Archive for July 22nd, 2014

22
Jul
14

Night owl chat – Archaeology heals wounded warriors

One of my favorite British shows is “Time Team”. Hosted by the awesome Sir Tony Robinson (Baldrick to you “Blackadder” fans), a team of archaeologists scours Great Britain for interesting sites to excavate.

In the just completed and final Series 20, the fifth episode finds the gang excavating on a military site on Salisbury Plain. Brought in to help, Tony et. al. are seconded to an already existing excavation. And a big part of this excavation is an organization which seeks to heal wounded UK vets reintegrate and heal their psychic and physical wounds via archaeology. I found myself smiling throughout the entire episode, especially when the program’s founder explained what had helped him escape the miasma of depression in which he was sunk after his tours of duty.

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Chat on night owls.

22
Jul
14

A Tweet Or Two

Ladies and gentlemen, a perfect example of Obama Derangement Syndrome

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Pete Souza with the facts and the BURN for this right-winger

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Continue reading ‘A Tweet Or Two’

22
Jul
14

The President and First Lady’s Day

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 President Barack Obama signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; a job-training legislation which aims to help job seekers gain valuable employment skills, as guests and members of Congress look on at the White House

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Text of the President and Vice President’s remarks here

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In other important news today…

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President Barack Obama meets with Apollo 11 astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission

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Continue reading ‘The President and First Lady’s Day’

22
Jul
14

Welcome To Democracy

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tuesday

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Continue reading ‘Welcome To Democracy’

22
Jul
14

A few thoughts on Putin’s “strategic genius”

Middle aged Russian man searches for his masculinity.

It wasn’t so long ago that gumflappers on both the left and right were swooning over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s vim and vigor.

Pat Buchanan, that defender of all that is sacred and American, had this to say:

Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?

In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?

While such a question may be blasphemous in Western circles, consider the content of the Russian president’s state of the nation address.

With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered.”

“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.”

Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.

No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.

President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire “the focus of evil in the modern world.” President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.

Yes, because America is, finally, evolving beyond a blinkered social parochialism, it is now the “focus of evil in the modern world”. I wonder what Mr. Buchanan’s former boss Pres. Reagan would have to say about that?

Then on the left, we have the likes of Stephen Cohen, professional leftist apologist for the Putin regime. New York Magazine has a rather quick and dirty precis on Prof. Cohen:

The most prominent intellectual apologist for Putin is Stephen F. Cohen, Princeton professor, Russologist for the left-wing Nation. Cohen is a septuagenarian, old-school leftist who has carried on the mental habits of decades of anti-anti-communism seamlessly into a new career of anti-anti-Putinism. The Cohen method is to pick away at every indictment of the Russian regime without directly associating himself with its various atrocities. Is Putin persecuting gays? Well, Cohen wants us to know that various Ukrainians nationalists dislike gays, too. And also Barack Obama’s claim to snub Sochi because of gay rights is probably not on the level. Is Putin bullying and killing journalists? Eh,says Cohen, “Every time a journalist breaks a leg, they say the Kremlin did it.” Accidents happen.

This Vladimir Putin must be some sort of man to unite people as supposedly disparate as Pat Buchanan and Stephen Cohen.

But, with a bit of thought, it’s not that amazing that elements of right and left should view Putin as some sort of savior. What unites them is a vitriolic hatred of Barack Obama and the depths to which they view the country as having sunk. Thus on the right Putin is lavished with praise for his virility and family values. On the left, he’s seen as a thorn in the side of US imperialism, and that black president who dares to work for US national interests, instead of abjectly apologizing for past US sins and ceding influence in the international sphere.

What both sides prattle about is that Pres. Putin is smarter than Pres. Obama, running rings around him diplomatically.

Yes, about that.

Continue reading ‘A few thoughts on Putin’s “strategic genius”’

22
Jul
14

President and Vice President Sign the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

12:10 EDT: President Obama and Vice President Biden Deliver Remarks and Sign H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Also at White House Live

22
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital, July 22, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

All times Eastern

10:35: The President meets with Apollo 11 representatives to recognize the 45th anniversary of the moon landing

11:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

12:10: The President signs H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, South Court Auditorium

1:0 Departs the White House

3:30: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama, The White House

All times PDT

3:15: President Obama arrives Seattle, Washington

5:05: Attends a DNC fundraiser; private residence, Seattle

6:0: Attends a fundraiser for Senate Democrats; private residence, Bellevue, Washington

7:25: Departs Seattle

9:10: Arrives San Francisco

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The Week Ahead here

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Reuters: Obama, Biden Highlight Job-Training In Middle-Class Push

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will put a spotlight on job-training programs on Tuesday as part of a White House push to boost economic opportunities for middle-class Americans, an important voting group in November elections.

Obama will sign the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” which the White House said would help “improve business engagement and accountability across federally funded training programs.”

Biden will unveil a new report that will show the results of a study about how to make federal training programs more successful and better tailored to employers’ needs.

More here

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ThinkProgress: Palestinian Civilians Make Up Three-Quarters Of The Dead In Gaza

The Israeli ground operation in Gaza extended on Monday, as international calls for a cease-fire mounted and the death toll continued to increase. While Israel lost several soldiers in the last day, the number of those killed during the latest iteration of the war between Hamas and Israel has been disproportionate, with the vast majority of the dead being both Palestinian and civilian.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) publishes a daily snapshot of the crisis, pulling together the numbers from health officials in Gaza and reports from the various humanitarian organizations in the field. In their last report, which covered from July 19 -20, they noted that 3,008 Palestinians had been injured in the course of the fighting, “904 of whom are children and 533 women.” And at the time the report was published on Sunday, the number of those killed was 395: 375 on the Palestinian side “including 270 civilians, of whom 83 are children and 36 women” and 20 Israelis “including two civilians and 18 soldiers.”

More here

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Ian Millhiser: BREAKING: Two Republican Judges Order Obamacare Defunded

Near the end of 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a final crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, eventually announcing on the Senate floor that “I intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare, I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.” Cruz did succeed in goading his fellow Republicans into shutting down the federal government, but his effort was ultimately doomed. The American people’s elected representatives voted not to defund Obamacare, and the shutdown ended.

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal. Ted Cruz is undoubtedly smiling today. Two unelected Republicans just voted to erase his most embarrassing and most public defeat, and they voted to take away millions of Americans health care in the process.

More here

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TPM: Journalist Who Accused MSNBC Of Pro-Israel Bias: I’ve Been Canceled!

After expressing some candid on-air criticism of MSNBC, network contributor Rula Jebreal is wondering if she’s in the cable news channel’s dog house. Jebreal said in a tweet Monday evening that her “forthcoming TV appearances” had been canceled. The Palestinian journalist also questioned if there might be a “link” between the cancelations and her comments earlier in the day in which she said MSNBC’s coverage had been biased toward Israel amid the nation’s ongoing conflict with Hamas.

While appearing on Monday’s episode of “Ronan Farrow Daily,” Jebreal said the channel’s coverage of the conflict was too favorable toward Israel. She even singled out Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News foreign affairs correspondent and MSNBC host. “Look at how many airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal said. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on theses same issues.”

More here

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U.S. President Obama waves with Cordray during a trip Cleveland

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Amy Traub: The Enduring Success Of The CFPB At Three

Three years ago today the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors. It was a new government agency produced by the Dodd-Frank Act: part of Congress’ attempt to address the rampant misconduct by banks, mortgage lenders, ratings agencies and other financial institutions that brought on the 2008 financial crisis and started the Great Recession. In its three years of existence, the CFPB has already forced credit card companies to return $1.5 billion to consumers that they deceived with fraudulent add on products; reformed mortgage lending rules to ensure borrowers have a genuine ability to repay their loans; and began to sue student loan companies for predatory practices, among many other accomplishments. The agency also handles direct consumer complaints about abusive and deceptive financial products and services—400,000 of them so far. It’s a highly impressive record for a fledging agency.

Now the CFPB wants to let consumers take their complaints public, going beyond the existing database of bare-bones information to enable consumers to provide a full narrative with context about the financial products or services they believe harmed them and how the problem has impacted their lives. Consumers can anonymously tell the whole story about the credit reporting company that refused to remove a blatant error from their report, the mortgage servicer that started a foreclosure despite a history of on-time payments, or the car dealership that marketed deceptive auto loans. The companies they are complaining against would have an opportunity post a public response that would appear alongside the complaint at the same time it is made public.

More here

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Martin Shaw: Wagging The Dog: Gaza & MH17 Plane Deaths Stem From Netanyahu, Putin, Search For Popularity

The Ukraine and Gaza crises alike demonstrate the risks of aggressive policy based on short-term calculations. Vladimir Putin and Binyamin Netanyahu’s war-as-politics invites damaging long-term consequences.

The slaughters in Ukraine and Gaza have one thing in common. Both result from governments authorising violence which is overwhelmingly motivated by domestic politics and appears almost gratuitous from a strategic point of view. Such policies promise short-term domestic popularity, but risk losing international credibility and producing serious blowback. Vladimir Putin is now finding this out. Binyamin Netanyahu should take note: the blowback for Israel could be far more serious.

More here

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Michael Krancer: The Surprising Reasons Why Lowering CO2 Emissions Will Drive Our Electricity Bills Down, Not Up

If the customer wants clean energy, he’ll have to pay for it, right? Wrong. There’s actually no premium attached to low-carbon power, state utility regulators heard last week at their annual conference in Dallas. I’ll cut to the chase. Check out this report from Analysis Group, a five-star consultancy based in Boston, who presented at the conference. “Based on our own analysis and experience, we believe that the impacts on electricity rates from well-designed CO2-pollution control programs will be modest in the near term, and can be accompanied by long-term benefits in the form of lower electricity bills and positive economic value to state and regional economies.”

Here’s the back-of-the-envelope math. The EPA says that the Clean Power Plan—America’s no-nonsense blueprint to cut carbon pollution from its power plants—will cost between $4.3 billion to $7.5 billion per year by 2020. Let’s take a mean of $5.9 billion for the sake of fairness. That’s a mere 1.6 percent of America’s total spending of $363.7 billion on electricity in 2012. If you want an itemized bill, that $5.9 billion will include investment in cleaner generation, including increased zero-carbon low-cost nuclear power, the expense of wringing efficiencies from existing plants, fuel-switching costs, and “demand-side” efficiency measures—which translates to getting your customer use power more smartly.

More here

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Steve Benen: Russia’s U.S. Standing Plummets, Still More Popular Than Congress

It wasn’t too long ago that Russia was fairly popular in the minds in the American mainstream …. It takes real effort to go from 41% to 19% favorability in the course of five months.

But what stands out for me is a CNN poll from a few weeks ago that said Congress has a 14% approval rating.

Let’s pause to appreciate what this is telling us.

Most Americans believe that Russia will try to cover up its possible involvement in the death of 298 people ….. despite this recent bloodshed, still very much on the minds of millions, Russia is still a few points more popular than Congress.

More here

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The People’s View: Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, And Lessons In Reform And Pragmatism

This will be a little hard to hear for the fashionable Lefty detractors of the president’s: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is openly celebrating President Obama’s financial reform law. There have always been detractors who routinely bemoan the Barack Obama’s “capitulation” and “friendliness” to big banks, presenting as evidence what they call a meaningless banking reform bill – Dodd-Frank – the president’s key financial reform accomplishment. In the next breath, they lament why Barack Obama could not “fight” the banks like Elizabeth Warren – with no hint of irony that a key part of President Obama’s financial reform is Warren’s brainchild: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Even when acknowledged, the moaning crowd is still upset that Warren is now a United States Senator rather than the head of CFPB.

And of course… no perpwalks on Wall Street! Because, what good is reform without theater? Today is the fourth anniversary of the most significant financial reform law since the 1930s, which among other things created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is a fact not often noticed by those who see Warren as salvation from the “compromiser in chief” Obama, but the gravity of the achievement certainly did not escape Warren herself. On her Facebook page and in an email sent to supporters, Warren has two words for Dodd-Frank and the CFPB: It worked.

More here

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Stephanie Armour: Health Plans Must Disclose Changes To Contraceptive Coverage

The Obama administration said that employers that stop covering contraceptives in workers’ health plans under a Supreme Court ruling must disclose the change to beneficiaries. The court’s late-June Hobby Lobby decision allows some closely held companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement on religious grounds. The administration’s notice Thursday made clear that if all or a subset of contraceptive services aren’t covered under a group health plan,

beneficiaries must be informed of the extent of the exclusions. Federal law covering pension and health plans requires that employers alert employees if they change or drop benefits. Plans that reduce or eliminate coverage must provide expedited notification, generally no longer than 60 days after the change. The requirement applies to all group health plans, including those that pay workers’ health claims directly and those that rely on an insurer for that.

More here

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama speaks as Sen. Chuck Hagel listens during a news conference at the citadel July 22, 2008 in Amman, Jordan

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’




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