H1N1 Preparations

Don’t call it the swine flu.  The government wants everyone referring to the flu as H1N1 rather than something derived from pigs.  In that regard I’ll try my best this winter.  Meanwhile the virus is spreading like mad and more and more Americans are unable to bring home the bacon because they are laid up ill.

A quarter of a million H1N1 flu vaccines have been purchased by Health and Human Services and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a conference call Thursday to make announcements and take questions.  There have been several of these calls as the Education Department, working with HHS, is prepared for the virus spreading schools like wildfire.  Hamming it up for the press officials say there will be enough supplies of the vaccine for anyone who wants to get protected.

Early October will see the first 10-20 million doses and these will be available for higher risk people as about 20 million doses/week continue to be distributed every successive week.  Children under ten will need two doses but studies show no one else needs but one to develop adequate immunity about a week to ten days following their shot.  Watching television I’m surprised how everyone still seems to be using the term Swine Flu in light of the efforts to NOT use that term.  The newspapers are also using the wrong term.

All in all it appears that extensive preparations have been undertaken to protect everyone in the country should they choose to partake in the flu prevention effort.  Because HHS has bought the vaccines there should be no charges for it.  Some providers may charge for its administration but Sec. Sebelius seemed confident that won’t be widespread.

President Obama’s Weekly Address

This was quite a week.  I’m well behind writing about everything which happened due to a busy schedule.  I’m in State College today attending an LGBT summit and may get some work done while there but, maybe not.  The video clips from yesterday’s event by the Department of Commerce are interesting and I’ll get them posted asap.  Meanwhile the White House has released the President’s weekly address concerning the economy and nuclear no proliferation and disarmament.  These are epochal issues.

This week, I joined leaders from around the world at the United Nations and the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh.  Today, I can report on what we achieved-a new commitment to meet common challenges, and real progress in advancing America’s national security and economic prosperity.

As I said at the U.N., over the past nine months my administration has renewed American leadership, and pursued a new era of engagement in which we call upon all nations to live up to their responsibilities. This week, our engagement produced tangible results in several areas.

In Pittsburgh, the world’s major economies agreed to continue our effort to spur global demand to put our people back to work.  We committed ourselves to economic growth that is balanced and sustained- so that we avoid the booms and busts of the past.  We reached an historic agreement to reform the global financial system-to promote responsibility and prevent abuse so that we never face a crisis like this again. And we reformed our international economic architecture, so that we can better coordinate our effort to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We also established American leadership in the global pursuit of the clean energy of the 21st century.  I am proud that the G-20 nations agreed to phase out $300 billion worth of fossil fuel subsidies. This will increase our energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat the threat of climate change, and help create the new jobs and industries of the future.

In New York, we advanced the cause of peace and security.  I joined the first meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in nearly a year-a meeting that even nine months ago did not seem possible.  And we resolved to move forward in the journey toward a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

We also took unprecedented steps to secure loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to seek a world without them.  As the first U.S. president to ever chair a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, I was proud that the Council passed an historic and unanimous resolution embracing the comprehensive strategy I outlined this year in Prague.

To prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, the Security Council endorsed our global effort to lock down all vulnerable material within four years.  We reaffirmed the basic compact of the global nonproliferation regime: all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament; and nations without them have the responsibility to forsake them.

The United States is meeting our responsibilities by pursuing an agreement with Russia to reduce our strategic warheads and launchers.  And just as we meet our responsibilities, so must other nations, including Iran and North Korea.

Earlier this year, we imposed tough, new, sanctions on North Korea to stop their efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. And we will continue to stand with our allies and partners to press North Korea to move in a new direction.

This week, we joined with the United Kingdom and France in presenting evidence that Iran has been building a secret nuclear facility to enrich uranium. This is a serious challenge to the global nonproliferation regime, and continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion. That is why international negotiations with Iran scheduled for October 1st now take on added urgency.

My offer of a serious, meaningful dialogue to resolve this issue remains open.  But Iran must now cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and take action to demonstrate its peaceful intentions.

On this, the international community is more united than ever before.  Yesterday, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies in condemning Iran’s program. In our meetings and public statements, President Medvedev of Russia and I agreed that Iran must pursue a new course or face consequences. All of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany, have made it clear that Iran must fulfill its responsibilities.

Iran’s leaders must now choose – they can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations. Or they will face increased pressure and isolation, and deny opportunity to their own people.

These are the urgent threats of our time.  And the United States is committed to a new chapter of international cooperation to meet them.  This new chapter will not be written in one week or even one year.  But we have begun.  And for the American people and the people of the world, it will mean greater security and prosperity for years to come.

Sec. Locke Announces $6M ARRA Grant in Bethlehem

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke came to Bethlehem yesterday to announce an ARRA (stimulus package) grant for a major expansion at Ben Franklin Technology Partners.  The incubation center for high tech entrepreneurs is expanding its facility by 47,000 square feet and it would not have been possible without this stimulus money.  The center is located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus just south of Bethlehem and looks over the Valley with spectacular views.  Ben Franklin has “wet labs” available for use (these are sterile, ‘clean’ laboratories) for those looking to develop new products and technologies for the market.  The room was filled with small business people who got their start at Ben Franklin.  What this organization provides is the framework and facility to incubate new technology companies and it acts sort of a hub for all of Northeastern Pennsylvania in this regard.  The Commerce Department is reaching out to various of these hubs throughout the country to stimulate economic growth.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke:

There followed a period where people (non media because there was a period for us after the session) could ask questions.  This one was about why most grants go to large corporations:

This is Aneesh Chopra, President Obama’s White House Technology Adviser:

I’m having trouble with Photobucket so I’ll post the rest of the video later.

Here’s a picture of the view everyone was talking about during the event:

President’s G20 Closing Remarks

The President’s closing remarks at the end of the G20 summit are below.  Fixing the damage done by the disastrous Republican economic policies as espoused by Milton Freidman is tough, exhaustive work.  Radical changes tot he system must be enacted including ending incentives for only short term stock and income results which sabotage long term stability of markets.  Substantial regulation of Wall Street still hasn’t been accomplished and centralization of federal oversight and regulation must be enacted by Congress.  We know what must be done and now is the time to act.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Let me, first of all, thank Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, County Executive Dan Onorato, and the people of Pittsburgh for being just extraordinary hosts.  Last night during the dinner that I had with world leaders, so many of them commented on the fact that sometime in the past they had been to Pittsburgh — in some cases it was 20 or 25 or 30 years ago — and coming back they were so impressed with the revitalization of the city.  A number of them remarked on the fact that it pointed to lessons that they could take away in revitalizing manufacturing towns in their home countries.  The people here have been just extraordinary, and so I want to thank all of you for the great hospitality.

I will tell you I’m a little resentful because I did not get to Pamela’s Diner for pancakes.  (Laughter.)  Although, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan did get pancakes.  And I don’t know how he worked that, but he was raving about them.

Six months ago, I said that the London Summit marked a turning point in the G20’s effort to prevent economic catastrophe.  And here in Pittsburgh, we’ve taken several significant steps forward to secure our recovery, and transition to strong, sustainable, and balanced economic growth.  We brought the global economy back from the brink.  We laid the groundwork today for long-term prosperity, as well.

It’s worth recalling the situation we faced six months ago  — a contracting economy, skyrocketing unemployment, stagnant trade, and a financial system that was nearly frozen.  Some were warning of a second Great Depression.  But because of the bold and coordinated action that we took, millions of jobs have been saved or created; the decline in output has been stopped; financial markets have come back to life; and we stopped the crisis from spreading further to the developing world.

Still, we know there is much further to go.  Too many Americans are still out of work, and struggling to pay bills.  Too many families are uncertain about what the future will bring. Because our global economy is now fundamentally interconnected, we need to act together to make sure our recovery creates new jobs and industries, while preventing the kinds of imbalances and abuse that led us into this crisis.

Pittsburgh was a perfect venue for this work.  This city has known its share of hard times, as older industries like steel could no longer sustain growth.  But Pittsburgh picked itself up, and it dusted itself off, and is making the transition to job-creating industries of the future — from biotechnology to clean energy.  It serves as a model for turning the page to a 21st century economy, and a reminder that the key to our future prosperity lies not just in New York or Los Angeles or Washington — but in places like Pittsburgh.

Today, we took bold and concerted action to secure that prosperity, and to forge a new Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth.

First, we agreed to sustain our recovery plans until growth is restored, and a new framework for prosperity is in place.  Our coordinated stimulus plans played an indispensable role in averting catastrophe.  Now, we must make sure that when growth returns — jobs do, too.  That’s why we will continue our stimulus efforts until our people are back to work, and phase them out when our recovery is strong.

But we can’t stop there.  Going forward, we cannot tolerate the same old boom and bust economy of the past.  We can’t grow complacent.  We can’t wait for a crisis to cooperate.  That’s why our new framework will allow each of us to assess the others’ policies, to build consensus on reform, and to ensure that global demand supports growth for all.

Second, we agreed to take concrete steps to move forward with tough, new financial regulations so that crises like this can never happen again.  Never again should we let the schemes of a reckless few put the world’s financial system — and our people’s well-being — at risk.  Those who abuse the system must be held accountable.  Those who act irresponsibly must not count on taxpayer dollars.  Those days are over.  

That’s why we’ve agreed on a strong set of reforms.  We will bring more transparency to the derivatives market.  And we will strengthen national capital standards, so that banks can withstand losses and pay for their own risks.  We will create more powerful tools to hold large global financial firms accountable, and orderly procedures to manage failures without burdening taxpayers.  And we will tie executive pay to long-term performance, so that sound decisions are rewarded instead of short-term greed.  In short, our financial system will be far different and more secure than the one that failed so dramatically last year.

Third, we agreed to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels so that we can transition to a 21st century energy economy — an historic effort that would ultimately phase out nearly $300 billion in global subsidies.  This reform will increase our energy security.  It will help transform our economy, so that we’re creating the clean energy jobs of the future.  And it will help us combat the threat posed by climate change.  As I said earlier this week in New York, all nations have a responsibility to meet this challenge, and together, we have taken a substantial step forward in meeting that responsibility.

Finally, we agreed to reform our system of global economic cooperation and governance.  We can no longer meet the challenges of the 21st century economy with 20th century approaches.  And that’s why the G20 will take the lead in building a new approach to cooperation.  To make our institutions reflect the reality of our times, we will shift more responsibility to emerging economies within the International Monetary Fund, and give them a greater voice.  To build new markets, and help the world’s most vulnerable citizens climb out of poverty, we established a new World Bank Trust Fund to support investments in food security and financing for clean and affordable energy.  And to ensure that we keep our commitments, we agreed to continue to take stock of our efforts going forward.

We have learned, time and again, that in the 21st century, the nations of the world share mutual interests.  That’s why I’ve called for a new era of engagement that yields real results for our people — an era when nations live up to their responsibilities, and act on behalf of our shared security and prosperity.

And that’s exactly the kind of strong cooperation that we forged here in Pittsburgh, and earlier this week in New York. Indeed, on issue after issue, we see that the international community is beginning to move forward together.  At the G20, we’ve achieved a level of tangible, global economic cooperation that we have never seen before, while also acting to address the threat posed by climate change.  At the United Nations Security Council, we passed a historic resolution to secure loose nuclear materials, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek the security of a world without them.  And as we approach negotiations with Iran on October 1st, we have never been more united in standing with the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany in demanding that Iran live up to its responsibilities.

On all of these challenges, there is much more work to be done.  But we leave here today more confident and more united in the common effort of advancing security and prosperity for all of our people.

So I’m very grateful to the other world leaders who are here today.  And with that, let me take a few questions.  I’ll start with Ben Feller of AP.

    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  The Iranian President said today that your statement of this morning was a mistake, and that your mistakes work in Iran’s favor.  What gives you any sense that you can genuinely negotiate with them?  And also, when you talk about holding Iran accountable, is the military option growing more likely?

    THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s important to see what happened today building on what happened in New York.  You had an unprecedented show of unity on the part of the world community saying that Iran’s actions raised grave doubts in terms of their presentation that their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.  Not only did the United States, France, and the United Kingdom who initiated the intelligence that brought this to light, stand before you, but you had China and Russia as well issue statements calling for an immediate IAEA investigation.

    That kind of solidarity is not typical.  Anybody who’s been following responses to Iran would have been doubtful just a few months ago that that kind of rapid response was possible.

    So I think Iran is on notice; that when we meet with them on October 1st, they are going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice:  Are they willing to go down the path which I think ultimately will lead to greater prosperity and security for Iran, giving up the acquisition of nuclear weapons, and deciding that they are willing to abide by international rules and standards in their pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy; or will they continue down a path that is going to lead to confrontation?  And as I said before, what has changed is that the international community I think has spoken.  It is now up to Iran to respond.

    I’m not going to speculate on the course of action that we will take.  We’re going to give October 1st a chance.  But I think you’ve heard that even countries who a year ago or six months ago might have been reluctant to even discuss things like sanctions have said that this is an important enough issue to peace and stability in the world that Iran would make a mistake in ignoring the call for them to respond in a forthright and clear manner, and to recognize that the choice they make over the next several weeks and months could well determine their ability to rejoin the international community or to find themselves isolated.

    Last point I’ll make specifically with respect to the military, I’ve always said that we do not rule out any options when it comes to U.S. security interests, but I will also reemphasize that my preferred course of action is to resolve this in a diplomatic fashion.  It’s up to the Iranians to respond.

    Patricia Zengerle at Reuters.

    Q    You said a couple months ago that the war in Afghanistan is a war of necessity.  Do you think it’s possible to meet U.S. objectives there without an extra infusion of U.S. troops?  And as you consider this, how does the public’s lagging support for the war affect your decision-making now?  And how has your review process been affected by the allegations of election fraud?  Thank you.

    THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, let me be clear on our goals.  We went into Afghanistan not because we were interested in entering that country or positioning ourselves regionally, but because al Qaeda killed 3,000-plus Americans and vowed to continue trying to kill Americans.

    And so my overriding goal is to dismantle the al Qaeda network, to destroy their capacity to inflict harm, not just on us but people of all faiths and all nationalities all around the world, and that is our overriding focus.

    Stability in Afghanistan and in Pakistan are critical to that mission.  And after several years of drift in Afghanistan, we now find ourselves in a situation in which you have strong commitments from the ISAF coalition, our NATO allies.  All of them are committed to making this work.  But I think there’s also a recognition that after that many years of drift, it’s important that we examine our strategies to make sure that they actually can deliver on preventing al Qaeda from establishing safe havens.

    Obviously the allegations of fraud in the recent election are of concern to us.  And we are still awaiting results.  We’re awaiting the IEC and the ECC issuing their full report.  What’s most important is that there is a sense of legitimacy in Afghanistan among the Afghan people for their government.  If there is not, that makes our task much more difficult.

    In terms of the review process that we’re going through, the minute I came into office we initiated a review, and even before that review was completed, I ordered 21,000 additional troops into Afghanistan because I thought it was important to secure the election, to make sure that the Taliban did not disrupt it.  What I also said at the time was that after the election, we are going to reassess our strategy, precisely because so much of our success has to be linked to the ability of the Afghan people themselves to provide for their own security, their own training, the Afghan government’s ability to deliver services and opportunity and hope to their people.

    So we are doing exactly what I said we would do in March.  I put in a new commander, General McChrystal, and I asked him to give me an unvarnished assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, and he has done that, as well.  But keep in mind that, from the start, my belief was — and this is shared with our ISAF allies, that our military strategy is only part of a broader project that has to include a civilian component, has to include a diplomatic component, and all those different factors are being weighed and considered at this point.  And I will ultimately make this decision based on what will meet that core goal that I set out at the beginning, which is to dismantle, disrupt, and destroy the al Qaeda network.

    With respect to public opinion, I understand the public’s weariness of this war, given that it comes on top of weariness about the war in Iraq.  Every time we get a report of a young man or woman who’s fallen in either of those theaters of war, it’s a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifice that they’re making.  I know that our partners in Afghanistan feel that same pain when they see their troops harmed.

    So this is not easy.  And I would expect that the public would ask some very tough questions.  That’s exactly what I’m doing, is asking some very tough questions.  And we’re not going to arrive at perfect answers.  I think anybody who’s looked at the situation recognizes that it’s difficult and it’s complicated.  But my solemn obligation is to make sure that I get the best answers possible, particularly before I make decisions about sending additional troops into the theater.

    Jon Delano of KDKA.  Is Jon around?

    Q    Right here.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you, Jon.

    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Let me ask you, while we were inside this very safe and secure and beautiful convention center, some 5,000 at least demonstrators were on the outside.  Some caused some property damage; others just shouted their messages, much of which had to do that while you believe the G20 summit was a success and represents a positive sign, they see it as something devilish and destructive of the world economy, and particularly the economy of the poor.  What’s your response to those who are demonstrating and those who oppose this summit?

    THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I think it’s important just to keep things in perspective for the people of Pittsburgh.  If you have looked at any of the other summits that took place, I mean, in London you had hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.  In most of these summits, there has been a much more tumultuous response.  And I think the mayor and the county executive and all the people of Pittsburgh deserve extraordinary credit for having managed what is a very tranquil G20 summit.

    You know, I think that many of the protests are just directed generically at capitalism.  And they object to the existing global financial system.  They object to free markets.  One of the great things about the United States is, is that you can speak your mind and you can protest; that’s part of our tradition.  But I fundamentally disagree with their view that the free market is the source of all ills.

    Ironically, if they had been paying attention to what was taking place inside the summit itself, what they would have heard was a strong recognition from the most diverse collection of leaders in history that it is important to make sure that the market is working for ordinary people; that government has a role in regulating the market in ways that don’t cause the kinds of crises that we’ve just been living through; that our emphasis has to be on more balanced growth, and that includes making sure that growth is bottom up, that workers, ordinary people, are able to pay their bills, get — make a decent living, send their children to college; and that the more that we focus on how the least of these are doing, the better off all of us are going to be.  That principle was embodied in the communiqué that was issued.

    And so I would recommend those who are out there protesting, if they’re actually interested in knowing what was taking place here, to read the communiqué that was issued.

    Laurent Lozano.  Is Laurent here?  There he is.

    Q    I am here.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I would like to follow up on Iran.  Since Iran seems to be so blatantly in breach of its international obligations and with some of your allies, main allies, obviously growing impatient, why even meet with the Iranians on October 1st?  And can you also explain to us what happened between the end of 2007 when an intelligence estimate cast doubts on the fact that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and this year?  What credit should be given to such intelligence?

    THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, with respect to the intelligence that we presented to the IAEA, this was the work product of three intelligence agencies, not just one.  These intelligence agencies checked over this work in a painstaking fashion, precisely because we didn’t want any ambiguity about what exactly was going on there.  And I think that the response that you saw today indicates the degree to which this intelligence is solid and indicates the degree to which Iran was constructing an enrichment facility that it had not declared, contrary to U.N. resolutions and contrary to the rules governing the IAEA.

    In terms of meeting, I have said repeatedly that we’re going to operate on two tracks; that our preferred method of action is diplomatic, but if that does not work, then other consequences may follow.  I also said — and this was debated extensively here in the United States because there were some who suggested, you can’t talk to Iran, what’s the point — that by keeping the path of diplomacy open, that would actually strengthen world unity and our collective efforts to then hold Iran accountable.  And I think you’re starting to see the product of that strategy unfold during the course of this week.

    What we saw at the United Nations in the Security Council was a strong affirmation of the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and as a consequence, the IAEA is strengthened, and those countries who follow the rules are strengthened when it comes to dealing with countries like North Korea and Iran that don’t follow the rules.  And that means that when we find that diplomacy does not work we will be in a much stronger position to, for example, apply sanctions that have bite.

    Now, as I said, that’s not the preferred course of action.  I would love nothing more than to see Iran choose the responsible path.  Whether they do so or not will ultimately depend on their leaders and they will have the next few weeks to show to the world which path they want to travel.

    I’m going to take one last question.  I’ve got to call on one of these guys, you know, they’re my constituency here.  All right, Chip.

    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just mentioned sanctions that have bite.  What kinds of sanctions — and I know you can’t get into details — but what kinds of sanctions at all would have bite with Iran?  Do you really think any kind of sanction would have an effect on somebody like Ahmadinejad?

Secondly, some of your advisors today said that this announcement was a “victory.” Do you consider it a victory?  And if so, why didn’t you announce it earlier since you’ve known since you were President-elect?

    THE PRESIDENT:  This isn’t a football game, so I’m not interested in victory; I’m interested in resolving the problem.  The problem is, is that Iran repeatedly says that it’s pursuing nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes, and its actions contradict its words.  And as a consequence, the region is more insecure and vital U.S. interests are threatened.

    My job is to try to solve that.  And my expectation is that we are going to explore with our allies, with the P5-plus-1, a wide range of options in terms of how we approach Iran, should Iran decline to engage in the ways that are responsible.

    You just told me I’m not going to get into details about sanctions, and you’re right, I will not.  But I think that if you have the international community making a strong united front, that Iran is going to have to pay attention.

    In terms of why we didn’t come out with it sooner, I already mentioned to Laurent that it is very important in these kinds of high-stakes situations to make sure that the intelligence is right.  And we wanted all three agencies — the French, the Brits, and the Americans — to have thoroughly scrubbed this and to make sure that we were absolutely confident about the situation there.  We are, and now it’s up to Iran to respond.

    Okay?  Thank you very much, everybody.  I hope you enjoy Pittsburgh.  Thank you.

Democratic Dysfunctionality

One has to be enormously frustrated at Democrats.  The only reason anyone votes Democratic any longer is simply because the Republicans leave us no choice between their greed, corruption and incompetence.  Democrats have forgotten how to govern, forgotten what they believe in and forgotten why they were elected.  Consumed with bipartisanship where no bipartisanship exists they are negotiating against themselves to make weak bills even weaker.

Stand up for that which you believe and the voters will begin having confidence in your abilities.  Lead and they will follow.  One of the chief weaknesses I see among Democratic lawmakers is the refusal of too many of them to be leaders.  They were elected to BE the leaders among us.  If you are not willing to lead then please get out of the way.  Resign and allow the people to choose a real leader.

We are tired of feckless, spineless, ideologically challenged Democrats too concerned with their own re-election polls instead of understanding what it is they truly believe, what it is they stand for, in what direction their moral compass points.  Too many have no moral compass or if it exists it points only towards their own political survival.

Max Baucus, supposedly a Democrat, introduces a health care bill which represents everything the health care industry has on its ultimate wish list.  President Obama entered into a secret deal with Big Pharma to sell out seniors on Medicare.  Congressional Democrats watered down a critical climate change energy bill to placate Republicans.

I have a news flash for all of you:  you were elected to legislate a DEMOCRATIC platform.  You are NOT Republicans.  The GOP is powerless and cannot do much of anything to challenge sweeping reforms.  The filibuster, a tool used only by Republicans to stop progress, must be abolished.  Since Dems are too afraid to use the filibuster it is of use only to the GOP.  If they’d had the balls they’d have used it to stop torture, corruption, wars of choice and domestic wiretapping of American citizens.  Since Democrats couldn’t even mount enough moral resolve to use it to oppose such monumental abuses it is due its future in the trash bin.

It takes but 51 votes to end the filibuster.  Fifty one votes.  Rescind the rule and begin passing legislation.  No, Democrats won’t do this because they are afraid of what Joe Voter might think.  Well Joe Voter already thinks you’re a spineless asshole.  There’s no downside.

Democrats need to begin thinking long term and engage one another for a strategic plan.  Stop talking about tactics until you have a strategic plan.  Unless you understand your strategy tactics are useless because they aren’t part of an overall strategy.  No wonder voters are fed up with Democrats.  Fortunately for them there’s no viable, credible alternative.  One of these days that may change.

News & Notes

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission says the Valley Pool Association may have discriminated against African American day campers this summer.  The panel calls evidence of discrimination “credible” and calls on both parties to reach a settlement.  If they do not the pool association could face a hearing where it could be fined up to $50,000.  I think this puts to rest the argument floated by one of our commenters that this wasn’t a racial incident.

Paul Kirk has been named to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy pending a special election in Massachusetts.  He will serve temporarily.  This is a good solution.

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will be in Bethlehem tomorrow to announce an ARRA grant.  I’ll be there to cover the news.

Saturday I’ll be in State College for the Pennsylvania Equality Summit.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, like his colleague in arms Sen. John Eichelberger, is refusing to apologize for his homophobic and anti-women statements on the floor of the State House.  Metcalfe seems to be supporting domestic violence among women because he refuses to accept that violence occurs in all relationships.  Would someone send the Republicans back to their caves?

A special election for the 24th State Senate District is next Tuesday.  The GOP decided spending $400,000 on a special election was a higher priority than funding libraries.  Maybe if they could read Rep. Metcalfe might actually know something.

The G20 began today in Pittsburgh.  The city is getting another shining moment in the world spotlight.

If anyone still questions the racism of the Republicans go read the posts on various blogs and message boards.  The ones on YouTube are especially enlightening.

Some GOP whackjobs are saying watching porn makes you gay.  Soooooo, all those heterosexual men have never watched porn?  Does not compute….

President Obama called today for a UN resolution for nuclear disarmament.  It’s about time.  I think I still remember those Cold War drills from elementary school.   Let’s see, spread your legs, bend over at the knees, put your head between your knees and…kiss your ass good-bye.

Don’t know nothin’ ’bout me…but some think they do

I truly love the attempts by people here on this blog, elsewhere, in real life, whatever the circumstance, who lump me in with something, or peg me for something, or brand me, label me, categorize me, or even go to lengths to preclude or “ban” me, because of what they think they know about me and what it “must mean” about me and “how I am”.  

I got one hell of a newsflash folks!

Most of you don’t really know much of anything about me and quite honestly most of you have not bothered to engage me in any real dialogue beyond the circumstances of what I’ve posted here, or elsewhere.  

If you bothered to do so, you’d come to realize that I really defy any serious efforts to brand me or label me, or easily categorize what I’m all about.  The reasons for this are simple, it is the way I see the world and life and it is somewhat different than what most folks see it as and I don’t go around sharing that in depth with most people, because I think they’d rather just have their fun with labeling and branding and categorizing me, if it suits their mood or purpose.  

If you’d read my signature line at the bottom of my comments or postings here, you’d see that I am not one to be too static on much of anything because I understand one inimitable truth about life that most don’t see for what it is.  The truth I speak of is that all of what is said or put to words ends up being half true and half false and there’s nothing much wrong with that, if you understand it in the proper context and realize that that is a great personal teaching tool that helps unravel the craziness of life that appears as chaos to some or complexity to others.  

So, basically there is then truth in all things and flaws in all things that are communicated orally or in written form.  So, espouse whatever point of view or thing you like about something, I really don’t care so much for that aspect of it, but do come to understand the truth in all points of view and by doing so, understand life and why it is the way it is.  

I ain’t here to hawk for any one side per se, other than that of the truth that is beyond, above, throughout, and apart from any and all points of view, methods of operation, philosophies, what not.  

At some point, I will begin to write and expound more upon topics and lessons that I hope will show others in more understandable ways the things I speak of, the things I’ve come to know, or new ways to look at things that are going to perhaps seem very alien to your ways of doing things or thinking, but I think it better at some point that you should come to learn of them than not.  

However, please do not begin to feel that you really got a good bead on me, when it comes to knowing all of what I like and do not like or what I’d celebrate or not be overjoyed with or for why I’d act a certain way.  The irritation of it is not so much my concern as the foolishness that I see others committing by trying to put me into some pretty wrapped box that fits their design and need for such.  Yet, even in foolishness there lies a great and wonderful truth about the potential of a fool and what a fool knows but doesn’t know that the fool knows it, for it is what makes him a fool, but in truth he is not and never was.

Obama Addresses UN General Assembly

President Barack Obama made his first address before the General Assembly of the United nations today.  The world faces catastrophic challenges between global economic collapse and global climate change.  Since America is chiefly responsible for both the new President faces serious questions from other nations.  It was American economic and foreign policy which precipitated the financial meltdown due to lax or no regulation while Wall Street ran a gigantic gambling casino under our noses.  

Though many people and groups spoke and acted loudly and forcefully to awaken people to the coming financial calamity few listened.  We face the same situation with climate change.  The powerful forces against changing policy are spending huge amounts to brainwash gullible Americans into doing nothing.  To quote a classic song “when will we ever learn?”

The text of the President’s speech (I’ll put most of it under the fold):

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: it is my honor to address you for the first time as the forty-fourth President of the United States. I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me; mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history; and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad.

I have been in office for just nine months, though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted – I believe – in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. But they are also rooted in hope – the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change.

I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. This has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for our collective inaction.

Like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests. But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 – more than at any point in human history – the interests of nations and peoples are shared.

continued…

The religious convictions that we hold in our hearts can forge new bonds among people, or tear us apart. The technology we harness can light the path to peace, or forever darken it. The energy we use can sustain our planet, or destroy it. What happens to the hope of a single child – anywhere – can enrich our world, or impoverish it.

In this hall, we come from many places, but we share a common future. No longer do we have the luxury of indulging our differences to the exclusion of the work that we must do together. I have carried this message from London to Ankara; from Port of Spain to Moscow; from Accra to Cairo; and it’s what I will speak about today. Because the time has come for the world to move in a new direction. We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interests and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.

We know the future will be forged by deeds and not simply words. Speeches alone will not solve our problems – it will take persistent action. So for those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions that we have taken in just nine months.

On my first day in office, I prohibited – without exception or equivocation – the use of torture by the United States of America. I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law. Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.

We have set a clear and focused goal: to work with all members of this body to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies – a network that has killed thousands of people of many faiths and nations, and that plotted to blow up this very building. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, we – and many nations here – are helping those governments develop the capacity to take the lead in this effort, while working to advance opportunity and security for their people.

In Iraq, we are responsibly ending a war. We have removed American combat brigades from Iraqi cities, and set a deadline of next August to remove all of our combat brigades from Iraqi territory. And I have made clear that we will help Iraqis transition to full responsibility for their future, and keep our commitment to remove all American troops by the end of 2011.

I have outlined a comprehensive agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In Moscow, the United States and Russia announced that we would pursue substantial reductions in our strategic warheads and launchers. At the Conference on Disarmament, we agreed on a work plan to negotiate an end to the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. And this week, my Secretary of State will become the first senior American representative to the annual Members Conference of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Upon taking office, I appointed a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, and America has worked steadily and aggressively to advance the cause of two states – Israel and Palestine – in which peace and security take root, and the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians are respected.

To confront climate change, we have invested 80 billion dollars in clean energy. We have substantially increased our fuel-efficiency standards. We have provided new incentives for conservation, launched an energy partnership across the Americas, and moved from a bystander to a leader in international climate negotiations.

To overcome an economic crisis that touches every corner of the world, we worked with the G-20 nations to forge a coordinated international response of over two trillion dollars in stimulus to bring the global economy back from the brink. We mobilized resources that helped prevent the crisis from spreading further to developing countries. And we joined with others to launch a $20 billion global food security initiative that will lend a hand to those who need it most, and help them build their own capacity.

We have also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills. We have joined the Human Rights Council. We have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We have fully embraced the Millennium Development Goals. And we address our priorities here, in this institution – for instance, through the Security Council meeting that I will chair tomorrow on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and through the issues that I will discuss today.

This is what we have done. But this is just a beginning. Some of our actions have yielded progress. Some have laid the groundwork for progress in the future. But make no mistake: this cannot be solely America’s endeavor. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone. We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.

If we are honest with ourselves, we need to admit that we are not living up to that responsibility. Consider the course that we are on if we fail to confront the status quo. Extremists sowing terror in pockets of the world. Protracted conflicts that grind on and on. Genocide and mass atrocities. More and more nations with nuclear weapons. Melting ice caps and ravaged populations. Persistent poverty and pandemic disease. I say this not to sow fear, but to state a fact: the magnitude of our challenges has yet to be met by the measure of our action.

This body was founded on the belief that the nations of the world could solve their problems together. Franklin Roosevelt, who died before he could see his vision for this institution become a reality, put it this way – and I quote: “The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one Nation…. It cannot be a peace of large nations – or of small nations. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”

The cooperative effort of the whole world. Those words ring even more true today, when it is not simply peace – but our very health and prosperity that we hold in common. Yet I also know that this body is made up of sovereign states. And sadly, but not surprisingly, this body has often become a forum for sowing discord instead of forging common ground; a venue for playing politics and exploiting grievances rather than solving problems. After all, it is easy to walk up to this podium and to point fingers and stoke division. Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles, and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions. Anyone can do that.

Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demand more. In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional division between nations of the south and north makes no sense in an interconnected world. Nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.

The time has come to realize that the old habits and arguments are irrelevant to the challenges faced by our people. They lead nations to act in opposition to the very goals that they claim to pursue, and to vote – often in this body – against the interests of their own people.  They build up walls between us and the future that our people seek, and the time has come for those walls to come down. Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides – coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of  north and south, east and west; black, white, and brown.

The choice is ours. We can be remembered as a generation that chose to drag the arguments of the 20th century into the 21st; that put off hard choices, refused to look ahead, and failed to keep pace because we defined ourselves by what we were against instead of what we were for. Or, we can be a generation that chooses to see the shoreline beyond the rough waters ahead; that comes together to serve the common interests of human beings, and finally gives meaning to the promise embedded in the name given to this institution: the United Nations.

That is the future America wants – a future of peace and prosperity that we can only reach if we recognize that all nations have rights, but all nations have responsibilities as well. That is the bargain that makes this work. That must be the guiding principle of international cooperation.

Today, I put forward four pillars that are fundamental to the future that we want for our children: non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people.

First, we must stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the goal of a world without them.

This institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man’s capacity to kill had to be contained. For decades, we averted disaster, even under the shadow of a super-power stand-off. But today, the threat of proliferation is growing in scope and complexity. If we fail to act, we will invite nuclear arms races in every region, and the prospect of wars and acts of terror on a scale that we can hardly imagine.

A fragile consensus stands in the way of this frightening outcome – the basic bargain that shapes the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. It says that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them. The next twelve months could be pivotal in determining whether this compact will be strengthened or will slowly dissolve.

America will keep our end of the bargain. We will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers. We will move forward with ratification of the Test Ban Treaty, and work with others to bring the Treaty into force so that nuclear testing is permanently prohibited. We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts, and reduces the role of nuclear weapons. And we will call upon countries to begin negotiations in January on a treaty to end the production of fissile material for weapons.

I will also host a Summit next April that reaffirms each nation’s responsibility to secure nuclear material on its territory, and to help those who can’t – because we must never allow a single nuclear device to fall into the hands of a violent extremist. And we will work to strengthen the institutions and initiatives that combat nuclear smuggling and theft.

All of this must support efforts to strengthen the NPT. Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences. This is not about singling out individual nations – it is about standing up for the rights of all nations that do live up to their responsibilities. Because a world in which IAEA inspections are avoided and the United Nation’s demands are ignored will leave all people less safe, and all nations less secure.

In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope. We respect their rights as members of the community of nations. I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and a more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.

But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East – then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that Treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future not belong to fear.

That brings me to the second pillar for our future: the pursuit of peace.

The United Nations was born of the belief that the people of the world can live their lives, raise their families, and resolve their differences peacefully. And yet we know that in too many parts of the world, this ideal remains an abstraction. We can either accept that outcome as inevitable, and tolerate constant and crippling conflict. Or we can recognize that the yearning for peace is universal, and reassert our resolve to end conflicts around the world.

That effort must begin with an unshakeable determination that the murder of innocent men, women and children will never be tolerated. On this, there can be no dispute. The violent extremists who promote conflict by distorting faith have discredited and isolated themselves. They offer nothing but hatred and destruction. In confronting them, America will forge lasting partnerships to target terrorists, share intelligence, coordinate law enforcement, and protect our people. We will permit no safe-haven for al Qaeda to launch attacks from Afghanistan or any other nation. We will stand by our friends on the front lines, as we and many nations will do in pledging support for the Pakistani people tomorrow. And we will pursue positive engagement that builds bridges among faiths, and new partnerships for opportunity.

But our efforts to promote peace cannot be limited to defeating violent extremists. For the most powerful weapon in our arsenal is the hope of human beings – the belief that the future belongs to those who build, not destroy; the confidence that conflicts can end, and a new day begin.

That is why we will strengthen our support for effective peacekeeping, while energizing our efforts to prevent conflicts before they take hold. We will pursue a lasting peace in Sudan through support for the people of Darfur, and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, so that we secure the peace that the Sudanese people deserve. And in countries ravaged by violence – from Haiti to Congo to East Timor – we will work with the UN and other partners to support an enduring peace.

I will also continue to seek a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. Yesterday, I had a constructive meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. We have made some progress. Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians. As a result of these efforts by both sides, the economy in the West Bank has begun to grow. But more progress is needed. We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

The time has come to re-launch negotiations – without preconditions – that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security – a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people. As we pursue this goal, we will also pursue peace between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, and a broader peace between Israel and its many neighbors. In pursuit of that goal, we will develop regional initiatives with multilateral participation, alongside bilateral negotiations.

I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult. But all of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip-service. To break the old patterns – to break the cycle of insecurity and despair – all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private. The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. And nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks over a constructive willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and its right to exist in peace and security.

We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It is paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the night. It is paid by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are God’s children. And after all of the politics and all of the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. And that is why – even though there will be setbacks, and false starts, and tough days – I will not waiver in my pursuit of peace.

Third, we must recognize that in the 21st century, there will be no peace unless we make take responsibility for the preservation of our planet.

The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied, and our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act – why we failed to pass on intact the environment that was our inheritance.

That is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over. We will move forward with investments to transform our energy economy, while providing incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We will press ahead with deep cuts in emissions to reach the goals that we set for 2020, and eventually 2050. We will continue to promote renewable energy and efficiency – and share new technologies – with countries around the world. And we will seize every opportunity for progress to address this threat in a cooperative effort with the whole world.

Those wealthy nations that did so much to damage the environment in the 20th century must accept our obligation to lead. But responsibility does not end there. While we must acknowledge the need for differentiated responses, any effort to curb carbon emissions must include the fast-growing carbon emitters who can do more to reduce their air pollution without inhibiting growth. And any effort that fails to help the poorest nations both adapt to the problems that climate change has already wrought – and travel a path of clean development – will not work.

It is hard to change something as fundamental as how we use energy. It’s even harder to do so in the midst of a global recession. Certainly, it will be tempting to sit back and wait for others to move first. But we cannot make this journey unless we all move forward together. As we head into Copenhagen, let us resolve to focus on what each of us can do for the sake of our common future.

This leads me to the final pillar that must fortify our future: a global economy that advances opportunity for all people.

The world is still recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In America, we see the engine of growth beginning to churn, yet many still struggle to find a job or pay their bills. Across the globe, we find promising signs, yet little certainty about what lies ahead. And far too many people in far too many places live through the daily crises that challenge our common humanity – the despair of an empty stomach; the thirst brought on by dwindling water; the injustice of a child dying from a treatable disease, or a mother losing her life as she gives birth.

In Pittsburgh, we will work with the world’s largest economies to chart a course for growth that is balanced and sustained. That means vigilance to ensure that we do not let up until our people are back to work. That means taking steps to rekindle demand, so that a global recovery can be sustained. And that means setting new rules of the road and strengthening regulation for all financial centers, so that we put an end to the greed, excess and abuse that led us into disaster, and prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.

At a time of such interdependence, we have a moral and pragmatic interest in broader questions of development. And so we will continue our historic effort to help people feed themselves. We have set aside $63 billion to carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS; to end deaths from tuberculosis and malaria; to eradicate polio; and to strengthen public health systems. We are joining with other countries to contribute H1N1 vaccines to the World Health Organization. We will integrate more economies into a system of global trade. We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s Summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.

Now is the time for all of us to do our part. Growth will not be sustained or shared unless all nations embrace their responsibility. Wealthy nations must open their markets to more goods and extend a hand to those with less, while reforming international institutions to give more nations a greater voice. Developing nations must root out the corruption that is an obstacle to progress – for opportunity cannot thrive where individuals are oppressed and business have to pay bribes. That’s why we will support honest police and independent judges; civil society and a vibrant private sector. Our goal is simple: a global economy in which growth is sustained, and opportunity is available to all.

The changes that I have spoken about today will not be easy to make. And they will not be realized simply by leaders like us coming together in forums like this. For as in any assembly of members, real change can only come through the people we represent. That is why we must do the hard work to lay the groundwork for progress in our own capitals. That is where we will build the consensus to end conflicts and to harness technology for peaceful purposes; to change the way we use energy, and to promote growth that can be sustained and shared.

I believe that the people of the world want this future for their children. And that is why we must champion those principles which ensure that governments reflect the will of the people. These principles cannot be afterthoughts – democracy and human rights are essential to achieving each of the goals that I have discussed today. Because governments of the people and by the people are more likely to act in the broader interests of their own people, rather than the narrow interest of those in power.

The test of our leadership will not be the degree to which we feed the fears and old hatreds of our people. True leadership will not be measured by the ability to muzzle dissent, or to intimidate and harass political opponents at home. The people of the world want change. They will not long tolerate those who are on the wrong side of history.

This Assembly’s Charter commits each of us, and I quote – “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women.” Among those rights is the freedom to speak your mind and worship as you please; the promise of equality of the races, and the opportunity for women and girls to pursue their own potential; the ability of citizens to have a say in how you are governed, and to have confidence in the administration of justice. For just as no nation should be forced to accept the tyranny of another nation, no individual should be forced to accept the tyranny of their own government.

As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice. And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights – for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.

Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people, and – in the past – America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy. But that does not weaken our commitment, it only reinforces it. There are basic principles that are universal; there are certain truths which are self evident – and the United States of America will never waiver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny.

Sixty-five years ago, a weary Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the American people in his fourth and final inaugural address. After years of war, he sought to sum up the lessons that could be drawn from the terrible suffering and enormous sacrifice that had taken place. “We have learned,” he said, “to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.”

The United Nations was built by men and women like Roosevelt from every corner of the world – from Africa and Asia; form Europe to the Americas. These architects of international cooperation had an idealism that was anything but naïve – it was rooted in the hard-earned lessons of war, and the wisdom that nations could advance their interests by acting together instead of splitting apart.

Now it falls to us – for this institution will be what we make of it. The United Nations does extraordinary good around the world in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and mending  places that have been broken. But it also struggles to enforce its will, and to live up to the ideals of its founding.

I believe that those imperfections are not a reason to walk away from this institution – they are a calling to redouble our efforts. The United Nations can either be a place where we bicker about outdated grievances, or forge common ground; a place where we focus on what drives us apart, or what brings us together; a place where we indulge tyranny, or a source of moral authority. In short, the United Nations can be an institution that is disconnected from what matters in the lives of our citizens, or it can be indispensable in advancing the interests of the people we serve.

We have reached a pivotal moment. The United States stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation – one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations. With confidence in our cause, and with a commitment to our values, we call on all nations to join us in building the future that our people deserve. Thank you.

Ex Judges Claiming Judicial Immunity

The two former Luzerne County Judges being prosecuted for denying juveniles their constitutional rights to due process in return for $2.6 million in cash from a privatized detention system company are fighting a class action lawsuit against them.  Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella are arguing they have judicial immunity from such suits.  Nineteen former judges and legal scholars are contesting the argument claiming such a decision would make the concept a mockery.

The idea of judicial immunity is to protect judges from being sued for actions they take from the bench.  I doubt it was designed to protect corrupt judges who are on the take.

From the brief:

“Application of immunity to judges who admitted under oath to engaging in a criminal scheme for years would indeed be monstrous,” attorney Sara B. Richman, who filed the brief on behalf of the legal scholars, says in court papers. “To find immunity would denigrate the respect of the public for the judiciary, which is dependent upon judges making decisions based on the law and the facts, rather than personal, corrupt motives.”

Abraham Gafni, one of the nineteen wrote this persuasive argument:

“There was a sense of perversion of the legal doctrine of judicial immunity, that it was being applied where it was never intended to be applied,” said Gafni, a former court of common pleas judge. “Judicial immunity is not meant to protect judges who are admittedly engaging in criminal activity.”

The judges are accused of accepting kickbacks in return for sentencing juvenile offenders to the company’s privatized juvenile detention facility.  They denied them right to lawyers during their court proceedings in order to conceal the extent of their judicial misconduct and alleged crimes.  Both judges filed guilty pleas then withdrew them and opted for trials.

Meanwhile Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, head of the ethics commission for the state judges says they received a complaint about Conanhan and Ciavarella and forwarded it to prosecutors, an action which precipitated the investigation.  This is how good judges protect us from the few bad ones.  In this case the system worked.

While Judge Panella was doing this his opponent for Supreme Court was out speaking to Tea Baggers.  Joan Orie Melvin, being widely accused by many of ethical misconduct on the campaign trail, addressed radical fringe protesters in Lehighton.  I have received several reports of people at closed door meetings with Judge Melvin saying she is openly offering to fix upcoming cases in return for key endorsements.  How this is much different from what Conahan and Ciavarella did is vague.  Either way judges are for sale.  The big trouble with corrupt judges is that someone else may come along with a better offer and ruin your fix.

Now storm clouds are circling over another Luzerne County Judge.  This time it is Judge Joeseph Musto whose son got an ARD after being charged with drug possession, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.  The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program is supposed to only be for first time offenders but young Joseph Musto doesn’t qualify due to a previous record.  Oops…

While the issue of ethics and integrity is central to this year’s appellate court elections Judge Melvin is out talking to tea baggers and promising to fix cases while Jack Panella is running an open, honest campaign after a distinguished career watching over evil doers and bad Judges.

Pennsylvania Health Insurance Premiums Up 110%

Outpacing wage growth by 50% health insurance costs for Pennsylvanians went up 110% over ten years.  The average cost of family coverage is now $13,375 according to a study released today by The White House.  Meanwhile insurance companies continue their unrelenting denial of coverage for outrageous reasons.  Common sense might dictate that their death panels discontinue inflammatory practices during the national debate over health care reform to try and blunt the overwhelming desire among Americans for change but, no, they are unable to change their behavior.  Just as a scorpion cannot change its behavior the insurance industry cannot change its.

The growth of insurance costs is unsustainable.  Workers are shouldering more and more of the burden as insurance companies shift the risk from themselves to you.  When premiums outpace wages by 50% people are left with no disposable income and the economy suffers.  Families are scraping by simply trying to keep their heads above water financially and this was before Republican economic policies destroyed the economy. Visit the study and look at the graphs for the last ten year period and explain to me we can afford to do nothing.

The Baucus Senate Bill is nothing more than a huge welfare program for the same insurance behemoths who have screwed us for years.  Why are rewarding them for such bad behavior?  Because they have bought too many of our Senators and Congress people and are forcing them to choose between you, their constituents and them, their backers.  If ever there was an argument for comprehensive campaign finance reform (public financing of all viable candidates) the ownership of Max Baucus by the health care industry is it.  He has crafted a bill even they only dreamed of and they must be ecstatic that their huge investment in United States Senators is paying off so well.