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April 30, 2009

The Obamas Have Shed Their Campaign Vulnerabilities

Missing in the tsunami of coverage of the First 100 Days—if it’s possible that anything has been left unwritten or unsaid—is that both President and Michelle Obama have largely shed what appeared to be their greatest vulnerabilities in the final months of the campaign.

For the would-be president, it was his lack of experience. Exasperated Republicans tried their damnedest to sound the alarms. He’s never actually done anything, the argument went. Do you really want him in the Oval Office when crisis strikes? Nervous Democrats fretted, mostly in private, and wondered if maybe John McCain wasn’t better suited to the job.

For the potential First Lady, her alleged Achilles’ heel was her “anger.” Her “for the first time in my adult life I’m proud of my country” moment became a catch-all for the country’s unresolved feelings about working moms, opinionated political spouses, and African Americans romping on the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How can this possibly work? people wondered.

Fast-forward just three months past Inauguration Day, and those concerns have all but disappeared.

To be sure, the critics make other arguments, especially about him. He’s doing too much. (Or he’s not doing enough.) He’s moving too fast. (Or he’s not moving fast enough.) His misguided policies will bankrupt the country. He’s arrogant, an apologist, a socialist. But what they aren’t saying is that he’s unprepared, in over his head, or not up to the job. Already, he’s faced at least two crises, one foreign and one domestic, in addition to the ongoing economic disaster and the daily demands of the job: the hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates and the outbreak of the swine flu, a potential global pandemic. In the first, the president calmly ordered American snipers to take out the ragtag pirates if the ship captain’s life appeared to be in danger. It was—and they did. And praise for the president’s steady hand was virtually universal. The second crisis is still unfolding, but again, the president’s response has been swift and steady, as he and his team have worked to calm and inform a worried public.  

People have responded by showing confidence in the president’s leadership. His job approval numbers are in the mid-to-high 60s, his personal approval numbers are higher yet, and a sizable majority see him as a strong leader and able commander in chief. John who?

As for Michelle Obama, her reversal of fortune has been so swift and so complete that the only criticism she’s faced, if you can call it that, has been answered in the same breath it was uttered. She touched the Queen! But the Queen touched her first! Or She wears too many sleeveless dresses! But her arms look great! Meanwhile, she hosted a reception for women’s-rights icon Lily Ledbetter after her husband signed the Fair Pay Act; began her outreach to military families; oversaw the planting of an organic garden on the White House grounds; became a fashion icon; engineered the adoption of a new dog; and helped her two unspeakably cute daughters adjust to their new circumstances (where they set their alarm clocks, get themselves ready for school, and make their beds every day). Gone is the stereotypical angry black woman. Front and center is an accomplished American mom, the center of gravity in her admirable American family.

How did our impressions of these two change so quickly? Mostly, it seems, because of the exceptional personal qualities of both Obamas. Ideology aside, they are honest, hard-working, disciplined—the kind of “family values” folks that have always loomed large in America’s image of itself. Perhaps those qualities were harder to see when we knew the Obamas less well. Perhaps they were a bit obscured by well-worn stereotypes of ambitious politicians, career women, and African Americans. And maybe, when all is said and done, those early vulnerabilities will in fact loom larger than they do right now.

But at least for the moment, Barack and Michelle Obama have filled out their own portraits, making them more complete, more complex, and more appealing than they were a hundred days ago. Even if the milestone is as fabricated as the Easter eggs on the White House lawn, that’s an impressive accomplishment.

This absolutely great article was written by Dee Dee Myers, a Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2009/04/100-days-obamas-shed-campaign-vulnerability.html?printable=true&currentPage=all

 

March 15, 2009

US Food Safety — Currently ONLY 5% Of Food Processing Plants & Warehouses Inspected!

fda-eat-safely1The Republican Party is full of prophets. 

During his administration President George W. Bush thought that our financial institutions and corporations could and would adequately police themselves so he squashed or crippled agencies created to enforce governmental standards. Then Bush let the corporations redefine and rewrite the standards they should uphold and now it is almost impossible to prosecute these same corporations for breaking the laws because they wrote the laws and know how to get around the laws.  Now we find America in the midst of a preventable economic meltdown. 

When our country started to crumble because of lack of regulation and poor government management by the Republicans, the Republicans couldn’t see the forest from the trees and quickly and gleefully started chirping, tweeting and twittering that government does not work and government cannot do anything right – becoming self-fulfilling prophets.

By proclaiming that government does not work the Republicans were admitting loudly and publically that they believed themselves to be an across-the-board colossal failure, flop and a fiasco.

The United States is suppose to have one of the world’s safest food supplies, thanks in large part to an interlocking monitoring system that watches over our food production and distribution at every level — locally, statewide and nationally.

Continual monitoring is to be provided by food inspectors, microbiologists, epidemiologists, and other food scientists working for city and county health departments, state public health agencies, and various federal departments and agencies. Their precise duties are dictated by local, state and national laws, guidelines and other directives. Some monitor only one kind of food, such as milk or seafood. Others work strictly within a specified geographic area. Others are responsible for only one type of food establishment, such as restaurants or meat-packing plants. Together they make up the U.S. food safety team. The Clinton administration’s Food Safety Initiative which began in 1997 strengthened the efforts of all the members of the United State’s food safety team in the fight against food-borne illness, which badly affects between 6.5 million and 33 million Americans every year.

In 1988 a major initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services which includes FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency signed a memorandum of understanding to create a Food Outbreak Response Coordinating Group, or FORC-G. This great initiative was taken apart piece by piece under the mismanagement and negligence of the George W. Bush administration and Americans found our self in the midst of crisis after crisis with new and emerging threats to the U.S. from China — from toys to pet food to baby formula.  We also learned that it wasn’t just Chinese food and drug imports that could kill us — many of those bargain priced products (baby furniture, baby clothes, toothpaste, etc.) you and I picked up at WalMart, Target or Sam’s Club could hurt us or cause serious accidents. It seems to me that George W. Bush was criminally negligent because he gave his unqualified buddies these very important government jobs.  He gave his cronies jobs to govern these life altering agencies that are vital to the well-being of every American and his incompetent friends screwed up royally.

During the George W administration we also learned that arsenic, a poison and a carcinogen (a substance that produces cancer) commonly found in groundwater, is strongly linked with the onset of diabetes in adults.  Arsenic increases the risk of bladder cancer, lung, kidney, skin, and possibly prostate cancer.

Dr. Navas-Acien and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found a “relatively strong” association between levels of arsenic commonly found in the urine of patients with type-2 diabetes in a study of adult Americans.

Navas said that there can be no safe level of arsenic.  20% of the nearly 800 participants in the John Hopkins study who had more arsenic in their bodies are 3.6 times more at risk of developing diabetes later in life than those in the 20% with the less amount of arsenic in their bodies.

Arsenic levels are 26% higher in people with diabetes or late development of type-2 diabetes than people without the disease the study found.

The U.S. government sets a limit of 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter (about the size of an individual bottle of spring water) in water Americans consume but that level is exceeded by about 13 million Americans plus arsenic accumulates in our bodies.  The accumulation of arsenic in our body ruins the body’s ability to use insulin and perform the vital task of converting blood sugar into energy.

President Obama is a thinking President who believes in social, economic and political reform that will make United States live up to its promises to the American people that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and made legal in The Constitution of America.  The first sentence of our constitution states:

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

President Obama is striving to fulfill the promises of our constitution and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon and Republicans obviously can’t keep up with him.  If Republicans are unable to keep up with President Barack Obama then we as Americans who love our country should help Republicans find another line of work by voting them out of office in 2010. 

I am so pleased that Barack Obama is our President. For eight years we were paying taxes without any representation. Once again we have a President who is working for the people of America.

 

March 7, 2009

March 7, 2009: President Obama’s Weekly Address – Reforms Will Save Americans $40 Billion Each Year

President Barack Obama used his March 7, 2009 weekly address to detail his plans to fix our ailing economy, noting that reforming healthcare is necessary to ensure our long term fiscal health.  While ending this crisis will not be quick or easy, the President’s plans will take the swift, bold, and responsible actions needed for the United States to emerge stronger and more prosperous than before. And that is why reforming healthcare, jumpstarting job creation, restoring lending, relieving responsible homeowners, and making hard choices are all so critically important right now.

Transcript of President Obama’s remarks:

Yesterday, we learned that the economy lost another 651,000 jobs in the month of February, which brings the total number of jobs lost in this recession to 4.4 million.  The unemployment rate has now surpassed 8 percent, the highest rate in a quarter century.

These aren’t just statistics, but hardships experienced personally by millions of Americans who no longer know how they’ll pay their bills, or make their mortgage, or raise their families. 

From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight.  And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead.  But I also believe that we will get through this — that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before. 

That’s why my administration is committed to doing all that’s necessary to address this crisis and lead us to a better day.  That’s why we’re moving forward with an economic agenda that will jumpstart job creation, restart lending, relieve responsible homeowners, and address the long-term economic challenges of our time:  the cost of health care, our dependence on oil, and the state of our schools.

To prevent foreclosures for as many as 4 million homeowners — and lower interest rates and lift home values for millions more — we are implementing a plan to allow lenders to work with borrowers to refinance or restructure their mortgages.  On Wednesday, the Department of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development released the guidelines that lenders will use for lowering mortgage payments.  This plan is now at work.

To restore the availability of affordable loans for families and businesses — not just banks — we are taking steps to restart the flow of credit and stabilize the financial markets.   On Thursday, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve launched the Consumer and Business Lending Initiative — a plan that will generate up to a trillion dollars of new lending so that families can finance a car or college education — and small businesses can raise the capital that will create jobs.

And we’ve already begun to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — a plan that will save and create over 3.5 million jobs over the next two years — jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, expanding broadband and mass transit.  And because of this plan, those who have lost their job in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage, while 95 percent of working Americans will receive a tax break beginning April 1st.

Of course, like every family going through hard times, our country must make tough choices.  In order to pay for the things we need — we cannot waste money on the things we don’t. 

My administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history.  And we’ve inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable.  For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too.

These kinds of irresponsible budgets — and inexcusable practices — are now in the past.  For the first time in many years, my administration has produced a budget that represents an honest reckoning of where we are and where we need to go.

It’s also a budget that begins to make the hard choices that we’ve avoided for far too long — a strategy that cuts where we must and invests where we need.  That’s why it includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction, while making historic investments in America’s future.  That’s why it reduces discretionary spending for non-defense programs as a share of the economy by more than 10 percent over the next decade — to the lowest level since they began keeping these records nearly half a century ago.  And that’s why on Wednesday, I signed a presidential memorandum to end unnecessary no-bid contracts and dramatically reform the way contracts are awarded — reforms that will save the American people up to $40 billion each year.

Finally, because we cannot bring our deficit down or grow our economy without tackling the skyrocketing cost of health care, I held a health care summit on Thursday to begin the long-overdue process of reform.  Our ideas and opinions about how to achieve this reform will vary, but our goal must be the same:  quality, affordable health care for every American that no longer overwhelms the budgets of families, businesses, and our government.

Yes, this is a moment of challenge for our country.  But we’ve experienced great trials before.  And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper — to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis.  That is what we can and must do today.  And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do.  I’m confident that at this defining moment, we will prove ourselves worthy of the sacrifice of those who came before us, and the promise of those who will come after. 

Thank you.

February 24, 2009

Watch President Obama’s Address to Congress Tonight

president-barack-obama-seal Tonight, five weeks into his presidency, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress. Although this is not an official State of the Union address, it is an opportunity for him to talk to Americans about the challenges our country faces and his plans for the future.

President Obama has been working really hard to get America back on track.  In five weeks he has done more that will help rebuild America than George W. Bush did in four years. 

He has already taken important steps to improve our lives and the lives of our children including:

  • signing a $787 billion stimulus package on February 17 that will help our citizens, states and municipalities
  • signing a housing-rescue plan
  • reversing the Bush Administration policies that have impeded state efforts to provide health coverage to children
  • signing the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), taking care of unfinished business from the last Congress and providing health coverage to an additional four million children
  • signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, offering significant relief to millions of struggling children and families

Tonight President Obama will tell us how he intends to proceed and build on his momentum with plans to continue to help struggling American families, steady the markets and get us out of this economic crisis.

Watch President Obama’s address tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST.

February 22, 2009

President Obama’s Housing Plan Will STEADY The Market For All of Us

happy house President Obama proposed a housing plan last Wednesday that will help to start clearing a path that will end the foreclosure crisis we’re in.  It’s not perfect but it’s a GOOD start!

Yes, it will help some people who don’t “deserve” to be helped, just as the bank bailouts have helped Wall Street executives – none of whom deserved to be helped. Let us be reasonable, realistic and rational – there is NO perfect solution to this huge problem.  If you ask 100 of the greatest economic minds to come up with a solution for this crisis you will get 100 different answers that will each have merits and flaws.  

The ninety percent of us who were not naïve or fooled by the smooth-talk and blarney of greedy mortgage brokers under normal circumstances would never be asked to bail out the 10 percent that needs it — but these are not normal times.  If we don’t help those who are destitute right away we will all be pulled into a deep dark hole that none of us will be able to get out of anytime soon.  This is our choice plain and simple; help those who need help or continue to bitch, moan and do nothing and see our economy plunge to depths that will make today seem like the good times. Stopping the cycle of foreclosures is critical and is the only thing that will slow our country’s downward economic spiral and help the markets.

President Obama’s Housing Plan will help people who got plain-vanilla conforming mortgages and who have never fallen seriously behind on their monthly payments. They will most likely qualify to refinance at lower guaranteed interest rates — even if they owe as much as their house is worth.

It will also help people who have subprime mortgages or exotic loans, such as pay-option adjustable rate mortgages.  These folks might qualify to keep their current loans but will have them modified to make the payments more affordable.

The mortgage modifications in the plan include three essential elements that will bring us stability and help homeowners who have one home that they are living in. These mortgage modifications will only apply to the existing loans that have caused all the trouble we’re in.   These modifications will not apply to loans made in the future and will therefore not hurt the mortgage market.

The first element will help homeowners currently at risk of foreclosure. It would provide cash incentives to lenders in exchange for modifying a loan until the borrower can comfortably pay it. Lenders would receive the incentive for modifying the loan before it becomes delinquent.

The second element is for homeowners who are still making their mortgage payments on time but can’t refinance because they don’t have enough equity in their homes and owe more than their homes are worth. If a homeowner’s mortgage is held or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (which 2/3 are) the homeowner would be guaranteed a lower interest rate and allowed to refinance.

The third element allows Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to expand their mortgage lending by pledging an additional $200 billion in government capital. Since private lenders are still refusing to make mortgage loans, it makes sense for the government to encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lend and start the credit wheels rolling again.

The Obama administration is wisely taking advantage of the government’s new ownership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by putting the two entities to work for the people of America. 

At the same time the Obama administration is offering aid to responsible homeowners who might be infuriated with the idea of helping “irresponsible” homeowners.  Our fellow citizens who read the fine print and made smart fiscal decisions by purchasing homes they could afford but were whacked by the housing bust will benefit from lower interest rates and other resources. This is the administration’s way of acknowledging that they see and hear the frustration of the masses and will extend a hand with some assistance to the responsible ninety percent.

The very capable and intelligent Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development believes that by doing all these things they will be able to stop most of the out of control foreclosure, stop property value from depreciating while simultaneously increasing property value across the nation by approximately $6,000.  This would be great since we’ve only seen housing prices decline these past two year.  Yeah for some growth!

President Obama still has to get some of these vital proposals through Congress. Republicans and financial service lobbyists has already declared a ferocious opposition to the proposal to change the bankruptcy law that would allow judges to modify distressed homeowners’ mortgages.

Now is not the time for selfishness – think of your fellow citizens in places like Nevada, Florida and California where foreclosures have reached a critical mass. In these and other states foreclosed properties are driving down the value of homes in communities, property taxes are not being paid, streets are not be cleaned, garbage not being picked up and teachers, police and fire men are being laid off.

It is predicted that if something isn’t done now, there could be as much as 8 million foreclosures over the next four years.

Americans are ready to move forward and start the healing of America.  Since President Obama announced his plan on Wednesday, mortgage lenders have already reported a dramatic increase in the number of calls from homeowners who want to refinance. LendingTree.com has said that refinancing volume shot up 88 percent over the previous week because of Obama’s plan.

The plan may not be perfect but it is a step in the right direction and will stop the foreclosure roller coaster and help credit to start flowing again.

What’s good for the people is usually not good for politics.  Let us do what’s good for the people and get beyond party politics, principles and philosophies so we can get stability in our financial markets. WE need stability, stability and more stability now.  Let us think more about WE as a nation and less of ME as an individual as WE go through this time of national crisis.

America is still the greatest country in the world, let’s work together and keep it that way!

 

January 30, 2009

Senate Passes (S-CHIP) Health Insurance Bill for Children

Yeah – finally a government by the people for the people!!!

Yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to provide health insurance to 11 million low-income children — a bill that will for the first time spend federal money to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants.

During the presidential campaign, then Senator Obama pledged to provide coverage to every American child.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which is aimed at families earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance, currently covers close to 7 million youngsters at a cost of $25 billion.

Lawmakers voted 66 to 32, largely along party lines, to renew the joint state-federal program and spend an additional $32.8 billion to expand coverage to 4 million more children. The expansion would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax from 39 cents to $1 a pack.

President Obama is expected to sign a final version as early as next week.

Democratic lawmakers, noting that President George W. Bush twice vetoed similar legislation, praised the vote as evidence of the changing Washington landscape.

“Low-income, uninsured kids all across America have been waiting for Congress to fulfill the promise of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for them,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.). The program “works to get low-income, uninsured kids the doctor’s visits and medicines they need to stay healthy, and approval of this bill opens the door of the doctor’s office to millions of children who live without proper health care today.”

Governors, business executives and consumer advocates lobbied for the expansion, arguing that more and more families have sought the assistance in this weakened economy.

“During this economic turmoil, it is critical that we maintain and strengthen this important lifeline to our nation’s children and that we help financially strapped states respond to the growing need for affordable health-care coverage,” said Cindy Mann, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, agreed that “we’re not seeing bipartisanship” but said she is optimistic that the public’s overwhelming desire for improvement in the health system will force the two parties to the bargaining table. “People are talking about how to do it as opposed to whether to do it,” she said.

January 22, 2009

Inauguration Pictures: Congratulations America and POTUS # 44!

 Being in Washington, DC during the Inauguration weekend was especially special.  The depth and breath of the experience cannot be described by words – it’s a sensation that flows through the mind and body and yes Chris Mathews – I felt a tingle down my leg!

Without a doubt President Barack Obama was the ONLY star in town – no one else mattered much.  Just seeing his motorcade drive by was enough to cause men and women to go buckwild and faint right there in the streets.

The thing that touched me most was the togetherness, unity and reaching out to each other by all there.  There was no ‘incident’, no fuss, no fighting, no quarreling even as people accidently stepped on toes or elbowed you in the ribs.  People were polite, cheerful and helpful. 

If you fell someone was there to help you up.  Complete strangers greeted each other with warm embraces and greetings.  During this weekend in Washington race, age, religion or creed did not matter – they were simply forgotten.  There was a sense of unity that I have never experienced in any other setting – ever; and I have been in some loving settings.

The tone truly comes from the top and our President set the tone.  He said,  “out of many we are one” and we listened and we heard him loud and clear. We were one in DC!

A picture is worth a thousand words – here are are few thousand words!

inauguration-swearing-in-capitol-hillinauguration-the-crowdObama Inauguration

inauguration-the-reflecting-poolUS Obama Delawareinauguration-swearing-in-obamasinauguration-swearing-in-kissinauguration-swearing-in-malia-sasha-grandma-auntieObama Inaugurationinauguration-motorcycles-pa-avenueinauguration-obamas-walkObama Inauguration Home States BallObama Inauguration

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