Thursday, July 31, 2008

House Apologizes for Slavery and Jim Crow

"Words without deeds are meaningless."

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow (that officially ended in the mid-1960's). Lawmakers also said they were committed to rectifying "the lingering consequences" of slavery and segregation.

The nonbinding resolution, which passed on a voice vote, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white Congressman who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee. While many states have apologized for slavery, it is the first time a branch of the federal government has done so. In passing the resolution, the House also acknowledged the "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow."

"Jim Crow," or Jim Crow laws, were state and local laws enacted mostly in the Southern and border states of the United States between the 1870s and 1965, when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties and were legally segregated from whites. The name "Jim Crow" came from a character played by T.D. "Daddy" Rice who portrayed a slave while in blackface during the mid-1800s.

Congressman Cohen issued the following statement on his website after the passage of the bill:
I am very proud that my colleagues in the House of Representatives passed our resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow in the United States. This is a historic moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and I hope that this legislation can serve to open the dialogue on race and equality for all. Apologies are not empty gestures, but are a necessary first step towards any sort of reconciliation between people. I thank Congressman John Conyers (MI-14), whose assistance in moving this resolution forward was indispensable, for his strong support for this bill.

The resolution does not address the controversial issue of reparations. Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendants of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.

Read the entire article on the slavery apology here.

plez sez: big friggin' whoop! so a non-binding resolution by congress comes along 143 years after slavery to apologize to a group of people who are not slaves and don't know any slaves (save stories from parents and grandparents)! i've never been a proponent of these empty gestures, because they are only words that do nothing to heal the wounds that have afflicted many in the Black community from slavery to this day.

this non-binding resolution will not put food in the bellies of the poor Black children that will go to bed hungry tonight. this non-binding resolution will not put a hot breakfast on their plates tomorrow morning before they trudge off to school hungry from the night before. this non-binding resolution will not provide economic development and bring jobs closer to their neighborhoods so their mothers and fathers can find a decent job where they live.

this non-binding resolution will not improve the schools that are attended by a majority of Black children, schools that are in the worse shape, have the most inexperienced teachers, and whose students perform the worse on standardized tests. this non-binding resolution does not address the 50 percent of our boys who will not graduate from high school. this non-binding resolution does not address the more than 60 percent of Black high school dropouts who will find their way into the criminal justice system.

this non-binding resolution will not provide access to higher education for the Black students who do graduate from high school. this non-binding resolution will not help the Black college graduates find a job.

this non-binding resolution will not prevent mortgage companies and insurance carriers from red-lining Black communities; charging higher interest rates and higher premiums for insurance.

this non-binding resolution will not prevent employers from being so threatened by Black men that if they hire them, they won't be the last hired and the first fired (CNN's Black in America reported that a white man with a felony record has a better chance of getting hired than an educated Black man with no record). this non-binding resolution won't stop a racist from using his/her dim view of the Black race to hold back or hold down or denigrate or slander or impugn a person of African-American descent.

this non-binding resolution will not bring to justice the hundreds - no, thousands - who have raped and pillaged the Black community for profit, greed, and hate. this non-binding resolution will not bring to justice those who have killed and lynched Black people with impunity without fear of reprisal or prosecution.

this non-binding resolution will not address the wealth that my family and millions of families like mine have been denied over the past 300 years! imagine the labor, work, investments, and land that has been denied Black people from the day that their status of indentured servant was converted to slave back in the 1600's and 1700's. how many BILLIONS of dollars of net worth has been stolen or appropriated out of the coffers of Black people, money that the Rockefellers, Kennedys, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, etc. etc. have enjoyed without equal share with their Black brethren? how many MILLIONAIRES who grace the pages of Fortune magazine had their family fortunes built on the back of free and cheap laborers? how many southern white families are still living off of the money that was made from Black labor in the cotton and tobacco fields of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia?

there is a precedence for Congress apologizing to ethnic groups for injustices:
  • in 1988, congress passed and President Reagan signed an act apologizing to the 120,000 japanese-americans who were held in detention camps during World War II. The 60,000 detainees who were alive at the time each received $20,000 from the government

  • in 1993 the senate also passed a resolution apologizing for the "illegal overthrow" of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

  • in april 2008, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by sen. sam brownback (R-KS) that apologized to Native Americans for "the many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect."

  • it isn't lost on plezWorld that the two groups that have suffered the longest and the most in america (native americans and Blacks) are the last groups to receive "apologies" from the federal government.

    i'm not big on reparations: at this point, there needs to be wholesale correction to the way that Black America (as a whole) does business... and a temporary infusion of cash will not fix our problems of the lack of adequate health care and health education, the lack of quality education in our communities, and the lack of economic development and security in our communities.

    i would favor other forms of reparations (and affirmative action) directed to Black americans over the next 30 to 40 years that would begin address these problems:
  • enact creative measures to eliminate the achievement gap in public school education for Black students

  • begin to pay teachers a lot more for teaching in lower performing public schools in impoverished communities

  • eliminate tuition for Black college students making progress towards bachelors or advanced degrees

  • increase public safety in poor communities with better paid and better trained police

  • provide tax credits for training programs that target under-represented communities in the workforce

  • to increase entrepreneurship, reduce or eliminate taxes on Black-owned businesses that operate in the Black community

  • provide tax credits for companies that outsource jobs to under-represented communities in the workforce (instead of opening a customer service shop in Bangalore, India, open one in Albany, Georgia)

  • reduce or eliminate the tax burden on Black americans (lower taxes so Blacks get to keep more of their wages)

  • provide refinancing to lower mortgage rates for Black homeowners (lower the fixed mortgage rate to below the prime rate)

  • provide lower rates for insurance on homes and automobiles

  • failing that, let's go to Plan B... it's been about 45 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and japanese-americans were given their reparation payments about 45 years after they were detained during World War II, i guess all African-Americans over the age of 45 should start looking for a $20,000 check in the mail.


    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    The Media's Love Affair with John McCain

    Soulmates W & McCainIf you watch enough of the "talking heads" on CNN, MSNBC, and (heaven forbid) Fox News Network, you come away with the distinct impression that the media has simply fallen in love with Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

    His gaffes are brushed off as simple misstatements, his flip-flops are justifiable because he's been in public service for so long, he was a POW so that means he's an expert in foreign policy. He had the judgement to support the surge when things weren't going well in Iraq, but his judgement on supporting the war in Iraq in the first place is never called into question. John McCain is a reformer, a maverick, even though, he is in lockstep with George W. Bush on just about EVERYTHING! On a daily basis, it seems that the media lowers the bar for John McCain.

    On the other hand, the media constantly raises the bar for Barack Obama. Every hurdle he clears, he isn't proven until he clears the next higher one: he whips Billary in 11 straight primaries, then she wins two and all of a sudden, Obama can't seal the deal! He lacks experience, even though he has held more elected offices than Hillary Clinton; they're not sure about his judgement, since the "heat" wasn't on when he opposed the war in Iraq; he didn't see wounded troops when he was in Germany, even though he had visited troops earlier in the week in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan; he gives a good rousing speech and thousands flock to see him, but...; world leaders loved him last week while he was overseas, but he "abandoned the American people"; he speaks of modest beginnings and hard work for what he has achieved, but he comes off as an elitist; he is aloof and arrogant (i.e. an uppity Negro), when he should be more humble since he's not the president; and if he had been a pliant, wet noodle, the media would've said that he didn't look presidential! It's been a week, and the media is still analyzing (and scrutinizing) his trip to the Middle East and Europe, even though he was goaded into doing it by John McCain... his lack of foreign policy experience.

    Media Matters would like to take the media to task for the lovefest they've engaged in with John McCain. Click here to sign a petition that calls on the media to stop giving John McCain a free pass in this campaign.

    Media Matters Press Release

    The media and John McCain have a special relationship, one that the press has acknowledged on more than one occasion. Following a week of coverage focused on unfounded complaints of media bias by McCain and his surrogates, Media Matters Action Network has launched an ad campaign today highlighting the media's long-held affection for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    Watch the ad here, sign the pledge to hold the media accountable, and spread the word.

    As Americans, we have a right to expect that journalists will put aside their personal feelings and report the news in the most complete and independent way possible. But when you watch the news today, it is clear that the years John McCain invested in courting reporters continue to pay dividends. That is why it is critical for everyone who wants to stop the media spin surrounding McCain to pledge to stay alert and take action to keep the media honest.

    This ad highlights what many already know to be true -- that McCain, more than any other politician, has benefited from a press corps that routinely ignores his gaffes, flip-flops, and mistakes while perpetuating the myth that he is an anti-Washington, straight-talking maverick, regardless of facts to the contrary.

    The media's affection for John McCain is nothing new. But today, it threatens to distort the public's understanding of the facts at a most critical time. I hope you will take a moment to watch this ad and share it with everyone you know.

    "They Love Me" Ad

    plez sez: watch the ad and sign the Media Matters petition.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Louisiana Taser Death Goes to Grand Jury

    On January 12th, Baron "Scooter" Pikes, a 21-year-old sawmill worker, tried to run from police in Winnfield, Louisiana, when they attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for cocaine possession. Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent ran Scooter down. Nugent fired his Taser at Pikes six times in less than three minutes -- shots recorded by a computer chip in the weapon's handle -- in an effort to subdue him. He was handcuffed and then officers put Pikes in the back of a cruiser and drove him to their police station -- where Nugent fired a seventh shot, directly against Pikes' chest.

    After the seventh shot, he was dragged out of the car onto the concrete, where he was shocked two more times. When Officer Nugent was finished with him, Scooter was dead... after being Tasered nine times.

    A coroner's report found that Scooter had been handcuffed and on the ground when he was first hit with the Taser and might have been dead after the seventh shock from the 50,000-volt device was delivered. The coroner believes that he was shocked two more times after he was dead.

    On August 12th, a Louisiana grand jury will convene to decide whether fired Officer Nugent should face criminal charges in the January death of Scooter Pikes, who was Tasered nine times while handcuffed, the parish's district attorney announced Monday.

    Winnfield police officers have had Tasers for one year and officers have used them 14 times, according to police records - with 12 of the instances involving black suspects. Ten of the 14 incidents involved Officer Nugent. Officer Nugent is white; Scooter Pikes was black.

    How Tasers Work:
    The Taser is a conducted electrical weapon developed and manufactured by Taser International, Inc. (Scottsdale, AZ) since the 1970's. Conducted electrical weapons are less than lethal weapons used by thousands of law enforcement agencies in the US. More than 120,000 private US citizens carry a Taser for personal protection. The Taser delivers an electrical pulse, resulting in tetanus like muscle contractions, and sudden death has been associated with its use.

    How does it work? The Taser is a weapon powered by 8 AA nickel metal hydride batteries. When the operator fires the device from a distance of as much as 7 meters (21 feet), 2 9-mm barbs (#8 fishhook), attached to the Taser gun by copper wires are discharged. The barbs may hook the skin, but more often the clothing and the electrical impulse can be delivered through 2 inches of clothing. Once contact is made, an electrical pulse (up to 50,000 volts) is discharged for 5 seconds which incapacitates the subject. More electricity is released as the trigger is pulled again.

    Voltage is energy potential, but it isn't voltage that poses danger - it is electrical current expressed in amps (amperes). The average current of the Taser is 2 amps (maximum US household current is 240 amps and the threshold for ventricular arrythmias is 50-100 amps).

    Estimates of 170 deaths since 1999 have been attributed to Taser use, and while intuitively the thinking may be that the cause is cardiac arrythmias, that does not pan out. While Tasers have been tested on volunteer subjects, those subjects are "healthy workers" and are subjected to one 5 second electrical pulse. The population being subdued by the police may be intoxicated or in a stated of excited delirium - i.e. violent and aggressive.

    The American College of Physicians (ACEP) recommends that agitated subjects be brought to the ED for medical evaluation and supportive care. If subjects are intoxicated (alcohol, cocaine, PCP, methamphetamine) or agitated due to psychosis or other unknown reasons, they may be hyperthermic, tachycardic and dehydrated. Supportive medical care - with sedation and intravenous fluids -may prevent death in police custody in these cases. Laboratory studies for drug and alcohol levels and other abnormalities can be done and treated.

    [Hat Tip: HealthLine]

    Read the article on Taser death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes here and here.

    plez sez: hopefully, justice will be served. nothing can be done to bring Scotter back to his family, but it is every hope that mr. nugent pays for the torture and murder of mr. pikes.

    by all accounts, the taser is effective in disabling a person with one or two shocks. if mr. pikes was already handcuffed and on the ground prior to the first shock, this case borders on calls for charges of torture, indifference to life, first degree murder, hate crime, and any other fancy legal term that can be culled. this may be premature and i'm usually not one to ask for harm to come to people, but this sounds like a capital offense by a racist and sadistic individual who obviously enjoyed the thrill of shocking Black people.

    i wouldn't be opposed if the DA went for the death penalty... of course, in the electric chair!

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    The CBC & Menthol Cigarettes

    The vote on the cigarette ban comes before Congress in the coming weeks. And the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is in a quandary as to whether they will be able to support the bill or not.

    In the past, free cigarettes were available at CBC functions. Rep. Edolphus Towns (Democrat of Brookly) used to carry the moniker of "Marlboro Man" due to the large campaign contributions he would received from the tobacco industry. Minority whip Rep. James Clyburn, of South Carolina, represents a tobacco-growing region of South Carolina; last year, the parent of Philip Morris donated $50,000 to an endowment he established at South Carolina State University, an HBCU in Orangeburg. Over the years, Philip Morris has been one of the biggest contributors to the nonprofit Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, exceeding $250,000 at times.

    A bill before Congress gives the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate tobacco products and would attempt to reduce teenage smoking by banning most flavored cigarettes, like clove, mocha, and cinnamon. But menthol cigarettes are exempt from the ban, the ONLY flavor that is exempt from the ban. In an earlier plezWorld post, it is explained that menthol cigarettes are the cigarettes of choice in the Black community, accounting for more than 28% of the $70 billion cigarette market. The tobacco industry supports the ban of all flavored cigarettes, except menthol! Many in Congress feel that by including menthol in the ban will kill the bill, even though, George W. Bush plans to veto it anyway.

    Two former federal health secretaries, Joseph A. Califano Jr. and Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, who is African-American, met recently with Rep. Waxman, the House bill's sponsor, to argue against the menthol exemption. Because he said he was unlikely to change his mind, they later sent him a letter saying “the current version of the bill, which gives menthol a protected status, would have the effect of discriminating against the health interests of African-Americans.” The letter was also signed by William S. Robinson, executive director of the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network.

    The CBC's chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, of Michigan, says its members, all Democrats, are deeply divided on the subject. “The caucus is split,” she said. “We do want to see menthol regulated, but we’re convinced that eliminating or prohibiting menthol would be a killer for the bill.” She said the black caucus was drafting an amendment to the House tobacco regulation bill, possibly to call for a study of menthol.

    Will the CBC support the bill even though it allows the marketing of menthol cigarettes? Will the CBC protect one of the few industries that they can count on for cash money during their campaigns? Will the CBC support a bill that discriminates against the health interests of their constituents?

    Read the New York Times article about the CBC split over menthol cigarettes here.

    Read the plezWorld post about the cigarette bill before Congress here.

    plez sez: my thoughts on this matter have not changed - if Congress is going to ban flavored cigarettes in an attempt to curb underage smoking, then it needs to ban ALL flavored cigarettes. by maintaining the exemption for menthol cigarettes, Congress is sending approval to the tobacco industry to continue to ply their trade with the most vulnerable group: underage Blacks!

    i've heard the rationale for not supporting the ban, but i've never heard the rationale for not supporting the ban with the menthol exemption.

    plezWorld strongly urges the Congressional Black Caucus to support the interests of the Black community by opposing the bill if it contains an exemption for menthol.

    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    Obama's World Tour - SUCCESS

    Sen. Barack Obama concluded his world tour with an obligatory stop in Great Britain. Although, there were no public appearances (save a short stroll to the park), he did meet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and opposition leader David Cameron. Whether in small intimate gatherings or with thousands of adoring fans, Obama held his European charges attention with his fresh approach to American diplomacy.

    Just yesterday, plezWorld read a comment to a news story after his trip to Berlin:
    Dear America,

    Elect this man as your president.

    The Rest of the World
    The trip to Britain was the capstone on a whirlwind week of activities that had Obama in the Middle East (Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel) and Europe (Germany, France, and Britain). By most accounts, Obama's trip was a major success in building his foreign policy credentials and beginning to repair the United States's tattered reputation abroad.

    Read the account of Obama in England here.
    Read the TIME/CNN account of Obama in France here.
    Read the account of Obama in Germany here.

    plez sez: sen. john mccain has been crying in his prune juice every day that Obama is overseas, getting the royal treatment from world leaders. his latest ploy is to try (in vain) to portray the Obama trip as "ignoring" the issues affecting the american people. it's funny that he comes to that conclusion, since this very trip was what he so strongly urged for Obama (since he was so wet-behind-the-ears in foreign affairs). i guess now, he regrets that suggestion!

    a few months ago, i had resigned myself to the specter of four more years of a republican in the white house (i predicted mitt romney would best hillary clinton in november). now, i'll be supremely disappointed if the voting public for the third straight presidential election cycle elects (or selects) an inferior candidate in john mccain! our economy will suffer under mccain. our relations with our allies will continue to suffer under mccain. our soldiers will remain in iraq under mccain. al-qaeda will maintain their stronghold in afghanistan under mccain. there is NO upside to electing that old man to the white house... and the world community will not forgive us for that!

    in a related story, the reports that after Obama and his entourage left the Western Wall in Jerusalem, an orthodox seminary student went to the Wall, fished out Obama's personal note and delivered it to Maariv newspaper, which quickly printed the senator's prayer. this is considered an outrage in Judaism!

    since the prayer has been published in Israel, plezWorld will re-print his prayer as written on hotel stationary:
    Lord, protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.

    plezWorld Supports Barack Obama

    Saturday, July 26, 2008

    CNN's Black in America - Black Man

    (CNN Student News) -- Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN launches a sweeping on-air and digital initiative, CNN Presents: Black in America. These documentaries, "The Black Woman and Family" and "The Black Man," focus on fresh analysis from new voices about the real lives behind the stereotypes, statistics and identity politics that frequently frame the national dialogue about Black America.

    Black in America: The Black Man
    Aired: Thursday, July 24, 9 p.m. ET.
    Program overview: Soledad O'Brien evaluates the state of black men in America and explores the controversial topics of black men and fatherhood; disparities between blacks and whites in educational, career and financial achievement; and factors leading to the dramatic rates of black male incarceration. The documentary also examines the achievements of black men and the importance of the positive influences of black fathers.
    Resources associated with CNN Presents: Black in America.

    plez sez: i'm still not feeling the spoken word poet who introduces each segment... been skipping it!

    okay, i have to admit, "Black Man" was considerably better than "Black Woman & Family," but both leave a lot to be desired. In "Black Man," soledad did a much better job in providing the context and setting the table for the racial strife that gripped little rock, arkansas in the wake of the de-segregation order and the death of martin luther king, jr. but if you weren't listening closely, it almost appeared that the two gentlemen who were profiled were part of the Little Rock Nine!

    but the message associated with the assistant superintendent's family was not lost on me: the two "successful" sons (the lawyer and musically-inclined college student) found their happiness with white women (not saying there's anything wrong with it, but...), while the ne'er-do-well son had a child out of wedlock and was sitting in jail on a weapons charge. and the son who is a DA couldn't even find any Black friends with which to socialize with outside of work (look at the gathering at his house).

    and of course, ms. o'brien didn't have to look far to find a deadbeat dad who was too sorry to show up on time for his daughter's birthday party. alittle later in the show, the reason for his being tardy is evident... his baby momma is carrying the twins of some other dude! so if she is soooo damn upset with having to raise Deadbeat Dad #1's daughter, how the HELL is she gonna feel raising Deadbeat Dad #1's daughter and Deadbeat Dad #2's twins!!! what the HECK was she thinking?!? i guess she was like ole girl from "Black Woman & Family" who had FOUR kids by some guy (and adopted another one) who had no intention of marrying her.

    i guess my main complaint is the same that i lodged after the first episode: this was not groundbreaking stuff! the statistics have been published and rehashed (it was kind of discouraging to hear about an educated Black man being no more desirable an employee than a white felon!). but nothing new and shocking. nothing tying the current situation to slavery (at least, a modest attempt was done on night one). there are no gay people in the Black community? are rap and hip hop artists the only expression of Black culture (what about Blues & Jazz, and pop, and rock, and R&B - all music forms that were invented by Black people, yeah, even pop!). there are Black men in real colleges, we all didn't get our degrees while incarcerated (there are more Black college-aged men in college than in jail).

    she made a veiled reference to the light skin vs. dark skin "thing" that afflicts the Black community, while profiling high-yellow fast-talking Princeton educated Georgetown professor Rev. Dr. Michael Dyson (CNN profile here) and his younger darker skinned brother who is serving a life sentence for murder. unfortunately, this phenomenon and scourge of the Black community was not fleshed out... and if you are not Black, you probably had NO IDEA what they were talking about! that could've been a two-hour show all on it's own... actually, every topic that was glossed over could've been its own two-hour show.

    i know time was short (only two hours), but was it that short that the only successful Black family that she could profile was living in a white neighborhood, getting pulled over by the cops outside their house, yet braggadocios about the bermuda grass upkeep in that same neighborhood (notice, he was never on tape around any of his neighbors), and sending his kid to a white private school? she could've rolled through DeKalb County, Georgia and found successful Black families living in Black communities, sending their kids to predominantly Black schools, and bragging about the bermuda grass on their lawns! both nights played up a number of stereotypes, and then took the extra step of validating them.

    i applaud soledad o'brien's efforts (even though, over the two nights, she said absolutely NOTHING about being Black - or mixed race - herself during the documentary), but her efforts completely missed the mark. before embarking on such an endeavor again, i suggest she talk with me, first!

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Barack Obama Speech in Berlin

    Barack Obama in Berlin
    The Barack Obama World Tour stopped in Germany (he has upcoming stops planned for France and England, as well). Earlier in the week, he was in the Middle East (with stops in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel). Obama has met with the leaders in each country where he stopped (prime ministers, kings, presidents, etc.), visited with troops, and was debriefed by the command of the War in Iraq. And while in Jordan, he was driven to the airport by King Abdullah who had made a special trip back home from the US to see Obama in Jordan.

    There have been no major slip-ups, a bold confidence that overshadows the humility he displayed on the campaign trail, and a statesmanlike quality to his interaction with world leaders that has been missing from the US since George W. Bush has been in the White House. Oh yeah, and a cool display of his basketball skills for the troops in Kuwait! The United States, as well as, the world community appears to be clamoring for this man's presence and leadership. If elected, Obama will have the daunting task of living up to the very high bar that he has placed for himself.

    Instead of the Brandenburg Gate or the remnants of the Berlin Wall, Obama addressed the crowd before Berlin’s historic Victory Column. Crowd estimates were upwards of 200,000 people, with millions more watching via streaming video on the Internet or on cable television.

    The tenor of the speech was not as political as one that would be given in the US and focused more on unity in the world community. He spoke on his theme of hope, "We're a people of improbable hope." And asked the people of Europe to join in the fight against the Taliban, "The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now."

    Barack Obama's Speech in Berlin, Germany

    Text of Barack Obama's speech:
    "A World that Stands as One"
    July 24th, 2008
    Berlin, Germany

    Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

    I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

    I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

    At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.

    That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.

    Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

    On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

    This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

    The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

    And that's when the airlift began - when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

    The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

    But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. "There is only one possibility," he said. "For us to stand together united until this battle is won...The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty...People of the world, look at Berlin!"

    People of the world - look at Berlin!

    Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

    Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

    Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

    People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

    Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

    The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

    The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

    As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

    Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

    In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

    In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth - that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

    Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

    That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.

    The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

    We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

    So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

    That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations - and all nations - must summon that spirit anew.

    This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

    This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

    This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

    This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

    This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

    This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

    This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

    And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust - not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

    Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

    Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?

    Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

    People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.

    I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

    But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

    These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on the world.

    People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

    Read the CNN article on Obama's Berlin Speech here.

    Read the New York Times account of Obama's Berlin Speech here.

    plez sez: i hope he gets to keep his frequent flyer miles!

    another feather in the cap for Obama; hob-nobbing with heads of state, congratulating the troops who are fighting for who-knows-what, getting debriefed by commanders on the ground, explaining that the role of commander in chief encompasses much more than fixing the mess that bush made in iraq, finding common ground on troop withdrawal with iraqi leadership, erasing seven years of foreign relations mess that was created by george w. bush, commanding the respect and adoration of a foreign audience, and taking the first step to becoming a first-rate statesman on par with Kissinger, Wilson, Powell, Churchill, and Benjamin Franklin... Barack Obama has done it all with his World Tour.

    John McCain missed his chance in 2000 against george w. bush, the world has passed him by. he is a relic of a failed foreign policy, a poor understanding of domestic policy, an admitted ignorance of the world economy, a fading memory, and a tendency to make up facts to support his positions. the republicans made a crucial error in making him their nominee (it is what it is: he won those primaries because republicans felt bad for the way he was dissed by bush back in 2000). he was not their strongest candidate in 2000, why would he be their choice in 2008?

    Mitt Romney would've been a much stronger candidate because he's much smarter than mccain, he would've had the opportunity to mimic Obama's World Tour, and he has an advantage that he was a governor (and everyone knows that they make better presidential candidates). if i were a republican, there is no way i could vote for john mccain.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    CNN's Black in America - Woman & Family

    (CNN Student News) -- Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN launches a sweeping on-air and digital initiative, CNN Presents: Black in America. These documentaries, "The Black Woman and Family" and "The Black Man," focus on fresh analysis from new voices about the real lives behind the stereotypes, statistics and identity politics that frequently frame the national dialogue about Black America.

    Black in America: The Black Woman & Family
    Aired: Wednesday, July 23, 9 p.m. ET
    Program overview: Soledad O'Brien explores the varied experiences of black women and families and investigates the reasons behind the disturbing statistics on single parenthood, disparities between black and white students in schools, and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. O'Brien reports on the progress of black women in the workplace and the status of the black middle class.

    Resources associated with CNN Presents: Black in America.

    plez sez: i waited with bated breath for this show to air. got the DVR all queued up and ready to go. skipped over the hip hop/spoken word artist... that isn't my style, sorry.

    alas, less than an hour into the two hour program, i am disappointed with the show. the Black experience, the segment on Black women alone could've run for two hours. maybe i'm socially aware, maybe because i'm Black, but i didn't see any groundbreaking information. the same tired issues were trotted out: single mother households, lack of emphasis on education, poverty in the Black community, rampant HIV/AIDS infection rates, lack of preventive health care, interracial marriage, ad nauseum.

    and of course, hallelujah, low and behold, a WHITE ancestor! how in the heck did ole girl think she get that light skin and freckles! oh, not just any old white ancestor, of course, they found a family whose white great-great-great grandfather had a Black mistress, not a slave! he had two families: one white and one Black. each family had a gaggle of kids. earth to soledad o'brien, just about every damn Black family in the US has the DNA of some nasty, white rapist lurking in the shadows of its history. and just think, marriage between white men and Black women was against the law in most southern states until 1970! yeah... less than 40 years ago!

    during this time of obvious miscegenation on the part of white men raping Black women, a Black man could be lynched for looking (or whistling) at a white woman... some shit about violating the purity of the white race! see Emmit Till, a 14-year old boy who was dragged from his uncle's home and shot and lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman while visiting relatives in mississippi in 1955.

    i guess my biggest issue with the "Woman & Family" episode was the lack of historical context (other than the white ancestor bit) surround all of the issues that were discussed in the documentary. are Black people that damn pitiful, that damn lazy and shiftless, and deserving of scorn for the failures in their communities, OR were there some contributing events in their history that saw them to this station in life? soledad o'brien didn't go there, even though she is Black, her parents were college professors, and her and her five siblings are all graduates of harvard. she couldn't take that extra step and delve into the why?

    why do most of us have white ancestors, but rarely do we know who they are? why do most of the Black families not have two parents? why is there such a shortage of eligible Black men for professional Black women? why is education a failure for Black families at such an alarming rate? why do so few of our young men graduate from high school (less than 50 percent)? why is HIV/AIDS such a scourge in our community? why doesn't anyone step up to address the health care gap between Blacks in america and whites in america? why does a high percentage of Black children suffer from homelessness and poverty in america? why does it seem that slavery, something that ended over 150 years ago, still hold so many Black people back? why do so many Black people vote for the Democratic Party candidates? why did circumstances in New Orleans lead to such destruction of that city when similar catastrophes in other parts of the US don't have such a negative effect?

    this was not a balanced story... they should have stayed with the Rand family and critiqued them in various scenarios rather than jump around. there was little continuity between segments (except when they referenced members of the Rand family). there was no acknowledgement of nuance, no shades of gray, few nuggets of information that would have made this a groundbreaking documentary. one would be better off finding a copy of "Eyes on the Prize," which covers 30 years of the Civil Rights Movement in a FOURTEEN HOUR documentary.

    well... now, i'm off to watch Black men episode...

    Sick Day in plezWorld - GI Edition

    feel like *ish* ... my stomach has been in knots since lunch. dinner was a can of ginger ale.

    temporary relief came in the form of "the pink stuff!" and occasional "runs" to the toilet... yuck!

    and there were so many things i wanted to blog about:

  • a plezWorld reaction to tonight's CNN Presents: Black in America [show info here]

  • Obama in the Middle East [story here and here]
    asia, africa, tokyo, mexico... we went to the places people told us not to go! - Malcolm McLaren and the World Famous Supreme Team (1983)

  • Hello Dolly! (the big wind lands in texas) [story here]

  • LA Gov Jindal will not be McCain's Veep [story here]
    no liberal bias around here!

  • Josh Childress of the Atlanta Hawks flying away to Greece [story here]
    the best sixth man in the NBA spurns the Hawks free agent offer so he can play in Europe!

  • A girl fight in the WBNA [story here]
    it's not that serious!

  • George Bush losing his grip on reality [story here and video here]
    nothing new here!

  • i wonder if i'm sick because i didn't boil my water? [story here]
    i live in DeKalb County, but not in an advisory zip code

    well, there's always tomorrow...
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Al Gore's Carbon-Free Electricity Challenge

    Seemingly, channeling John F. Kennedy's space challenge to land a man on the moon back in the early 60's, on July 17, 2008, Al Gore issued a challenge for America to become 100 percent carbon-free in the production of electricity in a decade.

    The Challenge:
    Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.

    Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

    Highlights of Al Gore's Speech:

    The text of Al Gore's Speech:
    Ladies and gentlemen:
    There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more - if more should be required - the future of human civilization is at stake.

    I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

    The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse - much more quickly than predicted. Scientists with access to data from Navy submarines traversing underneath the North polar ice cap have warned that there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months. This will further increase the melting pressure on Greenland. According to experts, the Jakobshavn glacier, one of Greenland's largest, is moving at a faster rate than ever before, losing 20 million tons of ice every day, equivalent to the amount of water used every year by the residents of New York City.

    Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world.

    Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an "energy tsunami" that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

    And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn't it? There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory, longer droughts, bigger downpours and record floods. Unprecedented fires are burning in California and elsewhere in the American West. Higher temperatures lead to drier vegetation that makes kindling for mega-fires of the kind that have been raging in Canada, Greece, Russia, China, South America, Australia and Africa. Scientists in the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University tell us that for every one degree increase in temperature, lightning strikes will go up another 10 percent. And it is lightning, after all, that is principally responsible for igniting the conflagration in California today.

    Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that's been worrying me.

    I'm convinced that one reason we've seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately - without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective - they almost always make the other crises even worse.

    Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges - the economic, environmental and national security crises.

    We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change.

    But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we're holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.

    The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

    In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of "solutions summits" with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

    What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

    We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.

    And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

    The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.

    But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation's problems, we need a new start.

    That's why I'm proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It's not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

    Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

    This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans - in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.

    A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But here's what's changed: the sharp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power - coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal - have radically changed the economics of energy.

    When I first went to Congress 32 years ago, I listened to experts testify that if oil ever got to $35 a barrel, then renewable sources of energy would become competitive. Well, today, the price of oil is over $135 per barrel. And sure enough, billions of dollars of new investment are flowing into the development of concentrated solar thermal, photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal plants, and a variety of ingenious new ways to improve our efficiency and conserve presently wasted energy.

    And as the demand for renewable energy grows, the costs will continue to fall. Let me give you one revealing example: the price of the specialized silicon used to make solar cells was recently as high as $300 per kilogram. But the newest contracts have prices as low as $50 a kilogram.

    You know, the same thing happened with computer chips - also made out of silicon. The price paid for the same performance came down by 50 percent every 18 months - year after year, and that's what's happened for 40 years in a row.

    To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results with renewable energy: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. I've seen what they are doing and I have no doubt that we can meet this challenge.

    To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down.

    When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.

    Of course there are those who will tell us this can't be done. Some of the voices we hear are the defenders of the status quo - the ones with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system, no matter how high a price the rest of us will have to pay. But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, "The Stone Age didn't end because of a shortage of stones."

    To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider what the world's scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don't act in 10 years. The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis. When the use of oil and coal goes up, pollution goes up. When the use of solar, wind and geothermal increases, pollution comes down.

    To those who say the challenge is not politically viable: I suggest they go before the American people and try to defend the status quo. Then bear witness to the people's appetite for change.

    I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo. Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases. Our workers cannot stand 10 more years of job losses and outsourcing of factories. Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.
    What could we do instead for the next 10 years? What should we do during the next 10 years? Some of our greatest accomplishments as a nation have resulted from commitments to reach a goal that fell well beyond the next election: the Marshall Plan, Social Security, the interstate highway system. But a political promise to do something 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it's meaningless. Ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target.

    When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.

    To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. At present, for example, we do not have a unified national grid that is sufficiently advanced to link the areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity. Our national electric grid is critical infrastructure, as vital to the health and security of our economy as our highways and telecommunication networks. Today, our grids are antiquated, fragile, and vulnerable to cascading failure. Power outages and defects in the current grid system cost US businesses more than $120 billion dollars a year. It has to be upgraded anyway.

    We could further increase the value and efficiency of a Unified National Grid by helping our struggling auto giants switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars. An electric vehicle fleet would sharply reduce the cost of driving a car, reduce pollution, and increase the flexibility of our electricity grid.

    At the same time, of course, we need to greatly improve our commitment to efficiency and conservation. That's the best investment we can make.

    America's transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. For example, we must recognize those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry. Every single one of them.

    Of course, we could and should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

    In order to foster international cooperation, it is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community and lead efforts to secure an international treaty at Copenhagen in December of next year that includes a cap on CO2 emissions and a global partnership that recognizes the necessity of addressing the threats of extreme poverty and disease as part of the world's agenda for solving the climate crisis.

    Of course the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness.

    It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now.

    Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address? When people rightly complain about higher gasoline prices, we propose to give more money to the oil companies and pretend that they're going to bring gasoline prices down. It will do nothing of the sort, and everyone knows it. If we keep going back to the same policies that have never ever worked in the past and have served only to produce the highest gasoline prices in history alongside the greatest oil company profits in history, nobody should be surprised if we get the same result over and over again. But the Congress may be poised to move in that direction anyway because some of them are being stampeded by lobbyists for special interests that know how to make the system work for them instead of the American people.

    If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

    However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.

    Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we've simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. And folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests. And I've got to admit, that sure seems to be the way things have been going. But I've begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are not only tired of baby steps and special interest politics, but are hungry for a new, different and bold approach.

    We are on the eve of a presidential election. We are in the midst of an international climate treaty process that will conclude its work before the end of the first year of the new president's term. It is a great error to say that the United States must wait for others to join us in this matter. In fact, we must move first, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because moving first is in our own national interest.

    So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge - for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It's time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.

    This is a generational moment. A moment when we decide our own path and our collective fate. I'm asking you - each of you - to join me and build this future. Please join the WE campaign at need you. And we need you now. We're committed to changing not just light bulbs, but laws. And laws will only change with leadership.

    On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy's challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.

    I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket's engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.

    We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

    The We Can Solve It website has lots of background information and encourages your participation in making the challenge a reality (add your name to the petition).

    Read the New York Times coverage of Al Gore's speech here.

    plez sez: I watched Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth documentary a few years back and was astonished how quickly global warming has affected the world (and our economy). Our way of life is destroying our planet at an alarming rate.

    I pray that our next president does more than pay lip service to the global warming issue and work with congress to bring about Al Gore's challenge in the next five to ten years... our well-being will depend on it.

    NOTE: America will never know what we lost when the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore. Imagine the past 7 years if we had had this kind of bold, imaginative, and productive thinking in the White House instead of the fear-mongering, war-drum-beating administration of George W. Bush!

    Let's not make another mistake; let's give the keys to the kingdom to Barack Obama.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    New York Times Reject McCain Op-Ed Piece

    The Drudge Report reports that an editorial written by presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has been rejected by the New York Times - less than a week after the paper published an essay written by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama. As expected, the paper's decision to refuse McCain's direct rebuttal to Obama's 'My Plan for Iraq' has ignited charges of left-wing media bias in some Republican circles.

    New York Times Op-Ed editor David Shipley wrote the McCain campaign the following in an e-mail, "It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. [But] I'm not going to be able to accept this piece [*ish*] as currently written." [emphasis added by plezWorld]

    In McCain's submission to the New York Times, he writes of Obama: "I am dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it... if we don't win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president."
    Shipley continues:
    The Obama piece worked... because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech [on the war in Iraq]); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans.

    It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq.

    Shipley advised McCain to try again: "I'd be pleased, though, to look at another draft."

    Please note: Shipley served in the Clinton Administration from 1995 until 1997 as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Presidential Speechwriter.

    Sen. Barack Obama - My Plan for Iraq - July 14, 2008:
    CHICAGO — The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

    The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

    In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.

    But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

    The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.

    Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

    But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

    As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

    In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

    Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

    As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

    In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve. Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face. But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender.

    It’s not going to work this time. It’s time to end this war.

    Barack Obama, a United States senator from Illinois, is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

    Sen. John McCain's Rejected Editorial Submission:
    In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation “hard” but not “hopeless.” Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

    Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

    Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that “our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence.” But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

    Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, “Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress.” Even more heartening has been progress that’s not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

    The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama’s determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his “plan for Iraq” in advance of his first “fact finding” trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

    To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.

    Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military's readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.

    No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five “surge” brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.

    But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.

    Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his “plan for Iraq.” Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be “very dangerous.”

    The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we’ve had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely.

    I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it. But if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.

    Read the NYT explanation for not publishing the McCain editorial here.

    Read the account of the NYT rejection of the McCain editorial here.

    Read the Drudge Report about the NYT rejection of the McCain editorial here.

    plez sez: i wandered upon this interesting story about the battle over the war in iraq by the mccain and obama. on the heels of al-maliki's endorsement of Obama's plan to get out of iraq in 16 months, this REJECTION of a poorly written and fact light submission by mccain is just icing on the cake.

    Obama mentions 'mccain' 3 times in his editorial. mccain mentions 'Obama' 9 times in his "editorial;" his entire piece is mere a response to everything that Barack Obama has written with little or no new content or argument.

    apparently, this "editorial" was rejected on friday, prior to al-maliki's admission that he agrees with Obama's plan to remove combat troops from iraq in 16 months. in the middle of his editorial, mccain writes, "He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable...," that has to be the most prophetic line in all of the gibberish that he wrote. instead of writing what he will do, he spends his ink in a feeble attempt to attack Obama's plan.

    i have no doubt that mccain can get the Fox News Network to publish his little attempt at writing a cogent editorial... he's just not ready for prime time!