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Nederlog

January 22, 2013


President Obama's speech + my comments

Sections
Introduction   
1. P
resident Obama's speech + my comments
About ME/CFS



Introduction:

Yesterday I said I am not well, and that still is the case, but I will try to annotate President Obama's second inaugural speech, as I did four years ago with the first.

1. President Obama's speech + my comments
I am considerably more pessimistic than I was four years ago, and part of my pessimism is caused by Obama's presidency, that I found disappointing on many counts. Guantanamo, drones, breakdown of Constitutional rights, arbitrary arrest,  continued crisis, no punishment of the bankers that caused the crisis, and the continued insanely high salaries for these same criminal incompetents are just seven of these.

This Nederlog is part of the
crisis series, from which I lift references to some other Nederlogs from that series with Obama's name in the title:

So here is his speech, with the numbers for my notes added, and some brief comments at the end.

_____________

"Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:  [1]

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.  We affirm the promise of our democracy.  We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.  What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: [2]

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” [3]

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.  For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.  The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.  They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. [4]

For more than two hundred years, we have. [5]

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free.  We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. [6]

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers. [7]

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. [8]

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune. [9]

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character. [10]

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.  For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people. [11]

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience.  A decade of war is now ending.  An economic recovery has begun.  America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands:  youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.   My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together. [12]

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.  We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.  We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.  We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. [13]

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time.  We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.  But while the means will change, our purpose endures:  a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.  That is what this moment requires.  That is what will give real meaning to our creed. [14]

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.  For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.  We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.  We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. [15]

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.  The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared. [16]

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.  Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.  Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty.  The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.  But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well. [17]

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.  We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.  America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.  We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.  And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice. [18]

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. [19]

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.  Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.  [20]

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.  Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.  Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time. [21]

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay.  We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.  We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall. [22]

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.  But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream.  My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. [23]

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. [24]

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. [25]

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright.  With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom. [26]

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America." [27]

_____________

My notes

[1] The previous inaugural speech started with "My fellow citizens", now in sixth place.

Also, I have used the text offered by The Washington Post, and render it as given there, while I only inserted the numbers for my notes, and otherwise changed nothing.

[2] There is a lot of "we" and "our" leading up to a famous phrase, that was proposed - it should be admitted - by slave owners.

[3] As it happens, I disagree with all of it - apart from the fact that it was proposed by slave owners, who did nothing to abolish slavery:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I do not think these are truths, for I am an atheist; I don't think they are self-evident; I don't think all men are created equal, for if so there would be at most one man, and while I believe equality for the law is important and desirable, equality of all is false: equal rights are good and desirable, but equality of all is a palpable, self-evident falsehood; I don't believe in a Creator, and if He exists, I can't see how anyone could get His assurance; and finally people are still locked up for decades in the US for what seem to me at worst small crimes liable to a fine; people still are killed judicially in the US; while "the pursuit of Happiness" is not so much a right as a natural motive.

Then again, I agree the original was a piece of rhetoric rather than a statement of plain fact - but then I think one should not confuse rhetorical and factual talk.

[4] This can be read as a partial retraction or qualification: If the benevolent Lord gave us all equality, then why are few so very rich, and so many so poor? I lift out one bit I disagree with:

"a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed."

First, government may be for "the people", understood as "the majority of all citizens" and in history often has not been - but it cannot be "of" or "by" "the people": It's the nature of government, good or bad, to be exercised by a small minority, that often is at variance, for good or bad reasons, with what "the people" want.

Also, even if the government is somehow democratically elected, the sense in which it is "of" the people is very tenuous, the more so since it tend to be, in the US as in other nominal democracies, members of  a few rich and privileged families who in fact do get elected or nominated to high offices.

Second, if "our founding creed" was handed down by the dear Lord himself, why worry it will not be kept safe? (But OK, it is presidential rhetoric).

[5] As a matter of fact, it is quite interesting that the Constitution has remained fundamentally the same "for more than two hundred years" - though the fact that the first 85 of these years were years of slavery shows things are not what they seem, nor what they are said to be, often.

[6] I suppose this is mostly a reference to the abolishion of slavery, some 85 years into the Constitution, and as many years after the declaration that all are equal, and have the right on liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

[7] True - except that in the US, as in much of Europe, education, that should produce these things, has been systematically leveled and stupefied, for nearly 50 years now.

[8] This is both true and important, and also one of the things I have insisted upon for decades: There is no free market without states to guarantee it, and without laws to regulate it.

[9] The "Together, we resolved" is again rhetoric, but the rest is valid: A human society is a cooperation for mutual protection and mutual benefit.

[10] Mostly rhetoric, though the point that government is not a cure-all is sound.

[11] Again mostly rhetoric. but I lift out one point that worries me: "No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future." If it is in the US how it is in Holland, there simply are not enough qualified highly educated people to do it, since education has been leveled since the 1960ies/

[12] I pick out just two points: "A decade of war is now ending.  An economic recovery has begun.": I don't believe it. First, the supposed "war on terror" is to continue for at least ten more years, Obama's own government spokesmen declared not long ago - and I, for my part, can see it only as a tool and a pretext to give the US government and its executives far more power than they should have. Also, I see no evidence of any economic recovery, and indeed I see nothing in the way of what is needed to stop economic crises: Regulation of banks and of trading in shares and of multinational corporations.

[13] Mostly rhetoric, but with an important point: "our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it". I agree, but this is about morals - about justice, fairness, decency - and I live in the age of "greed is good", where a few rich get richer, and the many poor poorer for having to pay for the mistakes of the rich.

[14] Seems to me nothing but rhetoric.

[15] This may be what drives Obama, and as such is fair enough, but  I ift out just one bit: "We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few", and namely to say that, seen from Europe, the US does seem like that, quite a few times. And indeed, compared with Europe, in spite of the Constitution - equality, life, liberty, happiness - the social security and medicare in Europe seem better or a lot better (varies per country) than they are in the US.

[16] This is mostly about "the threat of climate change" and "sustainable energy sources", in the midst of a lot of rhetoric. As it happens, I believe "the threat of climate change" cannot be met by existing governments, and indeed has not been met. I also believe the way out of many of the main problems of mankind at present is "sustainable energy sources" - but I do not see much of promise. (Two possibilities: Cold fusion, and catching the sun's rays in the Sahara - but both require a lot of talent and a lot of money, and that too are both scarce resources.)

[17] Seems to me nothing but rhetoric.

[18] Again almost only rhetoric - but I lift out one point: "peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice". Possibly so, but you don't further these things with drones.

[19] As I said, I deny that "the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal": For one example, Martin Luther King Jr. seems to to have been a better man than most, and the equal of few. (And also it gets very disheartening to see over 200 years of confusion of "equality of all", which is nonse, and "equality for the law", which is desirable.

Also, it seems there are a lot of somewhat hidden references here to gay rights, women's rights, black rights and Martin Luther King Jr. but I leave this for what they are.

[20] More rhetoric. I just pick out one point:

"until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

As I said repeatedly, I do not believe in "equality" of hundreds of millions, for these can be equal only if they are all one and the same. Also, I find the argument that the love of A must be equal to the love of B because "we are all equal" an evident non sequitur or else a reductio ad absurdum.

Also, I have no gay brothers and sisters: I am in favour of equal rights, also for homosexuals.

[21] This seems to me a lapse of reason, or a very curious statement:

"That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American."

So that never was the case since 1776 in the US? Put otherwise, if the US is based on the ideals of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, why are so many in prison, and so many so poor, and why do these ideals mostly seem to exist only for the rich few?

[22] The above lapse only gets more serious in this paragraph:

"We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence..."

which seems to say: we the people - in so far as we are poor, kicked out from our homes, lost our jobs, see our incomes grow less and less, and do not know how to pay for the education of our children - have not much of "Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness", but don't you worry, in a mere 40 or 400 years, these may be had by most or all, so rejoice, we the people!

[23] Again mostly rhetoric, but I lift a point: "an oath to God and country, not party or faction". I agree that it is important to be able to make oaths or promises that go beyond parties or factions - but why not to the people? Or is that comprised by "and country"?

[24] That "You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course" sounds quite false to me, from the mouth of the most powerful American, and possibly the most powerful person in the world. Besides, and what may well be worse: there are lots of people who seem to me as talented as Obama who have hardly any "power to set this country’s course". And while I agree there can be only one President, it also seems the US media are, for the most part, filled with nonsense, by liars or incompetents.

[25] Well... I do my best to annotate the President's speech - but I have no illusion that as regards "
You and I, as citizens" his power " to shape the debates of our time" is roughly between a million and a billion times mine.

[26] Only rhetoric, and pretty awful - or should I joyfully say awesome? - also.

[27] Is this supposed to be an all-American ending? I guess so, but not being a US citizen I find this "may He forever bless these United States of America"... a bit odd, as did Mark Twain.


General comment on the inaugural addresss and my notes:

Four years ago I had more to say, but then I was more optimistic about Obama than I am now. I think now and then that he was the better candidate for the job, and that he probably means well, but he has a very curious habit of compromising, that gives the Republicans much more than they should have.

Also, I am against drone killings, against concentration camps, against rendition, against arbitrary arrest,  against torture, against protecting corrupt and incompetent bank managers, and against deregulation.

I expect more of the things I am against the coming four years - but yes, matters would probably have been considerably worse under Romney, and yes again, a considerable part of the problems he and the rest of the world has was inherited from the Bush years.

And I have watched the speech on the internet (still having no TV since 42 years); I have also read it; and now I have commented on it, so I did my thinking citizen's duty. Otherwise, I am still fairly miserable, if a bit better than yesterday.

---------------------------------------------------

(*)  Jan 23, 2013: Corrected the title of the section (that I hadn't corrected from the one of the previous Nederlog). And corrected two 2009 Nederlogs President Obama's speech + my comments  and President Obama's Address to Congress: For some unfathomable reason nearly all paragraphs in the forner speech were linked to the crisis series. And I also found the same had happened to some parts of the latter. These things were not intentionally done by me, but there are no good WYSIWYG editors for Linux, it seems.


About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)


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