January 24, 2013
By CONNIE CASS
That’s how it goes with kids. You hardly notice how fast they’re growing up, then suddenly big sis is nearly as tall as Mom and the little one is a tween, gently sassing Dad.
On the inaugural platform again four years later, a more mature Malia Obama, 14, and Sasha, 11, smiled, sometimes giggled, and chatted with their cousin Avery Robinson as they awaited their father’s arrival. Sasha bounced on her feet a bit as if chilly; later at the parade she danced in her seat to the beat of passing drummers. Malia, rivaling her mother’s 5 feet 11 inches, looked poised in calf-high black boots. Like any girls their age, they whipped out their smartphones in the reviewing stand to take photos.
Both daughters appeared relaxed and oblivious to their global TV audience, unaffected by their rare status, unfazed by the fuss over their father.
Meanwhile, fashion-watchers were tweeting about the girls’ coats in vibrant shades of purple. For the record: Malia wore a J. Crew ensemble, Sasha’s was Kate Spade, and first lady Michelle Obama was in a Thom Browne coat with a navy print like a man’s silk tie.
Such attention to the Obamas’ clothes, their Hawaiian vacations, their hair — Michelle lit up Twitter last week by adding bangs — will continue as they charge into a time of turbulence for so many American families: the teen years.
In the second term Sasha, who arrived in the White House as a second-grader, moves on to high school. She expressed her pre-teen spirit Sunday, when Barack Obama took his official, nonpublic oath of office. After giving Dad a “Good job!” she added a reminder of his flubbed words four years ago. “You didn’t mess up,” Sasha teased the commander in chief.
For Malia, the milestones to come are many — she’ll be hitting the years when typical teens start driving, dating and applying to colleges. How normally can any of this go at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
Life in the White House is bound to feel different to a teen than it does to a second-grader.
Seven-year-old Emanuel Coleman’s grandmother positioned him on the steps of the National Gallery of Art to watch the swearing-in on a giant outdoor screen Monday. The Durham, N.C., boy thought life for a White House kid must be cool, because the president has “his own private limo, helicopter and lives in a really big house.”
“It would be fun to fly in the presidential helicopter,” Emanuel enthused.
Sixteen-year-old Colleen Casey isn’t so sure.
“They have to live their life in their dad's shadow,” said Casey, part of a group of Girl Scout volunteers who came to the inaugural from nearby Woodbridge, Va. “You can’t be your own person.”
That’s the struggle for White House youngsters, said author Doug Wead, who has interviewed 19 sons and daughters of former presidents and wrote about them in “All the Presidents’ Children.”
“When your mom’s the first lady, and all your classmates are oohing and ahhing over her, it’s hard to compete with that,” Wead said. “At any given time, half the country hates your father and half the country loves him. It’s hard to establish a separate identity.”
Just last week, the National Rifle Association referred to the Obama daughters in an ad berating their father for opposing a proposal to put armed guards in all schools, while his children get Secret Service protection. And the president’s been criticized for sending Sasha and Malia to the private Sidwell Friends School.
Even the great stuff — traveling the globe, meeting rock stars, mingling with world leaders — can go to a girl’s head.
Mrs. Obama says she strives to give the girls a normal life — homecoming dances, playing basketball, trick-or-treating, slumber parties — and also to keep them respectful, responsible and down-to-earth.
There’s been lots of speculation that Mrs. Obama, who turns 50 next year, may design her own transformation in the second term, when she’ll be freed from worries about her husband’s re-election. Will the first lady who dubbed herself “mom-in-chief” add to her portfolio of family-centered causes? The White House isn’t yet saying.
Some feminists want to see the Harvard Law School grad take on a more forceful public role. Not all her fans are so sure.
“I like the roles she’s taken on with troops, with health, with children,” said W. Faye Butts, 68, an enthusiastic Obama supporter who traveled from Macon, Ga., for the inaugural. No need to try to do more: “She has a family to raise, that’s her first priority.”
January 24, 2013
By Thandisizwe Chimurenga
LAWT Contributing Writer
During the bleakest moment since the Great Depression, Barack H. Obama took his oath by placing his left on the Lincoln Bible, but this week when the first African American president of the United States took the oath for his second term in office he did so on the national holiday for the renowned civil rights ambassador Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As resolute this week as he was four years ago, President Obama began his historical second term amid a rebounding economy with his attention firmly focused on the issues of gun control, climate change, the economy, immigration reform, gay rights and foreign policy.
The President took the official oath of office for his second term as established by the U.S. constitution the on Sunday, Jan. 20, in a private ceremony at the White House with his wife and daughters standing by his side.
The public ceremony, complete with a parade and presidential motorcade, took place on the federally recognized holiday of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth, Monday, Jan. 21.
The crowd in attendance, estimated to be around 700,000, was still sizeable for a blistery cold winter District of Columbia day, but did not reach the heights of the monumental 2 million people who attended the President’s first swearing-in ceremony four years ago.
While the euphoria of that first ceremony seems to have subsided there were still millions of supporters who watched the festivities at home or in public groupings.
One of the Presidents staunch supporters Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA 37), noted the historic significance of the inauguration of the first African American president being sworn in on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
“As I look on today and watch President Obama take his oath of office, I’ll be thinking of how we can all work together to further the vision Dr. King gave his life for,” she stated. “Dr. King and many foot soldiers like him made it possible for an African American to hold the highest office in our nation. Regardless of your political affiliations – I think we can all agree that today marks a moment where it’s clear America has moved mightily toward the promised land Dr. King preached so eloquently about.”
The congresswoman continued, “In this spirit, we must renew ourselves to work each and every day to fulfill that vision. It begins by making a commitment to remedy many of the social ills that continue to lock far too many Americans out of the American Dream.”
The Los Angeles Urban League released a statement indicating the organization joins with the rest of the nation in collectively celebrating the future course that has been set. “[President Obama] cannot do it alone. We will lift him up and work together to make America what we want it to be, what it can be and what it will secure for the benefit of generations to come.”
Representative Marcia L. Fudge, (D-OH 11), the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) echoed the words of Congresswoman Bass and LAUL adding that both she “…and Members of the CBC also look forward to working with the President and our colleagues in Congress on ways to strengthen the foundation laid by Dr. King and on ensuring his dream remains a source of inspiration and guidance for everyone’s reality.”
Locally, Isidra Person Lynn, a communications and technology consultant, viewed the day’s happenings at Derrick’s Jamaican Cuisine in Ladera Heights where she says she and about 50 others were “riveted” to President Obama's dynamic speech. “I enjoyed seeing the diverse America I live in on display so we can truly see ourselves as we are. If only for one day, it all blended together so well, she said.
Political commentator Jasmyne Cannick was one of several people who viewed the inauguration via large screen television at Buffalo Wild Wings. The mood at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza-area eatery appeared to be one of contentment, satisfaction and hope that issues not addressed in President Obama’s first term would now receive his full and undivided attention.
“My expectations are that he address the issue of reparations for African Americans and the issue of the poor, because this administration like previous ones seems so concerned about Middle America, but never seems to talk about the people outside of that, said Cannick.
“I also hope that we will have an intelligent dialogue in the African American community about Gay Marriage,” Cannick continued. “More proactive than reactive. I believe that the president can be the catalyst to start that type of conversation.”
Immigrant Rights advocates also gathered in the Pico-Union district to view the inauguration At the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights’ (CHIRLA) office Isabel Medina, an undocumented immigrant, said she was hopeful that Pres. Obama would honor his pledge to take positive action on the issue of immigration reform. Medina, the mother of three, has been in the U.S. for more than 15 years. Her two youngest children were born here however her oldest child is also un-documented. As part of the Deferred Action program that Pres. Obama approved last year, Medina’s oldest child will be able to attend college and not have to worry about deportation. “That’s only for two years,” Medina told television station KCAL-9. “What’s going to happen after those two years?”
In Gardena, Black and Latino activists also watched the inauguration at the offices of Good JobsLA, nonprofit organization that works to “hold wealthy corporations accountable to pay their fair share, create good jobs, and invest in the future of our communities,” according to the group’s website. An essay by Steve Askin, Research Director of the organization, posted to the website after the President’s inaugural address, listed suggestions for the President to “redirect the U.S. economy toward justice,” such as increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour; restore full employment with a massive public investment program; reduce the non-war military budget to the Bush-era level; investing in high-quality, universal early childhood education; and adopting what it called “the common sense tax proposals in Vermont Senator Bernie Sander’s deficit reduction plan.” Those proposals call for ending all tax breaks for oil, gas and coal companies, and those companies that move jobs overseas, imposing an emergency surtax on millionaires, and making Wall Street pay an extra tax on the swaps, derivatives and other speculative investments that crashed our economy, amongst other things.
The president will now turn his attention to the issues of gun control, climate change, the economy, immigration reform, gay rights and foreign policy.
Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, president of the South L.A. Power Coalition which provides training and political education for South Los Angeles residents to increase their civic engagement outcomes, was also interested in the issues that the president would tackle now that the festivities of the inauguration have worn off. While acknowledging that gay and lesbian, immigration and environmental constituents rightfully pressed for their issues to be heard, he expressed his concern about the Black community’s mandate for President Obama’s final term in office. “President Obama has about 1 year to effectively move anything before he becomes a lame duck … We have given the president a pass as it relates to our specific needs because so many of us are extremely sensitive to what we perceive as racist obstructionist tactics employed by Republicans,” said Kwa Jitahadi. “This time around, we have to pressure [Pres. Obama] around our demands.”
Kenneth Miller contributed to this story.
January 17, 2013
By Eric Lee
LAWT Contributing Writer
On Wednesday President Barack Obama took to the podium in Washington to propose legislative actions that will take a comprehensive approach to tackling gun violence in the United States, including universal background checks, an assaults rifles ban, strengthening punishments on gun trafficking, and a ten round limit on magazine clips.
Though these measures are still to be discussed and debated on the congressional floor, the president implemented 23 executive orders that surpass the need for congress approval, taking place immediately. These orders include ending a ban on gun violence research by federal agencies, reinforcement of the existing background check system, putting more counselors in school, and increasing access to mental health programs.
With the most controversy surrounding gun control law in years, the president’s address was met with mixed reactions. The National Rifle Association (NRA) actually released an advertisement prior to the speech, depicting the executive as a hypocrite for allowing his children to be protected by government agencies while the children of civilians are not. The lobbyist group received immediate backlash from both sides of the political pond, but has yet to retract statements. Other organizations, such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, praised Obama for his efforts to distain violence in America.
As for now, the majority of American people seem to align with the president on gun control. CNN, Time, and ORC released a combined poll claiming that the American populous stands 80/20, 70/30, and 60/40, on matters of universal background checks, magazine clip round limits, and an assault rifle ban respectively. In fact, the poll showed 55% of Americans to be in favor of new gun laws, while 44 percent are not. Ironically as the government is receiving praise for the valid attempts to hinder the impact of weapons in our nation, the poll shows many Americans to be skeptical of the new law’s productivity. The poll shows that 61 percent of Americans do not believe gun reform will deter violence, while 39 percent believe it will.
After the most recent of events, rather aligning with forces in support or against weapons, all sides agree that something needs to be done to make our country safer. It seems as if the issue of gun control will be a major factor in the president’s second term, with the possibility to make or break Obama’s image in the history books decades from now.
January 17, 2013
LAWT Contributing Writer
The inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama for his second term in office will be held in Washington, DC, on Monday, January 21. The date also marks the federally recognized holiday of the birth of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The significance of these two events has been widely noted. Many comparisons have been made with Dr. King throughout Obama’s first term, and countless memorabilia items have been created that cement the comparison.
Some of what Obama shares with Dr. King are his charisma and handsomeness, a beautiful and intelligent wife who can hold her own and beautiful children.
Both men come from strong culturally-intact backgrounds – Dr. King was raised in the loving bosom of an African American and Baptist family and community during the era of segregation; President Obama’s upbringing was multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and international in scope.
Both men were intellectuals, with Dr. King receiving the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Boston University in Massachusetts, while President Obama taught Constitutional Law after receiving his law degree from Harvard University.
Both men have written books and were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. And both men have been staunch supporters of the state of Israel.
Various memorabilia that cement the comparisons of the two men also imply that the Obama Presidency is a fulfillment of Dr. King’s legacy. But is it?
“It is absolutely,” said Dr. David Horne, professor of Pan African Studies and Public Policy at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). “Part of what Dr. King hoped for was an America that could judge its worthwhile citizens by the ‘content of their character, more than the color of their skin.’ President Obama is a living testament to that,” said Horne.
“Dr. King also said we have to struggle for more than a seat at the table, or a place in the dining hall,” Horne continued. “We had to struggle to achieve real political influence and leverage within the American system and the ability to help shape the world towards a better place. We had to be the bearers of political morality and integrity, and we should strive for leadership in that regard. Again, President Obama is all that. This is not to say that were he alive, Dr. King would have agreed with every decision President Obama has made – the issue of Libya and drones both come to mind quickly – but, understanding the meticulousness with which he makes tough decisions, the manner in which he has conducted himself as husband, father and as president of the United States, and the very character of the man as president, Dr. King would have been a relentless ally and an indefatigable defender and supporter of this president. Is President Obama, a Black man who is president, within the legacy left by Dr. King? Without any doubt.”
Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, thinks differently. “I do take issue with people thinking that solely through his election, Barack Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. Kings dream,” said Goodmon. As the recipient of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference –Los Angeles’s 2013 Drum Major for Justice Award, Goodmon stated, “As a Black man sits in the White House, Black inequality on several levels – income, mass incarceration, health – remains, and I don’t think the cause of Dr. King was solely to get Black faces in high places, but to improve the conditions of all people, prominently Black people.”
It is hard to deny the symbolism of Obama in relation to Dr. King’s Legacy, specifically his “dream” as shared on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in August, 1963. According to Dr. Karin L. Stanford, political scientist and chair of CSUN’s Pan Afrikan Studies Department, “Symbolism is always important for role modeling, mentoring and demonstrating the possibilities of what one can accomplish, especially for Black children if they live in impoverished neighborhoods, and for adults when you consider the assaults on Black personhood that we see constantly in the mass media.”
“Based on that,” said Dr. Stanford, “the symbolism of a Black person who has the standing of a president is extremely important.”
Very few have downplayed the importance of the symbolism of Obama’s first term but many have been critical of how that first term has impacted African Americans.
In other words, where is the substance to go with the symbolism?
“The president’s educational policies have been very progressive – more funding for Pell grants, student loans, and he has provided a lot of support for community colleges which is a first-stop for many, many students of color before they enroll in four-year educational institutions, said Prof. Stanford, adding that, “He has also provided relief to the unemployed by extending the limits of the federal unemployment insurance program.”
Stanford believes that at least some of the blame for a lack of substance can be found outside of the White House.
“President Obama is part of a political system; the president has limited power,” said Stanford. “And part of our problem is that many Black organizations took the position, argued that we should not criticize him publicly, so we have been silent. It is the job of Black organizations to advocate for what we want as a body of Black people. Now that he has been re-elected, we must advocate for our policies aggressively.”
“The role of a president and the role of a person who pushes a president are different, and we should have different expectations for them both,” said Goodmon. “President Barack Obama will never be Dr. Martin Luther King, and there will probably never be another leader as great as Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Although there should be differing expectations, one cannot help but notice the similarities.
Just as glaring however, are the differences.
First and foremost, Dr. King maintained an inner circle of men who looked like him and shared many of his same experiences: Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, James Orange, Bayard Rustin, Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael) and others.
Relying on these men (and some women like Ella Jo Baker) and others he met while engaged in the struggle for Black civil rights helped to move Dr. King to a position where he began to criticize both the economic and foreign policies of the United States. As president of the U.S., Barack Obama has sworn to uphold those policies.
Dr. King told us that we must begin to examine “an edifice that produces beggars” and that it “must be restructured.” Thus far, President Obama’s policies have given succor to banks and other Wall Street corporations, and the “Grand Bargain” he is attempting to reach with the Republican Party threatens to gut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare which, according to the online newsite Black Agenda Report dot com, “80 percent of Americans, and virtually the totality of the Black American polity, reject.”
While Dr. King told us that militarism was an evil that must be looked at for what it is, President Obama has permanently placed American military troops – approximately 3000 so far – on the continent of Africa through AFRICOM (Africa Command); conducted a ground/air war in Libya which led to the murder of that country’s leader; and continues to maim and murder children, women and men in Pakistan and Yemen through the use of Predator Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles).
“Obama’s Presidency raises a lot of contradictions for us,” says Kwazi Nkrumah, coordinator for the Martin Luther King Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Peace, founded in Los Angeles in 2009.
“On the one hand, there’re Black folks being included in the system and making progress through inclusion. In one sense, that’s what the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s work was raising. What Obama’s presidency has raised, in a very practical way, is that our inclusion in the system, as it is, does not necessarily represent progress for us. But in Dr. King’s last years, he was clearly questioning the system itself; what he was raising is that this system, as it is, is not ultimately where we want to go, as Black people, other people of color, poor whites.”
As we approach the inauguration of President Obama’s final term in office, it seems almost fitting, then, that we ask the question that Dr. King asked in the title of one of his books: where do we go from here?
“He didn’t really feel that this system was the end-all-be-all of our freedom,” remarks Nkrumah of Dr. King. “This economic system, the international relations that grow from it, and the politics based on it, have to be restructured,” Nkrumah said.
January 17, 2013
By Lee-Anne Goodman Associated Press
The United States has long been a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists, spurred by an often-violent history riddled, in particular, with shadowy political assassinations.
But the latest conspiracy movement seems custom-made to underscore the need for a national debate on mental illness. Some of the Sandy Hook Truthers, as they’ve been dubbed, believe last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.
The Obama administration perpetrated the hoax, the conspiracy theorists claim, in order to ratchet up support for tougher gun control measures.
They call themselves Operation Terror, and many of the movement's adherents appear to have ties to the so-called 9-11 truthers who have long held that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job by the George W. Bush administration.
Their theories on the Dec. 14 shooting in Sandy Hook appear to lack any basis in fact, reality or common sense. But Google Trends suggests the movement is gaining momentum with both a Florida college professor and a libertarian Fox News anchor in Cincinnati questioning the official narrative on the events.
On various websites and blogs, some Sandy Hook truthers crow about the “smoking gun” they say proves the shooting was a hoax — a photo of President Barack Obama, backstage at a Newtown vigil two days after the shooting, a young blonde girl sitting on his lap.
They insist the girl is six-year-old Emilie Parker, one of the 20 child victims of the shooting. The Sandy Hook truthers claim her parents slipped up in their participation in the hoax, and allowed their eldest daughter to cuddle up to Obama.
“The story that she was killed at Sandy Hook is not possible, because here she is sitting on the president’s lap after the shooting,” intones the narrator of a YouTube video, one of dozens of its kind, this one the recipient of more than 260,000 web hits.
In fact, it’s the dead girl’s little sister.
The child’s father, Robbie Parker, was also faking his profound despair when he tearfully addressed the media shortly after his daughter's murder, the believers claim, and was reading from cue cards.
The family members of the massacre’s tiniest victims aren’t the only ones being accused of such unthinkable fraud as they continue to grieve.
A town resident who sheltered six youngsters after they fled Sandy Hook Elementary School in terror is even facing harassment from some of the conspiracy theorists.
Gene Rosen, a 69-year-old pet-sitter, told Salon.com this week that he’s getting phone calls and emails accusing him of fabricating his story.
One email read: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting.’ What is the going rate for getting involved in a government-sponsored hoax anyway?”
Police are investigating the harassment. Rosen, who also comforted a frantic mother who came to his door looking for her deceased child, told Salon he’s furious at anyone who believes in such an outrageous conspiracy theory.
“There must be some way to morally shame these people, because there were 20 dead children lying an eighth of a mile from my window all night long,” he said.
“I am rageful about it, both for the children and for the mother of the child who came to my house looking for her son.”
Other Newtown conspiracy theorists allege there were four perpetrators from Israeli special forces, and that it wasn’t children who died, but a secret United Nations delegation.
Fox News’s Ben Swann is among those doubting Adam Lanza was the only shooter.
A Florida college professor also suggested on his personal blog that the Sandy Hook shooting may not have played out the way many believe it did — if it happened at all.
“I said that there may very well be elements of that event that are synthetic to some degree, that are somewhat contrived,” James Tracy, of Florida Atlantic University, recently told a local TV station in Boca Raton.
“I think that, overall, the media really did drop the ball. I don’t think that the media have gotten to the bottom of some of the things that may have taken place there.”
Conspiracy theories, indeed, are part of the national fabric of the United States.
A veritable cottage industry still surrounds the assassination of John F. Kennedy almost 50 years ago, with alleged culprits ranging from the CIA to the mob, Fidel Castro and Lyndon Johnson, or a combination of them all. One book even alleged a UFO connection.
During the Cold War, some believed Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Communist plant.
The 9-11 truthers assert that the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan were brought down by timed explosions by those working for the Bush administration. And it was a guided missile that hit the Pentagon, not a jetliner, they allege.
More recently, the so-called birther movement advanced the theory that Obama was born in Kenya, not in Hawaii, and is therefore an illegitimate president.
One expert on the American conspiracy theory phenomenon points out, however, that throughout the course of U.S. history, there have been no shortage of massive government cover ups — and they’ve only served to encourage skeptics.
“There have been so many well-documented conspiracies in American history,” James Broderick, a professor at New Jersey City University, said in an interview.
Broderick points to everything from weapons of mass destruction to Lance Armstrong’s admission of longtime drug use after years of denials and Robert F. Kennedy’s recent acknowledgement that his family has long believed the official government report on JFK’s assassination was a whitewash.
“It does seem appalling the way conspiracy theorists, and many people in general, try to exploit for their own petty political purposes a national tragedy — it's sickening and disgraceful,” said Broderick, the co-author of the 2008 book “Web of Conspiracy.”
“But what the 9-11 truthers told me is what’s truly sickening and disgraceful is to not look deeper, to just accept pat answers without asking questions.”
Some of the people advancing theories of more than one shooter in Newtown might have their hearts in the right place, Broderick said.
“But of course there’s also a segment who are just angry at the government and at Obama all the time — the people who believe he’s a Muslim and a fascist and everything else — and they have jumped on the bandwagon, posted terrible things on the web and tried to fuel the fires in the most shameful ways.”