Friday, August 21, 2009

United States Opposes Israeli Limit On Palestinian American Citizens


The Israeli right wing continues to oppress and exploit the Palestinian people both locally and internationally. President Obama definitely has his hands full dealing with the new clearly reactionary government in Israel today and it is assured that their arrogant obstinance will continue...


US raps Israel over limit on Palestinian-Americans
Associated Press Writer
Posted on Thu, Aug. 20, 2009

The United States has complained to Israel over rules that keep Palestinian-Americans from entering Israel, officials said Thursday.

A travel update posted by the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem says that for some time, Israel has not permitted Palestinians who also hold American passports to enter through Israel's Ben-Gurion international airport, requiring that they use the Allenby Bridge land crossing from Jordan directly into the West Bank.

Since spring this year, travelers using the Israeli-controlled bridge crossing have had their passports stamped permitting travel only in Palestinian controlled areas, the update said.

Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabin Hadad said there is a general ban on Palestinians entering Israel and the rules are applied regardless of what other nationalities they might also hold.

"It does not matter if they are American, French or British," she told The Associated Press. "If they are residents of the (Palestinian) territories, then we regard them first and foremost as local residents."

She said that the rule has been in force since 2003, and the only recent change was introducing the passport stamp, in place of a separate note which used to be handed to travelers.

Israel clamped tight restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter its territory following the 2000 outbreak of a Palestinian uprising, with hundreds of attacks in Israel, including dozens of suicide bombings. Palestinians can enter Israel only with special permits.

Already engaged in a public dispute with Israel over construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the U.S. responded harshly to the entry ban at the State Department's daily press briefing on Wednesday.

"We have made it quite known to the Israeli government that we expect all American citizens to be treated the same regardless of their national origin, and these kinds of restrictions we consider unacceptable," spokesman Ian Kelly said. "We have told them that we cannot accept this practice ... we will continue to protest."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor on Thursday confirmed that the U.S. had complained, but he did not elaborate, adding that he was unfamiliar with immigration regulations.

The U.S. Jerusalem consulate Web site warned dual nationals that even if they took a gamble and were allowed to enter though Ben-Gurion airport, they could find themselves barred from returning the same way and unable to use the return portion of their airline ticket.

The consulate advice statement said Palestinian-Americans who found themselves stranded in the West Bank would find the Palestinian authorities powerless to help them.

"Only Israeli liaison offices in the West Bank can assist," it said. "But they rarely will."

Israelis sour on Rahm
Monday August 17, 2009

As the Obama administration presses Israel to cease settlement expansion as part of a renewed push for a Middle East peace deal—a course of action that many Israelis have interpreted as evidence of the president’s favoritism towards Palestinians—Israelis have increasingly focused their disappointment not on Obama, but rather on his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

An observant Jew with deep ties to Israel, Emanuel is viewed as something of a native son, his rise through the ranks of American politics celebrated by Israelis who reveled in details such as his childhood summers spent in Israel and his volunteer stint during the first Gulf War in an Israeli military program for civilians.

When Emanuel was tapped to be Obama’s chief of staff, a headline in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz kvelled “Obama's first pick: Israeli Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff,” while the Jewish news service JTA went with “Rahm Emanuel: attack dog, policy wonk, committed Jew.”

But in a dramatic emotional shift, Israelis have become increasingly disenchanted with Emanuel, and the disappointment is especially intense on the Israeli right, which supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opposition to Obama’s call for ceasing settlement activity.

Israelis across the political spectrum were skeptical of Obama’s commitment to the Jewish homeland during the presidential campaign but many viewed Emanuel as a guarantor of their interests, the best hope for continuing the U.S. government’s favorable treatment of the Jewish state.

Today, however, widespread unhappiness with their treatment at the hands of the Obama administration has led to feelings of betrayal—and Emanuel is bearing the brunt of it.

In April, a hard-line Israeli Knesset member, Yaakov Katz, wrote Emanuel accusing him of “condescending” to Israelis and their leaders, and in May delivered a speech from the Knesset floor in which he blasted Obama’s demand that Israel cease settlement building. He also invited Emanuel—whom Katz has called “an Israeli Jew”—to “return to Israel” and to stay in the settlement Katz helped create.

Later, Haaretz reported that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has feuded with Obama, has slurred both Emanuel and fellow senior adviser David Axelrod as “self-hating Jews.”

A Netanyahu spokesman denied the report, but an Israeli pollster interviewed by POLITICO said Netanyahu’s point of view is shared by many Israelis, and that resentment tends to focus more acutely on Emanuel—whose father is Israeli, and who friends and associates say maintains deep connections to the Jewish state—than Axelrod.

The hostility is not limited to the Israeli right. Haaretz—which is regarded as a more liberal newspaper and thus more likely to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt – last month caricatured Emanuel as a stern-faced, whip-bearing lion-tamer prodding the United States—represented by a compliant lion with its mouth open wide and teeth bared–to chomp on an unsuspecting Netanyahu (who appears to think the scene is part of a harmless circus trick).

Conservative Jerusalem-based blogger Ted Belman helped promote a protest of the administration’s Middle East policy two weeks ago in Chicago—the hometown of Obama, Emanuel and Axelrod—billing it as the “Rally for Israel against Rahm Emanuel and Obama's efforts to Divide Israel and Jerusalem,” with hardline Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glickman as the keynote speaker.

At the heart of the disillusionment with Emanuel is the notion that he is both pushing the administration—and providing cover for it—to demand more concessions from Israel than from its Arab neighbors.

The very existence of that belief has been a bitter pill for the Emanuel family to swallow. The family changed its last name from “Auerbach” to “Emanuel” to honor an uncle who was killed in a clash with Arabs in pre-Israel Palestine. Emanuel’s own middle name is “Israel,” and he compiled a strong, though occasionally dovish, pro-Israel record during his three terms as a Democratic congressman.

Shortly after Obama selected Emanuel for his post, a story in the Israeli tabloid Maariv quoted his father, Benjamin Emanuel, asserting that his son "obviously … will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

That comment caused an outcry among Arab American groups and prompted an apology from his son.

But late last month, Benjamin Emanuel – a retired Chicago doctor who was born in Jerusalem and served in a pre-Israeli-state militant Zionist group known as the Irgun or Etzel – lashed out at Israeli treatment of his son.

"I'm simply surprised that in Israel they jump down his throat," he told a Haaretz reporter angrily—and in Hebrew.

"I love the country, my children are Zionists, they came to Israel every year, and I don't know why they're attacking Rahm. I support Netanyahu, I was a member of the Etzel," he is quoted as saying.

Asked about his comments, Benjamin Emanuel told a POLITICO reporter, “I don’t talk to journalists, I’m sorry.”

Rahm Emanuel’s office did not answer questions about the Israeli perceptions, his role in crafting Middle East policy or his connections to Israel. Instead, his spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said in a statement, “Dr. and Mrs. Emanuel are private citizens. The Emanuel family would greatly appreciate it if reporters would respect their privacy and refrain from calling them at their home.”

There is a long history of Israeli “obsession with politicians and advisors to the U.S. presidents who are Jewish going back to Kissinger,” said Mitchell Barak, a Jerusalem-based pollster who during the presidential campaign conducted several surveys showing Israelis favoring Republican John McCain over Obama.

Channeling what he said are common Israeli sentiments, Barak said “we were proud that Rahm reached the top and we felt comfortable and secure that he was going to look after our interests. And now we find out that that’s not the case.”

Citing Obama’s call for Israel to cease building new settlements in Palestinian territory, Barak asserted Israelis think Emanuel “is giving Obama his Kosher stamp of approval to be tough on Israel, when they thought he was going to be there to explain our position.”

That sentiment is an unfair characterization and reflects a misunderstanding of Emanuel’s role, said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official who worked on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations under four presidents.

“On matters related to Israel and Middle East policy, Rahm will have a very strong voice, but he’s not the power behind the throne on foreign policy,” said Miller, who worked with Emanuel during the Clinton administration and is now a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “The whole thing is inside Jewish baseball, and it’s not healthy. It’s symptomatic of a real dysfunction in the way some Israelis look at the world and look at America.”

Miller, who is also Jewish, is familiar with some of the pressures confronting Emanuel. In 1989, as a lead peace negotiator for then-Secretary of State James Baker, he was publicly lambasted in Israel along with two other Jewish diplomats as being “self-hating Jews.”

“This is different, though – it’s a complete misreading of Rahm. Rahm is a tough, pragmatic guy who has a real commitment to the security of Israel. His credentials on that are above reproach,” Miller said.

He attributed the Israeli scrutiny of Emanuel to widespread Israeli mistrust of Obama, differences between the two nations on how aggressively to address the Iranian nuclear threat, the president’s call for Israel to cease settlement growth and Netanyahu’s opposition to that call, combined with Emanuel’s Clinton-era experience with Netanyahu, whose aides reportedly first grew wary of Emanuel during their talks with the Palestinians at Wye Plantation in 1998 – in the midst of Netanyahu’s first stint as prime minister.

“All that has a created a perfect storm of suspicion—which has to be addressed if the administration is going to have success in the peace process—and Rahm seems to have emerged as the focal point,” Miller said.

Though presidential chiefs of staff typically have played only peripheral foreign policy roles, Emanuel is often viewed as something of a liaison between the administration and the Jewish community.

Emanuel was one of only a few aides—Axelrod was another—to attend an initially secret, closed-door meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt Room between Obama and American Jewish leaders meant to allay their growing concerns about his administration’s Israel policy.

One report of the meeting quoted Obama saying he relies on Emanuel to explain the complicated political nuances of settlement issues. Separate Israeli media reports have asserted that Emanuel, in a private conversation with an unnamed American Jewish leader in April and one with AIPAC donors in May suggested that U.S. efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions were contingent upon Israel’s willingness to make concessions in peace negotiations with Palestinians.

A White House aide suggested the reports were inaccurate, pointing to a post refuting them by staunchly pro-Israel blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, who had previously professed that he’s “known Rahm for a long time” and that his selection for the post “makes the entire Does Obama secretly hate Israel?’ conversation seem a bit ridiculous.”

In the White House-endorsed post, Goldberg wrote “I have it on good authority that Rahm told the [AIPAC] audience that Obama believes that it will be easier to enlist Arab allies in the confrontation with Iran if visible progress is made on the Palestinian front.”

That’s roughly the message that Obama delivered to the Jewish leaders at last month’s Roosevelt Room meeting, said Alan Solow, a longtime Obama ally from Chicago who attended the meeting as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Solow, who knows Emanuel from Chicago political circles, says he does not believe Emanuel will be particularly involved in crafting or advancing the administration’s Middle East policies.

The Israeli media’s characterizations of Emanuel’s role contain “a lot of speculation and opinion,” he cautioned. “That doesn’t always mean that it’s factually-based or accurate.”

Nonetheless, Solow conceded that Obama has a lot of work to do in winning over Israelis if he is to make any headway in the peace process, and he pointed to a June poll by the conservative Jerusalem Post newspaper that found only six percent of Jewish Israelis consider Obama’s views to be “pro-Israel.”

“I would doubt that Rahm would be the front person in making outreach to the Israeli citizenry,” Solow said, adding he and other American Jewish leaders urged Obama to appeal directly to Israelis much like he did to Muslims in his June address in Cairo.

Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz’s chief U.S. correspondent, said “Israel feels pretty vulnerable now” partly because of American pressure, and she conceded that Israelis may have a skewed impression of how much responsibility Emanuel bears for that pressure.

“Some of them probably get the feeling that's all he does—plotting all day against Netanyahu's government,” she said, explaining that her story late last month quoting Benjamin Emanuel puzzling over the Israeli backlash towards his son was an attempt “to try to broaden this perspective a bit” and get beyond the caricature of the White House chief of staff.

Most of the feedback after it ran from Israelis acknowledged a “better understanding of the complexity of this person,” Mozgovaya said.

But, she added, some also blasted him as a "Kapo Jew"—the name for Jewish police officers in Nazi concentration camps. “People wrote that, ‘If he wasn’t a Jew, he would be called an anti-Semite.’ So it's very personal.”

Anti-Defamation League Presents Venus Williams With 'Americanism' Award


While Venus clearly took the proper humanitarian position in supporting fellow player and Israeli native Shahar Peer when she was unfairly individually singled out and banned from the United Arab Emirates sponsored tournament in Dubai back in February of this year it's also equally clear that the notorious ADL is now simply USING Venus in a particularly cynical and manipulative way politically to publicly shore up their own reactionary and rather extremist Zionist position on supporting deadly right wing elements in the Israeli government who are brutally oppressing and colonizing Palestinians who are systematically being denied national sovereignty and self determination in the West Bank and Gaza. By singling out an African American for this award (in a country which not coincidentally has an African American president who is politically very critical of the Israeli right wing government because of their unjust treatment of the Palestinian people--most notably in Obama's open opposition to the many new Jewish settlements on Palestinian land--the conservative Jewish American Anti-Defamation League is obviously sending a message that, in their skewed view ,"even a prominent African American like Venus Williams [implicitly] supports thei ADL's pro-Israel position" while the (black) President doesn't. This is reactionary and highly manipulative bullshit on ADL's part and it disturbs me greatly that Venus has been put in a position where accepting the award will give the utterly false impression that she fully supports the Israeli government's fundamental political and ideological position regarding the Palestinians, and that she by extension is opposed to the President's position (and that of millions of other people throughout this country--including many African Americans like myself!-- who don't necessarily support or agree with whatever the Israeli government does (and the ADL endorses) with respect to the Palestinian people and ther just struggle for human and national liberation.

I don't envy the trap that Venus has been put in with this award and I am very angry that the ADL is using her in this shabby and blatant manner.


ADL To Present Venus Williams With Americanism Award
By Tennis Week
Thursday, August 20, 2009

When the United Arab Emirates government denied a visa to Israel's Shahar Peer, to play the Dubai Tennis Championships in February, Venus Williams was one of several players to stand up and support Peer."All the players support Shahar," Williams said at the time. "We are all athletes, and we stand for tennis."

Next week, the Anti-Defamation League will honor Williams for her stand by presenting her with the League's Americanism Award at its headquarters in New York City.

I"n recognition of Ms. Williams' commitment to our democratic values and for standing up for equality and fair treatment for all, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, will present her the League's Americanism Award," the ADL said in a statement.

Several players - including Venus, Amelie Mauresmo, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina - all expressed support for Peer and the Tennis Channel pulled its planned coverage of the tournament as a protest against the UAE's refusal to grant Peer entry into the country.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Real Truth, Real Consequences: Ishmael Reed Speaks


The legendary writer and critic Ishmael Reed continues to boldly go where most American public intellectuals fear to tread. Fortunately it is the rest of us who get to benefit from his courageously outspoken work.


Why the Media and the "General Public" Bought Sgt. Crowley's Story

Let's All Have a Beer
August 6, 2009

It’s not surprising that some whites, who monopolize the means of expression both electronically and in print, mainstream and progressive, would automatically take Sgt. James M. Crowley’s word against Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s even though Crowley’s account of the Gates arrest has been disputed by both Gates and Lucia Whalen, the woman who called 911.

They also disapprove of President Obama calling the action Stupid. According to a CNN poll, 59% of blacks believe that Officer Crowley acted stupidly; 29% of whites.

Whalen said nothing about “two black men with back packs,” during her 911 call as noted by The New York Times, the day after two of its reporters embraced Crowley’s version of the incident. She never used the word black. Crowley’s invisible “two black men with back packs” came from the same part of the American imagination as Susan Smith’s black man wearing a knitted cap, Bonnie Smith’s invisible car-jacking black men and Charles Stuart’s invisible black male murderers. The same place as Barack Obama’s invisible Kenyan birth certificate, a hoax accepted by the gothic south where the uniform of its homegrown terrorist movement is that of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Even 12 year old Christopher Pittman got into the act. After blowing his grandparents to Kingdom Come with a shotgun, young Pittman blamed the murders on an invisible over-six-feet-tall black man.

Now that there are fears of a black and brown uprisings, fears stoked by Rupert Murdoch and CNN’s Jonathan Klein, for ratings, the country is revisiting Cotton Mather, the real founding father, who wrote a book about his personal hallucinations called, “The Wonders of the Invisible World Being an Account of the Trials of Several Witches Lately Executed in New England.” His Salem woods were full of invisible black men. He was one of those nuts who sparked the Witch hysteria, which has become the Obama hysteria, inflamed by Klein and Murdoch who go after eyeballs like vampires go after an exposed neck.

Birthers, the creator of Obama as the Joker, tea baggers and assorted anti-Obama nuts are always welcomed at birther loving CNN, MSNBC and Fox. I don’t know what all of this is leading up to, but I hope that members of President Obama’s Secret Service detail have been rigorously screened.

Abraham Bolden, author of “The Echo from Dealey Plaza,” writes about the racist attitudes of the men who “guarded” JFK. One of them said that he’d never take a bullet for a “nigger lover.” Yo.

One of those who is under the post-race spell is Stuart Taylor, senior columnist for National Journal. Appearing on the August the third edition of the Washington Journal, Taylor said that the Gates arrest had nothing to do with race. When a black caller from Michigan accused Crowley of lying, Taylor said that “there was no proof of a significant misstatement” by officer Crowley. He argued that we’ve entered a post-race period because of Obama’s election and that “there was not a single example of discrimination against Obama in his entire life,” even though Obama says that he experienced racial profiling while serving in the Illinois legislature. Taylor also denied the existence of racial profiling saying that “a lot of white people get treated worse by the police” than blacks.

Taylor also said that whites don’t do crack, when studies I’ve read indicate that whites consume most of the crack; they just don’t get sentenced for its possession and sale. “Crack penalties appear to hit minorities harder,” was the headline of a Los Angeles Times’ story published in May 1995.
“Despite evidence that large numbers of whites use and sell crack cocaine, federal law enforcement in Southern California has waged its war against crack almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods, exposing black and Latino offenders to the toughest drug penalties in the nation.

“Not a single white, records show, has been convicted of a crack cocaine offense in federal courts serving Los Angeles and six Southern California counties since Congress enacted stiff mandatory sentences for crack dealers in 1986.”

Yet Taylor attributed the obstacles facing black Americans to their personal behavior, which has been Skip Gates’ line up to now. Like “poor work habits,” which makes you wonder how over 80 percent of blacks manage to hold down jobs; given Stuart’s error filled interview, who is he to complain about poor work habits?

Taylor’s main point was that “racial preferences pervade American society” when a number of studies, including one from the Department of Labor, describe affirmative action as benefiting white women the most. Taylor was interviewed by a white woman, Libby Casey, who neglected to point this out.

He said that a disproportionate number of blacks are incarcerated because they commit most of the crimes, another lie. They just get arrested more often. Seventy-five percent of blacks and Hispanics wouldn’t be in jail if they were white, and lies coming from Taylor and his colleague at the National Journal, Ron Brownstein, contribute to the climate that sends them there. Brownstein and Taylor make a living by ratcheting up white resentment against blacks, a job so easy that you can do it from the beach. All that is required is a laptop.

Bill Cosby is providing these opportunists with ammunition through his poor command of the facts. I love the guy, and will never forgot the time when he flew me up to Harrah’s and provided me with accommodations that included a chef, and introduced me to Ray Charles, but his tough love lectures are shaky.

Instead of lecturing “thirty five year-old grandmothers living in the projects,” wealthy black Americans like Bill Cosby and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who view the “underclass” from first class seats, should establish a black version of the Anti-Defamation League that would challenge the 24/7 false reporting about minorities, who don’t have the media power to fight back.

I’d make a contribution and I know a number of people who’d do the same. For its part, the ADL exposes Anti-Semites who are racists as well, some of them armed with deadly weapons.

Letters to the editor, like the one that NAACP president Julian Bond wrote to the New York Times, reminding them that affirmative action is preferential toward white women, don’t seem to have an impact. Bond disputed the paper’s recent right-wing hire, Op-Ed writer Ross Douthat, who, like a reporter for the Times, believes that affirmative action is primarily “race conscious.”

Stuart Taylor’s responses lacked the facts, yet he warned Gates that “ he should be careful about what he says.”

The fact that men of Taylor’s background and prejudices dominate the discussion of race in the United States is just another bill that blacks have to pay, and you’d think that the media—both mainstream and progressive--would host white writers who weren’t so much in denial about race. Writers like Leo Litwack, David Zirin, James Lowen, Russell Banks, Tim Wise and Dalton Conley, and Jack Foley, an Irish American who is not trying to impress WASPs by playing Handel on the harpsichord.

With his lies, Sgt. Crowley not only made fools of Stuart Taylor, Huffington Post commentators Robin Wells and Frank Serpico, who accepted his false report, but most depressing, Greg Palast, a leader in the fight against the caging of voters. Moreover, Crowley, who, after the beer summit, seemed grateful that things didn’t have to get “physical” with Gates, a fifty eight year-old man who walks with a cane.

The American media have sided with the police most of the time, even when the police led the invasions of black neighborhoods where the inhabitants were massacred, or when they simply stood by and watched--something that the Cambridge and Boston police didn’t learn in school, nor did the whites, the media’s “general public,” who, when polled, took Crowley’s word over Gates’. The News Museum in Washington, D.C. should have a hall of shame, which would display the headlines of newspapers whose inflammatory reporting led to race riots: Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921, New Orleans, 1900, etc.

Showman Lou Dobbs praised Sgt. Leon Lashley, the black policeman who backed Crowley as some kind of martyr to political correctness, without mentioning that the officer said that he would have handled the situation differently. Can you blame the guy? He was to work with people like Justin Barrett, the Boston cop who called Gates “a banana eating jungle bunny” and threatened that if Gates had given him some “belligerent non-compliance” he would have “sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray]. “ Officer Barrett is suing the city of Boston because in the view of him and his lawyer, he was fired, unjustly, by Boston’s mayor. His suit lists the damage that the Mayor has caused him
“ …Pain and suffering; mental anguish; emotional distress; post-traumatic stress; sleeplessness; indignities and embarrassment; degradation; injury to reputation; and restriction on his personal freedom.”
His lawyer Peter Marano said that Barrett didn’t mean to characterize Gates as a “banana eating jungle monkey,” but only meant to characterize Gates’ behavior.

Appearing on the “Larry King Show,” however, Barrett said that he didn’t know what made him say that, a statement which just about pleads for a new branch of psychiatry, or at least of an exorcism. His pathetic attempt at wit is the kind of thing that black policemen have had to deal with for decades: racist graffiti posted on bulletin boards, on emails, overheard on police radios, pasted on their lockers.

Lou Dobbs wasn’t the only commentator cherry picking the information from the Gates-Crowley encounter. Ed Shultz, a progressive, didn’t even mention Ms. Whalen’s disputing of Officer Crowley’s report. He supported the media line that both Gates and Crowley overreacted, with Gates doing the most overreacting.

The typical response by the talking heads--even the token progressives--took Sgt. Crowley’s word over that of a black professor and a white woman. In a show of ethnic solidarity with Crowley, Morning Joe’s Mike Barnicle said that the next time Gates needed a policeman, he should call the Harvard lounge, a remark that drew round-the-clock thigh slapping and yuks from his colleagues. In other words, blacks, Hispanics and Native Amercans should accept any action from the police even when it violates their rights, because they, the taxpayers who pay their salaries, might need them in the future.

Chris Matthews another member of MSNBC’s Irish American mafia nominated Crowley for Governor of Massachusetts after Crowley’s arrogant and unremarkable press conference. (If a poll were conduced in Ireland, Gates’ version of events would probably prevail over Crowley’s.)

An on-camera a left-wing Irish American is as rare as a left wing African American or Hispanic. Salon’s Joan Walsh won’t do. She agreed with the Albany jury that acquitted the police who murdered Amadou Diallo, who didn’t have a PhD. Like Maureen Dowd, Walsh has cops in her family. If CNN and MSNBC were interested in recruiting some left wing Irish commentators they might contact the newspaper “Irish Echo,” which they ought to read. Of course if Celtic-African-American President Obama showed signs of solidarity with the brothers and sisters, like that shown toward Crowley by Scarborough, Matthews, Barnicle and Joe Queenan, appearing on Bill Mahar’s Show, he’d be dismissed as an angry black chauvinist. And by the way, why haven’t Scarborough, Matthews, Barnicle, Buchanan and Joe Queenan saluted Stanley Ann Dunham, Barack’s Irish American mother, their homegirl made good? Isn’t raising a president of the United States deserving of an honor?

Black and brown cable faces are also drawn from the political right. The lone progressive CNN Hispanic contributor is often outnumbered three-to-one. The leader of CNN’s Hispanic right, is Cuban American Rick Sanchez, who ran down a homeless man named Jeffrey Smuzinick after imbibing “a few cocktails” at Dolphins' game. One of the few Hispanic syndicated columnists is Ruben Navarrete, Jr. whose assignment, like the three at CNN, is to take it to the brothers and sisters from time to time. For example, Navarrete, accepting Crowley’s account, blamed the whole incident on Gates’ not being deferential to the cop. Maybe Gates should have said something like “Bossman police, Iz sorry for bein’ in my own house,” followed by an offer to shine his shoes .I reminded Navarrete that Crowley lied. He answered with a sarcastic note. Navarrete is the writer who said that he was O.K. with The New York Post cartoon in which President Obama was depicted as a dead chimp slain by the police. Even Rupert Murdoch, the closest media owner we’re likely to get to Goebbels apologized for that one.

Gates might have raised his voice, he might have yelled, but there was no evidence that he was “belligerent” in the words of blogger and yoga instructor Robin Wells or “cantankerous” the word used by sports caster Stephen A. Smith, who also blamed the incident on Gates. Why would Ms. Wells take the word of officer Crowley over that of her colleague in the sisterhood, Lucia Whalen? Does Arianna Huffington agree with Ms. Wells?

The fact that black commentators also accepted the officer’s testimony shows the compromises that some blacks have to make in order to keep their jobs in an industry owned by the white right. Oh, sure, the reporters might be liberal, but they don’t run Clear Channel, Fox, CNN, MSNBC and McClatchy.

Before integration, black newspapers were so powerful and independent that J.Edgar Hoover wanted to charge them with sedition according to “A Question of Sedition” by Patrick Washburn. He was overruled by Franklin Roosevelt’s Attorney General Francis Biddle. Black journalism was weakened when some of the more talented journalists got jobs with mainstream newspapers where they have no power. While Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough can go apoplectic any time they feel like it, the few blacks on camera have to keep their cool so as not to appear angry.

Even so, Eugene Washington, who speaks in almost a whisper just about called Crowley a liar when he said that he didn’t believe that Gates made a slur about the officer’s mother.

Knowing Gates, I don’t either, but then Washington caught himself by adding that he doesn’t know whether a white Harvard Professor would have received the same treatment. He called that hypothetical. Hypothetical? Like the theory of gravity? Even tough lover Bob Herbert, who, like some other token black writers, got angry over the way Gates was treated (Herbert had received a Talented Tenth award from Gates). Herbert blames society’s failings on rap music and says awful things about Michael Jackson, whose contributions to charities were in the millions, but his opinion isn’t shared by the Time’s sales department which devotes whole sections to Jackson and the rappers in an effort to woo younger readers. He should go to the Time’s advertising department and threaten to quit if they don’t cut it out.

MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart, a real mousey fellow, said that Gates had grown up in a Jim Crow era and that accounted for his losing his cool, again swallowing Crowley’s account of the encounter. Capehart said that he’s never had an unpleasant experience with the police. He said that Gates’ response was generational, a rumor started by a white New York Times Magazine writer who wrote about a divide between Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama’s generation on racial issues, even though Obama has been a victim of racial profiling. The writer knows as much about black history and culture as one of the scrub jays in my backyard. Well, a lot of people from Capehart’s generation have had ugly encounters with the police, some of them lethal.

On the phone the other day, Toni Morrison’s son, Harold, a Princeton architect, who was responding to my CounterPunch piece, told me about his encounter. The police, in the front yard of his home, beat up Adam Kennedy, son of the great playwright, Adrienne Kennedy. His mother and he wrote a play about the beating called “Sleep Deprivation Chamber.”
I was struck by a cop and called a nigger--in the presence of black cops--after he overheard me telling a friend that he was taking a bribe. He charged me with disorderly conduct and came to my cell that night at the Tombs. Unlike the maniac I’d encountered earlier that day he said in a very calm voice that if I pled guilty, I’d only have to spend the weekend at Riker’s Island, a New York prison. I told him no deal, and got a lawyer and wondered how poor and Hispanic and black men without resources respond to such great bargains. The judge dismissed the charges.

Like Sgt. Crowley, the officer lied on his police report and most black men would agree with journalist Jack White that the police lie all the time.

There is no evidence that Gates “over-reacted,” in the words of President Obama, and Colin Powell, a man who was part of an administration guilty of perhaps one of the most colossal over-reactions in history. To his credit, Tim Wise, author of "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son" was one of the first commentators to comment on the discrepancies in Crowley’s report.

The dynamic young black intellectual, Joseph Anderson, actually looked up the criteria for disorderly conduct under Massachusetts law. He wrote to me, ”… merely verbally disputing, protesting, even being rude to and/or yelling at a cop is NOT ‘Disorderly Conduct, and that's specifically why those charges were later dropped (not merely because of bad PR by the Cambridge PD). I'm no supporter of Gates (he used to deny that racial profiling or targeting happened to other Blacks), but once Gates provided information (his Harvard ID and his driver's license) that he indeed lived at that address, the cop should have left!” Moreover, there is no ranting or raving by Gates on the police tape. Not only did Crowley lie, but he flouted the law; yet the majority of whites who were polled, support Crowley over Gates and Obama.

In 1792, Captain Kimber, of the slave ship Recovery, was charged with murdering two African women after subjecting them to horrendous torture and sexual humiliation. The judge’s charge to the jury led to his acquittal. The account appears in “Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along The Atlantic Slave Route” by Saidiya Hartman. “(The Judge) advised the jury, when deciding the matter of the captain’s guilt, to take in consideration the particular circumstances of the high seas, where all life is violence. This consideration makes a very great difference between the actions done upon sea and actions upon land…You have to judge of ferocious men, who have few but strong ideas, peculiar to their own employment, hardened by danger, fearless by habit. The preservation of ships and lives depends often upon some act of severity, to command instant obedience to discipline and supreme command. These scenes of violence present a picture of human nature not very amiable, but are frequently justifiable, and absolutely requisite; as without which no commerce, no navigation, no defence of the kingdom can be maintained or exist.”

The “high seas” have become “the urban jungle” full of “high risk” inhabitants or as many of Sgt. Lashley’s colleagues would put it “banana eating jungle bunnies” who require control no matter how severe are the measures used to accomplish this. This was the reasoning of the suburban jury that acquitted “The Riders,” a group of Oakland police who were accused of routinely beating and framing poor black drug dealers in West Oakland. They were acquitted by a suburban jury. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “in four months of heated deliberations, they hurled insults at each other and even discussed ‘Dirty Harry’ -- the rogue cop who believed the ends justify the means.” And sounding like the judge whose charge to the jury led to the acquittal of the slave ship captain, the mostly white jury “got bogged down in a series of long -- and often contentious -- debates over the law and the ethical conflicts of front-line cops in tough neighborhoods.” The black juror, an alternate for a jury that except for an Asian American was white, was shocked.
“‘This blows me away,’ said alternate No. 1, an Oakland resident. ‘I can't believe this. They are so guilty. The evidence was overwhelming.’

“She said that the jury could not empathize with the alleged victims or believe that police would abuse their authority.
"‘Most black people know that police can lie to make an arrest,’ she said, fighting back tears. ‘But I think the people on this jury don't believe it's possible for police to lie. They just don't get it.’”
One of the policemen involved in the Riders case fled to Mexico and the city of Oakland had to pay ten million dollars to their victims, enough to provide Oakland schools with much needed equipment. Like the slave captain’s judge, most whites believe that such is the state of the inner city that the laws governing police conduct that apply elsewhere don’t apply here. This attitude is supported by television cop shows, a format that has been adopted by both CNN and MSNBC. Notice the number of Hollywood movies in which the hero is a cop whose use of force is so excessive that he’s ordered to turn in his badge by a superior, who is usually played by a black actor.

After the three beers at the white house, Officer Crowley appeared at a triumphant new conference like he owned the place and was immediately adopted as a new media star by cable. Move over Mark Furman and Lt. Col. North! Maybe they’ll make Crowley Sarah Palin’s running mate. Crowley, thanking white men with guns throughout the nation for their support, had humiliated a young black president, which is how it’s done in other countries where the civilian leader has to yield to the gun totters; the kind of governments that Obama criticized on his trip to Africa and Hillary Clinton is now accusing of corruption. Hillary Clinton!

The black professor has been carrying on like Ronald Reagan’s speech writer for a number of years. He acted as the leader of a band of exceptional black people, a “dream team.” Then Skip Gates found out during his encounter with a lying policeman that it’s not a matter of class it’s your black ass that gets you in trouble with the police. When Gates taught at Duke he got some racial profiling insurance by going to the police station and identifying himself as a Duke professor so that he wouldn’t be subjected to the kind of police treatment accorded those less fortunate blacks. He was further humiliated when, after the beer-fest meeting, he had to come up with a statement which, though very eloquent and fancy, was similar to Rodney King’s “Can’t we all get along?”

In his statement, Gates bonded with a man, who tried to justify his arrest with a false police report, which damaged both Gates and L ucia Whalen’s reputations. Gates called him a nice guy in the New York Times and said that the two might attend sports events together and have dinner. He even offered to get the officer’s kids into Harvard. Maybe the officer who killed a black man in Oakland the other night should send in her children’s application to Gates. Is Gates a candidate for the Stockholm Syndrome?

But Obama and Gates aren’t the only ones who are the targets of contempt from armed men. Such is the power that the white majority has granted the police that the California Corrections industry even turned Governor Schwarzenegger into a “girlie man.” After contract negotiations, they bragged that for every nickel offered by the state, they got a dime.

An editorial in The San Francisco Chronicle shows how costly it is for those who choose revenge over rehabilitation: “For decades, the corrections budget as swallowed more and more of the state’s general fund, starving priorities like higher education. But the political ramifications of looking ‘soft on crime’ cowed legislators and governors alike. So we built prison after prison and stuffed them all to overcapacity.”

Now Arnold is going along with a plan to build a showcase state-of-the-art Death Row that will cost the taxpayers 356 million dollars with a 35 million dollar cost overrun.

These California suburbanites are the people who gave us the 3 Strikes Law after the tragic murder of a suburban white girl Polly Klaas, a law that is one of the reason’s for California becoming a failed state. As The Wall Street Journal put it, writing about white suburbanites, “those who have the least to fear from crime, are driving the issue.” The WSJ attributed their fear to watching images of blacks on TV. Maybe CNN’s “Black In America.”

Three beers aren’t going to do it. The only result will be a reality show about the event that will accrue more profits to Gates, the intellectual entrepreneur, perhaps co-hosted by his new pal, Sgt. Crowley, cable’s latest matinee idol. Already they’ve gotten an invitation from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, to do a tag team lecture. This is a road show that certain to entertain the media, one of whose best-selling products is the “racial divide.” I’ve heard through the grapevine that PBS is offering Gates millions of dollars to do a racial profiling special. Given PBS’s politics maybe a musical comedy which would end with blacks and police locking arms in a chorus line singing the show’s hit song, “We Both Over Reacted.”

Racial profiling will continue and the attitude of most whites will continue to be: we don’t care what you do with blacks and Hispanics and Native Americans; just keep them out of our hair.

A better solution would be the one practiced by citizens of my north Oakland district, black, white, Asian and Hispanic. For over years 20 years we’ve met with the police on a regular basis, without suds being consumed. Maybe some cake and potato chips. Sometimes we raise our voices at them, without being hauled out of Oakland’s Santa Fe School, where we meet, handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct. But recently, when the police cracked down on a criminal operation that endangered the lives of residents of my block, I led the applause.

One of those who didn’t share in our victory was Sgt. Daniel Sakai. He was trying to help us with our main problem: a recalcitrant absentee landlord (from a two family household, Bill) who has put our neighbors lives in jeopardy by allowing her abandoned property to be used by criminals, criminals who engaged in a full-scale shoot-out on our block one morning. She refuses to even put up a No Trespassing sign.

Sgt. Sakai was white. Some of our neighbors went to city hall and signed the book to mourn his death. He was among four policemen who were murdered during an incident when the mean-spirited fear-inspired policies of three strikes, traffic profiling and the NRA collided.

Black Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Congressperson Barbara Lee showed up to join in the mourning during a televised funeral. As part of a calculated public insult, which offended Oakland’s black leaders, Mayor Dellums was not permitted to speak.

Let’s all have a beer.

Ishmael Reed is the author of over twenty-five books—including Mumbo Jumbo, The Last Days of Louisiana Red, and Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down. He is also a publisher, television producer, songwriter, radio and television commentator, and lecturer. Founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley for over thirty years, retiring in 2005. In 2003, he received the coveted Otto Award for political theater. He is also the publisher of Konch, an online literary and cultural arts magazine. His new book, "Mixing It Up, Taking On The Media Bullies" was published by Da Capo. “Ishmael Reed: The Plays” will be published by The Dalkey Archives in September, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Public Option Is Absolutely Necessary For Any Genuine National Health Care Reform!


Without a public option in any new health care legislation real reform of the thoroughly corrupt and oppressive U.S. health care system is not only impossible but a 100% sham and totally meaningless. If this option is formally abandoned by Obama and the Democratic Party it is assured that the notoriously exploitive insurance and pharmaceutical companies (with the venal support of the Republican right of course) will once again not only defeat the 50 million Americans who currently don't have and can't afford health insurance but will continue to dramatically drive up costs for any kind of healthcare whatsoever. By any definition anything less than a national health plan without a public option is in fact a huge political and economic SELLOUT by the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party (especially in the Senate) to the corporations and the venal far right wing in both the Republican Party and beyond...In other words Corporate Capitalism will win again at our collective expense...


August 17, 2009
‘Public Option’ in Health Plan May Be Dropped
New York Times

PHOENIX — The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama’s call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector, signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate.

The “public option,” a new government insurance program akin to Medicare, has been a central component of Mr. Obama’s agenda for overhauling the health care system, but it has also emerged as a flashpoint for anger and opposition. Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said the public option was “not the essential element” for reform and raised the idea of the co-op during an interview on CNN.

Mr. Obama himself sought to play down the significance of the public option at a town-hall-style meeting on Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., when a university student challenged him on how private insurers could compete with the government.

After strongly defending the public plan, the president suggested that he, too, viewed it as only a small piece of a broader initiative intended to control costs, expand coverage, protect consumers and make the delivery of health care more efficient.

“The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform,” the president said. “This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”

For Mr. Obama, giving up on the public plan would have risks and rewards. The reward is that he could punch a hole in Republican arguments that he wants a “government takeover” of health care and possibly win some Republican votes. The risk is that he could alienate liberal Democrats, whose support he will also need to pass a bill.

On Sunday, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, affirmed his support for the public option. “I believe the inclusion of a strong public plan option in health reform legislation is a must,” Mr. Rockefeller said in a statement. “It is the only proven way to guarantee that all consumers have affordable, meaningful and accountable options available in the health insurance marketplace.”

White House officials say the president has not abandoned the idea of a pure government plan, a central feature of the legislation moving through the House. But Ms. Sebelius’s comments did seem to open the door, and at least one Democrat close to the White House said the administration was well aware that, with moderate Senate Democrats opposed to the idea of a public plan, Mr. Obama might have to give up on the notion to get a bill through.

“The president is going to continue to try to persuade everyone of the great value of having a true public plan,” said this Democrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid discussing strategy publicly. ”But at the end of the day, I believe he recognizes that there are other, arguably less effective, ways to achieve greater coverage, more choice, better quality and lower cost in our system.”

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, said the president remained convinced that a public plan was “the best way to go.” But Mr. Axelrod said the nuances of how to develop a nonprofit competitor to private industry had never been “carved in stone.”

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill that features a nonprofit co-op. The author of the idea, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would have no choice but to drop the public option.

“The fact of the matter is, there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option,” Mr. Conrad said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There never have been. So to continue to chase that rabbit, I think, is just a wasted effort.”

The co-op, modeled after rural electric and agricultural cooperatives in Mr. Conrad’s home state, would offer insurance through a nonprofit, nongovernmental consumer entity run by its members. Mr. Axelrod said one downside of a co-op, from Mr. Obama’s point of view, was that it might be unable to “scale up in such a way that would create a robust” competitor to private insurers.

And whether a co-operative would actually bring Republicans on board with Mr. Obama is unclear. Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican who appeared alongside Mr. Conrad on “Fox News Sunday,” called the co-op idea “a step in the right direction,” adding: “I don’t know if it will do everything people want, but we ought to look at it. I think it’s a far cry from the original proposals.”

As Mr. Obama envisions it, the public option would be a government-backed plan available to consumers through a health exchange where people could buy insurance, public or private, that best fits their needs. While a public plan might require some government financing to start up, the idea is for it to be financially self-sustaining and require no subsidies, Mr. Axelrod said.

Republicans argue that a public plan would invariably drive private insurers out of business and prompt employers to drop private coverage, pushing people who are already insured onto a plan run by the government. Mr. Obama counters that a public option would keep insurers “honest” by forcing them to compete in the marketplace, although he has said all along he would be open to other ideas.

In her interview Sunday on CNN, Ms. Sebelius was asked if it was time to come up with an alternative to the public option. She replied that the president’s main concern was to promote competition with the private sector.

“What’s important is choice and competition,” she said. “And I’m convinced at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those.”

Here in Phoenix, where Mr. Obama is to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday, conservative groups including Americans for Prosperity are planning to protest the health plan. The same groups have turned up around the country at Congressional town-hall-style meetings, which have sometimes turned into shouting matches as opponents denounce him for promoting “socialized medicine.”

Mr. Obama is pushing back. As the nation heads into the last two weeks of August, a time when the White House believes many Americans will tune out of the health care debate to take their vacations, he has been waging an intense public relations offensive to convince Americans that the health care system should be overhauled. (He, too, is planning a vacation, to Martha’s Vineyard the last week of August.)

In the past week alone, Mr. Obama has held three town-hall-style meetings — in addition to the session on Saturday in Grand Junction, he traveled to Portsmouth, N.H., and Belgrade, Mont. — and devoted his weekly radio and Internet address to health care. On Sunday, he published an opinion article in The New York Times arguing, as he has in recent days, that overhauling the system would result in protections for consumers.

“This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance,” Mr. Obama wrote. “I don’t believe anyone should be in charge of your health care decisions but you and your doctor — not government bureaucrats, not insurance companies.”

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why We Need National Health Care Reform--The President Speaks


A very important message from President Obama on national healthcare reform--and why we need it...



Why We Need Health Care Reform
Published: August 15, 2009
New York Times

OUR nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America. And over the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices. What we haven’t heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them.

These are people like Lori Hitchcock, whom I met in New Hampshire last week. Lori is currently self-employed and trying to start a business, but because she has hepatitis C, she cannot find an insurance company that will cover her. Another woman testified that an insurance company would not cover illnesses related to her internal organs because of an accident she had when she was 5 years old. A man lost his health coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because the insurance company discovered that he had gallstones, which he hadn’t known about when he applied for his policy. Because his treatment was delayed, he died.

I hear more and more stories like these every single day, and it is why we are acting so urgently to pass health-insurance reform this year. I don’t have to explain to the nearly 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance how important this is. But it’s just as important for Americans who do have health insurance.

There are four main ways the reform we’re proposing will provide more stability and security to every American.

First, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job.

Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government. We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits.

Third, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. This will not only help provide today’s seniors with the benefits they’ve been promised; it will also ensure the long-term health of Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors. And our reforms will also reduce the amount our seniors pay for their prescription drugs.

Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable. A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans in the previous three years because they had a pre-existing illness or condition. The companies either refused to cover the person, refused to cover a specific illness or condition or charged a higher premium.

We will put an end to these practices. Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because they get sick.

Most important, we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups, preventive care and screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. It makes sense, it saves lives and it can also save money.

This is what reform is about. If you don’t have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. You will not be waiting in any lines. This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance. I don’t believe anyone should be in charge of your health care decisions but you and your doctor — not government bureaucrats, not insurance companies.

The long and vigorous debate about health care that’s been taking place over the past few months is a good thing. It’s what America’s all about.

But let’s make sure that we talk with one another, and not over one another. We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.

Despite what we’ve seen on television, I believe that serious debate is taking place at kitchen tables all across America. In the past few years, I’ve received countless letters and questions about health care. Some people are in favor of reform, and others have concerns. But almost everyone understands that something must be done. Almost everyone knows that we must start holding insurance companies accountable and give Americans a greater sense of stability and security when it comes to their health care.

I am confident that when all is said and done, we can forge the consensus we need to achieve this goal. We are already closer to achieving health-insurance reform than we have ever been. We have the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association on board, because our nation’s nurses and doctors know firsthand how badly we need reform. We have broad agreement in Congress on about 80 percent of what we’re trying to do. And we have an agreement from the drug companies to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. The AARP supports this policy, and agrees with us that reform must happen this year.

In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people.

That is not a future I want for my children, or for yours. And that is not a future I want for the United States of America.

In the end, this isn’t about politics. This is about people’s lives and livelihoods. This is about people’s businesses. This is about America’s future, and whether we will be able to look back years from now and say that this was the moment when we made the changes we needed, and gave our children a better life. I believe we can, and I believe we will.

Barack Obama is the president of the United States.