President Barack Obama speaks to the media during his closing press conference on day two of the G20 Turkey Leaders Summit
(L-R) Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius talk during a round table meeting on day two of the G20 Turkey Leaders Summit on November 16, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey
First Lady Michelle Obama greets Gloria Estefan in the Diplomatic Room of the White House during a Broadway at the White House event for high school students involved in performing arts programs
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks about last Friday’s attacks in Paris
First Lady Michelle Obama dances to Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” with actor Josh Segarra and choreographer Sergio Trujillo
DIANE REHM: Thanks for joining us. I’m Diane Rehm. Legendary singer Linda Ronstadt has sold more than 100 million records in her 40-year career. She’s best known for chart-topping hits like “You’re No Good,” “Blue Bayou,” and “When Will I Be Loved?” Ronstadt was the first female artist in popular music history to release four consecutive platinum albums. But last year, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease forced her to stop singing. She’s in Washington D.C. this week, where yesterday she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.
…. Tell us about that ceremony yesterday and how you felt.
LINDA RONSTADT: Well, I think most artists always will say, I don’t know if you agree with this or not, but I felt like a fraud. You know? I felt surely they’d made a mistake and they would be telling me any minute that, you know, I needed to go home. I was on the wrong list.
….. But otherwise I was delighted. And I am a great fan of President Obama and think he has been a fine president. And I’m very pleased that we’ve got to have someone of his grace and his dignity, which is rare in American culture these days.
REHM: Do you think, in part, it comes from his Hawaiian upbringing?
RONSTADT: Well, he — there’s a beautiful, beautiful ancient culture in the Hawaiian Islands and an old tradition of a lot of diversity. You know, there are Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Okinawan, and they all had to get along. And so there’s a high level of lovely, beautiful manners, you know? People treat each other with respect and courtesy in the islands that you don’t find in the mainland. And I think — and there’s a real gentleness, you know?
Of course people stand up for themselves too. You don’t want to get into a fight with a Hawaiian. Because if you want to push him, he’s a tough guy, you know? But he’ll give you an out before. And I think that he reflects a lot of that. Maybe his background in the Hawaiian Islands…
REHM: He was very warm.
RONSTADT: He was very genuine and he was very present. And I liked that. He was very aware of what was going on around him. We’ve had so many people that have just been, you know, so egotistical or so completely full of themselves they can’t tell what’s going on around them. And I don’t think that’s the case with him. And his wife Mrs. Obama couldn’t be more impressive. My god, she’s beautiful. She’s very beautiful in the photographs…
REHM: Absolutely gorgeous.
RONSTADT: …but she’s 50 times as pretty.
REHM: Totally gorgeous.
RONSTADT: And little looks going back and forth between them, you know? You can tell that that’s a strong relationship. I was very impressed. I expected to be impressed and I was very much more impressed…
In September, 2009, just eight months into Barack Obama’s first term, when it was still possible for unsentimental observers to perceive the Tea Party’s riotous fulminations as a passing blip, Jimmy Carter remarked that opposition to the President’s agenda was driven, largely, by one thing: race. “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said. One hears it in the questioning of Obama’s American birth and legitimacy—the idea that he couldn’t really be President without trickery, that he has stolen something—and his presence in rooms where someone like him shouldn’t be.
Carter’s words are, if not conventional wisdom, then certainly one of those truths that most of us know but few are willing to admit. That reticence, along with a large dose of cynicism, explains the reaction to Eric Holder’s statement, in an interview with ABC News, that the opposition to the Administration (“You know, people talking about taking their country back”) is partly driven by racism. Holder’s assessment that “I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus” is, on the whole, more tempered than Carter’s words, and far less incendiary than Charlie Rangel’s dismissal of the Tea Party, in 2013, as “the same crackers who fought against civil rights.”
Thank you Nath, for this perfect summation of America’s history
You know what, Kathleen, President Carter was spot on! For some of us with a little knowledge of history, the reaction to the election of President Obama was reminiscent of the reaction to the election of Black people to local, state and national offices, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites made sure that Reconstruction State governments, with substantial Black participation, failed. Black elected officials were routinely accused of ignorance and corruption. Even though those accusations were false. Eventually whites resorted to violence to finally force Blacks from political office. But they were able to accomplish that with the complicity of the media, the Congress and the two political parties. Beginning with the 1877 “Hayes Compromise” the Republican party–the party of Abraham Lincoln– began abandoning Black people. By the beginning of the 20th Century Black folks, especially in the South, had no where to go politically. Lilly white Republicans shunned them and Dixiecrat Democrats were hostile against them. The migration of Blacks from the South to Northern cities during the World War I era began to change the racial demographics of many of those cities. Blacks in Northern cities slowly gained political clout. In 1928, South side Chicago elected the firs black to Congress from the North. In the 1950s Chicago would be joined by other Northern cities like Detroit and New York in electing Blacks to the House of Representatives. Still, two or three members of House of Representatives were never considered a threat to white supremacy.
The situation changed dramatically when Blacks were able to form coalitions to elect mayors to some of the biggest cities in America. White supremacist reaction to the election of Black Mayors in major cities during the late 1960s to 1980s was comparable to white supremacist reaction during Reconstruction, and white supremacist reaction following the election of President Obama. White supremacists on city councils made absolutely sure to obstruct everything the Black Mayors proposed to do. In some cities, major businesses relocated to suburbs or other states so as to deprive cities ruled by Black mayors of tax revenues. The goal: to make cities ruled by black mayors so dysfunctional, and thus to consequently discredit the wisdom of electing Black mayors. This is exactly the playbook the GOP in Congress decided to follow from day one of President Obama’s presidency. Thankfully, in his first two years, the GOP playbook was thwarted by Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress. Then came the 2010 and Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, and enough votes to use the filibuster to paralyze the U.S. Senate.
Basically, the GOP’s goal is the same as the white supremacists’ goal, advocated by Rush Limbaugh: Make sure that President Obama fails! GOP and Rush could care less if President Obama’s failure translates into a failure that affects the vast majority of Americans. Other than their idiotic followers who stand to suffer if President Obama’s policies are defeated, people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch and Fox, GOP members of Congress, and the billionaire Koch brothers, wouldn’t experience that much suffering and hardship. They are, however, certain that if President Obama fails, America will never again make a mistake of electing another Black person President.
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IDF wants Gazans to leave Gaza and thus not suffer from their bombings. REALLY??? Where do they go? Their summer homes in Southern France?
As a peace advocate, I am forever confronted by Israeli and/or American Jews (and the occasional gentile) who take one look at any exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants and say: “Yes, sure, all civilian deaths are terrible — but for Israelis, they’re unintentional. The Palestinians actually target civilians.” And as one of those civilians who used to be targeted on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have no problem saying that intentionally targeting civilians is wrong — is, in fact, a war crime…. But I weary of the desperate clinging to the word “unintentional” on my side of this decades-long war.
From the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2012, Israel was responsible for the deaths of 3,034 Palestinian noncombatants, of whom well more than a third were minors: 1,338. And that’s not counting the noncombatants and children (including several toddlers and at least one pregnant woman) killed in the last week alone. But when I look at those numbers, when I see the pictures of tiny, broken bodies pulled from utter destruction, when I see the wailing of fathers and mothers, their dead children wrapped in white shrouds, never to feel their parents’ arms around them again—I no longer care. Incompetence or indifference, neither can be an excuse anymore. And in the meantime, more children die.
Fiscal doom will be delayed thanks to lower health care inflation in recent years. But will Congress take notice? For years, America’s health care costs grew at an unsustainable rate. That was the main reason America’s long-term fiscal position looked unsustainable as well; Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs were spiraling out of control. But our health care cost inflation is no longer unsustainable. That’s huge news, because it means our long-term deficits should be manageable, too.
Republicans have spent the last five-and-a-half years griping about the budget deficit, and most of their gripes have been absurd. They were wrong to accuse President Obama of creating a record trillion-dollar deficit, which he actually inherited from President Bush. They were wrong to criticize Obama for increasing the deficit with his 2009 stimulus bill, which was an amazingly effective Keynesian response to an economic crisis; the budget-balancing austerity approach the GOP was advocating led to much slower recoveries and double-dip recessions in Europe. And they were wrong to accuse Obama of turning the U.S. into Greece; the deficit has shrunk by more than half during his presidency, dropping from 10 percent of GDP to less than 4 percent as the recovery has progressed.
Edwin Lyngar: I was Poor, but A GOP Die-Hard: How I Finally Left The Politics Of Shame
I hated government – even as it was the only thing trying to save me. Here’s how, one day, I finally saw the light I was a 20-year-old college dropout with no more than $100 in the bank the day my son was born in 1994. I’d been in the Coast Guard just over six months. Joining the service was my solution to a lot of problems, not the least of which was being married to a pregnant, 19-year-old fellow dropout. We were poor, and my overwhelming response to poverty was a profound shame that drove me into the arms of the people least willing to help — conservatives. Looking around, I saw no other young servicemen. Coming from the white working class, I’d always been taught that food stamps were for the “others” — failures, drug addicts or immigrants, maybe — not for real Americans like me.
I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash. I finally “got it.” In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault. They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?
Variety: Michelle Obama Calls For Focus On The Arts In Grammy Museum Speech
First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education. “We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said. Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.
She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.” “For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks. She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”
No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney. “Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.
Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.
Anne Barnard: Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, And Into Center Of Mideast Strife
The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous. As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.
The Israeli military acknowledged later that it had launched the strike, which it said was aimed at Hamas militants, and called the civilian deaths “a tragic outcome.” The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.
L.A. Times: Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.
Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.
Reuters: U.S. Retail Sales, Manufacturing Data Point At Firming Economy
A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in June, in the latest indication that the economy ended the second quarter on a stronger footing. That momentum appeared to have carried into the third quarter, with another report on Tuesday showing factory activity in New York state expanded sharply in July. “This is not a fragile economy,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. “The consumer continues to play their part in moving the economy forward.”
Core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased 0.6 percent last month after rising an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. Core sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported as being flat in May. Economists had expected them to rise 0.5 percent in June. The report added to signs of the economy’s strengthening fundamentals, which could buoy optimism the recovery is on a self-sustaining path, after output contracted sharply in the first quarter.
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs six-time Grammy nominee singer Janelle Monae as they attend the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award luncheon honoring Monae and Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles
President Barack Obama attends a bipartisan meeting of freshman House members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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On a weekend trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, the President showed his daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to skip stones during a hike in the park.” July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets tourists and hikers in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia watch the World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Japan, from the Treaty Room office in the residence of the White House, Sunday, July 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
On This Day: President Obama greets graduating Joplin High School seniors before their commencement ceremony at Missouri Southern State University’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:45: President Obama makes a statement in the briefing room after a meeting with Sec. Eric Shinseki
11:35: The President participates in an ambassador credentialing ceremony
12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:10: The President honors the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, East Room
4:10: The President delivers remarks on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Designation, Department of Interior
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more Americans don't have to worry about lifetime caps. http://t.co/EfXDgTKfMB
Washington Post: Obama: ‘In Five Years It Will No Longer Be Called Obamacare.’
Just about everyone calls the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” — even the White House. But is President Obama returning to his old stance that the health-care law should not have his name attached to it?
At a fundraiser in Potomac, Md., Monday night, Obama backed off the term that his administration shunned, and then embraced.
“First of all, in five years it will no longer be called Obamacare, because when something is working, they’re definitely not going to — there will be a whole renaming process similar to National. (Laughter.) I don’t know if it will be “Reagancare,” but it will definitely be — it will be something different,” Obama told the crowd.
(For those of you outside the Washington area, Obama was referring to Washington National Airport, which was renamed Reagan National Airport in 1998).
NYT: Memo Approving Targeted Killing Of U.S. Citizen To Be Released
Facing the potential defeat of an appeals court nominee, the Obama administration decided Tuesday to publicly release much of a classified memo written by the nominee that signed off on the targeted killing an American accused of being a terrorist. The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., made the call to release the secret memo — and not appeal a court order requiring its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act — and informed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. of his decision this week, according to two administration officials. The White House was informed Tuesday. But the memo will not be released right away because officials said they needed time to redact it and to prepare an appeal asking the court not to reveal classified sections of a federal appeals court ruling last month requiring that most of the memo be made public. The memo was written by David J. Barron, a Harvard Law professor and former acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who is Mr. Obama’s choice to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.
As a Justice Department lawyer, Mr. Barron wrote two memos concluding that it would be lawful to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen living in Yemen, based on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that he was a senior operational terrorist plotting attacks against the United States and that his capture was not feasible. The lawsuit focused on the second and longer of those memos. Mr. Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike in September 2011. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, had promised to slow down Mr. Barron’s confirmation if the administration did not allow senators to view all of Mr. Barron’s memos or release redacted versions to the public. Libertarian-leaning senators in both parties had expressed reservations about the nomination, and some conservatives also argued that he was too liberal on other issues. A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the senator would still take the Senate floor on Wednesday for a filibuster-style protest of Mr. Barron’s nomination. Last year, Mr. Paul used the nomination of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency to stage a nearly 13-hour filibuster.
Philly.com: U.S. Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Pa.
A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages, a landmark ruling that appeared to clear the way for the Commonwealth to become the latest state to legalize gay marriage. The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III marked the first and most significant to date in a series of court challenges to the state’s 1996 ban. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history,” Jones wrote in the 39-page opinion. “By virtue of this, ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”
“What a great day!” said Mark Aronchick, one of the plantiffs lawyers in the case. “The court, in a bell-ringing opinion, has explained in crystal clear language why the promises of our Constitution extend to all Pennsylvanians. We urge the commonwealth to take whatever steps are necessary to allow marriages to proceed and the celebrations to begin immediately.” In Philadelphia, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci’s office immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Guy Sabelli, the city’s marriage license supervisor, said 12 female couples and 6 male couples had obtained licenses by the time the office closed at 5:30 p.m. The office reopens at 8 a.m. Wednesday with extended hours until 7 p.m.
I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal. I hadn’t heard about it other than in this brief passage tucked away in a Politico article about the House GOP agriculture bill. But it takes a small program intended provide meals to children in the school lunch program during the summer months and says it can now only be used to benefit kids in “rural areas”.
In other words, “urban” kids are now out of luck.
Here’s the passage in question ..
And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.
ThinkProgress: President Obama Is Set To Create His Largest National Monument So Far
On Wednesday, President Obama will create his second national monument of the year, designating the Organ Mountains in New Mexico a protected area. The Organ Mountains, located at the southern end of New Mexico, will be the 11th and largest national monument of Obama’s presidency. The White House says that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will create $7.4 million in new annual economic activity in the region, a finding that first appeared in a 2013 report.
That report also found the monument would double the number of outdoor recreation and tourism jobs in the region and contribute $560,000 in state and local tax revenue. The monument encompasses a total of 496,000 acres, land which contains Native American petroglyphs in its canyons and is one of the most botanically diverse mountain ranges in New Mexico, home to about 870 vascular (i.e. plants with roots, stems, and leaves) plant species and a recorded 210 species of birds.
Brentin Mock: EPA Takes On Three Villains At Once: Pollution, Climate Change, And Racism
You may have read something recently about the air being racist, which is of course ridiculous. It is true that if you are white in America you will tend to breathe air of a more premium quality. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that black and brown Americans are more often trapped in neighborhoods laden with nitrogen dioxide than their white fellow Americans. This is not news to us. Our abnormally high asthma and cancer rates testify to this. President Obama’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief, Lisa Jackson, promoted environmental justice to top priority status in the agency’s overall mission in 2009. The resulting strategy, which the EPA began rolling out in March, is called Plan EJ 2014, and its primary goal is to end the culture of entitlement among polluters that dump toxic byproducts into the air, soil, and water of marginalized communities. Why is this a big deal?
We can't get to the reckoning about America's racialized political economy when one of the parties suppresses vote/denies health insurance.
Because if you believe that the health and lives of people of color are no less precious than white people’s, this plan helps bring environmental laws in harmony with those values. If you think that clean air is Don Sterling (I like black people. I feed them with oxygen and give them wind. I just don’t want them breathing me.), then you want to know who the Adam Silver is who can commission a smack down. Because civil rights protections in America have been taking a beating lately. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we now have weakened voting rights protections, weakened affirmative action policies, and we were this close to losing valuable housing discrimination protections (which would have had negative implications for environmentalists).
While civil rights have been getting pushed backwards, environmental justice is been slowly rolling along progressively. That’s no small feat, especially for an agenda that was attacked almost immediately upon Obama claiming the White House in 2009.
ABC News: Biden: Punish Russia If It Meddles In Ukraine
Russia must be punished if it seeks to derail Ukraine’s presidential election this weekend, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday. Speaking during a tour of Eastern European nations, Biden urged European allies to use their influence and “promote a stable and positive environment” so Ukrainians can vote unhindered on Sunday. “If Russia undermines these elections … we must remain resolute and impose greater costs to Russia and (be) equally resolute to invest in the NATO alliance,” Biden said after talks with Romanian President Traian Basescu. The U.S. and the EU have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and have threatened to target entire sectors of the Russian economy if Russia tries to grab more land from Ukraine.
"Where the rule of law is strong...this is where companies around the world invest." -VP in #Romania on anti-corruption efforts
Biden urged Romania to develop its natural gas resources, which analysts say could be exported it to other countries in the region, including neighboring Moldova, which is 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. Romania imports about one-fifth of its natural gas from Russia and has its own supplies in the northwest Transylvania region. “We need to ensure that Russia can no longer use its energy resources as a weapon against anyone in the region,” Biden said. “The development of a secure, diverse and inter-connected energy market is the next great step for our European colleagues.”
ThinkProgress: Chipotle Asks Customers To Keep Guns Away From Its Stores
On Monday, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. formally requested that customers refrain from bringing guns into its restaurants. The announcement came after gun rights advocates entered a Texas restaurant with “military-style assault rifles.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America distributed a petition calling for firearms bans in stores like Chipotle after “open-carry gun activists” entered a Chipotle in Dallas.
According to Chipotle, “the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.” It remains unclear whether or not the chain is implementing a complete ban on all firearms, but the official statement also claims that the company has previously adhered to local gun rights laws.
A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that exchange enrollment meets or exceeds expectations in 22 states (44%), even after accounting for any attrition due to nonpayment of premiums. Assuming 15 percent of enrollees do not take the final enrollment step and pay their premiums, over 6.8 million people who enrolled through April 19 will have coverage effective as of May 1.
“The large uptick in enrollment in March and early April brought many states over the finish line in terms of projected enrollment for 2014,” said Caroline Pearson, Vice President at Avalere. “Even after accounting for potential non-payment, enrollment exceeds 100 percent of projections in nearly half of states.”
President Obama has gotten much attention from a single extended response he gave to a question about his foreign policy from Ed Henry of Fox News in a press conference in Manila. The apparently strongly felt need, on the part of some of the president’s hardline critics, to strike back at his remarks and to try to discredit them indicates that he spoke some embarrassing truths. Garden-variety disagreement with the substance of the president’s policies and what he has said to support them would never have stimulated this kind of response. The president made several perceptive observations about the less productive aspects of current discourse in Washington about Ukraine, Syria, and other difficult issues, but if there was a single “ouch” line that made the critics most uncomfortable it may have been Mr. Obama’s comment that “for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again.”
213,881 GOP turnout in contested race McConnell-Bevin. 309,207 Dem turnout in virtual uncontested race Alison Grimes. What's the narrative?
It must be painful for Mr. Obama’s opponents to be reminded how right he was about this issue while so many others—Democrats as well as Republicans—were wrong. If subsequent commentary by the critics were to be believed, the main takeaway from the president’s remarks was that he was accusing his political opponents of being warmongers. But the president explicitly acknowledged, in referring to debates over Syria and Ukraine, that the opponents he has in mind have disavowed wanting to send U.S. troops into such conflicts. Mr. Obama’s main point was instead that after making such disavowals, the critics either (1) fail to spell out what other action they have in mind, beyond what the administration already is doing; or (2) to the extent they do mention an alternative, fail to assess carefully the likely consequences both good and bad, and instead just make unsupported assertions that acting more boldly or aggressively will somehow help to solve the problem at hand.
WPRI: 91% In RI Pay First Premiums For Obamacare Plans
The vast majority of individuals who signed up for private insurance plans through Rhode Island’s new Obamacare marketplace finished the process by paying their first premiums, the agency’s leader confirmed Friday. Christine Ferguson, executive director of HealthSource RI, said 91% of the 27,968 individuals who signed up for private plans during the open enrollment period from Oct. 1 to March 31 paid their first premiums by the April 23 deadline. Analysts have pointed to that percentage as a key test of whether the enrollment figures were as strong as they looked. A total of 25,879 individuals had signed up for a private plan through HealthSource RI and paid their first premiums as of April 30, the agency said. In addition, more than 70,000 people have now used the marketplace to sign up for Medicaid, the government insurance plan for low-income Americans, far more than were expected to do so.
Ferguson also confirmed that HealthSource RI is “in very serious discussions” with executives at UnitedHealth Group Inc. to have United start selling plans for individuals on the Rhode Island marketplace this fall. “I will say that there’s a very good chance that United will,” she said. Executives at United, the nation’s largest health insurer, have signaled in recent weeks that they plan to start selling Obamacare plans in more states during the next open enrollment period this fall. While United is already selling plans to small businesses through HealthSource RI, the marketplace currently has only Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Neighborhood Health Plan offering individual plans.
Amy Lynn Smith: Obamacare Success Stories Keep Coming, With A Rosy Forecast For 2015
So much good news, it’s hard to know where to begin. In Michigan, 272,539 people signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, in addition to thousands more who have enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s Medicaid expansion program that launched April 1. Numbers don’t lie, but even more compelling are the stories of people like Karen Marshall of Oak Park, Mich. Until about four years ago, she’d always had health insurance through work. But when she lost her job, she couldn’t get even the most expensive private insurance because the insurance company claimed she had a pre-existing condition.
Marshall has always considered herself fortunate to be healthy, but she never felt luckier than she did after getting health insurance that kicked in on January 1, 2014. On a trip the week before, she slipped on the ice and fell, breaking her wrist in three places. She saw an orthopedic surgeon on January 3 and had surgery the following week. Everything was covered by her insurance, leaving her only having to pay her deductible and her $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum for the year. She’s now had two surgeries, one hospitalization, and has physical therapy and follow-up visits ahead.
Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a campaign rally at the St. Pete Times Forum, May 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida
President Obama and the Pittsburgh Steelers pack care packages for distribution by the USO during an event on the South Lawn of the White House May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama meets with Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the Oval Office on May 21, 2009. The President nominated Judge Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (left) and Senior Advisor David Axelrod review President Obama’s address on national security outside the Oval Office on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama delivers an address on national security at the National Archives May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama prepares to take a group photo with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the East Room of the White House, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama meets with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in the Oval Office Thursday, May 21, 2009. This was the President’s first meeting with an African Head of State. A bust of Martin Luther King is at far left (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama chats with journalists in a dining room located in the in the White House Navy Mess, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama’s personal secretary, Katie Johnson, tries on a Pittsburgh Steelers football helmet outside the Oval Office, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is reflected in a mirror during a impromptu drop-by visit with speechwriters in David Axelrod’s office in the West Wing of the White House on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama surprises members of the Office of the Staff Secretary in the West Wing of the White House during an impromptu drop-by visit on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shares a laugh with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., left, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., right, and others during a meeting in the Oval Office, May 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama disembarks Air Force One upon his arrival at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
@PeteSouza: ‘POTUS receives update this am on Oklahoma tornado aftermath from Sec Napolitano et al’ May 21, 2013
Our wonderful UTAustinLiberal highlighted this year’s awarding of the National Medal of Arts and Humanities to Americans of diverse fields of achievement in the arts. Her post is here. (I link because I started to type out all the recipients, and I quickly realized how silly that was.)
For tonight’s night owl chat, a bit of music and more from some of our luminaries.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with 2012 National Medal of Arts recipient Allen Toussaint for his contributions as a composer, producer, and performer, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House
Broadway World: Earlier today, President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts in conjunction with the National Humanities Medals. The medals were presented by the President during an East Room ceremony at the White House. The National Medal of Arts is a White House initiative managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Each year, the NEA organizes and oversees the National Medal of Arts nomination process and notifies the artists of their selection to receive a medal, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence.
President Barack Obama greets departing Associate Counsel to the President Alison J. “Ali” Nathan, left, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, in the Outer Oval Office, July 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Daily Presidential Schedule (All Times Eastern)
11:0: The President meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
1:00: Michelle Obama delivers remarks to mayors and other local officials engaged in Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties
2:0: The President awards the 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal; The First Lady also attends
Knox News: Makenna Hurd’s tasty banana muffins got her through the White House door. While she was there, the 9-year-old delivered something extra: Hugs for President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.
…. Makenna earned the invitation by being one of the winners of a recipe challenge that is part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to promote healthy eating.
“I’m at the White House!” exclaimed Makenna, who has Down syndrome.
…. As news photographers jostled to record the scene, Obama squatted down by Makenna’s seat and thanked her for coming. Makenna thanked him back, threw her arms around his neck and gave him a hug.
Her mother, Amanda Hurd, who watched with tears in her eyes, was so caught up in the moment that she forgot to pull out her own camera and take photos.
“I was too busy soaking in the fact that my daughter was hugging the president,” Hurd said.
USA Today: This morning, President Obama meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to talk about the major immigration bill now pending in the U.S. House.
The bill would increase border security and provide a path to citizenship for some 11 million people who are already in the country illegally.
The Obama administration is also releasing a report Wednesday arguing that an overhaul of the immigration system would strengthen the economy, create more jobs, increase worker productivity, and decrease budget deficits.
This exchange is worth the read. This is how STUPID Republicans are and their stupidity will kill thousands of women
Jennifer Bendery: Texas State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R), the author of the radically anti-abortion bill making its way through the Texas Legislature this week, argued for hours on Tuesday that lawmakers should support her bill because of its strong protections for a person’s “pre-born life.” But back in 2007, she made the case against treating the unborn as people — at least, when it comes to qualifying for health care services. During a House debate on an appropriations bill that year, Laubenberg, a staunch conservative, put forward an amendment that would require expectant mothers to wait three months before they could begin receiving prenatal and perinatal care under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, a program that helps cover uninsured children in low-income families.
Don't be hoodwinked, #Zimmerman & #SB1 come from the same place: a large subculture infused in the belief that blacks & women are property.
Laubenberg’s amendment drew criticism from Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia, who said the change would mean that more than 95,000 children, in utero, would be kicked out of the CHIP program. As the two sparred over whether that was true — Anchia cited CHIP data from hospitals, Laubenberg alleged it was “misinformation” — Anchia asked if Laubenberg recognized those in-utero babies as people. “You do know, don’t you, that these are U.S. citizens?” Anchia asked. “But they’re not born yet,” Laubenberg said.
Laubenberg’s response drew a look of shock from Democratic Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who could be seen standing next to Anchia during the exchange. Anchia also appeared to relish the moment as he pressed Laubenberg that she was now arguing against treating a fetus as a person. “That’s the whole point, see?” Anchia said. “You have an anti-life amendment.” Laubenberg fired back that there is “no one more pro-life” in the House than her, and again said Anchia’s data was wrong. Still, something he said must have rattled her because she pulled down her amendment. “I will be back,” Laubenberg said as she prepared to leave the podium. “But right now, out of consideration for the body, I will pull this amendment down.”
Herb Alpert * Lin Arison * Joan Myers * Renée Fleming * Ernest Gaines * Ellsworth Kelly * Tony Kushner * George Lucas * Elaine May * Laurie Olin * Allen Toussaint * Washington Performing Arts Society, Washington, DC
2012 National Humanities Medal:
Edward L. Ayers * William G. Bowen * Jill Ker Conway * Natalie Zemon Davis * Frank Deford * Joan Didion * Robert Putnam¸* Marilynne Robinson¸* Kay Ryan * Robert B. Silvers * Anna Deavere Smith¸* Camilo José Vergara
More Americans still rightfully angrier at George Bush over the state of the economy than Pres. Barack Obama
Jared Bernstein: First, “not hurting” isn’t the same as “helping.” But more important, it is hurting. Real GDP growth was only 1.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, with the government sector subtracting 0.9 percent (that’s percentage points) from the growth rate. That’s not all sequestration, of course, but it is implicated.
Catherine Rampell also has a very useful bit of analysis over at the NYT, showing job impacts. As many have, she notes that while public sector jobs have been declining for years now, federal government job losses accelerated in March when the sequester hit; they’re down 40,000 since then.
Becca Aaronson: After more than 10 hours of debate, the House voted98-49 to tentatively approve the abortion regulations in House Bill 2, which would ban abortions at 20 weeks and add regulations to abortion providers and facilities that opponents argue would effectively eliminate access to abortion in Texas. The House must approve the bill again on another calendar day before it will be sent to the Senate. State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, urged lawmakers to realize that no one is “pro-abortion,” and expressed discontent that some supporters of the bill had labeled opponents of the legislation “baby killers.” She said that the question is not when life begins but rather, “It’s a question of decisions that have to be made along the way.”
Howard said that during the regular session, a bipartisan group of lawmakers came together to increase financing for family planning services, which decrease maternal deaths, infant deaths and unplanned pregnancies. “What we’re talking about here is going backwards,” she said. “It’s embarrassing that we’re doing this.”
Michael Tomasky: There’s an assumption embedded in the argument that no one disputes: namely, that whites will always be as conservative as they are now and will always vote Republican in the same numbers they do now. This assumption is wrong. White people—yep, even working-class white people—are going to get less conservative in coming years, so the Republicans’ hopes of building a white-nationalist party will likely be dashed in the future even by white people themselves.
Everyone knows and concedes all this. And everyone counters it by saying that the Republicans will just goose the less-educated white vote. As I noted above, everyone agrees that that vote is theirs for the goosing. But what if it isn’t? Back in March, the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute released a big poll on immigration. Those findings are interesting as far as they go, but the questions and results went beyond that. It’s the first poll I’ve seen that breaks the white working class into four distinct age groups (65-plus, 50-64, 30-49, 18-29) and asks respondents attitudes about a broad range of social issues. And guess what? White working-class millennials are fairly liberal!
Fantastic takedown of Sean Trende’s “GOP WILL BE SAVED BY MISSING WHITE VOTERS” drivel; using FACTS
ThinkProgress: As GOP House members continue their Kamikaze mission to scuttle the immigration reform bill, many political observers are wondering why. After all, isn’t it obvious that Republicans need more minority, particularly Hispanic support, and that therefore their self-interest should lead them to support a reasonable bill? Karl Rove thinks so. But lots and lots of Republicans dissent from that analysis, preferring to put their faith in a group they’re much more comfortable with: white voters. The most influential empirical analysis supporting this view was recently published by Sean Trende in a four part series on RealClearPolitics. Trende’s analysis is built around the idea of “missing white voters.”
What he means by this is that, given the estimated number of white voters in 2008 (derived from exit polls) and the natural increase in white eligible voters between 2008 and 2012 there should have been far more white voters than there actually were (again, estimated from the exit polls). He labels the difference between his projected and actual numbers of white voters as “missing” white voters. He goes on to say that “[i]f these white voters had decided to vote, the racial breakdown of the electorate would have been 73.6 percent white, 12.5 percent black, 9.5 percent Hispanic and 2.4 percent Asian — almost identical to the 2008 numbers.” Get it? The only real demographic change of importance between 2008 and 2012 was all those white voters who didn’t show up.
What’s wrong with this analysis? Plenty. Start with Trende’s projected natural increase in white voters—around 1.5 million voters, based on an assumed 55 percent turnout rate of additional white eligible voters. This implies that Trende was using an estimate of around 2.7 million additional eligible whites between 2008 and 2012. That’s wrong: Census data show an increase of only 1.5 million white eligibles. At Trende’s assumed 55 percent turnout rate, that translates into only 825,000 additional white voters from “natural increase.” So: GOP phone home! Your missing white voters have been found, and it turns out they weren’t really missing. They were simply sitting out a relatively low turnout election along with a large number of their minority counterparts. They may be back next time if it’s a higher turnout election — but then again so will a lot of minority voters. Bottom line: your demographic dilemma remains the same. The mix of voters is changing fast to your disadvantage and there is no cavalry of white voters waiting in the wings to rescue you.
First lady Michelle Obama hugs Lianyun Wu during an awards ceremony for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in the East Room at the White House on November 19. The first lady talked about the importance of afterschool and out of school arts and humanities education and presented awards recognizing programs across the country that benefit underserved youth
President Obama smiles as supporters sing Happy Birthday during a fundraising reception at the Bridgeport Arts Center on August 12
10:40: President Obama departs Chicago en route Nebraska
11:55: Arrives Omaha
12:25: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Bayliss Park, in Council Bluffs, Iowa
12:45: VP Biden travels to Durham, N.C., where he will deliver remarks at a campaign event at the Durham Armory
4:30: Michelle Obama delivers remarks at a campaign fundraising event in Los Angeles
6:15: PBO delivers remarks at a campaign event at Herman Park in Boone, Iowa
President Obama walks through the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago, August 12
Crikey, even Politico – Politico! – pushed back against Kantor the shill:
Republicans quickly jumped on a report that President Obama’s largest fundraiser here Sunday was only “half full,” but the crowd for the event was larger than the Obama campaign had initially anticipated.
“At Obama fundraiser in Chicago. Admission only $51, but room is half full,” New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor wrote on Twitter.
The Romney campaign seized on Kantor’s estimate …. The Drudge Report also piled on….
….to this reporter and several others in the White House press pool, the room seemed plenty full. There was empty space at the back of the large loft space during and immediately after the president’s remarks, but the crowd was densely packed to get close to the stage at the front of the room where Obama spoke.