President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, descend the Grand Staircase before delivering remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011 ( Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern):
5:15: President Obama delivers remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception, East Room
7:30: The President and First Lady attend the Kennedy Center Honors, Kennedy Center
National Memo: With Unemployment At A 5-Year Low, Will Ted Cruz Finally Stop Using This Lie?
“The single biggest job killer is Obamacare,” Senator Ted Cruz told ALEC on Thursday …. The crowd leapt to its feet.
Cruz was speaking just hours after a new unemployment claims report showed layoffs falling below 300,000 in the last week, only the second time since May of 2007. The next morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low …
For 45 straight months the private sector has been growing, creating 8 million jobs. Essentially, when it comes to the employment market, things have not been this good since before the Great Recession. With more than two million jobs already created, 2013 will be the best year for payroll gains since 2005.
…. The Republican base loves to be lied to about Obamacare — as Ted Cruz has discovered and perfected. So don’t expect him to ever stop doing it.
Michael Hiltzik: Fiscal Idiocy: What States Refusing Medicaid Will Cost Their Citizens
Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma of the Commonwealth Fund have done the math to show how this calculation is affected by the refusal of 25 states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Thanks to Brad DeLong at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for the tip.) The bottom line is that as a pure fiscal and budgetary matter, refusing the Medicaid expansion is insane. The cost is $57 billion a year. The Act provides for federal funding to expand the state-federal healthcare program to residents earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal share will be 100% of the expansion cost through 2016, and stay at 90% or above through 2020.
The Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional, and 25 states have turned down the deal. This is entirely the handiwork of Republican governors or legislatures determined to take a dramatic stand against Obamacare. Of the 25 refusenik states, six have governors who support the expansion over the legislature’s objection; four are Democrats, including the governor-elect of Virginia, and two are Republicans. It’s already been established that the failure to expand Medicaid will deprive 5 million residents in those states of the improved access to health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.
LA Times: U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops To 7%, Lowest Since 2008
A surprisingly robust gain in new jobs last month helped drop the unemployment rate to a five-year low, fueling optimism about the nation’s economic recovery and raising the prospect that the government may finally start to ease a key stimulus effort this month. In its report Friday, the Labor Department said that the nation’s employers added 203,000 non-farm jobs in November and that a large part of them were higher-paying positions. The unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest since November 2008.
“It’s not just the quantity of the jobs but the quality,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. “These are higher-wage jobs, and a shift from a reliance on leisure and hospitality and retail gains we had seen in recent months.” The economy has averaged more than 200,000 net new jobs a month for the last four months. That’s the sustained level that central bank officials have said they wanted to see before starting to reduce the monthly bond purchases, part of their effort to spur the recovery from the Great Recession.
In 1966, Senator Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech at the University of Cape Town. He began by stating that he was there to talk about a country settled by the Dutch, which fought a bloody war of independence, and had then become an international pariah for its treatment of black people. He allowed a tense moment to pass and then added, “I’m here tonight to talk about the United States of America.”
To an extent greater than most Americans recognize, but which Nelson Mandela understood implicitly, the United States and South Africa are products of kindred histories: both founded by settlers, both emerged from wars to overthrow British colonialism, both forged national identities on their respective frontiers. Before the election of Barack Obama allowed this country, albeit briefly, to indulge the idea of postracialism, Mandela was revered here as a proxy for the American past. His capacity to emerge from twenty-seven years in prison without bitterness broadcast the hope that this country’s own racial trespasses might be forgiven.
Amidst the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the Prime Minister’s office after the interim agreement on Iran reached in Geneva, it is appropriate to pause to ask how President Obama’s interim agreement actually measures up on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chosen yardstick. Who can forget Netanyahu’s UN presentation last year where he made his best case to the world about the threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to international security. To vivify this danger, Bibi unveiled a graphic sketch of a bomb on which he demonstrably drew a red line.
Especially in Israel, the Prime Minister’s speech drew withering fire. Many criticized his drawing a red line in this way as a fool’s errand. Obama’s black line bests Bibi’s red line. It pushes Iran back from the line Netanyahu drew, where Iran stood on the threshold of completion of stage 2, 90% of the way to the UEU core of a bomb, to Netanyahu’s stage 1. As a result, on the path the Prime Minister identified as Iran’s fastest track to a nuclear bomb, the Geneva agreement has extended the dash time – the period between any decision by Iran to rush to a bomb and the goal line. Thus, when judged by this bottom line, Obama’s interim agreement leaves Israel and the world safer than we would otherwise be.
Jerusalem Post: Peres Says He’s Willing To Meet Rouhani: “Iran Is Not Our Enemy”
President Shimon Peres on Sunday said that he would have no problem meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. ”Why not?” he said in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv. Israel and Iran are not enemies, he said. Peres also said he believed relations with the United States had not been harmed over the Iran issue, and that US President Barack Obama remained a solid friend to Israel. He stressed the importance of using the next six months to sign a final deal that would ensure Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon. Asked his stance on gay marriage in Israel, Peres responded that everybody was born equal and had a right to love who they wanted to love.
NYT: Thousands Demand Resignation Of Ukraine Leader
Enraged by a violent crackdown by security forces, Ukrainians took to the streets with new, revolutionary urgency on Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich and a realignment of the country away from Russia toward Europe. “I want the authorities to know that this is not a protest; this is a revolution!” Yuri V. Lutsenko, a former interior minister and an organizer of the Orange Revolution nine years ago, told a vast crowd here in Independence Square that many observers said outstripped even the biggest gatherings in 2004. “Revolution!” the crowd roared back. “Revolution!”
Eleven days of intensifying protests over Mr. Yanukovich’s refusal to sign political and free trade accords with the European Union have now directly shaken the president’s prospects of remaining in power. Cracks have begun to emerge in his political base: His chief of administration was reported to have resigned, and a few members of Parliament quit his party and decried the police violence. Many Ukrainians see the agreements with Europe as crucial steps toward a brighter economic and political future, and as a way to break free from the grip of Russia and from Ukraine’s Soviet past. Now, the outcry over Mr. Yanukovich’s abandonment of the accords is pushing Russia into a corner.
Think Progress: What Americans Can Learn From The Constitution Nelson Mandela Signed
In 2012, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the impolitic suggestion that “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012,” instead pointing foreign constitution drafters to the constitution the late South African leader Nelson Mandela signed in 1996. Her statement received the predictable response from many conservative voices. One publication called for her to resign. The truth, however, is that the United States could learn a great deal from South Africa’s constitution.
As Ginsburg noted, that constitution was drafted much more recently than America’s 226 year-old founding text. Accordingly, its drafters benefited from more than two centuries of human experience that our founding fathers did not have. Ginsburg in no way impugned the genius of George Washington, James Madison or Alexander Hamilton when she suggested that these men could not possibility have known the things that we know today — and that nations drafting new constitutions should benefit from the full range of human experience.
Scott Keyes: Pope Francis Sneaks Out Of The Vatican At Night To Serve The Homeless
The leader of the Catholic Church has been quietly sneaking out of the Vatican at night to minister to homeless residents, according to a new report. “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women,” writes The Huffington Post. The report hinted that Pope Francis had sneaked out of the enclave with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. As Almoner of His Holiness, Krajewski is the Vatican’s point person on giving charity to the poor and visits the destitute nightly.
This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has earned attention and praise for his predilection to serve the needy. Just months after assuming the papacy, he invited nearly 200 homeless people to join him for dinner at the Vatican. He also deplored the plight of homeless people in the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy last week: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
UPI: Colin Powell: Everyone Should Have Access To Quality Healthcare
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Seattle audience universal healthcare would show the world the United States takes care of “all of our citizens.” Speaking Thursday at a fundraiser sponsored by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Powell said he doesn’t see why the United States “can’t do what Europe is doing, what Canada is doing, what Korea is doing, what all these other places are doing.” ”I am not an expert in healthcare, or Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or however you choose to describe it,” he said, “but I do know this — I have benefited from that kind of universal healthcare in my 55 years of public life.”
Rolihlahla Mandela, the son of a Thembu tribal chief, was born in Mvezo, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape on 18 July 1918. He was the first of his family to go to school. It was there he received the name Nelson – it was customary for school children to be given English names. In 1941, he fled to Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage. He met Walter Sisulu who helped him get work at law firm Witkin Sidelsky. Mr Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944.
Mr Mandela qualified as a lawyer and in 1952 set up the country’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo.
Fearing a ban by the apartheid government, the ANC asked Mr Mandela to make plans to ensure the party could work underground.
He was arrested in 1956 and charged with treason along with 155 others. The trial lasted four-and-a-half-years, and ended with his being acquitted. In 1958, he married his second wife, Winnie Madikizela.
After police killed 69 protesters in Sharpeville in March 1960, the government feared retaliation, so it declared a state of emergency and then banned the ANC. The organisation formed a military wing, led by Mr Mandela.
In 1962, Mr Mandela was arrested and tried for leaving the country illegally. In 1963, while in prison, he was charged with sabotage. He and seven others were sentenced to life in 1964 and jailed on Robben Island.
Dire Straits and Eric Clapton at Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday tribute
The international community started to tighten sanctions which had been first imposed on the apartheid regime in 1967. By 1990, the pressure led to President FW de Klerk lifting the ban on the ANC.
On 11 February 1990, Mr Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison. Crowds cheered as he and his wife Winnie left the prison grounds. The next year, Mr Mandela was elected ANC president at the party’s first national conference. Talks began on forming a new, multi-racial democracy.
Tomorrow: The President and First Lady will attend the Kennedy Center Honors
Alex MacGillis: Those Media Hysterics Who Said Obama’s Presidency Was Dead Were Wrong. Again.
It’s been a pretty good week for the Obama administration. The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.
…. it seems safe to say that the Obama presidency is not, in fact, over and done with. What, you say, was there any question of that? Well, yes, there was – less than a month ago…..
…. with whiplash force, came the obituaries for the Obama presidency. The Washington press corps has been reduced to the state of the tennis-watching kittens in this video, with the generic congressional ballot surveys playing the part of the ball flitting back and forth.
Jonathan Cohn: The Obamacare Error Rate Has Fallen Dramatically Some perspective on the latest ACA freak-out
These days it seems like everybody following Obamacare is talking about the 834s. Those are the personal data files that healthcare.gov sends insurance companies, in order to notify them of new enrollees. The data has been prone to errors and that’s a real problem. …
But the 834 problem is fixable and, according to multiple sources in the public and private sectors, it is being fixed. In fact, one administration official tells The New Republic that preliminary estimates, just now becoming available, suggest the error rate has fallen from one in four during October to one in ten now….
Just five days into the relaunch of the new and improved HealthCare.gov, it’s probably too soon to say if the website is working properly in terms of technology. The initial numbers look good. Although important back-end problems remain, the site has handled close to a million users some days, and more people signed up Tuesday than in all of October. But we don’t need the stats to know the website is working in at least one important way: politically.
Here’s how you can tell:
1) Republicans have mostly stopped attacking the website….
PoliticusUSA: A Nasty Anti-Obama Column Draws a Contributor’s Angry Response
This Newsday commentary by Lane Filler appeared in my local paper Thursday. I sent the author an email…
I just read your 12/5/13 column in my local paper under the rubric of “Media are too easy on the emperor.” … you claim that the ‘mainstream’ reporters on health care restructuring “seem to have taken a dive for their beloved.”
Surely you jest if you propose that President Barack Obama is being given a pass on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)….
…. Allow me to do the research that apparently you eschewed. In the last year alone, there have been nearly 50 SHJ AP stories about ACA that could be considered anti-Obama. There has been an endless stream of ACA attacks from right-wing columnists carried by the paper. Fully 95% of editorial cartoons have been anti-ACA and anti-Obama….
As for your description of Obama as emperor or king, what is the origin of this insult? …. maybe [he is] a little too ‘uppity’ for your taste. Could that be the problem, Lane?
…. if Obama is king, Lane Filler is the Court Jester, heartily juggling propagandized “facts” for the entertainment of HIS corporate buddies.
Charles Pierce: Conservatives can own Ronald Reagan and be welcome to him, but you don’t get Nelson Mandela.
It is possible, if we all think really hard, we can use the days between Nelson Mandela’s death and his journey to his final resting place deep in the hills of his boyhood to make quite plain to young people who may have joined us late what a thoroughgoing moral disaster was the Reagan Administration (1980-88)….
… now, of course, with the death of Mandela, there are a lot of proper retrospectives concerning how enthusiastically the Reagan Administration supported the white-supremacist government of South Africa, and how morally obtuse (at best) that administration was to the reality of apartheid….
It’s too late now to seek absolution at the bier of Nelson Mandela, who is dead and can’t speak for himself … You opposed Mandela when it really counted for the same reason you cheered on murderers in this hemisphere. Ronald Reagan was a dim hack who did horrible damage to almost everything he touched. You can own him and be welcome to him, but you don’t get Nelson Mandela.
ThinkProgress: The Right Wing’s Campaign To Discredit And Undermine Mandela, In One Timeline
The world is celebrating Nelson Mandela as a selfless visionary who led his country out of the grips of apartheid into democracy and freedom. But some of the very people lavishing praise on South Africa’s first black president worked tirelessly to undermine his cause and portray the African National Congress he lead as pawns of the Soviet Union.
In fact, American conservatives have long been willing to overlook South Africa’s racist apartheid government in service of fighting communism abroad. Below is a short history, and some explanation, of how conservatives approached Mandela with the hostility they did…
Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England in the late 1960s from the British mod scene. Northern soul mainly consists of a particular style of black American soul music based on the heavy beat and fast tempo of the mid-1960s Tamla Motown sound.
The northern soul movement, however, generally eschews Motown or Motown-influenced music that has met with significant mainstream success. The recordings most prized by enthusiasts of the genre are usually by lesser-known artists, released only in limited numbers, often by small regional American labels such as Ric-Tic and Golden World Records (Detroit), Mirwood (Los Angeles) and Shout and Okeh (New York/Chicago).
President Obama dances with a child dressed as an elf as he joins entertainers on stage, including actress Jane Lynch and ‘singer’ (sic) Mariah Carey, holding her daughter Monroe, at the end of the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, December 6