Past, Present, Future

Today we took a very long walk, going all the way to the lake front and then down much of the Midway. The Museum of Science and Industry was one of the buildings of the Columbian Exposition of 1893; the Midway and Jackson Park were where exhibits, the Ferris wheel, and other attraction were. It felt like we had been to the Exposition as we walked along that route.

We stared from Valois, which is supposedly President Obama’s favorite restaurant. It is a cafeteria and it had a sign about President Obama’s favorite breakfasts. There were two: steak and eggs, hash browns and toast and the other: egg whites, bacon or sausage, hash browns and toast. I am guessing the steak is really his favorite and the egg whites are his healthy choice.

Along the midway, we also passed the Law School. When I think about Obama being president, it fills me with a certain delight because he will be a historical figure. Just as I visited Rutherford B. Hayes’ home last week, future generations will visit sites associated with Obama. That’s cool.

We tried to get as close as we could to his house but the security is intense. The guard said it was against the rules even to tell me which house was his. Since you can find out the address on the Internet, I don’t get that restriction.

Of course, I support keeping the President safe and understand why they do not want to let people get close. There is a synagogue right next to his house. It must be quite a hassle to attend services. Never mind being one of the neighbors.

We had a lovely day exploring both the past of Chicago and the present and future of our country.

Chicago via Indiana

We have arrived in Chicago. We are staying in a one-bedroom apartment near the University of Chicago. The neighborhood seems vey rice with shops and restaurants. We are very tired from three days of driving, so we made dinner and are watching the Yankees- Red Sox game.

Most of the drive today was in Indiana. It was very rainy and the temperature dropped by thirty degrees. Indiana seems flat, certainly flatter than Western Massachusetts. We drove past Elkhart, which is the city that President Obama talks about in a public service announcement. As we were driving, I remembered that Indiana was the center of Klu Klux Klan activity in the 1920’s.

There were several signs for casinos. One appeared to be for a resort, similar to Foxwoods. The gaming center in Batavia left a lot to be desired. It reminded me of a video game arcade in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. The place in Batavia did not have any gaming tables, just rows and rows of video slots, poker, and other games. Monday was senior day; it was definitely an older, retired crowd. I do not see how something like that does anything to increase tourism or help the economy of the town.

This is What Change Looks Like

House passes health care
House passes health care

About a half hour ago, I took part in an Organizing for America conference call. It was for people who had worked to get the health care bill passed.  I am very proud that I played a small part in reforming the health care system. I am also thrilled that I was on a phone call with President Obama.

President Obama said that he “hoped everyone on the phone is savoring this and that this is your victory. You did this despite being counted out time and time again. You were steadfast. You bucked up some weak knees. You made a difference. Stand strong. Enjoy the victory but our work is not done.”

He was asked what we have learned from this process. He replied, “We learned that the legislative process is painfully long and confusing. I wish I could change it – nothing is going to be as complicated as health care – went on forever. Because of filibuster, anything we do is going to go through some contortions. Important to remember this and be patient and don’t get discouraged.

If we just have persistence and don’t lose sight of ultimate goal, the daily twists and turns are not as important. It requires some fortitude.

He also said, “I learned that it is important to boil down message to two or three talking points.  I learned change is possible – if something is not exactly perfect, important to stay focused. In the big picture history of social change – if you get a basic framework then refinement will happen to move in the direction of progress.”

“Stay hopeful, positive, focused on big picture, stay with it, and be dogged. The reason I don’t quit is because you don’t quit. I draw inspiration from you.”

Federal Beer Tax Decrease Unlikely

Every day I get Google alerts about the brewing industry. Today I got one that linked to a Northern Michigan TV news story about a possible decrease in federal beer taxes. Apparently the proposed legislation would cut the small brewers tax in half and reduce what large brewers pay by one-ninth.

The video showed an earnest craft brewer, at his plant, indicating how he could use the extra money to grow his business. It also showed an appealing pint of beer.

Craft Brewer
Craft Brewer

I thought I should see if anyone else was talking about this so I typed into Google “federal beer tax decrease.” Google responded, “Did you mean to search for: federal beer tax increase.”

I think that tells the whole story. It is very unlikely, in this economic climate, that beer taxes will go down. It remains more likely that beer and other “sin” taxes would go up to help finance health care reform and other projects of the Obama administration.

Obama’s Peace Prize

President Obama sent me, and  I am sure many other people, a letter about his being awarded the Noble Peace Prize. I think it is an excellent letter and I am posting it here. I am glad the he is our President; not Hilary Clinton and certainly not John McCain.

Oct. 9, 2009

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I’ve said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won’t all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we’ve begun together. I’m grateful that you’ve stood with me thus far, and I’m honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Drug War Policies

The Alcohol and Drugs History website has a notice about the drug czar, Gene Kierlekowske, and his visit to Colombia to evaluate how  the drug war is doing in that country. He is doing this instead of being  in El Paso,attending a three day policy summit on  the drug war. For background on Kierlekowske , see an earlier post of mine.

End of Life

While driving today I saw a car that had written on its side, “Obama Lies, Granny Dies.” Of course this refers to the mistaken belief that HR3200. one of the various versions of health care legislation, creates “death panels” that will deem a senior life not worth living. The bill does not really say this. It simply states that if a person receives end of life counseling from a doctor, Medicare will reimburse them for the cost of that consultation. In my experience as a nurse, end of life counseling, health care proxies, and living wills are very infrequent. Doctors are often woefully ill equipped to provide appropriate direction and support for family members needing to decide about whether their loved one should remain on life support. As a result, patients can suffer needlessly at the end of their life. Family members who have not discussed these issues prior to a crisis or final illness are often ill prepared and are more likely to panic and disregard the wishes of their family member. End of life counseling also covers hospice options and pain management choices. Finally, end of life counseling also can include a discussion of Do Not Resuscitate orders. Many people do not realize that if your aged mother goes into cardiac arrest and your father calls, the paramedics who respond are required to perform CPR, insert breathing tubes, and transport the person to the hospital. Having a signed DNR prevents this scene. Deciding against heroic measures at the end of life is a very personal choice. HR3200 would not dictate to anyone what choice he or she should make; rather it would strengthen the concept of informed consent.

Beer Summit

This evening, President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, and Sgt. Crowley will all have a beer together at the White House. Apparently there is not much other news – I guess there is nothing going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy or health care and OctoMom’s reality show hasn’t started yet. Because of this dearth of news, newspapers and online news sites have  had a lot  to say about the beer summit. Much of the discussion has focused on what type of beer the three men will drink. Some American craft brewers are apparently offended that no domestically produced beer will be available. I think this is manufactured news and somewhat silly. Since this tempest in a teapot  or beer stein hasn’t generated much buzz, some news sources are trying to suggest that people will care about the President serving alcohol. Towards this end the Wall Street Journal spoke to the national president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Even if the WCTU was solely responsible for Prohibition as the article wrongly implies, is it still a relevant organization? I could not find out about membership figures for the WCTU  and it has affiliates in only five states. American society is not anti-alcohol and the number of people who totally abstain from drinking is a minority. To imply that President Obama will suffer a dip in his popularity because he drinks and serves beer is ridiculous.


On Friday, The New York Times had a story about the United States Conference of Mayors meeting that was last weekend in Providence, Rhode Island.  Apparently, top-level administration officials, including Vice-President Biden, did not plan to attend because local firefighters were going to be picketing during the event. Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s Press Secretary stated, “We (the administration) have always respected picket lines and administration officials will not cross one.”

I do not think we have has such a pro-labor, pro-union Presidency since the New Deal. The firefighters union has been in a contract dispute with the city for ten years. The Mayors’ group chose Providence for their meeting five years ago. The Mayor of Providence, David N. Cicilline (D) called the picketing “political extortion.”

The Providence firefighters are using time-honored organizing tools including the boycott to advance their agenda. Boycotts were a typical tactic of unions, including the brewery workers, in the nineteenth century. Since the Obama administration is supportive of labor and unions, it will be interesting to see if that support, combined with hard economic times, leads to greater labor activity and union organizing.

Change Has Come

I went to Washington for the Inauguration. It was amazing. My husband and I were there from Saturday until yesterday. Saturday evening we went to a Fairfax County Democratic Ball which was very interesting. It is great that Virginia went Democratic for the first time since 1964.

Sunday we went to see a Lincoln exhibit at the National Museum of American History and also saw Julia Child’s kitchen. She had two copies of Joy of Cooking which I guess means that book was as indispensable to her as to the rest of America. We also met the director of the museum. He gave us directions.

Then we walked toward the Washington Monument to try to attend the We are One concert. We hooked up with a lovely young woman named Rima and her sister. Rima is a Washington native so she was very helpful and extraordinarily nice. The whole time in Washington everyone was very nice. We wound up being pretty close to the stage at the Lincoln Memorial, , and I did see with my own eyes, not on the JumboTron, the bottom half of Obama walk to the podium so I guess that we can count that as my Obama sighting.

The concert was very exciting. Garth Brooks was the best. When Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sang “This Land is Your Land” everyone was singing. One person near me was pledging allegiance. The concert built as it went along and Obama’s speech was very good. Beyonce closed the concert which was very entertaining.

On Monday we walked completely around the Tidal Basin and saw both the Jefferson Memorial and the Roosevelt Memorial. The Martin Luther King Junior Memorial will also be on the Tidal Basin which is where the Cherry Blossoms are in the spring. The scenery was beautiful. (I will put up pictures in the next few days.) Since it was Martin Luther King Day and President Obama said it should be a day of service, we went and picketed in front of a Hilton Hotel with the workers from the hotel. Apparently they have been working without a contract for a year and a half. All of the candidates for governor of Virginia were there including Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. He was the biggest celebrity we saw on our trip. He was passing out cookies.

Tuesday morning we go up at 3:15 in the morning and made our way to a subway stop parking garage in Northern Virginia. Even that early there was a line and many, many people on the Metro. We went to my sister-in-law’s office which is relatively close to the Capital We ate some breakfast and had some coffee then set out to get to the Mall to see the swearing-in. There were more people on the street then I have ever seen and it was only 6:30 in the morning.  My brother had two tickets but very nicely gave them away to stay with us and his children, who are eighteen and fifteen. We were trying to get to 7th and Independence which was the start of the non-ticketed standing area on the Mall. At one point a truck needed to get by and everyone had to squeeze together. Near 7th a guard told us that we should go on to 12th or 14th. We wound up getting on to the Mall at 12th – there was no security- and watched the whole on a JumboTron between 9th and 12th.

I feel so fortunate that we actually got onto the Mall and saw the whole thing live. It was very cold and we stood there from 7 a.m. until 1p.m. They showed the concert again as a warm-up and then the ceremony started at 10 a.m. The crowd was enormous  and very friendly. There were millions of flags and every time there was anything to cheer about everyone waved them at the same time. It was so moving to see the flags and to feel so good about my country. To be in Washington for a positive reason and share that with so many people was truly a blessing. When Obama spoke and stood up for the Constitution and civil liberties it was thrilling. Reverend Lowery’s benediction was stunning and it was a great feeling to say Amen with everyone else. Only my feet got cold and I put hand warmers in my shoes. Attending the swearing in feels like I got a  gift. Yes We Can! Yes We Did! Yes We Will!

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