Five Honest Questions…Barack Obama’s Congressional Address



It’s not the Oscars or the Grammys or the Superbowl. It’s better! The only thing missing last night was a bowl of popcorn. My (fat) butt was right in place on the couch, ready to hear what my president, (isn’t that crazy how we say that? I always say MY president. Not THE president), had to say about the economy and his plans to get the country out of the recession.

But my first question had nothing to do with his speech…

My knees can't take much more of this. How about yours?

Hey Nancy, my knees can't take much more of this. How about yours?

1. Why the constant standing ovations? WHY?!

My favorite James Baldwin book is The Fire Next Time, a collection of essays. In one, he visits Elijah Muhammad, from the Nation of Islam, at his home in Chicago. Though Baldwin took issue with some of the Nation’s beliefes, he respected Elijah Muhammad as a leader and wanted to meet him. They had dinner. And the table was filled with other Nation members as they began to discuss current events. Baldwin writes.

Whenever Elijah spoke, a kind of chorus arose from the table, saying “Yes, that’s right.” This began to set my teeth on edge.

That line made me chuckle back in 1990, when I first read it. I could see Baldwin at the dinner table, open to hearing Muhammad’s beliefs and have an intelligent discourse. And being uber-annoyed at his yes-men chiming in at every turn.

This is how I felt last night.

Every time Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden rose to applaud, my teeth were set on edge.

Needless to say, by the end of Obama’s speech, I think I scraped all the enamel of my molars. And I have a headache from rolling my eyes so hard.

I know this isn’t new. It’s part of government culture. Like the wigs on judges in England.

But it doesn’t make me any less annoyed. I stopped counting the ovations after number twelve. Can someone please explain to me why the Democrats have to do this? I love Obama. I could listen to him convince me why I should try hog maws and chitlins for the first time. And he could probably convince me to douse ’em with some hot sauce and dig in. I get it. He’s an awesome speaker. And very convincing. But my lord in heaven, sit down people!

Girl, when I'm done with this speech...I'ma tear you up.  You hear me?

Girl, when I'm done with this speech...I'ma tear you up. You hear me?

2. Does anyone out there have Obama-love?

I love TH. He’s my best friend. We’re identical twins in many ways. Blah blah blah. But he does not look at me the way Obama looks at Michelle. Did you see how he shouted her out last night? And she was sitting there, draped in her signature purple, mouthing the words I love you and blowing him a kiss and looking like she was gon’ put it ON her man after that address.

If TH ever won an award or had to give a big speech, I think he’d say, “oh, and um, I’d like to thank my, um, family. I think my wife is here…somewhere. Oh, there she is. Word. Thanks Aliya. Good looking out.”

Or he might pull a Sean Penn at The Oscars and not thank me at all.

I am not doubting TH’s love for me. But dang. Did you see that look Obama gave old-girl? Dang.


3. And how much did you love Ty’Sheoma Bethea?

She sat there, stoic and unsmiling, while Obama recounted the letter she wrote to him about her crumbling school in Dillon, South Carolina. I loved how composed and calm she was. Michelle leaned over and smiled at her. And homegirl still didn’t move. Love it! She wasn’t mugging for the camera or looking like, yeah, woe is me.  I go to a crumbling school. Nope. Homegirl sat up straight and kept her eyes fixed. That girl is going places. She didn’t let go and smile until Obama was done and she got (ugh!) a standing ovation and a hug from The First Lady.

But I have to say, the whole letter-to-the-president thing was totally staged. The story sounds sweet: she walked to the public library with her mother because the family doesn’t have a computer. She wrote the letter by herself. Asked a teacher for the stamp to send it. It landed on Obama’s desk and the rest is history… But I’m not buying it. Obama campaigned at her school last year. So there was a connection. Now don’t get all up in arms. It doesn’t take away anything from Ms. Bethea. I just had one eyebrow raised as Obama related the tale…


4. If you got a sixty million dollar bonus when you sold your company, would you give it away to your employees?

Obama recognized Leonard Abess during his speech. Abess is a banker from Miami who cashed out his company and got a sixty million dollar bonus. In return, he gave it all away to 399 of his employees. And even tracked down 72 former employees to give them their share! The best part? He never talked about it. Didn’t have a ceremony with a big oversized check. He just did it. Months later, in an interview with the Miami Herald, he said…

”Those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity — I always thought some day I’m going to surprise them,” he said. “I sure as heck don’t need [the money].”

From there, the truth of his generosity was unveiled and a reporter uncovered all the details. Abess’ story reminded me of a Jay-Z interview I read years ago. He was talking about the levels of generosity. And how the highest form of giving was to give without anyone knowing about it. This has always intrigued me. In Abess’ case, his employees knew where the money was coming from, even if he chose to keep the gifts private from the outside world. But imagine donating millions to someone who doesn’t even know it’s coming from you. Would you be able to do that? I’d like to think I could. But another part of me wants praise for being so wonderful. If I were Abess, I think I would have been rolling up to each person’s house with an oversized check and a camera crew, Ed McMahon style.


5. Does Obama’s plan actually make sense?

The one line that stood out to me last night was the no-new-taxes for those who make more than 250,000 per year. Let me make it abundantly clear. We ain’t pulling in them kind of bucks in the aliyasking household. But it’s definitely in the 5 year-plan to get there. I’ve mapped it out. And I can see it. (Unless we’re all selling apples in the street of course…)

If I do get into that tax bracket, will I morph into a Republican? Will I suddenly resent public works programs and tax breaks for people who can’t pay their mortagage?

I haven’t received a tax refund in years. Every April, I have to write a very large check to the federal government. Lump forms in the throat. But then I realize that I don’t get a refund because I make a decent living. (And because my income comes tax-free and I never pay it quarterly like I should. But I digress.)

Here are some points from Obama’s speech:

And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5m jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Who can argue with that? Sounds great, right? Whoo-hoo Obama, as my two year old would say.

But if we’re in a recession…And our money is not backed by a gold standard…where is this money coming from? Are we just printing it up? Does it have any real value? Are we playing monopoly at this point? Can’t it all just…collapse?

I’m not an economist. I know next to nothing about how this all works. But I’m confused. And I’m scared. Can someone please explain to me how this will all work in the long run?

Dear readers…Did the standing ovations work your nerves too? Do have an Obama-love in your house? (Those married or dating for less than one year need not respond.) Do you know what the name Ty’Sheoma means? And does Obama’s plan make you feel more confident about our future? Or are you still stuffing dollars under your mattress?

I’d love to hear from you…

23 Responses to “Five Honest Questions…Barack Obama’s Congressional Address”

  1. Heather Says:

    (Commentary later. Just had to stake my claim)

  2. Kwame Says:

    Are you serious?

    For a better understanding of the cause of crisis (this is critical) watch these two clips. It can’t get more simple than these two clips (kudos-great attempt to simpify the situation kinda). Then, once you understand that, think about WHO has been getting bailed out and ask yourself if it makes sense. Overall, the public has no idea what is going on.
    part 1:
    part 2:

    1) Pelosi and Biden are just con-men. Their track record shows that, but here in America very few citizens pay attention to track records or peoples actions. It’s all about personality and feelings, as if that really means anything. Applause is to show support despite the fact that what is being done will make things worse for you and I. This is not a mistake. News pundits and other talking heads may talk about governments lack of understanding, but that is not accurate. These are smart people. It is by design. An understanding of their history (track record) and actions taken in office will show this… Especially in the FED, which is the root of many issues (but run by successful bankers). Besides, I don’t know why there is applause. From where I sit, the only that has changed in the white house is the race and charisma of the president. I see no other change/benefit (for you and I) to date. I see the opposite. Even King would be pissed, especially after all these comparisons. People don’t realize that Martins dream wasn’t just about black and white babies playing together and equality for us, but also socio-economic equality for all people and an end to the whole military complex. Many of the things Martin despised, Obama supports. It’s crazy. King could not support Obama today because King saw that many of these government backed initiatives impoverished the people… but I digress.

    2) You know.. It’s TV.. What do u expect? For al you know they could have had an arguement last night. It’s not like they’re at Clinton Status (FYI – during that era.. its not like Hill – Hill didnt know he was cheating. He had been doing so for years according to many reports). Anyway — To this question.. I say who cares. IF you have understanding of whats going on…scratch that…What’s been going for some time you really wouldn’t care about this fluff. Come on… It’s TV. It’s meant to be like this.. sigh.

    3) Skip. I’m more concerned with my well being.. However.. I’m sayin’.. It’s all a stage.. It’s TV. You know.. Camera 1.. Camera 2.. Pan to this.. Very well produced.

    4) WTF? So.. What about all the companies getting bailout money? This seems like an attempt to make business look good in a time when more bailouts will rolling out of the White House and into the hands of major corporations (but not you and I.. and no it won’t really help everyone keep their jobs). FYI – regarding the stimulus plan.. I haven’t gotten the details yet, but I hear some governors don’t want some this stimulus money b/c it comes with strings.. So the Government has created a way to let state legislators BYPASS the governors decision and get stimulus money. WHAT?!?!?

    5) Hell no. It does not. And — sup with Ron Paul being the talk show/news darling all of a sudden??!? HE was saying the ish (all of it) didn’t make sense from the jump before the economic downturn actually hit. He was cut out of debates clips on TV and news articles discussing the presidential candidates.. Now he’s on TV saying the same ish (but has no chance of becoming elected). Just the other day, I saw a clip of RP on Bill Maher. Bills script labeled Paul as a typical republican and grouped Paul with the now unpopular party, as if Paul represents the same ideals and schemes. It’s really dumb… Not to mention the jokes about a very serious situation. w

    And it’s not like the democrats are fairing much better. They’re both horrible. You can believe the crap on TV if u like, but most of it, including a lot of the programming that does not agree with the plan, is NOT accurate. Besides, how can you expect people who allegedly didn’t see this whole thing coming and contributed to the creation of the problem to know how to fix it (note: in 2007 my boy and I were wondering why anyone would wanna be president based on the coming economic conditions. We believe all candidates knew what was coming)? There are many reputable and intelligent people who all this coming (which is why I’m prepared today – since 2007), but they are not part of the solution. WHy is that? The plan follows the same failed plans attempted internationally in the past. It’s known to fail.. Well, let me rephrase… It’s known not to help the struggling people..

    The more you know and understand, the less you can honestly watch tv and extract anything valuable. After all, which TV station told you to expect the events from 2008 until today? None. If a lay person like myself was well informed (and prepared), why shouldn’t you be? Why would you still trust the boob tube? In my experience, everything promoted on TV is usually a good sign that its bad. Even shows that also have an alternative view are highly dumbed down and full of inaccuracies, thus misleading the viewers. After all, during last nights speech you would never hear anything significant, relevant or truthful. It’s all a slant and its not for our benefit. Don’t take my word for it. And please don’t take O’s word. You must learn.

  3. Aliya S. King Says:

    @heather: that’s cheating! Can’t be staking no claims and coming back for the gold later!

  4. Aliya S. King Says:

    @kwame: Hey there. Welcome. Pull up a chair. Stay a while.

  5. Yolonda Says:

    1. Agree on the standing ovations…didn’t need them and weren’t too impressed.

    PS. I was a late on James Baldwin (did not read his stuff until my college years), however, I agree that he is a great author and much before his time.

    2. Loved the caption for Michelle and Obama. You were dead on!!! I once read that, in public, Obama is only allowed to praise her so he did a GREAT job last night. On the other hand, she can say whatever she wants (I am sure within reason) about her hubby.

    3. Can’t really comment on this one. It may have been staged, however, I was teary eyed when I heard the story. I think it touched my heart because it was so staged.

    4. I commend the guy for what he did. With all that Wall Street and the mega-banks have done over the last six months, I am sure there are many more people that are just like him. Would I have done it with the Ed McMahon crew?…not my style

    5. I am not an economist. Based on the law of numbers, if you take don’t increase the taxes for the “us” folks (under $250K) and take away the tax incentives/breaks for the they (highest 2% of country), will that be enough to cover the gigantic amounts of $$$ that we need to cover these new programs.

    PS. We have been printing money with the gold back-up for years. That is also why we are in the position that we are in. We don’t, technically, manufacture anything except mainly ideas/concepts.

  6. Heather Says:

    My bad dude! I read your posts on the BB during my break and they are too long to respond on the spot, even with my mean two-thumb action.

    I can’t lie: I was standing up on the ovations too :D I couldn’t help it…the dude’s a total rockstar. But I was curious as to whether the reaction was that strong for former presidents – even Clinton. I’ve only seen one state of the union b/f last night (bush..booo) and it definitely was not that live.

    And, what’s up with your obsession with the Obama’s bedroom action, LOL! They are a beautiful example of love under fire and I appreciate how they don’t pretend that their marriage is perfect (check michelle’s People mag interview).

    I had to look up Ty’Sheoma today (I cut the speech off early….the message was predictable and borderline depressing for those folks whose job are hanging by a shoestring *journalists). When my roommate asked me who she was I said, “I think she’s a cousin or something!” Which made me wonder: when are the crazy Obama cousins gonna come out the shadows?

  7. Aliya S. King Says:

    @heather. I am obsessed with their bedroom action! ‘Cause they’re young and hot! I can’t help but think about what’s going on in the Oval office at lunch time! Ha!
    and where have you been? The crazy Obama cousins are already out and about…didn’t his half brother just get locked up for possession? And isn’t someone’s aunt here illegally or something?

  8. Heather Says:

    OK…I do wonder if they have soundproof walls (yes, it’s all your fault that these sinful thoughts have invaded my mind)

    And I didn’t know he had a half brother. But I did know about Barack’s aunt, but that’s not scandalous enough for me. I just wonder which cousins can visit the white house versus the ones who are cut off before they cross Pennsylvania Ave.

  9. Heather Says:

    WoW! It seems our esteemed members of Congress were Twittering during Barack’s speech: Hilarious!

    Aliya, you on Twitter?

  10. Del Says:

    I thought I was the only ignt one sitting in front of the tv last night screaming, “why y’all keep standin’ up and clappin’ and stuff? Sit down and let the man talk.” Whew. Now I don’t feel so bad. I think Pelosi was promised a prize if she managed to be the first to stand up and clap every time.

  11. Heather Says:

    @Del: I swear @ one point it looked like the audience was doing the wave – and I think I saw a beach ball getting tossed the air…

  12. Aliya S. King Says:

    @heather: Yeah. I’m on twitter. I think. I set up an account. And 13 people asked to follow me. And then I sent out a twitter, like, um? Is anyone out there? And no one twitted me back. I don’t get twitter. It confuses me.

  13. Heather F. Says:

    will u “follow” me :D

  14. Aliya S. King Says:

    @heather. Oh wow! It’s so…soon. Are you sure you’re ready to take that next step? With…me…

  15. la negrita Says:

    Sadly I missed the address, as I was pre-occupied with Carnival :-/. However:

    Do you know what the name Ty’Sheoma

    LMAO! My guess is it most nearly means: “my mama wasn’t concerned about the marketability of my resume.” The good news is she can shorten it to “Ty,” which is pretty ambiguous. :-D

  16. Hanif Says:

    Hello. I believe the state of the union is the first time a lot of congressman get to meet the president and get his ear. Did you see the end, when Jessie Jr. and all the others we getting autographs? I kept asking myself are they getting that for themselves?

    The standing up is purely to show support for whatever idea he’s conveying. So the on-lookers even Obama himself could get an idea of the partisanship going on. On some points they don’t agree on, you will notice some republicans would not even applaude let alone stand.

    As far as the money. They come up with a magic number and YES the money comes out of thin air. The funny thing is that for every single dollar the appears out of nowhere has debt already attached to it. Our government borrows the money on our behalf, and promises to pay an implied interest on ever single dollar printed. We make payments on this never ending debt, and our great, great, great,….(however many times you feel like counting) grandchildren will have to repay our debt. The interest gets paid to the Wealthy 1 percent and the wealth gap grows, so try your best to get on the other side of the bridge.

    It’s real deep. I think this is what Kwame was trying to get at.

    I already told you why OBAMA has that look…PRESIDENTIAL SPECIAL!!!

  17. Heather F. Says:

    Aliya: LOLOLOL!!! I’m sure….

  18. Nelson Says:

    so much great information in the blog post and the resulting commentary… chevere!

  19. Timothy Says:

    I hate I missed this post and others…as i’m sure no one will read this anytime soon.

    But anyway, to answer the question, yes, past presidents are applauded in the same way with the standing ovations and all.

    I’ve seen a few and it wasn’t really any different than other past presidential addresses. And yes sometimes only the Democrats will stand when Republicans disagree with whatever is said at that momen.

    Think of it as a traditon.

    I know no one will read this post, so i’m just going to put it out there…it is quite possible…if i start making that bread bread…i may vote republican, in the future…ha…i said it…load off mi chest…and not a soul around…whooohoo

  20. Alexandra Marshall Says:

    two responses my dear:

    regarding the standing Os (and by this i do not mean obamas): this was for all intents and purposes a state of the union speech, even though it wasn’t officially. if you look back through other state of the unions, they spend half their time getting up and down off their asses. there’s more standing and sitting than at a catholic funeral. this isn’t a democrat or republican thing, it’s a rah-rah thing. sometimes if people want to make a big point, one party or another won’t stand or applaud, as some repubs did.

    if this were a normal speech there wouldn’t have been so much hoo-hah. but due to the emergency circumstances and the ENORMOUS legislation O has passed, CW says it was time for a pseudo-SOTU. so recontextualize the stagecraft and this constant applause was totally normal.

    regarding the question of your taxes: you’re paying a huge amount to the government because you’re self-employed and so you’re paying more social security taxes. also you’re paying high state taxes and fucking CITY taxes because you live in NYC. if you were someone’s employee, you would have more withheld every month but you would almost certainly be getting a refund. people in high tax brackets who withhold a lot also get refunds. you’re just one of the lifeblood of NYC (self-employed creatives) who gets their blood sucked because our tax code is still operating on a 1950s economic model. NYC gives large orders of magnitude more in taxes than it gets back in services. it’s a cruel mistress.

    as to your political sentiments being contingent on your bank account, one does not always follow the other. people do not always vote their self-interest. to wit: the poor but hardcore right wing state of kansas, george soros. you are what you are and your big picture beliefs don’t change because of $10k. they might change because of $10M, but that’s another story.

    i often think the reason so many athletes are republicans isn’t because suddenly they’re silly rich when so many of them came up from nothing. it’s because to be an athlete is to be exceedingly self-reliant and often alone, and thus it’s easy to buy into the religion of absolute bootstrapping. it kind of comes with the territory. (being an athlete also often makes one superstitious and religious because your performance on any given night is sort of ephemeral and easily explained away by grace. there are no atheists on the free throw line. but that’s another topic.)

    people’s political beliefs change through their lives, but i think it’s often based on larger world-view-changing circs. like my best GF who is american like me but has lived in europe for almost 15 years. she used to be as big a commie as me but now she’s a basic right-winger, albeit socially liberal. some of this was her having two kids and giving fuller flower to her general law & order, beat-down personality. but it was also due to many many years of living in france, which will turn ANYONE into a right winger. (well, not me. and much of this is cultural: they’re a bunch of fucking whiners here, no matter how you feel about the welfare state. you just want to punish them any way you can.) also, she hasn’t been in the work force for decades and her husband is a diehard free marketeer so she’s seen a lot of the labor world through his eyes.

    anyway, look into your heart, master luke, and you’ll probably see that your political and social convictions are pretty firm.

    lastly, yes, barack and michelle are silly in love. it’s one of my favorite things about them.

  21. Aliya S. King Says:

    @timothy: I’m a blogger geek. I’m always reading. And if I start making that bread bread… well I can’t say what might happen. Because my girl Alex just posted below you. And she’d kill me..

  22. Aliya S. King Says:

    @alex: I’m so glad you weigh in. Though I neeeeed you in the SSS, I’ll settle for your wit and wisdom here.

  23. ashon Says:

    i don’t know you, Kwame…but dammit if you ain’t said all the ish i’ve been thinking re: BHO…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: