Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A "Pinch Me" Moment!

November 5, 2008
Nothing can express my feelings as beautifully as those by Alice Croll, one of the awesome My Barack Obama workers whose name has shown up in my email inbox for these past 21 months hundreds of times. I have never met her, but I feel like she is my good friend, my sister, and a part of the inspiration that helped to keep me going day after day. Thank you, Alice, and all of the rest of the people in the 100 groups I joined for this most incredible journey! It is my fervent wish that we can all somehow continue on in the work of President-Elect Barack Obama for our country.
Forever ObamaDonna in Lake Geneva, WI

The surreality of this foggy East Coast morning, watching dancing on the streets of Philadelphia,the swaying towards the sea in San Francisco, New York New York's Times Square with traffic of frantic folks, waves of women and men at the gates of the White House, remains a pinch myself moment.
Did we do it? We did.
Is he the one? He is.
Can we get there? We have.
Fired up? And here we go.
For almost two years of giving parts of our lives over to the belief in ourselves that had become a ghost of Americans past, many of us sit at our keyboards with Obama buttons stuck on our shirts, lists of e-mail addresses of people we may never meet strewn on our home office floors, laundry undone, friends who may have not seen us, or seen us sane for awhile, papers stuffed under the bed, here we are...dazed by what we have wrought.
Morning has already come to America, but the dawn will be as it never has broken the horizon. I wonder what will happen to our Obama groups, our daily dose of to-do lists, our blogging and slogging through the endless talking and turning points.
Like the national family, this superb support group, the We, the US that Barack Obama cited as the victors by his side, we will change too.
Maybe we won't have a website to keep us tight. Maybe we won't have the Breaking News to wake and snooze on. Maybe we won't even remember those who lifted us up or brought us down during our ongoing debates. What will become of the temporary asylum that was this grassrooting? It will be up to us.
Something extraordinary was born of this campaign, this cause, and yes this candidate. Something unknown and uncertain is what we all will become to each other as our mission
I owe so much of my ability to hang on here to those with whom I connect right now. We owe each other an embrace of the history we all made out of improbablity.
I think the best way to note this time is with an ending that is a beginning too.
To all the traveling companions of this jewel of a journey,

Alice Croll aka, Alice in NJ


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama Will Be One of The Greatest (and Most Loved) American Presidents

community service,

Frank Schaeffer
Posted October 8, 2008 | 02:45 PM (EST)

Great presidents are made great by horrible circumstances combined with character, temperament and intelligence. Like firemen, cops, doctors or soldiers, presidents need a crisis to shine.
Obama is one of the most intelligent presidential aspirants to ever step forward in American history. The likes of his intellectual capabilities have not been surpassed in public life since the Founding Fathers put pen to paper. His personal character is also solid gold. Take heart, America: we have the leader for our times.
I say this as a white, former life-long Republican. I say this as the proud father of a Marine. I say this as just another American watching his pension evaporate along with the stock market! I speak as someone who knows it's time to forget party loyalty, ideology and pride and put the country first. I say this as someone happy to be called a fool for going out on a limb and declaring that, 1) Obama will win, and 2) he is going to be amongst the greatest of American presidents.
Obama is our last best chance. He's worth laying it all on the line for.
This is a man who in the age of greed took the high road of community service. This is the good father and husband. This is the humble servant. This is the patient teacher. This is the scholar statesman. This is the man of deep Christian faith.
Good stories about Obama abound; from his personal relationship with his Secret Service agents (he invites them into his home to watch sports, and shoots hoops with them) to the story about how, more than twenty years ago, while standing in the check-in line at an airport, Obama paid a $100 baggage surcharge for a stranger who was broke and stuck. (Obama was virtually penniless himself in those days.) Years later after he became a senator, that stranger recognized Obama's picture and wrote to him to thank him. She received a kindly note back from the senator. (The story only surfaced because the person, who lives in Norway, told a local newspaper after Obama ran for the presidency. The paper published a photograph of this lady proudly displaying Senator Obama's letter.)
Where many leaders are two-faced; publicly kindly but privately feared and/or hated by people closest to them, Obama is consistent in the way he treats people, consistently kind and personally humble. He lives by the code that those who lead must serve. He believes that. He lives it. He lived it long before he was in the public eye.
Obama puts service ahead of ideology. He also knows that to win politically you need to be tough. He can be. He has been. This is a man who does what works, rather than scoring ideological points. In other words he is the quintessential non-ideological pragmatic American. He will (thank God!) disappoint ideologues and purists of the left and the right.
Obama has a reservoir of personal physical courage that is unmatched in presidential history. Why unmatched? Because as the first black contender for the presidency who will win, Obama, and all the rest of us, know that he is in great physical danger from the seemingly unlimited reserve of unhinged racial hatred, and just plain unhinged ignorant hatred, that swirls in the bowels of our wounded and sinful country. By stepping forward to lead, Obama has literally put his life on the line for all of us in a way no white candidate ever has had to do. (And we all know how dangerous the presidency has been even for white presidents.)
Nice stories or even unparalleled courage isn't the only point. The greater point about Obama is that the midst of our worldwide financial meltdown, an expanding (and losing) war in Afghanistan, trying to extricate our country from a wrong and stupidly mistaken ruinously expensive war in Iraq, our mounting and crushing national debt, awaiting the next (and inevitable) al Qaeda attack on our homeland, watching our schools decline to Third World levels of incompetence, facing a general loss of confidence in the government that has been exacerbated by the Republicans doing all they can to undermine our government's capabilities and programs... President Obama will take on the leadership of our country at a make or break time of historic proportions. He faces not one but dozens of crisis, each big enough to define any presidency in better times.
As luck, fate or divine grace would have it (depending on one's personal theology) Obama is blessedly, dare I say uniquely, well-suited to our dire circumstances. Obama is a person with hands-on community service experience, deep connections to top economic advisers from the renowned University of Chicago where he taught law, and a middle-class background that gives him an abiding knowledgeable empathy with the rest of us. As the son of a single mother, who has worked his way up with merit and brains, recipient of top-notch academic scholarships, the peer-selected editor of the Harvard Law Review and, in three giant political steps to state office, national office and now the presidency, Obama clearly has the wit and drive to lead.
Obama is the sober voice of reason at a time of unreason. He is the fellow keeping his head while all around him are panicking. He is the healing presence at a time of national division and strife. He is also new enough to the political process so that he doesn't suffer from the terminally jaded cynicism, the seen-it-all-before syndrome afflicting most politicians in Washington. In that regard we Americans lucked out. It's as if having despaired of our political process we picked a name from the phone book to lead us and that person turned out to be a very man we needed.
Obama brings a healing and uplifting spiritual quality to our politics at the very time when our worst enemy is fear. For eight years we've been ruled by a stunted fear-filled mediocrity of a little liar who has expanded his power on the basis of creating fear in others. Fearless Obama is the cure. He speaks a litany of hope rather than a litany of terror.
As we have watched Obama respond in a quiet reasoned manner to crisis after crisis, in both the way he has responded after being attacked and lied about in the 2008 campaign season, to his reasoned response to our multiplying national crises, what we see is the spirit of a trusted family doctor with a great bedside manner. Obama is perfectly suited to hold our hand and lead us through some very tough times. The word panic is not in the Obama dictionary.
America is fighting its "Armageddon" in one fearful heart at a time. A brilliant leader with the mild manner of an old-time matter-of-fact country doctor soothing a frightened child is just what we need. The fact that our "doctor" is a black man leading a hitherto white-ruled nation out of the mess of its own making is all the sweeter and raises the Obama story to that of moral allegory.
Obama brings a moral clarity to his leadership reserved for those who have had to work for everything they've gotten and had to do twice as well as the person standing next to them because of the color of their skin. His experience of succeeding in spite of his color, social background and prejudice could have been embittering or one that fostered a spiritual rebirth of forgiveness and enlightenment. Obama radiates the calm inner peace of the spirit of forgiveness.
Speaking as a believing Christian I see the hand of a merciful God in Obama's candidacy. The biblical metaphors abound. The stone the builder rejected is become the cornerstone... the last shall be first... he that would gain his life must first lose it... the meek shall inherit the earth...
For my secular friends I'll allow that we may have just been extraordinarily lucky! Either way America wins.
Only a brilliant man, with the spirit of a preacher and the humble heart of a kindly family doctor can lead us now. We are afraid, out of ideas, and worst of all out of hope. Obama is the cure. And we Americans have it in us to rise to the occasion. We will. We're about to enter one of the most frightening periods of American history. Our country has rarely faced more uncertainty. This is the time for greatness. We have a great leader. We must be a great people backing him, fighting for him, sacrificing for a cause greater than ourselves.
A hundred years from now Obama's portrait will be placed next to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Long before that we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we stepped out in faith and voted for a young black man who stood up and led our country back from the brink of an abyss. We'll tell them about the power of love, faith and hope. We'll tell them about the power of creativity combined with humility and intellectual brilliance. We'll tell them that President Obama gave us the gift of regaining our faith in our country. We'll tell them that we all stood up and pitched in and won the day. We'll tell them that President Obama restored our standing in the world. We'll tell them that by the time he left office our schools were on the mend, our economy booming, that we'd become a nation filled with green energy alternatives and were leading the world away from dependence on carbon-based destruction. We'll tell them that because of President Obama's example and leadership the integrity of the family was restored, divorce rates went down, more fathers took responsibility for their children, and abortion rates fell dramatically as women, families and children were cared for through compassionate social programs that worked. We'll tell them about how the gap closed between the middle class and the super rich, how we won health care for all, how crime rates fell, how bad wars were brought to an honorable conclusion. We'll tell them that when we were attacked again by al Qaeda, how reason prevailed and the response was smart, tough, measured and effective, and our civil rights were protected even in times of crisis...
We'll tell them that we were part of the inexplicably blessed miracle that happened to our country those many years ago in 2008 when a young black man was sent by God, fate or luck to save our country. We'll tell them that it's good to live in America where anything is possible. Yes we will.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. Now in paperback.
"But that spirit can't just be restricted to moments of great catastrophe. Because as I stand here today and look out at the thousands of folks who have gathered here today, I know that there's some folks that are going through their own quiet storms."
-- Senator Barack Obama, on the campaign trail in Milwaukee, September 1, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Health Care – Right or Responsibility?

Astrid Helena Germain 1951 - 2007
My best friend died in November. She died, in this 21st century, from an infection! She died at age 56 because she could not afford health insurance due to an unrelated pre-existing condition, so she waited to go to the hospital until it was too late. My friend’s inability to afford health insurance might be your story, and if it's not, then it might be the story of someone you know and care about. An election looms ahead that has become almost a comedy of ridiculous name-calling, while important issues like health care exist that affect our lives every day.
The September 2008 Kaiser Family Foundation election tracking poll puts health care as the number three priority of all voters, and it remains the second most commonly reported economic hardship (after paying for gas). Almost fifty million people are without health insurance, and at least that many are under-insured, while revenues going into the industry continue to increase at double digit rates year after year. According to the World Health Organization, although the United States now spends $2.3 trillion a year on health care (twice as much per capita on health care as any other country,) it ranks 37th in terms of health system performance and 72nd in overall population health. The U.S. is the only industrial nation without health care for all.
The private payers of health care have an overhead of between 20% and 30% as compared to Medicare’s 3%. The difference between the two is in the presence of or lack of bureaucracy within the drug companies, insurance companies, and other powerful and well-funded special interests which make billions of dollars off of human illness. Simply stated, we need to move toward a national health care program that guarantees health care to all as a right, not a privilege. When we do that, and end the greed and profiteering in the current system, we can provide quality care for all Americans without spending a nickel more than we currently spend.
The Republican nominee has proposed to tax the health benefits that 156 million people get through the workplace as income. In exchange, McCain would give tax credits to help pay for insurance — $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families, paid directly to the insurer they choose. What McCain fails to state is that our country under its current system already spends $12,500 per individual on health care. His plan could lead employers to drop their current plans that could not be replaced for $5,000. McCain's plan would also increase the deficit by $1.3 trillion over 10 years. He also intends to make cuts in Medicare, which is not good news for our seniors.
The Democratic nominee will make coverage more affordable to most Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, paying for the subsidies largely by canceling the Bush administration's tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year. He would outlaw "insurance company discrimination” against people with pre-existing conditions, and he would save money in the health care system, by holding drug and insurance companies accountable for the prices they charge and the harm they cause. Medicare would be allowed to negotiate with drug makers for cheaper prices, and his administration would place greater emphasis on preventing illnesses.
Barack Obama has a plan to stop the marginalization of that 15% of our population who are currently not considered valuable enough to be helped when they are hurting. He has a plan that will save money. I am an Obama supporter. I hope you will be, too, but if you're not, the fact that 22,000 people died last year because of a lack of health care, including my friend, should at least encourage you to compare the plans available.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chicago Tribune Endorses Barack Obama for President

Friday, October 17, 2008
This speaks volumes. This is the first Democrat the paper has ever endorsed. Founded 1847.
However this election turns out, it will dramatically advance America's slow progress toward equality and inclusion. It took Abraham Lincoln's extraordinary courage in the Civil War to get us here. It took an epic battle to secure women the right to vote. It took the perseverance of the civil rights movement. Now we have an election in which we will choose the first African-American president . . . or the first female vice president.

In recent weeks it has been easy to lose sight of this history in the making. Americans are focused on the greatest threat to the world economic system in 80 years. They feel a personal vulnerability the likes of which they haven't experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. It's a different kind of vulnerability. Unlike Sept. 11, the economic threat hasn't forged a common bond in this nation. It has fed anger, fear and mistrust.

On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States.
On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause--the Republican Party. The Tribune's first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

With that in mind, in 1872 we endorsed Horace Greeley, who ran as an independent against the corrupt administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant. (Greeley was later endorsed by the Democrats.) In 1912 we endorsed Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as the Progressive Party candidate against Republican President William Howard Taft.

The Tribune's decisions then were driven by outrage at inept and corrupt business and political leaders.

We see parallels today.

The Republican Party, the party of limited government, has lost its way. The government ran a $237 billion surplus in 2000, the year before Bush took office -- and recorded a $455 billion deficit in 2008. The Republicans lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 because, as we said at the time, they gave the nation rampant spending and Capitol Hill corruption. They abandoned their principles. They paid the price.

We might have counted on John McCain to correct his party's course. We like McCain. We endorsed him in the Republican primary in Illinois. In part because of his persuasion and resolve, the U.S. stands to win an unconditional victory in Iraq.

It is, though, hard to figure John McCain these days. He argued that President Bush's tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, but he now supports them. He promises a balanced budget by the end of his first term, but his tax cut plan would add an estimated $4.2 trillion in debt over 10 years. He has responded to the economic crisis with an angry, populist message and a misguided, $300 billion proposal to buy up bad mortgages.

McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.
Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate--he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn't bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.

McCain calls Obama a typical liberal politician. Granted, it's disappointing that Obama's mix of tax cuts for most people and increases for the wealthy would create an estimated $2.9 trillion in federal debt. He has made more promises on spending than McCain has. We wish one of these candidates had given good, hard specific information on how he would bring the federal budget into line. Neither one has.

We do, though, think Obama would govern as much more of a pragmatic centrist than many people expect.
We know first-hand that Obama seeks out and listens carefully and respectfully to people who disagree with him. He builds consensus. He was most effective in the Illinois legislature when he worked with Republicans on welfare, ethics and criminal justice reform.

He worked to expand the number of charter schools in Illinois--not popular with some Democratic constituencies.

He took up ethics reform in the U.S. Senate--not popular with Washington politicians.

His economic policy team is peppered with advisers who support free trade. He has been called a "University of Chicago Democrat"--a reference to the famed free-market Chicago school of economics, which puts faith in markets.

Obama is deeply grounded in the best aspirations of this country, and we need to return to those aspirations. He has had the character and the will to achieve great things despite the obstacles that he faced as an unprivileged black man in the U.S.

He has risen with his honor, grace and civility intact. He has the intelligence to understand the grave economic and national security risks that face us, to listen to good advice and make careful decisions.

When Obama said at the 2004 Democratic Convention that we weren't a nation of red states and blue states, he spoke of union the way Abraham Lincoln did.

It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation's most powerful office, he will prove it wasn't so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama's name to Lincoln's in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.