Thursday, September 11, 2014

"We Are America"

Isolationism:  a policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups, especially the political affairs of other countries.

The President struck a blow to Isolationism yesterday by reminding us who we are.  Here is an excerpt of what he said:
"My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks, through the pain we felt and the grueling work required to bounce back, America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched. Our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history.
Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day, and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.
Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world.
It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression and in support of the Ukrainian people’s right to determine their own destiny. It is America -- our scientists, our doctors, our know-how -- that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola.
It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity and tolerance and a more hopeful future.
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia, from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding."

Isolationism as a foreign policy will not work for America.  Especially in today's world where we are all interconnected.

The bottom line is, leaders lead..... they do not withdraw or ignore.

That's not who we are.

Friday, July 25, 2014

News Today is Gone Tomorrow

We no longer have news; instead, we have trends. And, one thing we can be sure of -- what is trending today, no matter how earth-shattering or horrific, will most likely not be trending a few days later.
We can select our news: what we want to follow, see, and hear. Not only that, we can create our news. With social media, we each have our own private newspaper where we post and display highly-edited versions of our lives for all to see. News - both the personal and the external - is an ever changing slide-show. Big pictures, small headlines. Next.
In the meantime, stuff happens.
Each event is just another Wikipedia entry. Nothing lasting comes from it. Few people even have a 'cause' these days. Unless we are personally involved, nothing seems to make a lasting imprint on us.
I discovered this a few weeks ago during the Santa Barbara shooting rampage (remember that?). During the TV reporting of the incident, it was mentioned that it was nearly a year after a prior shooting in which several were killed at Santa Monica College. Huh? I couldn't remember it. I asked several friends and they too had a hard time remembering. Only my brother, who lives in Denver, could recall a story of two of the victims -- a dad taking his daughter to register for school and both getting caught in the melee.
Some of my Southern Cal friends went back to their calendars to see what they were doing or what else was going on in the world at the time of the tragedy (June 7, 2013). Was there something that trumped it? A reality star wedding?
We live in a world where too many would rather keep up with celebrities than the news of the day. We would rather be entertained than informed. We know more about fake 'real' housewives than about our neighbors.
Our news stories, no matter what they concern, just don't get much time to grab our attention. Sure, if there is a trial involved with many salacious details, we just might tune-in. Media rewards us for this by giving continuous coverage, similar to preempting programs for car chases.
Not only do we forget....we don't act. Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the Arizona shootings -- after each we hear the righteous indignation and calls for gun control and more mental health services. But these calls fall on deaf ears. Our government today is too dysfunctional and too partisan to accomplish anything. So we go back to the fantasy of reality TV and wait for the next episode of real life. If Sandy Hook produced nothing...and has been there any hope for us?
Anyway -- who has time for causes when there are endless ways for us to be entertained? Not to mention the substances we have to provide escapism from the world's problems.
If something does grab our attention (probably involving cats or zombies) -- we can always 'like' or 'favorite' the story and even 'share' it with others. Or, maybe we'll just save it to read later? Yeah right.
There is no shortage of people who are writing and reporting on the news. But they are just voices in the wind. Each story blown away by the next storm. Even with our 'reality' shows, the antics are screaming louder and louder for attention.
Real life is not a hashtag and news is not a trend.
BTW.....where is that Malaysian plane that disappeared? (#WheresThePlane) and where are the Nigerian girls? (#BringBackOurGirls) and why are there so many murders in Chicago? (#MurderCityChicago) and #Gaza and #Ukraine and #Syria and #Iraq and #ClimateChange and #Drought and #Obamacare and #DoNothingCongress and #BorderChildren and #################.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"2012-2014-2016 -- What about the Moms?"

An interview from the 2012 Democratic National Convention. It was for CNN and Headline News. This was a HARD interview for me and my hat goes off to those who do this on a regular basis. I had to be careful with what I said and how I said it because I represented not only my area and California delegates, but also African-Americans and last but not least -- suburban moms. These issues will continue to be important in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The O.J. Case: "Wink, Wink"

(reprint from the Huffington Post -- 6/18/2014)

I had seen him working the grounds of the Orlando resort property where I was staying with my mom and my then year-old son. He never acknowledged us. He didn't even look our way although I was sure he saw us on numerous occasions.

I thought this was odd because there were very few African-Americans at the resort and there is an unspoken rule in the black community that in these situations we acknowledge each other... even a nod would do.
I recently thought of that long-ago time at the resort in Orlando because it was there that I heard the verdict in the O.J. Simpson case. We are at the 20-year anniversary of what has been called the "crime of the century" and there is much in the media these days on the murders, the trial, and that infamous car chase. For those too young to remember, they are getting an introduction to the circumstances surrounding the case, albeit with hindsight.
For me, another memory from that resort is of a newspaper headline. One morning, as we waited at the shuttle stop for a ride to the theme park, I glanced at the nearby newsstand. When you spend a few days in the parks with a 4-year-old you can lose track of the outside world, so I was glad to see a newspaper. That is until I took a good look at the cover.
On the cover of the newspaper, there was a large photo of one of the cutest black kids ever, maybe around 5 or 6 and sporting a wide grin. The headline in large letters said something to the effect that this was a portrait of a KILLER! Apparently, he was an adult charged with murder and the paper had used his childhood photo.
The message wasn't even subliminal -- it was like being hit with a freight train. It brought me back to reality quickly, even on the pristine grounds of the resort. I wondered what the black groundskeeper, the man who ignored us, thought about the paper. I'm sure it was not an opinion he could openly express, especially there.
I also understood the reason the groundskeeper didn't feel the need to acknowledge us. He just kept his head down and did his work. He couldn't relate to me, or any of the guests at the resort. It was not a racial slight, it was economic.

Today, 20 years later, most of the articles and stories on the O.J. case still focus on reactions according to race. A few dig deeper to describe the role money, fame, and privilege played in the case and the outcome. However, the common refrain remains: "Your reaction to the verdict depends on your race." Not entirely true, but not entirely false either. As so many recent analyses have told us (as if we don't know this) there has historically been a lack of trust in the black community concerning law enforcement and this affected viewpoints on the case.
We waited in our hotel room at the resort to hear the verdict. Yes, I will admit I was shocked. As we walked through the lobby and toward the shuttle stop there seemed to be a lot of shocked people. I may be wrong, but their glances toward us seemed to be a little unfriendlier.
Once we were outdoors, walking through the lavish greenery, I saw the black groundskeeper. He was not looking down or ignoring us this time. As a matter of fact, he was looking right at us. Still, he did not speak as I approached him and we were face-to-face. Instead, he winked.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Summertime and Condoleezza for President?"

Presidential?  Former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice

After a relatively quiet Spring, things are heating up in Washington even though it's not officially summer yet. As we move toward the 2014 mid-term elections in November, and Republicans aim to take control of the Senate, we can be assured there will be no shortage of accusations, investigations, resignations, and recriminations. And of course, the GOP-controlled House will vote to repeal Obamacare a few more times. Also in their sights: inflicting political damage on presumed Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In the meantime, our conservative-leaning ACTIVIST Supreme Court will be issuing some major rulings by the end of this month. Think Progress summarizes here with a list of the expected rulings and their repercussions in the article:
Seven Big Cases The Supreme Court Will Decide In June That Could Change America

One of the major civil rights issues we are facing -- Voter I.D. laws, are not going away, especially in swing and southern states with large numbers of minority and young voters. Voting rights will remain an issue as America's demographics shift toward youth and people of color. Maybe the GOP will come up with a successful outreach effort to reach these groups, but it doesn't appear to be the case now. Where are we with Immigration Reform?

There is a high likelihood that there will be a Hispanic on the ticket for the 2016 Presidential race.  (Don't you wish Justice Sotomayor could run??) Probably Julian Castro will get the call from Clinton (or whoever is the Democratic front-runner for President). Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio has recently been nominated to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  This will give him more national experience and visibility. He had a high profile at the last Democratic National Convention in 2012 -- becoming the first Hispanic to give the keynote address to the body. Here is his inspirational 'the American dream lives' speech. (As I recall, at the end his young daughter stole the show.)

An interesting prospect is -- Will the GOP put Condoleezza Rice on the ticket? She is a darling on the right and might even get Southern Conservatives on board (because they will be in an "anybody but Clinton" mode).

African-American women are a key and consistent voting-bloc within the Democratic Party, and at the heart of many campaign volunteer efforts across the country. (However, I would wager that few of the campaign expenditure funds -- and we're talking multi-millions here that are spent on workers, consultants, lawyers, media, etc., make their way to black women or black men!).

But back to Condeleezza Rice on the GOP 2016 Presidential ticket -- her policies are not in step with the majority of black women, although she would most certainly move to the center after the primaries. Nevertheless, I expect if Clinton runs she will get the African-American vote. Her spouse will make sure of that. Remember his DNC 2012 speech in support of candidate Obama - masterful - here it is again:

I can still remember sitting on the Convention floor amazed and getting a text from my son, who I didn't expect to be watching at his college, saying, "Mom...he is killing it." And, he did. Bill Clinton, more so than any other speaker summed up the reasons to vote for Obama. And then he got out on the campaign trail and campaigned for the President. His appeal remains massive in minority communities.

Still, it is intriguing to ponder -- inside the voting booth, when faced with an African-American woman choice for President, or Vice-President, will black women (some of whom might be considered conservative to moderate) vote for Condoleezza Rice? If so....would the numbers be enough to push the GOP over the top and back into the White House?

Oh..the machinations of summer!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Washington Watch: "GOP Betting Against Obamacare?"

The GOPers in the House are going for the gold -- voting for the 50th time to repeal Obamacare!

There are so many pending issues that need attention from our legislators (and isn't this why we send them to Washington?) Let's see....immigration reform, women's rights (fair wages), job creation, supporting veterans, extending unemployment benefits, creating a living wage for all workers, strengthening education -- the list goes on.

Instead of tackling our nation's problems and working to strengthen the middle-class, the GOP wants to ride this dead horse to the elections this year. Still no solutions from them. Just campaign posturing. For this recent vote they picked up 27 Democrats who are worried about re-election, mostly in swing states.

They are all traveling on a slippery slope because Obamacare sign-ups are increasing and health care premiums are being lowered for many Americans. Those who have allowed their anti-Obamanism to prevent them from signing up for new health care, are starting to ask..."Is this something that can actually benefit me?" 

A recent HuffPo article Obamacare Just Made Americans Richer Without Anyone Noticing, reports Obamacare "was responsible for about three-quarters of a surprising January rise in U.S. consumer spending and American income growth, according to calculations by the Wall Street Journal." The article goes on to say:
"So what exactly did the Obamacare rollout do to cause such a rise? For one, it expanded the Medicaid program, a critical and highly controversial aspect of the law, by adding up to a $19 billion in benefits in January. On top of that, health care enrollees additionally received another near $15 billion in the form of tax credits as a result of the rollout, according to the BEA. Together the two changes have freed up many Americans to spend money that would have gone towards health care premiums on goods and services instead."
Yes....there are Americans whom have seen significant reductions in their monthly premiums. And then there are those with pre-existing conditions who can now purchase health care. In addition, workers who are tied to a job just to get health care benefits, can now go out and start their own business and secure comparable or lower cost premiums.

Obamacare Part 2?

Access to health care is only part of the problem. Paying for medical services is the other piece of the equation. Medical debts are mostly the result of cost-sharing (the percentage the enrollee pays for each health care service) and deductibles that must be paid before coverage kicks in.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study from last month on Medical Debt Among People With Health Insurance, reported:
"An estimated 1 in 3 Americans report having difficulty paying their medical bills – that is, they have had problems affording medical bills within the past year, or they are gradually paying past bills over time, or they have bills they can’t afford to pay at all. Medical debt – and a host of related problems – can result when people can’t afford to pay their medical bills. While the chances of falling into medical debt are greater for people who are uninsured, most people who experience difficulty paying medical bills have health insurance."
We're not done with health care reform if costs for services are escalating to the point where consumers can't pay. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was just the beginning. Repealing it is not the answer. Augmenting it is.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Washington Watch: "Who's Your Lame Duck?"

Are the Republicans in Congress determined to bestow upon President Obama, 'lame duck' status?

Since they won back the House in 2010, it sure seems like it.

Within the political realm, the term lame duck generally refers to a politician who is about to leave office and is awaiting a successor to take over. Lame ducks are seen as place-holders only.

Again, some in the Republican Party started thinking of Barack Obama as a lame-duck back in 2010. They assumed he wouldn't get reelected. They were wrong.

Still....they won't play ball with him. They have no desire to get in the game. Instead they are sitting on the ball.

In the past, they sat on the ball and shutdown the government. Today, they will sit on the ball when it comes to raising the minimum wage; passing immigration reform; reducing gun violence; extending benefits for the long-termed unemployed; and confirming needed judicial appointments. And, in what has been their only play: Will there be more votes (think we are up to 40 already) to defund Obamacare?

Seems like it is Congress that is in lame duck status!

Boehner and his gang are waiting and hoping for a Senate take-over in this year's mid-term elections so that they can thwart ALL legislation, except their own, from reaching the President's desk. Not only that, they will continue to block his judicial nominations. They will let him veto their legislation (if they are lucky enough to win the Senate, they won't have enough votes to override his vetoes. Unless weak Democrats cave. Could happen.) Instead, they will work toward regaining the White House in 2016.

Why is the GOP-led Congress so against this administration?

Is it racism? This comes up a lot in discussion, and there is no doubt there is an element of racism involved, but not entirely. Many of the right-wingers would accept an African-American ultra-conservative in the White House.

Is it ideology? Yes, but again, not entirely. There have been cases where the President has put forth ideas previously supported by the GOP and they are shot down.(electablog lists ten here in the article: ("10 ideas Republicans loved until Barack Obama became President")

Is it what and whom Obama represents? Bingo! Our current President represents the changing American landscape many are not ready for.  He represents a confluence of minority, immigrant, gay, young, female, technically-savvy, and progressive Americans, whom together are able to tip the scale in their favor. Democracy at its best.

It seems the GOP's only options are: to limit the voting of the aforementioned groups, to become more inclusive and representative of today's America, or to hope for low turnout in the midterms, which will favor their candidates. The irony is, if they do recapture the White House in 2016, it will be with a moderate candidate that will put forth many of the items on the Obama agenda.

Will things change anytime soon?  Well, there is the recent CNN interview where speaker Boehner suggests his party may go on offense this year as opposed to being the party of 'no.' (From "Boehner warns Obama headed for 'brick wall'," 1-28-2014)
"The Speaker conceded that his party has spent so much time railing against the President's agenda, they have gotten off track over the last several years in putting forward their own policy prescriptions – something he hopes to help correct this year."
In the Washington....there is lots of quacking but little getting accomplished.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Washington Watch: "Christening Christie"

President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Oct. 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The whispers concerning New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are changing in tone and scope. It was only a few months ago that pro-Christie whispers were coming from some Democrats who believed Christie might be worth supporting in the presidential race. 

This was reminiscent of the Obama whispers from Republicans back in 2008. At campaign stops, even candidate Obama himself joked about the Republicans who quietly voiced their support of  him.

That same kind of 'undercover' support, from those outside his party, was beginning for Christie. His Obama bromance and past working relationship with Democratic Senator Cory Booker, didn't hurt either.

Now the whispers are changing. Now people are wondering if the Republican's best hope for the White House is still viable. The Bridgegate scandal, and other details sure to be uncovered by zealous New Jersey state Democrats, has Christie sinking in deep, deep waters.

Let's just say his baptismal in the murky waters of the 2016 campaign is not going well. Even the local paper wants to take back their endorsement of him.

Unrecoverable?  We'll see. We are still a long way from 2016 and I expect Christie to be in the mix. However, a White House run requires a well-crafted image. The currently whispered words about Christie have to change:  leader is good, bully is not; compassionate is good, abrasive is not; And then there's humble versus arrogant. Yep, a rewrite is in order.

Sounds like Christie needs Scandal's Olivia Pope.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Washington Watch: "Bridging the Internet Gap"

First Lady takes a selfie with Baltimore student at
T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.,  Feb. 5, 2014.
(Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
The Internet Gap, or the more commonly used phrase The Digital Divide, persists despite almost 75% of American homes now having Internet access.

This week, the Census Bureau released its 2012 report: Computer and Internet Access in the United States. The data has been collected since 1984, and tracks computer usage by factors such as region, race, education, gender, job, and income.

Education level remains a key determinant of Internet use in the home. As reported by NBC News:
"Among people 25 and older, only about 30 percent of people who did not graduate high school used the Internet in their homes in 2012. That figure nearly doubles to about 58 percent for high-school grads, and it jumps to almost 90 percent for people who obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher."
The Census figures also show an increasing use of smartphones among all racial groups. However, not surprisingly, the smartphone gap is most apparent when looking at age. Younger people use smartphones at greater rates.

The question is...."How are our young people using smartphones -- for entertainment or homework help? I think we know the answer to this one.

There is no doubt, the Internet is a wonderful tool for learners of all ages. Students have access to gobs of information at their fingertips. Are students using the Internet and smartphones for educational purposes?

I am from the 'dinosaur' generation that used encyclopedias for research on school projects. When I was a kid, the mark of being middle-class was to have a set of encyclopedias in your home.  There were even door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen and payment plans for parents determined to give their children the best educational resources.

We've come a long way from encyclopedias and library trips for research. As the Census figures indicate, most homes now have Internet access. However...not all. In addition, according to the Administration fewer that 1 in 3 of America's classrooms have Internet access that supports digital learning.

This past week the President visited a middle-school to discuss his ConnectED program. The White House describes the initiative as follows:
"The ConnectED initiative will, within five years, connect 99 percent of America’s students to the digital age through next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon are already providing their support, collectively pledging to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students by the end of 2015."

Broadband access is a needed step, but perhaps using smartphone mobile apps for education might be the best way to narrow the digital divide and encourage learning?

Here is a video of the President with a student's tablet during his recent visit to Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland. At this school each student has access to a school-supplied iPad:

Currently, many schools do not allow the use of smartphones (on a non-emergency basis) on campus or in classrooms.... nevertheless, this is the technical device most used by our children. Maybe we need to catch up when considering how to educate our kids.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Washington Watch: "Obama (Gently) Smacks-Down Congress"

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama delivered his 5th State of the Union (SOTU) address with a style and tone reminiscent of his early presidential campaign years. He spoke of unifying themes and appealed to our greatness as a nation. The Republicans seemed confused as to when to applaud and stand, and tellingly kept their seats even when the President spoke of popular issues such as salary fairness for women and accessible health care for all.  

Barack Obama, as only he can, spoke in generalities while still getting in the ‘digs’ to the other side. This was not a red-meat speech…nevertheless, it was a chastisement. A good orator can do this. They can tell you off without you even realizing you've been told off. 

Make no mistake...the President told off the GOP-led House during the SOTU; and he did it while smiling the whole time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Washington Watch: "Obama, Where Are You?"

The new year in Washington promises more of the same gridlock and partisan politics that have dominated for many years. If the President thought his re-election would end the Republican stubbornness, and insistence on getting NOTHING done, he was wrong.

This year, we hear Republicans are ready to vote another 40 or more times on ending Obamacare.  They think this is a winner for them going into the 2014 elections. It will be if all of the people benefiting from Obamacare (and there are many), stay home. And don't forget all of the efforts to purge young people, people of color, and other Democratic-leaning voters from the rolls. No doubt this will continue (in-lieu of outreach), as America grows more diverse.

In 2014, it is doubtful the Democrats will retake the House. Hopefully, the Party can hold on to the seats they have and gain a few additional seats. We wonder if more moderate Republicans will capture seats from the far-right fringe that seems to want to hold the nation hostage with their 'anti-Obamanism.' Most believe the battle for the Senate will be brutal.

So what's coming from the Administration? Will we get better messaging from the President this year than in 2013?