Saturday, January 30, 2010

Where Has This Guy Been?

If you have a spare hour (or many segments that add up to it) check out this Q & A between President Obama and many members of the House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore yesterday. Seriously, he goes into a room full of Republicans, and makes them look foolish on camera. He did so well that Fox News cut from the session 20 minutes early. It's kind of fantastic, but a bit disheartening that this hasn't been happening for far too long.




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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lefty's Staff Reactions: State of the Union

Tonight, the President of the United States delivered his first State of the Union address in front of millions of Americans. Progressive students at Notre Dame gathered together in the LaFortune Student Center to watch the speech. The attendance was excellent and served as a great reminder of how dedicated our progressive community truly is. The following are Lefty's staff reactions to the speech:

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Henry Vasquez

The President showed us tonight that he is serious about addressing economic recovery and budgetary issues. He struck a chord with the American people with rhetoric that was populist, compassionate, yet highly substantive. I was impressed by some of his bolder promises- troop withdrawals, exports doubling, 1 million new jobs, repealing DADT. While some on the Left will criticize his approach to nuclear energy, or will say that he is Bill Clinton 2.0, or attack his persistence on bipartisanship, I think the majority of Americans will respond well to the SOTU. This is not to say that I am personally gung-ho with everything the President said. However, I recognize that he did not write the speech for people like me. He was extremely positive and optimistic, even funny at times. As cheesy as this may sound, the State of the Union has reminded us that "change isn't easy".

Grade: A-
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Brendan (AKA ShamRockNRoll)

I went into the speech with low expectations. The developments over the past few weeks made me think the administration was beginning to give up. However, overall I thought it was a great speech. It was not entirely the speech I would ideally like to hear, but it was very effective. He stole many republican issues like taxes, and made them look silly when they sat down and acted like a bunch of grinches when the president spoke about very popular things like health reform and reigning in the banks. One of my favorite parts of the speech was the proposal to renew our focus on education--particularly improving the community college system and getting more Americans to take advantage of it. Some of you may know that I went to a community college before transferring to Notre Dame. Many people here are shocked to hear that, but we have an exceptional community college system in California that should serve as an example for the rest of the country. At one school people can get certificates in certain vocations, associates degrees, or complete their general education curriculum to transfer to a four-year university (saving tens of thousands of dollars in the process!). Many of our CCs have honors programs as well, which I took advantage of, that enabled me to be a competitive transfer candidate to places like UCLA and Notre Dame. It would be a great step forward for the nation if more states followed this model. Finally I loved the President calling out opponents to climate change by asking them if they want to come in 2nd place to China, India or Germany. An excellent strategy to back the "Amuricah-fuck yeah!" crowd into a corner.

Grade: B+/A-
__________________________________________________________________________________
Chris Rhodenbaugh

Democrats and our country needed leadership tonight and we got it.
The speech was an incredible balancing act between populism and
reason, liberal and conservative, anger and optimism, and defending
his successes while admitting his failures in the first year. Yet the
speech came across as an honest articulation of America's problems and
a clear guide to the path ahead. Thank you Mr. President.

Grade: A
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Bill

I came in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Obama delivered a speech on par with his campaign speeches in the past and with similar enthusiasm that I haven't seen from him in a long time. It was good. If I could simplify this speech down to one word it would have to be JOBS. Obama has set his sights on improving on our dismal unemployment numbers, perhaps even forgoing his proposed progressive agenda (health care reform and cap and trade?) until some sort of stimulus directed at job creation passes through Congress. He took some shots at the banks without straying much from his financial regulation strategies from last year. I also noticed that he went out of his way this time to make concessions to the Republican Party, declaring an interest in investing in offshore drilling, nuclear power, and clean coal, talking tougher on Iran and North Korea and outlining past tax cuts and promising even more. I'm concerned about the proposed spending freeze for 2011. It seems that he's wagering his career on the economy turning around this year. Only time will tell.

Grade: B
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Colfax Lodge

Don’t get me wrong, I know many people are getting very excited over what he said, and the manner in which he reached out to moderates and independents. I liked his decision to pivot to jobs and the economy…even if it may be a year overdue. It sounds good on the surface, but following up “I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” on health care without anything that really explains it to people will have them wondering why we’ve now “wasted” the past 9 months on health care. He really threw a bone to progressives with the call to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” but I feel that his energy policy played way too much to conservatives by basically conceding the same points of “Drill, Baby, Drill!” on oil and other nonrenewable energies like nuclear (surprising, but true), coal, and gas. The big worry that I have is that conservatives are already riled up for this election, while liberals aren’t, which gives Republicans no reason to be cooperative. If we don’t start getting some things done, this speech alone isn’t enough to avoid a free-for-all on seats come November.

Grade: B-
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Kevin Casimer

The President quite skillfully wove together the nations lingering key initiatives such as healthcare and making sure the bank bailouts were worthwhile as well as previewing his next set of objectives as we begin a new year. Major kudos to the President for noticing Republicans' ridiculous display of partisanship (I'm thinking of when they refused to applaud the fact that taxes were cut for 8 million that are Americans paying for college) and then rubbing their nose in it so bad even John Boehner was blushing. Ironically (and admittedly hypocritically, as I make that observation in a very partisan way) the thing I think the President deserves the most credit for in his first year in office is that nobody really talks about is what he said tonight about "trying to change our politics" away from the bitter dichotomy and back towards a focus on governance (unfortunately the GOP has turned that goal into an obstacle for governing so far, but i digress). Overall a very solid SOTU with much more substance than the previous one. My only criticism is that the President should have ordered the Joint Chiefs to stand and applaud the initiative to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell".

Grade: A- (with with points deducted for letting the Joint Chiefs look like backwards, uninformed douches)
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We would like to encourage comments and feedback. And, if you missed the speech or would like to review, you can read the full text here.


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Lefties in the Observer: SOTU

Here's an article that appeared in The Observer (11/28) covering the SOTU watch. Way to go Lefties!

Students Gather for President's Address

By Liz O'Donnell

Students gathered in the LaFortune television lounge to watch President Barack Obama speak about the nation’s economy and healthcare reform during his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening.

Obama opened the speech by encouraging Congress to work together in the upcoming year to help return the nation to its former state of prosperity.

“We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions, so let’s show the American people we can do it together,” he said.

Notre Dame College Democrats co-president Chris Rhodenbaugh said the president’s efforts to work as a unified country came through in his speech.

“I think the country needed leadership in the speech and a path forward for next year and next decade and [President Obama] came through,” he said.

No Home Under the Dome


Considering the latest Viewpoint controversy and a number of events around campus this week, I suppose there's no better time to bring the struggles of LGBT students and allies to Lefty's.

Here's some background:

-Notre Dame is the only top-20 University to neither include "Sexual Orientation" in its non-discrimination clause nor provide a Gay-Straight Alliance for its students. We are, however, ranked #5 for "Alternative Lifestyles not an Alternative."

-Although the creation of the "Spirit of Inclusion" in 1997 was an important step in promoting non-discrimination, this document does not provide any legal protection to the LGBT community.


-The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the US
Conference of Catholic Bishops call us to recognize human rights, avoid unjust discrimination, and accept homosexual persons with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

-Notre Dame loses students, faculty, and staff members because they don't feel comfortable as homosexuals at this university.


Today at noon about 250 students, faculty, and members of the South Bend community gathered at the front gates of the University to hold a silent protest against university policy regarding the treatment of homosexual members of the Notre Dame community. The purpose was to show the administration that there is support on campus for the inclusion of "Sexual Orientation" into Notre Dame's non-discrimination clau
se, and for the recognition of AllianceND as an official club.

In my four years at ND, I don't know that I've ever experienced solidarity in the way that I did today. As organizers of this demonstration, we weren't quite sure what to expect in terms of number of participants, or reaction from the University. You can imagine that we were pleasantly surprised to receive last-minute permission to move the demonstration on campus, and to have a huge amount of support from students and faculty. When we were denied entrance to the main building to deliver a letter to Fr. Jenkins, 40 faculty members stepped forward to demand that they be let in. It was truly a powerful gesture.

Though the struggle for equality at Notre Dame has been a long one, today really felt like progress. Discussion about this issue is often sparked by a controversial comic or Viewpoint letter, and then dies out a few weeks later. The LGBT members of our community, however, don't have the convenience of sweeping these problems under the rug. Continued support from the student body, faculty, and alumni is vital for keeping this movement alive and pushing for change from the administration.

If you're interested in learning more about the movement and becoming an ally e-mail allianceND@gmail.com

Go Irish, Beat Homophobia!

State of the Union Watch Party

Good Lefties,

We invite you to join us tonight, January 27, at 9pm in the LaFortune Student Center TV lounge for a State of the Union watch party. This is a great opportunity to meet the Lefty's staff and talk about politics among like-minded company. Also, anyone interested in writing for Lefty's can speak with one of our editors in person. Be sure to check Lefty's again later tonight for a staff response to the speech.

We can't wait to see you there tonight!

EVENT PAGE
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=269092786171&ref=ts

Monday, January 25, 2010

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Yes, this post is a week or so late... Though I feel it is important to get a post up about Martin Luther King Jr. for two reasons: The liberal blog on campus shouldn't pass an opportunity to discuss the legacy of this great leader, and secondly, the legacy of Dr. King is one that should be remembered and taught on the 364 days out of the year that aren't reserved for him.

Much of the commentary surrounding this year's remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. obviously dealt with the fact that the United States currently has it's first African-American President. This is clearly a tremendous accomplishment in race relations within this country. However, many commentators were quick to call this accomplishment the "completion" of Dr. King's dream that he articulated in his historic speech years ago. The dream of which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke which was always at the heart of the causes he stood behind was far more complex than simply breaking a glass ceiling for minorities. King's message was deeply rooted in agape love--the unconditional love of all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of race or class. This was a deeply threatening notion for the American status quo at the time, and in many ways still is today. We have a tendency these days to ignore the truly radical aspects of what Dr. King fought for, and it is especially important today that we continue to appreciate his life's work, and challenge ourselves to apply it to our daily lives, not letting the fact that we elected a black man to the highest office in the nation serve as an excuse for complacency.


Dr. Cornel West is one of our greatest public intellectuals in this country. He keeps a busy schedule on the lecture circuit, and one of the topics he almost always addresses is exactly this subject--as Dr. West describes it, rejecting the "Santa Clausification" of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Dr. West on January 18, 2010.

We have to resist the ‘Santa Claus-ification’ of Martin Luther King. I don’t want to sanitize Martin Luther King. I don’t want to deodorize Dr. Martin Luther King. I don’t want to disinfect Dr. Martin Luther King, and we’re not gonna domesticate Dr. King...

From an interview with Tavis Smiley in 2007:
He just becomes a nice little old man with a smile with toys in his bag, not a threat to anybody, as if his fundamental commitment to unconditional love and unarmed truth does not bring to bear certain kinds of pressure to a status quo. So the status quo feels so comfortable as though it's a convenient thing to do rather than acknowledge him as to what he was, what the FBI said, "The most dangerous man in America." Why? Because of his fundamental commitment to love and to justice and trying to keep track of the humanity of each and every one of us.

Again, from last week's speech:
If we want to honor the legacy of Dr. King, then we must begin by learning how to love people. … That’s why people didn’t want to hang with Martin Luther King too long. He wasn’t talking about your career — but what your calling is. He wasn’t interested in talking about all of your degrees and your possessions — but what your depth of love for others is.

These are definitely some thoughts worth reflecting on 365 days a year, wouldn't you say?