Friday, January 23, 2009

Commander-in-Chief Obama

Just saw an interesting story on President Obama's upcoming meeting with military commanders at the Pentagon.

From the AP:
Iraq is stable enough to allow the roughly 22,000 U.S. Marines there to withdraw, the service's top general said Friday.

"The time is right for Marines in general terms to leave Iraq," said Marine Corps Commandant James Conway.

The Marine Corps can't fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, because it does not have enough combat support troops and equipment to divide between the missions.

"Anything that you put into Afghanistan must necessarily come as a reduction of Marine forces in Iraq," he told reporters. "When the door slams on the Marines in Iraq, let all the Marines be on the other side of the door."

Conway has been pushing for a large deployment of Marines to Afghanistan for months. No decisions have been made on the size of the force that would be sent.

More interestingly, was this observation:

Conway said that Obama's willingness to meet with his military chiefs at the Pentagon instead of the White House amounts to a gesture of respect to the commanders.

"It is great symbology; he's on our turf," he said. "More importantly, he gets to meet and shake hands with hundreds of people in all the services."

President Obama continually impresses me with his collaborative nature, political maturity, and his respectful demeanor.

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Closing Gitmo ~ Restoring America's honor

Obama signed the Executive Order to close Guantanamo Bay Prison within one year.

Already the Conservatives pundits are going crazy with fear. What I find astonishing is that they think that Gitmo has kept Americans safe; when in reality, this very act was probably Al Qaeda's most powerful recruiting tool! They can advertise how unjust and hypocritical the United States is, and they would laugh and spit on our notion of Democracy.

According to the latest Gallup Poll, 45% of Americans do not believe that Guantanamo Bay should be closed. This was quite surprising and shocking to me. How can more Americans not see how morally wrong it is to torture. Can anyone,who professes to be a Christian, even say with a clear conscious that torture is acceptable?? How can Americans who profess that we feel so strongly about democracy and freedom, that we are willing to die for it, suddenly become so cowardly to say, we need to ignore human rights and that torture is acceptable because it will keep us safe.

As a society that upholds democratic ideals and principles, everyone should know that torture is wrong. You don't need a law to tell you that to commit such barbaric acts is not right. If that was the case, then why not castrate rapists and pedophiles? Yet we don't do this, because that is an act that is not reflective of a humane and just society. This idea that we can even attempt to tell the rest of the world, China included, to respect Human Rights, and push them toward a democractic model, while continually supporting torture and rendition, and ignoring Habeus Corpus is laughable.

The Habeas Corpus act of 1649 and its interpretation was clearly upheld and incorporated into our Constitution by the Founding Fathers. Furthermore, the Founding Fathers, when developing the Constitution, clearly put the focus and emphasis on individual freedoms, and checks and balances against the limitations of Government abuses. This is why during criminal trials, the burden of proof rests with the State, not the individual. This is why illegal search and seizures are not allowed.

George Bush created a nightmare when he created Guantanamo Bay Prison. He was on record for trying to close it, however, he was unable to accomplish it, simply due to the legal complexities, and the fact that because evidence obtained by torture taints the evidence.

I have no doubt that there are some very dangerous terrorists, at the same time, there is also a large probability that a majority are innocent people who have been illegally imprisoned. They have had no avenues for justice, nor have they been able to petition for release due to lack of evidence. However, by imprisoning and torturing them unjustly, we have now just made more enemies.

Let's remember that all the former Secretary of States went on record on the CNN Forum "The Next President: A World of Challenges":

AMANPOUR: General Powell, it's not just about like, is it? It's about being able to get things done. America is the strongest nation in the world. But a new intelligence report is going to tell the next president that America's dominance is not going to be as supreme as it was.

So what do you tell the next president about how to regain respect?

POWELL: I think we have to recognize that there are other nations in the world now whose economic strength is growing, and therefore their political influence is growing.

I don't know that we should be afraid of this or see that as a threat to us. Isn't this what we were working for all of these many decades? We wanted them to rise up and join the international economic community. And that is what is happening.

We're working multilaterally to solve the Iranian problem, the North Korean problem. We have worked with the world to increase funding for HIV-AIDS. We've doubled the amount of money we're putting into development assistance around the world.

So I think a case can be made that we can build on that strength. And the new president, with a different approach to things, and with a different attitude to the rest of the world, can reverse this.

SESNO: But how about some tangible things that the next administration, the next president can do to change policy or send a signal that will address these issues?

POWELL: Close Guantanamo.

ALBRIGHT: Close Guantanamo. I think...

BAKER: Close Guantanamo. We were on a panel together several months ago, and we all agreed, one of the best things that could happen would be to close Guantanamo, which is a very serious blot upon our reputation.
Military experts all agree that torture is not a reliable method for obtaining evidence. Unfortunately, most Americans watch too much TV, and have been fooled by the television "24", and the notion that by torturing someone, it will for sure get that critical piece of intelligence that will help defuse a bomb with 1 minute to spare!
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration of Barack Obama ~ 44th President of the United States

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

The Inauguration of Barack Obama was filled with amazing pomp and circumstance, tradition, electricity, history, joy, relief, and somberness. His Inauguration speech embodied the commitment to our ideals as brought forth by our founding fathers, the renewal, individual responsibility, engagement, and collaboration that will be required to meet the challenges of the future. It was everything that we needed to inspire us on this special day.

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President-Elect Barack Obama

The day is finally here ~ a day that is celebrated within the US, and around the world. What I find constantly amazing is the massive interest from people in the International Community in President-elect Barack Obama (it will be a wonderful thing to drop the "elect").

While some may say the end of American Exceptionalism is at hand, I am not entirely too sure. I think the end of American Exceptionalism as it relates to an "anything goes because we are Americans" or rogue cowboy style of leadership is certainly at an end. However, I still believe that what sets the US apart from any other nation is that we were created from a set of ideals, and not necessarily any one homogenous ethnic group. The fact is, the US culture, Constitution and history is unique and sets us apart from any other country.

President-elect Obama's inauguration represents a possibility that truly has not been a possibility in any other nation. I especially consider a homogenous country like South Korea or even France. As much as the French tout their Liberte and Egalite, they are still driven by nationalistic prejudice of all things French - even their politicians.

So I think back on election night, and the electrifying emotions that I felt on hearing that Barack Obama had become the new President-Elect of the United States, and it instills again an overflowing pride in my country and what we represent apart from any other country.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

It's a New Day has a great song and video to celebrate the election of Barack Obama as our 44th President - "It's a New Day". It's infectious in it's optimism and hope, that you can't help but dance with joy.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

In remembrance ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, January 19th will commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.'s 80th Birthday. In 1964, Time Magazine name Martin Luther King Jr. their "Man of the Year".
Three decades after King was gunned down on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., he is still regarded mainly as the black leader of a movement for black equality. That assessment, while accurate, is far too restrictive. For all King did to free blacks from the yoke of segregation, whites may owe him the greatest debt, for liberating them from the burden of America's centuries-old hypocrisy about race. It is only because of King and the movement that he led that the U.S. can claim to be the leader of the "free world" without inviting smirks of disdain and disbelief. Had he and the blacks and whites who marched beside him failed, vast regions of the U.S. would have remained morally indistinguishable from South Africa under apartheid, with terrible consequences for America's standing among nations. How could America have convincingly inveighed against the Iron Curtain while an equally oppressive Cotton Curtain remained draped across the South?

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One man come, he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
One more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love
One more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
One more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love
One more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?
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Snowy Sunday Morning

I woke up this morning to a very quiet and snowy Sunday morning. While I won't miss the cold when I move to LA, I will miss the views from my window on early Sunday mornings such as today.

It's definitely one of those days where you can take simple pleasure in lying in a warm, fluffy bed, sipping coffee and reading the NY Times. Speaking of which, the Sunday NY Times Magazine has a fascinating gallery of photos of Obama's People By Nadav Kander, individuals serving in his administration, as well as critical colleagues.

The most interesting story was the background discussion with the photographer on how the shots were taken, and how the unique facets of the individuals would shine through - from the formal and dignified bearings of Robert Gates and Jim Jones, to the easy casualness of David Axelrod.
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