The tradition of asking a poet to compose and recite a poem for the inauguration began in 1961 with John F. Kennedy, who asked Robert Frost. The idea has been revived twice — first by Bill Clinton, who invited Maya Angelou and then Miller Williams to speak at his first and second inaugurations, and again by Barack Obama, who invited Elizabeth Alexander to speak in January 2009, and now, Richard Blanco.
Blanco often writes in author statements that he was “made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States” — meaning that he was conceived in Cuba by Cubans, who fled Fidel Castro and lived in Spain as exiles for 45 days, where Blanco was born, before continuing on to America. He was named for Richard Nixon, who took a strong stand against Castro (and who, TIME magazine points out, was born exactly 100 years before the day that Obama’s selection of Blanco was announced). Blanco will be both the first Latino and the first gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration. At 44, he’s also the youngest.
Addie Whisenant, the inaugural committee’s spokeswoman, told The New York Times that Mr. Obama picked Blanco because his “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.” In this YouTube video, Blanco reads his poem Betting on America:
During the Worst Flu Season in a Decade, Workers Across the Country Can’t Stay Home Sick: “40 percent of private sector workers and a whopping 80 percent of low-income workers do not have a single paid sick day. One in five workers reports losing their job or being threatened with dismissal for wanting to take time off while sick.” [ThinkProgress]
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Attorney General Eric Holder, on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, in Washington. Biden is holding a series of meetings this week as part of the effort he is leading to develop policy proposals in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In Campaign For Tougher Gun Laws, Obama and Allies Work to Tilt Public Opinion: “With President Obama preparing to push a legislative agenda aimed at curbing the nation’s gun violence, pillars of his political network, along with independent groups, are raising millions of dollars and mapping out strategies in an attempt to shepherd new regulations through Congress.” [Washington Post]
The ‘Hell No’ Caucus: “Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, a veteran of two wars and with a pair of Harvard degrees, got a pleasant surprise last year that helped him win a very competitive Republican primary — and then a very easy general election. It was a FedEx envelope full of checks that he didn’t ask for, from a group he hardly knew — the Club for Growth.” [Politico]
NRA Lobbying Targets Courthouses: “Now, the NRA has added a lesser-known strategy to protect its interests: opposing President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees whom it sees as likely to enforce gun-control laws. In some cases, the group’s opposition has kept jobs on federal benches unfilled.” [Associated Press]
Six Facts You Need to Know About Jack Lew: “Jack Lew’s college adviser was … Paul Wellstone.” [The Washington Post]
Scene from the Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty
On January 11th, 11 years to the day after the Bush administration opened its notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s deeply flawed movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, opens nationwide. The filmmakers and distributors are evidently ignorant of the significance of the date — a perfect indication of the carelessness and thoughtlessness of the film, which will unfortunately substitute for actual history in the minds of many Americans.
The sad fact is that Zero Dark Thirty could have been written by the tight circle of national security advisors who counseled President George W. Bush to create the post-9/11 policies that led to Guantanamo, the global network of borrowed “black sites” that added up to an offshore universe of injustice, and the grim torture practices – euphemistically known as “enhanced interrogation techniques” — that went with them. It’s also a film that those in the Obama administration who have championed non-accountability for such shameful policies could (and evidently did) get behind. It might as well be called Back to the Future, Part IV, for the film, like the country it speaks to, seems stuck forever in that time warp momentof revenge and hubris that swept the country just after 9/11.
Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is in the studio today with Bill to tape this weekend’s episode of Moyers & Company. Krugman explains how our current obsession with slashing the deficit is getting in the way of real work that needs to be done to preserve both our economy and our democracy. You can find out when to watch by using our TV schedule tool.
In preparation for Krugman’s visit, we’ve been listening to “The Krugman Blues” by folk musician Loudon Wainwright III. The song was on Wainwright’s January 2010 album, 10 Songs for the New Depression.
In this video, Wainwright performs “The Krugman Blues” — explaining why he finds Krugman’s worldview and dour mannerism so appealing — at The New Yorker.
Bill’s interview with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt about the moral underpinnings of our contentious culture was the most viewed video on BillMoyers.com in 2012. In this video from TED/New York — posted on Monday — Haidt talks about the polarization in Congress and how common threats, such as income inequality and climate change, might create common (political) ground. Haidt explains the divide as a type of “gang warfare”: MORE
Gabrielle Giffords, Husband Mark Kelly Launch Anti-Gun-Violence Group: “Kelly said he and Giffords, both gun owners and Westerners supportive of the Second Amendment, would push for ambitious legislative changes in American’s gun laws: an assault weapons ban, universal background checks to close the “gun show loophole,” and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines like the one used to kill six people and wound Giffords and 13 others in Tucson.” [The Washington Post]
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, foreground right, administers the oath of office to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Welcome to Another Golden Era of Liberal Senators : “With the addition of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy, and the possibility of Barney Frank joining them for a few key months and being followed by Ed Markey, the Senate has seen an infusion of liberal talent.” [The New Republic]
Cuomo Pushes Storm Measures and Gun Control in Annual Address: “Forget the extremists — it’s simple,” the governor said, to a crescendo of applause near the end of his nearly 80-minute speech. “No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. End the madness now.” [The New York Times]
What Obama’s Senate Mafia Means for America: “With Chuck Hagel’s likely nomination for Defense secretary and John Kerry’s at State, the president is gathering his old Senate ‘Team of Mentors’ back together.” [National Journal]
Group Pushing Deficit Cuts Has Deep Business Ties: “Mr. McCrery did not mention his day job: a lobbyist with Capitol Counsel L.L.C.” [The New York Times]
Lobbyists Who Profit From Senate Dysfunction Fight Filibuster Reform: “A more comprehensive reading of the filibuster’s history would show that when it comes to civil rights for oppressed minority groups, the filibuster has actually served as a great obstacle for justice.” [The Nation]
Call Time For Congress Shows How Fundraising Dominates Bleak Work Life: “Welcome to town, new members of Congress. Now hit the phones.” [Huffington Post]
Obama’s Failure To Nominate Women For Two Top Cabinet Posts Questioned: “President Obama brought his top Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency chiefs together Monday with their potential replacements, and some critics noticed one thing that stood out: Each of them was a white man.” [The Washington Post]
In Step on ‘Light Footprint,’ Nominees Reflect a Shift: “Gone for the second term are the powerful personalities, and more hawkish voices, that pressed Mr. Obama to pursue the surge in Afghanistan in 2009, a gamble championed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Robert M. Gates, the former secretary of defense. Gone from the C.I.A. is the man who urged Mr. Obama to keep troops there longer, David H. Petraeus.” [The New York Times]
Throughout these budget talks, the Obama Administration has projected an image that it is open to good ideas from anyone, and interested in the prosperity of everyone.
JP Morgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, left, and Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein leave the White House in Washington in 2009 following a meeting between chief executives and President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
But there is an omission from the president’s rounds — one that is all the more glaring since this group of people is arguably more vulnerable than anyone to any final budget decisions: low-income Americans who are struggling to climb up from the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
When is their White House meeting? Where is their place at the table?
Surely, this Administration wants to send a message that this White House is open to all Americans. More importantly, it no doubt recognizes that lower-income Americans are working just as hard at their jobs, trying just as hard to create opportunities for their children and wanting just as much to improve their communities, as are Americans who have more resources. MORE
We were pretty sure this would happen. But 2012 is now officially the warmest calendar year on record for the contiguous U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was also the second most severe year for natural disasters — 1998 is the first — with 11 extreme weather events causing over $1 billion in damage. MORE
It’s a sick world, indeed, but how do we get it back to health? Scientist Anthony Leiserowitz suggested some steps in his recent conversation with Bill Moyers, but now it’s your turn to play doctor and suggest a prognosis, diagnosis, prescription or something else entirely in the form of a clever caption.
It started as a fringe idea — for some, it was a joke — but it’s gaining traction: the trillion dollar coin, a possible trump card in the debt ceiling negotiations. The U.S. could default on its debt as early as Feb. 15, and, given the Congressional brinkmanship that has surrounded the last few debt ceiling negotiations, not many people are looking forward to this next go-round.
But with the much-discussed trillion dollar coin, some insist, that could all be avoided. MORE