Monday Reads

T1587384_05Good Morning!Today is the day we remember Martin Luther King and it’s the day for the formal inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.

John Nichols–writing at The Nation–believes that “This President Can—and Must—Claim a Mandate to Govern“.

With his second inauguration, Barack Obama will become the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to renew his tenure after having won more than 51 percent of the vote in two consecutive elections.

More importantly, in a political sense, he will be the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to have won mandates from the majority of the American people in two consecutive elections.

This is the perspective that Americans should bring to the inaugural festivities. We should expect a great deal from Barack Obama. Despite four years of battering by Fox and Limbaugh and the Tea Party and Mitch McConnell, he has been re-elected with a higher percentage of the popular vote than John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 or 1996 or George Bush in 2000 or 2004.

Obama’s mandate extends beyond himself.  His party has increased its Senate majority and Democrats earned 1.4 million more votes in House races than Republicans. Gerrymandering and money kept Republican control of the House, but that opposition party is in such disarray that the president really does have an opening to make something of his mandate.

Obama must seize that opportunity as an essential part of making the case for bold executive orders and a bold legislative agenda that will bring not just the hope but the change he promised in what now seems like a very distant 2008 campaign. The president has in the transition period since the 2012 election displayed a willingness to push harder, to go bigger, and it has yielded significant progress not just on gun-safety issues but in the long struggle against the Republican austerity agenda that makes a diety of deregulating away consumer and environmental protections, tearing the social safety net and cutting taxes for wealthy campaign donors.

To consolidate that progress, and to assure that his second term will be as visionary and activist as his 2012 campaign promised, Obama must, like FDR, use every opportunity to give voice to the agenda- not just in his inaugural address but in his February 12 (Lincoln’s Birthday) State of the Union address.

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Many things have become political footballs these days.  The bodies, abuse, and rape of women.  The idea that taxpayer money should be used to support religious indoctrination or profiting from educating our children.  Even Science, so much at the center of a lot things we were proud of in the 20th century,has become political.  Are there any dangers in this? Dr. Puneet Opal presents his case at The Atlantic.

Over the past few years, and particularly in the past few months, there seems to be a growing gulf between U.S Republicans and science. Indeed, by some polls only 6 percent of scientists are Republican, and in the recent U.S. Presidential election, 68 science Nobel Prize winners endorsed the Democratic nominee Barack Obama over the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

As a scientist myself, this provokes the question: What are the reasons for this apparent tilt?

Some of this unease might be because of the feeling that the Republicans might cut federal science spending. The notion is certainly not helped by news-making rhetoric of some Republicans against evolution in favor of creationism; unsubstantiated claims that immunization aimed at preventing future cervical cancer cause mental retardation in young girls; and unscientific views of how the female body can prevent pregnancies under conditions of rape.

These comments might represent heartfelt beliefs of the leaders in question; however, some might simply be statements designed to placate the anti-science sections of their base, as part of the political calculus.

A recent opinion in the leading science journal Nature, written by Daniel Sarewitz, a co-director of the Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University, suggests that this polarization of scientists away from the Republicans is bad news. Surprisingly — as he tells it — most of the bad news is the potential impact on scientists. Why? Because scientists, he believes — once perceived by Republicans to be a Democratic interest group — will lose bipartisan support for federal science funding. In other words, they will be threatened with funding cuts. Moreover, when they attempt to give their expert knowledge for policy decisions, conservatives will choose to ignore the evidence, claiming a liberal bias.

The comments of Sarewitz might be considered paranoid thinking on the part of a policy wonk, but he backs up his statement by suggesting a precedent: the social sciences, he feels, have already received this treatment at the hands of conservatives in government by making pointed fingers at their funding. Therefore he says that a sufficient number of scientists must be seen to also support Republicans for the sake of being bipartisan. To be fair to Republicans, no politician has actually targeted science funding in this vindictive manner. But this assessment only goes to show how science is quickly becoming a political football.

I would argue that this sort of thinking might well be bad for scientists, but is simply dangerous for the country. As professionals, scientists should not be put into a subservient place by politicians and ideologues. They should never be felt that their advice might well be attached to carrots or sticks.

Democratic Economists outnumber Republicans by 2.5 to 1.  No wonder many Republicans home school their children and use specious textbooks.

The President was sworn in quietly on Sunday on the day mandated by the Constitution.

With only his family beside him, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office for a second term on Sunday in advance of Monday’s public pomp, facing a bitterly divided government at home and persistent threats abroad that inhibit his effort to redefine America’s use of power.

It was a brief and intimate moment in the White House, held because of a quirk of the calendar that placed the constitutionally mandated start of the new term on a Sunday.

But the low-key event seemed to capture tempered expectations after four years of economic troubles and near-constant partisan confrontation. And it presaged a formal inauguration on Monday that will be less of a spectacle than the first one, when the nation’s first black president embodied hope and change for many Americans at a time of financial struggle and war.

For Monday’s festivities, with the traditional parade, balls and not least the re-enacted swearing-in outside the Capitol, there will be fewer parties and fewer people swarming the National Mall; organizers expect less than half the 1.8 million people who flocked to the city last time.

Once the parties end, Mr. Obama’s second-term challenges are formidable, not least given his ambitious priorities of addressing the national debt, illegal immigration and gun violence.

The economy, while recovering steadily, remains fragile. The unemployment rate is as high as it was in January 2009, though it is down from the 10 percent peak reached late that year, and there is no consensus with Republicans about additional stimulus measures — or virtually anything else.

And as the terrorist attack in Algeria last week illustrated, Mr. Obama continues to confront threats around the globe, both from state actors like Iran and North Korea and from Qaeda-inspired extremists seeking to exploit power vacuums in the Mideast and across Africa and Asia.

It’s been 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I’ve Got a Dream” Speech. 

The speech he delivered the next day — Aug. 28, 1963 — rocked the nation, as King challenged America to live up to the ideas of justice and equality it professed to cherish.

Fifty years later, the “I Have A Dream” speech is still widely regarded as the most powerful and significant speech of the 20th Century.

As the nation celebrates King’s birthday today, the speech itself is being remembered and celebrated in Detroit — which got the first glimpse of the speech — and across the nation.

King speechwriter Clarence B. Jones, who was one of those advisers on the speech, will be the featured speaker at a program today in Ann Arbor and two programs open to the public in Detroit on Tuesday.

Jones, scholar in residence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Research & Education Institute at Stanford University, helped draft parts of the speech and was on stage with King when he delivered it in Washington.

Jones believes the riveting crescendo of the speech was God-given.

He said he remembers gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, also on stage, telling King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream,” said Jones during a recent telephone conversation. “He pushed the written text aside and started speaking from the heart. It was like he had become possessed, like someone had taken over his body. It was electrifying.”

It wasn’t just what he was saying, but the powerful delivery that stirred the nation’s moral conscience, Jones said.

“The speech tapped into the very core values of who we were supposed to be as a country,” Jones said. “He was speaking prophetically about what America could be if it lived out the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Everybody who heard it, black or white, segregationists or integrationists, everybody knew he was speaking the truth.”

It’s hard to think about what life was like for those black Americans living in the Jim Crow South before the work of people like Dr. King and Miss Rosa Parks.  Here’s Dr King Speaking about the Bus Boycott in Selma in 1955.  You can find a collection of historical videos on the struggle for racial equality here.

It’s good that we have a day to reflect on all of those things–both good and bad–that make up American History.  Have a wonderful holiday!

kingin selma

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68 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. ANonOMouse says:

    Very good post this morning Dak.

    I remember the days of Jim Crow well. The “Whites Only” and “No Colored” signs on fountains and restrooms. The signs on the city buses directing blacks to the rear of the bus. The segregated schools and neighborhoods. The “No coloreds served here” at lunch counters and restaurants. Riding into Southern “Sundown towns” and their warning signs at the city limits. So even though it is a distant memory, I can still see the effects of those days all around me. It takes longer than 4-5 decades to wash away the stench of 300 years of devastating oppression.

    And in memory of MLK here’s an excellent article that addresses how the worlds oligarchs perpetuate oppression and poverty and how easily they could end it. Honestly I don’t see how the mega-wealthy sleep at night.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/19/240-billion-amassed-by-100-richest-people-enough-to-end-extreme-poverty-four-times-over-oxfam/

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    The good old USA is currently in the hands of quasi Democrats and radical Right Wingers and never the twain shall meet.

    “Grand bargains” are being decided offstage while the rest of us sit here like sitting ducks hoping and praying that whatever manages to seep through as a “done deal” won’t be as hurtful as what we perceive.

    As long as there are those out there given a forum to advance their insane theories for attacking women’s healthcare access and right to privacy, and the idiocy of the lack of any gun control laws aimed at the elimination of easy access to military weapons, then we may all as well declare “uncle” and retire to our bunkers.

    We are being governed by fools if we were being honest with ourselves. The crazies yell “jump” and the weak yell “how high?”.

    The reasonable objective would be to rid the nation of these brain addled morons in congress but the deck is stacked in their favor.

    Civil rights? Equality under the law? Human rights? Whatever you choose to call it the fact is that they are all in danger of dilution with what these lawmakers in charge across this nation.

    So whatever the “soaring rhetoric” we expect to hear today the truth is it won’t.

  3. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce: What Are The Gobshites Saying These Days?

    Luckily, later on, Tom Brokaw, The Man Who Invented World War II, came along later to explain that all we really have to do to get our house in order is starve the olds and the poors according to universally rejected Republican principles.

    I think that there’s a desperate need for the country going forward to do something about tax reforms and entitlements fitting under the umbrella of fixing the economy and creating more jobs and stop the spending. That’s going to be tough. We’ve been giving people things for a long time. Now they’re going to have to start reeling them in and fine tuning them, and that’s going to take an exceptional hand in the White House to pull that off. So that’s a daunting task.

    Is that more disgusting because Tom Brokaw is reputed to be a respected newsman and clearly doesn’t have any idea how the economy works or the fact that, in Social Security and Medicare, what we have been “giving people…for a long time” is their own goddamned money that they paid into the system over their working lives, which he would like to extend? Or is it because Tom Brokaw has a hair-curling contempt for his fellow citizens and is a smug, entitled foof who will not feel a thing from the pain he is recommending be brought down on other people? Is he someone who should be ignored, or is he someone who should be smeared with honey and left among the fire ants?

    Fire ants are definitely the way and the path for dealing with Brokaw.

  4. janicen says:

    I have to say it feels good to be excited and inspired by today’s inauguration. 2008, my feelings were still hurt, 2004 and 2000 ugh! It’s not been since 1996 that I was so jazzed. Seriously, I’m so glad the Democrats won the election. May they win the next two as well!

    • Beata says:

      Yes, Janice, it feels good to be able to celebrate today!

      I have not forgotten 2008, but I have let go of the bitterness. I am optimistic about the future.

  5. janicen says:

    OMG I’m getting chills from The Battle Hymn of the Republic!

  6. janicen says:

    Look at Scalia standing there with his arms crossed! Pig!

  7. janicen says:

    “Decade of war is ending.”

    Yay!

  8. janicen says:

    I’m loving this speech so far.

    • bostonboomer says:

      He mentioned Stonewall!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      MSNBC just called it one of the most progressive speeches Obama has ever given. It’s definitely the most progressive speech I’ve heard as an Inauguration speech and one I never dreamed I’d live long enough to witness. It it hit nearly perfect on my progressive perfection barometer.

      This isn’t verbatim, but I loved the part where he vowed that we wouldn’t solve our debt issues on the backs of seniors or the poor. I believe he finally understands that the GOP/TP only wants what he cannot and will not give, the safety nets. This is getting ready to get very interesting.

      • janicen says:

        Yes, yes, yes! Honestly I think it was the best inauguration speech I have ever heard. I know all of the nay-sayers and whiners will say it’s just words, but you have to think and say the words before you act. I’d rather hear those words than not.

    • dakinikat says:

      We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    James Taylor did a nice job on America the Beautiful. Such an improvement on you know who.

  10. janicen says:

    Beautiful speech. Didn’t sound like he was backing down from anything despite the Republicans trying to play nice. They announced earlier that they would vote to raise the debt ceiling on Wednesday. Looks like they are going to try to look less a$$holish during the upcoming term.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There were a couple of digs in there about obstructionism, rigid ideology, and namecalling, but all very dignified sounding.

    • RalphB says:

      It was a really great speech. Including climate change was a really good thing and it’s time.

      • dakinikat says:

        We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

  11. Beata says:

    Obama has matured in office. He has also become more openly empathetic, less aloof. More “real” and less programmed. I see that as very positive going forward.

    • RalphB says:

      You could really tell after Sandy Hook that any aloofness he had was just shattered. I’m very glad to see that genie out of the bottle!

    • bostonboomer says:

      I agree, Beata. We’ve talked about it before. Presidents do grow in office, and I truly believe this one has grown a great deal. I think a lot of growth happened during the election campaign when he saw how much the people support a liberal agenda and not the ideology of anger, greed and rigidity.

  12. dakinikat says:

    Monday morning levity: Louisiana senator asks if E. coli evolve into persons

    http://bit.ly/VLhePP

  13. dakinikat says:

    Media Matters ‏@mmfa

    On MLK Jr day, we remember how the fight for civil rights won great victories through the practice of non-violence: http://mm4a.org/WfhKUw

  14. dakinikat says:

    CSMonitor.com ‏@csmonitor

    President Obama’s address for Inauguration 2013 http://bit.ly/10hYYwv

    • dakinikat says:

      We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

      • RalphB says:

        Hell yeah! A better safety net would only lead to more entrepreneurship and a much more vibrant economy and country.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Now if we can just convince the people who have all the money to open up the vaults and invest in the country and the people that made them mega-wealthy (or we could legislate the alternative, which is tax the shit of the) then we might have the ability to form a “more perfect union”.

      • Beata says:

        And the people say, “Hallelujah”.

      • janicen says:

        I swooned at that part of the speech too.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        An expanded version of Dak’s quote:

        “We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm ”

        That’s the excerpt that played out in my mind as Obama stating that SS, Medicare & Medicaid (seniors, the disabled and the poor) are not going to be part of any debt reduction deal. The GOP/TP is probably still seething over that comment.

  15. NW Luna says:

    OK John Nichols, so Obama has a mandate. I’m not holding my breath that he’ll do much besides compromise.

    • NW Luna says:

      And make great speeches. Yeah, I know, I’m a cynic.

      OTOH it is his last term. He does not need to worry about re-election. Maybe that will free him up to act boldy.

    • Beata says:

      I’ll be watching Biden. He’s going to have even greater influence in Obama’s second term. Does he want to run for POTUS in 2016 as the Democratic VP who negotiated the destruction of the foundations of the New Deal and the Great Society? We’ll see.

  16. dakinikat says:

    For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

    That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.

  17. janicen says:

    Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.

  18. RalphB says:

    This is a great story about the People’s ball in 2009.

    WAPO: The 2009 People’s Inaugural Ball changed lives

    Somewhere in the crowd that night stood homeless people, wounded service members, flood survivors. If you looked into the ballroom, it would have been hard to distinguish the millionaires from the people who had only pennies in their pockets. They would dine on lobster and steak, nibble on white chocolate. They would shake hands with celebrities and dance until night moved into day. No one would know that a ripple of change was making its way through the crowd that night, and that the People’s Inaugural Ball, celebrating the first African American president in U.S. history, would transform lives one by one….

    As they walked down 14th Street, Emily Miller and Elaine Webber might as well have been floating. Emily Miller carried an elegant hot-pink satin gown. Elaine Webber held a chocolate-and-cream designer dress with delicate hand-sewn crystals.

    Nobody watching the women as they made their way toward the JW Marriott Hotel that January night in 2009 would have known that, not long ago, they had been living on the streets, addicted and homeless….

    At the Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the host of the ball, Fairfax County philanthropist Earl W. Stafford, waited in a black tuxedo. About two weeks before, the millionaire had sold Unitech, a simulation technology company he had founded in 1988, to Lockheed Martin for an undisclosed amount…

    The inspiration to throw the ball had come during the 2008 primaries before he knew Obama would be president.

    “I … bought the presidential suite at the Hay-Adams six months ahead of time because I thought I would have some underserved homeless there to watch the parade, have some food and go home,” he said. But something told him that would be too little.

    So, he paid $2 million for hotel rooms, transportation, food, gowns and tuxes, and invited 450 for a night beyond their most outlandish dreams….