Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Unemployment falls in most regions but Inland Empire still suffers -

Unemployment falls in most regions but Inland Empire still suffers - "Among the 49 metro areas with a population of 1 million or more, the Inland Empire recorded the highest unemployment rate, at 10.9%."

This is a travesty!  Where are (or what are) our industries?  Did we expect to survive only on construction? Who are the forward thinkers planning for our future?  How do we employ our children...and keep our college graduates here?  Health Care?  Technology? Or maybe combine the two with bio-tech? Something other than building houses and shopping centers.  Again...a travesty and why so many capable, talented people (especially young people) leave the area.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Washington Watch: Week One

Official White House Photo. Lawrence Jackson

Week One:  President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term at the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

“What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
President Barack Obama, January 21, 2013

Inauguration 2013 -- First of all.... the crowds

Most estimates put the crowd at about 800,000 or slightly less than half of the 2009 inauguration. From my recollection, the 2009 crowd stretched nearly to the Lincoln Memorial. The 2013 crowd didn't seem to go beyond the Washington Monument.  (btw...If you ever get to DC make sure you recreate King’s March on Washington walk from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.  I always make my kids do their chagrin.  This time, as we approached the Lincoln Memorial I felt inclined to sing “We Shall Overcome.” My 14-year-old sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”)

To get a better idea of the crowd differences,The Washington Post published a neat tool to compare the inaugural crowds from 2009 and 2013.

Inauguration 2013 -- Let’s get Beyonce out of the way

I summarized my thoughts on her lip-synching in my prior inauguration blog...I’ll just add two things:  First...I agree with those who say that long, black sequined dress didn't work for the occasion. It was more appropriate for a Ball. However, I have had many a fashion faux-pas so I’ll end the criticism here.

Second...I’m guessing shrewd businesswoman Beyonce recorded the song to release it as a single...the way Whitney Houston released hers. 

From Wikipedia: Houston's recording of "The Star Spangled Banner" reached the number twenty on the Hot 100 Singles chart in March 1991, making her the only act to turn the national anthem into a pop hit. The single was re-released in September 2001 and peaked at number six on the chart, becoming the first and the only version of the national anthem to achieve that feat in music history”  

With all the brouhaha regarding the lip-synching, we probably won’t see the Beyonce National Anthem single.

This was the second inauguration controversy for Beyonce. In 2009, Etta James was upset that Beyonce was chosen to sing Etta’s signature song “At Last” at the official Inaugural Ball (as the first couple danced.)  Wonder how Al Green felt about Jennifer Hudson singing “Let’s Stay Together” this year?

Inauguration 2013 -- The Reaction

The response was predictable (and probably written) before the President uttered a word. Democrats (quick to remind that they are the victors) heard what they wanted to hear and Republicans dismissed the speech as divisive (from the group that brought us the Tea Party). Decide for yourself:  Read the whole speech Here or watch above.

Inauguration 2013 --  The Work Begins

So many issues to address... so much work to be done.  From Cabinet appointments (still looking for more women), to immigration reform, health care implementation, gun / violence control (we must not forget Sandy Hook), climate change, debt, entitlements, education, the list goes on and on. And then there is foreign policy. We can't afford to continue with gridlocked government. So will it be "FORWARD" or "STANDING STILL" or worse, "BACKWARD?"

“All Talk”

Remember all that talk before the inauguration about shutting down Government and an absolute refusal to lift the debt ceiling? Seems the Republicans decided that a long protracted battle with the Administration, AND the American public, was a no-win situation right now. They kicked the ball down the road until May 19.

“Because We Need You…”

Saying “Now is the Time” the President outlined his plan for immigration reform, on the heels of a bi-partisan proposal from Senators.  Republicans, after seeing the President take 70% of the emerging Latino vote, have decided that they need to get on the right side of immigration -- a long way from Romney’s “self-deportation” suggestion.

“That’s What Friends Are For…”

60 Minutes aired a love fest between Obama and his out-going Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton. Didn't you get the idea that she has been running ‘the world’ the past few years as he fought for re-election?  She seems to be starting her run for 2016, a super-PAC has been started for her. So far 2016 is looking like Clinton and Christie and Jindal (who suggested fellow Republicans “stop being the stupid party”).  But...wait a that Joe Biden wagging his tail and hinting at a 2016 run?

Good News?

So much good news. So little coverage:

ABC News Reports:  Booming Stocks, Stronger Economy  (1-28-13)

Bloomberg Reports:  Home Prices Climb by Most in Six Years as U.S. Market Firms (1-29-13)

Yet Consumer confidence fell, probably as a result of the payroll-tax hike.

Norris of the New York Times asks: “Who Should we Believe: The Polls vs the Markets” (1-29-13)


A Nostalgic look at Week One 2009:   (Excerpts from my National Scene blog January 26, 2009)
  • The President’s $825 billion dollar economic recovery bill, called ‘The America Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,’ passed without a single Republican vote.
  • Organizing for America (OFA), the continuation of the grassroots Obama movement, called on followers to hold Economic Recovery House Meetings to drum up support for the bill.
  • The Republican National Committee, seeking to rebuild the party after November’s defeat, elected former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele as their Chairman. Steele became the first African-American to hold the post.
  • On January 29, President Barack Obama signed his first piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, that made it easier for anyone to get equal pay for equal work regardless of age, race, or gender. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named after a woman who was paid less than her male co-workers at an Alabama tire factory. After the signing, first lady Michelle Obama held a reception in the State Dining Room honoring Lilly Ledbetter. Mrs.Obama said she supported the measure for fair pay, especially “at a time when so many families are facing economic insecurity and instability.” Speaking to guests at the luncheon, she encouraged them, “feel free, walk around, touch some stuff, just don't break anything.”


Inauguration 2013 -- A final look:

A story making the rounds...a poignant last look at the crowds before leaving the Inauguration Platform...with the President reportedly saying: "I want to take a look one more time, I won’t see this again".  

President Barack Obama pauses to look back at the scene before leaving the platform following the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013.
(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inauguration 2013: “For the People”

“It’s not as cold.”

That was the first comment from those that had attended in 2009.  I remember thinking that year...with all of these people, so close together, “How can we all be so cold!!” Yes, it wasn't the frigid weather we faced in 2009, but there were other differences as well. 

As expected the crowd was less..but, still the diversity was there, all ages, all races. This was definitely Obama’s crowd...the “47%” that turned out to be the “53%.”  Is it no wonder that people who stood in long lines to elect him would have no problem waiting in long lines to see him sworn in?

This inauguration also seemed more contemplative than the festive, historic event of 2009.  Probably because we all know that even with this talented, capable man we have as President…he can only do so much. It is on us now. We have matured as voters.  Sort of like when a child grows up and realizes that a parent can’t solve all of their problems.

Now,don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that the disenfranchised, the disrespected, the disfavored.....let’s just say all of those “dissed” by the American political leadership class for many years-- well NOW we realize that we finally have a seat at the table. There has been a change.  Not sure how long it will last, but this inauguration signaled a New day.

As evidence of this...both Al Sharpton and Jay Z. were ON THE PLATFORM. They are mainstream now!

But, back to the event itself.  First of all, I was so happy to have my fourteen-year-old daughter with me. She was with me in 2009, but as she told me on Monday…”she got it” this time.  She also was moved by the ceremony and said she hopes to someday bring her children and grandchildren. She talked about what it would take to be on-stage with the dignitaries…and I told her.  Perhaps she will be our third or fourth woman President!

We started the day early (around 6am) at the Catholic University (Brookland) Metro Stop. People were told not to drive because streets near the Capitol were closed. There were a lot of people, but not the SRO crowds of before. We got a seat.

The line to go through security was VERY slow moving but not much complaining. I have to say that all-in-all considering the crowds both times, it is amazing how well-tempered everyone was. No pushing or shoving. I guess I would call it a reverent crowd.

And rightly so. The occasion called for reverence and recognition of what a great country this is. Being in front of our nation’s Capitol...watching the President get sworn a somber and emotional experience. For this reason alone I would recommend everyone try to attend an inauguration if possible.

I felt I was there representing the folk back home. A microcosm of the American public.

Always...someone should be there to represent. To say..”This is how WE do it.”

Memorable moments for me:

  • The children’s choirs that serenaded us before the proceedings began. Some of the kids were pretty lively and seemed to really be enjoying themselves. I thought about how great it was for them to be up there looking out on hundreds of thousands of people.
  • The crowd's reaction as various politicians and other dignitaries entered. Good and Bad. Yes Ryan and Gingrich were booed (loudly) but you gotta give them credit for showing up. But, also there were the beloved Democratic figures that received loud cheers.  John Kerry (we thought of what could have been); The Carters (we talked about all of the good work he has done post-presidency); Nancy Pelosi (we LOVE her….she was beautiful in a red coat…”one tough broad”)  Reverend Al got a lot of cheers and we marveled about how he is now mainstream; Everyone awaited the Clintons who were greeted as royalty; (I guess in the Democratic party they are; We talked about “the speech” Bill made at the DNC and how we all hope she runs in 2016.)
  • We commented on the women’s outfits (ladies -- don’t pretend you didn’t also).  Loved Jill Biden’s ensemble. And Eva Longoria looked sophisticated and elegant;
  • For me the guest that spoke the most about this “New American Power Structure” was Jay Z who accompanied his wife Beyonce.  I turned to my daughter and said…”it’s a new day baby.”
  • The Obama girls were darling as usual and everyone discussed how much they've grown.  Mrs. Obama received an extended ovation…but we were there for one person…our President.
  • The ceremony itself contained so much symbolism and the feeling of bringing the past to the future. MLK Jr. was all over that ceremony. (We felt him. His Bible and Lincoln's Bible were used during the swearing in.) Having the wife of Medgar Evers deliver the invocation again reminded us of those who gave their lives so that we can vote and have basic American rights.  I had to explain to my daughter who she is and who her husband was. (I made a mental note to myself to spend a little more time with African-American history with my children).
  • The ceremony reflected our diversity. I know my Latino friends were happy with Sonia Sotomayor administering the oath to Biden, and the young poet Blanco; although to be honest the poem didn’t play too well in my crowd. Some of the young college students around me thought it was too long, too simple, and not well delivered. The writer in me thought the same, however I was very proud to see the young man up there.
  • The singers were outstanding. Kelly Clarkson sounded more soulful than ever. James Taylor was good, although we wished he would have sang “How Sweet it Is to Be Loved by You.”  (Now THAT would have been a moment. Like at the DNC.) And regarding the beautiful Beyonce...from the beginning I assumed she would not sing live. The National Anthem is reportedly a hard song to sing and has been flubbed by many famous singers, from Aretha Franklin to Christina Aguilera. And given the emotion of singing it, especially in this setting...I do not blame her one bit. (I believe Whitney Houston did the same thing when she delivered her infamous version. The other reason for the studio recording (probably the main reason) is that the song is quickly ready for distribution as a single.)

All-in-all there were a lot of tears and I do believe that the recognition that it really is “Our Government” sunk in. Several of us held hands during the swearing in…and of course we roared with approval during his speech.

This was an American event! Different from 2009, yet better.  In 2009, we thought the onus was on him to change the world. Now we know....WE did it…”We the People” elected Barack Obama to represent us... However, NOW the onus is on us. We are rolling up our sleeves.

Friday, January 18, 2013

DC Bound: Should We Celebrate?

From Huffington Post Blog: Jan 18, 2013

2009 was about him. 2013 is about us.
As I leave Southern California in route to the inauguration, I cannot help but think of the throng of masses who gathered to witness the historical 2009 inauguration. People from all walks of life... all ages, all ethnicities, joined to celebrate the election of an African-American man to the presidency.
I will never forget the many elderly black people, some being pushed in wheelchairs, who braved extremely cold weather and long lines to witness what most of them surely thought they would never see in their lifetime.
It was indeed a celebration. The 2009 inauguration seemed a tribute, honoring all who came before Obama and paved his way -- especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is the greatest of coincidences that inauguration weekend falls on King's birthday weekend. Especially for this president. Who better represents King's dreams for his children?
This inauguration there is no doubt the crowds will be thinner (if you can call the nearly 800,000 expected a thin crowd) and the pomp and circumstance will be toned down a bit. And looking at the past four years, as the country struggled out of a recession and the displayed ugliness of those not quite ready to accept an African-American President (some in Congress) -- we wonder: "Should we celebrate?"
Most recently there was Sandy Hook, which was the latest in a series of attacks that make us look at guns and our violent culture. One longs for the message of non-violence that was the cornerstone of King's crusade.
And what about the impoverished -- the folk that King fought so hard for. Many of our families are still struggling. We know this. The recent frigid weather in Southern California brought long lines, including families who have been living in cars and vans, to homeless shelters.
So much to be done. I am reminded of King's "Mountaintop" speech, the one he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated, in which he stated there would be "difficult days ahead." We have some difficult days ahead as we grapple with a divided nation and fear of change. And we think: "How dare we celebrate when there is still much to be done."
Nevertheless -- this time it is different. This time it is about us.
The 2013 inauguration is recognition of the power of like-minded people of various races to unite. The disenfranchised and the disrespected who stood up to say, "Wait a minute, this is my country too!"
It is being called a New America, but I think it's just America -- the greatest democracy in the history of the earth. Some don't like it when the new face of America is not one they are familiar with -- it doesn't look like them. But, the truth is America belongs to all of us. It is our diversity that makes us great. It also makes us argue a lot... a whole lot.
Still, we move forward and this is what we will celebrate during the coming inauguration. A country that brought us Lincoln, King and Obama. Yes, I include him here because it speaks masses of a country that has twice elected Barack Hussein Obama. I think we got it right.
America does it again! Let's celebrate.