Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Home for Gitmo Detainees??

April 30. 2009

Time reports on Hardin, a Montana town that offers a secure facility to house Gitmo detainees.

Two years ago, the town (pop. 3,600) celebrated the completion of the state-of-the-art private jail capable of holding 464 inmates. Convinced that it would provide steady employment for over 100 locals, as well as accompanying economic benefits, the residents financed it through the sale of revenue bonds and turned it over to a for-profit prison-management corporation. On a 40-acre field at the edge of town where pronghorn antelope once grazed, they built it. But nobody came.

Hardin tried to recover. It sued the state for supposed mixed messages of encouragement - even though Montana prohibits the incarceration of prisoners convicted out of state. But though Hardin won the case, Two Rivers stayed empty and the $27 million of bonds went into default a year ago.

It sued the state for supposed mixed messages of encouragement - even though Montana prohibits the incarceration of prisoners convicted out of state. But though Hardin won the case, Two Rivers stayed empty and the $27 million of bonds went into default a year ago.

And then, a new source of hope appeared. A campaign pledge from President Barrack Obama to close the U.S. facility holding suspected terrorists at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, became an executive order. Quickly, the jail's backers made a new pitch. Why not house those 240 detainees at Two Rivers? Hardin's City Council two weeks ago passed a resolution to entice the detainees their way, saying they could provide "a safe and secure environment, pending trial and/or deportation." Hardin naturally assumed their federal politicians would lobby their cause.

Well, once again, Hardin's heart was broken. Reaction from Montana's three-man Congressional delegation was swift and unanimous, but hardly supportive. "I understand the need to create jobs, but we're not going to bring al-Qaeda to Big Sky Country - no way, not on my watch," said Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat. Many local taxpayers are livid at Hardin officials.

For months, correction officers Glyn and Rae Perkins, husband and wife, were the only employees at the 96,000 sq. ft. Two Rivers facility. They were laid off on Jan. 23. "Those of us who were involved had such high hopes," she says. "The state blocked us at every stage. It could've been such a good thing. I sit here now, watching businesses close and people wondering if they'll lose their houses. It's sad. But the idea of housing Gitmo prisoners here just floors me. It would be scary."

Source: Yahoo! News and Time (reported by Pat Dawson/Hardin)

Sojourner Truth Statue Dedication

April 30, 2009

Michelle Obama unveiled a statue of the historical abolitionist Sojourner Truth at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday , April 28. It is the first African American female bust to be displayed in the historical building. The unveiling came after a ten year effort by the National Congress of Black Women. Kim Fuller, 49, and a member of the National Congress of Black Women, said the representation of black women has been absent at the Capitol for "far too long." "But now we are," said Fuller. "And who better to begin the representation with than Sojourner Truth?"

Truth was a former slave, pioneer for women's right to vote and an advocate for the abolition of slavery. She met with President Lincoln in 1864 and Ulysses S. Grant in 1870 and is fondly remembered for her speech titled "Ain't I a Woman," which she delivered at a woman's rights convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. Truth attempted to vote on two occasions, but was rejected both times. She died in 1883 at her home in Battlecreek, Michigan.

According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Obama was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the statue uncovering. Actress Cicely Tyson, several lawmakers and students also attended the gathering in the Capitol's underground visitors center. Pelosi said that Truth's statue will not be the only historical African American relic in the capitol as a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks will soon join the collection.

Truth's sculpture is now a permanent fixture in the Emancipation Hall, which was named in honor of the slaves who built the Capitol.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FLOTUS-The First 100 Days

April 28, 2009

For weeks, the media has scrambled, preparing to assess the first 100 day of our POTUS. But since all eyes are on the first couple, I wanted to take a look at the first 100 days of our FLOTUS.

For those who wonder who or what is a FLOTUS-let me explain. It's an acronym for First Lady of the United States. The president is POTUS, President of the United States. Washington loves its jargon, and so far, also Mrs. Obama. Her popularity ratings are sky high. Better than the poll numbers for POTUS, President Obama.

Michelle Obama's first 100 days in the White House really began more than 365 days ago in Wisconsin. Rallying an audience in Milwaukee, she said: "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." She explained that she was proud of the people who'd gotten involved in politics, but that's not what her critics heard. The remark triggered a huge controversy. Unfortunately, Michelle seemed poised to become a liability for Barack Obama's presidential bid. She learned from her so called “mistake” and transformed herself from a potential campaign liability into America's newest sweetheart.

In the months since that rally in Milwaukee, she went from lightning rod to rock star, from the cover of The New Yorker to the cover of Vogue, from just plain fashionable to worldwide fashion icon. Mrs. Obama has emerged as an iconic cultural force who is very aware that she is a role model for women in general, mothers and African-Americans in particular. Her issues are military families, healthy eating, community service, work-life-family balance and opening up White House events so it is not just big shots who get to visit. With that agenda, the First Lady has avoided any controversy in her short tenure.

The biggest uproar occurred when Mrs. Obama met Britain's Queen Elizabeth II for the first time on April 1. The Queen put her arm around the First Lady-a rare public gesture-and Mrs. Obama returned the affection by draping her arm on the queen's shoulder. Comment turned from negatives to positives when it became clear that the Queen reached out for our FLOTUS exchanging gestures of high regard. Since that incident, the only issue being debated these days, silly as it seems, is whether she goes sleeveless too much and for the wrong occasions.

Her popularity ratings are sky high. Better than the poll numbers for POTUS, President Obama. She is as popular as the president, maybe more. Depending on the poll, she has approval ratings in the 60s and 70s. Practically It's not unusual for a first lady to be more popular than the president, but that usually happens further along. That it has happened so quickly for Mrs. Obama says a lot about how perceptions of her have changed.

On Day 99-Tuesday-Mrs. Obama will be part of an event rich in symbolism for women and African-Americans when she travels to Capitol Hill to unveil the bust of Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol. She will be the first African-American women to have a monument in the Capitol.

On Dec. 20, 2006, President Bush signed H.R. 4510 / Public Law 109-427 "To direct the Joint Committee on the Library to accept the donation of a bust depicting Sojourner Truth and to display the bust in a suitable location in the Capitol."

Sojourner Truth, a former slave born Isabella Baumfree who became a minister and womens suffrage activist, played an important role in African American and feminist history. Though she was a major figure in the suffrage movement, she was not part of the Portrait Monument in the Capitol, a 14,000 slab of sculpture with three white women--Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. (That the monument to women who fought for suffrage was stuck in the Crypt of the Capitol, an undistinguished location, from 1921 until 1997 is another story.)

I look forward to keeping up with our FLOTUS during her stay at the White House and recording her activities in "Sweet Nothings".

Saturday, April 25, 2009

POTUS-First 100 Days

April 25, 2009

April 29,2009 will mark Barack Obama's 100th Day as President of the United States of America. It'll be all the rage to critique how he's performed during the initial stages of his term in office. Reporters and commentators all have opinions on the subject and are being paid handsomely to share their views with a thirsty public. I've braced myself for the on-slaught of conflicting views, the myopic view of some and the distorted partisian contributions of others. I've tried to decide how to approach creating a credible evaluation, so that I can feel comfortable with my own conclusion.

I discovered an interesting site which presents tons of information on a variety of related subject. One subject is an "Obama Meter" which assesses whether the President "kept" his promise on an issue, "compromised", "broke" the promise, is "in progress" toward keeping the promise or is "stalled". The site also has a TruthMeter commenting on the accuracy of statements, not only from the president, but also other politicans, commentators, and others. Note that won the 2009 Pulitizer Prize for national Reporting for coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election. For a detailed analysis of 500 promises made by Barack Obama, check out the site at

As for my own analysis, I asked myself what were the most important issues in my view. I decided to focus on the Economy (including Taxes), the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (including US/World Relations and U. S. Security), Health Care Reform and Energy Policy. I took into account the lack of cooperation from Republicans and Right Wing Conservatives and the disastorus national and world situation the President inherited. I closed my mind to the bias and bull and tried to wade my way to a "truth" I could live with and support.

He's honoring his promise to end the war in Iraq, setting a time line of 18 months, and he also made provisions to send additional throops to Afghanistan. Obama ordered the closure of secret CIA prisons overseas and of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba , within a year. He rescinded the Bush administration's authorization of harsh interrogation techniques, and he made public four previously secret Bush-era memos that described those methods in detail.

President Obama has signed more executive orders, memoranda and proclamations in his first 100 days than any president since Franklin Roosevelt . Obama also spent more of those first months outside the country than any of his 43 predecessors. The new president has brought a warm new tone to global diplomacy. His performance at three world conferences of European and Latin American leaders began a renewed environment of international partnerships for the United States. He sought to recast relations with the Muslim world, including his video overture to Iran for new diplomatic relations. He relaxed Cuba policy, opening what some see as a window toward lifting the almost 50-year-old trade embargo.

Many efforts on a variety of other issues have been launched in spite of obstacles, obtaining mixed results. The president also has begun laying the groundwork for sweeping health care and global warming legislation. He passed the $3.7 billion Stimulus Package to address the economic downturn. Unfortunately, his campaign promise to open a new era of bipartisanship has fallen short. Only three Senate Republicans and none in the House of Representatives supported his stimulus bill. His effort to change the culture of revolving-door and special-interest politics also achieved mixed success at best. While putting in place a detailed ethics policy that aims to reduce lobbyists' influence, he made exceptions to his own rules. While some say he's fallen short so far in his effort to convert his campaign's effective grassroots and Internet operations to a force that can help him govern, the president has held major prime time interviews, press conferences, town hall meetings and public address to keep the American public informed of his plans, efforts and ideas.

In the final analysis, I compliment the President on substantial progress toward steering the country in the right direction.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

TEA Party-Insanitea

April 19, 2009

The April 15, 2009 National Tax Day TEA Parties confused me, but my confusion is nothing new when it comes to politics. I understand that groups of American citizens gathered in various cities around the county from Oklahoma City, OK to Rochester, NY, from Texas to Washington, DC, from Atlanta to Tulsa and there was even an Alabama “Sweet” TEA Party. Media reports vary on the number of attendees at these demonstrations ranging from thousands to millions, depending on who's talking. FOX News personalities, Newt Gingrich and even "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher spoke to attendees at various locations.

What is “TEA” you ask. Well, try Taxed Enough Already. Get it? Yes, this is the Conservative Republican Right Wing answer to the current economic situation, a demonstration “to protest tax increases”. I guess it doesn’t matter that 95% of American tax payers will receive a reduction in taxes, in fact, they’ll receive a tax refund. Hey, don’t confuse us with the facts. There’s a TEA Party we have to attend.

I’m trying to understand the lack of response to a downward spiraling economy, high unemployment, pending bank failures, the financial crisis on Wall Street, massive home foreclosures, and all the other issues facing our country. Republican, Conservatives, and Right Wingers have proposed no solutions and have settled for a policy of “just say NO”.

It’s strange that for the past eight years, we had a President and his administration that usurped individual rights of American citizens and subjected them to cruelty, imprisonment, and torture, who sanctioned illegal spying on American citizens, and violated individual Constitutional rights at will. No Republican or Conservative demonstrations…no TEA Parties. When we went to war in Iraq, we’d been told of the Weapons of Mass Destruction, then later we found out we’d been lied to and there were no WMD. No Republican or Conservative demonstrations…No TEA Parties. When the Bush Administration took a financially sound America left by the Clinton Administration and buried us in national debt, I didn’t see any TEA Parties. Did I miss something? When oil prices sky-rocketed and oil companies got richer on the backs of working Americans…guess what…no TEA Parties.

As we stand facing the most troubling times since the Great Depression, as we wait for meaningful dialogue between Republicans and Democrats which doesn’t seem forthcoming, as we desperately plead for workable solutions to the nation’s problems, Republican input is nonexistent. All we hear is banter about socialism, fascism, questionable birth certificates, and other meaningless trash. Obviously, nothing matters to Republicans, Conservatives and Right Wing factions other than “increases in taxes”. Mind you, they aren’t worried about their taxes, but rather, the taxes of the rich. Remember, the wealth of the rich “trickles down” when they are allowed to pay minimal taxes.

Well, this is America, land of the free and home of the brave. Isn’t it great that we live in a country that gives citizens the right to assemble, to protest, to disrespect their national leader, and “Teabag” until their hearts are content? In case you missed the hoopla of April 15, get ready for the follow-up on July 4th. In the meantime, thank God our President continues to work diligently with everyone willing to make a contribution, to solve today’s problems while planning for the nation’s future. Keep your head up Mr. President. Remind the naysayers that we voted for you and your platform for change. We still believe…”Yes, we can”.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Focus on Fashion...Let's Not!

April 9, 2009

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past few months, you’ve been bombarded with newspaper and magazine articles and photos of our new first lady, Michele Obama. Reports on President Obama’s important activities during his first trip to the G-20 Summit in Europe ran neck and neck with coverage of what his wife was wearing. Being heralded as “The New Diana” in an article by Meredith Etherington-Smith, the commentator remarked;

“Rather than simply mimic the sad, saggy beige cashmere of yesteryear, the first lady took a grand old British tradition, turned it on its head, and gave it major new spin.”

“Michelle Obama has a style and megawatt charisma not seen on the global stage since Princess Diana gave up on the meringue dresses (and her husband) and started wearing sly little above-the-knee Chanel shifts, and pearls.”

“Here is a woman who doesn’t need to change every ten minutes to prop up her self-esteem. She’s got far better things to do with herself than clothes-horse about, ten paces behind her husband.”

A fashion reporter from the Daily Beast took the time to contrast Michelle Obama to Carla Sarkozy, wife of the president of France.

“Michelle has won over the French. They appreciate that she's good-natured, dynamic, and trained as a lawyer—law being next to politics in France.”

“Michelle won for being fresh and original. She was praised for wearing what she wants and what she senses suits her. Big labels (Oscar, Calvin, Donna), be damned! A cardigan to Buckingham Palace, she felt comfortable. Bare arms in April—why not when they’re toned? Carla's Dior convent-girl look, however, is getting tired. As one wag put it, "she's like the former showgirl who wants to win over her bourgeois belle-mère (mother-in-law)—ça suffit!' The fact that Michelle wore Azzedine Alaia twice—considered today’s designer du jour—suggests that she's more fashion forward than Carla. Weird when Carla used to model for Alaia and wear him a lot.”

“Carla's choice of a mouse-gray suede Dior coat with pussycat bow was dismissed as dowdy. Michelle's Thakoon coat and dress outfit was praised as a sharp, well-cut upper. There again, the following morning, Carla got a thumbs up for her lilac Dior coat—it had swing and suited her complexion—whereas Michelle’s choice of cropped Alaia jacket with Gunex’s pants did nothing for her shapely derrière. Note to MO—next time a skirt!”

“Major bravos for her natural smile, big white American teeth and fit, strong body that isn’t starved. Having heaps of inner glamour, Michelle has finally broken the Jackie Kennedy myth.”

The point about Michelle, according to insiders, is that she has always loved fashion. She enjoyed "being pretty," she told Barbara Walters in her debut appearance on American chat show 'The View' last year . The women of America gave her the thumbs up. Then, in American Vogue, she said: "I love clothes. First and foremost, I wear what I love. That's what women have to focus on: what makes them happy and what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful. If I can have any impact, I want women to feel good about themselves and have fun with fashion."

For all the newspaper or magazine articles, not to mention all the commentary on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc, absolutely everyone seems to have an opinion on what the first lady is wearing. I’ve read tons of comments from hidden faces on the Internet. Some full of praise and some too nasty for words. I’m amazed that some of these folks with such strong opinions take the time to focus on this ‘world-wide’ topic of great importance. Are these same individuals commenting on the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region or on the massive poverty and hunger around the globe? Do you see them comment on the rising cost of health care or inadequate efforts at energy conservation, on global warming or the rise in nuclear threats to our country? Folks, listen up. There are serious issues that need your attention. Let the first lady make her fashion choices. Some you’ll like and some you won’t. It won’t matter in the least. Let’s get focused on the serious business at hand and support our president in his efforts to effect meaningful change...right now. You can make a difference.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

First Lady's Women of Excellence

April 8, 2009

T h e first lady calls on a few excellent women.

It's back to the White House for another
celebrity-packed affair hosted by First Lady
Michelle Obama, and this time she's really
outdone herself. In honor of Women's History
Month, a group majorly accomplished women
are gathered in the Diplomatic Room this
morning, too busy meeting and greeting to mind
the spread of fruit juice, scones and coffee.

There's Alicia Keys talking to Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,
Tracee Ellis Ross giddily hugging Phylicia
Rashad, Kerry Washington chatting up Alfre
Woodard, and Sheryl Crowe, Debbie Allen,
opera singer Denyce Graves, Fran Drescher, Lisa
Leslie, makeup CEO Bobbi Brown and BET
executive Debra Lee. To name a few. After a
greeting from the First Lady, they will all
dispatch out to Washington-area schools and
speak to students about career goals and
reaching their dreams.

Not to be left out, NASA astronaut
Mae C. Jemison gets a hug from the
First Lady before Jemison headed to
the Woodrow Wilson High School to
talk to their students about her career
at NASA and being the first Black
woman to go into space.

One of the students at Anacostia High
School asked Mrs. Obama how did you get
to where you are today? She replied, “I had
somebody around me who helped me understand
early on that hard work, discipline
and the choices that I made in life
were really the only things that defined

As presented on

"The difference between the impossible
and the possible lies in a
person's determination."
- Tommy Lasorda

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Obamas: Taking Europe By Storm

April 3, 2009

President Obama embarked in this first overseas trip since occupying the White House, traveling to London for the G-20 Summit, then to five other countries. The first leg of the trip is being heralded as a success. The President and the First Lady met with the Queen of England where a much talked about exchange of affection between the Queen and Michelle Obama made headlines on both sides of the ocean.

After London, President Obama travels 612 miles, visiting five countries in eight days and meeting with the leaders of 28 independent member countries of NATO. On his first stop in France, French President Nicholas Sarkozy agreed to take one Guantanamo prisoner in a show of solidarity with the U. S. The President planned future visits: to walk the beach in Normandy on June 6 D-Day anniversary with Sarkozy, a Moscow visit in July, and a visit to China later in the year. Future talks with Russia on nuclear arms reduction were discussed. Obama avoided proposals for a "super regulator", leaving authority with individual nations' financial systems. He brokered an agreement among NATO member countries to send 5,000 more military trainers and police to Afghanistan and to assist in securing its coming election. Quite a bit accomplished for a guy who has been in office about twon months.

First lady Michelle Obama, President Obama, Carla Bruni- Sarkozy and her husband French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Palais Roham in Strasbourg, France, Friday, April 3, 2009.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

First Lady Michelle Obama has taken an active role since moving into the White House. She visited several government departments and agencies, planned State dinners and announced a White House kitchen garden. She received very positive reviews in the most recent Post-ABC News Poll, with three-quarters of Americans holding a positive view of the First Lady. The foreign press and the European people have embraced her like no other First Lady since Jackie Kennedy. Her style, self confidence, warmth and charm, in addition to her intelligence and sincerity allowed her to represent our country with a positive image. There was as much press about what Michelle Obama was wearing and where she was going as there was about her husband's activities at the Summit.

President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Baghdad Tuesday, April 7th, meeting with Iraqi leaders and visiting American troops at the end of his first trip overseas as president. Obama touched down just hours after a car bomb blew up in a Shitte area of the city. The president’s motorcade took him to Camp Victory, the American military headquarters, passing by hundreds of troops standing at attention and saluting. He spoke for six minutes, saying he wanted to leave time to shake hands and meet the throops. The president left Baghdad on Air Force One just after 9 p.m. local time, spending about 4 and 1/2 hours on the ground there.

What a whirlwind trip! It left me breathless just following the accounts of the President's meetings and activities. I was overjoyed at the warm reception at every stop, by the respect accorded our leader by his peers and their countrymen alike, and by his candid, sincere responses to their questions. I felt well represented and thanked God that Barack Obama is sitting in the seat while the loyal opposition offers little of value to solve the many serious issues that face this country. It's hard to believe how much he's accomplished in the short time he's been in office. High five, Mr. President!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To Regulate or Not: That is the Question

April 1, 2009

Take a look at remarks from Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, as reported by the Washington Post on April 1, 2009:

"Tomorrow, for the second time in only five months, the leaders of the world's top 20 economies will meet to seek a joint response to the unprecedented global economic crisis.

Since this crisis began, I have argued that when we are faced by a challenge of this magnitude, cooperation is a necessity, not an option. In September, I called upon the world to rally together with a response based on coordination and cooperation. Brought forward in concert by the European nations, that initiative led to November's Group of 20 meeting in Washington, where we laid the foundations for far-reaching reform of the international financial system. Tomorrow's summit must enable us to put into practice the principles we established.

The world expects that we will speed up the reform of the international financial system and rebuild, together, a better-regulated form of capitalism with a greater sense of morality and solidarity. This is a precondition for mobilizing the global economy and achieving sustainable growth. This crisis is not a crisis of capitalism but the breakdown of a system that drifted away from capitalism's most fundamental values.

In November, we agreed on four principles that would guide our response: enhanced coordination and cooperation; the rejection of protectionist measures; the strengthening of regulatory systems in financial markets; and a new global governance.

This week we must attach the same sense of urgency to the regulation of financial markets. World growth will be all the stronger for being sustained by a stable, efficient financial system and by the kind of renewed confidence in the markets that would enable resources to be better allocated, encourage lending to pick up again and foster the return of private investment capital to developing countries.

We agreed in November that not one financial player, institution or product could be beyond the control of a regulatory authority. This rule must be applied to credit rating agencies, speculative investment funds and tax havens. On the latter point, I want us to go far indeed, adopting a resolution that identifies tax havens and that details the changes we expect from them and the consequences should they fail to respond. The debate on tax havens initiated by the Washington summit has begun to bear fruit, particularly in Europe.

We must reform the required disclosure standards and levels of prudential oversight for financial firms. Sadly, in many countries, this issue has not been getting the attention it deserves. As we make progress toward reforming global economic governance, we must offer much more space to emerging nations, in keeping with their real weight and the responsibilities they should take on. This holds true for all international bodies, especially international financial institutions.

I remain convinced that the world can emerge from these troubled times stronger, more united and with a greater sense of solidarity, provided we have the will to do so. We cannot achieve radical change overnight, and much remains to be done. We may need future meetings to implement the reforms undertaken in London. I am certain of two additional things: We must achieve practical results beginning with tomorrow's summit. And failure is not an option."
Sounds like a message we've heard before, doesn't it. Once again, I'm confused. To regulate or not, that is the question.

When I listen to GOP leaders espouse the position that government should allow the market to function on its own without government interference and regulation, and when I listen to pundits and news correspondents remark on the difficulty President Obama will have with his G-20 counterparts, and when I hear GOP leaders support their party's position on deregulation, well, I'm confused.

How can the world blame the United States for the world's financial crisis when our financial institutions were deregulated based on GOP influence and governance under Regan and Bush policies? How can the Obama administration encourage regulation of our financial institutions? Is President Obama and his counterpart in France wrong about their position on regulating international financial institutions?

I guess it depend on who you listen to. God forbid we analyze the historical data and conclude that the answer is to regulate, baby, regulate.