Archive for the ‘Obama’ category

Feelings On Inauguration Day

January 21, 2013
When I Hear Patriotic Songs Jazzed Up (No Offense Intended)

When I Hear Patriotic Songs Jazzed Up (No Offense Intended)

First, I want to say that I’ve never heard an “artistic” rendering of a patriotic song that I did not detest.  I mention this with no particular animus towards James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, or Beyonce –none of whom I actually listened to during the inauguration.  (The minute someone starts singing a jazzed-up, drawn-out, wailed, yodeled, syncopated, or otherwise individualized version of any of My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, God Bless America, or the Star Spangled Banner, I find I have to either mute the sound, or jump out the window.  Oh why oh why oh why can’t someone just sing one of these beautiful songs as written?)

Second, I confess.  I do not love Michelle’s bangs.  I love her  – and I do understand the urge of someone turning 49 to look like a retro teenager– (I’ll even go so far as to agree with the President – sure they look great – she always looks great.)  But.. (there’s so much hair it’s a bit hard to see her face.)  But enough said!  It’s fine to try something new!

And I did. in an earlier verion of this post, feel that poet Richard Blanco and the minister doing the final invocation could have cut their remarks a little in light of the cold, and the length of the ceremony and the large magniciation — but I know they were doing a great and wonderfully inclusive job.

So  putting the irritation and pettiness aside, what do I feel?



(Okay, okay–and I thought the President’s speech pretty great.)

(P.S. sorry to seem so curmudgeonly.  I wrote this last night, late, after a fair amount of traveling.)

Thinking About Election In Relationship To the Troops

October 7, 2012


I don’t like to make this blog overtly political.  I am always concerned that my words will have more power to alienate than to persuade.

But one issue feels important enough to me today to take the risk of speaking out; this relates to the effect of the upcoming election upon the lives of our servicemen and women.

Here’s my concern  – current Republican candidates are very keen on heightening military spending, but they seem to focus on spending on the “military” as a machine – an amorphous weapons complex – rather than upon the men and women who actually make up  the armed forces.

Although the GOP has touted itself as the party of the military in this past, this election feels quite different. Romney rarely mentions servicemen and women, not even to give a token mumble of gratitude.  In the meantime, Republicans in the Senate recently killed a bill that would have promoted jobs for veterans as policemen, fire fighters and in the national parks.

Sure, there are politicians in both parties who ducked military service and who have also kept their sons and daughters out of service.  (Joe Biden, whose son has served in Iraq, is a notable exception.)

But Romney seems particularly detached from military service.  There’s a pretty well-known video on youtube in which Romney is confronted by a gay Vietnam veteran.  What is especially striking to me about the video is Romney’s initial greeting to the man (who is the same age) in which Romney implies some equation between his own year of service to his church (in France) with the man’s service in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but a year in France, even doing the undoubtedly unpopular work of trying to convert Frenchmen to Mormonism, does not compare with service in the Vietnam War.  (Military service is not like income tax; reducible by a decision to tithe to your church.)

Romney’s closeness to Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish prime minister of Israel, and Romney and Ryan’s tough talk on Iran, makes this detachment from the actual men and women who serve particularly worrisome.  Our troops should not be pawns in a global strategy game; especially one in which decisions affecting their fate seem so explicitly linked to the decisions of politicians in other nations.

Obama looks tired.  His hair has significantly greyed in the last four years.  Perhaps I’m naive (and those of you who disagree with me will say that I am.)  But I can’t help feeling that some of this aging directly arises from an intense consciousness of his responsibilities as commander in chief.  Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have made the families of servicemen and women their particular cause.  Obama also seems to have taken an active interest in the personal aspects of military affairs = going to Dover to meet returning coffins and repeatedly sharing condolences with families of the fallen.

Is it possible that Obama’s views are affected by the fact that so many in military service are people of color, people who do not have substantial financial means?

I don’t know.   (I don’t even want to get in the subject of a draft here.)

Has Obama handled military matters perfectly?  No.  (The question of why we are in Afghanistan even through 2014 is immensely troubling.)

But for all of that, I am convinced  that Obama feels deeply and personally his responsibility for these young men and women.  They are not alien beings to him, part of the 47% (who do not pay income tax) or even part of the 1% (the very small number who serve.)  This awareness seems to be me to be supremely important in a commander-in-chief.

Why I Cannot Vote For the GOP (For Lilly Ledbetter) – Flash Friday 55

September 7, 2012

Lilly Ledbetter – “It’s About Equality” (From The Washington Post)

Why I Cannot Vote For the GOP (For Lilly Ledbetter)

When I was three-months, my mother started teaching in a county where women with children under one year automatically received reduced pay.  Meaning that new mothers got even less pay than regular women (much less men).

In her/my first year, my mother mentioned me to no one, pretended I didn’t exist.

I exist.


The above (without title) happens to be 55 words (and a lot of suffering) so tell it to Galen, the terrific G-Man.  Lilly Ledbetter is a woman from Alabama who discovered after two decades of employment as a manager with a tire company that she was being paid less than male employees holding the same job.  She brought legal action to recover her lost pay.  After a ten year battle, the Supreme Court told her that her claims were time-barred because she should have sued her employee within six months of the initial pay discrimination (although she did not know of it for two decades.)  The first bill signed into law by President Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which allowed a new statute of limitations to begin with each discriminatory pay check.


I am posting Lilly Ledbetter’s speech at the DNC below.  I found it very moving, as a woman, and also knowing my mother’s (and my) story. 



December 5, 2011- “Double Check” – From Zuccotti Park to White House Press Room

December 5, 2011


I got back to NYC last night after a couple of weeks away, and took my normal trek by Zuccotti Park this morning.  Lo and behold, there was a Christmas tree and lights.  Very pretty, though the Christmas spirit does seem a bit hemmed in by the layers of metal barricades.

As noted in prior posts, as a downtown resident, I did have some understanding of the City’s issue with all the tents.  That said, in the spirit of both the holiday, and also perhaps the 99%, I urge all to read about or watch President Obama’s comments at today’s White House press briefing on the continuation of (i) cuts in payroll tax and (ii) unemployment benefits, both of which are due to expire at the end of this year.

Here are some salient points from the video transcript:

(Re extending payroll tax cuts.)

“Last week virtually every Senate Republican voted against that tax cut. Now, I know many Republicans have sworn an oath never to raise taxes as long as they live. How could it be the only time there’s a catch is when it comes to raising taxes on middle class families? How can you fight tooth and nail to protect high-end tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and yet barely lift a finger to prevent taxes going up for 160 million Americans who really need the help? It doesn’t make sense….

(Re paying for the continued payroll tax cuts.)

“Now, some Republicans who have pushed back against the idea of extending this payroll tax cut have said that we’ve got to pay for these tax cuts.  And i just point out that they haven’t always felt that way. Over the last decade they didn’t feel the need to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which is one of the reasons we face such large deficits. Indeed when the Republicans took over the house at the beginning of this year they explicitly changed the rules saying tax cuts don’t have to be paid for. So forgive me a little bit of confusion when I hear folks insisting on tax cuts being paid for. Having said that, we all recognize that we have to make progress on the deficit, and I’m willing to work with Republicans to extend the payroll tax cut in a responsible way.”

And now one further point from me, ManicDdaily, about both the payroll tax cuts and the unemployment benefits. Doesn’t job creation have something to do with demand?  And doesn’t demand result, at some level, from putting money in the pockets of hundreds of millions of people who actually need to spend much of that money?  Don’t these consumers also create jobs?

Just some thoughts (though I must confess that I never much liked economics.)

P.S.  The above sculpture is “Double Check” by J. Seward Johnson.

Speaking of Politics, Dominos, Obama’s Jobs Speech

September 8, 2011


As followers of this blog undoubtedly know, I am a fan of President Obama.

As I write that, a part of me takes a very deep breath. That’s the part of me that feels quite fearful in these divisive and partisan times to go public with any political allegiance. (Could it cost me something? Job? Friends? Readers? Respect?)

So why post it then? Why take a chance with a stance?

We live, as the Chinese would say, in “interesting times.” All times are probably interesting to those who live in them, but we live in ours and they feel particularly fraught with confusion, division, incipient risk.

While these interesting times have many aspects that are far beyond on our control, we are amazingly quick to cede control where we do have it. Many people just don’t pay attention, don’t read, don’t vote. Many feel like politics are a lost cause, that there is no difference between parties or candidates, and, shrugging dismissively, just don’t bother.

I may be naive, but I feel like there are differences and that it’s important to try to figure these differences out, and finally, to speak out about them. The speaking out is not intended to increase the divisions in the society, or even, necessarily, to persuade (although that would be nice), but really to humanize the point of view.

If I speak out, it lets others see one more example of someone that holds a certain view, one more possibility in a bigger group. Each individual that speaks out makes a viewpoint harder to dismiss. I suppose it’s a bit like being a domino in a row, except in this case, one is a human domino, with particular warts and eccentricities and style of grin and a human domino is a bit hard to flick away with a finger.

The long and short of all this is that I was impressed by Obama’s job speech, thought it set forth a viable plan in a clear and passionate manner, and is worthy of support.

Frustration With Political Animation (Or lack thereof). Obama Ages In Office.

August 2, 2011

Below is an animation that I spent a long time trying to make this evening.  It really didn’t work out as intended, but since frustration on all sides seems part of the tone of the day, it seemed fitting to post anyway.

It is probably not such a good idea to make political cartoons when you are truly not a political person!   (Yes, I am very sympathetic to the President.  But I try to be sympathetic to individuals on many sides of the political spectrum.)

But I was especially struck today by how much the presidency has aged Obama (as it seems to age every president).  This week seems to have aged him particularly.

The funny looking Aladdin’s lamp in the video is supposed to be a tea pot, symbolizing you know what.

In the version that is easier to see, Obama’s hair color changes from black to a light grey.  Here I’m afraid that doesn’t really work.  What can I say–I’m learning.  So, I guess, are we all.

Debt Ceiling/Noveling

July 31, 2011


The above is not a political elephant but the logo for my little publishing company called BackStroke Books.

In the midst of the debt ceiling debate, I am finally finally getting my new novel done (the next project of BackStroke Books!) I say new novel–it, like the “resolution” of the debt ceiling debate, is something that has taken far too long to finish.

On the subject of the debt ceiling (how’s that for a segue?): the Left is mad at Obama–for not asserting “leadership,” for not somehow mandating higher taxes on the rich, for agreeing to cuts in social services and entitlements, for agreeing to cuts in government spending during a time of economic crisis. But what I wonder, listening to it all, has the Left expected Obama to do?

The guy (i) doesn’t have the votes to get the deal he might want; and (ii) is already viewed as Trotsky by an alarmingly large part of the population. He’s talked about fairness, obstructionism, the economy, on and on and on. He simply cannot do what a Bill Clinton might have done–mainly, I think, because Clinton was viewed as someone, no matter what he said, with a soft spot for the rich, while Obama, no matter what HE says, is forever suspected of forcing the sharing “Joe the Plumber’s” wealth.

In the meantime, many on the Right have become completely intractable. For some, the attack on the debt seems truly an attack on government in general, the perceived interference of minimum wage laws, food and drug regulation, the separation of church and state, (God forbid) environmental protection….

Writing a young adult comic novel seems kind of trivial in these circumstances. Although there seem to be plenty of non-adults around in politics, the comic part seems to sometimes veer towards tragedy.

And now for the denouement.

Trying To Raise The Debt Ceiling

July 22, 2011


Hurray For Michelle (Obama Not Bachmann) – Tweets on the T–t!

February 18, 2011

Hurrah for Michelle Obama coming out in favor of breastfeeding.    (See the New York Times article about Mrs. Obama’s promotion of breast feeding as part of her program against childhood obesity.

Boo to Michelle Bachmann (who breastfed all of her children) and who has now criticized Mrs. Obama as promoting a “hard left” position of governmental control.  Please note Mrs. Bachmann that the government is not paying for breast pumps but offering tax deductions for these costs if tax payers itemize their deductions.  (My understanding is that this means that the breast pumps would be treated like other health-related or work-related expenses.)

Boo to Sarah Palin who just said in Woodbury, New York that “nobody is more qualified to multitasking and doing all the things that you need to do as president than a woman, a mom.”

What is more synonymous of multi-tasking and being a mom than breast-feeding?   Seriously–it is a lot easier to nurse and tweet than heat up formula, clean and wash a bottle, and tweet.

More and more evidence of the incredible range of benefits of breastfeeding for both child and mother comes to light each day.  Of course, not all women are able to breastfeed; but many many more women choose not to breastfeed, or not to persevere in breastfeeding, due to lack of accurate information about its benefits and all kinds of thoughtless cultural prejudices.  Hurrah for Michelle (Obama) for bravely using her bully pulpit to counteract these prejudices;  boo to Bachmann and Palin for their infantile hypocrisy.

A Gnashing of Teeth (State of the Union)

January 26, 2011

Obama must really frustrate the GOP.   For months, some have painted him as an anti-American (as well as non-American) totalitarian mastermind determined on jamming things down America’s throat in order to bring her to her knees.   (Stephen Colbert had a wonderful rif on this after Obama’s speech in Tucson accusing Obama of causing him to be moved by Hitler.)

Obama’s inherent “otherness” has contributed to this caricature:  his mixed race, his articulate and complex intelligence, his Hawaiian birth, his school experiences overseas, even his bony physique are atypical of U.S. politics (and not exactly “Reaganesque”.)   On top of this, his intense decorum, which sometimes translates into a kind of aloofness, have kept him from directly responding to the kind of crazy character-assassination that has dogged him through the last election cycle.

But he has taken the national stage at some very charged moments recently-from pushing through compromises at the lame duck session, to the Tucson Memorial, to last night’s State of the Union–and unmistakeably (and on television) shown himself to be compassionate in ways that are tied to religious as well as moral precept, and to be open, thoughtful, serious, pro-progress, and notably unvengeful, petty, or throat-jamming.

One imagines a great gnashing of teeth (some of them tea-stained.)

PS – Although, at first, I found it a little disconcerting, I was happy for the absence of endless applause lines in the speech.  Also, I was very glad that O. left out the traditional phrase  = “the state of the union is strong.”  Yes, I want it to be strong, but I’ve always found this phrase to be somehow, well, childish, as if the president were playing doctor.

PPS – don’t forget to check out “Going on Somewhere” by Karin Gustafson, Diana Barco, and Jason Martin on Amazon!   (The state of its poetry is strong!)