Posts Tagged ‘2014 Elections

13
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama encourages a young participant at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 13, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.

Tuesday: The President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.

Wednesday: President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.

Thursday: The President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.

Friday: The President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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10:0 PM ET today: President Obama appears in the Showtime documentary series ‘Years of Living Dangerously’, produced by James Cameron, to discuss climate change.

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Karen Rubin: Obama At National Action Network, Defends Voting Rights, Issues Call To Action

President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned defense of voting rights and a call to action to vote. Delivering the keynote address which concluded the National Action Network’s convention in New York City, on Friday, April 11, Obama declared, “Just as inequality feeds on injustice, opportunity requires justice. And justice requires the right to vote.” Just the day before, at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, he had reflected upon the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under President Lyndon B Johnson, and his remarks built on that theme. The Voting Rights Act, which some regard as even more crucial an achievement, did not come until 1965. Showing a full gamut of emotions during his 20-minute speech, from bemusement to impassioned invocation, to a folksy, intimate conversation, he used the fabricated controversy over his birth certificate to make the more serious point of documents being required to vote that low-income people,

elderly people, urbanites, young people may not have, and even women, who by virtue of getting married have a different name on their drivers’ license, may be denied access to the polls, while in other districts, people are being forced to stand for hours on end in order to cast a ballot. He pointed to some successes in his administration – 9 million jobs created since the financial collapse of 2008, the Affordable Care Act that saw nearly 8 million enrollees, millions more covered under expanded Medicaid and a significant drop in the percentage of uninsured, lowered high school drop out rates. But he talked, as well, about the Opportunity Agenda – raising the minimum wage, universal Pre-K, access to affordable health care, pay equity, job training, access to higher education, addressing the impacts of carbon pollution that disproportionately affect low-income communities, immigration reform, that can only be achieved, first because of the ballot box.

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LOL GOP: This Is A Fantastic Pro-Obamacare Ad – Why Aren’t There A Thousand Like It?

Since news broke that enrollments in the Obamacare exchanges had broken 7 million, there has been a steady stream of positive indications for the law. Signups in the exchanges continue at impressive pace as the deadline to complete applications nears. Medicaid expansion is taking off in Michigan and will continue all year long. But the best news is this new ad from a Super PAC supporting Alaska senator Mark Begich that makes the most effective case for the law — it ends discrimination against people who’ve gotten sick. This is a fantasitc message because you know who gets sick? Everyone, eventually. The bad news is we likely won’t be seeing many ads like this from candidates as Democrats in close elections recognize that the enthusiasm is on the side of repeal, which is less popular than the law nationally but gospel among the GOP base.

Going on the offense, which is always the right strategy, is more challenging when you’re afraid your only inflaming the people most likely to vote in a low-turn out election. However, there is a huge opportunity for outside groups and supporters of the law to flood the internet with these kinds of testimonials. Film a friend. Speak into a camera. I’m even thinking about how to fund a contest for the best homemade video. The tide could be turning for this law and personal stories — along with stern indictments of the incredible cruelty of denying Medicaid expansion — could transform the political landscape. And there are signs the shift has already begun.

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Justin Baragona: Can White Conservatives Please Stop Saying That Racism Doesn’t Exist Anymore?

In the aftermath of Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks at a National Action Network event on Wednesday, white conservative pundits have used their airtime to complain about Holder ‘playing the race card.’ Some have even gone so far as saying that racism is no longer a problem in America and doesn’t even exist anymore. On two programs this past week, we witnessed panel discussions about race where all the participants were white. On Thursday, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough defended Gohmert’s behavior and accused the Attorney General and the President of playing the race card too often. He then tried to lead a discussion on racism, or the lack thereof, in Washington. His feeling is that Washington is just a tough place to work, and that Bill Clinton, Janet Reno and Richard Nixon all dealt with worse behavior from political opponents. He was able to get agreement from others on the panel that racism is not an issue in Washington and that this is all just politics as usual.

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Now, I’d like you to take a look at the composition of this panel discussing race and tell me what all of them have in common: Hmmm. That sure is a diverse panel there, isn’t it? I am sure they can provide us with quite a bit of varied insight and experience when it comes to race relations and what it likes to be black in America. Few things are more offensive that white people explaining to black Americans how racism doesn’t exist anymore. I would have to think that African Americans hate hearing a white conservative whine about a black person ‘playing the race card.’ This is one of the biggest reasons why Republicans get less than 10% of the black vote in national elections, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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TPM: Poll: Republicans Admit Obamacare Might Not Be The End Of The World

As Obamacare’s first enrollment period ends and the law becomes a more established part of U.S. policy, the Republican base appears to be having an epiphany: Maybe it’s not the end of the world.

A new Gallup poll found that the number of self-identified GOPers who think the law won’t affect them spiked 20 percentage points from a month ago.

Back in late February and early March, 72 percent of Republicans said that Obamacare would make their lives and their family’s lives worse in the long run. But just a month later, that figure fell to 51 percent. The percentage who said that the law wouldn’t make much difference leapt from 23 percent to 43 percent over the same period.

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Trevor LaFauci: Texas-Sized Beat Down: How Eric Holder Put Rep. Louie Gohmert In His Place

On Tuesday, in a heated exchange on Capitol Hill, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder laid the smackdown on Texas Republican Representative Louie Gohmert for implying that Holder should be held in contempt for withholding documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. In the nearly three-and-a-half-hour-long session involving thirty-four members of Congress, it was the exchange with Gohmert which brought the day’s most dramatic fireworks. This was not the first time that tensions have risen between Holder and Gohmert. Last May at a hearing regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, Gohmert attacked Holder by claiming that the Justice Department had not done enough to prevent the Boston Marathon bombing. When Holder pushed back, Gohmert gave us the now-famous quote that “the Attorney General will not cast aspersions on my asparagus”

The Republican Party has been doing everything in their power since day one to try and manufacture some kind of Watergate-esque scandal that could bring down the Obama Administration. They are doing so because they know that with eight successful years of Democratic policies in place, the Republican Party will be unlikely to take back the White House any time soon. They have been digging and digging for some kind of scandal and at this point the hole is so big that there is no way to return to the surface, so they continue digging deeper no matter how foolish they appear. Here’s the current list of “impeachable” scandals that Republicans have tried to pin on the Obama Administration: Operation Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting of Conservative groups, the NSA data collecting, the tracking of Associated Press reporters, Benghazi, etc., etc. None of these have panned out

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Jonathan Capehart: ‘Thank You, Kathleen, For Your Service’

Kathleen Sebelius is a rarity in Washington: a powerhouse with a down-to-earth sense of humor that made her as approachable as she was powerful. And after five tough years (and particularly the past six months) as secretary of health and human services, the former governor of Kansas is stepping down. The Rose Garden send-off today by President Obama and Vice President Biden and the standing ovations from her colleagues were appropriate for someone who met the ultimate goal. Yes, the Oct. 1 rollout of HealthCare.gov was an unmitigated disaster. But if you only focus on that, you’re missing a more complete picture of Sebelius’s tenure at HHS. Crisis greeted her when she walked through the door in April 2009. The H1N1 pandemic was surging across the globe, and vaccines for this new strain of swine flu didn’t exist. Sebelius shepherded the process of expediting production and distribution of a vaccine.

While that was happening, Sebelius was helping to design what would become known and derided as Obamacare. She was there for the lunacy of “death panels” and “You lie!” She was there when the ACA passed Congress without a single Republican vote and when it survived a constitutional challenge. She was there for countless congressional hearings on the health-care law, useless votes to repeal it, creepy Uncle Sam and other tactics meant to scare people from signing up for health care.“There are seven and a half million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time, and that’s because of the woman standing next to me here today,” the president said in a farewell ceremony as triumphant as the one held more than a week ago to announce the better-than-expected enrollment numbers. “And we are proud of her for that. That’s a historic accomplishment.”

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Zachary Roth: Democrats Finally Make Voting Rights A Top Priority

For years, voting-rights advocates have been quietly urging Democrats and the Obama administration to fully embrace the fight over access to the ballot as a defining civil-rights issue of our day. This was the week when it finally happened. The heightened rhetoric, which came from President Obama and other heavyweights in his party, is the latest sign that voting rights are likely to be a front-burner issue when Americans go to the polls this fall—at least if Democrats have their way. In a speech at the National Action Network convention in New York City Friday afternoon, Obama used his most forceful language yet on the subject to condemn Republican efforts to make voting harder. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” the president said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”

Obama continually linked today’s battles to the historic movement for African-American voting rights half a century ago, invoking the three young civil-rights activists who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 while registering voters. “Americans did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote, for themselves and for others, only to see it denied to their kids and their grandkids,” Obama said, drawing raucous cheers from the crowd. “We’ve got to pay attention to this.” Obama even took time to dissect the arguments of those who argue that voter ID laws are needed to stop fraud, citing a study showing a fraud rate of just 0.00002%. “So let’s be clear,” Obama said. “The real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.”

Obama’s rousing words come days after he called efforts to stop people voting “un-American” during a Houston fundraiser. And they follow on the heels of similar remarks this week from two of the other highest-profile Democrats in the country, Vice President Joe Biden and President Bill Clinton. In linking today’s voting restrictions to laws that kept blacks from the polls during segregation, Obama and his allies aren’t explicitly saying that the ongoing GOP push to make voting harder is a racially motivated effort that has roots in the Jim Crow era. But they’re certainly allowing that inference to be drawn. To voting rights advocates, the new level of engagement from top Democrats, especially Obama himself, is welcome indeed.

“Nothing is more important than the American people hearing the president of the United States bringing the full passion and power of his voice and his position to the issue of promoting voting rights and an open democracy for every citizen,” said Barbara Arnwine, the president of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. It’s not just talk, either. The Democratic National Committee recently launched the Voter Expansion Project, which aims to push back against restrictive voting laws by registering new voters and supporting laws that expand access to the ballot.

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Bloomberg: Ukraine Sees $7 Billion IMF Funding This Year

Ukraine will probably receive $7 billion in International Monetary Fund financing this year to support the state budget and central bank reserves, Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak said. The east European nation is also seeking further funding from the Group of Seven countries, Shlapak said an interview in Washington yesterday. Of the group’s members, Canada has pledged $200 million and the U.S. has also responded, he said. The government predicts Ukraine’s economy will shrink 3 percent in 2014, the third recession since 2008, while reserves are at a nine-year low. The country sealed a preliminary accord with the IMF last month for as much as $18 billion in loans during two years, with the agreement unlocking $27 billion in international financing. Ukraine needs about $30 billion through 2015 to “balance the situation,” Shlapak said.

The currency will rebound after the IMF deal is completed, Shlapak said. Ukrainian officials will meet IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on April 14 and the government “hopes” the lender’s board will convene to approve the loan this month, he said. Ukraine wants to get the funds as soon as possible, he added. “While we announced the $27 billion, which is the financing need of the country for the next 24 months, we have also given a range for the financing that would come from the fund, and that range has been $14 to $18 billion,” IMF European Director Reza Moghadam said today in Washington. “Our exact financing will depend on how much comes from other bilateral and multilateral lenders.”

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Jonnelle Marte: Obamacare Making Insurance Cheaper – For Cars

Obamacare, the law that could save you 2% or more on car insurance. It isn’t exactly the main pitch behind the health-insurance law, but a study released Wednesday by the Rand Corporation finds that as more people gain health insurance, the costs of other types of insurance could go down. In particular, car insurance and other liability-insurance companies that typically spend tens of billions of dollars each year on health-care claims related to car accidents, workplace injuries and other scenarios could see their health costs decline and could pass those savings on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.

In the case of car-insurance companies, the study points out that some uninsured people, upon suffering through a car accident, may then seek treatment for conditions they have that are unrelated to the car accident. If those types of conditions were covered by health-insurance companies, it could shave up to 2% off of the average costs incurred by auto-insurance companies, the study found. “It’s extraneous stuff you might get the auto insurer to pay for,” says David Auerbach, the lead author of the report and a health policy researcher with Rand Corporation. “It’s hard to tell what was actually caused by the accident.”

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Tommy Christopher: Republicans, Racism, And Reasonable Suspicion

Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine has been making a spectacle of himself lately, most recently tying himself in knots trying to explain away his essay on race in the Obama Era. On Thursday night’s All In with Chris Hayes, his point seems to have evolved into a plea for fairness to Republicans, while conceding that everything about Republicanism is legitimately racist. He told Chris Hayes that “you can go to almost any issue and see a racial dynamic, and I really think you can, and you can legitimately,” but somehow, legitimately identifying those racial dynamics is somehow unfair, and contributes to a “poisonous dynamic.”

I don’t get it, and I don’t agree with either end of that hypothesis. There are many issues that either don’t have a racial dynamic, or have racial dynamics that intersect the partisan divide, and discussing those issues that do have a racial dynamic in racial terms isn’t just fair, it is essential. However, on Chait’s own terms, if every partisan issue can legitimately be viewed as racial, how could it possibly be unfair to discuss that?

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Jay Carney: President Obama and Vice President Biden’s 2013 Tax Returns

Today, the President released his 2013 federal income tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax returns jointly and reported adjusted gross income of $481,098. The Obamas paid $98,169 in total tax. The President and First Lady also reported donating $59,251 – or about 12.3 percent of their adjusted gross income – to 32 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was $8,751 to the Fisher House Foundation. The President’s effective federal income tax rate is 20.4 percent. The President pushed for and signed into law legislation that makes the system more fair and helps the middle class by extending tax cuts to middle class and working families and asks the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. In 2013, as a result of his policies, the President was subject to limitations in tax preferences, as well as additional Medicare and investment income taxes, for high income earners.

The President and First Lady also released their Illinois income tax return and reported paying $23,328 in state income tax. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden also released their 2013 federal income tax returns, as well as state income tax returns for both Delaware and Virginia. The Bidens filed joint federal and combined Delaware income tax returns. Dr. Biden filed a separate non-resident Virginia tax return. Together, they reported adjusted gross income of $407,009. The Bidens paid $96,378 in total federal tax for 2013, amounting to an effective tax rate of 23.7 percent. They also paid $14,644 in Delaware income tax and Dr. Biden paid $3,470 in Virginia income tax. The Bidens contributed $20,523 to charity in 2013, including contributing the royalties received from Dr. Biden’s children’s book, net of taxes, to the USO.

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Nancy LeTourneau: An Open Letter To My “Disappointed” Democratic Friends

Dear Disappointeds: Back in 2010 you told us that you were disappointed in the President you helped elect. And because of that, you weren’t motivated enough to vote in the midterms. While I don’t share your disappointment, I want to say that I hear you. Now we’re facing another midterm election and we have the benefit of hindsight to tell us what changed as a result of your lack of enthusiasm. Sure, you might have wanted single payer and a larger stimulus package.

But you have to admit that Obamacare is doing an awful lot of good. And perhaps you should read Michael Grunwald’s book The New New Deal to learn how the American Recovery Act was way more than many of us thought it was at the time. Its “gut check” time for all of us. I don’t know about you, but after these last four years I’m actually psyched to get back to Democrats arguing with other Democrats over HOW MUCH change we want to see rather than being pissed at Republicans all the time for their total obstruction. There’s a lot riding on this one. I hope we can all work together to make that happen.

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The Week: Obama Is On Track To Leave A Budget Surplus

Bill Clinton left the presidency with a budget surplus. And although the first five years of Barack Obama’s presidency have featured high (but falling) deficits, it’s starting to look like Obama could do the same. For the first time since the 1950s, federal spending is lower than it was four years ago: As Mike Darda argues: The fiscal deficit has been falling by an average of 1.5 percentage points per annum since peaking in late 2009.

If this trend continues, it would imply a balanced budget during 2015 and a fiscal surplus in 2016. [AEI] Obama leaving office with a balanced budget would come as a big shock to those who have compared the U.S. to crisis-stricken countries like Greece, or claimed that Obama is spending like a drunken sailor. But that is exactly what the U.S. is on trend to do.

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Alice C. Shephard: Balancing Act: In The Constant Juggle Of Managing Life At Home And Life At Work, Claire Shipman Realizes That Confidence Is Key

ABC News contributor Claire Shipman is gently trying to coax her eight-year-old daughter, Della Claire Carney, to appear in a Washingtonian MOM photo shoot, in which Della might have to wear pink and comb her tangled mane. Della is not easily swayed. She hates pink. Nor does she like to brush her hair. The daughter of Shipman and Jay Carney, President Obama’s press secretary, isn’t the kind of young girl interested in pleasing her Washington-power-couple parents, or any of the adults around her on the photo shoot for that matter. She is funny, sweet, and obviously smart, but she’s not going to budge for braids and patterned shirts.

To Shipman, 51, this is great, though it can be trying. She’d love it if every once in a while Della would run a comb through her locks. Shipman and Carney’s son, Hugo James Carney, on the other hand, spends a lot more time styling his red hair. “He’s 12 going on 16,” says Shipman. During the shoot, Hugo walked up to everyone on the production crew, held out his hand for a firm shake, and said, “Hello, I’m Hugo, nice to meet you”; to say he is a well-mannered tween is an understatement. Hugo and Della both attend Sidwell Friends School. The busy Carney-Shipman household also “parents” one-year-old Flash, a Portuguese water dog who is a cousin to the Obamas’ dog Sunny.

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Shipman and her close friend Katty Kay, the Washington correspondent for BBC World News America, have just written a book on women and confidence called The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, released in April. Not surprisingly, Shipman has learned a lot about her own daughter through her research. “My daughter is a tomboy,” she says. “She’s strong-willed and doesn’t care about conventions. Our research helped me realize that this is not something I want to go away. If she has her own strong opinions and wears what she wants to wear, that’s great—even if I don’t like it.”

Carney, 48, says the book’s findings changed how they parent their daughter. “Raising Della, we are both now extremely mindful of how important confidence is for girls, and how different it can be in girls compared with boys,” he says. “We try to help Della build confidence by focusing on the effort she puts into things, rather than just praising the outcomes.” I Absolutely Won’t Let Kids . . . They can never treat people badly. Being rude or less than caring produces draconian consequences and much-dreaded family meetings.

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On This Day

President Obama cheers on a young child as she rolls her egg toward the finish line April 13, 2009, during the White House Easter Egg Roll (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden tour earthquake damage in Port Au-Prince, Haiti, along with Haitian President Rene Preval, and Elisabeth Delatour Preval, the First Lady of Haiti, April 13, 2010. The damaged presidential palace is seen in the background (Photo by Samantha Appleton

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President Obama meets with Goldman Environmental Prize winners in the Oval Office, April 13, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, seated far left, meet with staff aboard Bright Star during a flight from New River Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, April 13, 2011. The trip was to launch Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Martha Stewart drop by Operation Shower, a celebration for pregnant women whose husbands are service members, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 13, 2011. The event was part of the launch of Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and facility manager Judith Markelz, second left, greet volunteers preparing a meal at the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio, Texas, April 13, 2011. The First Lady and Dr. Biden met with service members and their families during their visit to the facility, which helps care for family members of Wounded Warriors whose recovery is expected to last a long period of time (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Marines following her remarks to 3,000 Marines, soldiers, sailors, and military family members at Memorial Field House in Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 13, 2011. The event was part of the launch of Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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President Obama talks with, from left: Dan Restrepo, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs; U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk; and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis aboard Air Force One while en route to Tampa, Fla., April 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Audience members embrace President Obama after he spoke at the Port of Tampa in Tampa, Fla., April 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama attends a Summit of the Americas Leaders’ Dinner at Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, Cartagena, Colombia, April 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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10
Apr
14

When history is inconvenient, rewrite it

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The above is an actual quote by Heritage Foundation president and Teabagger extraordinaire Jim DeMint, formerly of the Senate until he found a way to make more money off the rubes principled conservatives.

Yes, the slaves were eventually freed because, according to DeMint’s conflation of history, it was in the Constitution that “all men are created equal and have inalienable rights”. They were also freed due to the efforts of William Wilberforce, noted English anti-slavery campaigner, who just happened to die in 1833, thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation and the `13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. Government had no role in the freeing of the slaves. It was all people power!

But, wait, why did we need amendments to the Constitution if the freedom of slaves was in it from the start? Because, of course, nothing of the kind was in the Constitution. Slavery was allowed to continue, and the slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of the census. I’m sure they were very glad to know that not only were they not full human beings under the Constitution, but that even that diminution of their humanity allowed slave states to have an outsized influence in Congress, since those slaves counted towards apportionment of House seats.

The fact is that history doesn’t look too kindly on the successors to those slave holders. They are, rather correctly, excoriated.

Continue reading ‘When history is inconvenient, rewrite it’

04
Apr
14

What To Do Now

Friends, I’ve been feeling down for a couple of weeks.

As Obamacare was surging to success, I couldn’t quite delight in it. Something niggled at me. That’s why I wrote this piece. The hoops through which Barack Obama has had to go through just to get anything done is without parallel in US political history.

But then it was revealed that Pres. Obama asked the major networks for primetime space to speak to the nation about ACA reaching its most generous enrollment targets, and what this meant for ordinary Americans, alone among industrialized nations denied the security of access to basic healthcare. The networks denied him.

Now I’m riled up. This disrespect shown Pres. Obama by the Big 3 networks was the last straw.

The media went on a jihad after the failed rollout of healthcare.gov, loudly trumpeting every failure, every glitch, every frustrated user of the website. The blandishments were endless and incessant. For weeks, newscasts led with the problems faced by the website, as if the website were the totality of the Affordable Care Act. It would feature every detractor of Obamacare on its newscasts, would consign the entire enterprise to dismal doom. As AP so famously put it, it would “take a miracle” for the law to reach its target.

But reach its target it did. In fact, it has surpassed it, to the consternation not only of the right wing wurlitzer, but of the perspicacious segments of our failed media experiment, the supposed gatekeepers of all that is newsworthy.

Continue reading ‘What To Do Now’

03
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: April 3, 2013: “The President hugs Sue Connors and Jane Dougherty, right, following his remarks at the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Colo. The women lost their sister, Mary Sherlach, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

3:20: President Obama welcomes the 2014 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House; East Room

4:0: Signs the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act

6:0: Meets with the bipartisan Congressional leadership

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E.J. Dionne: The GOP Must Admit It Was Wrong On Obamacare

Is there any accountability in American politics for being completely wrong? Is there any cost to those who say things that turn out not to be true and then, when their fabrications or false predictions are exposed, calmly move on to concocting new claims as if they had never made the old ones? The fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit its original goal this week of signing up more than 7 million people through its insurance exchanges ought to be a moment of truth — literally as well as figuratively. It ought to give everyone, particularly members of the news media, pause over how reckless the opponents of change have been in making instant judgments and outlandish charges.

When the health-care Web site went haywire last fall, conservatives were absolutely certain this technological failure meant that the entire reform effort was doomed. If you doubt this, try a Google search keyed to that period relating the word “doomed” to the health-care law. It should be said that the general public was much wiser. A CNN poll in November that Post blogger Greg Sargent highlighted at the time found a majority (54 percent to 45 percent) saying that the problems facing the law “will eventually be solved.” Political moderates took this view by 55 percent to 43 percent, independents by 50 percent to 48 percent. Only Republicans — by a whopping 72 percent to 27 percent — and conservatives (by 66 percent to 33 percent) thought the law could never be fixed.

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Chan Lowe: Obamacare Beats Its Goal

You have to respect the tenacity of Republicans, especially those who’ve been catering to their benighted primary voters back home by beating the hell out of the ACA. They’ve adhered to a long obstructionist tradition that includes opposition to FDR’s Social Security and LBJ’s Great Society initiatives. They know full well that these “giveaway” programs, as they like to call them, develop faithful constituencies. Once the programs are entrenched, any attempt to destroy them has a way of backfiring on the perpetrator. The Affordable Care Act now boasts over seven million individual advocates, many of whom will be benefiting from preventive health care for the first time in their lives.

As their cancers and other diseases are caught and treated in their incipient stages — before they become fatal — the newly anointed are likely to go out among the multitudes and preach the gospel. The ACA is going to grow, and with each new adherent it will become ever more stable and viable.Meanwhile, the greatest compliment this nation can ever pay to the 44th President of the United States and his legacy will be that, decades from now — when Sasha and Malia are great-grandmothers —America’s national health care plan will continue to thrive and be known by its vernacular title: “Obamacare.”

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Harold Meyerson: How Capitalism Enriches The Few Rather Than The Many

Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys,” his takedown of high-speed stock trading, may be making headlines this week, but it’s just one of two books on our economic dysfunctions that are flying off the shelves. While “Flash Boys” explains how the fastest-growing form of trading enriches the few at the expense of the many, the other book, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” provides a more fundamental and disquieting explanation: how capitalism itself enriches the few at the expense of the many. Since 1980, however, their fortunes have swelled again — at the expense of everyone else. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher slashed taxes on wealth, workers lost the ability to bargain for wages and, crucially, the population growth of many nations ground nearly to a halt. Capital, again, was accumulating faster than the overall economies were growing.

In the United States, Piketty shows, the incomes of the top 1 percent have grown so high — chiefly due to the linkage of top executive pay to share value, a form of capital — that they soon will create the greatest level of income inequality in the recorded history of any nation. Indeed, Piketty’s book provides a valuable explanatory context for America’s economic woes. Wages constitute the lowest share of U.S. GDP, and profits the highest, since the end of World War II. And with heightened accumulations of wealth come heightened accumulations of political power — a shift toward plutocracy to which Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, permitting the wealthy to contribute to as many electoral campaigns as they wish, adds a helpful push.

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L.A. Times: High Deportation Figures Are Misleading

Immigration activists have sharply criticized President Obama for a rising volume of deportations, labeling him the “deporter in chief” and staging large protests that have harmed his standing with some Latinos, a key group of voters for Democrats.
But the portrait of a steadily increasing number of deportations rests on statistics that conceal almost as much as they disclose. A closer examination shows that immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office, according to immigration data. Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009. On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up — primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s deportation statistics.

The vast majority of those border crossers would not have been treated as formal deportations under most previous administrations. If all removals were tallied, the total sent back to Mexico each year would have been far higher under those previous administrations than it is now. Until recent years, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were simply bused back into Mexico in what officials called “voluntary returns,” but which critics derisively termed “catch and release.” Those removals, which during the 1990s reached more 1 million a year, were not counted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s deportation statistics. Now, the vast majority of border crossers who are apprehended get fingerprinted and formally deported. The change began during the George W. Bush administration and accelerated under Obama. The policy stemmed in part from a desire to ensure that people who had crossed into the country illegally would have formal charges on their records. In the Obama years, all of the increase in deportations has involved people picked up within 100 miles of the border, most of whom have just recently crossed over. In 2013, almost two-thirds of deportations were in that category.

At the same time, the administration largely ended immigration roundups at workplaces and shifted investigators into targeting business owners who illegally hired foreign workers. “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it’s just highly unlikely to happen,” John Sandweg, until recently the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. Even when immigration officials want to deport someone who already has settled in the country, doing so is “virtually impossible” because of a lengthy backlog in the immigration courts, Sandweg said. Once people who have no prior removals or convictions are placed in deportation proceedings, actually removing them from the country can take six years or more in some jurisdictions, Sandweg said.

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Rebecca Berg: With Obamacare Enrollment Milestone Met, Democrats Feel Cautious Enthusiasm

Democrats who have been expecting a tough slog to defend the implementation of Obamacare in this important midterm election year weren’t just pleased this week with news that 7.1 million people had enrolled in health insurance through federal or state exchanges. They were jubilant, and more than a little relieved. “The Affordable Care Act CRUSHED its first major enrollment deadline!” a fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared Wednesday.

Such caps-lock, exclamatory enthusiasm is reflective of a brightening mood this week among Democrats, who understand that many of their candidates could win or lose this year on the merits of the health care law and its first-year implementation. And for a party that has suffered a long political winter, the creep of cautious optimism is a welcome warming trend.”This is a new political environment where implementation of law is going well. That’s a much better political environment for us,” said Matt Canter, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director.

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Andy Kroll: The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign Finance Law. Here’s What Happened

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the blockbuster money-in-politics case of the current term. The court’s five conservative justices all agreed that the so-called aggregate limit on the amount of money a donor can give to candidates, political action committees, and political parties is unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, conservative justice Clarence Thomas went even further, calling on the court to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that concluded it was constitutional to limit contributions to candidates. In their dissent, the court’s four liberal justices called their colleagues’ logic “faulty” and said it “misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake.” The dissent continues, “Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

How’d this happen? In the 2012 election cycle, a wealthy Alabama businessman named Shaun McCutcheon tried to make donations in the amount of $1,776 to 27 right-leaning congressional candidates. Not so fast, replied the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s campaign finance watchdog.After this decision, how much can Shaun McCutcheon give? Hypothetically, a single donor can now contribute as much as $3.5 million, to be divvied up between candidates, PACs, and political parties. No single entity could receive any more than the legal limits, and when you add up all the contributions a donor could potentially make without the aggregate limits, you get $3.5 million. (The overall aggregate limit was raised to $123,200 for the 2014 cycle.)University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen, who did not support McCutcheon’s cause, nonetheless has argued that the decision could reinvigorate the parties and maybe scale back the gridlock crippling Congress. What comes next? Although the court’s majority opinion in McCutcheon, written by Roberts, blew up the FEC’s aggregate limits, it did not take a broader swipe at campaign finance restrictions in general. Court watchers feared a decision in McCutcheon that would open the door to future legal assaults on the bedrock of campaign finance law: direct contribution limits, such as the $2,600 limit to candidates, the $5,000 limit to PACs and party committees, and so on.

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Dylan Scott: How The White House Is Always Outflanking The GOP On Obamacare

House Republicans will vote on Thursday to repeal yet another piece of Obamacare: the provision that sets 30 hours as the threshold for defining full-time employees, raising it to 40 hours. A company’s compliance with the law’s employer mandate depends on its number of full-time employees, so fewer full-time workers would presumably lighten the mandate’s load on businesses. If that seems like small potatoes for the party after its leaders continued to advocate for full repeal this week, here’s why: The Obama administration has outmaneuvered Republicans on Obamacare, and the opposition party doesn’t have many options left in its quest to roll back any part of the law. The administration already made unilateral alterations to unpopular pieces of the law, drawing bewildered reactions even from supporters.

But by making changes itself, the White House hasn’t let the GOP get in on the game, despite the party’s unending stream of anti-Obamacare bills — therefore denying Republicans the opportunity to extract the high-profile pound of flesh from the law that they’ve been seeking for years. On its face, it’s tough to see the policy rationale for this latest attack on the law. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor explained the GOP’s thinking on the chamber floor Wednesday, arguing that Obamacare’s 30-hour rule had encouraged businesses to cut their workers’ hours and that raising the threshold would restore hours and therefore wages. The Congressional Budget Office projected, however, that the proposal would lead to 500,000 more uninsured Americans and raise the federal deficit by nearly $74 billion over the next 10 years.

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Maidan Translations: Widespread Disappointment Grows In Crimea

Earlier this week, two thirds of the peninsula were left without electricity. Who is to blame is still unclear, but the supply of electricity from the mainland has been substantially reduced. Officials warn that soon the separatists will receive significantly higher electricity bills. The promises to pensioners also turned out to be a myth. Their pensions were never doubled, but simply converted into rubles, reports TSN. Pricing chaos. Empty banks and ATMs. Lines for several days at a time. These are the first results of “improvement,” Crimean-style. All the joys of civilization, which were obvious before, do not work. The lights can be turned off at any time. In one’s passport, an address that doesn’t exist. Salary cards are a bare piece of plastic. Lines for pay, are just like in old Soviet films. For Crimeans, these old films have become a reality.

Olga Kunina does not hesitate to call Yevpatoria her home town, even though she had been living in the Ukrainian capital [Kyiv] for ten years now. She also insists that she will speak Ukrainian on camera. “I want to keep my Ukrainian passport, I want to be proud of being a Ukrainian, I don’t want to be forced to become a Russian because of the situation they are trying to put me in,” she says. Olga’s compatriots – ethnic Russians – dreamed of getting rich immediately after the so-called referendum. They wanted to sell out their citizenship for increased pensions. But the only increase has been in their disappointment. “We got exactly the same [pensions – Ed.], only in Russian rubles,” – explain the retirees. And in coins Russia is withdrawing from circulation. The rubles started causing chaos on the markets and in prices.

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Jonathan Weisman: Health Enrollment Numbers Lift Democratic Hopes

After months of pummeling by Republicans and with a grim election season approaching, Democrats on Tuesday had a rare bright day. President Obama’s announcement that the new health care plan had enrolled 7.1 million Americans coincided with the release by Representative Paul D. Ryan of a new Republican budget that proposes changes in Medicare and deep cuts in spending. It’s far too early to say a political turnaround is at hand, but for the first time this election year, Democrats are evincing some confidence that they have at least stanched the bleeding. “It’s changing. If you’ve been around awhile, and I’ve been around awhile, you can sense it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “You’re not going to turn away seven or 10 million people from insurance coverage — doesn’t work anymore. And then comes Ryan. Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”

On the plus side, the president’s announcement that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for private health policies through the law’s exchange is likely to prove understated. Once totals are tabulated to include new Medicaid enrollees, people who signed up for new federally protected policies through private insurance brokers, and young adults who have stayed on their parents’ policies because of the law, the figure is likely to be at least double that. Moreover, the Ryan budget, which was approved by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday night along party lines, will present the Democrats a chance to expand the political conversation. It cuts Medicaid by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, food stamps by $125 billion, education programs by $145 billion — including Pell grants — and makes university students begin paying interest on student loans while still in college.

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Jonathan Chait: Charles Koch Explains Why He Is So Crazy

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page owns the deluded self-pitying billionaire screed genre, and today, it brings us Charles Koch. From the outside, Koch would appear to have it pretty good. He owns a vast fortune inherited in substantial part from his father. He commands enormous political influence, with hundreds of politicians and other political elites at his beck and call. But Koch’s view of himself is as a kind of ragtag freedom fighter hunted nearly to extinction. Here is Koch attempting to explain the major source of his grievance: Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.)

This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers. So the trouble is that his critics attempt to “discredit” and “intimidate” him and employ “character assassination.” All these terms appear to be Koch synonyms for “saying things about Charles Koch that Charles Koch does not agree with.” In the kind of “free and open” debate he imagines, Koch would continue to use his fortune to wield massive political influence, and nobody would ever say anything about him that makes him unhappy.

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NYT: To Ponder: More Food Is Sourced At Home By Gardeners

The number of American households in which residents are growing their own food — either in home or community gardens — has increased 17 percent over the last five years, to 43 million, or one in three households according to a report to be released Wednesday from the National Gardening Association. While gardening was not so long ago associated with retirees in silly pants, the trend is now driven by Americans from ages 18 to 34 who are tending gardens of all sizes.

The association, which has published annual statistics on food gardening in America since 1978, cited a home gardening campaign by Michelle Obama as one of the factors in the rise. “Six years ago, we planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn to inspire a national conversation about food and nutrition,” Mrs. Obama said by email, “and as healthy habits are becoming the new norm in America, I hope that interest in gardening and healthy eating continues to grow.”

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On This Day:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join staff aboard Air Force One during their flight April 3, 2009, from Stansted Airport in Essex, England, en route to Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton aboard Air Force One during flight from Stansted Airport in Essex, England to France, April 3, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy from the Palais Rohan (Palace Rohan) April 3, 2009, following their meeting in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, receives an enthusiastic welcome April 3, 2009, to Palais Rohan (Palace Rohan) in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of French President Sarkozy at the Palais Rohan (Rohan Palace) April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama reviews his speech to the Turkish parliament with speechwriter Ben Rhodes while eating lunch April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France (Photo/Pete Souza)

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