Will Obama’s Lack Of Fortitude Seal His Lame Duck 1-Term Presidency?

I’ve just read your Op-Ed in the New York Times. Barack, Barack, Barack. I had so much hope for serious change. The demographic of the NYT tends to not include those without internet access, lower incomes and less education – the ones who really need the health care plan passed. So who were you trying to reach? Honestly you were the best to emerge from the Democratic candidate pool last year, but November 4th seems like a million years ago. I’ve personally waited for you to fully utilize the power you tapped into but unlike many others I don’t think you need to be given more time. You act like an insecure person unsure that they belong but you WON the election. That piece makes you look like a beggar at your own ball. It’s time to act Presidential. It’s time to crack some skulls and whip people into shape. You’ve taken this whole Knights of the Enemy Roundtable thing too far.

One year ago at the Netroots Nation conference in Austin, Texas the mood of the crowd was one of excitement and elation over the possibility of a Barack Obama presidency. (I concur I was there and the mood was full of promise.)

A year later, with that possibility achieved, a sense of cynicism has begun to creep in. On Saturday morning, one of the president’s closest advisers, Valerie Jarrett addressed the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh. And while attendees were largely supportive throughout the question and answer session, the reception was warm at best. The defining moment, in fact, came when Jarrett was hissed and heckled.
You’ve always been slow to react, slow to respond in kind to attacks and have so far gotten lucky breaks that didn’t derail your entire initiative. It has not gone unnoticed that you opened your mouth to defend Skippy Gates of all people but have been silent on every single attack against your wife. I don’t like that! Yeah…we get it you’re a lover not a fighter. You want everyone to just get along. You think you can appease enemies with trinkets and shiny objects or worse – giving away the store!

So now that this health care plan is teetering on the verge of annihilation by politicians who are DEMOCRATS (in name only) and will be so gutted as to be useless what are your back up plans for this country? This is just a taste of what the rest of your term will be like. Scraping by the skin of your teeth is not displaying leadership. Forget your back up plans – what will the most vulnerable of voters do after being fed to a pack of wolves? By the way I’m still waiting for the US to leave Iraq and Afghanistan. That was a campaign promise, remember?

Those loan modifications haven’t been allocated either. Oh and a few more banks have failed. I’ve also found it quite odd that companies who had to be bailed out with TARP funds are posting billion dollar profits less than one year later. What company bounces back that fast?! I smell a conspiracy to help somebody get elected. Yup I’m putting on the tin-foil hat for this one. Just call me Fox(y) Mulder. Lest anyone forget while many of us are unemployed and without medical coverage billions are still being spent abroad and the military budget has not decreased. That was supposed to be cut. Which was one of the reasons why I voted for you. I’m also wondering how the un/under employed are supposed to PAY for this health care plan when they have no money?

Democracy Now! Interview with Ralph Nader (who is flawed but has gone around politicians to get corporations to make concessions that have saved lives.)
The big mistake that the Obama administration made was they did not have continual public congressional hearings documenting the greed, the fraud, the $250 billion in billing fraud and abuse alone that the GAO years ago has documented. They didn’t document the $350 billion of waste, the overhead of Aetna and UnitedHealthcare and other health insurance companies with their massive executive salaries and bureaucracies. They did not document the deaths, the injuries, the sickness that hundreds of thousands of Americans go through every year because they can’t afford healthcare. And by not doing that, by playing this behind-the-scenes game with these executives from the big health-industrial complex, they were vulnerable to the split in their own party in the House, with the Blue Dog Democrats emboldened by an apparently wavering and indecisive President Obama, and they made sure that they were placed on the defensive. Well, the significance is that Obama is being undermined by his own party in Congress, because the Blue Dogs are getting far more money from these corporations and campaign contributions than the so-called liberals in the Democratic Party.

But, you see, I say “undermined”—I’m not quite sure that Obama is objecting to this. He has set the whole atmosphere of catering to these giant corporations. He has made every mistake that the Clintons made in 1993, ’94 with their health insurance plan, except that he’s leaving Michelle Obama out of it. He’s made every mistake.
So far you’ve been a huge disappointment. The excitement generated from your seemingly quick ascendancy was too hard to resist. You’re slow-footed and haven’t taken control of your party. You’ve made a public declaration of extending an olive branch and been slapped with it. I’ve watched the corporate media spew every lie and right wing/racist philosophy since day three. When John Roberts “accidentally” messed up your Swearing-In didn’t you know it was on?! Yet you refuse to prepare and you don’t fight. Bush was a cowboy and Cheney was Darth Vader. They took no prisoners! Yet you want “bi-partisianship”. You can’t negotiate with terrorists! They want your head on a platter literally and figuratively. All of those “enemies” are undermining all that you do.

Per another
New York Times Op-Ed – this one by Paul Krugman:
President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex. So much, then, for Mr. Obama’s dream of moving beyond divisive politics. The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years — the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia — are as strong as ever.

In fact, the situation may be even worse than it was in the 1990s because the collapse of the Bush administration has left the G.O.P. with no real leaders other than Rush Limbaugh. So far, at least, the Obama administration’s response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It’s as if officials still can’t wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren’t named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away.

Or perhaps I’ve read this wrong. You didn’t surround yourself with people who can turn on you because you were foolish or believed your own hype but because you’ve already surrendered. You’re just a figurehead for other people’s plans and are far more crafty about it than any of us imagined. You never had any intention of doing anything remotely close to your platform (like many politicians) but you tapped into a zeitgeist where people actually believed you. You brilliantly laid a trap so the Clintons would let their inner racism out and after a hard-fought primary “won” the nomination. You make half-hearted gestures and will tell us, “Oh well I tried”. If so the plan is working brilliantly. So many people are focused on race and fighting each other much like how Bush used Osama bin Laden to rile people up and distract them that nobody sees the big picture.

Of course so many black voters (and a few “progressives”) are still looking to you to “rescue” them from having to be focused, disciplined and fight politically but you’ve got their votes locked as long as you keep dangling the perception of making an effort. You’re a (great black hope) Trojan Horse to many. I shudder to think who’s hiding inside the statue ready to break out in the middle of the night. Most are not seriously questioning you on anything and to bring it up is met with mass denial. The white fright is bringing out the knee-jerk reaction of history of African-American struggle in this country and many are going in circles.

I’d like to know what these plans are and who the people behind the curtain (Oz) really are? The Blue Dogs? The ones Rahm Emanuel – your very own Chief of Staff and chief AIPAC supporter brought into power? It’s also worth noting Rep. Mike Ross, the leader of the Blue Dogs owes his seat to Bill Clinton. What’s really going on here? Perhaps you are simply foolish enough to think you could work something out with compromised policies being better than Republican ones. Like that secret WH deal with Big Pharma. Except there are 60 Democrats and the party controls the House and the Senate. So Republicans are not needed and if you ruled with an iron fist and laid down the parameters to the Democrats you’d actually get something done.

At least go down fighting for the little people and against the insurers and the drug companies! I seriously have to wonder though with all of the white men you’ve surrounded yourself with from similar backgrounds how you’re actually able to determine what’s best for those of us who don’t fit that demographic. You’ve flipped-flopped on LGBT issues as well. As some of us have noted you are half-white and half-African and know nothing directly of the survival history of African-Americans in this country. You also are NOT liberal or all that progressive. As evidenced by your wavering support of funding ALL reproductive services including abortions. Limited choices are not real choices. All the symbolism in the world isn’t going to put food on my table. I have to do my part, but so do you Mr. President. I think you’ve passed out checks that we can’t cash.

For those that still want to try to save the Public Option (after Single Payer was gutted) contact the White House TODAY! If things turn around it will because WE pushed back not because the President fought for this.
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Whatever Happened to All That Post-9/11 Concern?

Maria Besedin may have lost her case against the Metropolitan Transit Authority but she’s a survivor and shero!. She sued them after two male employees, of which were booth and train operators ignored her pleas for assistance as she was being assaulted inside a NYC subway station. They saw her and did nothing but call it in. The male judge threw out the case but they should all be ashamed of themselves. What’s the point of having emergency procedures if nobody’s going to lift a finger to help their fellow citizenry in a time of need? I don’t consider making a phone call a great act of courage either. They could have yelled for help or done something than hide and duck for cover. I imagine if this had happened to their sister/daughter/wife/mother/friend they’d be just as outraged. Where are the real men who understand their role of protecting? I’ve been on public transit where the men won’t even get their lazy behinds out of a seat for a pregnant passenger.
Ms. Besedin should be commended for not retreating into anonymity. What’s really sad is the rapist wasn’t caught and has been able to continue his terrorism against women. Again, it seems if you are a woman and particularly a woman of color you are on your own. I really suggest women start brushing up on self-defense and learn to handle a weapon. If you don’t feel comfortable with that then wear really big rings and carry a whistle. The Sharper Image used to have personal safety devices that would sound an alarm when activated. Women have to be ever diligent. It could be the difference between your life and the assailant’s. Since they’re the one committing the crime they don’t care and they don’t deserve any deference. It’s the law of the jungle: kill or be killed. I’m not going down without a fight.
The other unresolved issue that rears itself is the MTA procedures for an emergency. It took nearly 15 minutes for the police to respond. If that had been a bomb, chemical weapon or shooter everyone in the vicinity would’ve been toast. It’s very likely the next terror attack that occurs will be launched in a densely populated urban area and probably the poorer residential areas where crime is already rampant. If law enforcement and government agencies don’t start preparing better for that the fallout will be catastrophic. 

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The Obamas Go to Europe: The World Sighs in Relief

Take that Republicans, so-called feminists stuck on their white privilege, the permanently discontented, the show me the $$$ folks and whomever else has a concern, beef or “doubts” about the Obamas!! They rock! For all the arguments and fake outrage over Michelle’s arms, hairstyle and whether she’s refined these matters of importance have been put on the shelf. Nobody is as upper crust as the Queen of England. She broke protocol to embrace Michelle. 
Can there be any question as to whether world leaders (and figureheads) are thrilled with this latest administration (at least for now)? The Obamas have already done much to mend the rifts caused by the previous one just by showing up with smiles on their faces it seems. I lived in the UK at the beginning of the Iraq “war”. I had to tell people I was Canadian because as soon as I opened my mouth I had people expressing their complete hatred for the US government’s actions and especially how much they wanted Bush gone. I was yelled at and given lots of dirty looks. You’d think I would’ve gotten some slack for being part of the short end of the stick of race relations and discrimination but nooooo. Nobody cared! I was American and I was dirt – even though I made it clear I not only hadn’t voted for Bush but was very opposed to his policies. 
The UK media had more balanced coverage of Iraq, didn’t squash dissent and showed live coverage of the civilian casualties. Seeing children survive bomb blasts but with missing limbs and other signs of trauma would’ve outraged me too but of course people in the USA didn’t see any of that unless they specifically sought out foreign news sources. So I started using “out” and “about” a lot in my speech and sewed a Maple Leaf to my backpack when I was out..and about. There was a major anti-war protest in Hyde Park where 1 million people showed up. So believe me I remember what it was like. I can imagine how ecstatic average citizens must feel now, but Obama needs to stick to that timetable he laid out for pulling the troops out. I hope Iraqis will have some relief soon.
In the meantime all this goodwill is great! Here’s a panel on Larry King (hey I only watched it once this week) discussing their UK visit and the wow factor. Loved the comment about the toothpaste commercial. 

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When Protect & Serve Becomes Obstruct & Harm

I wrote about the demise of the intact and thriving working class Black American community in yesterday’s post and gave some reasons why. When you open a book there’s a left page and a right page, so today I’d like to present some of the situations that may prompt people to want to be protectionists. 
In Oakland the funeral for the four officers killed by Lovelle Mixon was held at a huge auditorium. Their deaths were senseless and the retaliation will be swift and long. I say “will” and not “may” because law enforcement – like our brand of justice in this country – is highly subjective based on class, gender, finances, orientation, appearance and the other prejudices of those involved. Even the determination of what laws to apply can vary depending on the circumstances. So what begat Oscar Grant III begets Mehersle begets Mixon begets ????? 
When prosecutors can charge an 8 year old child of color with murder I think we can safely say we’ve jumped the shark in this country. So the officers in that scenario may not have engaged in anything untoward when they met their demise we can’t say for certain they never harassed, framed or intimidated any innocent people in their pursuit of “justice”.  
Take the officer who drew his weapon on the Moats family in a hospital parking lot for goodness sake! Who goes to the hospital to cause trouble and commit crimes – seriously? That dirtbag officer has now offered some lame and insincere apology. Mr. Moats showed incredible restraint even calling the officer Sir repeatedly but still didn’t get one ounce of common courtesy. We could have been reading about the NFL player shot to death while his mother-in-law died instead, but the Moats are obviously classy even during times of great stress.
Officer Robert Powell (remember the name!) knew he was wrong from the get-go because Mrs. Moats insisted on exiting the car to see her mom before she passed.  He knew he was wrong, but let his prejudice, pride and the power of his shield rule his actions. He threatened to “make trouble” for Moats. That indicates this officer has a pattern of abusive behavior. I’m certain he has a list of offenses that have been ignored and buried. He of course wouldn’t be the only officer that would fit that bill. Duanna Johnson’s murderer may very well be the former cops that battered her. That officer can’t do jack about the time he stole from the family to see a loved one before they died. It’s only because of the public embarrassment that he’s even offered the token apology. Had Moats not been an NFL player would we have even heard about this? So celebrity trumps the average citizen and I hope leads to the end of that officer’s career and a policy revision. Though I suspect his evil will remain unless he has a Road to Damascus epiphany. Somehow I doubt it.
Certain people don’t change – and should’ve been weeded out at recruitment. Law enforcement is very flawed, full of criminally-minded officers who engage in racist/sexist behavior with an ineffective Internal Affairs. Where’s the checks and balances? President Obama isn’t going to change that. Law enforcement, armed forces, private contractors and militia are all the same thing. It seems for quite a few those behind a badge, a suit or a uniform are engaging in creating chaos, killing with impunity, rape and controlling certain populations by using terror tactics. We have to demand change and accountability with established consequences ready to implemented. Part of that will require that we cease harboring the neighborhood miscreants. It undermines legitimate efforts at establishing boundaries and priorities. Demand we must if we want to make inroads otherwise we’ll just keep hearing about it, complaining but not resolving this.
Here’s the Moats’ interview on Good Morning America
We need to continue discussing this but it’s time for action  – and punishments!

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Black Americans Are Like Newspapers

I recently visited my family in Upstate New York. It felt like an episode of “This Is Your Life”. I admittedly have a disdain/hate relationship with the city I grew up in. Lots of institutional racism, segregated neighborhoods and the combo of Blacks who were either into social climbing or the lowest common denominator behavior had me declaring at age 8 how I was moving to NYC after I graduated high school. I’d also noticed a pattern of the first born female (mom & grandma) having their first of many children at age 18. I knew that tradition was going to end with me as well, lol!
Despite the unemployment rates in NYS being high they’re nearly double in California right now. Despite parental concern I did go to NYC and loved it. As a native New Yorker we are a breed unto ourselves. Having lived in California and specifically San Francisco for the last 8 years I have to admit that I’m now a California girl (woman). You know what I mean! I’d still like to be bi-coastal actually and to do so I’m going to have to step up my game so to speak. With the average home purchase price hovering around $1M with the average rent $2000/mo I know why I may stay broke if I continue to live in San Francisco as a single child-free woman of a certain income bracket. So I may also need to change that status and be actively doing so. Which brings me to the point of this blog post.
Seeing some of the same thriving business districts and surrounding residential areas of my town of birth I’ve never considered it “home” because I had no say in where I was born and raised. The city is always building something (parking, sports arenas) yet the bulk of the areas where Blacks lived during my formative years are in near total disarray. Abandoned or burnt-out buildings litter many neighborhoods bringing the housing value down to those that are either too old or too stubborn to leave. Apparently the ones who haven’t left (like all of my friends and school mates) have moved to residential areas that were exclusively white. 
There was a time I would’ve declared that “progress” but I think through a different critical prism now so I realize it’s likely the result of whites having left the area as well because it’s not “integrated” AND a look at the class status/temperament of those people who’ve remained deserves an evaluation. Not that their aren’t any well-off Blacks in Buffalo or poor whites but it always seemed geared towards affluence for a majority of whites. I used to think it was “racism” as the only cause but I think there were other factors at play. I used to say there’d be a Black President before a Black Mayor of this city but alas I was proven wrong! 
So admittedly it was the combination of how the Blacks in the area did – or didn’t – wield power politically and certain aspects of my family that I find troublesome that generate this reaction out of me. I used to think it was like a rubber band or better yet, a boomerang, that no matter how far away I moved even across the pond to London some problem would force me back even though it was usually for a brief time. Like now with the horrible economy. It’s nice to see my immediately family but I am itching to be away. I need to be a large metropolitan area with diversity and more than one dominant culture to be at my happiest which usually means living in one of the more expensive cities. By the way I tried Atlanta, and no offense to ya’ll but it’s way to provincial for my tastes. I can’t live in a state that flies the Confederate Flag. I think out of all the cities I’ve lived in I may like Toronto the best but it’s way too cold in the winter. I really liked Denver when I went there for the Democratic National Convention and they are wooing Californians right now.
I was out recapping my lapsed driving skills – because you don’t need to drive in San Francisco (or NYC) but I need to be able to handle my business behind the wheel in case I end up living in a city that requires it. I noticed one of the areas surrounding the park I’d been driving in had really deteriorated. I remember as a child taking the bus through this area to attend school and how I’d always thought it looked a little worse for wear so now it was really bad. It was around 8pm and I counted six younger AA men standing around doing….what I don’t know.
Well one was sitting at the entrance of a dry cleaner that was closed drinking a can of beer. He looked rather pissed to me. I’m not sure if he was drunk (Euro expression) or angry. Two were across the street in front of another store “talking”. Three others were standing in front of the corner store. Are you getting the picture? My mother commented how these areas had only poor people left because the Middle Class had left. I responded these neighborhoods were full of the criminally-minded and being poor may play a role in the decline but that didn’t excuse the potential tinder box of danger and illegal activity displayed before us.
I was glad we were in a car because I would NOT have wanted to be a lone female out there with them. Of course we disagreed but I’m reminded of the potential dangers of people who may look like us that don’t share any of our values. One such person decided to drive out of his residential cesspool and come to ours to shoot at people…one of the victims was my second youngest brother and he didn’t survive.
I realize speaking to my mother about certain things is an exercise in futility. Generation Gap Alert!! Like how it’s time to leave the neighborhood she’s lived in for the past 25 years because the encroaching areas have become cesspools of criminal activity and having a Black Chief of Police and Mayor isn’t going to make other people bent on destruction change their evil ways. Some family that moved down the street decided to supplement their income by casing all of the houses in a two block radius and attempting robbery. My mom’s next door neighbor caught some of them standing on top of her garbage cans at 4am. Thank goodness there are still some men left in the neighborhood that paid them a visit, issued a warning and outlined the consequences for any further violations. That’s how it used to be but that’s not the way things are usually handled today.
How do I know this? Because of the idiocy of my brother’s “friends” and their stop snitching vow of silence crap the police know who murdered him but don’t have enough evidence to prosecute because none of the witnesses would say anything. It’s been nearly three years and my anger over this hasn’t dissipated. I don’t think a 21-year old college student with a job in the banking industry and an all-around sweet natured person being just another statistic of Black on Black crime because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time is something that should be forgotten. There are many such stories and not just Black men are being brutalized. So those that were protesting the shooting of Lovelle Mixon need to seriously have their heads examined.
This wasn’t supposed to be a personal essay. I was going to keep it brief (for me anyway) and speak in general tones but this is what came out. If it appears intact then I guess I decided to post it. I’m not sure yet. So why did I title it the way I did? Newspapers were once considered stalwart and venerable. Didn’t we always think there’d be a local and national newspaper? Yet from the Christian Science Monitor to the San Francisco Chronicle to the Seattle (name) they’re all folding or on the verge of collapse. I’ve always loved newspapers. It’s the tactile sensation of holding it and smelling it. The ink would bleed all over your hands. 
I couldn’t wait to get to the Sunday cartoons and attempt completion of the crossword puzzles. Of course unless you were of a particular income bracket the coupons were eagerly anticipated as well. Don’t we tend to think of the Black community as a national collective of people in the struggle against white racism? That’s the shtick anyway that we were sold from those individuals who came to a very limited power during the aftermath of Civil Rights. Notice I specified Black Americans and I am referring to those whose ancestors were enslaved. We’re talking those whose family gene pool goes back starting from three generations ago and backwards. Like the neighborhoods of our youth that our grandparents lived in, those old alliances are for the most part gone. 
The reality is for the majority those times have long since passed and those alliances were tenuous at best. When 70% of Black women are single and not by some “empowered” choice but because they’re holding onto these old ideas that the majority of Black men have long since abandoned it’s pure foolishness. When the majority of these single women – and by single I’m talking never married – also have at least one child then it’s not just about personal choices and responsibility. Some of these women were young girls taken advantage of by men old enough to know better or those that knew they weren’t sticking around to begin with. How can you make an empowered choice when you don’t know what that means? They’re the ones that are living in these deteriorated neighborhoods with boys that grow into angry abandoned men who have literally bitten the hands that fed them and then some.
Before anyone starts balking – yes of course there are exceptions, good men, intact families and thriving neighborhoods. Let’s get real here, though. While you may be living your life of exceptionalism, good people and cheer you may rub up against some of those on the periphery. Admit it, if you were superstitious you might throw salt over your shoulder and say “there but for the grace of God…” Or you may be living your high profile life with all its pressures just trying to swim with the other sharks. Meanwhile that periphery has a domino effect. It’s like when there’s a power outage and the lights on the block go out one by one.
There will be a day of reckoning but by the time you notice it, it’ll be too late to stop the bleeding. There are stereotypes about how certain ethnic groups are all wealthy because they make sure the entire collective is doing reasonably well by comparison to others. They have businesses that cater to their needs and are unabashedly supportive of their interests. They work with each other and hire each other. They don’t claim speaking well and being educated is a violation of belonging to that group. They don’t eschew therapy. They have thriving communities. Their men haven’t publicly disdained women from their group by touting the virtues and beauty of other groups of women. They don’t label it a “preference” when confronted about it. They don’t abandon their children. They don’t say “give a brother a chance” when they’re engaging in substandard behavior and activity. They don’t separate the women in the group by skin shade or hair texture declaring some women are worthy of praise while condemning the rest. There isn’t this disconnect where the majority of women and children are left to fend for themselves. Again this is speaking of the majority  – which you can see played out over and over if you look – not individuals.
None of these things occur in a vacuum or by osmosis. It’s a mentality that is either supported or rejected and all the actions that follow are the result of that choice. This goes beyond white racism. This goes beyond the choice of a few individuals to “live their lives as they see fit”. This is a matter of survival. Some believe it’s too late for the collective and individuals who want to survive must separate themselves immediately. In the most heinous environments I agree, but there are still areas that have not deteriorated to that point yet. There are still people out there fighting the good fight. At least I hope there are.
Like newspapers will we admit there’s a serious problem and address it or will we continue to deny, deny, deny until the damage is complete and we have to sever the limbs or face sudden demise? I used to deny it even after what happened to my family. I used to think there was always a couple of bad seeds in the bunch but the bunch was a bushel and it was good. After what happened at Dunbar Village, after reading the blog Black & Missing and after looking at actual crime stats I realized those seeds have multiplied and sprouted an angry violent army of aggressors and fueled mass willful ignorance. It’s sad but you’ll get over it. It’s time to demolish the old and create something new and better in its place. Black women of quality can create quality Black children with whomever they mate with since we are the daughters of Eve. Will we stop looking through a narrow prism of choices and open ourselves to the spectrum of an entire world with as many options available to us as we’re willing to seek?

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Q&A with CA Rep. Barbara Lee, American Heroine

Here is one politician I’d probably “fawn” over because of her integrity, openness and wisdom. This is the interview posted at C-Span with host Brian Lamb. I’m posting the transcript in its entirety. Just open two windows or a tab and you can follow along. I don’t really have anything to add just that I forget she’s in her 60’s when she looks 20 years younger. Unlike Cheney the evil didn’t sink in and age her! In case you haven’t picked it up yet I highly recommend her book, Renegade For Peace & Justice. You can watch her discuss it on Book TV as well.

BRIAN LAMB: Barbara Lee, Chairman of the Black Caucus and the House of Representatives, what’s been your personal reaction to seeing an African-American in the White House?
BARBARA LEE, CHAIR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: I tell you, Brian, I knew it would happen one day. I believed it would happen. When I first met President Obama, this is when he was running for the Senate, then listening to him at the Democratic Party Convention; I told many people, I said, ”You know, one day he will be the President.” I didn’t know when. But I am excited, delighted and he is doing an unbelievable job.
LAMB: Go to next level, what does it mean – I know you say that you knew he would be there one day or somebody would be there one day, an African-American, but what does it – what do you think it means to the community?
LEE: Well, to the community, to the country and to the world, I think it means a major breakthrough in many, many ways and it is, as many have said, really transformative moment. I think what he has accomplished in his campaign and now as President has broken through many, many glass ceilings, many barriers, we have a long way to go. This was a quantum leap. I mean this was a major, major deal. And to see him as a President of the country, as a leader in the world is quite an amazing moment for all of us.
LAMB: Now you have been very visible about your one vote and lot of others, but one vote back in 2001 where you were the one of – the one out of 421 that voted to do what?
LEE: That was a terrible time. It was right after our country had been hit with horrific terrorist attacks. It was, I think, three days later a resolution came forward to authorize the use of force. And that resolution for me was so broad and so you know an open ended. It was a blank check, really. And what it did was it gave not only the previous administration, but any administration the authority to use force imperatively. It was not specific and again, it really authorized a President to wage war. Only Congress can declare war, our constitution dictates that. So, why would we grant authority to any administration to wage a war? The resolution, as I remember, it said the administration is authorized to use force against any nation, organization, individual; the administration deems connected to the horrific attacks on 9/11. And in retrospect, when you look at how that has been used, it set the stage for Iraq and must that repealed and who knows where we would go in terms of preemptive strikes. It was a dangerous resolution and I – I just couldn’t vote for that.
LAMB: Here is the video view on the floor right before the vote was cast.
[Video Presentation]
How do you look, well, almost eight years later?
LEE: I tell you, I still feel the pain of that day; I still mourn the loss of so many lives. And I am so angry like everyone as it relates to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda and what took place. And in no way am I Pollyannaish about a terror – I mean we have to address a terror and terrorism in a real way. But we have to address it in a way that doesn’t create more war, more terror and more violence. And as I look back and I have to say during that time it was a very difficult time personally, for my office, my staff member, my former Chief of Staff, Sandre Swanson, his cousin Wanda Green was a flight attendant on 593. That morning I was sitting in the Capital, had to evacuate, we were in an early morning meeting with the administrative SPA.
So it was a very, very horrible time and I think that you know we have not first of all, found Osama Bin Laden. Afghanistan is you know back – the Taliban is back in Afghanistan, the poppy seeds are growing. You know so what has – have we done over the last five or six years? We have to redefine this Global War on Terror and really try to figure it out in a way that doesn’t create more violence. We have to seek global peace and security and determine the best strategies to do that.
LAMB: Did you know at the time you were going to be the only vote?
LEE: Well, I knew that many people were concerned about that resolution. We had discussed it in our Democratic Caucus meeting and we tried to make it a little bit better, less broad. But some – and when you look at the Congressional records, some said, in essence what I said, but you know that was a terrible time. And the – the horror of the moment was very overwhelming. And so, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be the only one or not, I thought maybe you know a couple of members might vote against it. But when I looked up and saw that one red vote, I must say it was quite a scary moment, but my friends tried to get me to change that vote in a very compassionate way. I mean they knew what that meant. But for me, that was a moment of truth. I think that everyone gets to that point in their life where they have to throw down on something they believe and then I firmly believed then as I believe now that that was not the proper resolution at that moment without any debate except for maybe a couple of hours without a rational response. And members of Congress are elected to lead. And I think in moments such as that and in times of national security threats, it takes more time, more debate, more rational thought to try to determine what the best possible strategies are so that we don’t end up in a quagmire and in more wars where we don’t need to be.
LAMB: How long after that did the Capital Police give your personal protection?
LEE: Wasn’t too long after that because the threats started coming in immediately and may have been in two or three days. But I must say and I have to salute and thank the Capital Police because the Capital Hill Police were professional and they put their lives at risk for people that they provide protective service to. They were phenomenal in how they helped me out, they traveled with me and it was a very dangerous time.
LAMB: When did you give up that security?
LEE: I think it lasted probably about three months, I don’t exactly remember the timeframe, but it seems like it was about three months.
LAMB: In your book, Renegade for Peace and Justice, when did you actually publish this?
LEE: This was published in August of 2008, the initial edition.
LAMB: In your book you spent a lot of time on an era that I remember, the Black Panther days for you. How did you get – I mean you were a close friend and a confidant of Bobby Seale?
LEE: Yes, I was not a member of the Black Panther Party, but I was what, they called community workers. And community workers were people who volunteered on the survival programs, on the ten point program platform, which the Black Panther Party held, breakfast programs for children. Now – and the Panther Party really started the free breakfast programs for low income and poor children. So, I worked on those programs, I worked to help develop the community school. We held survival rallies where we gave out bags of food and shoes. People were desperate then as they are now just to have the basic needs. When you look at the sickle cell anemia movement, that began through the Georgia Jackson Medical Clinic, then later sickle cell research became more popular with the government. And so, the Panther Party started many social programs that I felt were very important for my community and made a lot of sense in terms of helping people just survive in terms of their daily needs and what they needed, housing, food, clothes, ten points was their platform.
LAMB: So how much of that past, we can’t possibly get it all here, the Black Panthers was full of drugs and violence and all that. I mean give us that; I mean Bobby Seale is still alive, isn’t he?
LEE: Bobby is a good friend and he is speaking throughout the country. He hasn’t – I don’t think believe that I receive the type of credit that he has owed because Bobby Seale was and still is a great organizer, a great intellect. I was a community worker in the early 70s and fortunately, I was focused on the part of the party that was the service oriented part, the school, the breakfast programs, the survival rallies. Actually Bobby Seale ran for Mayor of Oakland and he got into the run off. I was his fund raising coordinator in the early 70s. I think that the precinct operation, the way they organized at the local level, the grass roots organization really did help lead to the – it laid the groundwork for our first African-American Mayor of Oakland, Lionel Wilson.
And so, during the time I was involved with the Black Panther Party, they became very involved in politics, I got involved in politics through the Shirley Chisholm’s Presidential Primary in 1972 and that’s when I met many of the Black Panther leaders and they got involved in the Shirley Chisholm’s Primary Campaign also.
LAMB: Why didn’t you join the party back then, the Black Panther Party?
LEE: Well, I was a student at Mills College and I joined the Black Student Union. I was President of the Black Student Union, so I had my hands full. And I volunteered in many community efforts. It wasn’t only the Black Panther Party where I volunteered, I volunteered with many non-profit organizations in the community, with many churches. And so, my life was about trying to help others. And wherever I found, I could do that. That’s what I did.
LAMB: I have got a list here of things that you have done in your life and I just want to rattle them off so that the audience can catch up with what I know that you were born in El Paso, moved to Los Angeles in 1960, graduated from San Fernando High School in ’64, volunteered with the Black Panthers in ’68, ’73 you worked for Bobby Seale, you just said when he ran for Oakland Mayor. BA from Mills College in ’73. Where is Mills College and what did you study?
LEE: Mills College is in Oakland, California, is a wonderful women’s college. I majored in psychology in undergrad and then I went on to the University of California at Berkley and received my Masters of social work actually in clinical social works, I haven’t messed up yet.
LAMB: Worked for Ron Dellums on his Congressional Staff, ’75 to ’91, is that right?
LEE: Seventy five to eight six, and also I was an intern, Cal in the Capital intern in 1973 during the Watergate Era.
LAMB: What did you do for him?
LEE: Everything. It was really great. Ron helped me break many glass ceilings. There were very few African-Americans on Capital Hill in top positions and very few women. And I was his AA, and Chief of Staff and we really put together a team in the office that helped support Ron’s legislative agenda. He was my mentor, he is still a friend, he is the Mayor of Oakland now. We worked very closely together on making our great city, the model city that he envisions and that he is really working day and night to embrace.
LAMB: Now in ’91, if I understand right, you ran and won the State Assembly seat in California. But what did you do between ’86 and ’91?
LEE: Between ’86, I actually left Ron’s staff and started a business and it was Lee Associates, well, it was the WC Parish Corporation, Lee Associates, WC Parish was my grandfather and he was an unbelievable man and so we named the company in his honor and it was a family run business, facilities management. We ended up, actually at one point, we had about 400 employees. I really wanted to see if – if I could create jobs; you know jobs for people who didn’t have an opportunity to work, had a union contract, benefits, the whole nine yards. So, it was really quite an amazing moment because as a business owner, I was able to learn more about tax law, worker’s comp, how to provide a stable business for my employees, but also how to make sure that employees receive the type of benefits that they deserved. And it was quite excellent, I think, run business. And this business, let’s see, I sold it in 1998 when I – when I came to Congress.
LAMB: But in ’91, as I said, you ran for the California State Assembly and won, and then in ’97, you ran for the Senate in California and won, but then right away, Ron Dellums, what happened, where did he go and how did you get into Congress?
LEE: I ran – I think I ran for the Senate in ’96. I was in the California Senate from to ’96 to – well, it may have been ’97 when I sworn in, it was about a year and a half. And Ron decided to retire in 1998 and he retired, I believe in the fall or winter, maybe it was November December. There was a special election and so, we decided that I would run. It was a surprise to me, I wasn’t sure when he was retiring but he decided that that was a moment for him. And so, we put together a campaign and I would never forget at the campaign kickoff, he actually brought a baton and he passed the baton to me. And it was a very interesting campaign. That year I had, I think, three elections, I had a special election, a primary and then a general. And so, that was a very intense year with campaigning. And the community rallied around me. You know Ron actually, I see, is the father of coalition politics. The 9th Congressional district is a wonderful district. It reflects the best of America. We have a multicultural district, a progressive district. We have people who historically have worked together, not always agreeing, but had put together the rainbow coalition really, and that’s what actually elected me.
LAMB: If my numbers are right, this morning I found 45 percent of the district is white, 21 percent is black or 20 percent roughly Hispanic, and 16 percent Asian and then 10 percent others. You know a very high percentage, 25 percent were born in other countries.
LEE: Sure. And it’s a great district because we have so many immigrants and that’s one of the beauties, I think, of my Congressional district because in many areas in the country, we are seeing more immigrants move into these Congressional districts and I always share how we worked together on our immigration issues, on – I mean my office, for example, the largest number of cases we handle are immigration cases, helping people with family reunification, with green cards. The department of Homeland Security historically hasn’t been you know quick enough in processing claims and what have you. And so, we handle quite a few cases in immigration and I am very proud of my immigrant community. We have immigrants from all over the world. And hopefully, we will have a comprehensive immigration reform in one of these days and we have to understand what immigrants bring to our country and that we are a country of immigrants and my district is really a district of immigrants from all around the world.
LAMB: I want to ask you about a speech that the Attorney General made this week, Eric Holder, what’s he pointed out that very sooner and this will be a country where there will be any one race that’s in the majority. And he said some things that have made the headlines and have some people talking rather controversially about, let’s watch a minute of it.
[Video Presentation]
I know you haven’t seen that before because you are traveling. What’s your reaction to it?
LEE: Well, race has been swept under the rug. And I think we saw that after Katrina, the devastating response to Katrina. And that I think began a new dialogue about race and class and poverty. And we haven’t had these honest discussions as he said about race and I think he was absolutely clear in his comments that we do need to get past that. And personally, you know we, as he said, you know we may socialize during the day, we work together, but then in our personal lives, you see very little of the interaction that needs to happen in order to get beyond where we are and because often times and I – and I think about this a lot, we do get stuck, and there has not been a way to have an open dialogue about race. I was very pleased that President Obama you know gave his speech on race in Philadelphia. I think that’s an excellent speech and I think people need to reread that and understand that and not just leave it on the shelves but begin to understand what he was talking about and try to really you know open up more discourse on race.
LAMB: So what is he really talking about though? I mean are any of the code words, here is the – he didn’t get much publicity on the speech, not you, but he didn’t in the newspapers. USA Today had it on page four, America’s nation of cowards on racial issues, Holder says. What’s he talking about?
LEE: Well, I think you said what he is talking about in looking at the tape. He is talking about …
LAMB: Then how do we get beyond the word – you know we are not talking about this, so how do we talk about?
LEE: We start talking about it by a talking about it, by being honest about it. You know often times, for example, when you look at the disproportionate rates of incarceration among young African-American males, especially for non-violent drug offenses, there is a problem there. When you have you know the disparity in crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentencing, there is a problem there. When you look at the health disparities and when you look at the rates of HIV and AIDS, the disparities in cardiovascular diseases, there is a problem there as it relates to the African-American community. When you look at the unemployment rates, I think now over 12 percent in the black community, nine – unfortunately, nine percent, 9.3 in the country, there is a problem there.
So when you look at the institutional nature now of what has happened as it relates to race, its very devastating and we have to begin talking about it. There is a reason that there are so many African-American young men in jail. And it’s not just because they are bad kids. You know when you look at the fact that young African-American boys and girls drop out some – in some school districts, 50 to 60 percent, there is a problem there. And so, why don’t we talk about that instead of saying that, ”Well, that’s their fault. That’s their problem” There’s been a huge disinvestment of resources in low income communities, communities of color and the black community and people turn their – their head to that.
LAMB: So what would you do if you acknowledge that there are always problems, what would you do to change them?
LEE: Well, I would say that we have to work, first of all, as federal official and my job is to look and I am on the Appropriations Committee, is to look at resource allocation, how we spend our tax dollars. Are we going to spend our money, are we going to fund after-school programs, are we going to say, ”yes, we have got to keep our young black kids in school”, are we going to say, ”yes, we are going to make sure that the HIV AIDS pandemic is addressed in a big way”, we are working out to develop a national HIV AIDS strategy. Are we going to fund those efforts? And so, we have to be for real in terms of how we do our public policy and understand that race is a factor, it may not be the only factor. But when you look at budget resources and resource allocation, you can look at how much money and where we have put our federal dollars and we have not been supporting schools that have – in urban areas that have young black boys that who need that type of support so that they can finish school and not drop out and end up in juvenile hall and then on to state or federal prison.
LAMB: What do you make of a district here where they spend a lot of money, one of the most expensive school systems in the country? The federal government spends it and it doesn’t seem to work.
LEE: Well, I think you have to look at structure it’s not only about money, but it’s also about class size, it’s about teacher salaries, it’s about curriculum, it’s about the overall educational system. It – and again, yes, money, as I said is very, very important, but you have to look at what – what young kids need in school. You know go into the history for example, our young people need to have art and sports and history in their classes and in the school – school grounds – on the school grounds, in the curriculum because that helps young people develop a self esteem. It helps young people understand who they are. It helps young people stay ground and many of our young people come to school from poor families, they don’t have enough to eat. You know I think when you look at how school districts are organized; we may need more health clinics on campus. No schools are there to provide healthcare but young people often times go to school without having seen you know a doctor and they may not be well. They may have – and I have been working on this for many years. We need more counselors in schools. Often times behavioral problems are seen as – they, yes, are disruptive, but they are seen as problems that cannot be corrected except putting kids out of school or expelling them. But maybe we need more counselors to intervene on campuses, mental health counselors to help young people and to help their families understand what they are going through.
So, I think it’s the overall school system that needs to be addressed and how we have the support on our school grounds to help these young kids stay in school and learn and grow and develop the way we want all of our children to.
LAMB: In your book and there is a lot in this book about your personal life that you are wrote. You write chapter six, and you start off by saying this has been the hardest chapter for me to write and it’s all about your personal life and what happened to you when you were 16 years old. Why did you write that and why did you want people to know all these details on your – your – those teenage years?
LEE: Well, it’s very important, let me just say, for teenagers and who read my book, to understand the issues around a women’s right to choose and women’s healthcare and comprehensive sex education. Young people need to know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, I didn’t. Young people need that information about sex education so that they don’t get pregnant you know until they marry. And I think this abstinence only policy is not working. And you know I think it was under the Clinton administration and the welfare reform bill where abstinence only was put into law. And I have been trying for many years now to repeal that. Federal funds could not be used in our public schools to teach comprehensive sex education. Federal funds could only be used to teach abstinence only. And what I say and what many are saying is that, yes, abstinence, but we have to teach our young people comprehensive sex education, how to also prevent unwanted pregnancies, how to prevent the transmission of HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and why we need to focus our resources and tax dollars on a comprehensive sex education strategy so that we can help young people prevent unwanted pregnancies, help young people know what they are doing and help young people understand what sex education should really be about, not just abstinence only.
LAMB: Well, in the – in your book, you start off by telling us that when you were 16 years old you got pregnant and then you had a series of – you had two marriages, how many children?
LEE: Well, I have two children. And I actually got married when I was 16. And this was very difficult, I didn’t want to write this, but my editors and – said you have to do this because a book is about trying to help others and trying to inspire other to know that they can overcome their own challenges. So, I had to do this. But I didn’t necessarily want to write those chapters. But during that time, Roe v. Wade had not been the law of the land. And so, you could only get an abortion, a back alley abortion or you know go to Mexico and that’s what I did. And I am a strong advocate of preserving Roe v. Wade. We have to preserve women’s right to have an abortion, a woman’s right to choose. Many young girls now believe it always was like this but part of what I am writing about is it wasn’t always like this. Young girls got into trouble; many, many, many died as a result of not having access to adequate medical facilities and so – and I am a person of faith, I am a very devote religious person. And so, the moral dilemmas around these issues are very personal and very deep. But I think that as a public person and a lawmaker, I have to be able to be an advocate for young girls and women and preserving women’s right to choose and not going back to where we were before Roe v. Wade.
LAMB: But here you were at a very early age where you had all of these difficulties and you ended up Chairman of the Black Caucus and a Congresswoman from Oakland, California. How did – how did you deal with that back then? I mean you got pregnant, got married and then you miscarried?
LEE: Yes, it was hard. And you know everyone goes through challenges. I pray a lot, that was one thing that helped me get through.
LAMB: Are you Catholic? Are you still Catholic?
LEE: I am not a Catholic now, no I am a Baptist now, but I go to Catholic Church periodically. But I was a devoted Catholic there. And my family supported me, they helped through many of these difficult challenges that I have to overcome, domestic violence, I write about that. And so, it’s been a series of traumas in my life like many young girls, Black, White, Latino, Asia-Pacific, American had. And I think that what’s important is that whatever it takes you use and utilize to get through these issues in your life and what’s important again and why I wrote about this again, I didn’t want to, but I felt you had to be authentic. And if I were going to write a memoir I had to be authentic. You have to be able to help others.
Once you experience these issues, once you overcome them, it’s not just I have overcome and I am OK now, but it’s my duty and responsibility wherever I am, whatever I am doing to help others overcome their challenges and their problems and try to change those conditions that give rise to that. You know like I carried the Violence Against Women Act in Sacramento and I was a staunch advocate – Vice President Biden, of course, that his legislation at the federal level, I carried the implementation law for the state of California. I worked for many, many laws as it relates to domestic violence. And as I wrote this, and thinking about, I said, ”You know, this was it. This was what I have to do so that I can help other women understanding where some of the – the gaps were in these laws and have an experience, what I experienced, I had to do what I had to do.” And so you have to make things better.
LAMB: Let me read from your book, page 21, by age 20 you had two children and you lived in England and you were divorced. So, up by age 20, you married, you had a child, you miscarried, then you had an abortion, and then you had two boys? How old are they today by the way?
LEE: Boy, they are in the forties, 43 and 44 and I have five beautiful grandchildren.
LAMB: And then you said you went on warfare? I am going to quote here. ”I had to give my ex-husband pretty much every asset worth anything just to gain custody of children because I was one – I was the one who left Carl, who was a good husband and a father and I think he was guilt that he kept me from being more aggressive in pursuing child support. Carl was a good provider, husband and father, but that was not a problem, it was me, it was discontent with my suburban life and began to dislike him, resent him for no reason. Is this tough to put down on paper and have people to read it?
LEE: It’s very tough.
LAMB: Why did you do it though?
LEE: Why did I do it? You have to be for real in a memoir and in an autobiography; otherwise there would be so many gaps in the book, why would I write it. And so, I think honesty and integrity is very important.
LAMB: ”I would spend hours watching the television as if in a daze. Later on you said that breaking points – my marriage with Carl where he decided to go Jamaica for a vacation I didn’t rather than talk things out like adults, I refused to go. So Carl ended up going by himself. While he was away I moved out without telling him and took the furniture and my clothes and left.”
LEE: Yes.
LAMB: Carl is still around?
LEE: Yes, that’s honest, he has remarried, two beautiful kids. What can I say? That was – I was in my early 20s and I think it’s important you know especially for public people and by no means did I talk and write about my entire personal life, but there were some issues in my history that I felt if I were going to write this you know I had to write about because hopefully, it’s instructive to others and it really also I hope helps the reader understand that not all members of Congress get to Congress as a result of charmed lives or having it easy and that we all come with history, and some with a lot of baggage, and some have broken through some of this and have tried to work and which I have tried to do all of my life to hopefully help clarify issues that may be muddy for other women and families and also to use my life to make things better for others.
LAMB: Tell the story that you open up the book and you tell the story about your birth and the forceps.
LEE: Yes, you know again growing up – I was born in El Paso, Texas, segregated. My mother, when she was pregnant went to the hospital; it was a Catholic hospital, hotel to deliver me. She needed a c-section. They wouldn’t admit her because she was Black. And so, my mother was in labor and she couldn’t get into the hospital. Now my grandmother, and again, going into family histories with African-Americans as a result of our segregation and slavery, my grandmother’s grandfather – her father was actually Irish. And so she looked white. And so, my grandmother had to come up to the hospital and say, ”This is my daughter.” Now my mother is beautiful, she is 84 and lives in Arizona and she has green eyes and she is fair but she wasn’t as fair as my grandmother.
So my grandmother went up to that hospital and say, ”You let her in, this is my daughter.” And so, you know and of course the admitting staff was a little confused because here they thought a white woman trying to get this sort of looking half way you know fair skin woman into the hospital. So they finally got in touch with the doctor and they let her in. But they didn’t do anything, they just left her there and I think it was – she sat on a gurney or a bed on – in the hallway and she needed a c-section. She was in pain, she was delirious. And they just did not attend to her or they didn’t do anything, just left her there. And so, finally the doctor got there and he said, ”Oh yes, this is my patient, let’s get here in, but it was too late for the c -section then. And so, she really almost didn’t make and I almost didn’t make it. So, they had to deliver me, use some forceps and I had the scar over my eye for many, many years.
And I learned the story as a child you know and it really moved me. Early on it was like how could they not let my mother in the hospital? You know what is that about the hospital, what is it about my mother? How is that that I never – that I almost did not make it? And I think for me and in writing this, I think that really began my life in terms of my commitment to try make things better for others and to try to address racism and sexism in a big way. And I wrote in my diary when I left El Paso, Texas, when I was 13 that – and again, my dad was 25 year military, Lieutenant Colonel and I can remember going to restaurants with him in his uniform and being told, ”I am sorry, we don’t serve and they would use the N word. And so, I experienced this racism, like others experienced in the South and in El Paso, Texas in a very big way. And that combined with how I almost didn’t make it here as a result of my birth really prompted me to write when I was 12 or 13 as we were moving California that I did not know how I would do this, I did not know when or what, but my entire life had to be about trying to correct these injustices that my family and my community and that I have been experiencing since I was born.
LAMB: Great grandmother is it? – was raped, repeatedly raped by a white Irish man. Explain that.
LEE: Yes, you know again, like with many black families, you know my great grandmother was a domestic worker in Louisiana in a household of Irish people and her – the man of the house was an Irish man who continually raped her. And that resulted in the birth of my grandmother and my aunt Anna.
LAMB: How did that word get pass down to you?
LEE: That word got passed down through my aunt, who is now 97 years old and still alive in Arizona.
LAMB: How – how old were you when you learned that?
LEE: Well, I heard it throughout my life, bits and pieces, snippets you know but you know how families, we don’t like to talk about those things and it was very difficult, my mother and my aunts, no one talked about it, really. But every now and then, I would hear a little bit here and there. And so, finally several years ago, I sat down with my aunt and we talked about it and I taped her and my mother and oh my God, the stories and what she told me and we talked to other people and I found out a lot. And I would encourage anyone who has an elderly family member to sit down and talk about their history and what transpired in their lives and what they remember and my aunt was very clear and so she put the pieces together for me. I said, ”Oh, so grandma Charlotte was in Louisiana when all of this happened, I didn’t realize that because grandma Charlotte, she died when she was 100 years old when she was in California. And so, you know and I remember her very well and I used to hear little bits and pieces of stories from her, but I wasn’t quite clear on her – how my mother and grandmother and my aunts, why they look the way they looked in terms of them being very fair skin when she was brown skin. And so she kind of told us a little bit about it, but not a lot and so my aunt, my 97 year old aunt, you know – you know put all the pieces together for me.
LAMB: Let me read this to you and have you explain some more. ”We were having dinner and everything was calm and normal at the table. I was using my bread to sop up the gravy on my plate, which for some reason made my father so angry that out of the blue he rolled up a newspaper and hit me with it like I was a puppy. This of course, made my mother angry and in retaliation she threw a glass of – bottle of water at him. She then grabbed me and my sisters ran out of the house and took us to stay with one of my aunts who lived nearby.” Now, there is a – as you go on to tell us, there is a hiccup on who really was your father? So, was that your real father there at the table at that time or he is?
LEE: I thought he was, but again and – he had legally adopted me and he was a wonderful man who loved us very dearly. He took care of us.
LAMB: He had gone?
LEE: And he passed last year, yes. And when I was 14 and I received a phone call in the middle of the night, and I was told by this man on the phone that he was my father, not my father and my mother was in the hospital and I had no idea what this was about. And it was very sad and traumatic for me and come to find out because he had been very abusive. My mother, of course, left him and she was a battered woman, he had threatened to kill her. And so we were actually in hiding for many years, my mother didn’t want us to know what had transpired. And so, my stepfather legally adopted us and I thought he was my dad and he took care of us and he is my dad. But my biological father had actually, he actually died about three or four months after he made several phone calls to me and my sister reaching out, trying to – I guess these were his – he knew he was dying and he wanted to establish contact. But my mother in talking to her and remembering now what was taking place, she really went through a lot and she finally just couldn’t take it anymore and left and left with her two little girls. And you know when you look at domestic violence, and when you look at those – the multigenerational cycles of domestic violence and how all of that happens, I wrote a little bit about that because battered woman syndrome and battered woman really have a hard time and you need to provide every bit of support for battered women, and we need to have a dialogue. Again, a public dialog, we need to talk more about domestic violence.
LAMB: What did you do – and let me read some of it, you meet your second husband, Bill, ”As our relationship progressed, he became increasingly violent. He would hit me and I went threatened to leave him, he would apologize, tell me how much he loved me and begged me to stay. There were periods of calm in our relationships but most of the time Bill beat and badgered me so much that my eyes were always swollen from crying. Living with Bill was a like a brutal cruel nightmare come to life from which there was no escape.” And what year was that and how long did you stay married to him?
LEE: That was, I think, early 70s, late 60s, early 70s. Actually we had gone together maybe for about a year and didn’t got married and I, of course, I thought it would get better. You know the abuse was taking place during the relationship and when we got married, it just got worse and worse and worse. And I think we must have been married maybe a year or so and then I finally just had to leave.
LAMB: What is it? You have studied psychology.
LEE: Psychology, yes.
LAMB: What is the violence with men come from in your opinion?
LEE: It’s very complicated. You know it’s a very complicated issue. There is so much, first of all, anger and frustration as a result of, first of all, when you look at what’s happened in our country in terms of African-American men and the economics of it, the discrimination, races, and you know the struggles that many men go through each and every day leads to frustrations that often times, not always, but often times are taken out behind closed doors. And I think it’s very important to recognize that you know we have to see domestic violence in a comprehensive way, not just as a personal anger thing because you know it is – that’s how it’s manifested. But there are many, many external circumstances that create the environment for domestic violence. And it’s again, it’s a very complicated issue, but women, I think, there are some women because of, as in my case, family history, you know haven’t figured out how to break out of those circumstances and it’s very important that we learn how to empower ourselves as women so that we don’t stay in situations like that and how we help men. I think men need, who are batterers, of course need to – the counseling and they need the support to get out of themselves. And so, it’s not just about the woman, it’s about the woman and the man in trying to figure out how to get the anger and frustration and the economics and all of those issues outside of the relationship.
LAMB: But let me ask you though. You know the question was about the man and you have come through all these years, experienced all this that you consider yourself – are you violent? And if you are not violent, why is it you haven’t been – why did you let the men off the hook? Why aren’t women more violent then? I mean they have gone through all the same things that men have gone through.
LEE: Well, I am not a violent person. And I think that I was taught non-violence in an early age and I witnessed violence in no way would I accept myself being a violent person. I mean there is only one way that we are going to survive is human beings and that’s understanding conflict resolution and mediation and peaceful solutions to our problems, both internally in our own families and also throughout the world. And so, I though, you know when I was in the legislature, worked a lot with the Governor then, Pete Wilson to try to and make sure that the battered women who were in prison who needed their sentences commuted or deserved clemency would be released from jail and I would never forget this and I wrote about this in my book that we had hearings and then I believe and she is a phenomenal Congresswoman, Jackie Speier and she was in the legislature then. We went down to Frontier Prison in Southern California to hold hearings with women who were incarcerated as a result of killing their spouses. And it was a – it was a very moving hearing because these women had histories of being battered. There were emergency room records, I mean they had been half dead many times. And for whatever reason, during one of those encounters, they reacted and they killed their batterers and so they were incarcerated many for life. And that was before and we worked very hard to get Battered Women Syndrome admitted into courts as it admissible evidence in court records.
And so, some women just can’t take it and react in those ways. And we have to understand that violence begets violence and trying to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and that’s what my life hopefully is about.
LAMB: All right. In your book, the title of your book is Renegade for Peace and Justice. I looked up the word renegade in the dictionary. You know what the definition is?
LEE: Yes.
LAMB: Well, there are two of them. One is – and I want to ask you which one you are the one, ”A deserter from one faith, cause or a religion to another” or the second definition, ”An individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior.” So, which one are you?
LEE: A little bit of both. I think conventional behavior; I reject conventional behavior in many ways because you have to go against the grain to make things better. And I remember Shirley Chisholm who – she really helped me get involved in politics and encouraged me to register the vote. She said you can’t just go along to get along that if you see some injustices, conventional behavior is going to allow those injustices to continue. So, you have to go against the grain, you have to say if this is wrong, how do I make it right? And often times that means going against what the norm would be. And I think that’s what women and people of color have always done. That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King was about, that was Harriet Tubman and, Sojourner Truth, our ancestors, those who paved the way just so I could in Congress, so we could do the things that we are doing, so that Barack Obama could be President. They all went against the grain and conventional wisdom.
LAMB: Let me ask you about numbers. Is it still 42 members at the Congressional Black Caucus?
LEE: Yes.
LAMB: And you are in sixth full term?
LEE: Sixth full term.
LAMB: You are Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus?
LEE: Yes.
LAMB: How did you get there?
LEE: Well, I tell you, first, the Black Caucus is an unbelievable body of brilliant committed individuals who come to Congress from different places and who had been committed for 40 years, this is the 40 years of their existence and their founding, have come to Congress to make not only the Black community benefit from the fruits of our American society but the whole country in terms of making America better. And we are and have been considered the conscience of the Congress and I worked with my colleagues over the years on many, many issues and have supported them and they have supported me. And they decided to elect me as – as the Chair for this next two years, which I am very proud of and very humble to be leading such an august body of committed men and women.
LAMB: We covered a news conference of the Black Caucus. You were there, Charlie Rangel was there and Jim Clyburn, who is the Majority whip in the House, number three person in the leadership. Tell me, if – when I saw this I said this looks like a transformation of attitude based on the fact of Democrat’s power in the Congress in the House and the Senate and in black man in the White House. And just watch Jim Clyburn here and tell me if you see the same thing that I saw?
[Video Presentation]
Couple of things, over his right shoulder was Bobby Rush, Congressman from Chicago, former Black Panther?
LEE: Absolutely. And when you look at that and when you look at what the Congressional Black Caucus accomplished in this economic recovery package, I am very proud of what took place. I established an Economic Recovery Taskforce right after I was elected in January and asked Congressman Cleaver, a phenomenal Congressman and Minister from Kansas to Chair that taskforce. And we early on looked at what we thought should be in this economic recovery package. And we decided that early on we were going to put forth what we thought needed to be that such as, of course, a large amount for our infrastructure and jobs. But we recognize that many in our communities throughout the country don’t have the necessary training for those jobs that are going to be created. And so, we were strong advocates for workforce training and for training funds in this package. We recognized early on that our schools are dilapidated and we wanted the modernization money and construction money for our schools. And we recognized early on that many people may be left behind or could have been left behind in this economic recovery package and we didn’t step up and talk about what we thought needed to be included to make sure that it became the broadest package to cover and employ the most amount of people.
And so, we proceeded on that and it was a very intense process and I have to thank Speaker Pelosi and our Majority Whip, Mr. Clyburn for you know looking at what the Black Caucus thought would be important in this package and being strong advocates in the negotiation. When you look at the neighborhood stabilization piece, many and – our neighborhood, many houses have been foreclosed on. Our neighborhoods, the entire neighborhoods that are just like demolished in many ways. And so, through the efforts of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who chairs the Housing and the Community Opportunity Subcommittee, we were able – initially it was $4.2 billion for neighborhood stabilization. The Senate zeroed it out and we were able to get $2 billion back in, not enough, but we are going to keep moving on that front to try to get more resources into neighborhood stabilization.
And so, as a result of the advocacy of our leadership and what the Congressional Black Caucus, as part of those negotiations, we believe that this package is a much better package that the entire country can be proud of.
LAMB: Just in the couple of minutes remaining, you did everything you could to stop the funding of the Iraq experience. What is your reaction to the fact that there has been no announcement that those troops are coming out yet and we have just heard an announcement this week from President Obama that there are 17,000 additional troops going into Afghanistan, which will take our numbers up to, well, it’s over 60,000 American troops, plus another 20,000 NATO troops. So, we are getting up there 80,000, 85,000 troops which is almost more than half the number that was in Iraq.
LEE: First to Afghanistan, let me just say Congresswoman Waters and myself, and Congresswoman Woolsey, we co-founded the Out of Iraq Caucus. And we wrote to the President last week about Afghanistan and we indicated in our letter that we hope that we would have a comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan that we believed and historically we can see that military action alone is not going to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and that we have to really reevaluate and understand what this new definition of the Global War on Terror should be. And we are pleased that he has established a commission or a taskforce to really look at this and what we need to do. We are very careful about this because we don’t want to see this hole dug deeper. And …
LAMB: Are you pleased with 17,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan?
LEE: And these are combat troops, let me say, I think that it’s very important that we help in Afghanistan in terms of stabilizing the country so that we can help with their development processes and so we can help with figuring out how the farmers can find alternative ways to make money instead of growing you know poppies and what have you. And so, I am not – I think we have to be clear about what the mission is, is it stabilization or is it combat? I don’t want to see our troops put in harm’s way and another total combat situation emerge and that’s why we wrote to the President asking him to you know or at least encourage him to make a total comprehensive plan so that we know where we are going in Afghanistan so that we don’t end up with another Iraq. I have always opposed the funding for the operations in Iraq. This is a war that did not need to be fought. There were no weapons of mass destruction. You know, this administration knew that, we knew that.
And I have offered and will continue to offer the Lee Amendment which says that the only way we should provide money for Iraq is to protect our troops and contractors and to begin a redeployment. And I am pleased that President Obama has said that he does want to begin a redeployment; timeframe, I believe it was 16 months, I think and of course, there are some of us who think that it should be quicker, but we are going to work very closely with the President to make sure that we begin to bring our young men and women home. And they should come home and we need to provide for their economic security when they get home and for the benefits because they have fought, they deserve, they have served our country and they deserve to be taken care of when they come home.
LAMB: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, we are out of time and the book is Renegade for Peace and Justice and we thank you very much.
LEE: Thank you. Good to be with you.

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When Are African-Americans Going to Stop Complaining and Start Kicking A** ?

So the New York Post put out a cartoon that many think was a poor analogy at satire about the stimulus bill for what was likely a depiction of the President as a dead chimp. Due to the lingering racial animus and sheer discomfort to discuss and resolve the history of brutality and exploitation it took to build this country, I suspect many will react negatively and retreat to their corners. So let’s say for the sake of argument it was offensive and therefore racist, but to what degree? Have people forgotten that we live in a country where racism thrives or have they bought into this fallacy of a post-racial America? There is no such thing and to deny the evil that manifests itself through systematic entrenchments is just crazy. 
Yes, I know every individual isn’t like that, but you had best believe plenty of people who may not be actively engaging in it don’t refuse the benefits derived from it! What is an appropriate response? To react solely on emotions or to seek a path of recourse? Also I don’t think the President really cares as he’s been called worse I’m certain. He’s always cool as a cucumber. Besides, he’s the freakin’ President and the leader of free world. He has certain support systems in place, a family that adores him and lots of security and weapons at his disposal. Not that people shouldn’t feel outraged if they think the situation warrants it, but they aren’t planning long-term strategies and are too reactionary, not proactive.
Everybody decided to jump on the bandwagon as per their usual misguided efforts at displaying their outrage. By everybody I’m referring to the Civil Rights Industrial Complex motley crew: NAACP releases a statement (yawn); the new kids on the block Color of Change sent out a email initiative and 75K responded; and everybody’s favorite Rev., Al Sharpton led a motley band of protesters (rolling my eyes). 
See I used to get riled up about these things too until it dawned on me that NOTHING EVER GETS DONE AND NOTHING EVER CHANGES. Plus there are far more dangers to the image of Black people being put out into the world by other Blacks. One primate versus the derogatory image of men as drooling idiots throwing money in the air/bragging about sex and violence with half-naked women gyrating to a beat – which one is worse? Which one garners the largest audience and has a lingering negative image?
I think author Jill Nelson summed it best in her article, No More Marches, which appeared in the April 2008 issue of Essence magazine:
Forty-three years later, in another millennium, we’re still using the same technique, and to far less effect. These days, marches are carefully orchestrated spectacles for the purpose of allowing passionate people to come together and let off steam rather than massive, potentially uncontrollable manifestations of people’s demand for justice and equality…But now marches are now so predictable and scripted they’ve lost the ability to impact politicians and policy, to force transformation.
Bah hooey the head idiot in charge, Editor in Chief gave some lame non-apology. Big whoop. The New York Post has a history of publishing incendiary and racist stories/cartoons/etc. Go down the list of all the “news” media and you will find a lot of dirty hands in that cookie jar. Go through the staff and you will find it to be a sanctuary for old white men with a few white women thrown in the mix and a few crumbs for a chosen non-whites, but make no mistake the people calling the shots are the same old-same old. 
Look at the ones writing the checks. Rupert Murdoch owns: NY Post, Wall Street Journal, Fox, MySpace amongst other holdings and has a net worth of at least $8B. Do you think he cares about a few letters and some people screaming on the corner? He’s just going to cut a check and keep it moving. Are you going to stop patronizing his businesses? If you’re going to engage in a battle with someone you should get a lay of the land and size up your opponent first to devise the best strategy before taking action. This isn’t the ’60s and those tactics don’t work! 
Now if all of those protesting had decided to pool their time and resources for a long-term counter-attack and initiative that would be different. How about pushing for the FCC to grow a pair and get back to keeping these media outlets in line? How about paying attention to those applying for licenses like Bob Johnson trying to weasel his way into getting another network right under our noses? How about demanding Hollywood start hiring Black actresses again and not buying movie tickets until they do? How about accepting the fact that a man with Murdoch’s stature has spent decades building alliances in all sectors of society and government in this country, the UK and his birth country Australia? 
How about working on the systematic racism in the hiring practices that have excluded independent thinkers who are unbiased in their coverage and yes, non-white, in positions of authority? Call on Eric Holder and tell him to put the muscle of the Justice Department behind his words. Call on the President and demand that he does. Well, these aren’t glamorous moves and they take a long time. 30-40 years ago a certain pressure was applied and shame did wonders – as well as seeing people being hosed and murdered. 
The failure of Civil Rights was that equality wasn’t demanded and the voices and contributions of Black women were shuttered so the men could progress (at our expense). Moving to formerly all-white enclaves, having unfettered access to white women, making some money or gaining notoriety seemed good enough for most of them. Yes, I’m mentioning this because it’s time we do a reboot on the abridged version of events and tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Feeling good breeds complacency. We need to take action.
There were no long-terms plans for sustaining these gains which is why things have so quickly deteriorated in the past 10-20 years. I’ve noticed for example as the Black television anchors in my local news market have retired they are not replaced with another Black anchor or even another non-white of any gender but by white men and women. As I previously discussed in my post here there are no Blacks behind the anchor desks (and little if any in the offices of upper management) covering national evening news. 
When the vacant post for Meet the Press needed to be filled it was the white male running NBC who gave the slot to another white male – and not even someone who was remotely qualified. It’s almost incestuous and it’s definitely exclusionary and insulting. Where were the protests about that? Where is the strategizing for alternative sources of news? Why are Black people waiting for other people to act right? Start a network! Pool resources. Get busy. 

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My Thoughts on the Eric Holder Race Speech and Rebuttals

Our new Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech Wednesday on race relations in the US. He spoke about people selectively segregating themselves. I thought it was a great thing for the top prosecutor of the country to speak so plainly. I also expect him to enact the policies that compliment what he said, otherwise he’s just whistling Dixie out his butt. These things needed to be said though. I found one important aspect that seems to have gotten lost in shuffle: he called for Blacks to be more open to expanding their social networks as well. A lot of Blacks are very reluctant to leave the confines of their immediate neighborhoods and mingle with other people of different classes and races. 
I grew up in a very segregated area that admittedly was designed that way for exclusionary purposes, but I always made an effort to seek out a variety friends. It was awkward and I didn’t quite understand what compelled me to do so. No one in my family was actively encouraging me to do so either. I just knew ultimately it would be good for me. Growing up I had always been encouraged to do well in school and I loved to read. 
I had a core group of classmates that I sometimes socialized with after school. We all had similar goals of no babies out of wedlock and college. They were in fact in a higher income bracket than my family. So when I came into contact with some other students in high school who didn’t have the same background I had to “deal” with them. They only hung out with other Blacks from the lower classes and were defiantly anti-intellectual. After being called “white girl” one too many times I confronted one female with a pop quiz in Black history: 10 easy questions I think every Black American should know. She couldn’t answer one question and that forever silenced her and her crew as to who was “Blacker”. 
I told her if she didn’t even know her heritage she could not define “Blackness”. I have never wanted to be white by the way I just wanted to be myself. That included listening to the Cure and buying my clothes at a thrift shop. So what Eric Holder mentioned is of great importance to those that isolate themselves and miss out. This is especially true for Black women who refuse to widen their dating pool and seek out marriageable quality men of all ethnicities. Black people especially need to get out of all-Black settings because they all too often lead to an extremely warped view of what it means to be Black. 
Also because we need to learn how to navigate our lives in many scenarios as well as be equipped to work around racism when we can. The ally or mentor we need to progress career and life-wise may NOT be another Black person. Go chew on that! So I was really surprised by Dr. Melissa Harris Lacewell’s Op-Ed piece blasting AG Holder. She says:
“But ultimately, Eric Holder’s discussion of race in America was a failure. It failed because Holder spoke more like a grade school principal than like the attorney general of the United States. He framed our nation’s continuing racial work as a struggle to feel comfortable, be tolerant, and have “frank conversations about racial matters.”

I appreciate the sentiment, but I would prefer Holder use the Department of Justice to sue those who illegally discriminate against racial minorities rather than holding encounter sessions in the lunchroom. 

Eric Holder has something more. He has the law. I don’t want my attorney general to scold me about having conversations; I want him to tell me the lawsuits he plans to file against those who continue to practice educational, employment, and housing discrimination.”
I understand she wants systematic racism acknowledged and addressed and I completely agree. I also think this is the same argument that fuels the Civil Rights Industrial Complex and promotes too much of a victim mentality amongst the masses. It’s why the focus is still on white cops who shoot Black men who may or may not have criminal backgrounds. It’s why the NAACP only takes up the cause of a Black man that’s been harmed by a white person. Black women are rarely part of this call to arms to protect and support. Black on Black crime and the murder rates are completely ignored. The protectionist attitude of “saving the oppressed Black male” is seen as the only perspective. 
It fuels the Obama as Messiah perspective. It’s not realistic, not happening and it encourages people “to wait” on the benevolence of others. It promotes being passive instead of active participants. Laws can be changed to be favorable one decade and punitive the next. I think enough of our ancestors have paid the ultimate price. It’s time for a new strategy. 
Also this doesn’t address the internal motivations of many who will not step into their power and pick up the mantle of leadership. There’s a bit of a destructive element going on in the Black community where people are turning on each other – except when it’s to decry “racism”. The focus cannot be solely on that. We are stronger than that. We can do better now. It’s a choice we can make. 

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Are We Being Prudent or Overly Critical With Obama & the Economy?

I voted for Obama, and I am very hopeful about what he can do, but right now, people are judging Bush’s results against Obama’s intentions. The work is only beginning. – Guy Kawasaki

I saw this in a thread I linked to from Twitter. His statement stopped me cold. I had to pause and let it sit in my brain for awhile. Have I been worrying and expecting a doomsday scenario? Will the administration weather any potential storms and I can look back and gently chide myself for being concerned? Is the economy going to prove to teeter on the brink of, but not fall into collapse? There’s an entire blog dedicated to giving us a rather perfunctory reality check.
Should I just not even talk about this anymore? I think it depends on your circumstances. If you are in a comfortable position with liquid assets available and wilderness skills – and have currency on hand and a back-up food supply – then you’ll be okay. If you are solely relying on good intentions, goodwill and people doing the “right” thing – no. If things hit the skids the Mexican border is a few hours away and I’m certain I’d be a fast learner for weapons training.
We are shaped by our perspectives and the traditions we’ve been taught to believe. Changes in patterns require a lot of reflection and a shift in thought processes. We also need to have something else to put in its place. That’s enough of the pop psychology angle. From a practical standpoint we have to be realistic. If things deteriorated in this country to a certain point I could get across the border in a few hours. I’m telling you, reading Atlas Shrugged has me longing for a secret society I can escape to – but I’m not certain how anyone would avoid detection due to all the satellites, spy planes and technology today. I’m sure there’s a way though.
I think Guy has a point though, we do have Bush failure on the brain (even those that would vehemently deny it) but we see how letting things go escalated into a clusterf*ck of major proportions. The thing is some people actually voted for Bush based on his promise of bringing honor and integrity to the White House. Remember that? His administration was anything but when he – by virtue of a partisan Supreme Court – stole the election.
Despite that some people (and I’m specifically talking about Blacks) voted for him the second time because the Black men they let interpret their religious beliefs told them to. People were not making sound political choices based on research. In fact it was another Black man in OH who blatantly disenfranchised voters in 2004. I wondered how people could just sit idly by and be used so thoroughly considering the stolen and denied votes from 2000. Nobody did anything about it but complain about it after the fact.  So I shudder to think about those that jumped on the Obama train because he looked good on paper as well as those that oppose him because of their internalized self-hatred. Disagreeing with his policies are one thing – absorbing and using white supremacist rhetoric is another.
I will always remember New Orleans and Katrina and how it was a majority of (poorer) African Americans who relied on the benevolence of their government, assumed other people would be competent enough to take care of things if they got rough and didn’t prepare for the worst case scenario. They were left to fend for themselves – and a lot of them died because of it. It wasn’t the wealthy. It was the sick, the elderly and the poor(er) folks that became collateral damage over saving the offshore oil or a former Rep’s house. Isn’t this why those that survived the Holocaust keep talking about it and vowing to never let it happen again? Collectively most of the people displaced have not and will not be able to return to NOLA as there’s a concerted effort in keeping them out. So I may be overemphasizing these things, but I have to look at it without emotion from a critical perspective.
I was having an chat with someone on Twitter a few days ago where I mentioned how disappointed I was with the PBO capitulation to the Republicans to garner support that never came and how bad it looked despite the passage of the stimulus package. Another person sent me a message asking why I was being so critical after only three weeks. Well I wonder if things will be this contentious the next 3.95 to 8 years. Somebody’s gotta wear down eventually. It’s why I question who the real allies of PBO are and whether he’s ready to show some righteous fire.
Did the Republican factions against Clinton wear down during his tenure in office? No. In fact they were aided by the corporate media in presenting a biased viewpoint. How would it have looked for those hypocrites to be revealed trying to expose Clinton for his personal failings while they were engaged in the exact same thing? Going back to NOLA for example, they have a new Congressional Representative who took over after William Jefferson was busted for stealing money and voted out of office.
Rep. Cao got buzz for being the first Asian elected official for that district. He’s a Republican who promised to do right by his constituents, despite being from an opposing party and an immigrant. He even wanted to join the Congressional Black Caucus because his district is primarily Black. Well he was part of the Political Wall of Opposition that voted against the stimulus. Now who in their right mind would turn down money to rebuild NOLA? A FOOL! So we can judge him by his actions and see he is going to be even more useless than the greedy Jefferson was and he’s only been in office a short time. Things went from bad to worse.
Which brings me back to Obama. It’s not that his intentions may not be good, but what will his actions show us? How will opposition forces shape his administration? Look at the policies Clinton implemented that were harmful to those Blacks (and others) on the lower economic pendulum. Three strikes, harsher sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine and welfare-to-work are just some examples.  Yet Blacks were touting him as an honorary Negro.
When Reagan was in office he lowered the tax rates for the wealthy and started the assault against regulating the financial markets. Some people loved it, but if you trend the national debt it spiked and has been climbing ever since. Oddly enough it was Clinton who managed to lower it slightly before it jumped to its present heights now. That debt isn’t going to level off either. It took nearly three decades to balloon and will take a long time to be paid off – if it ever is.
Californians were supposedly sick of Gray Davis and wanted “change”. He was trying to get the Enron millions they’d bilked from us – whose top executives were incidentally Bush supporters. So the Republicans thought they try a little experiment and pull a Sarah Palin on the voters by using an attractive, verbally-challenged candidate with star power and sex appeal. See how we led the pack years in advance? That brought us Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s just as unqualified and just as dangerous. Look at the $42B deficit and a stalled budget since last July as proof of his failed leadership and failed Republican policies. Now the plan is to fire state workers – that just so happen to be SEIU members. It’s blatant union-busting tactics. I wonder how many of them fell for the con and voted for the Governator. People got caught up and didn’t check under the hood. Now that we’re reaping what’s been sowed people aren’t going to want to live on ramen noodles if they were feasting off filet mignon – albeit on borrowed money and overvalued assets.
So I guess I’ll reserve making any definitive statements but I will continue to monitor things as they go. I can’t jump on the hope train oblivious to major shifts in PBO’s agenda nor will I yell fire in a crowded room. The idiocy in California makes it even more challenging to not react harshly to the idiocy coming from Washington. The time to be diligent and prepare is now. There are still plenty of people who are in fact doing just fine. I just need to go make some new friends and find some allies for that secret society!

The Stimulus Plan Passed: Where Do We Go From Here?

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone reading this can spend some time amongst loved ones and be grateful for receiving love and support. 
After much wrangling, compromising and machinations, PBO has been declared the “winner” – at least for this round – against the obstructionists from both major parties who opposed the passage of the stimulus bill. Yes it does add more debt and that isn’t a good thing. No it will not solve this economic crisis on its own. It’s too soon to tell what benefits will be gained and how many people it ends up helping. Those unemployed will see an immediate relief with an extension of benefits and a slight increase. The National Endowment for the Arts has funding again after years of neglect. People who have enough funds to buy new cars and a home will see a discount. Students will get a few hundred extra out of the PELL grant finally. Tax credits abound (if you can wait an entire year more power to ya). 
I would’ve liked to have seen a provision specifically for renters getting emergency aid to cover payments for 1-2 months, particularly those facing evictions due to job losses without any repayment requirements. Here in California thanks to the idiot unqualified actor and the $42B debt we will be facing a state income tax increase as well as a sales tax increase. If you’re on the lower economic end that adds up to a few thousand dollars per year so all those breaks from the federal stimulus plan just got knocked out. 
We know the President has other plans in the works to try to jump start the dead battery aka our economy, but we need a critical assessment of the overall picture and most of us have no clue. Not even the so-called experts. Last year the Fed stopped a run on the banks that would’ve wiped us out for good. This problem hasn’t been resolved – let’s be fair to #44 and know he won’t be able to do anything about it permanently either – but PBO will be assigning an additional $2 trillion to the banks. Those banks aren’t required to loan any money and as we know there was no oversight and nothing preventing them from doling out bonuses to the tune of $20B either. That salary cap is loosely worded in the stimulus package and really how is it going to be enforced? 
Here’s the video from C-Span where Rep. Kanjorski, the Capital Markets Subcommitte Chair discusses how we’re 2 hours away from collapse. Who cares about the Octo-Mom or the Grammys under these circumstances?
The problem is the continued generation of tax breaks and policies that create a class of the uber-wealthy minority at the expense of the masses which creates a majority of individuals whose incomes deteriorate while costs for necessities increase faster than can be replicated. It’s the hedge fund manager pulling in $10M whose company will only pay an assistant $40K per year in a major city where rents may have jumped to $2000K per month. You might be educated and you might be working but you’ll always be broke unless you can either earn more money, marry and get an additional income, take a second job or have your expenses lowered. That’s a lot to ask of a person. Plus that manager has had their taxes lowered, has more loopholes available and is going to be catered to by the government no matter what. We’re expected to believe we have “freedom” and unlimited choices but in real life application we are in a box with limited room for movement. 
The United States already is in the red for $50 trillion and counting so what’s another few billions to the pile – although our current public debt is listed at “only” $10 trillion that’s not counting EVERYTHING. All of the focus on the Republican turncoat who stepped aside from his Commerce Secretary nomination was a distraction. PBO needs to act like he’s the friggin’ President and stop trying to make friends out of those who’ve declared themselves enemies. It’s very frustrating to watch these appointments bite the dust quite frankly – all reasonable arguments aside.  The next Census is very important and should never have been even hinted at being left in the hands of someone opposed to supporting business development by the non-whites in this country or wanting to thwart the correct allocation of districts.
The real focus should be on the Comptroller General and the Government Accountability Office. Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe there is one. Seen any articles of the corporate media about this office? Me either. It’s supposed to be the tax-payer’s friend. Gene Dodaro may be the current position-holder but my eyes are on his predecessor David Walker who’s been very vocal about the Fiscal State of the Union  for nearly 2 years and why we’re still in deep doo-doo. Here’s his interview with 60 Minutes from late 2007. I wish I’d been paying attention.
The other elephant in the room is whether PBO’s other plans will be implemented and whether they’ll be structured in a way that actually helps those that truly need it. When he caved so quickly to demands for tax breaks and gave a much higher percentage than what was absolutely necessary (see my renter not getting funds to stave off an eviction vs. homebuyer getting a discount) you can see where the priorities lay. A homebuyer is already entitled to certain additional tax breaks and could certainly do without the funds imo. It’s a need vs. want scenario and since it’s all borrowed money why not put it to its best usage?
Who are the real allies of Barack Obama? I keep asking on various political blogs and have yet to receive a definitive list. As I go down the list of his appointees, those he’s added to his staff and his political “friends” I can’t find any. Remember there are no permanent friends only permanent interests. So what happens when PBO’s agendas are of no interest to those that can do him the most damage politically? I see people who were and would continue to be just fine without him. They were already established in their careers and/or have connections to other politicians/factions/governments. It seems he needs them more than than they do. 
Look at how some of his nominees have bitten the dust. The vetting process was weak. The BBC has an article questioning whether he was unlucky or naive? I have concerns and am not liking what I’ve seen so far. You can still be supportive of the President and be critical. Look at the voters and why they did – or didn’t support his candidacy. I see declared enemies working at his right hand. Perhaps I just don’t get it, but Bush ruled with an iron fist. Yeah he sounded dumb on tv, but the Republicans obeyed and the media followed. He was in charge. He didn’t ask – he took. Cheney is scary. We saw the emergence of the Blue Dog Democrats who are really just Rethugs who infiltrated the opposition party to help it implode on itself. The biggest turncoat Lieberman has been allowed to keep all of his plum committee appointments. Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. All the enemies and obstructionists got rewarded. 
That’s just messed up in my book under any circumstances. I still don’t like it and it’s causing a pit of apprehension just thinking about it. I wonder when the rug is going to pulled out from underneath us on all levels. I wonder if enough people are working together in a concerted effort to help level the playing field. Electing one person isn’t enough. Now due to the vast economic upheaval many are in a fight for basic solvency which removes them from that particular battle. That may be the intention as this is a multi-tiered spiritual/political/personal war going on in this country and around the world. 
I am doing my best to be prepared but it requires a lot of effort and being vigilant. That’s very tiring when all you want to do is celebrate symbolism and bask in the glow of hope. We can’t afford to leave things to others to take care of for us. The alternative is to be left behind in the wake of another pending catastrophe that you weren’t aware of but we can’t claim ignorance of potential disasters anymore.   

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