Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday With Jennifer



Jennifer Hudson sings the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention, August 28, 2008.

Call to Action

Sarah Palin as John McCain's runningmate is the most cynical political personnel selection since George H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. I don't have much to about the former Alaska beauty queen because she's a gimmick. A distraction. There's simply no there there. I believe this selection reveals John McCain's utter disregard for women and his contempt for this nation.

We must act.

I urge you all to cut and paste the following letter and submit it to the editors of your local newspapers.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

::

Unfit to Lead

John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his runningmate is disturbing. Not because he picked a candidate whose resume reveals little to recommend her for the job. Who doesn’t know anything about Iraq. Who asked, “What exactly does the VP do everyday?”

It's disturbing because John McCain is telling us that, in a dangerous world, he would leave this nation in the hands of a person he's only met once. Or twice depending on who you believe.

If I made out a will and entrusted my children to the care of a person I'd only met once or twice, what would that say about my fitness as a parent? What would that say about my regard for my children’s well-being? About my judgment?

Country first?

John McCain is dangerously unfit to lead this nation.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Speech



AMERICA'S PROMISE
Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance speech for the
Democratic Party's presidential nomination

Delivered at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium,
Denver, Colorado, August 28, 2008

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation; With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest – a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia – I love you so much, and I’m so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story – of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That’s why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough! This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives – on health care and education and the economy – Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors – the man who wrote his economic plan – was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know.

Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.

Well it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves – protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America – the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime – by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility – that’s the essence of America’s promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America’s promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice – but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans – have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose – our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what – it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it.

I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I’ve seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they’d pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead – people of every creed and color, from every walk of life – is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

“We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Greatest Show On Earth



I'VE NEVER seen any thing like it. I'll never again see anything like it.

And I'm not one to say never.

From my girl Jennifer Hudson's rousing rendition of the National Anthem, complete with bombs bursting in air, fireworks that exploded from the top of the columns and the top of Invesco Field after Barack Obama's jaw-dropping acceptance speech, I was left with aching bones, weeping eyes, and a hopeful heart.

Just as Barack Obama was about to address the nation, my camera card filled up. Whoops. I forget to empty the card of the 900 photos I'd taken throughout the week.

900 photos? You ask. But I've only seen a handful of them. What's up with that?

Well, I'll tell you. Editing photos and creating a slide show or two -- or 10 -- takes so much time that I chose instead to tell the story as it happened and how I felt about the unfolding narrative.



In the next week or so, I'll do my best to show you some of the behind-the-scenes images and the anecdotes that go with them, complete with shots of all the celebrities and high-ranking government officials I was lucky to meet.

But I digress.

Not being able to take pictures allowed me to fully absorb Barack Obama's speech and drink in this incredible American history straight with no chaser.



Have you ever seen anything like it? It played like a great film, but it was reality. The producers of this convention are geniuses. We got a climax we might heretofore have only been able to dream, and Barack Obama brought it home in the words of the preacher from Georgia who delivered his dream 45 years ago today.

I wept and wept and wept.

Barack Obama's gloves are off. When he throws an uppercut, and he threw many, he bloodies your nose. Knocks you down. He punched John McCain and the other party so hard, their shills in the Associated Press had to disseminate yet another desperate set of lies about his address just to try to get up off the mat.

The slightest glimpse of integrity would have required the AP to deliver something like this:



Through all the brilliant stagecraft, the exquisite set design, all the live music and dancing, even the presence of Al Gore, the inclusion of regular working Americans telling their stories in front of 84,000 enthusiastic voters in Mile High Stadium and millions more on television and the internet stands out and proves that this campaign is truly about the people.



Power to the people. A sea change.

And I was there.

I was there.

I was there.

Crossposted to Kennebec Journal

A Night for History

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IT'S OFFICIAL. Barack Obama is the first African American Democratic nominee for the President of the United States of America.

In an abbreviated roll call vote, Hillary Clinton, surrounded by her delegation, a lot of cameras, and alongside David Patterson, the first African American governor of New York, declared Barack Obama the nominee by acclamation on the convention floor. There were tears in her eyes. As there were when she voted for Barack Obama on the first ballot earlier in the day.

I am proud to admit I was wrong.

The old Black man who announced the vote for Mississippi looked like my father, who was born in Mississippi. My tears started then and never stopped.

When Hillary Clinton declared Obama the nominee, joy, relief and disbelief crashed over the sea of faces like surf.

When "Love Train" soared in the atmosphere, people joined hands above their heads and swayed in unison to the soundtrack.

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Joy, relief and disbelief intensified after President Clinton gave a full endorsement of Barack Obama in an address that reminded us of the man who governed our nation for eight prosperous years.

"The world is more impressed when we lead by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

And what an example the nomination of Barack Obama is. And the world is watching.

We must win.

I could write a book about last night alone.

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The Democrats took the issue of national security and made it the centerpiece of our platform. The Stephen Spielberg documentary on our military narrated by Tom Hanks put the horrors of war in our faces while we were broken up by the courage of our extraordinary veterans. The brilliant Melissa Etheridge performed a most poignant version of "God Bless America."

The speeches, all of them, were on point. John Kerry waited four years to kick the smear merchants in their teeth. If you didn't see it, watch it here. Beau Biden's introductory tribute to his father Joe brought a flood of tears to already teary eyes.

And the tableau of Biden's beautiful family that gathered onstage after Barack Obama's surprise appearance projected a love and a beauty that would move even the most callous heart.

Best. Convention. Ever.

I can't quite wrap my mind around this moment.

But it's all so perfectly clear to my heart.

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Crossposted to Kennebec Journal

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Cowboy Governor

THE "KEYNOTE" speech you didn't see.

While the cynics passing themselves as journalists bantered on and on about how the Democrats weren't offering their viewers any "red meat" by attacking John McCain head on, Montana governor Brian Schweitzer was at the podium serving up big fat slices of prime rib.

His collar adorned with a bolero tie, his western accent exaggerated, he started slowly. But by the time he finished, my side was split by wild laughter, my voice grown hoarse from screaming "More of the same!" and I was thoroughly revitalized from the long yawn former Virginia governor Mark Warren delivered as the keynote.

So was the entire crowd.

This was theater at its best. Like being in a saloon and having some buzzed, swashbuckling rancher stand up and tell the folks why they couldn't, why they shouldn't vote for more of the same.

But more than that, Schweitzer spoke of working with his Republican lieutenant governor to enact middle-class tax cuts, grow a budget surplus, and create renewable energy sources unmatched by most states.

And George W. Bush's sidekick was spared no punch.

Take a look.



Crossposted to Kennebec Journal


The Ballot

EACH MORNING the delegations meet to discuss convention business. After this morning's meeting, we voted for the Nomination for President of the United States of America on the official ballot. The Maine ballot was two pages. Here's the first, which includes my vote for Barack Obama.

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History.

Crossposted to Kennebec Journal


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Unity

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THE NIGHT belonged to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In her much-anticipated headline speech, she did what she had to do, and did it well.

But because she has earned so much mistrust among so many people, within minutes, people in the auditorium and across the blogosphere were picking apart her words, suggesting that she didn't go far enough to repudiate her own statements during the campaign that Barack Obama isn't ready to be President. I disagree.

"Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our President."

I guess I'm not seeing how this isn't a strong enough statement that she believes Barack is ready to be President.

"The future of our nation and the health and safety of our children hangs in the balance if Barack isn't elected president."

If you were not convinced with her delivery, so be it. But the words she delivered were unequivocal.

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"No way. No how. No McCain."

I expect that to be used in an ad that appears during the Republican National Convention next week.

"With a platform like that, it makes sense that John McCain will appear with George Bush in the Twin Cities next week because these days, it's hard to tell them apart."

Roaring applause and raucous laughter.

The theater of it all was very good.

"Were you just in this for me?"

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She gave Michelle Obama her props, praised her speech the night before, and said she would be a great First Lady. First time I heard her even acknowledge Barack's remarkable, compassionate wife.

Hillary is meeting with her delegates at lunch today where she's expected to encourage them all to vote for Barack in the abbreviated roll call vote this afternoon.

I've now spoken with more than 100 Hillary delegates face-to-face. Three quarters of them are voting for Barack in the roll call. She's expected to release her delegates from the New York delegation.

John McCain's campaign chimed in with a silly press release that nitpicked what she didn't say instead of focusing on what she did say. Even with my mistrust of many things Clinton, I'm just not going to get all riled up by something that came out of the McCain campaign. The lying, deceptive, shady McCain campaign.

hillary2.jpg

The energy on the convention floor simply cannot be felt on television.

Despite my pre-convention anxiety, I'm beginning to believe there will be no shenanigans today.

We shall see.

This convention is changing me. It's no longer about my personal feelings for Hillary or the campaign she ran.

It's about winning.

We can't take any votes for granted. If her diehards are more likely to vote for Barack because his supporters stop openly trashing her, then Barack's supporters need to stop openly trashing her.

This election is too important. And I want to win.

If I can't say anything good about Hillary, then I'm not going to say anything at all.

She hit a homerun when she invoked the words of Harriet Tubman, the "Black Moses."

I even waved a big white Hillary sign on cue. And then those big unity placards with OBAMA emblazoned on some, HILLARY on others.

You could almost feel the unity in the place. Almost feel the sweet embrace of victory.

We need to win.

hillary3.jpg

Crossposted to Kennebec Journal

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Conventional Wisdom: Father's Day



THERE ARE TIMES when you just can't put your thoughts and feelings into words because you have been moved too far beyond them.

Last night was one of those times. Michelle Obama (re)introduced herself and her family to the American people in a presentation that made me weep.

Dressed in a stunning green dress, she radiated warmth and poise and grace as she paid tribute to her late father, her own motherhood, and told the nation her husband would renew America's promise and restore her position in the world.

Ignore the cynics on the cable news shows passing themselves off as journalists. Michelle was received with wild enthusiasm. The atmosphere was otherworldly. People drank in her every word like ambrosia. By the time she finished, there was nary a dry eye in the house.

michellesigns.jpg

I miss my father. A Tuskegee Airman, a true patriot, as proud of his service to our nation as he was of his family, he passed away a year-and-a-half ago after a long battle with cancer. He always wanted me to get involved in law and politics. Told me that America would never fulfill its promise until the racial divide closed. Thought that when an African American finally ascended to the presidency, the wounds could really begin to heal. But he knew he'd never see it. Never thought his children would see it. Ironically, he passed away in the same month Barack Obama announced his candidacy.

Life had other plans for me. I was called to a different career. But my active support for the leader of a new generation and my entire campaign to get to Denver to nominate this historic candidate is my tribute to my father.

Just as Michelle's father was looking down on her beautiful family, including her brother who shares my name, her mother and daughters, I could feel Daddy's presence in the incredible energy inside the Pepsi Center.

He was also a lover of the Kennedy clan. So to see Ted Kennedy, my senator for the 16 years I lived in Boston, come out and give what will likely be his last Democratic National Convention address, broke the dam wide open. By the time Michelle spoke, I was the grand rapids.

I called my mother in Milwaukee. My father's rock for 61 years, she's still reeling from his absence. But she has relied on her strength and deep and abiding faith to keep on going. We shared a good cry. She never thought she'd get to see a moment like this either.

I still can't believe I'm here.

floor.jpg



Crossposted to Kennebec Journal

Monday, August 25, 2008

Conventional Wisdom: Denver Arrival

I ARRIVED safely. No small feat given the three-hour delay on my connecting fight in Chicago due to engine trouble on the Boeing 777.

Almost the entire plane was full of convention goers. All of us were frustrated. It was bad enough the flight into Chicago from Portland had to sit on the runway for 45 minutes while we waited for our gate to open up. When we finally touched down in Denver, I almost applauded. Remember when people did that?

I don't check luggage even if I take a two-week trip. I have no good luck with any of that. Coughing and fatigued, I reached the ground transportation depot. The Super Shuttle I boarded was almost full.

There was a Los Angeles reporter from CBS, a Washington, D.C. print reporter who confirmed the media would outnumber the 4,000 delegates by four to one, an aesthetician from New York who had been called to Denver at the last minute by an organic skin product company putting on the first wellness center at a political convention, a Denver local on his way home from California sports camps who would be headed right back out of the city the next day. He rented his home to Coors for $700 a day for the convention.

Nice work if you can get it.

There were a few other women who I didn't get to talk to but they seemed quite relieved a certain other women didn't get onto the shuttle. Apparently, she was denied access because of some discrepancy with her payment for the shuttle inside the terminal. I don't know the details, but as the shuttle bus pulled away, we heard this giant yelp.

We looked around and saw the woman running toward the shuttle. She was clearly beside herself. She beat on the windows of the bus pleading with the driver, who just happened to be training on his second day on the job, to not leave her behind. The CBS reporter encouraged the driver to pull away. After a brief heated exchange through his rolled-down window, he finally got moving, leaving the hysterical woman yelling in the middle of the street.

I saw her on the flight from Chicago. Everyone has a breaking point. And a three-hour, engine-trouble delay clearly broke her.

The sore throat that worsened beneath my Adam's apple after too many hours in a stuffy airplane almost broke me.

Denver is a beautiful clean city. I've been here three times before and even at night the crisp air scented with honeysuckle is a marvelous welcome. I was one of the last passengers to be dropped off downtown at the Hilton Garden Inn where the Maine and Kentucky delegations are housed.

Too late to get a cocktail, I had to settle for a mug of hot tea in the hotel room. Probably better for my cold anyway. The clock read 1:45 a.m. My body knew it was 3:45 a.m., almost time to get up back home and take care of morning farm chores. I was so exhausted I couldn't even sleep.

The sun is shining now. The sky-blue sky clear as a Maine lake. My roommate just arrived bearing codeine-laced cough syrup, Alka Seltzer Cold and Cough, and various other medicinal sundries. He too is suffering from a bad cold. I guess you could call our room the infirmary.

I gave him a Benadryl and within minutes, the deep loud snore he warned me about rises from his T-shirt covered face like prayer.

Later, we'll drag our drugged up selves to the official delegate welcome reception at the Convention Center before attending a Soulfare celebrating the success of the Civil Rights Movement at the Performing Arts Complex. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly will perform live.

If that can't fire me up, make me forget about my cold, and get me ready for the official beginning of convention activities Monday afternoon, nothing will.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

American Prayer

TODAY is music day, and I was prepared to share another jazz great when I came upon this beautiful, moving prayer by Dave Stewart.

As an Englishman, I'm not an expert in all the intricate details of American politics. But as an artist, I understand how rare it is to inspire a connection to a bigger idea or purpose. This video isn't so much an endorsement of Barack Obama as much as it is a celebration of all those who have picked up a sign, who have registered to vote and are working to make the world a better place. So as Senator Barack Obama ascends to the mountain top, let us not forget all of the others who for the past 40 years have sung anthems of change to make this moment possible.

Enjoy.



Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama-Biden 2008







LIKE OUR presidential nominee, I have to deliberate his choosing Senator Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. from Delaware before commenting at length on the choice.

For now, here are some more pictures of the next Vice President of the United States.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Conventional Wisdom


Gov. John Baldacci and yours truly

I'M GROWING STUPID with anticipation.

I leave for Denver Saturday evening and I can hardly stop shaking. You'd think I was about to perform naked in front of 10,000 people the way my body has tensed up.

I am about to attend my first Democratic National Convention where the first African-American will accept the nomination for president of the United States on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" address.

But the tightness in my back, my trembling hands and a string of sleepless nights tells me I'm a nervous wreck. And if my gut is right, I have every reason to be. I don't expect the nomination of Barack Obama on the convention floor to go smoothly. I don't expect the nomination of his vice presidential pick to go smoothly. I may have misjudged this -- but I do trust my gut. This time, I hope it's wrong.

On Thursday night, I went to the Blaine House where Gov. John Baldacci and the first lady hosted a reception for the Maine delegation to the convention. Around a table of delicious garlic, mustard and maple meatballs, tuna salad finger sandwiches, deviled eggs, fresh fruit, cookies and beverages, we asked our questions, stated our concerns and got great advice for how to navigate through the busiest days of our lives.

At least that's what they look like they're going to be.

I've never received invitations to so many receptions and caucuses and rallies and celebrations and parties. I've heard from African-American groups, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender groups, African-American Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender groups. One of the delegates advised us to print out the 31 pages of events, take a highlight pen and pore over all the activities on the way to Denver because once it all gets moving, we'll have no chance to decide what to do.

Sounds like an express train to history with no stops for four days.

I'm not terribly organized, despite being an office manager in a former life, but I intend to take her advice.

We also found out that the Hillary Clinton campaign has a number of "whips" who will advise the Clinton delegation after daily strategy meetings.

My stupefying anticipation grows.

What have I gotten myself into?

I'm an author, artist, cultural activist, blogger, poet, farmer and bed and breakfast host. I follow politics. I don't run for stuff.

But we're talking about history here. So I motivated myself to get over myself and take the opportunity to participate in this saga up close and personal. I came out of my political slumber, caucused in a snowstorm for Barack Obama and got elected as an Obama delegate to the state convention.

Even though few delegates in Maine knew who I was before the state convention began, I campaigned my heart out before my district voted, presenting performance art as political campaign -- and got really lucky.

So here I am.

Despite my anxiety, I intend to have a ball. I thrive in big crowds. I love meeting new people. Participating in the political process. And all the delegates who've done this before have told me I will have the time of my life. Without sleep.

I'm looking forward to it.

Crossposted to The Kennebec Journal

10 Years Ago Today...


Friends came...


...bearing gifts.


They gathered in our backyard to see us marry.


Before our altar...


...we exchanged vows.


Daddy sang "Ebb Tide," my favorite love song.


We joined our lights...


...and became one heart.


Everybody...


...cried.


Two families became one.


How sweet it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The View From Here


Hull's Cove, Bar Harbor, Dusk. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lightning Bolt



SAFE TO SAY Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter I've ever seen. He's certainly the fastest Olympian who's ever lived. I never thought I'd see the world record in the 200m broken. He ran that race like a man on a mission. That's what I like to see. No showboating before the finish line.

Michael Johnson never should've said Bolt couldn't break his record.

19.30 seconds into a headwind on the straightaway. And he was looking at the clock as he leaned across the finish line. He was determined to break the record.

He won by 5 body lengths.



It was an unbelievable race.

Michael Phelps stole the show in the first week. The second week belongs to Bolt. No man in history has ever set a world record in the 100m and 200m in the same event.

Bravo.



American Sweep



A FEW NIGHTS ago, American scored its first gold medal in track and field in the 400m hurdles. And right behind Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement (below, left) took the silver and Bershawn Johnson (below, right) took the bronze to give team USA it's first, and likely only, Olympic medal sweep in 2008.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The View From Here


Winter Cometh.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Williams Sisters Win Another Gold Medal in Doubles









WHAT would American tennis be without the sisters?

The World's Fastest Man



USAIN BOLT. The perfect name. New world record. 9.69 seconds. Unreal. Jamaica's first Olympic champion. But he needs to stop disrespecting the field by showboating before the finish line. My old track coach would bench us for the next three meets if we did anything so egregious. He will be one of the track greats if he doesn't get distracted by that gargantuan ego.

Phelps Wins 8th Gold, Breaks Spitz' Record



BEIJING (AP) — Michael Phelps won his record eighth gold medal Sunday at the Beijing Olympics as a member of the victorious U.S. 400-meter medley relay team, breaking a tie with Mark Spitz for most golds in a single games.

Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Phelps and Jason Lezak won in a world-record of 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds, lowering the old mark of 3:30.68 set four years ago in Athens.

The U.S. swept the men's relays in Beijing, with Phelps leading off in the 400 and 800 free relays. Lezak anchored the 400 free to a narrow victory over France to preserve Phelps' historic bid.

Australia took the silver in 3:30.04.

Japan earned the bronze in 3:31.18.



Friday, August 15, 2008

Phelps Photo Finish Ties Spitz' Record of 7 Golds



BEIJING (AP) - Michael Phelps swam into Olympic history with a magnificent finish Saturday, his arms soaring through the water one last time to get a hand on the wall and win his seventh gold medal of the Beijing Games.

Phelps beat Milorad Cavic of Serbia in the 100-meter butterfly by a hundredth of a second, setting an Olympic record in 50.58 seconds but snapping his streak of setting world records in each of his previous six gold-medal performances.

The 23-year-old American has now pulled even with the greatest of Olympic records, matching Mark Spitz's seven gold medals from the 1972 Munich Games.
Call this one the Great Haul of China - and it's not done yet.

Phelps will return on Sunday to swim in his final event of the Beijing Games, taking the butterfly leg of the 4x100 medley relay. The Americans will be heavily favored to give him his eighth gold, leaving Spitz behind.

The View From Here


Ferns.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

James Blake Upsets Roger Federer in Beijing



BEIJING (AP)— Roger Federer’s bid for his first Olympic singles medal ended Thursday night when he lost to American James Blake.

With the sort of lackluster performance once unthinkable for Federer, he was eliminated in the quarterfinals 6-4, 7-6 (2).

The upset was a stunner in that Blake had won only a single set in their previous eight matches. But the top-seeded Federer is battling a yearlong slump that has left him stalled at 12 major titles, two shy of Pete Sampras’ record.

His Wimbledon reign ended last month, and he came to Beijing knowing he would lose the No. 1 ranking after 4 1/2 years to Rafael Nadal next week.

Federer’s latest defeat means no rematch in Sunday’s final against Nadal, who won in epic fashion when they met for the Wimbledon title.

Federer had been seeking his first Olympic medal after losing in the singles semifinals in Sydney and in the second round in Athens. He was scheduled to play a quarterfinal doubles match later Thursday with Swiss partner Stanislas Wawrinka.

The upset was sweet for the No. 8-seeded Blake, a first-time Olympian at 28 and the lone U.S. male to survive the first round of singles.

Read the rest of the AP report...

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What a great result for Blake, who has struggled with confidence all year. What a time, what a place to get your first victory in umpteen tries over Federer.

2008 is looking very good for the accomplishments of Black men on the world stage. In tennis in particular, this is the third major event where a Black man has made the final four. France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils made the semifinals of the Australian Open and Roland Garros respectively, while Tsonga went one step further and made the finals where he fell to Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Monfils lost to Federer in Paris.

Go, James. One more victory will guarantee you an Olympic medal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The View From Here


Evening Stroll.

Greatest Olympian of All Time



BEIJING (AP) — Michael Phelps has become the winningest Olympic athlete ever, earning his fourth gold medal of the Beijing Games with a world record in the 200-meter butterfly. The American touched in 1 minute, 52.03 seconds, breaking his old mark of 1:52.09 set at last year's world championships in Australia.

It was Phelps' 10th career gold medal, breaking a tie with Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis and two others for most golds. He is 4-for-4 so far, setting world records in each of his events.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Those Fighting The War Against Barack

THOSE FIGHTING the war against Barack are making their voices louder, all at the same time.

Such a fever pitch.

Their intent is clear.

Barack must be stopped at all costs.

The confluence of recent events on the campaign trail is no coincidence. I don't need to cite any examples. If you're paying attention, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you aren't, then ignorance is bliss.

Those fighting the war against Barack are targeting delegates to the national convention and they're dog whistling to nutcases.

The next five months is going to be a turning point in American history.

That's where we are.

You can say I'm positing a "sky is falling" overreaction, but history provides plenty of evidence that the mood and atmosphere that exists right now is just the kind that precipitates stopping insurgent leaders from claiming power.

Doesn't matter the political system.

The tools of propaganda, at once blatant and insidious, work anywhere.

John McCain is the most dangerous presidential candidate I've witnessed in my lifetime.

Those fighting the war against Barack would make you think Barack deserves that description.

Those fighting the war against Barack are flat-out making stuff up in order to inflame folks.

You better believe this is the most important election in 100 years.

Pray for Barack and his family if you are inclined to do so.

Pray.

Cullen Jones Makes History, U.S. Wins 400 Free Relay



I MISSED this historic event last night, but when I read the article this morning, I immediately broke out into tears.

::

BEIJING - When Cullen Jones powered through the water Sunday night, chasing history, the charismatic kid who learned to swim in Newark could hear the roar from a half a world away. Amid the deafening cheers from the thousands squeezed into the National Aquatics Center, Jones felt the support from the scores of people that he touched along an incredible and unlikely path that began in inner city pools and led him here to the world's biggest stage. An ambassador for African-American swimmers, Jones wanted to shatter stereotypes one lap at a time, eager to spread his message that, yeah, black kids can swim, too.

He also wanted to help out a buddy on his own personal mission.

Jones accomplished both by helping the 4X100 freestyle relay team win the gold medal in a comeback for the ages. In a race soaked with drama and subplots, the Americans shattered the world record they had set just hours earlier in the prelims, blistering through the water in 3 minutes, 8.24 seconds.





Trailing after three legs, anchor Jason Lezak erased a huge gap to overtake and out-touch French world record holder Alain Bernard to set off a wild celebration. A few days after Bernard declared his team would "smash" the Americans in the finals, the U.S. team authored a stunning chapter in these Olympics.

"We beat a team in most people's mind was not beatable," said U.S. coach Eddie Reese. "It was amazing. (Lezak's leg) had to be the best ever and it was the best ever. That's the kind of anchor you dream of."

Jones became the second African-American swimmer to win a gold medal as the team kept Michael Phelps' quest for an unprecedented eight golds alive. But it was Lezak's fastest split in history at 46.06 seconds and mad dash in the final frenzied moments when he hunted down Bernard after being behind by more than eight-tenths of a second that had everyone buzzing.

Read the rest...