Charles A. Long Outstanding Civic Award at the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce Banquet last night.

Picture Credit: The Western Tribune

President Barack Obama established (yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast ) his office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Read what Obama said including his testimony at the link.

Read the press release and learn who some of the members of the council are here.

This will be a little more in line with the U. S. Constitution than W’s effort, which seemed to put a condition on helping that you believe certain beliefs and share those beliefs with those you are helping or don’t help them at all. Something like that.

Anyway, this office will reach out to charities and organizations “no matter their religious or political beliefs” and will be “making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.”

Joshua DuBois, a 26 year old Pentecostal minister, will head the effort. “We’re also going to make sure we have a keener eye toward the separation of church and state,” he said.


>Western Tribune Column January 28, 2009

January 28, 2009

>Restoring a historic home does not happen overnight.

Fortunately there are dedicated individuals in Bessemer who understand the importance of preserving these sometimes simple, sometimes grand, structures. Slowly, historic Bessemer is being restored.

Restoring the liberties, rights and protections granted by our Constitution will also take some time.

Fortunately our new president understands our Constitution and international law as it relates to human rights and has taken some initial, important steps toward that goal. He has issued several executive orders that set a new path toward an America we can be more proud of.
His orders include shutting down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and putting an end to torture as a means of extracting information from detainees.

The orders are not that simple, however. He understands that some of those being held may be dangerous, some may need to be returned to other countries, and some may need to be held in detention here in the United States. There are evaluations to be made and new policies to be developed, and for this reason he has established an Interagency Task Force to handle the details. It may take up to a year to complete the task. But the world immediately recognizes the change and a little respect is regained for America.

Opponents cry that we don’t need these terror suspects on U. S. soil, but what they really seem to be saying is they don’t trust the federal detention system. If our prisons are not secure enough to hold the worst of these would be terrorists, then should we trust them to hold the murderers and rapists that are held there now? If the prisons need upgrading, let’s fix them now, to protect from both the terrorists and the murderers.

As for torture, it’s odd to me that the same people who claim to value the very essence of life seem to believe that it’s OK to perform inhumane acts on living humans. Even more surprising is that they still hold those beliefs even when shown that torture does not work.

A civilized society, just as it would not put humans to death as a form of punishment, also would not torture.

And with less inhumane treatment of individuals, the world is made a better place.

>The Work Begins…For All of Us

January 21, 2009

>Be sure to read my column this week. It addresses some issues seen here on Bessemer Opinions. It follows this post.

I’m not sure if it was a request or not, but for John, and for the rest of America, here is the President and First Lady’s first dance to “At Last” sung by Beyonce. I’m not sure how long this video will stay up, I will try to replace it if it is removed.

I want to clear one thing up. Barack Obama did not flub the oath. Chief Justice John Roberts did. He tried to cue Obama from memory, and screwed up. Obama knew the oath, and kind of laughed it off, but had to decide whether to repeat what Roberts was saying or say it right. Anyway, either then or later he said the complete oath correctly. Two previous presidents had to repeat the oath due to similar issues – Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur.

Now that the pageantry is over, the work begins. For all of us. We have been called to service. I have an idea for myself, more on that if it turns out to be doable.

In addition, the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association agreed last night to look into new service projects (in addition to our work at Jonesboro Community Garden and Davis Middle School) as a way answer the President’s challenge by addressing needs in our community.

The administration has begun their work too. Look at the new White House web page, .

From there, you will learn that President Obama’s first official act was to proclaim January 20 2009 a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation. Read the whole thing, but the meat of it is this:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

If you look under the “agenda” tab, you will see Civil Rights listed first, mainly because the list is alphabetical. From there, you can be assured that President Obama recognizes the importance of inclusion and equality for the GLBT community.

But President Obama also recognizes that there are serious issues at hand. He suspended prosecutions at Gitmo . This is seen as a first step in shutting the place down.