Posted tagged ‘Barack Obama’

I Blame Obama

January 1, 2016

Here’s a piece of unequivocal good news with which to start the last full year of the Obama presidency:

The executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response on the issue, said in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio this week that [New York] city had “effectively” ended chronic homelessness among veterans.

Lives change:

In 2015 alone, the city placed more than 1,000 veterans in permanent housing, according to city officials. Several weeks ago, at Clinton Avenue Residence, a new 43-unit development in the Bronx specifically for veterans, several men dragged garbage bags with their belongings through the gleaming lobby and into their studio apartments.

“I woke up and there wasn’t a person sleeping three feet away,” Eric Peters, 54, an Air Force veteran who has been in and out of homelessness for decades, said the next morning.

Mednyánszky,_László_-_Reclining_Soldier_(ca_1916)

New York City is doing better than many places, though not uniquely so.  Homelessness among vets is down 36% nationwide, and, as The New York Times reports,

 Houston, Las Vegas and New Orleans, among several cities, [have] effectively ending overall veteran homelessness, meaning they have identified all homeless veterans, not just the chronic cases, and placed them in homes.

Why has this happened? Because:

The city’s efforts are part of a broader federal initiative, started under President Obama and aimed at ending veteran homelessness in the United States. The federal housing agency, working in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, has now distributed 79,000 rental assistance vouchers to veterans across the country dating to 2008.

Three cheers for both the hard work being done at both the national and local levels.  I hope the program serves as a model to tackle homelessness writ large — but I have no problem with selecting veterans as the first to demonstrate that the world’s last superpower does not in fact have to house its people in cardboard boxes.

But I do want to point out what’s obvious in this crowd, and should be so in the wide world:  this is what respect — and more, support — for those who serve our military looks like.  The next time your wingnut acquaintance spouts about the Muslim Kenyan Usurpers disregard for the armed services, point this out to her or him — and ask him which GOPster has made this a priority.

Happy new year all.  Going to be an interesting ride in this year of our [insert pasta shape here] 2016

Image:  Ladislav Medňanský, Reclining Soldier, c. 1916.

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Quote of the Day: Adam Smith Profiles Barack Obama

March 1, 2011

Reading Nicholas Phillipson’s admirable new(ish) biography of Adam Smith walking to my office this morning, I came across a passage from The Theory of Moral Sentiments that seems to me to capture Obama’s style and theory of governance remarkably well:

When he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion …(h)e will accommodate, as well as he can, his public arrangements to the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people; and will remedy as well as he can, the”inconveniencies” which may flow from the want of those regulations which the people are averse to submit to. When he cannot establish the right, he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong; but like Solon, when he cannot establish the best system of laws, he will endeavour to establish the best that the people can bear.

(The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter II, paragraph 41.*)

All this in the context of the discussion to the post immediatelly preceding this one, in which I note Obama’s quiet reversal of one of the Bush administration’s most archtypal illiberal and disempowering attacks on the autonomy of women (and others):  putting an end to the expansive “conscience” (sic) exception that allowed pharmacists and medical professionals to deny reproductive and other services as they chose.

My suggestion that this kind of action helps make clear the distinction between Democrats and Republicans, Obama and Bush — and hence the urgency of the next election — evoked a few sharply argued claims in the comment thread over at the post’s Balloon Juice incarnation that this was mere cosmetics, a little lipstick on the pig that has perpetuated the Bush line in all its essentials.

In that context, Smith’s description of the virtuous leader struck me as remarkably apt:  this seems very much like a capsule portrait of Obama, here captured in the very sharp sight of a thinker whose work is more an inquiry into sociability taken all in all — how humans contrive to live together — than it is, as usually mischaracterized, merely that part of it which is concerned with the economics of such co-existence.

That such an approach may fail — or at least fall well short of producing not merely a somewhat better society, but a good one — is obvious.  But consider the recent alternatives.

Top of the morning to y’all.

*That link takes you direct to an HTML version of Moral Sentiments. For rapid access to a broad Adam Smith archive, the Liberty Forum — broadly part of the Wingnut archipelago —  performs an undeniable service by posting the entire Glasgow Edition of Adam Smiths Works and Correspondence, which was previously available at considerable expense from Oxford University Press.  Browse at will.

Image:  Dosso Dossi, Jupiter, Mercury, and Virtue, ~1520-1530

My latest letter to President Obama/Alan Simpson must go edition

August 26, 2010
I’m back, sort of, though still buried in start of term nonsense,
But just to dip my toe back in the water — here’s what I just shot off at Whitehouse.gov on the subject of why those who hate you get so much love.  It amazes me still that the White House just doesn’t seem to get it.
Alan Simpson’s truth telling on  his view of Social Security is exactly what we need right now: the organizing incident that should allow us to let the voters know what a GOP return to power really means.
And yet, instead of fighting that good fight (and getting lots of folks like me revved up again– see below) as of now, President Obama seems content to accept the usual non-apology.  Stupid policy and stupid politics, all before breakfast.
Yes, I’m that grouchy.
Anyway — here’s what I wrote.  Feel free to express yourselves to 44 at this address.
Alan Simpson’s remarks about Social Security were offensive — no, strike that — brutally demeaning to all those in retirement scraping by, and to all those who work hard to understand the serious problems we face as a nation.
But that’s not the real problem, nor the reason I ask you to force Simpson off the committee.  Rather, it is his commitment, revealed again, but pursued over decades, to destroy the entire Social Security system, rather than to reform it as needed.
Look — I get emails daily from President Obama, from OfA, from all kinds of folks, asking me to renew the extraordinary effort I put out to create the kind of country I believe we need in 2008.  I spent more than I had, and I took weeks off my job to pound on doors in New Hampshire for candidate Obama and the rest of the Democratic ticket.
Now you want me to sign up again — and yet you give a position of enormous influence and some real power to a man who stands against everything I stand for.
You gotta make a choice.  You want me — and by extension the Democrats who view government as a crucial tool in building a better society — to pony up time and cash this year?  Then choose sides now.
Simpson has to go, both for substantive reasons and because the one thing we all need now the most is a reason to get out into the fight again before November.  Trust me:  it’s good for all kinds of reasons to take a stand against those who stand against you.
Make it happen.
Yours,
Tom Levenson

Image:  Paulus Potter, Four Cows in a Meadow 1651.

For All Those I Wish Could See This Day

November 5, 2008

Readers of this blog know that my uncle Daniel Levenson died early this year, in September.  He was a good man, and I miss him, especially today.  Throughout his professional life he put in the time, the energy, and whatever else it took on the right side of critical struggles, from the anti-war movement to the fight against hunger.  He was a passionate Democrat and deeply hoped to see Barack Obama elected President.  He didn’t.

My mother died more than ten years ago.  She too was a happily partisan Democrat, having adopted US citizenship a few years after she emigrated from England so that she would never again feel the frustration of not being able to vote that she endured after desperately wanting to cast her ballot for Adlai Stephenson in 1956.  She too would have loved to have had a chance to vote for Barack Obama, and I would have pitied the poor undecided wretch who came up against her posh accent and absolute conviction in any canvassing call.

My father, Joseph Levenson, died when I was ten.  He was a World War II veteran — he floated all the way from the west coast to Tokyo Bay between 1942-1946.  He became a historian of China after the war, and one of the members of the academy who early recognized the folly of the Vietnam War.  He too would have loved this day — and in particular he would have loved the grace of language, the tragically rare political gift Obama has displayed consistently throughout this campaign, of being able to articulate both thoughtfully and beautifully, poetically, complex and important ideas.

They should all have seen this day, they and I’m sure many others.  For them, let Martin speak:

Bruce Springsteen Lays His Obama Marker Down

October 6, 2008

Lots to do today in what we laughingly call the real world (last 3,000 words of my Newton book due at my publisher now, yesterday, sooner than that, and going out this aft.), so light/no blogging for a bit.  But I couldn’t let my morning coffee pass w/o sharing this magnificent piece of video from the Vote For Change Rally in Philadelphia over the weekend.

As the Boss says, it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and prove that the American promise means something in these, our days.

(h/t MyDD)

Update: Make me feel old quote of the week from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage of the event:

Cindy Warkow, 46, of Dresher, sold her three daughters on the event by holding out hope of an Obama surprise. “They’re like, ‘Who’s Springsteen?'”

Yes, Virginia, People Said Stuff Before Teh Google: Barack Obama has always been smart edition

September 11, 2008

From Gene Expression via Sullivan, Barack Obama takes on genetic determinism and Charles Murray.

NPR
October 28, 1994
SHOW: All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)

Charles Murray’s Political Expediency Denounced
BYLINE: BARACK OBAMA
SECTION: News; Domestic
LENGTH: 635 words

HIGHLIGHT: Commentator Barack Obama finds that Charles Murray, author of the controversial “The Bell Curve,” demonstrates not scientific expertise but spurious political motivation in his conclusions about race and IQ.

BARACK OBAMA, Commentator: Charles Murray is inviting American down a dangerous path.

NOAH ADAMS, Host: Civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama.

Mr. OBAMA: The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. The arguments against such dubious science aren’t new either. Scientists have repeatedly told us that genes don’t vary much from one race to another, and psychologists have pointed out the role that language and other cultural barriers can play in depressing minority test scores, and no one disputes that children whose mothers smoke crack when they’re pregnant are going to have developmental problems.

Now, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn’t interested in prevention. He’s interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It’s easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray’s calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, real or perceived, that minorities may enjoy.

I happen to think Mr. Murray’s wrong, not just in his estimation of black people, but in his estimation of the broader American public. But I do think Mr. Murray’s right about the growing distance between the races. The violence and despair of the inner city are real. So’s the problem of street crime. The longer we allow these problems to fester, the easier it becomes for white America to see all blacks as menacing and for black America to see all whites as racist. To close that gap, we’re going to have to do more than denounce Mr. Murray’s book. We’re going to have to take concrete and deliberate action. For blacks, that means taking greater responsibility for the state of our own communities. Too many of us use white racism as an excuse for self-defeating behavior. Too many of our young people think education is a white thing and that the values of hard work and discipline andself-respect are somehow outdated.

That being said, it’s time for all of us, and now I’m talking about the larger American community, to acknowledge that we’ve never even come close to providing equal opportunity to the majority of black children. Real opportunity would mean quality prenatal care for all women and well-funded and innovative public schools for all children. Real opportunity would mean a job at a living wage for everyone who was willing to work, jobs that can return some structure and dignity to people’s lives and give inner-city children something more than a basketball rim to shoot for. In the short run, such ladders of opportunity are going to cost more, not less, than either welfare or affirmative action. But, in the long run, our investment should payoff handsomely. That we fail to make this investment is just plain stupid. It’s not the result of an intellectual deficit. It’s theresult of a moral deficit.

ADAMS: Barack Obama is a civil rights lawyer and writer. He lives in Chicago.

Another (real) Public Service Announcement: Compare and Contrast dept.

September 5, 2008

Well, that’s over.  And that.

Seven days of two conventions, stuff and nonesense in abundance, some great speeches, some…’tis kinder to pass over them in silence, don’t you think?

But there is this left:  Two men, Barack Obama and John McCain, got up on their hind legs (h/t Brian Schweitzer) and told us who they were, what they thought America needed, and asked us for our support.  They did so a week apart, and now as citizens we are tasked to weigh their claims on our votes

What with the speed of news and just daily life (the start of my kid’s third grade school year has blown a lot of the memory of last week straight out of my head) I — and my guess is others — find it hard to keep that necessary juxtaposition firmly in mind.

So here, without further snark or comment are the videos of both Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s nomination acceptance speeches.  Make of them what you will.

(And btw–consider this a shout out to any and all fellow bloggers to post these two videos together — these are, after all, the fullest statements of the kinds of people they are and the Presidents they could be that either man will make in any form unmediated by debate rules or what have you).

McCain:

Obama: