Quiet doings in Obama-land

Watching the news from Florida last week, it was pretty much all about presidential appointees (which has been disappointing, though it was nice to hear him say he screwed up), and the economic stimulus plan – which isn’t going nearly as bipartisanly as I would have hoped, though thank you to the Senate for trying harder than the House and showing a tad more wisdom on that.

But what really strikes me is what nobody’s hearing about. I do read the EarthJustice blog, because I’ve done some legal work for them over the years. They’re tracking the Obama administration very closely, and he and his people have been doing serious things for the environment and continue to do them almost every day since they’ve been in office. These aren’t really getting reported in the news, but it’s just a reminder to me of why I wanted to elect this guy. He actually cares enough, in the midst of all this other economic and political stuff, to make sure these environmental issues are taken care of.

A partial list in just the first two weeks of office:

– Ordered the EPA to re-review CA and other states’ request for higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles
– Directed the Dept. of Transportation to finalize its own long-awaited federal fuel efficiency standards
– Ordered the EPA to release its long-stalled report on dioxin toxicity
– Removed the federal government’s support for a case before the Supreme Court allowing higher mercury emissions from power plants, which may hopefully lead to it being dropped
– Directed DOE to create energy efficiency standards for dozens of household appliances
– Cancelled 100,000 acres of oil and gas leases near pristine wilderness in the West that were pushed through at the last minute by Bush
– Sent representatives to the international global warming conference in Poland to work constructively for solutions
– Has put all of Bush’s last-minute environmental directives on hold for review

Just reading about this makes me feel a lot better. Finally, it feels like someone up there cares. Makes me wonder what all else he’s up to that isn’t getting reported in the news…

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Inaugural impressions

Random walk through the inauguration…

From Obama’s speech, the quote that struck me the hardest: “… we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Always what I have liked about Obama – he says what needs saying.

At the exact moment when Obama became President (12 noon), he was listening to the beautiful music of Itzhac Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero. Nothing could have been more fitting.

They had the courage to walk part of the parade route. I have to admit I was holding my breath. I am so glad they did, and that they are unafraid.

I received a beautiful embossed invitation to the inauguration, and even though I couldn’t go, I want to keep it. This, from a person who never keeps ANYTHING. I still might keep it.

I never watch TV, but even I can tell that the ads are unique – they’re about health care, green energy, the rights of workers to have a better life, grass-roots organizing, sustainable product cycles. It’s amazing that even advertising is being shaped by Obama’s vision. I remember during the election the major ad campaign for “clean coal”. My favorite ad of inauguration day is the sham ad by coal executives from Al Gore’s group, gently funny enough to be straight out of SNL (“just leave global warming to us”), ending with the tagline “There’s no such thing as clean coal.”

And all day I was thinking, “I can’t wait to see what he does tomorrow.”

Obama’s speech on race

OK – I finally got to listen to the whole thing in its entirety. I have never heard a better speech from a politician in my lifetime, or one more appropriate to our time. Please don’t limit yourself to what you’ve heard on the news – go listen to it. It is now the most downloaded ever video on YouTube. It is 37 minutes long – and he wrote the entire thing himself.

You can find it here. Go listen, for the future of the country. We need this type of honesty, intelligence, personal fearlessness, and character in office.

Here’s another video from Portland that’s pretty interesting – it’s Obama’s comments on getting endorsed by Bill Richardson. Listening to what Obama says about Gov. Richardson, I wonder if we’re seeing a possible vice-presidential candidate… He’d be a very good one, far better than most people had any idea of during the election.

Obama – the Mediator’s Candidate

I received this from a fellow mediator, Ron Kelly. I agree with him 100% and just wanted to pass these ideas along. For those of you Dems reading this in Washington State – please make this your year to go to the caucuses, it’s the only way your vote will count!
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Obama – A Mediator’s Candidate?

I remember early on in the campaign, before I had formed a preference, I heard an experienced Washington reporter discussing the candidates. He found Obama puzzling. He claimed that if you were in a disagreement with Obama, he would summarize your arguments even better than you could yourself. This got my attention.

Then, in an early debate, Obama was asked if he would negotiate directly with the leaders of countries with whom we have strong differences. He said yes. He was attacked by many who said this just proved how naive he was. He didn’t back down. He pointed out that we negotiated with Stalin and we negotiated with Mao. He asserted that you do not need to give away anything to enter negotiations with people with whom you strongly disagree.

In speeches, he consistently advocated sitting down to negotiate with, and respectfully listening to, the heads of oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, and health care companies. He was roundly attacked as “wanting to bring Kumbaya to a knife fight”. He responded that he could afford to listen respectfully to the other side, especially if he was able to reach across the aisle to enlist even a few opposition Senators to his efforts.

I was skeptical. I read one of his books, “The Audacity of Hope”. I went back to read an article he wrote twenty years ago on why he was a community organizer. I concluded he had been consistent his entire adult life about reaching out to those with whom you disagree to build effective working coalitions.

I listened to his January 3 Iowa speech. He said he understood 9/11 not as a way to scare up votes, but as “a challenge to unite America and the world against our common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.” His speech moved me deeply.

The next morning I woke up realizing that Obama inspired me like no other major presidential candidate has in decades. I have not heard any other politician currently on the national center stage asserting these core beliefs as consistently and effectively as Barack Obama.

Then, yesterday, I saw the letter that finally prompted me to send you this. It was signed by eighty lawyers working to preserve our rights to habeas corpus. It says: “When others stood back, Senator Obama helped lead the fight in the Senate against the Administration’s efforts in the Fall of 2006 to strip the courts of jurisdiction, and when we were walking the halls of the Capitol trying to win over enough Senators to beat back the Administration’s bill, Senator Obama made his key staffers and even his offices available to help us. Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications of voting to preserve habeas corpus for the men held at Guantanamo.”

If you have decided to support Senator Clinton, please know I will be working enthusiastically for your candidate in November if she is the Democratic nominee. As a mediator, I have felt inspired and uplifted since deciding the morning after Iowa that I would put in some work for Obama every day until my state’s primary. If you want to help him, I urge you to go now to http://www.barackobama.com and to contribute as much of your time, money, letter writing, etc. as you can.

Enthusiastically yours,
Ron Kelly