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Six Minutes to Midnite

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Doomsday Clock Symbol.jpgThe scientists at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the hand back on the Doomsday Clock from 5 minutes to midnite to 6 minutes to midnite.  That's big.  The Atomic Scientists was an organization established in 1946 by the scientists who had been responsible for building the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  The Bulletin scientists are aiming for a world free of nuclear weapons.  The minute hand hovered at one or two minutes to midnite for most the decades of the cold war.  The scientists moved the hands now because they saw signs of cooperation amongst leaders of the nuclear states to reduce arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material.  In addition, also for the first time ever, "industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable".  

They go on:

These unprecedented steps are signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilization--the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change. This hopeful state of world affairs leads the boards of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists--which include 19 Nobel laureates--to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back from five to six minutes to midnight. By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization.
I can understand why people are frustrated with President Obama.  What I always say to people is "Watch what is happening two and three layers down, the things that don't get all that much press."  It takes years to push changes out far enough to make a difference.  This is an example of what is happening in every agency, some faster than others.  There has been little in the news about this cooperation between Obama and other world leaders, but clearly, it is occurring and occurring because of who Obama is, his style of leadership and his commitment to what he called the most important world issue - securing and limiting nuclear weapons.  

The post at DailyKos, by Plutonium Page, goes on to ask Richard Rhodes, an "atomic historian" of the highest order, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" about why, if this is so important the hands were not set back more.   His answer:

The real offender in terms of nuclear arsenals, without any question, is the United States of America. That's something we could do something about. I know the President is trying to move in that direction.
Plutonium Page goes on to say that there is already tremendous push-back from the atomic-industrial complex because they will lose money.  They will be yelling that we need these bombs for our safety.  Just watch them.  If the healthcare reform campaign has taught me anything it is that the forces arrayed against us the people are ferocious.  And they are not accustomed to losing.  


The Political Reasons that Healthcare Reform Matters

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Photo of Darcy Burner at Netroots Nation by niq77174 under Creative Commons

Jane Hamsher.jpgOne of the most interesting panels at Netroots Nation came toward the end.  It was a group of some of my favorite national bloggers talking about the political impact we as blogger-activists are having and about how our tactics need to change given that we are no longer the opposition.  And, because the national conversation at the moment is about healthcare reform, that was the focus of the discussion.   The consensus was that if the Democrats are unable to win on healthcare reform, which means getting a robust public option, we will be unable to win on any other major issue.  That means no serious climate change bill for starters.  Bills on credit card reform and public transportation are due up in September.  We have to learn how to make use of our majorities.  We have to wrest control of this nation away from the lobbyists and this is the place to begin that fight.

Darcy Burner, now Director of the new organization, American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, moderated the panel.  Joan McCarter of DailyKos, David Waldman of Congress Matters and DailyKos, Chris Bowers of Open Left and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake participated. 
Darcy at Netroots Nation.jpg
Joan said that we now have allies in Congress who are being very helpful in letting us know scheduling issues.   We are trying to figure out how to get the same from the White House.  She said that progressives are exploring what can be learned from the FISA fight of two years ago.  David elaborated, saying that FISA taught us that it was possible to get the lesser bill even when it should have been possible to get the better one because more legislators actually wanted it.  He has been explaining how that happened to progressives.  He said understanding the complex procedural possibilties has made it easier for them to believe that it is possible to avoid the same fate this time.  

Historically, Chris Bowers said, the Blue Dogs have been able to water down legislation.  This time progressive bloggers and progressive Congressional members have been working together.  Previously the progressive bloggers were brought in to hear the strategy and report on it.  This time they've been brought in to participate.

Jane Hamsher has been working on a strategy to get 40 progressives to commit to refusing to vote for a plan that doesn't have a public option.   Democrats who make that commitment are being supported by a large community who have, as of last Thursday, raised $300,000 for their reelection, as of 8/20, five days after the panel, $400,000 as of today.  

Darcy said that the working model for making the Progressives more critical to any legislative process included three steps:  1) Find a piece of legislation that is important enough that it must be passed.  2) Find the line that Progressives need to hold.  In this case it is the public option.  3) Encourage the members to vote the right way.  She added that the key is to find a sufficient number of carrots and sticks to make this work.  Darcy said that in the case of healthcare, we would already have lost had we not done it.  

Everyone on the panel reiterated that the next couple of weeks are critical with the Town Halls coming up.  Darcy asked each of the panelists to talk about what we should be doing.

Joan said we need to be showing up to the Town Halls and emailing our Senators and Members of Congress.  She reminded us not to get upset at the anger and not to get discouraged.  Jane said that the Members of Congress have been traumatized.  They will not likely be as resilient as they would have been a month ago before the Town Halls got so nasty.  Firedoglake has built a database of upcoming TownHalls.  Our members of Congress need to see us there supporting the public option and supporting our members who are being staunch supporters. 

Chris said that it is essential that people push back.  If the Progressive Bloc doesn't hold, the bill will only get weaker and weaker and give more and more to corporate interests.  Joan added that this will happen to bill after bill if we don't stop it.  Darcy said that the Progressives will be tested.  She said that the Blue Dogs and Senator Baucus are being backstopped but that the Progressives aren't (well, now thanks to that money being raised for them through the Internet, they are).  Chris noted that there are 22,000 lobbyists who are essentially free staff members for those in Congress supporting health insurance interests whereas we have next to no lobbyists.

On the other hand, David said that we are doing a very good job getting information out and that the House staffers are getting very good at getting us information about what is going on.  

Jane summed up what we are working on here - are the lobbyists going to have control of this nation or are the people?


A Wise Latina on the Supreme Court

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SotomayorlooksuptoObama.jpgIn the midst of the absolute right-wing craziness of the last few months, it was nice today to realize that something historic has happened.  A hard-working, working class woman with brown skin is now sitting on the Supreme Court of these United States.  I think this crazy sideshow about birthers and town hall mobsters is to distract us all from realizing what Obama set in place with this brilliant nomination as well as his many other stunning nominations and reasonably well thought out policies.  What a celebration this day should be for all of us.  

Those sad old white men fighting so hard during her confirmation hearings to run over her story, her story that is so uplifting and such a guiding light for all of us who are of color, for all of us who are women, for all of us who are working class.  Boy this explains so much.  They don't want us to talk about it, to appreciate the depth of change that Obama and his administration are both doing and highlighting that others are doing.  They don't want us to have a conversation about how we might live more integrated, more sustainable, healthier, lighter on the land, and more outward- and forward- thinking.  They don't want HOPE.  Remember when, both before and after the election, we had hope.  I experienced watching this country as watching a friend who was recently out of a bad marriage.   There was a sense of coming out from being under a squashed thumb.  We talked about things we hadn't talked about in a while.  The national conversation was livelier, more hopeful even while it was focused on real things like the crumbling of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica this last April or Michelle Obama's organic garden and the way she used it to talk to young people and their parents about the food they eat.

The Republicans are trying to prevent a modern-day version of the New Deal.  They don't want the Democrats to get the boost of goodwill that we should be earning and receiving.  So they've been distracting us all.  Man, maybe that's why they paid Sarah Palin to get out there - to distract us, to create one ruckus after another.  To deal with Obama's fake birth certificates or some washed-up Bush appointee talk about why Bill Clinton shouldn't have gone to North Korea, on behalf of this government, and freed two young women.

They don't want us to have that conversation, to celebrate and talk about what we are doing - in energy improvements, in local food, in running for office and working in government, in creating community. 

So, heh, let's just do it anyway - do what we do to make our world a better place, talk about that, and talk to people about how very cool it is that we have Obama in the White House, Hilary Clinton at Secretary of State, and Sonia Sotomayer as a Supreme Court Justice, among many others.  This all came up for me, reading this lovely story in USA Today that Markos at Dailykos pointed us to about how Latinos in this country are celebrating wildly, now that we have a "wise Latina" on the court. 

First, what Kos said that nailed it:  "And while we Latinos celebrate Associate Justice Sotomayor's accomplishments, we have also take note of who tried to stand in her way."

The USA Today article is a look at the impact that this confirmation of this women's status has on other Latinos.  Here was one of several great stories from around the country: 

Oxnard, Calif.
"Hang in there and work hard"
In this city where United Farm Workers organizer Cesar Chavez once lived, migrant workers from Mexico have toiled for decades, and Hispanics make up 66% of the nearly 200,000 population. Here, Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court is more than just a call to celebrate Hispanic pride. It's a call to action.
Oxnard, the largest city in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, is an agricultural center also known within the relatively affluent county as a place struggling with poverty, gangs and school dropouts.
"If there was ever a time to tell our kids to hang in there and work hard, this is it," said Carmen Ramirez, 60, a longtime community activist and attorney in Oxnard of Mexican descent. "Any person of color could look at her and say, 'I do have a future.' "
Oxnard attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz, who is of Italian descent, married a man of Mexican descent and has two partly Mexican-American children. An education lawyer, she represents families whose children face expulsion. Now, she said, "we have an African-American president. We have a Latina on the Supreme Court. We can say to our kids, 'No excuses. You can do great things, too.' "
• By David Leon Moore
It's a great article.  Include it in your conversations about how this country is changing under the Obama administration and what we can all do to be a part of that change.

Frank Rich on the Brewhaha

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3767456151_7b1b745a85.jpgI've been thinking about what the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the subsequent press coverage says about it, about Obama's brief but apparently incendiary statement about the stupidity of the police for arresting Gates in his own home and about this policeman who got offended when called racist by a tired, frustrated and perhaps pompous black professor.  This is, BTW, a policeman who volunteered to give training sessions on racial profiling.  He obviously cares about justice at the abstract level.  Perhaps he just couldn't bear to have his own remnants of racism revealed.  What does this all says about where we are as a nation with the issue of race?   

Then I read Frank Rich's opinion piece in the NYT today.  Rich sees it as a power struggle that makes use of the still unresolved issues about race.  Here's the money sentence:

If there was a teachable moment in this incident, it could be found in how some powerful white people well beyond Cambridge responded to it. That reaction is merely the latest example of how the inexorable transformation of America into a white-minority country in some 30 years -- by 2042 in the latest Census Bureau estimate -- is causing serious jitters, if not panic, in some white establishments.
Rich talks about how even Texas is trending blue now that people of color are voting in larger numbers and how both the growing Hispanic voting population and the (obviously) growing younger voters are abandoning the R's.  That's the story that the powerful conservatives are panicked about.   

Stimulus in Seattle, from Roosevelt to Obama - KUOW

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Greenlake Contact Map.jpg

The last large stimulus package, Roosevelt's New Deal had quite an impact on Seattle.  There is a huge amount of new money coming to Washington State with this new Obama Stimulus Package.  Just as examples when you dig in nationally - there is $400 million for research and development for long-term energy solutions.  there is $8 billion for High-Speed Rail.

It was very well thought out. It will make some huge differences to our country.

KUOW had a wonderful piece on the stimulus plan that was Roosevelt's New Deal about two months ago.   The piece, hosted by Liz Jones, looked at the kinds of projects that were undertaken, the impact on the workers' lives, and the lasting monuments to what was done during that time.

Renowned art historian and author, Roger van Oosten, led the tour.  He began by talking about the massive public works program - the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created and ran by Roosevelt during the depression years of the 30s and 40s. The idea was to put people to work by building up the country's infrastructure.

This same win/win that Obama and the Democrats are instituting right now for pretty close to the same reasons - a financial meltdown that came as a result of the greed of a small group of people, large numbers of people out of work (not as desperate yet but that's because the electorate voted to get people with more sense into power), and an infrastructure that had been crumbling for some time.

You could see it everywhere. Seattle was a very small city at the time. New roads were done. Bridges were built. Buildings were erected. Post offices were put in. The new fire stations were put in. Libraries were put in. Seattle ended the great depression a much larger place than it started."

  • A mural in the UW's chemistry building created by WPA artists illustrating progress in scientific endeavors
  • A streamlined building, in the Art Moderne, Collegiate Gothic style that was common to the time .
  • The UW's Kirsten Wind Tunnel, built in 1939, that Boeing used to WPA workers built it test their airplanes and that still generates about a half-million dollars in business every year.

Then he tells us about:

  • The Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which created jobs for young men in rural areas, jobs like making logs that were used in building park structures around the state and the country.
  • The dredging of the lake, and island in the ake, that we know as Greenlake

When asked if he thinks that FDR did the right thing in creating the New Deal, historian Roger van Oosten says:

"Do I think it was enough? Probably not, the depression lasted a long time. But was it good? Absolutely. Did it make concrete differences in people's lives? Absolutely. Are we enjoying some incidental benefit from it 70 years later? Absolutely."

To My Family - On Voting

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Obama.jpg

My friend, LueRachelle Brim-Atkins wrote the following to her family shortly after the Nov. 4 election of Barack Obama as President.

There was a time when our grandfather, Big Daddy, was the only African American "allowed" (you read it correctly) to vote in Naples, Texas.  Mother said she, Uncle P.Y. and our grandmother, Mother Gray, would wait at the edge of the yard for Big Daddy to come home and they'd run and hug him as though he had been on a long journey.

They were so afraid that he would be killed for voting.  He found out later that the white folks "allowed" him to vote as the principal of the school but they tore up his ballot as soon as he left the voting booth.  I can only imagine the humiliation he felt when he learned this years later.  I don't even want to think about how that message was delivered to this dignified and educated man.

When I went away to college, I walked the streets of Dallas with other students from Bishop College, registering Black people to vote and informing them the poll tax that had prevented them from voting all their lives  (when you have to choose between paying poll tax and feeding your family...) had been declared unconstitutional.

When Jimmy Carter conceded the 1980 election because the votes from the East Coast had declared his loss, I was on my way to the polls from work here in Seattle.  I went to vote anyway, knowing that my grandfather had paid the price of humiliation to give me my right to vote.

Today, the one we've been waiting for--the one the ancestors and the country have been waiting for--is President-elect of the United States of America.  He--and we--are the ones we've been waiting for.  Hallelujah!

The Wolf We Feed

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Wolves.jpgOn January 21, the day after Obama's inauguration, Barack and Michelle Obama, along with a host of other dignitaries, attended the customary post-inaugural National Prayer Service in Washington D.C.  Dr. Sharon Watkins, President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gave the sermon.  One particular part of her preaching caught my attention from the beginning, as it apparently did for many.  Here is the segment:

"What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center.  But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.

Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that we can continue to hope, too.

We will follow your lead.

There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.

"There are two wolves struggling inside each of us," the old man said.   

"One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear . . .    "

"The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . ."   

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?"   

His grandfather replied, "The one you feed."

Thanks to Dr. Watkins for making such good use of the time she had in front of our incredible new President.  The entire sermon is lovely.  To see a video of the first half of her sermon, which includes this story, Dr. Watkins, click here.

Wolves - Photo by dobac under Creative Commons

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