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Gender: Male
Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 10:39 PM
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'He Gassed His Own People'


It is illegal for President Trump to unilaterally wage war just to punish Syria. It is required by law that there be some demonstrable threat to the U.S. or our allies, or some imminent attack, in order for the CiC to unilaterally order the use of force.

In 2013, then-President Obama faced the same decision whether to punish Syria's government for chemical attacks blamed on Assad. At that time, the U.N. envoy to Syria asserted that military intervention would need U.N. approval:

____ U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke to reporters in Geneva as a U.N. inspection team was investigating the alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on Aug. 21 and momentum built for Western military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the civil war that he called the most serious crisis facing the international community.

‘‘With what has happened on the 21st of August last week, it does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people: hundreds, definitely more than a hundred, some people say 300, some people say 600, maybe 1,000, maybe more than 1,000 people,’’ Brahimi said.

‘‘This was of course unacceptable. This is outrageous. This confirms how dangerous the situation in Syria is and how important for the Syrians and the international community to really develop the political will to address this issue seriously, and look for a solution for it,’’ he said.

Brahimi also said that any U.S.-led military action must first gain approval from the 15-nation Security Council, whose five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — each have veto power.

‘‘International law says that any military action must be taken after’’ Security Council approval, he said. But, he added, President Barack Obama’s administration is ‘‘not known to be trigger-happy.'

"He gassed his own people."

That's the refrain Bush used to keep Americans chastened enough to allow him to use the force and threat of our military to meddle in Iraq's political affairs. It's, perhaps, coincidentally, the same hook the Obama administration used to try and assuage Americans' and our legislators' ambivalence about unleashing our own destructive violence in response to another nation's leader's alleged violence inside of his own country.

'Syria isn't Iraq or Afghanistan,' goes the defense against such comparisons. 'Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq,' or something to that effect, 'and, Obama told the truth about chemical weapons in Syria.

Yet, it makes no difference at all that one justification for the use of military force abroad is a lie and the other isn't. BOTH distort and misrepresent the actual threat to our national security for the exact same reason.

BOTH Bush and Obama made their representations of the threat to the U.S. in order to declare and secure their unilateral authority to use our military forces (at least initially) any way they see fit, without congressional pre-approval - justified almost entirely in their view by their opportunistic declarations that our security is threatened.

That was the slippery slope that Bush used to war. That's the slope that Pres. Obama used to escalate Bush's Afghanistan occupation far beyond the former republican presidency's limits - with the catastrophic result of scores more casualties than Bush to our forces during this Democratic administration's first term and scores more innocent Afghans dead, maimed, or uprooted.

In pressing forward with a U.S. military response to the atrocities committed within Syria, the Democratic president lost almost all of the ground we thought we'd covered in repudiating the opportunistic Bush wars. Bush's were waged, certainly, for oil and other greed; but just as certainly to effect U.S. expansionist ideals involving regime changes and 'dominoes.'

This republican administration, like the Obama WH, is looking for a military wedge inside Syria to effect much the same idealistic set of political aims in that country and the region that the Bush leadership was obsessed with. It's carried forward by this self-important notion that the U.S. is in a position to dictate to other nations it's own versions of opportunistically constructed democracies which serve to elevate one U.S.-interested ideal over other equally pernicious and malicious ones.

Military intervention in Syria isn't going to be 'limited' to a few days, restricted to 'targeted sites', or, just a 'shot across the bow, like Pres. Obama asserted at the time.

The former president insisted that it wouldn't be "a repetition of, you know, Iraq," but, its that very naivete (or bullshittery) that makes the prospect of a military strike in that country as full of as many unanswered questions and pitfalls as Bush's own assertions about his intent to deploy our military resources to defend our national security against a very similar set of unproven allegations about WMDs.

And, what of evidence? It already sounds like the Trump administration is relying on the process of elimination, rather than hard evidence; claiming that the Assad regime is the only actor there capable of delivering a chemical attack in the way this one is alleged to have occurred is not the same as providing definitive proof; not the kind of definitive proof that should be required to attack a nation across its sovereign borders.

Dismissing the possibility that a U.N. inspection team, for example, would be capable of uncovering the truth in Syria - even before one has been deployed - is a signal to Syrians and others that this administration has a pre-determined mindset against that nation which is never going to recognize the truth behind whatever evidence is ever uncovered.

Talk of a 'limited' military strike that sends a 'message' to the Syrian regime ignores the almost certain blowback the regional allies like Israel will experience almost immediately after a U.S. assault. Does President *Trump really believe that Syria and their allies will be so impressed with our display of military might that they'll just fold and surrender? Not many folks think that's likely to happen.

More chance that a U.S. attack will embolden and validate those views in Syria and the region that it's really just American influence behind the opposition, rather than interests more dedicated to what Syrians actually want for their own country.

We can certainly argue and debate about the differences between Syria and Iraq - for instance, the size and potential of Syria's much more equipped and capable forces. Yet, it is this administration's (as was Obama's) determination to sell military intervention in Syria as a cakewalk that most reminds of Bush's own assertions about invading Iraq.

Same thin thread of proof; same rosy set of assumptions about a 'limited' military action; same ignoring or dismissal of the Syrian response; same clueless denial about who our military action would actually be serving in Syria.

Unless this administration steps back and approaches this issue with a deeper mindset than Bushian-variety arrogance and bluster, we're going to find ourselves on a slippery slope to a widened war.

So far, President Trump looks eager enough in his own belief in the efficacy and effect of deploying our military defenses to cause Syria to change their behavior. I believe strikes will just inflame and exacerbate whatever divisions exist there today. No 'shot across the bow' will automatically end them.

It's incredibly sad to see so many folks I viewed as progressive allies giving in to an appeal to strike Syria with the devastating force of our weapons. I view it as a capitulation to every wrong instinct that the Bush administration exercised; every wrong instinct about the limitations, risks, and consequences of our nations use of military force abroad that most of us thought we had repudiated with the exit of Bush.

Now we have an entirely new set of justifications for authorizing the president to war against Syria which borrows on almost every one of Bush's imperialistic justifications for his own out-of-control military ambitions. We'll be told that their every militaristic instinct is born out of their desire to address Syria's chemical weapons capability, but we won't see any abatement at all in their drive to further war.

Already, in the past few months, Trump has quietly deployed hundreds of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, directing numerous airstrikes against 'ISIS targets.' We're already bombing Syria under a loose definition of our 'national security.'

Now, there are breaking reports that Tomahawk missiles have already been fired into Syria tonight, possibly hitting a key airstrip, without even a hint of a nod to Congress giving their approval, as Obama sought and was denied by a republican-controlled body.

We are now a nation being determinately driven to war by the man most of us are convinced already views militarism as an indispensable part of his foreign policy. Any 'diplomacy' practiced toward Syria is nothing more than an ultimatum by this President- a coercion behind the devastating threat of our military arsenal.

We are undone, as progressives; as Americans; by capitulation to military strikes. We will scarcely hope to restrain this administration as they prosecute war, and, in accepting military strikes as just, we will have lost every instinct or instigation away from the precipice that Obama took the nation to in 2013 and pulled back from; one that almost certainly Trump will never recognize or acknowledge.

The results, worldwide, of contemporary U.S. interventionism, speak for themselves. The *Trump administration, almost blithely, is hoping that their Syrian 'misadventure' says something uniquely democratic and inspiring to countries which pose no actual threat to our nation. I'm afraid that all any one outside of this country will hear is 'empire.

Politicization of intel by the Trump admin is a major scandal- cover-up, collusion, and interference

...it's also a dangerous new policy aim of the Trump WH.

NYT reported this week that two WH officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael J. Ellis, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, fed Nunes intelligence from a database accessible from the WH.

There's every reason to believe these officials were rifling through the files to find something that would cover for Trump's 'wiretap' lie. They didn't just happen upon the intelligence reports. They were looking for something, at the direction of Nunes, or the direction of the WH.

The question now is who ordered or gave authorization to this green, political plant (who was placed in that NSA position by the ousted Gen. Flynn) to scan those files. More importantly, there's a question of whether the WH was attempting to monitor the FBI investigation of Trump and associates.

emptywheel looks at this:

...in 2002, Jay Bybee wrote a memo authorizing the sharing of grand jury information with the President and his close advisors including for counterintelligence investigations.

In addition, the Patriot Act recently amended 6(e) and Title III specifically to provide that matters involving foreign intelligence or counterintelligence or foreign intelligence information may be disclosed by any attorney for the government (and in the case of Title III, also by an investigative or law enforcement officer) to certain federal officials in order to assist those officials in carrying out their duties. Federal officials who are included within these provisions may include, for example, the President, attorneys within the White House Counsel’s Office, the President’s Chief of Staff, the National Security Advisor, and officials within the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense.


Although the new provision in Rule 6(e) permitting disclosure also requires that any disclosures be reported to the district court responsible for supervising the grand jury, we conclude that disclosures made to the President fall outside the scope of the reporting requirement contained in that amendment, as do related subsequent disclosures made to other officials on the President’s behalf.

In other words, Trump could demand that he — or his National Security Advisor! — get information on any grand jury investigations, including those covering counterintelligence cases. And no judge would be given notice of that." (read the rest of her essay)

Nunes' shifting, almost bewildered explanation of the contents of what he claimed to have seen in the reports is likely because of the 'raw' nature of much of the intel in those databases. Nunes doesn't look to have any idea what he was looking at. He really didn't need to know, just spin the lines his WH handlers had fed him, but it's significant that someone who would be in a position to know, seasoned prosecutor Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence committee opposite Nunes, viewed what the WH claimed was the same info and concluded that it did not merit all of the chairman's hype and alarm.

All of the orchestration, coordination, and subsequent politicization of these intelligence reports highlights an aim of Trump which the WH rolled out this week: Apparently the WH wants to be fed 'raw' uncritical data from intelligence reports, instead of analyzed intel.


Officials have expressed an interest in having more raw intelligence sent to the president for his daily briefings instead of an analysis of information compiled by the agencies, according to current and former U.S. officials. The change would have given his White House advisers more control about the assessments given to him and sidelined some of the conclusions made by intelligence professionals.

One official said the focus on accessing more raw intelligence appeared to be more of a priority under the short tenure of Michael Flynn, who was ousted as national security adviser after less than one month on the job. He was replaced by H.R. McMaster, an Army lieutenant general who was expected to exert more control over the NSC but has found himself struggling to overcome skepticism among Flynn holdovers who have the ear of Bannon.

It's clear that Trump is willing and eager to use our national intelligence agencies as a rumor mill for his petty political purposes. What's more ominous is his administration's apparent willingness to use their role in accessing that intelligence to cover their political and legal hides.

At the very least, this should give pause to any notion this WH would tread carefully in the midst of an investigation of their own conduct. There's much, much more concern about their stewardship of our government agencies' intel, with regard to the very attempts by law enforcement to protect the integrity of our communications and covert investigations.

And there's the very prescient question of how we're to trust the president or his administration's conclusions, based on their own interpretation of intelligence data. Taking seasoned, experienced, experts out of the decision-making process is an invitation for a major blunder for a president who knows even less about foreign policy than he knows how to manage his own personal affairs.

Something urgently needs to be done to protect the integrity of our intelligence services. In short, we've got Russia hacking into our government, and officials in the Trump WH are behaving like KGB moles.

Trump habitually lying, and supporters' indifference to those lies, is the essence of republicanism

...it's the way the republican agenda has been advanced, for decades.

We've been living big republican lies for decades. Most of their politics revolves around maintaining those lies, at least in their supporters' eyes. War on terror, war on drugs, war on climate science, defending coal, oil drilling, privatization of education and healthcare lies, are enmeshed in our national policy and appropriations.

Now we are seeing full republicanism play out, with their governmental majorities enabling them to advance many of these lies into action or law. Some of them are tragicomedic, like the recent Trump lie about millions of immigrants voting illegally in the past election - put into action under vice-president Pence who hasn't bothered to pick up a phone to call even one state representative to determine the truth.

Others, like Trumps promised plan to 'defeat ISIS' are still floating around like a lost hope as his military lurches forward without direction or clarity from their commander-in-chief. A great deal of Trump and his republican enablers' lies are being employed as cover for their kleptocracy, influence peddling, and outright theft.

We can only hope to regain our only effective counter, removing them from power, because this administration and cohorts don't give a damn about the courts or the law. That's how it always been, for the entire lifetime of my political experience; a fight for the truth, over republicans' self-interested lies, designed to block progressive change and legislative accountability.

Now, we're realizing and experiencing full-republicanism; the essence of deliberate dishonesty. It's the political fight of our lives, for the truth.

Preet Bharara was fired because of his record prosecuting corruption

...apparently Bharara is being yanked from a number of high-profile cases, some involving New York's financial district, some involving Russian mobsters. Very likely, he would have been at the center of any investigation into Trump's finances, with jurisdiction over Trump Tower.

Of course, Trump had the right to do what other presidents have done and clean house, but Preet had been assured he would stay. It raises the question of what he was investigating and what he was on to. In many ways, Bharara is Trump's Archibald Cox, the special Watergate prosecutor who was fired by the Nixon White House in the ''Saturday Night Massacre''.

Okay, maybe not that big, but this mass firing has to be viewed in the prism of the ongoing investigation(s) into the Trump White House. There isn't anything to be done about it, but it shouldn't go unremarked on. Without replacements in place, there are myriad, ongoing cases and investigations affected, undoubtedly many critical issues left in the lurch.

Maybe the sudden purge is just part of the jitters Trump's developed since he made his 'wiretapping' charge against Barack Obama. Trump had better hope no one finds there's any truth to his claims. In order to snoop on Trump, the Obama Justice Dept. would need a warrant. If a warrant exists, and if the probable cause needed for a judge to approve one is revealed to Congress or the public, the entire bottom will fall out of his presidency.

Maybe he can see the dragnet closing in. Makes sense, from his standpoint, to get rid of this leading corruption expert.


We should consider Trump as more than just a threat to democratic institutions/principles

...but a threat to our democracy, itself.

Among the most troubling of Donald Trump's actions have to be the almost daily tweets and declarations from the Chief Executive denigrating the press for daring to criticize him, the majority of his statements opposing them proven demonstrably and unequivocally false.

There's also the, now rescinded, gag orders on several government agencies which would have effectively blocked the free flow of information about the actions and product of our government offices.

In addition, there has been a flurry of executive orders from Trump which has exceeded those issued during President Obama's first week., on track to far outpace the former president's reliance on EOs to overcome republican obstruction. There's no such barrier to legislative progress for Trump, so it's a curious and contradictory exercise considering his and other republicans' many criticisms of President's Obama's.

His behavior reeks of every pattern of the history of autocratic heads of state who fomented severe disruption and destruction of democratic institutions in their countries and ushered in dictatorships or other imperialistic rule.

That's not to suggest that our own democracy is so degraded to easily allow some sort of swift takeover. Yet, there's also a functionally compliant republican legislature in place, well prepared to manipulate our democratic process of law and elections to accommodate and perpetuate such an autocratic rule.

So, plainly speaking, we should be openly asking if Trump is dismantling our democracy in favor of autocratic rule, especially since many of his major actions are directed at taking away so many vestiges of our compacts between government and American citizens, like health care and other social and economic benefits; all the while enriching himself, personally, with unaccountable business interests conflicting with our nation's interests here and around the globe.

I believe, very reluctantly, but resolutely, that Donald Trump is proving himself to be a threat to our democracy. What's less sure to me is where we institutionally trigger that distinction or determination. What I fear is that the closer we allow ourselves to come to that point, the greater the risk that he succeeds.

How Most Of Us Feel Right Now

Leftfielder™ ‏@DaleMoss2 1h1 hour ago
“We feel the difference now. See, now, we're feeling what not having hope feels like" - Michelle Obama

Full Circle

...that's where I believe we've come in this Obama presidency.

As we reflect-on, revel-in the final day of this presidency, many of us are coming to terms with the fact that most of the fights we waged along with President Obama will need to be fought and defended all over again in the Trump presidency. As resolute as ever on this important day, I take great pride in the successive elections of Barack Obama, and depart from this historic moment in time with much the same message I imparted when we began this enterprise.

In very much the same spirit as my 'flashback' posts this week, I want to express, one last time, perhaps, my appreciation for all the folks who worked so hard to make this possible in my lifetime, by sharing what I wrote in 2009.

Good luck, best regards, and best wishes to all of us.

A Leader in the White House

In electing Barack Obama, America advanced an authentic leader to the White House.

Although he's an accomplished academic - a former president of the Harvard Law Review; though he's served in the Illinois State Legislature and in the Senate; Mr. Obama's most productive and important qualification is his skill in inspiring and organizing which began with the choice he made after college to go into the communities and work to bring people together to help make a positive difference in their surroundings and in their lives.

Hope is the mantra he's chosen as his organizing point. Throughout his previous campaign and election, and the present one, Mr. Obama has been ridiculed and even scorned for promoting that one motivating principle, as if that represented the totality of his platform and initiatives. Hope can't feed the hungry, care for the sick and injured, end wars . . . but Mr. Obama wants us to believe in our ability to come to solutions and remedies for these issues and concerns by facing them together without the obstructing veils of cynicism and corrupting self-interest.

As his inauguration unfolded alongside the celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. Obama's message of hope reminded us of the nation's reaction to the 'dream' that King expressed in his address at the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the March on Washington.

Martin Luther King, Jr. will always own that moment where he inspired the nation to move past the personal and institutional bigotry, racism, and discrimination which had marked centuries of oppression for people of color in America. Likewise, it is reasonable to argue that the moment and the challenges we face are no less perilous or consequential to the citizens of our country and abroad than the ones we faced in the '60's.

In as inclusive a manner as our nation is capable of, Barack Obama offered his echo of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream in his national campaign - rallying a nation to join him in pulling the levers of political action and reform; rallying us to believe and to have hope for the future. Pulling the nation completely out of the mess we're in will be a remarkable achievement, if he's ultimately successful in his leadership.

There had been so many feelings of despair among those of us who worked to change the direction and make-up of our government and the White House through the Bush years, so much hopelessness. There was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when Barack Obama was elected which each and every supporter of Mr. Obama's candidacy could revel in - not the least of which had been his candidacy's ability to make Americans believe in their ability to change the direction of our country through our political action and votes.

Despite the persistence of disproportional percentages of black individuals - despite the remarkable economic recovery - in states of poverty; with insubstantial health care; inadequate housing; criminal profiling and higher rates of incarceration for similar crimes as non-blacks; lack of resources for education; etc., the republican stance would never favor the views of the African-American community that these are issues which need to be addressed with specific attention to their impact on black Americans.

In fact, republicans only seem to recognize that a black 'community' actually exists around election time; and even then, only to posture as if 'responsibility' and 'accountability' were challenges for African-Americans alone, and, that poverty, joblessness, crime, and other deficiencies of their community were the product of all that they would deny them legislatively. For their own good, the contemporary republican dictum goes, the community that they'll admit is suffering proportionally to the rest of the nation (if they can somehow blame our black President), should not receive benefits or government remedies which don't carry some punitive or corrective measure to induce desired behavior.

The attacks on prominent black Americans in this generation - and, by extension, against the black community of supporters - are not to be taken lightly, even though we may assume the nation is past all of that. The attacks need to be openly and loudly defended against by Democrats and Republicans alike. They can't just be brushed aside as some sort of acceptable standard of discourse. For the most part, they've been responded to with dispatch and sincerity. For the other, there's a glaring silence -- and even a rhetorical encouragement by some in the political arena who are leveraging age-old stereotypes to serve cynical campaigns for office and opportunistic punditry.

I'd certainly like to see much less confrontational, and much less violent tactics by police. These young folks are simply, understandably, testing the boundaries they are setting for their protests and it would be a wise move to make the state troopers and police less of an obstacle to those. They are being punished, over and over, for their authentic and historically valid expressions of self-determination and justice.

What I think actually garnered our attention in Ferguson, - beyond the very real and tragic death of a jaywalking youth at the hands of a policeman, and the failure, so far, to move decisively to prosecute the killer - are the sparks of hope which have flashed from the edges of the smoke, gas, and rubber bullets hurled at the very conscience of the town as we watch the people in that community scatter and then regroup, over and over, and return again and again with the same demands for accountability from their elected and appointed officials and officers that are being so deliberately and actively ignored.

I don't think we'd be having this discussion about race and police violence if they weren't in the streets to begin with, and it's become clear that there's still need for even more protest actions to raise awareness and organize attention around their plights and challenges. Heck, even here at a political-centered forum, you can't get much attention to strictly policy-based posts and threads. There often needs to be a spark or obvious catalyst to attention and action.

Baynard Rustin, a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, argued in his book, 'Strategies for Freedom', that for a movement to have a permanent and transforming imprint, it should have a legislative goal attached which will transcend the whims of the emotions of the moment. Describing a different struggle that America faced with the advancement of civil rights, he wrote that:

"Moral fervor can't maintain your movement, nor can the act of participation itself. There must be a genuine commitment to the advancement of the people. To have such a commitment is also to have a militant sense of responsibility, a recognition that actions have consequences which have a very real effect on the individual lives of those one seeks to advance."

"Far too many movements lack both a (legislative) perspective and a sense of responsibility, and they fail because of it," Ruskin wrote.

Barack Obama managed to advance himself to the presidency with that legislative goal in front of his appeal to hope. Achieving legislative solutions which will adequately confront the republican minority will certainly take more time. That effort will also, more than likely, take even more protesting and advocacy, but, as long as we keep our legislative goals at the head of our protests, and form the necessary coalitions of support to advance those legislative efforts within the system, we can assume the necessary responsibility for the consequences of our government and transform the direction of our movements from agitation to action.

Barack Obama's election was the realization by voters that our nation's problems will not be solved by academics, experts and technicians, economists, military tacticians, or legislators alone. It was an acknowledgment that we all need to commit ourselves to stay engaged in working to develop and implement solutions.

It's never a clear line between where activism and action collide. It is clear though, our fellow citizens needed to shout in the streets to finally be heard. Ours is a lasting brand of hope and aspiration which will always stand and regroup long after the cynical and opportunistic blasts of smoke and gas have dissipated into the compromised air. We are fortunate to witness such courage and resilience in the face of such unbelievable and unimaginable anguish by black youth leading protests in their communities. We are inspired by it, and challenged to stand firm in our own beliefs, and to regroup our values with every deliberate diversion and deliberate distraction. We're inspired to hold fast to our own principles in the face of derision and ridicule for not adhering to some petty political motivation or motive.

The protests and demonstrations in the streets may well, eventually, dwindle down to a trickle - I think that's perhaps inevitable, understandable. People have more to accomplish in their lives than this very necessary defense of justice and their own humanity. I understand.

As we worked for the reelection of our 44th President, we also celebrated our own victory over cynicism and our determination to come together to drive home our stake in the future of our nation. We elected someone who insists on that inclusive future. We elected an authentic leader.

I can't help but look at President Obama with wonder at the pace and scope of change in my lifetime. I looked at his relaxed, confident face as he signed what may well turn out to be the most important piece of social legislation in my lifetime, his signature 'Affordable Care Act' and I marveled at the very visual affirmation of the progress our society has made in my lifetime; all at the behest and determination of Democrats and the Democratic party.

I was born into a society in which government was just beginning to respond to the demands of my parent's generation to treat us as equals and to defend that equal treatment behind the force and authority of the Federal government. My own life has been largely void of the most pernicious of barriers to opportunity, self-determination, and justice that they fought for, and I'm constantly aware of how our party's responsiveness to those rights and needs of my community have grown right along with my own advancements through adulthood.

History has shown that it takes leadership at the level of the presidency to initiate and carry through important changes in our society. It has been said by Edmund Burke that, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Or, perhaps, more accurately, ""When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Among more pointed remarks, Martin Luther King made a similar, important observation:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," he said. "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."

I look at our President and I'm humbled by the wisdom and progressiveness of Americans in electing this man. I'm further humbled by the fact that it is, once again, our Democratic party which broke the barrier of race which had vexed many in the black community in their aspirations for that high office.

It was Democratic President John F Kennedy who introduced the Civil Rights Act in 1963 in his civil rights speech advocating "giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote."

The civil rights bill got bottled up in committee, yet, the assassination of the President; the March on Washington; and President Lyndon Johnson's leadership got the chocked wheels of Congress rolling toward eventual passage. Interestingly enough, the maneuvers that Democratic legislators employed to circumvent members of our own party who were blocking passage mirrors the engineering of the advancement of his 'historic' health bill.

Now, no one could argue that the civil rights legislation was perfect, or the process without taint. However, the barrier was crossed and future generations were forever bound to the idea of Federal protection of equal rights and equal access. Years later, our Democratic party is still leading the way in making the promise of that legislation a reality by enhancing and expanding those protections.

That's what I saw through the blur of water in my eyes, as I watched the president sign yet another major advance in federal protection and defense of rights for Americans in obtaining access to health insurance and keeping it on behalf of our Democratic party. That's what I see when I watch this Democratic president working on our behalf.

In my lifetime, I've NEVER seen a government or party which completely represented me. I recognized, when I first began to pay attention to government, and I'm more certain now, that it's not designed to just represent me, but is responsible for a myriad of needs and concerns - some of which I may not share. *The only thing I've ever felt I was due was to have my ideas compete alongside the others. I've always understood that I'd have to generate as much enthusiasm for a candidate from my district or state to carry those ideas to the statehouse or Congress.

I understand that there will be opposition to my ideas, sometimes overwhelming opposition. But, I'm comfortable to have my ideas in consideration along with more popular or accepted ones. I see our political system as a mechanism to reconcile the many different and diverse ideas and concerns into action. I recognize that it's not always easy or possible. I'm not discouraged by that; I'm challenged to work harder.

In my lifetime, the Democratic Party has been outstanding in carrying and advancing those ideas I support and believe in. Those ideas haven't always prevailed, even among Democrats, but I have lived long enough to see some of those ideas revived, presented, and advanced after all, despite an earlier rejection or defeat. I fully intend to keep pressing my ideas and concerns until they can generate the support needed to advance them legislatively or otherwise.

I never expected to get my way with 100 senators and 500 representatives, but I'm gratified for the progress we've made in achieving the numbers needed to gain the majority. There is obvious value in holding the majority, including the important ability to keep republicans from setting the agenda on the floor and in committees.

In all, the Democratic party remains the most effective and representative vehicle for my ideas and concerns, despite the disagreements I may have with the actions of this Congress or any other I've witnessed. Most of our Democratic senators and representatives work hard to represent us as we continue pressing them for recognition and advancement of those ideas and concerns. I've personally had more than that opportunity. That's all I've ever expected.

This presidency has been much like our unusual, unpredictable weather these days. There's so much unprecedented in the atmosphere and landscape of our party's upcoming defense of our Democratic principles and agenda. There's the obvious historic nature of this current president who's race has been deliberately (if not mindlessly) highlighted and framed by many of his bigoted, republican opponents and their supporters; so far, mostly to the advantageous effect of mobilizing and energizing our Democratic base to his heightened defense and support.

I'm mindful that it was just yesterday that both the economy and President Obama's appeal was teetering on a precipice of indifference in his re-election by many, to an outright wave of opposition from his own base of supporters. A combination of a populist appeal and some executive action attracted enough of an early buzz regarding the president's re-election from his party regulars and others that he effectively placed himself firmly into the vital role of our party's political champion.

I know I can sometimes appear to be an optimist, but I'm often deeply cynical about politicians and government. Don't mistake my confidence and positive persona for optimism, or for some kind of naivete. Hell will freeze over, I believe, before I see all of the changes I want enacted by government realized in my lifetime.

There are, however, transformational moments in our history which usher in progress which can't be reversed or erased. I believe that President Obama's announcement, in his calculated interview, that he now fully supports marriage equality, is one of those earth-moving political decisions which will usher in a new generation of civil rights for those individuals in the LGBT community who have been deliberately denied basic citizenship rights because of who they love; who they choose to have sexual relationships with; and, who they choose to marry.

We don't need to dwell too long on the utter immorality and political timidity of the president's earlier position which he had said was 'evolving' over time. There is no justification to be had for his insistence on sticking to his position against marriage equality and rights for gay Americans. There isn't any mitigation of those views to be had in his welcome and correct support of many other precepts of our LGBT agenda. There isn't any justification for waiting so long to express this change of heart -- no letting the powder dry; or waiting for the next election; or defending his reelection can justify maintaining such a selfish and hurtful stance.

Yet, there isn't any more need to dwell on those transgressions of Barack Obama now that he's made a decision to move forward to change attitudes and the law. There's no more need than there was to dwell on the faults of President Lyndon Johnson -- a man who ushered in a new era of civil rights for black Americans and others; yet, couldn't keep himself from calling blacks 'nigras.' -- after he had his own epiphany and embraced the civil rights fight; enlisting every instigation of democracy he could manage to further the historic progress he ultimately achieved in making the federal government responsible and accountable for the defense of those rights.

It was a welcome end of term of a operationally defensive presidency caught up worrying about smoothing out every republican-induced bump in the legislative roadway. Free from any significant or noticeable primary challenge -- and advantaged by a prevaricating and flawed republican nominee -- President Obama has been able to appeal to both the traditional factions of our party, and to many more progressive interests, as well, and position his supporters to rally against the extremes coming from his republican opponents.

It's been a perfect storm of opposition which has inspired many passionate defenses of this presidency from potential Democratic voters; of its agenda; and of its legislative accomplishments. The opposition party has muddied up what had just recently augured to be a dry referendum from them on the struggling, incumbent President.

I am a giddy fool in my unquestioned, enthusiastic, energetic support for the presidency of Barack Obama; basking in the glow of his excellent character, his steady and progressive logic, and in his warm and embracing appeal to our core Democratic principles; reveling in the bold contrast he offers against the bleak and caustic republican opposition. I am a dedicated and loyal toiler against his demagogic attackers.

My natural aversion to the reflexive moderation and unnerving compromises which marked much of his first term is undone (almost) by the warmth, strength, and beauty of this Democratic President's substantive and inspiring campaign and grace in office.

Let me say from the outset that, in comparison to most politicians of any stripe or position, Barack Obama is a very dynamic and compelling figure. Fact is, his persona, character, and interests reflect more of America than any president in my lifetime. Much is made about Bill Clinton playing sax on Arsenio as candidate, but this president has displayed contemporary cool in office with his embrace of electronic and social media; his public embrace of contemporary music and musicians; as well as his interest in sports from the major leagues to his frequent games of one-on-one b-ball.

More importantly, though, President Obama has embraced many of the progressive issues of our time and presented their resolution or disposition as imperatives for the immediate future. That's a marked difference from the traditional caution of our political establishment. To be certain, many politicians are now challenged to come forth with positions and action on issues they thought they could slow-walk through the political process until they were dead or forgotten.

Even in the midst of our present financial disaster/recovery-- maybe even because of it all -- this president pressed for action and accomplishment to counter the typical, deliberate cynicism many in our national legislature have worked to engender in our expectations of the government we've made them responsible for.

'Cool' for this president isn't just an attitude; it's a persona derived from his sincerity and commitment to those things which Americans feel characterize the best of what we are and what we aspire to become. Folks recognize that commitment to our national, social, and political advancement and want to identify with that sentiment and effort. Barack Obama inspires Americans on a real level; on a plane where Americans actually live and exist.

Fortunately, this President has already demonstrated his capacity and ability to express empathy, compassion, and understanding on many issues in ways which welcome all Americans to join in and participate. Indeed, President Obama has used this issue as a measure of our commitment to each other; employing his defense in a way which ultimately unites us.

It's hard to understate the importance of this sitting president's embrace of these basic, but denied, rights. History has shown that it takes leadership at the level of the presidency to initiate and carry through important changes in our society. It has been said by Edmund Burke that, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Or, perhaps, more accurately, ""When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

So, united we now stand. Forward to the fight for equality for all!

Watching President Obama's campaign kickoff speech in Ohio, just one more time, I got a bit more of an idea of what he's angling to achieve in this campaign beyond his reelection. I'm looking at Barack Obama in the context of the history of our nations leadership --within and without government -- and I'm struck by the degree that this president has managed to inflect his political rhetoric with elements of a progressive agenda which have previously been the elements of activism and advocacy from outside of government; rhetoric not normally associated with a sitting president.

One of the very first thoughts expressed in his speech was a profound statement of our political party's purpose and identity:

"We came together because we believe that in America, your success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of your birth," President Obama said. "If you’re willing to work hard, you should be able to find a good job. If you’re willing to meet your responsibilities, you should be able to own a home, maybe start a business, give your kids the chance to do even better -- no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is."

Right out of the gate, this president embraced the struggle that the majority of Americans faced in trying to earn a living and to provide for their families and their future.

"It was tough . . . It was tough all across the country," he said, "But the American people are tougher. All across America, people like you dug in. Folks like you fought back."

Most importantly, the President Obama defined where we came from in this economy, and in the other affairs which make up the state of our union, and declared that we are going forward -- not backward to the policies and politics which let us down in the first place.

'Forward' is more than just a campaign motto of his; it's a defining stand against those who would have us reverse and take away the elements of progress that we've achieved so far. Forward is a declaration that we intend to build on the initiatives and actions which are already taking root for Americans around the nation.

In an earlier response to a thread of mine, a prominent DUer summed up President Obama's appeal in this election:

"He's not running to win the election," he said, "He's running to win the agenda. Rather than pivoting to the center he is trying to get the country to sign on to going forward on a progressive tact."

"We’ve got to move forward to that future where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules," President Obama had said.

Exactly. Forward.

US press corps fights back with open letter to Trump: You wont set the rules for us

Raw Story ‏@RawStory 26m26 minutes ago
US press corps fights back with open letter to Trump: You won’t set the rules for us http://ow.ly/DEEt3086dgc

Kyle Pope, the editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review penned an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump on behalf of the U.S. Press Corps setting some clear ground rules moving forward:

Dear Mr. President Elect:

In these final days before your inauguration, we thought it might be helpful to clarify how we see the relationship between your administration and the American press corps.

It will come as no surprise to you that we see the relationship as strained. Reports over the last few days that your press secretary is considering pulling news media offices out of the White House are the latest in a pattern of behavior that has persisted throughout the campaign: You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. You’ve taken to Twitter to taunt and threaten individual reporters and encouraged your supporters to do the same. You’ve advocated for looser libel laws and threatened numerous lawsuits of your own, none of which has materialized. You’ve avoided the press when you could and flouted the norms of pool reporting and regular press conferences. You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability.

All of this, of course, is your choice and, in a way, your right. While the Constitution protects the freedom of the press, it doesn’t dictate how the president must honor that; regular press conferences aren’t enshrined in the document.

But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too. It is, after all, our airtime and column inches that you are seeking to influence. We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers. So think of what follows as a backgrounder on what to expect from us over the next four years.

Access is preferable, but not critical. You may decide that giving reporters access to your administration has no upside. We think that would be a mistake on your part, but again, it’s your choice. We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information; indeed, some of the best reporting during the campaign came from news organizations that were banned from your rallies. Telling reporters that they won’t get access to something isn’t what we’d prefer, but it’s a challenge we relish.

Off the record and other ground rules are ours—not yours—to set. We may agree to speak to some of your officials off the record, or we may not. We may attend background briefings or off-the-record social events, or we may skip them. That’s our choice. If you think reporters who don’t agree to the rules, and are shut out, won’t get the story, see above.

We decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates. We will strive to get your point of view across, even if you seek to shut us out. But that does not mean we are required to turn our airwaves or column inches over to people who repeatedly distort or bend the truth. We will call them out when they do, and we reserve the right, in the most egregious cases, to ban them from our outlets.

We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that. When you or your surrogates say or tweet something that is demonstrably wrong, we will say so, repeatedly. Facts are what we do, and we have no obligation to repeat false assertions; the fact that you or someone on your team said them is newsworthy, but so is the fact that they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Both aspects should receive equal weight.

We’ll obsess over the details of government. You and your staff sit in the White House, but the American government is a sprawling thing. We will fan reporters out across the government, embed them in your agencies, source up those bureaucrats. The result will be that while you may seek to control what comes out of the West Wing, we’ll have the upper hand in covering how your policies are carried out.

We will set higher standards for ourselves than ever before. We credit you with highlighting serious and widespread distrust in the media across the political spectrum. Your campaign tapped into that, and it was a bracing wake-up call for us. We have to regain that trust. And we’ll do it through accurate, fearless reporting, by acknowledging our errors and abiding by the most stringent ethical standards we set for ourselves.

We’re going to work together. You have tried to divide us and use reporters’ deep competitive streaks to cause family fights. Those days are ending. We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible. So, when you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don’t like, you’re going to face a unified front. We’ll work together on stories when it makes sense, and make sure the world hears when our colleagues write stories of importance. We will, of course, still have disagreements, and even important debates, about ethics or taste or fair comment. But those debates will be ours to begin and end.

We’re playing the long game. Best-case scenario, you’re going to be in this job for eight years. We’ve been around since the founding of the republic, and our role in this great democracy has been ratified and reinforced again and again and again. You have forced us to rethink the most fundamental questions about who we are and what we are here for. For that we are most grateful.

Enjoy your inauguration.

—The Press Corps

read: http://www.cjr.org/covering_trump/trump_white_house_press_corps.php

Flashback President Obama Post #3: 'What I See in Lincoln's Eyes'

...third in a series, up to the inauguration, of some favorite President Obama posts of mine.

President Obama has a favorite photograph. It's a photo of Abraham Lincoln taken toward the end of his life. Here's what he wrote in Time magazine in 2005. about that face and why it inspires him . . .

What I See in Lincoln's Eyes
by, Barack Obama
Monday, July 04, 2005

My favorite portrait of Lincoln comes from the end of his life. In it, Lincoln's face is as finely lined as a pressed flower. He appears frail, almost broken; his eyes, averted from the camera's lens, seem to contain a heartbreaking melancholy, as if he sees before him what the nation had so recently endured.

It would be a sorrowful picture except for the fact that Lincoln's mouth is turned ever so slightly into a smile. The smile doesn't negate the sorrow. But it alters tragedy into grace. It's as if this rough-faced, aging man has cast his gaze toward eternity and yet still cherishes his memories--of an imperfect world and its fleeting, sometimes terrible beauty. On trying days, the portrait, a reproduction of which hangs in my office, soothes me; it always asks me questions.

What is it about this man that can move us so profoundly? Some of it has to do with Lincoln's humble beginnings, which often speak to our own. When I moved to Illinois 20 years ago to work as a community organizer, I had no money in my pockets and didn't know a single soul. During my first six years in the state legislature, Democrats were in the minority, and I couldn't get a bill heard, much less passed. In my first race for Congress, I had my head handed to me. So when I, a black man with a funny name, born in Hawaii of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate, it was hard to imagine a less likely scenario than that I would win--except, perhaps, for the one that allowed a child born in the backwoods of Kentucky with less than a year of formal education to end up as Illinois' greatest citizen and our nation's greatest President.

In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat--in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles. He also reminded me of a larger, fundamental element of American life--the enduring belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams.

A connected idea attracts us to Lincoln: as we remake ourselves, we remake our surroundings. He didn't just talk or write or theorize. He split rail, fired rifles, tried cases and pushed for new bridges and roads and waterways. In his sheer energy, Lincoln captures a hunger in us to build and to innovate. It's a quality that can get us in trouble; we may be blind at times to the costs of progress. And yet, when I travel to other parts of the world, I remember that it is precisely such energy that sets us apart, a sense that there are no limits to the heights our nation might reach.

Still, as I look at his picture, it is the man and not the icon that speaks to me. I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. As a law professor and civil rights lawyer and as an African American, I am fully aware of his limited views on race. Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a military document than a clarion call for justice. Scholars tell us too that Lincoln wasn't immune from political considerations and that his temperament could be indecisive and morose.

But it is precisely those imperfections--and the painful self-awareness of those failings etched in every crease of his face and reflected in those haunted eyes--that make him so compelling. For when the time came to confront the greatest moral challenge this nation has ever faced, this all too human man did not pass the challenge on to future generations. He neither demonized the fathers and sons who did battle on the other side nor sought to diminish the terrible costs of his war. In the midst of slavery's dark storm and the complexities of governing a house divided, he somehow kept his moral compass pointed firm and true.

What I marvel at, what gives me such hope, is that this man could overcome depression, self-doubt and the constraints of biography and not only act decisively but retain his humanity. Like a figure from the Old Testament, he wandered the earth, making mistakes, loving his family but causing them pain, despairing over the course of events, trying to divine God's will. He did not know how things would turn out, but he did his best.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the commencement at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. I stood in view of the spot where Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held one of their famous debates during their race for the U.S. Senate. The only way for Lincoln to get onto the podium was to squeeze his lanky frame through a window, whereupon he reportedly remarked, "At last I have finally gone through college." Waiting for the soon-to-be graduates to assemble, I thought that even as Lincoln lost that Senate race, his arguments that day would result, centuries later, in my occupying the same seat that he coveted. He may not have dreamed of that exact outcome. But I like to believe he would have appreciated the irony. Humor, ambiguity, complexity, compassion--all were part of his character. And as Lincoln called once upon the better angels of our nature, I believe that he is calling still, across the ages, to summon some measure of that character, the American character, in each of us today.

the essay: www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/28/obama.lincoln.tm/


How newspapers covered Abraham Lincoln’s assassination 150 years ago: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/04/14/how-newspapers-covered-abraham-lincolns-assassination-150-years-ago/?postshare=3721429009768815

Flashback Post #1
Flashback Post #2
Flashback Post #4

Flashback Post: President and First Lady's visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

...second in a series, up to the inauguration, of some favorite President Obama posts of mine.

President and First Lady's visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation


Kat 4 Obama ‏@Kat4Obama 15m
MT @NerdyWonka Native American dancers from 20+ reservations prepare for arrival of POTUS & FLOTUS. #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/4lOywtClQC

Nerdy Wonka ‏@NerdyWonka
Native American children await the arrival of POTUS and FLOTUS to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/Qrsjz1oJV8




Chris Stearns ‏@stearnsseattle
Native youth represent w/ pride at the President and First Lady's visit to Cannon Ball Pow Wow grounds. #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/ZsTVyV8tTW

WendyCarrillo ‏@wendycarrillo
@BarackObama & @MichelleObama received gift of "love and honor" given to leaders. Beautiful quilt. #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/I1Xo96fF9p

Team Barack Obama
A Native American dancer takes a selfie with President Obama on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/W19txO1MT2

Ruth Hopkins ‏@_RuthHopkins 37m
Check out FLOTUS Haha #ObamaSelfie pic.twitter.com/wGteJYZxTU

Nerdy Wonka ‏@NerdyWonka
Pres. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama thank Native American dancers at Cannon Ball Powwow Grounds #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/wGJm5dRvY9

3ChicsPolitico ‏@3ChicsPolitico
President Obama smiling with Native American children on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/soU2xJeWJQ

REUTERS/Larry Downing

REUTERS/Larry Downing

Nerdy Wonka ‏@NerdyWonka
Historic: President Obama poses with Native American children at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. #PrezRezVisit pic.twitter.com/ydvRM9LSg3

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