Betcha he couldn’t do it again…

Well, maybe he could. But not easily!

Have a bit of a break from all the thinking and allow your jaw to drop!

Found it on Digg, if you like to Digg up this kind of thing! 

What Obama said about race relations

In an earlier post, I indicated that I had mixed feelings about Barack Obama’s speech on race relations. Specifically, I said it wasn’t clear to me what the core message of the speech was.

At that point, I had only heard various excerpts which had been played on cable TV. Now I’ve had a chance to listen to the speech in its entirety.

The core passage was not where Obama explained his relationship with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Still less the passing reference Obama made to his white grandmother — although that reference received more airtime than anything else in the speech.

I must also say, by way of dissent with this comment, that Obama did not set out to make race an issue in the election campaign. Nor to depict African Americans as victims. On the contrary:  if Obama is pigeon-holed as “the black candidate”, his electoral prospects are zero. For precisely that reason, other people are making race the issue — not Obama.

Here is a key passage:

I have asserted a firm conviction:  a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people. That working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds and that, in fact, we have no choice. We have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better healthcare, and better schools, and better jobs — to the larger aspirations of all Americans. The white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who’s been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. (emphasis added)

The text in bold font captures Obama’s core message. Instead of being divided by their problems, black and white Americans (and Latinos and Asians and native Americans) need to draw on those grievances to bind their respective communities together, as against a common enemy.

Now that’s a provocative, fresh idea!

Backing up —

Near the beginning of the speech, Obama says Americans “cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together.” He says that Rev. Wright’s remarks were not only wrong but divisive, at a time when America needs unity. America is facing monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change — problems that are neither black nor white nor Latino nor Asian.

Again, a little later:  “If we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.” (btw, that was the first line to draw applause — fifteen minutes after Obama had begun to speak.)

Obama worries that whites have come to see “opportunity as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.” Several minutes later, he reaches out to them:  “Investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.”

Obama wants Americans to talk about “the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.” Again:  “how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.”

Now you can see why Obama’s theme was, perfecting the American union. It’s the core idea that ties the several parts of the speech together.

Unfortunately, the media didn’t grasp Obama’s core message. And neither did the blogosphere, to judge by the many blogs I have read on the speech.

Modern Westerners aren’t used to 35-minute long speeches. We aren’t used to discourse; we’re used to soundbites.

Obama took an enormous risk, offering us more than soundbites. I’m sure history will discern the core message of the speech. But in the short term, I think it sailed right over people’s heads.


Just a minute, Jonathan Roy

A new feature in which Stephen gets a few things off his chest!

nebcanuck on Chris Pronger (with video).
nebcanuck on Jonathan Roy (with video).

The fairy tale candidacy 4

I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia. … There was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn’t go, so send the First Lady.

Of all the laughable claims Hillary Clinton has made during the Democratic nomination process, that one may be the laughable-est.

Here’s a nice summary of a story that’s been widely reported now.

In a sense, it’s a big so-what — Clinton’s memory of a 1996 event is faulty. To err is human.

But then again, it is a big deal because this is one of Clinton’s core arguments against the Obama candidacy.

Sure, Obama is more inspiring than Clinton is. Sure, he opposed the Iraq war and she voted to authorize it. Sure, he has greater appeal among independent voters and crossover Republicans. But what really counts is, Clinton has more foreign policy experience than Obama.

Wait — we have alternative footage, via Andrew Sullivan.

You’re Not Alone… seriously!

Ever seen that bus ad that reads something like “Pregnant? Afraid? You’re not alone!” I think it’s a birthright helpline ad or something like that. But its message has taken on a whole new meaning in this day and age.

An article on recently pointed out that our perception of single mothers is more than a little bit off-base. That those who are a bit older and pregnant unexpectedly really are not alone!

We still think of the archetypal unwed mother as a Jamie Lynn Spears—a dopey teenager who dropped her panties and got in over her head. A generation and more ago, that’s who most unwed mothers were. But according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, teenagers account for only 23 percent of current out-of-wedlock births. That means the vast majority of unwed mothers are old enough to know what they’re doing: Unwed births are surging among women ages 25 to 29.

In the last 50 years, there has been an extraordinary decoupling of marriage and procreation. In 1960 about 5 percent of births were to unwed mothers; that figure is now a record high of nearly 40 percent. Out-of-wedlock births used to be such a source of shame that families tried to hide them: Singer Bobby Darin was born to a teen mother and raised to believe she was his sister. But now out-of-wedlock births are greeted with a shrug. Some say they’re an understandable response to economic realities. Others say they’re a liberating change from the shotgun-wedding ethic that shackled two unsuitable people together for life.

I was pretty astounded to hear some of those later statistics. I don’t know what countries/regions are figured into those numbers, so I can’t say for certain that they reflect the nature of Canadian or American society. In fact, since I believe Slate is based in England, it’s probably not linking to our cultures directly. However, that effect is undoubtedly still present in the world more immediately around us. So they’re worth noting.

The article is worth a read, since it goes on to defend that marriage is still the optimum choice for children:

Readers also like to rebuke me for my preference that two decent people who are committed to each other and find themselves procreating without intending to should provide the stability of marriage for their child. “Having a child will be stressful and life altering enough. Parents need to work on their relationship on their time schedule.” “I feel that a baby is its own blessing. Have that blessing before you get married.” “How dare you imply that an unexpected pregnancy should lead to marriage? You are simply out of touch with modern culture.”

That may be. But it also means that modern culture is out of touch with the needs of children. Some researchers identify out-of-wedlock births as the chief cause for the increasing stratification and inequality of American life, the first step that casts children into an ever more rigid caste system. Studies have found that children born to single mothers are vastly more likely to be poor, have behavioral and psychological problems, drop out of high school, and themselves go on to have out-of-wedlock children.

Single mothers are a major issue in our politics classes. Not only do they have the time crises associated with raising kids and earning a salary alone, but generally speaking they end up with low-end jobs compared to men or childless women, who can take more time to focus on their linear career. And yet, they’re a growing portion of society, and can’t be ignored. What needs to be done?

Well, I think the author is onto something when she focuses on the response of the readers. There’s this sense that the most important factor is what the couple wants to do — which is almost never the case! Yes, it’s understandable that you don’t want to subject yourself to years’ worth of torture with a partner you don’t appreciate. But the kids aren’t going to benefit from a decision based purely on what is “ideal” for the emotions of the couple. And do the couples move on to find a more emotionally satisfying relationship that they’re willing to commit to? Sometimes, I’m sure. But I’m skeptical that it’s a majority that succeed.

I can’t speak as much for women. But I do believe that a good portion of the issue here is the perception men have of a relationship. I don’t think that men are brought up thinking that the point of dating someone is to look towards marriage, anymore. Rather, they see it as something parallelling their relationship to their friends, their dog, and their Xbox: a relationship is something to benefit/entertain me!

Somehow, I don’t think women see it quite the same way. I think that most women know that if the relationship ends, they’re the ones who have to make the choice about the baby, and, should they choose to keep it, they’re the ones who will have to provide for it. As I am not a woman, I can’t say that with 100% certainty. But I know if I were in a position to have a baby, I would appreciate it if I could find a man who sees me as more than a joyride. Speaking to my female friends, I hear an overwhelming chorus of voices that say “I just can’t seem to find a really good man!”

So, though it would not solve everything, I wonder if all of the factors mentioned in the article — political pressure, economic pressure, media pressure, etc. — should be twisting the arms of the young men to get married, more than the young women. And more than just get married, but get their butts in gear and view the world as a bit more than just having one party after another.

And of course, there’s another pressure which I myself consider pivotal, even if it’s not as much so to a good portion of the population: The Church. Too much of the Church has abandoned young men, figuring that their obsession with video games and the likes is impossible to overcome. It’s not. Most of the people I know who are feeding off of video games are suffering within, wanting something a lot more substantial to do with their lives. Biblically, that should involve getting married and raising kids. Seemingly that would be good for society, too, if one follows the arguments on Slate!

How do you get the men to respond? There’s no perfect answer for every one, of course. But mentorship and living a positive lifestyle are part of the answer, to be sure. Those men who know what it’s like to be in a positive, committed relationship should share that knowledge with the next generation of men. And women, of course, can encourage those youthful women they come in contact with to be serious when dating, and not allow their guys to treat them like a video game! When you begin the cycle at 13, it can be aweful hard to break out of at age 25!

Disproportionate response

Q. How many people died in the 9/11 attacks?
A. 2,974.

Q. How many American military personnel have died in the war on Iraq?
A. 4,000 — a milestone reached on Sunday.

Q. How many Iraqis have died as a result of the war?
A. That’s a hotly-contested statistic. But here’s one answer:

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.

That was the calculation as of October 2006 — seventeen months ago.

9/11 was used as a pretext for the war on Iraq. Can you say “disproportionate response“, children?

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