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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bernice L. McFadden - Black writers in a ghetto of the publishing industry's making

Bernice L. McFadden - Black writers in a ghetto of the publishing industry's making

Kathryn Stockett's novel "The Help," published by a Penguin Books imprint, sold 1 million books within a year of publication. Her novel has gained accolades and awards, including the prestigious South African Boeke Prize. "The Help" is being adapted for the screen; at the helm of production is the Academy Award-winning director and producer Steven Spielberg.

Sue Monk Kidd's best-selling novel "The Secret Life of Bees," also published by Penguin Books, is another story set in the South with African American characters. Kidd's novel garnered similar fame, fortune and recognition.

Kathryn Stockett and Sue Monk Kidd are living the dream of thousands of authors, myself included. But they are not the first white women to pen stories of the black American South and be lauded for their efforts. In 1928, Julia Peterkin wrote a novel, "Scarlet Sister Mary," for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Stockett's and Kidd's novels tackle racism and celebrate the power of friendship and acceptance. Both novels were given beautiful covers that did not reveal the race of the characters. Both books were marketed to black and white audiences.

My debut novel, "Sugar," was also published by a Penguin imprint. Set in the 1950s South, the story line deals with racism and celebrates the power of friendship and acceptance. The original cover depicted a beautiful black woman standing behind a screen door. "Sugar" was marketed solely to African American readers. This type of marginalization has come to be known among African American writers as "seg-book-gation." This practice is not only demeaning but also financially crippling. When I looked into why works by African American writers were packaged and marketed so differently than those by their white counterparts, I did not have to search far for my answer.

Literature about the oppressed written by the oppressor has a long tradition. The trend can be traced all the way to colonialism -- a movement that was not only physical but textual, the evidence of which can be found in the diaries, letters and journals of colonists, settlers and plantation slave owners.

Representation of African Americans by white people in texts records a history of "inferiority." Based on these perceptions, African Americans have endured slavery, genocide, medical apartheid and segregation.

This "inferiority" is a tool fundamental to ethnic distancing in society. Today, this tool is used with great precision in the mainstream publishing industry. While, yes, the distancing may not be total -- meaning a few select African American authors have "crossed over" into the mainstream -- the work of many African Americans authors, myself included, has been lumped into one heap known as "African American literature." This suggests that our literature is singular and anomalous, not universal. It is as if we American authors who happen to be of African descent are not a people but a genre much like mystery, romance or thriller.

Walk through your local chain bookstore and you will not see sections tagged British Literature, White American Literature, Korean Literature, Pakistani Literature and so on. None of these ethnicities are singled out or objectified the way African American writers are.

And while, yes, a vast majority of all writers, regardless of skin color, are struggling to stay afloat, and there are more African American writers being published today than at any other time in history, one must still take note of exactly what is being published. More...

Sorting Myth and Reality in Climate Policy - Dot Earth Blog - NYTimes.com

Sorting Myth and Reality in Climate Policy - Dot Earth Blog - NYTimes.com

The Energy Collective is a valuable aggregator of views on one of the prime challenges of our time — how to provide the energy required to foster a smooth path beyond “ peak us” while cutting the risks of economic turmoil, resource conflicts or disruptive climate change. In a fresh post, Darrene Hackler summarizes conclusions from a new report she wrote with Robert D. Atkinson (they both hail from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit research group) that rebuts 10 prominent strategies for avoiding dangerous human-driven climate change. More...
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This is an interesting read. It provides a thoughtful, politically achievable approach, to how the U.S. can move towards address the climate control problem.

John H. Armwood

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Civil rights organizations question nominee Elena Kagan's record on race

Civil rights organizations question nominee Elena Kagan's record on race

On the eve of Elena Kagan's Senate confirmation hearings, her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.

Their reservations have introduced the first substantive division among liberals in what has otherwise been a low-key partisan debate over Kagan's merits to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. The uncertainty among some on the left is particularly striking, given that she was nominated by the nation's first black president.

Decades after the height of the civil rights movement, questions involving race and ethnicity persist as a recurrent theme before the Supreme Court, and attitudes on those issues remain a significant prism through which nominees are evaluated by those on the left and the right.

The National Bar Association, the main organization of black lawyers, has refrained from endorsing Kagan, giving her a lukewarm rating. The group's president, Mavis T. Thompson, said it "had some qualms" about Kagan's statements on crack-cocaine sentencing and what it regards as her inadequate emphasis while dean at Harvard Law School on diversifying the school along racial and ethnic lines. Others have expressed reservations about Kagan's views on affirmative action, racial profiling and immigration.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Obama still pressing immigration - Scott Wong - POLITICO.com

Obama still pressing immigration - Scott Wong - POLITICO.com

Even with Washington distracted by the oil spill, a change in generals in Afghanistan and a Supreme Court nomination, President Barack Obama and his congressional allies are stoking the immigration debate, ignoring signals that the issue is dead for the year.

Key Hispanic lawmakers such as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) have already concluded there isn’t the political will in Congress to tackle immigration legislation, and centrist Democrats want nothing to do with the issue — beyond pushing border security — in an election year.

So why is the president inviting activists, Hispanic lawmakers and other immigration experts to the White House on back-to-back days?

According to those involved in the meetings, the discussions are not about legislation but about keeping the politics of immigration simmering for a key part of the Democratic base. More...



Justices Say Gun Rights Apply Locally - NYTimes.com

Justices Say Gun Rights Apply Locally - NYTimes.com


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution's Second Amendment restrains government's ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights.

By a narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices signaled, however, that less severe restrictions could survive legal challenges.

Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states."

The court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority.

Two years ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home.

That ruling applied only to federal laws. It struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement for other guns in the District of Columbia, a federal city with a unique legal standing. At the same time, the court was careful not to cast doubt on other regulations of firearms here.

Gun rights proponents almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging gun control laws in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill, where handguns have been banned for nearly 30 years. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence says those laws appear to be the last two remaining outright bans.

Lower federal courts upheld the two laws, noting that judges on those benches were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that it would be up to the high court justices to ultimately rule on the true reach of the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court already has said that most of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights serve as a check on state and local, as well as federal, laws.

Monday's decision did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall.

Still, Alito noted that the declaration that the Second Amendment is fully binding on states and cities "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values." More...
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The United States is the only advanced democracy that allows its citizens such an easy and open access to firearms. If you travel or live overseas residents of other countries always raise the gun American gun possession issue coupled with questions about gun violence in the USA. While living in Korea, for over two years countless students told me that they feared coming to the United States, because of its reputation for gun violence.

My, wife, an immigrant from Malaysia, is very puzzled by what she considers American's ridiculous gun laws. "To much freedom", she always says. She has a point. Gun ownership is not necessarily the problem, but the widespread, availability of guns and the extraordinary level of gun possession in the U.S. is a problem. States and localities should have the right to regulate and restrict the ownership and possession of guns. It is a question of both public safety and public health. Handguns in particular are designed for one purpose, killing people. This is an obvious reality. It is easier in some states to buy a handgun than obtain a drivers license. This does not make sense. We tolerate an extraordinary level of gun violence in America. The current, conservative Supreme Court's overly broad reading of the Constitution's Second Amendment is a direct threat to American public health. The Second Amendment clearly stated that the purpose of its embedded right of gun ownership was to allow the states to have well regulated state militias.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"

That need for private citizens to carry weapons for the purpose of using them in their state miltia has long passed. The states now provide the arms for its militias (The State National Guard). It's time tor recognize this reality.

John H. Armwood

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - War, Timeout, War, Time ... - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - War, Timeout, War, Time ... - NYTimes.com

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Throughout most of their conflict, Arab and Israeli leaders have tended to oscillate between two, and only two, worldviews: I am weak; how can I compromise? I am strong; why should I compromise? Israel today is very much in the second mode.

For Israel, these are the best of times and the worst of times. Globally, the campaign to de-legitimize Israel has never been more virulent, while locally the beaches and restaurants of Tel Aviv have never been more crowded — as suicide-bombing and rockets from Gaza and Lebanon seem like a distant memory.

In noting this contrast, Ari Shavit, a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, reported that the number of Israeli millionaires “soared by 43 percent between 2008 and 2009, with 2,519 new ones joining the 5,900 we already had, for a total of 8,419 Israeli millionaires. ... Never has life been so good here for so wealthy an elite, as the country is poised at the brink of the abyss.”

Israel’s newfound sense of security, though, was bought at a very high price — and it is not a steady state. More...

Friday, June 25, 2010

News Analysis - The President Reasserts His Authority - NYTimes.com

News Analysis - The President Reasserts His Authority - NYTimes.com

After two months in which an oil gusher seemed to underscore the limits of his powers, President Obama spent the last week trying to reassert control over a triumvirate of forces that almost always test a new president’s authority: the military, the markets and the lobbyists.

Mr. Obama’s much-needed victories, nearly a year and a half into a presidency that was saddled from the start by two wars and a terrifying financial plunge, may not prove to be lasting.

His firing of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal for what appeared to be an attitude of disrespect and disdain for the civilian chain of command does not make success in Afghanistan any more likely. The financial regulatory bill that was agreed upon in Congress on Friday reverses two decades of increasingly blind faith in the ability of financial markets to regulate themselves, but few think it will stop Wall Street’s constant effort to route around Washington in pursuit of profits.

Still, add those together with the use of raw presidential power to force BP to set up a $20 billion fund for victims of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the conclusion is unmistakable. George Bush and Dick Cheney may have left the White House, but the argument for an extraordinarily strong executive lives on.

“This is a clear respite from the theme that Obama had lost control,” said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official who wrote the definitive history of the National Security Council, the organization American presidents have used for 60 years to assert authority around the country and the world. “He sent a loud and clear message to the generals about who is in charge. And he has engineered a pivot-point in U.S. economic history, an end, or at least a big change, to the ‘leave it to the markets’ era.” More...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - What’s Second Prize? - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - What’s Second Prize? - NYTimes.com

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s trashing of his civilian colleagues was unprofessional and may cost him his job. If so, it will be a sad end to a fine career. But no general is indispensable. What is indispensable is that when taking America surging deeper into war in Afghanistan, President Obama has to be able to answer the most simple questions at a gut level: Do our interests merit such an escalation and do I have the allies to achieve victory? President Obama never had good answers for these questions, but he went ahead anyway. The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it — or had the courage to pull the plug. That is not a sufficient reason to take the country deeper into war in the most inhospitable terrain in the world. You know you’re in trouble when you’re in a war in which the only party whose objectives are clear, whose rhetoric is consistent and whose will to fight never seems to diminish is your enemy: the Taliban. More...
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McChrystal's firing is precipitating a reevaluation of America's mission in Afganistan. Why are we there? What are our objectives? Are our objectives realistic? The president has promised to begin our withdrawal next year but the war, the longest in America's history, is not going well. Remember what happened to the Soviet Union in Afganistan. We do not want their fate to be ours. We need to take this opportunity to pause and take a clear headed second look at our Afganistan policy.

John H. Armwood

George F. Will - McChrystal had to go

George F. Will - McChrystal had to go

In 1932, during a lunch in Albany with Rexford Tugwell, an adviser, New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt paused to take a telephone call from Louisiana Gov. Huey Long. When the call ended, FDR referred to Long as the second-most dangerous man in America. Who, Tugwell asked, is the most dangerous? FDR answered: Douglas MacArthur.

As Army chief of staff, MacArthur had just flamboyantly conducted the violent dispersal of the bedraggled "bonus army" in Washington. Nearly 19 years later, he was to become most dangerous to himself, as another commanding general has now done. But Stanley McChrystal is no MacArthur.

MacArthur had some of the genius and much of the egomania of a former artillery captain, Napoleon. This made MacArthur insubordinate and got him cashiered by a former artillery captain, Harry Truman. Although McChrystal is a fine soldier who rendered especially distinguished service in Iraq, there is no reason to ascribe to him either egomania or insubordination. He did, however, emphatically disqualify himself from further military service and particularly from service in Afghanistan. There the military's purely military tasks are secondary to the political and social tasks for which the military is ill-suited, and for which McChrystal is garishly so. More...
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Even the dean of conservative columnists, George Will, who normally is very critical of President Obama agrees that McChrystal had to go.

John H. Armwood

Gates and Mullen Disappointed With McChrystal - NYTimes.com

Gates and Mullen Disappointed With McChrystal - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, who had sponsored Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan, expressed profound disappointment in his judgment Thursday — tempered with thanks for his years in combat — after he was fired from the post. The dismissal followed publication of a profile of the four-star general in Rolling Stone that quoted him and his aides disparaging other officials.

“Honestly, when I first read it, I was nearly sick,” said Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Gates said he wholly supported the decision by President Obama to retire General McChrystal, who had helped design the administration’s risky and expensive strategy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and was in charge of implementing it......


For his part, Admiral Mullen spoke of the pre-eminence of civilian control of the military.

“We do not have the right, nor should we ever assume the prerogative, to cast doubt upon the ability or mock the motives of our civilian leaders, elected or appointed,” Admiral Mullen said. “We are and must remain a neutral instrument of the state, accountable to and respectful of those leaders, no matter which party holds sway or which person holds a given office.”    More...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Predicting an end to Roe v. Wade - POLITICO.com Print View

Predicting an end to Roe v. Wade - POLITICO.com Print View

Former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger predicted Tuesday night that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision that gives women abortion rights.

The noted liberal scholar said the 1973 decision has become a “trophy” that the court’s conservative bloc could overturn if a Republican president chooses a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“I absolutely believe it,” Dellinger said during a forum cosponsored by POLITICO.

“For a while I thought that one could simply chip away at a lot more and more regulations that sort of protected access (to abortions) for the most affluent women but really made it impossible for women who were vulnerable to geography, poverty (and) youth,” he added. “But now I think that, actually, it is such a symbol of a kind of jurisprudence that conservatives have set themselves in opposition to.”

Such a decision by the Supreme Court would pour barrels of gasoline onto the now smoldering fires of the never-ending culture war. More...

Op-Ed Columnist - What’s Second Prize? - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - What’s Second Prize? - NYTimes.com

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s trashing of his civilian colleagues was unprofessional and may cost him his job. If so, it will be a sad end to a fine career. But no general is indispensable. What is indispensable is that when taking America surging deeper into war in Afghanistan, President Obama has to be able to answer the most simple questions at a gut level: Do our interests merit such an escalation and do I have the allies to achieve victory? President Obama never had good answers for these questions, but he went ahead anyway. The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it — or had the courage to pull the plug. That is not a sufficient reason to take the country deeper into war in the most inhospitable terrain in the world. You know you’re in trouble when you’re in a war in which the only party whose objectives are clear, whose rhetoric is consistent and whose will to fight never seems to diminish is your enemy: the Taliban. More...

Editorial - President Obama and General McChrystal - NYTimes.com

Editorial - President Obama and General McChrystal - NYTimes.com

Until this week, Gen. Stanley McChrystal had a reputation for fierce self-discipline. That makes his hugely undisciplined comments in Rolling Stone magazine — including derisive quotes from his aides about Vice President Joseph Biden and other top officials — all the more puzzling and disturbing.

After reading the article, the first question that comes to mind: What could he possibly have been thinking? Followed closely by: Can, or should, President Obama trust him after this?

The news from Afghanistan is bad and getting worse. Back in Washington, the Obama team is still battling — months after the president committed another 30,000 troops — over how deeply to invest in the war.

Mr. Obama, who summoned General McChrystal to the White House on Wednesday, must either fire his top commander or send him immediately back into the field with a clear mandate to do his job. He must order all of his top advisers to stop their sniping and maneuvering and come up with a coherent political and military plan for driving back the Taliban and building a minimally effective Afghan government. More...

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Coup for the Cool One

By: Stanley Crouch

Battered by criticism of his calm nature, the president showed he can counterpunch when BP created a $20 billion escrow fund to deal with the impact of the Gulf oil spill.

Those who do not know boxing are always doubtful of a counter-puncher's skill--until they see him serve a resounding, high-classed, painful whipping. Negative comments about the counter-puncher are often generated if he does not huff and puff like someone's cartoon of a bad guy in professional wrestling. But after all of the criticism of President Barack Obama's first Oval Office speech, the president has shown he is perhaps the coolest political counter-puncher in many years.

We are all accustomed to seeing Obama accused of being too calm or refusing to act or talk as he should. They would be right if Obama had not brought all the executives from BP to the White House and given their hides a serious tanning. As all of his critics were harping on how the president's Oval Office speech had ground away public confidence in his ability to act, it was announced that BP had promised the cool one $20 billion in escrow for environmental damage and $100 million for the jobs lost or made impractical. More...


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Republican Study Committee (RSC) - The Caucus of House Conservatives

Republican Study Committee (RSC) - The Caucus of House Conservatives

Chicago-Style Political Shakedown

Washington, Jun 16 - Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) issued the following statement after the White House announced it had reached a deal with BP to require the oil company to place $20 billion into an escrow fund to pay claims filed against the company in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.

“We all agree that BP should be held fully responsible for its complicity in the oil tragedy in the Gulf,” said Chairman Price. “In fact, BP has already begun paying claims. Any attempt by the company to sidestep that responsibility should be met with the strongest legal recourses available. However, in an administration that appears not to respect fundamental American principles, it is important to note that there is no legal authority for the President to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account.

“BP’s reported willingness to go along with the White House’s new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics. These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration’s drive for greater power and control. It is the same mentality that believes an economic crisis or an environmental disaster is the best opportunity to pursue a failed liberal agenda. The American people know much better.” More...
As the press release quoted above shows Joe Barton's statement apologizing to BP is the official policy of the Republican Party. Barton's later statement back tracking from his initial statements was simply an attempt to limit the political damage caused by what he had said. Here is a video of his initial statement at the BP congressional hearing.



Both the Republican Study Committee statement and Representative Joe Barton's statements speak for themselves.

John H. Armwood

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Politico Sunday Show Previews

How Illegal Immigration Hurts Black America

How Illegal Immigration Hurts Black America

With national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it's just not true that undocumented workers are doing the jobs that we won't do. More...

Kagan emails show N.Y. state of mind - Josh Gerstein - POLITICO.com

Kagan emails show N.Y. state of mind - Josh Gerstein - POLITICO.com

Rummaging through four years of e-mails can offer a pretty good window into someone’s personality. In the case of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, emails from her time at the Clinton White House show not only her keen intellect and political acumen, but the New Yorker in her as well. She seemed to relish a good policy fight, had little patience for those who were unprepared for meetings, and took a jaundiced view of feel-good actions that weren’t likely to produce results. More...


Friday, June 18, 2010

Editorial - A Bad Day for BP and Mr. Barton - NYTimes.com

Editorial - A Bad Day for BP and Mr. Barton - NYTimes.com


It’s hard to imagine anyone having a worse day than Tony Hayward, BP’s embattled chief executive, who spent Thursday in the cross hairs of an angry Congressional committee and turned in a mind-bogglingly vapid performance. But he got a run for his money from Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, who inexplicably decided to call the escrow account agreed to by BP and the White House a “$20 billion shakedown.” More...
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Joe Barton was speaking to his home town constituency in oil rich Texas. While national Republicans were distancing themselves from Barton's remarks his home town constituency may not have been that upset. Tony Barton was forced by other Republicans to recant his earlier statements but truth be told he was expressing the sentiment he truly feels. His benefactors are Texas oil men. Barton is a politician like George Bush, and many other members of the previous presidents administration, who are joined at the hip with big oil. This is the reason that there has been so little oversight of the oil drilling industry. During the last presidential campaign the slogan was "drill baby drill". We are now living with the consequences of that "drill baby drill" philosophy. It's time to facedown the powerful oil industry lobby. President Obama's meeting with BP Chairman Hayward and Hayward's $20 billion dollar commitment of money to pay for damages was only the beginning.

John H. Armwood



News Analysis - Obama’s Twist of BP’s Arm Stirs Debate on Frequent Tactic - NYTimes.com

News Analysis - Obama’s Twist of BP’s Arm Stirs Debate on Frequent Tactic - NYTimes.com


WASHINGTON — First there was General Motors, whose chief executive was summarily dismissed by the White House shortly before the government became the company’s majority shareholder. Chrysler was forced into a merger. At the banks that received government bailouts, executive pay was curbed; at insurance companies seeking to jack up premiums, scathing criticism led to rollbacks.

But President Obama’s successful move to force BP to establish a $20 billion compensation fund that the company will have no voice in allocating — just a down payment, the president insisted — may have been the most vivid example of what he recently called his determination to step in and do “what individuals couldn’t do and corporations wouldn’t do.” More...
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I think President Obama should be receiving more credit than he has for standing up for the average American against the very powerful interests of big business.  In less than one and one half years in office he has stood up to the large Wall Street banks, the automobile titans GM and Chrysler, the health care industry and now BP.  What American president since Roosevelt has had such a strong record of supporting the common interest instead of caving in to corporate greed?  If the so called "Tea Bag Party" followers would look at the Obama record and not remain sidetracked by narrow-mindedness, bigotry and foggy headed thinking they might see that Obama's use of big government power actually has served their real interests.  Remember that statutorily BP is only obligated to pay of maximum of seventy-five million for damages caused by their oil spill.  Under pressure from the Obama administration they have committed to a minimum of twenty billion dollars.  Granted even more money will probably be required to make injured parties whole.  In spite of this fact Obama achieved a remarkable success this week.  America should take note.

John H. Armwood  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP Set's Aside 20 Billion Dollars


"The Tea Party" and Race


Chris Matthews Documentary "The Rise Of The New Right"


BP chief faces Congress - Jake Sherman - POLITICO.com

BP chief faces Congress - Jake Sherman - POLITICO.com

After almost 60 days of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and a critical White House meeting Wednesday, Tony Hayward, the embattled chief executive of BP, headed to Capitol Hill Thursday for what many expected to be a public flogging.

But instead he got an apology.

The first Republican to speak, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), turned the heat on the White House, calling the BP escrow fund for cleanup a “shakedown” and a “$20 billion slush fund.” More...








Editorial - BP Begins to Ante Up - NYTimes.com

Editorial - BP Begins to Ante Up - NYTimes.com

Given the size of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we suspect that $20 billion may not be enough to compensate all of the people whose lives and futures have been derailed by the spill. But it’s a good start.

It took days of very public pressure from President Obama and countless hours of private negotiations, but BP finally agreed on Wednesday to put $20 billion in an independently managed compensation fund. After meeting with the company’s top executives at the White House, Mr. Obama stressed that the amount is not a ceiling on BP’s obligations, which by some estimates could exceed $40 billion when the costs of cleaning the spill and restoring the gulf’s damaged ecosystem are also factored in.

“The people of the gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations,” the president declared, adding that the agreement would not pre-empt any claims in court. BP did not publicly address the issue of a cap, but its chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, did apologize “to the American people” and vowed to “look after the people affected” and “repair the damage to this region and the economy.”

There are a lot of reasons, of course, not to trust BP. More...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BP Agrees to Set Aside About $20 Billion for Spill Claims - NYTimes.com

BP Agrees to Set Aside About $20 Billion for Spill Claims - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The White House and BP tentatively agreed that the oil giant will create a $20 billion fund to pay claims for the worst oil spill in American history, to be independently run by the mediator who oversaw the 9/11 victims compensation fund, Kenneth Feinberg, according to two people familiar with the deliberations. More...


Anne Applebaum - The oil spill isn't Obama's Katrina

Anne Applebaum - The oil spill isn't Obama's Katrina

In the Gulf of Mexico, plumes of black oil are gushing into the ocean, coating the wings of seabirds, poisoning shellfish, sending tar balls rolling onto white Florida beaches. It is an ecological disaster. It is a economic nightmare. And there is absolutely nothing that the American president can do about it. Nothing at all.

Here is the hard truth: The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks. Even the combined wisdom of the Obama inner circle -- all of those Harvard economists, silver-tongued spin doctors and hardened politicos -- cannot prevent tens of thousands of tons of oil from pouring out of hole a mile beneath the ocean surface. Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe has nothing in common with Hurricane Katrina: That was an unstoppable natural disaster that turned into a human tragedy because of an inadequate government response. This is just an unstoppable disaster, period. It will be a human tragedy precisely because no government response is possible. More...

News Analysis - With Call to Arms, Obama Seeks to Shift Arc of Oil Crisis - NYTimes.com

News Analysis - With Call to Arms, Obama Seeks to Shift Arc of Oil Crisis - NYTimes.com

His enemies were oil industry lobbyists and corrupt regulators, foreign energy suppliers and conservative policy makers, and a stubborn gushing well at the bottom of the sea. And ultimately, he was fighting his own powerlessness, as a president castigated for failing to stop the nation’s worst-ever oil spill tried to turn disaster into opportunity.

While laying out his “battle plan” to break “this siege” from a spill “assaulting our shores,” the commander in chief hoped to pivot from defense to offense, using the still-unresolved crisis in the Gulf of Mexico to press for sweeping change in energy policy. Evoking the spirit and language of predecessors who used the same setting to send troops into harm’s way, Mr. Obama cast the effort to cap a well as part of the American determination to shape its own destiny.

“The one approach I will not accept is inaction,” Mr. Obama said from behind the presidential desk named Resolute with the traditional flags in the background. “The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet.” More...



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Editorial - From the Oval Office - NYTimes.com

Editorial - From the Oval Office - NYTimes.com

Americans have been anxiously waiting for President Obama to take full charge of the gulf oil catastrophe. He pledged to do that on Tuesday in his first address from the Oval Office, vowing to “fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes” and declaring that “we will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.”

Mr. Obama and his team will have to follow through — with more energy and dedication than they have shown so far.

We know that the country is eager for reassurance. We’re not sure the American people got it on Tuesday night in a speech that was short on specifics and lacking in self-criticism. Certainly, we hope that Mr. Obama was right when he predicted that in “coming days and weeks,” up to 90 percent of the oil leaking from the well will be captured and the well finally capped by this summer. But he was less than frank about his own administration’s faltering efforts so far to manage this vast environmental and human disaster. More...

Obama Speaks To The Nation

President Barak Obama spoke live to the nation tonight, from the oval office,  to address concerns which have arisen as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.   The president outlined steps which his administration has already taken to handle the disaster and  plans which his administration has put in place for the near future.   Early on in his approximately fifteen minute speech Obama assured the nation that B.P. would be held responsible for the costs of the damage resulting from the spill.   In his most forceful statement he said that B.P. would have to set aside a sum of money, managed by an independent third party, to pay out damages to injured parties.  There will be more to come as reaction to the speech pours in.

John H. Armwood

Barack Obama's credibility at stake over BP oil spill debt | Environment | The Guardian

Barack Obama's credibility at stake over BP oil spill debt | Environment | The Guardian



Barack Obama's credibility at stake over BP oil spill debt

Aides hope Oval Office address is turning point, allowing president to make case for new energy agenda
President Barack Obama oval office white house
Barack Obama will address the nation on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Photograph: The White House/Getty Images

Barack Obama is expected to use his first Oval Office address tonight to try to wrest control over the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf, and lay out the case for moving America to a new energy agenda.
The speech, delivered as the gusher in the Gulf approaches its two-month anniversary, is seen as critical to the credibility of Obama's presidency after claims that the White House has been slow to grasp the enormity of America's worst environmental disaster.
White House aides described it as an "inflection point". Hours earlier, Obama was wrapping up a two-day swing through Gulf states – his fourth visit to date – while on Capitol Hill executives from BP and other oil giants were subjected to a grilling on offshore oil drilling by a congressional committee. More..
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Setbacks Cloud U.S. Plans to Get Out of Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

Setbacks Cloud U.S. Plans to Get Out of Afghanistan - NYTimes.com


WASHINGTON — Six months after President Obama decided to send more forces to Afghanistan, the halting progress in the war has crystallized longstanding tensions within the government over the viability of his plan to turn around the country and begin pulling out by July 2011.

Within the administration, the troubles in clearing out the Taliban from a second-tier region and the elusive loyalties of the Afghan president have prompted anxious discussions about whether the policy can work on the timetable the president has set. Even before the recent setbacks, the military was highly skeptical of setting a date to start withdrawing, but Mr. Obama insisted on it as a way to bring to conclusion a war now in its ninth year.

For now, the White House has decided to wait until a review, already scheduled for December, to assess whether the target date can still work. But officials are emphasizing that the July 2011 withdrawal start will be based on conditions in the country, and that the president has yet to decide how quickly troops will be pulled out.

Even if some troops do begin coming home then, the officials said that it may be a small number at first. Given that he has tripled the overall force since taking office, Mr. Obama could still end his term with more forces in Afghanistan than when he began it. More...


Monday, June 14, 2010

Have you seen a green elephant? Palin's "drill, baby, drill" chant has corrupted the modern GOP

Have you seen a green elephant? Palin's "drill, baby, drill" chant has corrupted the modern GOP

Stanley Crouch

Monday, June 14th 2010, 4:00 AM
'Drill, baby, drill" is not a dying bird in the Gulf of Mexico, but it should be. Those three words have become the albatross audibly hanging around the neck of the Republican Party. It should stay there until the party faces the fact that it has to become more than an unquestioning shill for big business, particularly big oil. Those words should be an epitaph for the old way of doing business, or always saying what the masters of profit tell a politician to say.

Only a fast moving case of heavy Alzheimer's could make us forget all of those elephants chanting the albatross at the national convention last year. There is also ample footage of Sarah Palin (above), the shrewd, cynical and demented cheerleader bringing audiences into the happy state of froth in which those three words gushed out over and over.

Palin and her partner in a goo of intellectual slime, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, have joined Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News in the entertainment business of leading the public to believe that there is not now and has never been anything wrong with American business dealings, domestic or otherwise. More...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Long Road to Adulthood Is Growing Even Longer - NYTimes.com

Long Road to Adulthood Is Growing Even Longer - NYTimes.com

Baby boomers have long been considered the generation that did not want to grow up, perpetual adolescents even as they become eligible for Social Security. Now, a growing body of research shows that the real Peter Pans are not the boomers, but the generations that have followed. For many, by choice or circumstance, independence no longer begins at 21.

From the Obama administration’s new rule that allows children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance to the large increase in the number of women older than 35 who have become first-time mothers, social scientists say young adulthood has undergone a profound shift.

People between 20 and 34 are taking longer to finish their educations, establish themselves in careers, marry, have children and become financially independent, said Frank F. Furstenberg, who leads the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood, a team of scholars who have been studying this transformation.

“A new period of life is emerging in which young people are no longer adolescents but not yet adults,” Mr. Furstenberg said. More...

Friday, June 11, 2010

North Korean gulag survivor tells of years of hell

North Korean gulag survivor tells of years of hell

In her youth, Kim Young-soon was a dancer and a member of the North Korean elite who lived a life of calculated caution, surrounded by privilege and propaganda in Pyongyang. Then a high-school and college friend, the actress Sung Hye-rim, who lived in an apartment just above hers, became Kim Jong-il’s mistress and gave birth to his son. Desperate to keep the affair secret from his disapproving father, North Korea’s Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, the younger Kim had the security police arrest everyone who knew of his liaison. More...

Editorial - Marriage, a Basic Civil Right - NYTimes.com

Editorial - Marriage, a Basic Civil Right - NYTimes.com
After a nearly three-week trial in January, and a lengthy hiatus while lawyers fought over documents, closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.



No one expects the ruling from Judge Vaughn Walker in Federal District Court to be the last word. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, will have its say, and so, eventually, may the Supreme Court.
The testimony made abundantly clear that excluding same-sex couples from marriage exacts a grievous toll on gay people and their families. Domestic partnerships are a woefully inadequate substitute.
On the witness stand, the plaintiffs described the pain and stigma of having their relationships relegated by the state to a lesser category that fails to convey the love and commitment inherent in marriage. “My state is supposed to protect me. It’s not supposed to discriminate against me,” said Paul Katami, one of the plaintiffs. More...
________________________________________________________
Why should government be allowed to determine who gets married? When I was a young teenager blacks and whites could not marry due to state government restrictions in southern states. The Supreme Court in the case of "Loving Versus Virginia" outlawed this type of venal discrimination. Discrimination against gay marriage violates the spirit of the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" clause of the U.S. Constitution and the "right of privacy" found in the "Griswold vs. Connecticut" case.  Government should not be able to determine who is and who is not our family member. It's time we mind our own business and let others seek their own path to their own "pursuit of happiness" in their own way.


John H. Armwood




Thursday, June 10, 2010

Majority of Americans Still 'Believe' in Global Warming | LiveScience

Majority of Americans Still 'Believe' in Global Warming | LiveScience

Three out of four Americans believe our planet has been warming as the result of human activity, down from the 84 percent who said so in 2007, according to survey results released today.

"Several national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people," said Woods Institute Fellow Jon Krosnick, of Stanford University. "But our new survey shows just the opposite." More...

Can Obama 'control the narrative'? - POLITICO.com Print View

Can Obama 'control the narrative'? - POLITICO.com Print View

Washington, which churns out clichés as fast as any pro football broadcaster, is now obsessed with “control of the narrative.” In particular, the lack of such control by the Obama administration.

The narrative that President Barack Obama is expected to control is that of his presidency.

That wasn’t a problem for Josef Stalin. And Kim Jong-Il seems to handle it pretty effectively these days. But in a country with a free press and a vigorous political opposition, it’s impossible. That cliché should be retired, the way announcers have stopped saying “the name of the game is third and short.”

This is not to say that Obama has handled the public part of his job with the same skill he showed in his campaign. He hasn’t.

He lost momentum on health care and allowed lies to take hold because of his naive belief that, if he was patient, he could get Republican cooperation. On the oil spill, he hasn’t successfully connected the government he heads with the constituents, who are suffering.

But there are two huge fallacies in the idea that he somehow could control the narrative. The first is “control.” The second is “narrative.” More...
_________________________________________________
This is an excellent piece discussing the difficulty modern presidents face trying to control the narrative (the spin) over events like the Gulf oil spill which are essentially beyond their actual control. As I see it the president is America's chief operating officer. He is held responsible politically for whatever happens under his watch. Citizens looking to blame someone in a time of crisis will usually blame the president. No modern president I can think of, save Ronald Reagan, has been able to avoid political responsibility in a time of crisis.

Obama has had some bad luck in this particular disaster. His endorsement of limited offshore drilling after opposing it during his presidential campaign hasn't helped. Secondly, the know how to stop the spill and to clean up the oil left by the spill is possessed almost exclusively by the oil industry and oil industry insiders. There is very little the government can actually do without the leadership and expertise of B.P. Finally B.P. management has consistently minimized the extent and the impact of the spill in its public pronouncements. As a result the public is angry and they want immediate action. They see their president as somewhat ineffectual. As a result his job approval numbers have been dropping. This oil spill debacle reminds the public of George Bush's failure to adequately mobilize federal resources, in a timely matter, after the Katrina hurricane hit New Orleans. Obama is seen by many as continuing in that tradition irrespective of the actual lack of real government culpability in its handling of this crisis.

Obama's seemingly initial trust of B.P. oil executives efforts is consistant with his conciliatory governing style. While the public at large was feeling anger and frustration Obama projected coolness and a perceived gullibility when describing the efforts of B.P. to halt the spill. He has sense changed his rhetoric and tone. He has used increasing strident language stating that if he had the power he would have fired B.P's chairman. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and senate candidate Rand Paul Jr. have both criticized Obama's rhetoric as being to harsh on B.P. The president is in a no win situation. The final outcome of this catastrophe will go a long way in determining how much damage this has has done to Obama's political capital. If the oil spill damage to shoreline communities and industries is less than feared the damage may be minimal. If however the damage is extensive this catastrophe might dampen Obama's political viability, causing voters to question both his experience and leadership. Obama is riding on a B.P. tiger. He must hold on, remain presidential and use both the offices of the government and the bully pulpit to limit the physical and political externalities resulting from this crisis. He must convince the American people that he is in charge and that no one else could have handled the situation better than he. Mr. Obama has a lot of work ahead of him.

John H. Armwood

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Afghan president 'has lost faith in US ability to defeat Taliban' | World news | The Guardian

Afghanistan's former head of intelligence says President Hamid Karzai is increasingly looking to Pakistan to end insurgencyUS soldiers in Logar province, Afghanistan

US soldiers in Logar province, Afghanistan. Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters

President Hamid Karzai has lost faith in the US strategy in Afghanistan and is increasingly looking to Pakistan to end the insurgency, according to those close to Afghanistan's former head of intelligence services.
Amrullah Saleh, who resigned last weekend, believes the president lost confidence some time ago in the ability of Nato forces to defeat the Taliban. More...

Lie detectors: the truth and nothing but? | Jamie Horder | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Lie detectors: the truth and nothing but? | Jamie Horder | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Hi-tech 'lie detectors' have fascinated neuroscientists and the public alike for years, but whether they work is another matter More...

What happens when GPS systems cause car crashes. - By Tom Vanderbilt - Slate Magazine

What happens when GPS systems cause car crashes. - By Tom Vanderbilt - Slate Magazine

The GPS-assisted crash has become an occasional—and eyebrow-raising—staple of news coverage: Every few months, one hears about a driver faithfully obeying the "turn by turn" instructions of an in-car navigation system, only to find him- or herself in trouble when the actual traffic landscape fails to conform. In one high-profile case, a salesman in a rental car, instructed to make a turn, duly beached his car on a set of commuter train tracks, precipitating an expensive crash. In another episode, a stream of motorists in the United Kingdom—each relying on commands from GPS—were sent into a ford that had risen after heavy rains, noticing neither the water nor the signs warning that the road had been closed. (So much for swarm intelligence.) Drivers have been sent the wrong way on the German autobahn. In Westchester County, N.Y., a spate of trucks striking low-clearance bridges has been blamed on bad GPS information. (The devices failed to note that the roads in question were not truck routes.) And just last week, a teen driver who caused a four-car crash told police he had been "told to take a left" by his GPS. (Of course, he may simply have been trying to shift blame and attention away from his very spotty driving record.) More...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Helen Thomas, veteran reporter: why she had to resign | World news | The Guardian

Helen Thomas, veteran reporter: why she had to resign | World news | The Guardian

Her fierce questions shocked White House staff; Castro refused to answer her. And now veteran reporter Helen Thomas has had to quit. By Chris McGreal

HelenThomas
Helen Thomas listens during the White House daily briefing at the White House in 2008. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Fidel Castro was once asked to define the difference between democracy in Cuba and the United States. "I don't have to answer questions from Helen Thomas," the old revolutionary replied.

The grand dame of the White House press corps, who outlasted nine American presidential administrations – and Castro's rule – was finally forced to halt her determined, often opinion-laden questioning and into retirement this week over comments on the issue closest to her heart, the Middle East. More...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Interracial marriages at an all-time high, study says - CNN.com

Interracial marriages at an all-time high, study says - CNN.com
CNN) -- The first time Priya Merrill, who is Indian, brought her white boyfriend home for Thanksgiving in 2007, the dinner was uncomfortable and confusing. She still remembers her family asking if Andrew was the bartender or a family photographer. The couple married last August, and her Indian family has warmed up to her husband despite their racial differences. I think we get the best of both cultures," said Merrill, 27, of New York. She added, "Sometimes I just forget that we're interracial. I don't really think about it." Asian. White. Black. Hispanic. Do race and ethnicity matter when it comes to marriage? More...

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Editorial - Speaking Up to Stay Silent per Miranda Rights - NYTimes.com

Editorial - Speaking Up to Stay Silent per Miranda Rights - NYTimes.com

The Miranda warnings remind suspects of their right to remain silent but were never particularly clear on what happens when a suspect actually stays silent. Can the police question the suspect? If so, can they do they so for just a few minutes or as long as they want?

A five-justice majority on the Supreme Court addressed the issue in an opinion on Tuesday, but it did not provide much clarity. This was not a burning issue crying out for the court’s attention, and the justices left so many crucial questions unanswered that it is hard to see how they protected the rights of suspects who do not read complex court decisions. More...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Op-Ed Contributor - Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Contributor - Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea - NYTimes.com

ARAD, Israel

FOR 2,000 years, the Jews knew the force of force only in the form of lashes to our own backs. For several decades now, we have been able to wield force ourselves — and this power has, again and again, intoxicated us.

In the period before Israel was founded, a large portion of the Jewish population in Palestine, especially members of the extremely nationalist Irgun group, thought that military force could be used to achieve any goal, to drive the British out of the country, and to repel the Arabs who opposed the creation of our state.

Luckily, during Israel’s early years, prime ministers like David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol knew very well that force has its limits and were careful to use it only as a last resort. But ever since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been fixated on military force. To a man with a big hammer, says the proverb, every problem looks like a nail. More...


Robert Reich: Why Obama Should Put BP Under Temporary Receivership

Robert Reich: Why Obama Should Put BP Under Temporary Receivership

It's time for the federal government to put BP under temporary receivership, which gives the government authority to take over BP's operations in the Gulf of Mexico until the gusher is stopped. This is the only way the public will know what's going on, be confident enough resources are being put to stopping the gusher, ensure BP's strategy is correct, know the government has enough clout to force BP to use a different one if necessary, and be sure the president is ultimately in charge.

If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP's north American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

The Obama administration keeps saying BP is in charge because BP has the equipment and expertise necessary to do what's necessary. But under temporary receivership, BP would continue to have the equipment and expertise. The only difference: the firm would unambiguously be working in the public's interest. As it is now, BP continues to be responsible primarily to its shareholders, not to the American public. As a result, the public continues to worry that a private for-profit corporation is responsible for stopping a public tragedy. More...