Big Brass Blog is a group blog founded in February of 2005 by Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville (formerly Shakespeare's Sister). The mission of this collaborative effort is to stand as the premiere forum where strong, enduring voices of Progressivism provide what liberal politics has been missing: the unapologetic, unrelenting voice of liberalism in the darkness visited upon our world by Right-wing extremists, their ruinous policies, and their hypocritical beliefs.
President Obama spoke to House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore. In his remarks he said he welcomed disagreement and debate, but called for genuine bipartisanship and asked for constructive ideas in confronting the nation's problems. Following his remarks he openly and frankly answered pointed questions from the Republican legislators. Topics ranged from health care, to energy policy, to taxes and the economy.
I'm reasonably certain I've never seen anything like it. GOP House members were fairly respectful of the president, but pressed him on a variety of policy matters. The president didn't just respond effectively, he delivered a rather powerful, masterful performance.
It was like watching a town-hall forum where all of the questions were confrontational, but Obama nevertheless just ran circles around these guys. I can only assume caucus members, by the end of the Q&A, asked themselves, "Whose bright idea was it to invite the president and let him embarrass us on national television?"
Note, however, that this wasn't just about political theater -- it was an important back-and-forth between the president and his most forceful political detractors. They were bringing up routine far-right talking points that, most of the time, simply get repeated in the media unanswered. But in Baltimore, the president didn't just respond to the nonsense, he effectively debunked it.
Republicans thought they were throwing their toughest pitches, and Obama -- with no notes, no teleprompter, and no foreknowledge -- just kept knocking 'em out of the park.
Remember the old joke, "I was at a fight and a hockey game broke out?" Well, earlier this afternoon, I was at a photo opportunity and a policy debate broke out.
Obama's Q&A session with the House Republicans was transfixing. What should have been a banal exchange of talking points was actually a riveting reminder of how rarely you hear actual debate -- which is separate from disagreement -- between political players. [snip]
Republicans are already spreading the word that they made a mistake allowing cameras into the event. Apparently, transparency sounds better in press releases than it does in practice.
But if this is to be the last of these we see for a while, make sure to take the time and watch it, or read the transcript. It's some of the best political television I've seen in memory.
Obama performed as well as any British prime minister during Question Time. The same cannot be said for the Republicans who, by and large, tried to use dishonest arguments and demonstrably inaccurate statistics only to have Obama tell them to get serious and stop trying to score cheap political points. I can honestly say that if as many Americans watched today's Q & A with the Republicans as watched the State of the Union, our political problems would be over. If we had Question Time, we'd have a much easier time winning over public opinion and sustaining support for progressive policies.
The Republicans certainly will not want to repeat this extremely painful beat-down.
Tom Cole — former head of the NRCC, congressman from Oklahoma — said, “He scored many points. He did really well.” Barack Obama, for an hour and a half, was able to refute every single Republican talking point used against him on the major issues of the day. In essence, it was almost like a debate where he was front and center for the majority of it. … One Republican said to me, off the record, behind closed doors: “It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that.”
And I'm not a pundit. I'm just a President, so take it for what it's worth. But I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security. I don't think they want more gridlock. I don't think they want more partisanship. I don't think they want more obstruction. They didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive. That's not what they want. They sent us to Washington to work together, to get things done, and to solve the problems that they're grappling with every single day. [snip]
Now, here's the point. These are serious times, and what's required by all of us -- Democrats and Republicans -- is to do what's right for our country, even if it's not always what's best for our politics. I know it may be heresy to say this, but there are things more important than good poll numbers. And on this no one can accuse me of not living by my principles. A middle class that's back on its feet, an economy that lifts everybody up, an America that's ascendant in the world -- that's more important than winning an election. Our future shouldn't be shaped by what's best for our politics; our politics should be shaped by what's best for our future. [snip]
Bipartisanship -- not for its own sake but to solve problems -- that's what our constituents, the American people, need from us right now. All of us then have a choice to make. We have to choose whether we're going to be politicians first or partners for progress; whether we're going to put success at the polls ahead of the lasting success we can achieve together for America. Just think about it for a while. We don't have to put it up for a vote today.
~President Barack Obama
Republican Retreat, Baltimore
January 29, 2010
For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't, or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.
They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it, not now.
So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope -- what they deserve -- is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our politics, for while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same, the aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills, a chance to get ahead, most of all, the ability to give their children a better life. [snip]
Despite -- despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength. [snip]
I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they've been taking place for over 200 years. They're the very essence of our democracy.
But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side, a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.
The confirmation of...
I'm speaking of both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.
Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it's precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet -- worse yet, it's sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.
So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.
To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.
And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.
So let's show the American people that we can do it together.
Congress has now authorized President Obama, at the discretion of his Administration, to prohibit release of photographs taken between 2002 and 2009 showing American soldiers, contractors, and agency personnel violently abusing foreign detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. This effectively ends a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the American Civil Liberties Union had sought the release of 21 such photos under the Freedom of Information Act. Lower courts, including the influential 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, had ruled against the government's efforts to hide the pictures, but with new authority granted by Congress, which came in a budget bill to fund the Homeland Security Department, Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved quickly to block judicial review of the ACLU case.
Gates went further to block an additional 23 pictures that are rumored to show more abuses contrary to American law and international treaties to which the United States is a signatory.
Among the acts clearly evident in the photos is at least one of a prisoner apparently being sodomized by an American soldier using a broom handle. Other rape or simulated rape photos along with various alternate demonstrations of brutality, degradation, and violence against prisoners, including mock executions are said to be in the now-sequestered images.
In signing the bill to keep the photographs of what some allege are American war crimes from being released, President Obama defended the Administration's successful thwarting of the Freedom of Information Act by saying that allowing the pictures to be seen by the public would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and "put our troops in greater danger."
Obama's stance on the evidence of war crimes committed by Americans involved in foreign conflicts flies directly in the face of his declarations and directives on his first full day in office, when he said, "My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government."
More Blackouts to Come?
Rumors cannot be confirmed, but insiders say that Mr. Obama is seriously considering asking Congress to give him the authority to classify a whole series of photos showing other abuses committed by Americans.
High on the agenda would be any photographs showing extra-judicial lynchings of African-Americans by Whites. Although historians and civil rights advocates argue that the photographs are invaluable evidence of past racism in American, President Obama is leaning toward the argument that the horrific photos "further inflame anti-White opinion" in African-American communities and "put White people in greater danger of being called 'cracker' when walking through less-cultured neighborhoods."
Also on the agenda would be photographs from the Holocaust in Europe showing dead, dying, and abused Jews. Again, while historians and many others argue that the photographs are part of a crucial, on-going lesson in the need to control the unspeakably monstrous impulses of societies gone awry, President Obama is receptive to the argument that Holocaust photos "further inflame anti-fascist opinion" and "put hate-mongers like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and certain Ron Paul fans in greater danger of being called the freak-show crackpots they actually are."
Decisions on these extensions of the Obama Obstruction of Justice Doctrine have not been finalized, but leading Right-wing legal minds are excited, nonetheless. What liberals thought was going to be a progressive President is transforming before their eyes into a unitary executive with high aspirations to alter the very reality of what citizens see of America when it is doing the noble work of the Empire that will not abide a rule of law that includes accountability for the Empire, itself, and its violent, criminally culpable, failed leaders.
Despite federal courts having rejected the same efforts by the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration is refusing to let reporters see records of who is visiting the White House. Lacking any particular creativity in crafting an argument for such secrecy, Obama's people are using the old Bush argument that the visitor logs are not Secret Service property that would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, along with the fatiguing claim that the President must be free to meet with people to discuss hush-hush, important president-type business without worrying about who's going to find out that hush-hush, important president-type business was being discussed.
This little episode might force me to change my mind about the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama, which I have been characterizing as "Authoritarianism without the Incompetence": it seems that incompetence is rather more of an embedded principle of authoritarianism than I had thought.
Oh, and by the way, as I've pointed out in the past and herewith repeat just for the record: "Hope 'n change," my ass.
And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense (of Obama), with illogical excuses such as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days. -- Sibel Edmonds at OpEdNews
What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities - as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.
The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank.
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In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.
Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.
Now is the time to act boldly and wisely - to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.
It's an agenda that begins with jobs.
As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government - I don't. Not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited - I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.
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So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.
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And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world's.
As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us - watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.
Washington, DC (LOL) -- In order to give the press something more to do, Barack Obama has announced that he will take the oath of office every day, before staff meeting and before the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB), but after the Presidential Morning Breakfast (PMB).
He says he wants to provide the American public with a chance to see the oath whenever possible, consistent with his desire for more openness in his administration.
"The people have spoken; they enjoy seeing me take the oath of office, and since I'm president of the people, then I will listen to their wishes," said Obama in a press release.
Obama notes that he and Chief Justice John Roberts will change the words, or the timing, or the inflection of the oath each day. He also said they offer the oath in different languages occasionally, just to keep it interesting.
The oath ceremony will use a Bible only on Sundays, with a Torah on Saturdays, and a book randomly chosen from the Library of Congress weekdays. Certain days will have special books associated with them. For example, "Team Of Rivals" is scheduled for February 12th, the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
While most times Obama will be in a suit, he will institute "Casual Fridays", where he will take the oath in a polo shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, and Justice Roberts in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip-flops. He insists he will not be seen in his pajamas and robe.
A new photograph will be available for download after 10:00 AM ET each morning for use as a wallpaper or screen saver.
If the downloads are popular, there may be plans to add "hidden messages" in the daily oath, with special "Obama Decoder Rings" available through Ovaltine.
Our 44th President takes the oath of office. There was a trivial, momentary slip when Chief Justice John Roberts asked Obama to recite the first line of the oath in the incorrect order. Roberts said “execute the office of President of the United States faithfully,” rather than “faithfully execute.” The oath reads: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Obama paused and allowed Roberts to correct himself. Watch it:
I, Chief Justice John Roberts do solemnly swear,
That I royally fracked up trying to administer the presidential Oath of Office from memory.
That I embarrassed myself and the nation by getting something so simple ---something memorized by every boy and girl in, like, second grade--- so excruciatingly wrong.
And, in so doing, came within a butt hair of accidentally making Sasha Obama President of the United States.
Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing,
But you have to admit juggling first grade and the presidency might be a bit much for a seven year old.
But I digress.
Most important, I do solemnly swear that four years from now,
When I'm swearing in Barack Obama for a second term,
In fact, any time I'm swearing anybody in for anything, whether it's President of the United States or notary public,
I will execute the...no, wait!...I will faithfully execute the Herculean task of doing what Justice John Paul Stevens had the good sense to do, given the gravity of the moment, by bringing an index card ---which I can get a whole pack of for a buck over at The Dollar Store--- on which I will have scribbled, legibly, the words to the Oath of Office, so that I don't frack up again, unnecessarily reminding the world once more that I am an appointee of former President Bush
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you're able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- when yellow will be mellow -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
Jan. 15: President Bush bid his official goodbye today in a farewell address to the nation. How was his final speech? Rachel Maddow critiques the address with Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington.
In a personal and wide-ranging interview conducted by his sister about his legacy, his faith and the influence of his father, President George W. Bush said he hopes to be remembered as a liberator of the Iraqi people.
"I'd like to be a president [known] as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush told his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, in a conversation recorded for the oral-history organization StoryCorps for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. [...]
"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process," Bush said, according to White House excerpts.
"I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values. And I darn sure wasn't going to sacrifice those values; that I was a president that had to make tough choices and was willing to make them," he said.
Bush is ending his eight-year presidency with historically low public approval ratings, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a dire economic crisis.
The president told his sister he is proud of the "tough decisions" he made.
"I surrounded myself with good people," Bush said. "I carefully considered the advice of smart, capable people and made tough decisions." [...]
Bush, who is a born-again Christian, spoke about the role his faith has played in his presidency.
"I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the president, and I have been affected by peoples' prayers a lot. I have found that faith is comforting, faith is strengthening, faith has been important," Bush said.
"I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena," he said.
"In other words, politicians should not be judgmental people based upon their faith. They should recognize -- as least I have recognized I am a lowly sinner seeking redemption, and therefore have been very careful about saying [accept] my faith or you're bad. In other words, if you don't accept what I believe, you're a bad person. And the greatness of America -- it really is -- is that you can worship or not worship and be equally American. And it doesn't matter how you choose to worship; you're equally American. And it's very important for any President to jealously protect, guard, and strengthen that freedom."
Shut up already. Obviously very few people care what you think. You and your cronies have looted two countries in eight years, engineered a worldwide money crisis and don't deserve to be bailed out because you overestimated the time that your Ponzi schemes would last before crashing. It just so happens that it is the little man, the guy on the street not the Wall Street "geniuses", that deserves a bailout. Forcing the taxpayers to rescue people who were gambling with other people's money is as fiscally foolish as it is to keep paying CEOs big bonuses while the workers on the bottom get pink slips.
Americans are tired of being taken for granted. We are tired of being mistaken for stupid. We are tired of being pissed on and told that it's raining. And we are most certainly tired of looking for a pony in a pile of bullsh*t.
"Our economy is depending on decisive action from the government," Bush said. "The sooner we address the problem, the sooner we can get back on the path of growth and job creation. This is what elected leaders owe the American people, and I am confident that we'll deliver."
The only jobs you have created were overseas or pay so low that the average American can no longer afford to live in his own home. You let a whole American city drown, destroyed the hopes, dreams and lives of thousands of people both here and abroad and now the chickens have come home to roost.
In your arrogance you have forgotten that it is the House's responsibility to propose financial bills. Not the Treasury Secretary, not the head of the Federal Reserve and most certainly not you. For you to speak of your disappointment that your cronies didn't get more taxpayer money to play with doesn't bother me at all. What did you expect? That people who were running for reelection would go against their constituents wishes one more time? Like true politicians they don't want to give up their way of life and hearing from the people that they are supposed to represent that if Wall Street was bailed out that they would have to find a new line of work, well you saw the results. They may be stupid and greedy but they aren't so stupid and greedy that they don't recognize the anger of the people in their districts.
You helped to create this situation and just like every company you have ever run, we're going bankrupt. A few years ago it was made difficult (and impossible for some) for individuals to declare bankruptcy and now the taxpayer is supposed to save the companies who stabbed them in the wallet? I don't think so. The only bailout the American people want at this point is for Main Street, not Wall Street. If only I really believed you were going away for good in a few months, but you are like a bad penny.
I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)