Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech
2009 College Grads: We're the Lucky Ones
Beer in Vending Machines -- What Drinking Age?
How The Press Can Remain Relevant
Be Afraid, Cheney Warns. Be Very Afraid.
Obama: You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry...
Obama to GOP: 'I Won, I'm The President'
As if the inauguration of the country's first black president isn't enough to make you yearn for the days of Jim Crow and racially divided water fountains, the Republican Party sure isn't helping by electing the first black chairman of its national committee.
Michael Steele, black and a former Maryland lieutenant governor, took the helm of the RNC last week. Certainly his victory was propelled by Barack Obama's election, although the GOP's rife racist bloc is sick of all this change and equality.
David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and Republican congressman from Louisiana, called Steele -- or "Obama Junior" -- a "radical Black racist" who will spur the majority of Republicans to leave the party and start their own (presumably racist) political group.
Duke claims to have told a Washington Post reporter, "I am glad these traitorous leaders of the Republican Party appointed this Black racist, affirmative action advocate to the head of the Republican party because this will lead to a huge revolt among the Republican base," as posted on his website.
He continues: "As a former Republican official, I can tell you that millions of rank-and-file Republicans are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore! We will either take the Republican Party back over the next four years or we will say, 'To Hell With the Republican Party!' And we will take 90 percent of Republicans with us into a New Party that will take its current place!"
The Republican National Committee took a major step toward rebuilding its brand with growing voter groups by electing former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as chairman Friday. The five-man race whittled down in later rounds to two choices: one, an articulate, more moderate conservative and African American who had won in a left-leaning state (Steele); and the other, a white Republican from the South who belonged to an all-white country club until he began running for RNC chair (South Carolina's Katon Dawson).
Frankly, I'm a bit insulted the election was so close. It took six rounds of voting for Steele to squeak past Dawson and achieve a simple majority, 91 votes out of 168 total.
The Guantanamo base became infamous during the term of Obama's predecessor for its circumvention of basic human and civil rights by indefinitely detaining roughly 800 people, only three of whom were convicted of a crime in a court of law (although not an international court), and subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment. Basically, under the direction of then-Commander in Chief Bush, the United States Armed Forces captured hundreds of people from around the world, locked them up for however long they wanted, for whatever reason they wanted, without granting those detained individuals the right to prove their innocence.
The Washington Post reported on January 14, 2009 that Susan Crawford, the senior-most authority on Guantanamo military commissions, labeled interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay as "torture." This is problematic since the United States ratified the United Nations' Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture a decade and a half ago.
A part of the crowd on the west side of the capitol mocked President George W. Bush, chanting "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, good-bye" as he took to the inaugural stage next to his outgoing vice-president, The Hill reported Tuesday.
Throwing shoes isn't even enough anymore nor is the fact that Bush isn't even president anymore.
A coalition of activist groups planned an event called "Yes We Can Arrest Bush," in front of the FBI Building. The group is a part of a somewhat more serious effort to get now-President Obama to prosecute Bush and members of his administration for what they characterize as war crimes.
New York Times' Paul Krugman recently called for an inquest into the charges against the president. If we don't have one, it gives credit to the belief that those in power are above the law, he said.
"I'm sorry," Krugman wrote in his Times' column last week, "but if we don't have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years - and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama's remarks to mean that we won't - this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don't face any consequences if they abuse they're power."
The big party wasn't without its witty Hollywood celebrities as well. Denzel Washington, Usher and Oprah were on hand for the swearing-in. Known more for his role in major movies than his political prowess, Samuel L. Jackson added "We're part of the world community again," in an on-air interview with Access Hollywood.
Columnist Robert Shrum called the tendency of democrats to anticipate setback as a result of a "stolen" election in 2000 and close defeat in 2004 "Battered Liberal Syndrome," in his column today.
Currently, democrats are anticipating the "devaluation of last November's victory, a scenario in which progressive policy is undermined and Democratic dreams are once again deferred," Shrum said.
It almost seems the only thing deferred is the whole "unity" thing we've been talking about for months.
8:10am PST / 11:10am EST
The student coffeehouse Ground Zero is serving as the main watch party for USC students willing to wake up at this unseemly hour, and the room is already packed to capacity. USC professors Dan Schnur and Roberto Suro are opening a discussion at 8:30am, with a huge projection screen displaying a C-SPAN feed of the inaugural festivities. There is a palpable feeling of nervous excitement in the air.
Other watch parties are being held around campus, in apartments and in my COMM-375 Nonverbal Communication class. Next update coming from there...
Our 9:30am class has opened early to host a live watch party. A few chuckles after Obama stumbled through the oath of office, but his speech delivery is almost flawless so far... lots of proud smiles around the room.
9:45am PST / 12:45pm EST
Laughter in the classroom as CNN displays the temperature in Washington, D.C.: 28 degrees Fahrenheit, feels like 17 degrees.
Los Angeles today is overcast with a high of 75 degrees. It's a bit chilly inside for us, too, though: Someone left on the air conditioner...
9:52am PST / 12:52pm EST
It's odd to see President Obama and former President George W. Bush walking side-by-side as they exit the inauguration ceremonies. As I remarked in an earlier post, Dubya was the first president that my generation of college students have really ever known. Times, they are a'changing...
My initial reaction to Obama's succinct, powerful inaugural address? Three parts of the speech really stood out to me:
"Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things ... "
An early challenge to his critics:
"... [T]here are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done ..."
And, a passage that could easily be voiced by Bush 43:
"We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
Share your comments below, and stay tuned for instant student reaction over the course of the day.
11:56am PST / 2:56pm EST
Either "The Speech" was overhyped or Trojans are just hard to impress, because my conversations with students and staff around campus indicate a lukewarm, almost indifferent reaction to Obama's inaugural address today.
"It was good," shrugged Tyler Deutsch, a senior majoring in communication who watched Obama's speech over the Internet while at work.
Other students and staff members said the speech wasn't exceptional, but that they felt at least "satisfied" and more interested in seeing how the Obama Administration's policies actually develop. One student said she still hadn't watched the speech, but would after classes today.
Everyone expressed awe at the historic nature of Obama's presidency, but the tepid responses to his speech surprised me. We knew the immense hype surrounding Obama's inauguration would make it difficult for Obama to match expectations, but my impression was that he delivered a sharp, forceful address and met all of his objectives. Post your thoughts in the Comments section below...
CNN has launched a new gimmick, melodramatically named "THE MOMENT," by which ordinary citizens present at Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday can submit a picture of Obama being sworn in, as seen from their viewpoint -- in all likelihood, miles away and among standing-room-only crowds. The idea is to create a miles-long collage of pictures capturing Obama taking the oath of office. CNN calls it "the most detailed experience of a single moment ever."
While this project may offer a mildly interesting result, CNN's continued self-congratulating gimmickry strikes me as rather annoying. Remember their utterly useless live hologram? Wolf Blitzer kept chanting that television history was being made. No, television history was being made in 1950 when CBS gave the public color programming. CNN's Jessica Yellin going Princess Leia on us isn't particularly useful (and technically, it wasn't even really a hologram).
Instead of focusing on the "just the facts, ma'am" style of reporting which made the network so reliable and informative in the past, CNN insists on elevating bombastic personalities and cheesy interactive features alongside the regular informed perspectives and in-depth reporting. Is this the future of journalism?
Obama -- the name, the face, the message, the whatever -- has resonated in Japan on the airwaves and in the streets about as much as Pokemon did years ago. On a Saturday-morning news program, Japanese anchors giggled and lauded some popular Obama gear, such as an Obama mask with squinted eyes, a "Yes We Can" T-shirt and -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- Obama chopsticks. (It remains to be proven which Japanese people are the "We" in that statement.)
The hosts even played an audio clip of an Obama jingle that appeared to be sung by a small child, repeating Obama's name, before presenting a Japanese book chock full of the president-elect's speeches.
By now, most attentive Americans have read about the world's fascination with Obama, the United States' first black man to be elected president and a global symbol of hope, change or some other vaguely definable quality. What marks Japan's unique obsession with the man is not only the overwhelming wish that he change America's international standing, but also the bizarre commercialization of his brand.
While Egyptian mediators scramble to broker an end to Israel's ground campaign in Gaza, both sides' more vocal advocates continue to wage their own wars using the Internet, recently expanding their informal political campaigns to such popular platforms as Facebook and Twitter.
As of Tuesday afternoon, McClatchy's D.C. Bureau reported that more than 70,000 Facebook users (and an additional few thousand Twitter subscribers) had "donated" their statuses -- the 170-character updates that adorn the top of every user's profile page -- to QassamCount, a third-party application that tracks Hamas missile strikes. Named after the missile model Hamas allegedly prefers, the application updates a donor's Facebook status whenever Hamas militants attack Israeli targets or kill Israeli civilians.
Pro-Palestinian users, however, soon countered with a status application of their own -- "STOP Israel's War Crimes in Gaza," which, according to its Facebook page, has drawn more than 74,000 "fans" since its inception earlier this month. In total, AllFacebook, an unofficial blog that shares its subject's namesake, estimates that group and status subscribers on both sides of the "Facebook Gaza War" would top the one million mark before the week's end.
To many new media analysts, this sudden increase in Facebook-based social activism has some promise.
Blagojevich announced the appointment of Democratic lobbyist and former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate today, defying 50 Senate Democrats and numerous state leaders who insisted the governor relinquish the appointment powers in light of a corruption scandal big enough to put Charlie Rangel's abuses on the back burner.
"You're the Senator," Blagojevich told Burris in deferring a question at a 3 p.m. EST news conference.
Not so fast. In advance of the press conference, Senate Democrats said they would try to stop Burris from being seated as a Blagojevich appointee, and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said he would not certify the appointment.
That didn't stop Blago from making the appointment, of course. "I'm absolutely confident and certain" the Senate will seat Burris, the embattled governor said.
"I've enjoyed the limelight over the last couple of weeks," but Illinois deserves to have two sitting senators at the start of the 111th Congress, Blagojevich added.
"My prayers have been answered," said Congressman Bobby Rush in an impromptu appearance. Rush, Blagojevich's only competition for Most Entertaining Illinois Democrat, had previously stated he would favor any appointment as long as the person was African-American.
Rush didn't hesitate to play the race card. "I don't think [Senate Democrats] want to go on the record" opposing an African-American appointment to the Senate, Rush said in his impromptu remarks.
"Beg them ... whatever it takes," Rush added. (Poor choice of words?)
Burris tried and failed to win the Senate seat in a regular election -- you remember what that is, where voters decide! -- but his lobbying firm and law firm did contribute $20,296 to Blagojevich's campaign fund since 2002. His lobbying firm has received nearly $300,000 in state contracts under Blagojevich since 2004.
The exact words from Rush: "I would ask you not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointor." [emphasis added]
And a question for readers: What's your theory as to why Burris accepted the appointment? Perhaps he thinks that he can survive the legal challenges and actually become a Senator, in which case Burris may be as crazy as Blago.
Incumbent RNC chairman Mike Duncan, eager to shift the spotlight from his remarkably unremarkable two-year tenure, said he was "shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate."
Newt Gingrich, who is not campaigning to be chairman but certainly has a political future within the party, piled on: "This is so inappropriate that it should disqualify any Republican National Committee candidate who would use it."
The CD was a stupid move and unbecoming of a candidate for party chairman, but the intensity of the intraparty backlash strikes me as unnecessarily harsh. Hasn't anyone heard of Reagan's 11th Commandment, thou shalt never attack another Republican?
According to Anchorage Daily News, 42-year-old Sherry Johnston was arrested by Alaska State Troopers at her Wasilla home on Thursday, December 18 and charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance.
For those of you who may not remember, Levi Johnston is the father of Bristol Palin's unborn child. (According to Bristol's grandfather, the baby is due tomorrow).
Troopers served the warrant of the Johnston home at the "conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation," according to a statement issued Thursday by the troopers as part of the normal daily summary of activity around the state.
No other information was released, including the type or amount of drugs or how long the undercover investigation had been taking place. Johnston was arrested and booked at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility around noon, and was then released on a $5,000 unsecured bond around 2 p.m.
Palin's people are remaining tight-lipped on the situation. A rep for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, mother of Bristol, said Thursday: "This is not a state government matter. Therefore the governor's communications staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities."
Who ever thought that it would be the 18-year-old getting ready to give birth while grandma is dealing with some dirty business? To think, we all thought Britney Spears' little sister had issues. While her in-laws may not have given the best sex talk known to man, at least they don't (or just haven't been caught) do drugs.
Let's all gather round the tube for Barack Obama's latest press conference (n. An interview held for news reporters by a political figure or famous person).
John McCormick, of the Chicago Tribune -- did you have a question about how my chief of staff may have given arrested Governor Rod Blagojevich a list of names of people to fill my Senate seat?
McCormick: "You told us at your first press conference after the election that you were going to take a very hands-off approach to filling that spot. Over the weekend, the Tribune reported that Rahm Emanuel, your incoming chief of staff, had presented a list of potential names that --"
Obama: "John, John, let me, let me, let me just cut you off, 'cos i don't want you to waste your question. As I indicated yesterday, we've done a full review of this. The facts are gonna be released next week. It would be inappropriate of me to comment because the, the -- for example, the story you just talked about in your own paper -- I haven't confirmed that it was accurate, and I don't want to get into the details at this point. So, do you have another question?"
McCormick: "There's no conflict between what you said was your hands-off approach and the possibility that a --"
Obama: "John, I --"
McCormick: "Aides presented somebody --"
Obama: "John. I said, the U.S. Attorney's office specifically asked us not to release this until next week."
McCormick: "What about having a special election --"
Obama: "Uh --"
McCormick: "The concept of that given the kind of chaos here in Illinois?"
Obama: "You know, I've said that I don't think the governor can serve effectively in his office. I'm gonna let the state legislature make a determination in terms of how they wanna proceed."
The plan, which was released today, hopes to close next year's record $13.7 billion budget deficit mostly with $7.2 billion of spending cuts and $4.1 billion in new fees and increased taxes. While he hasn't ruled out taxing the wealthy, higher rates would "likely drive jobs and taxpayers out of the state during the recession."
Not wanting to irk the already grumpy rich (or formerly rich) suits on Wall Street, he decided to tax items such as pop, wine, beer (gasp!), gasoline, cable and satellite television and car rentals. For you college kids in New York, the taxes on wine and beer could be doubled...so stock up while you still can!
As for the tax on pop, don't worry, not only will that close the budget gap but the state is hoping that it will fight growing rates of obesity as well. Laura Anglin, the state's budget director said that all of the revenue (which is expected to be upwards of $404 million) will go towards the state's health care spending.
While other states have added sales taxes onto "non-essential foods," the tax on non-diet soda will be the first in American history to make a distinction between artificially-sweetened and sugared soft drinks. The tax will also be much higher, as none of the other states have a tax higher than 7.5 percent.
Naturally, Coke and Pepsi aren't too psyched about that.
Other nominations announced included: Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain as Secretary of Defense, Eric Holder as Attorney General, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations and General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret) as National Security Adviser.
Obama stressed that he wanted his team to be made up of people with "strong personalities and strong opinions" because he wants to avoid group-think, which has plagued other administrations.
Obama referred to his team as "a new dawn of leadership." He is calling on his team to protect the nation by relying on "a new strategy that skillfully uses, balances, and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy; our intelligence and law enforcement; our economy and the power of our moral example."
But if Obama is pushing for change, why select a figure that is a face of the past as Secretary of State?
Of course, it's just a prediction. But did you see the website's electoral college predictions? They're remarkable. Nate Silver, the site's creator and former baseball statistician, called every single state correctly, except Missouri, which was uncalled.
So when he says Franken's going to win by 27 votes, he very well could. This is based on his analysis that Franken is gaining votes in the recount among precincts with fewer challenged ballots than more contested votes, where Republican incumbent Norm Coleman fares better. "The relationship is in fact quite strong," he writes.
In areas with no challenged ballots, Franken gained 28 votes on Coleman. In places with just one challenge, the comedian picked up 31 votes on his rival. In precincts with two contested votes, Franken has narrowed the margin by 32 votes.
However, when five or more votes are contested, Coleman gains 57 votes on Franken.