Desperately seeking the other America or why else would 200,000 citizens of another country stand for hours after having to go through security checks to hear Obama speak? Very many of those who attended are not necessarily fluent in English. Yet they came after years of being deeply disturbed and disappointed at US policies.
It is one thing to get up bleary eyed at three in the morning to hear a speech thousands of miles away or to find it on the Internet after having read the various commentaries on it. Yesterday one could settle in to experience the man and his speech at normal operating times. It was a rare glimpse to see just how accurate media reports have been on how this one candidate is.
Obama came across as striving for a dialogue with others. He appeared neither arrogant nor in any way a pop star or entertainer. There was nothing messianic in his speech. He approached the crowd with a genuine smile, started off declaring he wasn't speaking as a candidate, but rather as two citizens, that of the US and of the world. What surprised a leading national newspaper here was the fact he not only talked to US voters at home, but (correctly) remembered to speak to his European audience. How can you be in Berlin and not use the image of a Wall and relate it to the world today? Breaking down walls has to be the dominant theme in these times.
Reading through various US papers on the web today, there is an underlying theme that there are US voters still unsure if they can throw their support to him because they find him lacking in experience. He's all talk seems to be the motto and what exactly are his plans should he become President?
What were the Current Occupier's plans before he entered the White House? Were the voters fully aware of them pre-November 2000? When you start out trying to accomplish something politically, shouldn't the first move be with words? Words lead to actions and programs, but first let's get to know how the candidate ticks and thinks. Let's get a world picture from him (or her) and take it from there.
Your ECONOMIC STIMULUS CHECK and HOW TO SPEND IT
Intriguing Ideas by Ann Wertheimer, Chair of American Voices Abroad Berlin
IF YOU PAID INCOME TAXES IN THE U.S. FOR 2007, you have probably already received your stimulus rebate check, your little part of this administration's Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, and have deposited it in a bank account back home. For taxpayers who filed a 2007 income tax return, the amount of the economic stimulus payment is calculated automatically by the IRS.
For example, if you owed net income tax of $600, you will receive a $600 rebate, unless you are someone's dependent, have an income over $75,000 ($150,000 for a married couple filing jointly) or do not have a valid Social Security number. “The payment is equal to the taxpayer's net income tax liability, but no more than $600 for a single person or $1,200 for a married couple filing a joint return. The minimum payment is $300 for a single person or $600 for a married couple filing jointly." To see how the Internal Revenue Service calculates stimulus payments, see http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=179211,00.html
THERE MAY STILL BE TIME for Social Security beneficiaries, disabled vets and others who did not file a tax return to submit a 2007 form to receive an economic stimulus payment. To be eligible for a $300 payment you must have a valid Social Security number, at least $3,000 in qualifying income and not be a dependent or eligible to be a dependent on someone else's income tax return. This is not automatic. You must take the initiative. For details see http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=179949,00.html
IF YOU RECEIVED A STIMULUS REBATE, PRESIDENT BUSH IS NOW EXPECTING YOU TO GO ON A SHOPPING SPREE. But you can fool him! Of course, if you have outstanding dollar IOUs, pay them off. And, if necessary, buy those made-in-Vermont socks and have them sent as a birthday present directly to your cousin. It might stimulate the U.S. economy.
But otherwise, HAVE YOU CONSIDERED DONATING TO THE ORGANIZATIONS OF YOUR CHOICE, WHICH ARE SURELY NOT THOSE THAT THIS ADMINISTRATION WOULD CHOOSE? This might be a real stimulus! You can think about who should get more or less, or simply donate the same amount to several. If you are unfamiliar with U.S. organizations that might suit you and your philosophy of giving, here are a few suggestions, just eight among many.
These are, of course, only my personal choices. I would be interested in hearing about yours. Write me at email@example.com
Chair, American Voices Abroad Berlin
1. The American Civil Liberties Union www.aclu.org The ACLU is nonprofit and nonpartisan and has grown from a roomful of civil liberties activists to an organization of more than 500,000 members and supporters. It handles nearly 6,000 court cases annually from its offices in almost every state. The ACLU has maintained the position that civil liberties must be respected, even in times of national emergency.
2. United for Peace and Justice www.ufpj.org UFPJ is a coalition of more than 1400 local and national groups throughout the United States who have joined together to protest the immoral and disastrous Iraq War and oppose our government's policy of permanent warfare and empire-building. American Voices Abroad Berlin is a member group of UFPJ.
3. The Southern Poverty Law Center www.splcenter.org The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, SPLC is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.
4. EMILY's List www.emilyslist.org EMILY's List members are dedicated to building a progressive America by electing pro-choice Democratic women to office. EMILY's List has a three-pronged strategy for victory: recruit and fund pro-choice Democratic women candidates; help them build and run effective campaigns; and, mobilize women voters to help elect progressive candidates across the nation. EMILY stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast!
5. J Street www.jstreet.org There is no actual J Street in Washington, but there should be! (K Street, as you may remember, is the street of lobbyists.) The organization called J Street was founded in 2008 to support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East as well as a broad public and policy debate about the U.S. role in the region. J Street supports diplomatic solutions over military ones, including in Iran; multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution; and dialogue over confrontation with a wide range of countries and actors when conflicts do arise. J Street will advocate forcefully in the policy process, in Congress, in the media, and in the Jewish community to make sure public officials and community leaders clearly see the depth and breadth of support for our views on Middle East policy among voters and supporters in their states and districts.
6. TruthOut www.truthout.org TruthOut is a full-service news agency, started in direct response to the mainstream media's coverage of the 2000 election, dedicated to establishing a powerful, stable voice for independent journalism. The core of its mission is educational, as it believes the biggest impediment to responsible decision-making is a lack of information. It provides citizens with reader-supported news instead of advertiser-supported news. Its direction is one of social progress, as it attempts to shed light on issues of vital interest to the community such as health care, the environment, international relations and human rights.
TruthOut scours the global news media for the most important stories it can find. It covers national issues concerning foreign policy, the war in Iraq, ethics in government, voter rights, human rights and the judiciary. It features unique coverage of health, energy, environmental, labor and women's issues. It alerts its readers to pivotal opinion pieces appearing in major newspapers and journals and emails free newsletters to its subscribers featuring the day's top stories.
7. National Public Radio www.npr.org/worldwide/berlin NPR Berlin broadcasts in Berlin at 104.1 FM (UKW). NPR is a privately supported, not-for-profit membership organization. You can see the station's weekly program schedule for Berlin at: http://www.npr.org/worldwide/nprworldwide.html
There does not seem to be a way to donate to NPR Berlin directly. But if you are a fan of a particular program (for example, The Diane Rehm Show – WAMU or Fresh Air with Terry Gross – WHYY), what about donating to that station. Or donate to the station that broadcasts in your hometown.
8. Agustin Aguayo Defense www.aguayodefense.org Agustin Aguayo is the conscientious objector who received the Stuttgarter Friedenspreis awarded by the AnStifter. Some of you may have met Augie at an American Voices Abroad Berlin reception held in his honor at Pam Selwyn's house last year.
Augie writes that he and his wife Helga are devoting their time "to young people who are thinking about enlisting and those targeted by military recruiters. This year we are determined to see at least 10,000 teenagers and young adults and provide them with the information that will help them make informed decisions. (We have seen nearly 5,000 this year already — YOU can help us reach our goal of 10,000!) Our mission is to provide young people with an alternative and realistic point of view about military enlistment, and to show them the power of living with conscience. Our message helps young people understand that they don't have to join the military to learn valuable skills, find adventure, pay for college, or serve others."
Anne Applebaum's An Election Goes Abroad in The Washington Post:
...It's also useful for American voters to spend some time thinking about how their president will be perceived abroad because that's where he's going to be spending a lot of his time, like it or not. ....If Obama or McCain is going to be preoccupied with foreigners, perhaps it's not a bad idea for both to prove they can cope.www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/14/AR2008071401844.html
Rosa Brooks in The Founders' Right Stuff in the LA Times says it best on this Fourth of July:
..... The Constitution also doesn't contain any footnotes that say, 'Note to our descendants: The Constitution is intended for easy times only. At the first sign of trouble, feed this document to your dog. .....This Fourth of July, celebrate by re-reading the Declaration of Independence, created by more or less the same crowd who brought us the Constitution, 11 years and one war later. Remember it?
'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'
Wild Stuff! To the founders, 'all men' have 'inalienable rights' --- not just US citizens in the continental United States. .....The founders had a word for governments that respected rights only arbitrarily and selectively: tyranny.