Is Washington still able to govern?

In only a few days 2012 will come to an end opening the path for a new beginning and new opportunities. However looking back to 2012, I am very disappointed when it comes to politics.

It seems like our government in Washington has distance itself more and more from its people whom they were elected to serve.

It seems like our government has become more and more self-serving. In 2008 President Barack Obama was elected in the hope that Washington would change. Change could have materialized, hadn’t the financial crisis stopped the momentum.

Then after the midterm elections in 2010, things turn to worse. A new branch of the Republican Party was voted into congress under false pretend. Many voters were convicted that the Tea Party would become a new force which would challenge the traditional two big Parties and bring down the ever staggering deficit.

Nevertheless, at the end many were disappointed to see the Tea-Party turned out to be the even more conservative branch of the Republican Party.

Over this past year congress was virtually unable to govern, blocking any proposal the White House put forward and become a nay-saying congress. Every idea to move the country forward had been denied, in the hop it would lead to a change of government after the election.

Yet, after the election nothing has changed.

One must ask, is Washington still able to govern?

Is the elected congress still representing the interest of all people who elected them or only the ones who hold the wealth of the country?

Is there going to be an end in side to the ever widening gap between the wealthiest and the rest of the country?

Are the financial institution who have caused the financial crisis ever been held responsible including those lawmaker who created the conditions and failed to provide over side.

I used to be optimistic when it came to our government in Washington. However, right now I don’t see any future for politics.

I think the best solution would be to radically change this old self-serving system, were Politicians are allowed to continue to govern without severing all people as written in the constitution. I think we need a term limit for Senators and Representatives who cannot run for office again after they have served eight years in the same way we limit the time of a President.

The Government need to represent its people again!

President Barack Obama Weekly Address, December 29, 2012 (Video/Transcript)

Hello Everybody. For the past couple months, I’ve been working with people in both parties – with the help of business leaders and ordinary Americans – to come together around a plan to grow the economy and shrink our deficits.
It’s a balanced plan – one that would protect the middle class, cut spending in a responsible way, and ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more.  And I’ll keep working with anybody who’s serious about getting a comprehensive plan like this done – because it’s the right thing to do for our economic growth.

But we’re now at the point where, in just a couple days, the law says that every American’s tax rates are going up. Every American’s paycheck will get a lot smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy. It would hurt middle-class families, and it would hurt the businesses that depend on your spending. 

And Congress can prevent it from happening, if they act now. Leaders in Congress are working on a way to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I believe we may be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time.

But if an agreement isn’t reached in time, then I’ll urge the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a basic package that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends vital unemployment insurance for Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future progress on more economic growth and deficit reduction. 

I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities – as long as these leaders allow it to come to a vote. If they still want to vote no, and let this tax hike hit the middle class, that’s their prerogative – but they should let everyone vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work. 

We just can’t afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. The economy is growing, but keeping it that way means that the folks you sent to Washington have to do their jobs. The housing market is healing, but that could stall if folks are seeing smaller paychecks.  The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already, families and businesses are starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington. 

You meet your deadlines and your responsibilities every day. The folks you sent here to serve should do the same. We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America’s progress. We’ve got to do what it takes to protect the middle class, grow this economy, and move our country forward.

Thanks, everybody.


The Sprit of Ferdinand Pecora

It’s time for the street to be scared-Very scared.
By Micheal M. Thomas Source: Newsweek December 24, 2012 issue

THE ELECTORATE has returned to the White House a man who, for many who voted for him four years ago, turned out to be a sheep in wolfs clothing when it came to dealing with Wall Street. In 2008 it was expected that one of his first priorities would be to deal with the Wall Street miscreants largely responsible for the financial crisis through a combination of punishment and reform. That didn't happen, and it was evident early on that it wasn't in the cards.

Even before the new president-elect had slept a night in the White House, Wall Street knew it was home free and off the hook. On Nov. 21, 2008, a date (which some say will live in infamy) falling barely two weeks after the election of a candidate representing "hope and change," President-elect Obama's transition team announced that the incoming administration's economics team would be headed by Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner.

As a character in a novel I'm working on observes of this development, "That's like appointing a couple of Ku Klux Klans-men to run the NAACP." On Wall Street, the Summers-Geithner announcement was cause for cracking open jeroboams of Dom Pérlgnon, lighting up the pre-Castros, and stuffing the garter belts of Scores pole dancers with $100 bills. The city's leading steak houses were once again suffused with that singular suffocating mixture of testosterone and profanity that marks a traders' bull market in full cry. The Dow Jones rocketed 1,000 points in two days. The sun came out from behind the clouds. 

And the auguries turned out to be every bit as blessed as could be wished for: over the following four years, this president would serve Wall Street's interests and purposes more lucratively than any chief magistrate since the palmy days of Calvin Coolidge. Despite this, starting in 2010, the Street reached deep down into its infinite capacity for self-destruction and launched an all-out propaganda campaign against the administration, turning on their new best friend in the White House with a vehemence that made little sense, attacking Obama for being anti-capitalist, for preaching "class warfare," for being a "socialist." Pretty tough language to use on a man whose leadership was protecting fat bonuses that have kept Ferrari dealers and high-end Hamptons realtors grinning like the Cheshire Cat while many in the country are eating cat food and sleeping rough. As the 2012 election approached, the outcry became increasingly strident, and in some cases -if taken at face value-beyond stupid: the hedge-fund magnate Leon Cooperman wrote an open letter to the president that on the face of it may have been as morally tone-deaf a rich man's public utterance as 1 have ever read.
Did Wall Street mean it-or was it just a bluff? A favorite recent addition to my lexicon is "agnotology," defined as "the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data." If 1 put on my conical-shaped agnotologists' hat (think of Mickey in Fantasia), 1 can't but harbor the faint suspicion that the anti-Obama invective was intended to generate tens of thousands more "anti-Romney" votes for the president than positive votes for his opponent.

There are serious people who believe this, Michael Hudson of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, is one of the most clear-sighted, common-sensical observers of the current state of the nation's political economy. Here's his theory: "The Democrats could not have won so handily without the Citizens United ruling. That is what enabled the Koch Brothers to spend their billions to support right-wing candidates that barked and growled like sheepdogs to give voters little civilized option but to vote for 'the lesser evil.' This will be President Obama's epitaph for future historians. Orchestrating the election like a World Wrestling Federation melodrama, the Tea Party's sponsors threw billions of dollars into the campaign to cast the president's party in the role of "good cop" against stereotyped opponents attacking women's rights, Hispanics, and nearly every other hyphenated-American interest group."

It's an ingenious way of looking at things-but too clever by half, in my view. I'm a great believer in "Hanlon's Razor," an epistemological axiom that advises "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." The problem with an intricate game plan carried out by people who think with their wallets is that it can backfire. I think the vituperation directed at the president by Wall Street is going to come back to bite the Street, and 1 think the Street knows it. More than the fiscal cliff or a bump in the base rate, or any other of the thousand man-made shocks that flesh is heir to, the Street fears being awakened on Christmas Eve by a visiting spirit hung all about with law books and handcuffs, who with a baleful, fixed glare pronounces the dread words, "1 am the spirit of Ferdinand Pecora-and this time I'm not fooling!"

Pecora was the federal prosecutor who in 1933 conducted a series of hearings in which various Wall Street titans, notably several partners of JPMorgan and Co. and the Chase and First National City banks, made so clear what an insiders' game Wall Street was that the Glass-Steagall Act (separating banking from speculating) and the Securities and Exchange Commission were created by the New Deal.

What is not generally recognized is that Pecora's great moment was Congress's second bite at the rotten apple. The previous year (1932, Herbert Hoover still in the White House) a first series of hearings on the 1929 crash had been conducted, and went nowhere, thanks to the soft-ball quality of the interrogatories. Among those put on the stand during the first go-round was the managing partner of Goldman Sachs, which during the roaring '20s had built giant ziggurats of interlocked investment companies that were sold to the public at high prices and subsequently went bust (shares of the Goldman Sachs Trading Company that were flogged to the public at around $50 could be picked up three or four years later for a dime; 1 mention this solely for the comfort of those who, like myself, are under absolutely no illusions about the moral composition of Goldman's DNA).

Now, a year later, came Pecora. But he wasn't the main difference maker. Between the first hearings in 1932 and the second series in 1933, an election had been held. Hoover was out, and FDR was now president, a man who came from the moneyed class and understood them, a man who four years later, running for reelection, would declare, "Wall Street hates me-and I welcome their hatred!" The game had changed. Enter Pecora, who induced one financial megasaur after another to show himself to be an arrogant pig for whom notions like public-mindedness meant zero, and who opened pathways that would lead to jail for one or two prime offenders. Interestingly enough, however, Goldman Sachs wasn't summoned back for the Pecora round. It may be that some form of double jeopardy protected the firm. My own theory is that rising Goldman star Sidney Weinberg had been FDR's principal Wall Street fundraiser, and this made the difference. As much as any politician, FDR understood that toast has two sides that need to be buttered.

This president has had four years to grasp a nettlesome truth that social researchers have known for a long time and in proof of which the nation has paid an extraordinarily high price: namely that the two professions most attractive to sociopaths and psychopaths are politics and finance. Will this impel him to deal more forthrightly with Washington and Wall Street? To substitute the straitjacket for the soft word? Suppose the administration decides to go after the neo-feudal finance oligarchy that seems to run this country? Decides that if Wall Street feels free to declare its hatred of him, he's free to hate back? Decides to unleash a second Pecora?
We'll know soon enough, when the president announces his choices for his economic quarterbacks. As I write. Warren Buffett is pushing JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon for Treasury secretary. I have a measured respect for Buffett, but a worse choice for Treasury I can't imagine, especially after Dimon's bank's adventure in options trading known as "the London whale," the losses from which make even Captain Ahab's worst day look like a walk in Hyde Park. Personally, I'd like to see Treasury put in the hands of someone from "Industry," as we used to call the then-dominant sector of the economy. Someone who knows what real work looks and feels like. 1 always liked Paul O'Neill, former head of Alcoa, whom George W. Bush fired for speaking truth to power.

If the White House hasn't been bought off for a second term, the next four years could initiate the fresh start this country needs. So far, as I write, the signs are favorable: Obama has met with industry, small business, and labor. Dimon and his lot have gone largely uninvited. Of course, it could be a bluff a la Michael Hudson, but it could also be a first step in the right direction: to make the American people understand not only what has been done to them, but by whom, and for how much, in a way that makes them good and properly angry, at which point they can demand that their government do something about it. People may squeal about "class warfare," but what's wrong with that if the class being warred against has acquired its gross comparative advantages through fraud, legislative corruption (take a bow. Sen. Charles Schumer!), inside dealing, unlimited bank credit for speculation and all the other lucrative enriching tools reserved to or appropriated by the uppermost fractions of the 1 percent?
The need for reform is there, but the urge to reform can take hold effectively only if articulated from the bully pulpit. A skein of op-ed and talk-show pontifications rising from here to Mars won't get the job done. The country has reelected a president who, no matter what else he may be, is nothing if not articulate. The question is: in what does he believe? I remain skeptical, but I've often been wrong, and I hope I am now.

Among the more arresting images left in its wake by Hurricane Sandy is a photograph of one of the giant parking lots that serve the public beaches along the westernmost reaches of Long Island's south shore. The surface of the lot is entirely covered in great mounds of debris, the detritus of scores of houses destroyed by the tempest. When I first saw this photo, my first reaction was, naturally, pity and sympathy for the unfortunate people whose homes had been leveled and lives blown upside down. My second, however, was less poignant and humane. What a perfect analogy, 1 thought, for the public-sector balance sheets, and finances in general, of the United States-from the Federal Reserve to government "affiliates" like Fannie and Freddie to banks and other federally guaranteed savings and depositary institutions.
Thanks to a perfect conjunction of private sector greed and recklessness and public sector corruption, just as Sandy represented the coalescence of two violent storm systems, financial spaces created for public utility and convenience have been converted into vast junkyards into which has been dumped the wreckage of the housing-driven financial crisis that came to a head in 2008. Sooner or later, these will have to be cleaned up once and for all and restored to their proper use. In a perfect world, those most proximately responsible for the disaster would be compelled to clean up or render fair compensation for the mess they made. This was the great fear that gripped Wall Street following the 2008 election, and I think it is the great fear that grips Wall Street now.

You know something? If 1 were those people. I'd be scared, too. NW

Michael M. Thomas is a frequent commentator on Wall Street and the author, most recently of Love and Money.

President Obama Makes a Statement on Averting Tax Hikes for Middle Class Families (Video/Transcript)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with leaders of both parties to try and forge an agreement that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit -- a balanced plan that would cut spending in a responsible way but also ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and, above all, protect our middle class and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class.

I still want to get this done.  It’s the right thing to do for our families, for our businesses, and for our entire economy.  But the hour for immediate action is here.  It is now.

We’re now at the point where, in just four days, every American’s tax rates are scheduled to go up by law.  Every American’s paycheck will get considerably smaller.  And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy, it would be bad for middle-class families, and it would be bad for businesses that depend on family spending.  Fortunately, Congress can prevent it from happening if they act right now.

I just had a good and constructive discussion here at the White House with Senate and House leadership about how to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I’m optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time.  Senators Reid and McConnell are working on such an agreement as we speak.

But if an agreement isn’t reached in time between Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, then I will urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote –- one that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to two million Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction.

I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to actually come to a vote.  If members of the House or the Senate want to vote no, they can –- but we should let everybody vote.  That’s the way this is supposed to work.  If you can get a majority in the House and you can get a majority in the Senate, then we should be able to pass a bill.

So the American people are watching what we do here.  Obviously, their patience is already thin.  This is déjà vu all over again.  America wonders why it is that in this town, for some reason, you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable; why everything always has to wait until the last minute.  Well, we're now at the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy.  Not right now.
The economy is growing, but sustaining that trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs.  The housing market is recovering, but that could be impacted if folks are seeing smaller paychecks.  The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already you're seeing businesses and consumers starting to hold back because of the dysfunction that they see in Washington.

Economists, business leaders all think that we’re poised to grow in 2013 –- as long as politics in Washington don’t get in the way of America’s progress.

So we've got to get this done.  I just want to repeat -- we had a constructive meeting today.  Senators Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate, over to the House and done in a timely fashion so that we've met the December 31st deadline.  But given how things have been working in this town, we always have to wait and see until it actually happens.  The one thing that the American people should not have to wait and see is some sort of action.

So if we don’t see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor -- and I've asked Senator Reid to do this -- put a bill on the floor that makes sure that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up, that unemployment insurance is still available for two million people, and that lays the groundwork, then, for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the New Year.

But let's not miss this deadline.  That’s the bare minimum that we should be able to get done, and it shouldn’t be that hard since Democrats and Republicans both say they don’t want to see taxes go up on middle-class families.

I just have to repeat -- outside of Washington, nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern over and over again.  Ordinary folks, they do their jobs.  They meet deadlines.  They sit down and they discuss things, and then things happen.  If there are disagreements, they sort through the disagreements.  The notion that our elected leadership can't do the same thing is mind-boggling to them.  It needs to stop.

So I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved.  Nobody is going to get 100 percent of what they want, but let's make sure that middle-class families and the American economy -- and, in fact, the world economy -- aren't adversely impacted because people can't do their jobs.

Thank you very much, everybody.


Dawkins on religion

An interview with renowned atheist Richard Dawkins on whether religion is a force for good or evil.
Source:Al Jazeera 

Fanaticism, fundamentalism, superstition and ignorance. Religion is getting a bad press these days. Much of the conflict in the world, from the Middle East to Nigeria and Myanmar, is often blamed on religion.

But how are things from a different perspective? Defenders of religion claim Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Communism under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Zedong banned religion, but also massacred millions. And science brought incredible and amazing advances, but also pollution and the atomic bomb.
A critic of religious dogmatism, Professor Richard Dawkins revolutionised genetics in 1976 with the publication of The Selfish Gene, which explained how evolution takes place at the genetic level. He has since written 12 more bestsellers, including The God Delusion which sold millions of copies, was translated into more than 30 languages, and catapulted him to the position of the world's foremost atheist.

Mehdi Hasan interviews evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union and asks: Is religion a force for good or evil? Can it co-exist with science? Is science the new religion? And why if god does not exist, is religion so persistent?


Tight laws cited for Japan low gun death rate (video)

Critics of loose US gun laws look to Japan's stringent gun control legislation and its low crime rate.

In contrast to the United States, Japan has some of the toughest guns laws in the world.
Pro-ban lobbyists in Japan point to the low gun death rate, amounting to barely a dozen each year, as evidence that gun control works.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reports from Japan.

Gun control laws and policy vary greatly around the world. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom or Germany, have very strict limits on gun possession while others, such as the United States, have relatively modest limits.

It is not surprising though, that countries with very strict laws related to gun ownership have also the lowest gun related crime rates.

Thus it's not understandable that the head of the NRA (National Rifle Association of America) Wayne LaPierre has called for even more guns in the United States. He blamed the media for pushing a narrative that guns are to blame for mass shootings, and rejected calls for further gun restrictions.


Democrats Slam NRA's Response To School Shooting (audio/transcript)

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. One week after the shooting deaths of 20 first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the National Rifle Association has spoken out. The nation's largest gun owners group had said little in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. Their suggestion yesterday was to place armed guards at all of the nation's schools. The idea was met with immediate criticism, as NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre broke the gun group's silence at what was billed as a news conference at a Washington, D.C. hotel, although reporters were denied the opportunity to ask questions. After expressing the group's horror, outrage and grief at the shootings, LaPierre said the only way to stop - in his words - a monster from killing our kids was with what he called a plan of absolute protection.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or from a minute away?

NAYLOR: The NRA chief's statement was interrupted twice by protesters; one who said the NRA had blood on its hands.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ban assault weapons now. Ban assault weapons now.

NAYLOR: Democrats in Congress were quick to react to LaPierre. California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is sponsoring legislation to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, said about a third of the nation's schools already have armed guards.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Is this the answer that America should become an armed camp? I don't think so, and I don't think that's the American dream.

NAYLOR: Democratic Senator-elect Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, whose current congressional district encompasses Newtown, called LaPierre's comments tone deaf. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said if the NRA wants to be part of the national conversation about gun violence, it's not doing itself any favors.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: The NRA today in its approach will be irrelevant because it can't be a credible and constructive participant in this debate if it says the only acceptable solution is armed guards in schools.

NAYLOR: The NRA has long been known as one of Washington's most powerful lobbies. It's been a prolific contributor to political candidates and has waged public campaigns against renewal of the assault weapons ban. It's also been active in limiting the reach of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which enforces federal gun laws. The NRA was behind the efforts to limit access to a database used to trace weapons. William Vizzard is a former ATF agent, who says the NRA is worried the government wants a national gun registry.

WILLIAM VIZZARD: A lot of those folks are very paranoid about what they consider registration, but to a large extent it was an attempt to undercut the ability of the press and other entities to write stories about this and various local municipal jurisdictions filing suit and so on.

NAYLOR: The ATF has been without a permanent administrator since the Bush administration, in part because of NRA opposition. It's also been able to keep funding for the agency flat. But Vizzard, who teaches criminal justice at Sacramento State, says it's not so much the number of agents as it is the restraints they're under.

VIZZARD: ATF could have 10,000 agents; it doesn't essentially mean they be able to produce a lot better result because they don't have the statutory authority. They even restricted the number of times they can inspect a dealer per year.

NAYLOR: This week, some lawmakers, whom the NRA had previously given A grades, have expressed an interest in broaching gun issues for the first time. How far they'll get is unclear, but their willingness suggests the NRA's aura of invincibility may be showing some cracks. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

Celebrities make anti-gun-violence video

More than four dozen Hollywood stars appear in a just-released YouTube video denouncing gun violence.

Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Rock, Paul Rudd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Jessica Alba, Courtney Cox, Reese Witherspoon, Ellen DeGeneres, Julianne Moore and Will Ferrell are just a few of the entertainers who can be seen in the clip from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns to promote the website

After naming several high-profile attacks that involved guns, the celebrities ask, “How many more?” A solemn-faced Beyonce says Americans should demand a plan “for the children of Sandy Hook.” Late-night host Conan O’Brien ends the roughly 90-second video, released Friday, by saying simply, “Enough.”

The Demand A Plan website asks supporters to demand action from President Obama and Congress on ending gun violence and calls for background check requirements for gun sales, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.
Source: The Hill

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service (Video/Trascipt)

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 22, 2012
THE PRESIDENTHi everybody.  This weekend, as you gather with family and friends, Michelle and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays. 

THE FIRST LADY:  We both love this time of year.  And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays at the White House.  It’s an incredible experience and one that we try to share with as many folks as possible. 

This month, more than 90,000 people have come through the White House to see the holiday decorations.  And our theme for this year’s holiday season was “Joy to All” – a reminder to appreciate the many joys of the holidays: the joy of giving…the joy of service…and, of course, the joy of homecomings. 

THE PRESIDENTThat’s right.  This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college – and making room for all that laundry they bring with them.  Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive.  And uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit.  

THE FIRST LADY:  That’s what makes this season so special – getting to spend time with the people we love most.

THE PRESIDENTAnd this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.  You see, the war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home.  And all across America, military families are reuniting.   

So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families.  And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear.

THE FIRST LADY:  And remember, when our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them.  Across this country, military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments.  And let’s not forget about our military kids, moving from base to base – and school to school – every few years, and stepping up to help out at home when mom or dad is away. 

Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country.  That’s why Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces – an effort to rally all Americans to honor and support our veterans and military families.  Just go to to find out how you can show your gratitude for their service. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Because that’s what this season is all about.  For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example.  Every year, we commit to love one another.  To give of ourselves.  To be our brother’s keeper.  To be our sister’s keeper.  But those ideas are not just part of our faith.  They’re part of all faiths.  And they unite us as Americans. 

THE FIRST LADY:  In this country, we take care of each other.  And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need. 

THE PRESIDENTThat’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation.  And this year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.

THE FIRST LADY:  So thank you for all that you’ve done this year on behalf of your fellow Americans. 

THE PRESIDENT: And on behalf of my favorite Americans – Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo – Merry Christmas, everybody.  

THE FIRST LADY:  Happy holidays. 


President Obama Makes a Statement on the Fiscal Cliff

President Obama makes a statement on the fiscal cliff negotiations and the need to extend the middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year.

Funeral Service for Senator Daniel Inouye (Video/Transcript)

THE PRESIDENT:  To Irene, Ken, Jennifer, Danny's friends and former colleagues, it is an extraordinary honor to be here with you in this magnificent place to pay tribute to a man who would probably we wondering what all the fuss is about.

This Tuesday was in many ways a day like any other.  The sun rose; the sun set; the great work of our democracy carried on.  But in a fundamental sense it was different.  It was the first day in many of our lives -- certainly my own -- that the halls of the United States Congress were not graced by the presence of Daniel Ken Inouye.

Danny was elected to the U.S. Senate when I was two years old.  He had been elected to Congress a couple of years before I was born.  He would remain my senator until I left Hawaii for college.

Now, even though my mother and grandparents took great pride that they had voted for him, I confess that I wasn't paying much attention to the United States Senate at the age of four or five or six.  It wasn't until I was 11 years old that I recall even learning what a U.S. senator was, or it registering, at least.  It was during my summer vacation with my family -- my first trip to what those of us in Hawaii call the Mainland.

So we flew over the ocean, and with my mother and my grandmother and my sister, who at the time was two, we traveled around the country.  It was a big trip.  We went to Seattle, and we went to Disneyland -- which was most important.  We traveled to Kansas where my grandmother's family was from, and went to Chicago, and went to Yellowstone.  And we took Greyhound buses most of the time, and we rented cars, and we would stay at local motels or Howard Johnson's.  And if there was a pool at one of these motels, even if it was just tiny, I would be very excited. And the ice machine was exciting -- and the vending machine, I was really excited about that.

But this is at a time when you didn’t have 600 stations and 24 hours' worth of cartoons.  And so at night, if the TV was on, it was what your parents decided to watch.  And my mother that summer would turn on the TV every night during this vacation and watch the Watergate hearings.  And I can't say that I understood everything that was being discussed, but I knew the issues were important.  I knew they spoke to some basic way about who we were and who we might be as Americans.

And so, slowly, during the course of this trip, which lasted about a month, some of this seeped into my head.  And the person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese descent with one arm, speaking in this courtly baritone, full of dignity and grace.  And maybe he captivated my attention because my mom explained that this was our senator and that he was upholding what our government was all about.  Maybe it was a boyhood fascination with the story of how he had lost his arm in a war.  But I think it was more than that.

Now, here I was, a young boy with a white mom, a black father, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.  And I was beginning to sense how fitting into the world might not be as simple as it might seem.  And so to see this man, this senator, this powerful, accomplished person who wasn't out of central casting when it came to what you'd think a senator might look like at the time, and the way he commanded the respect of an entire nation I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life.

This was a man who as a teenager stepped up to serve his country even after his fellow Japanese Americans were declared enemy aliens; a man who believed in America even when its government didn't necessarily believe in him.  That meant something to me.  It gave me a powerful sense -- one that I couldn’t put into words -- a powerful sense of hope.

And as I watched those hearings, listening to Danny ask all those piercing questions night after night, I learned something else.  I learned how our democracy was supposed to work, our government of and by and for the people; that we had a system of government where nobody is above the law, where we have an obligation to hold each other accountable, from the average citizen to the most powerful of leaders, because these things that we stand for, these ideals that we hold dear are bigger than any one person or party or politician.

And, somehow, nobody communicated that more effectively than Danny Inouye.  You got a sense, as Joe mentioned, of just a fundamental integrity; that he was a proud Democrat, but most importantly, he was a proud American.  And were it not for those two insights planted in my head at the age of 11, in between Disneyland and a trip to Yellowstone, I might never have considered a career in public service.  I might not be standing here today.

I think it's fair to say that Danny Inouye was perhaps my earliest political inspiration.  And then, for me to have the privilege of serving with him, to be elected to the United States Senate and arrive, and one of my first visits is to go to his office, and for him to greet me as a colleague, and treat me with the same respect that he treated everybody he met, and to sit me down and give me advice about how the Senate worked and then regale me with some stories about wartime and his recovery -- stories full of humor, never bitterness, never boastfulness,  just matter-of-fact -- some of them I must admit a little off-color.  I couldn’t probably repeat them in the cathedral.  (Laughter.)  There’s a side of Danny that -- well.

Danny once told his son his service to this country had been for the children, or all the sons and daughters who deserved to grow up in a nation that never questioned their patriotism.  This is my country, he said.  Many of us have fought hard for the right to say that.  And, obviously, Rick Shinseki described what it meant for Japanese Americans, but my point is, is that when he referred to our sons and daughters he wasn’t just talking about Japanese Americans.  He was talking about all of us.  He was talking about those who serve today who might have been excluded in the past.  He’s talking about me.

And that’s who Danny was.  For him, freedom and dignity were not abstractions.  They were values that he had bled for, ideas he had sacrificed for, rights he understood as only someone can who has had them threatened, had them taken away.

The valor that earned him our nation’s highest military decoration -- a story so incredible that when you actually read the accounts, you think this -- you couldn’t make this up.  It’s like out of an action movie.  That valor was so rooted in a deep and abiding love of this country.  And he believed, as we say in Hawaii that we’re a single ‘ohana -- that we're one family.  And he devoted his life to making that family strong.

After experiencing the horror of war himself, Danny also felt a profound connection to those who followed.  It wasn’t unusual for him to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with a veteran or a fellow amputee, trading stories, telling jokes -- two heroes, generations apart, sharing an unspoken bond that was forged in battle and tempered in peace.  In no small measure because of Danny’s service, our military is, and will always remain, the best in the world, and we recognize our sacred obligation to give our veterans the care they deserve.

Of course, Danny didn’t always take credit for the difference he made.  Ever humble, one of the only landmarks that bear his name is a Marine Corps mess hall in Hawaii.  And when someone asked him how he wanted to be remembered, Danny said, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability.  I think I did okay.”

Danny, you were more than okay.  You were extraordinary.

It’s been mentioned that Danny ended his convention speech in Chicago in 1968 with the word, “aloha.”  “To some of you who visited us, it may have meant hello,” he said, but “To others, it may have meant goodbye.  Those of us who’ve been privileged to live in Hawaii understand aloha means I love you.”

And as someone who has been privileged to live in Hawaii, I know that he embodied the very best of that spirit, the very best of “aloha.”  It’s fitting it was the last word that Danny spoke on this Earth.  He may have been saying goodbye to us.  Maybe he was saying hello to someone waiting on the other side.  But it was a final expression most of all of his love for the family and friends that he cared so much about, for the men and women he was honored to serve with, for the country that held such a special place in his heart.

And so we remember a man who inspired all of us with his courage, and moved us with his compassion, that inspired us with his integrity, and who taught so many of us -- including a young kid growing up in Hawaii –-- that America has a place for everyone.
May God bless Daniel Inouye.  And may God grant us more souls like his.

President Obama Nominates John Kerry for Secretary of State (video/transcript)

Roosevelt Room

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  When I took office, our nation was engaged in two wars, and al Qaeda was entrenched in their safe havens.  Many of our alliances were frayed, and America’s standing in the world had suffered.

Over the past four years, we’ve begun a new era of American leadership.  We ended the war in Iraq, put the al Qaeda core on the path to defeat, and we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan.  We’ve strengthened our alliances, including in Asia; forged new coalitions to meet global challenges; and stood up for human dignity, from North Africa to the Middle East to Burma.  We still, of course, face great challenges.  But today, I can say with pride that the United States is safer, stronger and more respected in the world.

In this work, I’ve been grateful for an extraordinary national security team.  Tom Donilon has been a part of that, and I’m grateful to him.  Of course, one of the most important people in this whole transformation has been our outstanding Secretary of State, my friend, Secretary Hillary Clinton.  Hillary wanted very much to be here today, but she continues to recuperate.  I had a chance to talk to her earlier today, and she is in good spirits and could not be more excited about the announcement that I’m making.

Over the last four years, Hillary has been everywhere -- both in terms of her travels, which have seen her represent America in more countries than any previous Secretary of State, and through her tireless work to restore our global leadership.  And she’s looking forward to getting back to work, and I am looking forward to paying tribute to her extraordinary service in the days to come.

Today, though, I’m looking ahead to my second term, and I am very proud to announce my choice for America’s next Secretary of State -- John Kerry.

In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role.  As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department -- the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families.

Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power.  And he knows, from personal experience, that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done.
In an extraordinarily distinguished Senate career -- and as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee -- John has played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years.

As we turn the page on a decade of war, he understands that we’ve got to harness all elements of American power and ensure that they’re working together -- diplomatic and development, economic and political, military and intelligence -- as well as the power of our values which inspire so many people around the world.

As John has said, we are an exceptional nation “not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.”  And I’d say that one of the more exceptional things we’ve seen in recent decades was when John helped lead the way, along with folks like John McCain and others, to restore our diplomatic ties with Vietnam.  And when he returned to the country where he and so many others had fought so long ago, it sent a powerful message of progress and of healing.
Over these many years, John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world.  He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training.  He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans.  I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.  And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead.

On a personal level, John has been a great friend.  I’ve appreciated John’s partnership in helping to advance so many of my foreign policy priorities, including the ratification of the New START Treaty.  I’ve called on his talents and diplomatic skills on several occasions, on complex challenges from Sudan and South Sudan to the situation in Afghanistan.  And each time he has been exemplary.

Of course, I also have to say thanks because John invited a young Illinois state senator to address the Democratic Convention in Boston.  I was proud to serve with him on the Foreign Relations Committee under the tutelage of Joe Biden -- (laughter) -- and where we all became friends.  But of course nothing brings two people closer together than weeks of debate prep.  (Laughter.)

John, I’m looking forward to working with you instead of debating you.  (Laughter.)
Finally, I want to thank Teresa.  As someone who came to this country as an immigrant, she understands the shining values that America represents to the world.  As a former interpreter at the United Nations, she appreciates how our interests can be advanced in partnership with others.  Teresa, thank you so much for being John’s partner in this next endeavor.
I have to say I think I speak for John and Joe and myself  -- we just left Danny Inouye’s funeral, a man who exemplified the very best of the U.S. Senate tradition.  And so, I know that, John, it won’t be easy to leave the Senate that you love.  And I think it’s fair to say that there are going to be some great challenges ahead.  An uncertain world will continue to test our nation.

But even with all the challenges that we face, I have never been more confident, more optimistic, that if we act with wisdom and with purpose, and if we’re guided by our values, and we remind what binds us together as Americans, the United States will continue to lead in this world for our lifetimes.

So, John, I am very grateful that you’ve agreed to take on this new assignment.  I’m confident that the Senate will confirm you quickly.  I guess you won’t be able to actually appear and preside at the same time -- (laughter) -- so we’ll have to figure out how that works, but I know that you are going to be an outstanding Secretary of State.
Thank you so much.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

The Killer at Thurston High

Watch The Killer at Thurston High on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Fourteen Years Later, Looking Back at a School Shooting


More than a decade ago, FRONTLINE set out to understand how a troubled young man with no history of violence could become a random killer in the halls of his high school. What clues in his background, experience or medical condition might help make sense of a senseless crime?
On May 20, 1998, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel shot and killed his mother and father. The next morning he opened fire on students at Thurston High School, killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel is serving a 111-year prison sentence in Oregon. Now 30, he has filed several appeals claiming that inadequate legal counsel kept him from pursuing an insanity plea.
The Killer at Thurston High, which first aired on Jan. 18, 2000, examines Kinkel’s childhood in a nurturing family in suburban Oregon and his transformation from a shy, lonely teenager into a methodical killer. The story draws on excerpts from Kinkel’s writings, his psychologist’s notes and interviews with his sister, schoolmates and family friends.
What explains Kinkel’s attack? As in the case of Adam Lanza, the consequences of the shooting are indelible while its causes remain largely opaque. And it is unknown whether the perpetrators of such crimes share much more in common than the indiscriminate toll in suffering they inflict.
But Kinkel, unlike Lanza, survived the shooting, and left an audio confession recorded by police. While not definitive and perhaps peculiar to his case, his testimony provides rare glimpse into the thinking and emotions of someone who would carry out such an attack.
The audio confession is part of broader discussion of the Connecticut violence in a PBS special broadcast, After Newtown, which will air tonight at 8 p.m. on PBS stations.  You can watch the full film of The Killer at Thurston High above.



Gun control petition breaks record

WASHINGTON - In just three days since the Newtown school shooting, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling on US President Barack Obama to produce legislation that limits access to guns.

Support for the gun control drive, posted on the White House "We the People" website on Friday, neared 158,000 signatures at around 2200 GMT on Monday, already a new record for such a petition.

"Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms," it says, referring to groups like the country's powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).

"Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve," says the petition, available at

"The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun," it says.

The United States is reeling from a massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday that left 20 young children and six adults dead.

The shooter, who is also believed to have killed his mother at the house they shared before embarking on the school massacre, took his own life as police closed in.

Obama vowed Sunday at an emotional vigil in the grief-stricken New England town to use all his power to stop such gun massacres happening again, saying "these tragedies must end."
The White House has not yet specified what Obama has in mind.

But there is talk of a drive to renew a ban on assault weapons which expired in 2004, and of limits on the availability and size of fast-firing magazines.

An assault weapon ban was passed in 1994 under president Bill Clinton but it expired in 2004 and was never resurrected. Obama supported restoring the law while running for president in 2008 but did not make it a priority during his first term.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse


Washington’s Deceptions

Reform taxes? Fix Medicare? Yeah, right.

"POLITICAL SPEECH and writing," George Orwell wrote in a biting and brilliant critique, "are largely the defense of the indefensible." The most political of writers bemoaned the fact that "political language-and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists-is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Orwell was reacting to the desperate euphemisms employed by members of the British intelligentsia in his day who had taken to defending the indefensible savagery of Stalinism, but there are plenty of examples in today's debate over America's debt.

I tried to persuade Bill Clinton to mock one of today's more egregious euphemisms-the Republicans' use of words like "fix" to describe what they want to do to Medicare-as he prepared his speech to the Democratic National Convention in September. Here's the line I pitched him: "Every time I hear Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan say they want to 'fix' Medicare, it reminds me of when that veterinarian said he wanted to 'fix' my old dog Buddy. But it was not a fix. It was a cut, and there's a difference."

Our former president, you may be comforted to know, thought it best not to include in one of the most important speeches of the election a dog-castration joke. But the point I was trying to make remains important: beware of euphemisms-they mask mischief.

Republicans don't want to "fix" Medicare or “reform” Medicare. And Lord knows they don't want to "modernize" it or-as the deeply disingenuous Paul Ryan says-"protect and strengthen Medicare." No, they want to end it. Newt Gingrich showed admirable clarity of language in 1996 when he said of the agency that financed Medicare, "We believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it." When something withers on the vine, it dies.

Far too often the press simply accepts partisans' preferred euphemisms. For decades countries that traded freely with America were given a status called "Most Favored Nation." When I worked in the Clinton White House we sought such status for the People's Republic of China. But can you really call the land of Mao, the place of forced abortions and the mass murder in Tiananmen Square, a "Most Favored Nation"? We needed a euphemism. Someone came up with "Permanent Normal Trade Relations." Ahh, that's nicer, isn't it? Amazingly, everyone went along with it. MFN disappeared, PNTR became the euphemistic acronym that elite policymakers and journalists used.

But sometimes reporters use plain, true words that strip away the comforting lies. In describing the Ryan plan for Medicare The Wall Street Journal wrote, "The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills." Under the GOP plan, when fully phased in, Medicare would no longer pay health-care costs for seniors. Instead, the elderly would be given a voucher (with the euphemistic label of "premium support") and sent into the private health-insurance market. Some think this system would be better; some think it would be worse. But whichever it is, it would not be Medicare as we have known it for nearly a half century. Traditional Medicare would be essentially ended-not "saved" or "rescued" or "strengthened." Essentially ended. Bully for the Journal for saying so.

By the way, even saying we will cut or essentially end-or do anything else-to Medicare or Medicaid is itself a bit of a euphemism. What we are talking about is cutting health care for the elderly. Cutting medical services for the poor. Reducing aid to special-needs kids. Paying doctors and hospitals less.

We see the same euphemistic dishonesty in the talk of taxes. Democrats don't want to "reform" taxes-at least not in the near term. They want to raise them for the rich. Politicians may dress up this reality with talk of "enhanced revenue" or "broadening the base" or even "lowering the rate." Whatever. We are going to raise taxes. Someone is going to pay more, and that someone is likely to be making more than $250,000 a year.

I expect a deal on the debt. Perhaps not by the Dec. 31 deadline, but almost certainly in early 2013. That deal will likely force rich people to pay more in taxes. It will probably cut spending on health care for seniors, the poor, and people with special needs. It's impossible to know the specifics in advance. But this I can guarantee: the deal will be cloaked in the anodyne-sounding but reality-denying euphemisms of current political discourse.

Just as Orwell predicted. Source :Newsweek

Obama at Sandy Hook Vigil Speech - Newtown Connecticut Element (video/transcript)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests -- Scripture tells us: “…do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown -- you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy -- they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate. So it’s okay. I’ll lead the way out.” (Laughter.)

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.

And we know we can’t do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.

This is our first task -- caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

All the world’s religions -- so many of them represented here today -- start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose? We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have -- for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of. And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them -- for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte.    Daniel.   Olivia.    Josephine.   Ana.   Dylan.   Madeleine.   Catherine.   Chase. Jesse.   James.    Grace.    Emilie.    Jack.   Noah.    Caroline.   Jessica.    Benjamin.    Avielle.   Allison. 

God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. (Applause.)