14 November 2008

Progressives Gain through Grassroots Efforts

A week ago regional and local community organizers and officials with the Alliance for Retired Americans held a conference call to review their efforts during the election. Especially important was the day-by-day, and in some instances hour-by-hour, efforts to educate, organize and mobilize Older Americans to vote for "progressive" candidates in states such as North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Colorado and New Mexico; states which previously had been solidly behind George W. Bush.

For the first time in many election cycles, seniors began shifting their votes from Republican to Democratic. This was a seismic shift, and one reflecting a return to established American values and a repudiation of Reaganomics and the neo-conservative policies of hate, division, and rancor.

Mirroring this grassroots approach were other progressive groups targeting young voters, Hispanics, African-Americans, women and religious voters. Obama and the democratic party err if they believe this shift was merely to the Democratic party name plate. The shift was toward a more progressive agenda for governance, and while the Democrats captured that "change" this cycle, they very well could lose it if they attempt a Clintonian centrist approach.

Many wondered if the "young voters" would turn out. They accounted for 60% of the increase in overall voters in this cycle. More over, this broad demographic of "young voters" shifted their allegiance, with two-thirds of voters under thirty voting for Obama. Again, progressive grassroots organizations such as MoveOn.Org and People for the American Way (PFAW) with campus, community, street, and online outreach were instrumental in educating, organizing and mobilizing young people. Expectations were raised.

While there was no comparable surge in Hispanic votes nationally, it did surge dramatically in the aforementioned western states which "flipped" from Red to Blue this election cycle. And, once again, we see a two-thirds preference for Obama and progressive policies in the final vote count.

Social and cultural issues have cost the Democrats with religious voters for several decades. This cycle, "regular worshipers" shifted to the Democrats by 8% over the number voting for John Kerry in 2004, and by 11% did those identified as "occasional worshipers". Astoundingly, evangelicals, while overall strongly supportive of John McCain, showed a major shift in the Midwest, where 33% voted for Obama. Those new progressives come with expectations.

The challenge for Obama and Democrats will be to hold on to this growth of progressive voters for coming years and elections. Promises must be fulfilled and expectation met. A so-called center-right policy will not achieve that.

A strong progressive agenda and restructuring of government and economic policies in favor of the people rather than corporations and Wall Street will.

12 November 2008

HHS & VA Team Up in Alzheimer's Intiative

The U.S. Department of health and Human Services has joined with the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs in a new $36-million grant program for states to help older Americans and veterans remain independent and to support people with Alzheimer's to remain in their homes and communities, according to HHS Secretary, Mike Leavitt, and VA Secretary, Dr. James Peake.

The joint initiative builds on similar missions of HHS and the VA by providing "essential consumer directed" home and community based services to older Americans and veterans of all ages, as part of an existing Nursing Homes Diversion grants program.

Secretary Leavitt touts the program as a means to insure that "many people who would have been placed in nursing homes will be able to remain at home." According to the Administration on Aging, the number of veterans over age 85 has tripled during the past decade, creating a tremendous demand for long-term health care.

This joint VA - HHS program targets people not eligible for Medicaid, but who are at high risk of nursing home placement and "spend-down" to Medicaid, says, Assistant Secretary for Aging, Josefina Carbonell. "The program offers consumers more control over their long-term care, including the ability to determine the types of services they receive and the manner in which they receive them, including the option of hiring their own care workers", she said.

A little over $19-million of the grant goes to the new collaboration between the HHS and the VA, and the other $17-million goes to improve existing home and community based services to people with Alzheimer's and their family caregivers.

One does not have to be an expert to recognize that this level of funding barely amounts to seed money and that much more will be required to make the program effective and to carry it forward to meet current and future needs. Secretary Leavitt says the initiative supports Bush's New Freedom Initiative which calls for all federal agencies to help people who need long-term care and prefer to live in their own homes and communities.

On the face of it, that sound laudable. But, without significantly more funding and infrastructure such as local, visiting para-medicals equipped with wireless telemetry to a presiding physician's office or clinic, suburban and rural care-givers and patients will be adrift.

We are not entirely prepared to criticize this small initiative as cynical, or too little, too late. But, we are concerned that it is a very, very small and hesitantly tentative step onto a path which leads a great distance through many obstacles.

We hope the Obama administration will recognize the dire and immediate need facing today's and future generations of older Americans and veterans as we search for effective ways to help them age in place.

10 November 2008

Happy Birthday Chesty Puller, wherever you are!

Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller - In Korea, when told by his adjutant that the regiment was surrounded by the Chinese, his reply was, "Good, that will simplify the problem!"

233 years ago, following an act of congress, the United States Marines began recruiting in Philadelphia at Tun Tavern, a combination bar and brothel. And, to this day, it is said that good Marines are never far from either.

Marine Corps Birthday: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

Ask any Marine. Just ask. He will tell you that the Marine Corps was born in Tun Tavern on 10 November 1775. But, beyond that the Marine's recollection for detail will probably get fuzzy. So, here is the straight scoop:

In the year 1685, Samuel Carpenter built a huge "brew house" in Philadelphia. He located this tavern on the waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley. The old English word tun means a cask, barrel, or keg of beer. So, with his new beer tavern on Tun Alley, Carpenter elected to christen the new waterfront brewery with a logical name, Tun Tavern.All U.S. Marines are gung-ho.

But, few can match the vision and total commitment of the famous 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune. In 1921 he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921.Gen. Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps.
Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world. Soon, some Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania, staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Quantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won, 9 to 8.

The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place on Philadelphia in 1925. First class Marine Corps style, all the way! Guests included the Commandant, the Secretary of War (in 1925 the term "politically correct" didn't exist; it was Secretary of War, not Secretary of Defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and an evening of festivities and frolicking.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew and grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952 the Commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. For example, Marine Corps policy now mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present. The second piece goes to the youngest Marine. Among the many such mandates is a solemn reading of the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps. Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual Birthday Ball has evolved from simple origins to the polished and professional functions of today.

Nonetheless, one thing remains constant, the tenth day of November! This unique holiday for warriors is a day of camaraderie, a day to honor Corps and Country. Throughout the world on 10 November, U.S. Marines celebrate the birth of their Corps -- the most loyal, most feared, most revered, and most professional fighting force the world has ever known.

08 November 2008

Future Headlines!

From Daily KOS

"I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States..."

"In the news today, President Obama called on Americans to..."

"The Obama administration says it's tackling the issue aggressively..."

"Republicans condemned/accused/attacked President Obama today..."

"The House and Senate have passed, and President Obama signed, sweeping legislation..."

"The first question of this and all future press conferences will go to Helen Thomas. Go ahead, Helen." "Thank you, Mr. President..."

"President Obama's cabinet picks have been hailed as smart, shrewd, and diverse..."

"For the first time in years, polling shows that Americans feel like the country is on the right track again..."

"President Obama, with the backing of General Petraeus and the Iraqi government, announced significant troop reductions this week..."

"Once again, the Republican effort to mount a filibuster failed miserably..."

"After two weeks on the job, Republicans called for Obama's impeachment today, and were literally laughed out of the chamber..."

"OPEC panics as Obama White House announces massive alternative energy push..."

"You're watching Alaska Cable Access Channel 2. Welcome to Hockey Talk with your host, Sarah Palin..."

06 November 2008

Obama - The Black & White Of It!

What a journey. What an amazing event. Barack Obama, a black man elected as President of the United States. But, you know what. Even that is a complicated thing, because Obama is mixed race. What ever that really means. After all, he is also half white, so why is it that the black half is now president, but the white half unmentioned? His white "experience" certainly shaped him in as many ways as did his black "experience".

I think the answer is tremendously complex and in some ways not worthy of discussion except for the fact that this is truly a historic moment and that Obama did position himself as a black man. There was an advantage to that for him...without the unprecedented mobilization and turn-out of the African American vote, he would have become a footnote to the 2008 primary.

One wonders a bit at that. There were some reasons that the African American community could have rejected him.

While a beneficiary of the black experience, he, at some levels, hardly shared in it. There is a term of derision, which originated in the African-American community, for people such as Obama. Oreo! Black on the outside and white on the inside.

He was raised by a white mother and grandparents and he barely knew his African father. As a child his expectations and aspirations were framed by a middle-class white ethic. He is not descended from slaves, he is not the beneficiary of programs aimed at elevating black youth from the clutches of poverty, and he was a mere lad during the civil rights struggles.

However, that oversimplifies things.

Because he identifies himself as African-American, which in obvious ways is more descriptive of his genealogy than for the American blacks, descended from slaves, who now, as a matter of political correctness, call themselves African Americans, he had to make choices. He belonged to a black church, married a black woman, cultivated black leadership, and paid his dues, and got his ticket punched as an organizer and community activist in the black community.

But all that does not completely explain the almost total acceptance and support of this mixed race man by the African-American community. And therein lies part of the complexity of which I spoke. For, you see, under Jim Crow, anyone with "Negro blood" was by law, a "Negro".

I think that the African-American community understands this, and because of it, looks beyond the "whiteness" and sees a black man, who has shared with them what is a significant part of the post civil rights era "black experience".

What does all this mean? Well, I think it means that the historic moment is not that we have elected a "black man" as president, but that the "blackness" for the majority of America, became irrelevant and barely worth mentioning.

And, that my friends, is progress!

05 November 2008


Obama won the popular vote, the electoral vote, and is bringing with him clear majorities in both branches of congress. He did so with with vision and the ability to articulate and present that vision in such a way that bright, effective, and energetic people flocked to his campaign in an unprecedented way to build a grassroots operation adept at registration, fund-raising, and delivery of the vote.

He did it with white, brown, black, youth, senior, rural, city and suburban voters. He accomplished it with victories in so-called red states. He did it with honesty, decency and humility, despite the Republicans' shrill and snarlingly mean attacks of outright lies and misrepresentations and attempts to foster fear and mistrust.

He did it because he is we. We have forever changed the course of American politics and altered the course of history. Four decades of conservative ascendancy are stricken down. We have turned our backs on religious fundamentalism dictating the national agenda, and the neo-conservative plan for American empire, and the neo-liberal economic theory of unrestrained, deregulated, flow-up capitalism.

Bush once claimed a mandate, he was wrong. Today is what a mandate looks like. This is a mandate from "We the People" and, as with all elections, there will be consequences.

No longer will conservatives be able to sandbag, stymie and frustrate progress. Obama will appoint people of vision, of progressive outlook, and of decency to administer the bureaus and offices of government, he will call upon the best and brightest among us to set right four long and dreary decades of wrongfulness.

Sadly, there will be those who will deny, attempt to impede, and froth with hate because the era of selfishness and greed is over. Oh yes, the selfish and greedy will remain, and some will slip in and do some harm; but, by-and-large, hope has replaced hatred, vision has replaced ideology, decency and co-operation has replaced destructive, mean-spirited, self-centered individualism. Certainly the sulkers, the pouters, and spoiled brats will persist and continue their tactics of fear and divisiveness. It will remain for us to expose, confront, and marginalize their destructive, and selfish negativity.

Yes, it will take time, and there will be errors and mistakes...and, certainly unimaginable crises and near unmanageable challenges, but we will prevail.

Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Kennedy, Johnson each had their critics and controversies. But, each managed to persevere and move our wonderful country forward, and to preserve our democracy, and to secure the blessings of liberty for ever more of us, rather than the select few. Obama will do no less!

04 November 2008


The closing polls of this cycle...they mean nothing unless you VOTE! and volunteer to help turn out the vote.

Wall Street Journal/NBC: Obama 51 - McCain 43

CNN/Opinion Research: Obama 53 - McCain 46

CBS: Obama 54 - McCain 41

WaPo/ABC tracking: Obama 54 - McCain 43

Pew Research: Obama 52 - McCain 44 (estimate, with undecideds allocated)

USA Today/Gallup: Obama 53 - McCain 42 (estimate)

And the big finale - Gallup's own final prediction of the vote today: Obama 55 - McCain 44

03 November 2008

Tuesday - Most Important Day in History

Tuesday is the most important day of our lives and perhaps the most important day since this country was founded. At no other time in our history have we been closer to to the end than we are at this moment. We have very nearly lost our country.

Americans will decide between Fascism and freedom, between hope and hatred, between ideology and idealism, between decency and decadence. Never before has the choice been so clear cut and obvious.

If the polls are anywhere near correct, Tuesday, November 4, Americans will repudiate a devastating war built on lies. We will turn our backs on gay-bashing, and for ever shun racist thinking as a test of person's worth to provide leadership. We will tell the purveyors of hatred and nihilistic selfishness, "No More!" We've had enough.

We will vote to support the Constitution and to send home the liars, the torturers, and turn out the greedy mendicants who have savaged the economy, all but destroyed the American Dream and to this day still attempt to "Hoover up" every dime, nickle and penny of the people's money they can sniff out.

We will throw off eight years of the shackles of regression masquerading as conservatism and narrow, bitter-faced, and clinched-lip religious fundamentalism pretending to be "faith".

In short, America is on the verge of rediscovering its core values. Our innate sense of decency is reasserting its self and we are finding that we can overcome fear and darkness. We were lost and are finding our way again.

Be a part of this historic moment and Vote Democratic and help restore the American Dream.

02 November 2008

Don't Forget - Time Changes Today!

Some people are happy getting their hour back, I'm ready to get back a few decades! But, dang, I usually wake up at 6:00 am, and my eyes flew open at 5:00 am this morning. Yep, I've reached the point of crotchety, "Why cain't they leave the damned time alone?"