Columbine came and went. We mourned, we vowed never again, we resolved to be a better nation. But it wasn’t enough.
Ft. Hood came and went. We mourned, we vowed “Terror won’t win”, we resolved to learn the lessons imparted. But it wasn’t enough.
Gabby Giffords will never be the same, and members from both sides of the aisle heaped praise on her. It wasn’t enough.
Newtown scarred us as nothing had before. Twenty innocent children mowed down in a mix of easy access to weapons of war, mental illness, and a society at war with itself. We wept, we beat our chests, we vowed to honor their memories. It, too, wasn’t enough, the words of resolve as evaporating steam.
Eight thousand have died at the end of a bullet since Newtown. All of them loved by someone, all of them precious to someone’s heart. Their deaths weren’t enough.
And now, another shooting, this time on a military base. And I will say it right here: it won’t be enough.
@petesouza: President Obama in the Oval Office, talking on phone to German Chancellor Merkel
2:15 EDT: The President meets with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, and President Andris Bērziņš of Latvia; the Vice President also attends
CBS: Obama administration set to release Syria intel report
The administration will release on Friday a declassified version of its intelligence report on last week’s purported Syria chemical weapons attack, a senior administration official told CBS News late Thursday.
The official also said the administration would go public with its legal justification for taking military action against the Syrian regime if and when President Obama orders a strike.
A few days ago, it was largely seen as a fait accompli – British Prime Minister David Cameron would get approval from the British Parliament for the use of force in Syria, and a coalition would move forward apace.
With these expectations in mind, last night’s developments were as stunning as they were dramatic. For the first time in generations, a British prime minister’s appeal for military authorization was rejected by members of Parliament, even after Cameron watered down the scope of his original request.
It’s safe to assume the White House, which appears eager to intervene in Syria and assumed the UK’s support was in hand, was rattled by Parliament’s decision. Indeed, it left President Obama in an unsettling global dynamic….
Another Obamascare article is making the rounds. This one, from National Journal, is about what people buying their own insurance will pay on the new Obamacare exchanges — and how those prices compare to what people pay when they get coverage from their employers.
“For the vast majority of Americans,” reporter Clara Ritger writes, “premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a National Journal analysis of new coverage and cost data. … Whether the quality of care in the new market is comparable to private offerings remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: The cost of care in the new market doesn’t stack up.”
…. this analysis doesn’t really tell us what the Obamacare critics think it does. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really tell us what Ritger thinks it does….
Wow. National Journal really booted one today on the Affordable Care Act …..it should be tossed in the garbage…
….. National Journal only has initial estimates of what plans in the exchanges will look like; over time, we don’t know how they’ll change. And, yes, there is surely a fair amount of uncertainty about how employers will react over time.
What we do know, however, suggests that this National Journal analysis doesn’t get it right, at all.
Steve Benen: Eric Holder steps up, digs in, and breaks out
…. Eric Holder appears to have quietly positioned himself not only as a progressive champion, but as one of the more accomplished attorneys general in recent memory.
Think about some of the recent policies Holder has chosen to tackle: voting rights; sentencing reforms; condemnations of “Stand Your Ground” laws, and of course the drug policy announced yesterday. These are critically important law-enforcement policies, some of which have been neglected and ignored by officials in both parties for years, long in need of leadership – which Holder is now providing…..
FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence
The Obama administration announced two new common-sense executive actions to keep the most dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands and ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities. These executive actions build on the 23 executive actions that the Vice President recommended as part of the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan and the President unveiled on January 16, 2013.
Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence.
Treasury: All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
TPM: Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The War On Drugs?
It’s America’s 40-year war. From Nixon through Nancy — “Just Say No!” — to Clinton not inhaling. From coke to crack to meth.
Throughout the War on Drugs, the drive has been for more law enforcement, stiffer sentences and less tolerance. The limitations of interdiction and incarceration are well-documented. But the push for harsher penalties rarely abated, and the emphasis remained on drugs as a criminal matter for law enforcement. Until Thursday, when the first real retreat of any kind was made official.
The Justice Department’s announcement that it would not block Colorado and Washington from implementing state laws legalizing marijuana marked a sea change.
USA Today: President Obama is back on the road Thursday, starting a two-day bus trip to promote plans to cut college costs.
First up is a flight to upstate New York, where Obama will speak at the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York. The president and his bus then travel to Henninger High School in Syracuse.
“At these two schools, the President will discuss his plan to make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families,” says the White House schedule.
…. After discussing college costs in Buffalo and Syracuse, Obama spends the night in Auburn, N.Y. The president wraps up his bus tour on Friday with stops in Binghamton, N.Y., and Scranton, Penn.
Too many here in Washington believe education is an expense that can be cut in tough economic times. I believe education is an investment.
The White House is tackling the status quo that’s sent college costs out of control.
For decades now, America’s approach to higher-education policy has been a delightful synthesis of left-wing and right-wing ideas. In stark contrast to the K–12 universe, college is a playground for individual choice and market competition …. In a speech Thursday morning in Buffalo, N.Y., on ways to enhance college affordability, President Obama will likely lay out policy measures that, while relatively modest on their own terms, propose to radically subvert that bargain on a conceptual level.
The president has decided, essentially, that the old bargain has failed …. he wants to find ways for the federal government to put its muscle behind an idea that’s both modest and radical: that public money should pay for outcomes, not just more stuff. Attempting to nudge the health care system in that direction was a key element of the Affordable Care Act. Nudging K–12 education in that direction has been the centerpiece of the Obama education agenda. Bringing it to the realm of higher education in a serious way would be extremely difficult but also an extraordinary achievement if we can be sent down that path.
President Obama plans to announce a set of ambitious proposals on Thursday aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid.
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings.
“All the things we’re measuring are important for students choosing a college,” a senior administration official said. “It’s important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back.”
USA Today: Small-business jobs rise as economy improves
Small-business hiring and confidence about the future are rising, a signal of the economy’s growing strength and diminishing concerns about employee insurance coverage required by the new health care law.
Job creation at small companies has almost doubled in the last six months, reaching 82,000 jobs at firms with 49 or fewer employees in July, according to payroll processor ADP. Borrowing by small businesses and sales of new franchises have also climbed, indicating business owners are willing to take on new expenses and risk.
Opponents of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants had a plan to apply grassroots pressure on congressional Republicans in their home districts. Why did it fizzle?
Activists opposed to immigration reform were all set to spend this month putting pressure on lawmakers to kill the legislation. But it hasn’t exactly been a show of force.
Last week, the Tea Party Patriots and NumbersUSA, two groups opposed to “amnesty” legislation, heavily publicized a rally in Richmond, Virginia, featuring Steve King … but only a few dozen people showed up – far short of the hundreds organizers had planned for.
…. as August winds down, the Richmond event seems indicative of the overall trend. Hundreds of immigrant advocates have appeared at rallies and town halls across the country. But the other side, the opponents, have been mostly absent.
Steve Benen: The nation’s full faith and credit is not a ‘leverage point’
About a week ago, National Review’s Robert Costa reported that congressional Republicans are considering an incredibly dangerous new plan: they’re prepared to hold the nation’s debt limit hostage again, creating a crisis comparable to the one we saw in the summer of 2011, unless Democrats agree to take health care benefits away from millions of Americans.
Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a prominent member of the House Democratic leadership, said he now sees this scenario as likely. And overnight, Reuters reported (see here) that another GOP debt-ceiling crisis appears to be on the way…..
… In other words, GOP leaders are effectively prepared to swap one hostage for another …. this is nothing short of madness. As Ezra Klein recently put it, “Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock”….
A variety of Republican governors have sought federal funds under Obamacare, many of them to expand Medicaid eligibility for more residents, a centerpiece of the law that the Supreme Court made optional for states last year.
But shhh! Don’t call it Obamacare, they say, for they despise that law.
In the latest example, vociferous Obamacare critic and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is seeking roughly $100 million in federal funds under a program set up under Obamacare, called Community First Choice … “The bottom line is it has nothing to do with Obamacare,” said Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle.
Only it has everything to do with Obamacare …
Perry is in good company among Republican governors, many of whom want billions of federal funds under the law’s Medicaid expansion, but don’t want to call it Obamacare …. One example is Arizona’s Jan Brewer …. another is Florida’s Rick Scott….
NBC: Even Republican young adults want health insurance, poll finds
Obamacare may have become a partisan issue, but more Republicans than Democrats have signed up for one of its most popular provisions, according to a survey published Wednesday.
The survey also pokes holes in the idea that most 20-somethings act like “Young Invincibles” who believe they don’t need health insurance.
A team at the Commonwealth Fund, which strongly supports healthcare reform, looked at one of the main target groups of the 2010 Affordable Care Act – young adults who have been going without health insurance. One of the most popular provisions of the law lets people age 26 and younger stay on their parents’ health insurance.
…. They found that by last March, 63 percent of young adults identifying as Republicans had enrolled in a parent’s health plan in the last 12 months, compared to 45 percent of those who considered themselves Democrats….
Texas Tribune: Voter ID Debate Heats Up as Dallas County Joins Fight
A fight against the state’s contentious voter ID laws escalated this week when Dallas County became the first Texas county to claim that the requirements would disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters.
In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to join U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in a lawsuit urging a federal district court to issue an injunction against the voter ID law. The law requires voters to present one of seven forms of state or federal identification or a so-called election identification certificate, which can be obtained from the state’s Department of Public Safety.
On Wednesday in an appearance on MSNBC, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins applauded the commissioners’ decision. Jenkins said 220,000 of 1.1 million total registered voters in Dallas County indicated they did not have the required forms of ID to vote.
Pete Souza: “On vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, the President was golfing at the Vineyard Golf Club. I switched my digital camera to the black-and-white setting to capture the ominous clouds.” Aug. 22, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama greets attendees during a Joining Forces event at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 22, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in the Oval Office, Saturday, July 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Nedra Pickler: President Barack Obama is enrolling some star power to promote health care. Obama stopped by a private White House meeting Monday with celebrities including singer Jennifer Hudson and actors Amy Poehler, Michael Cera and Kal Penn. The White House says the artists expressed interest in helping spread the word about the health insurance marketplaces opening Oct. 1.
The White House says Obama told the artists they could help reach young uninsured Americans who will be vital to his signature law’s success. Insurers need healthy young customers to help offset the costs of older, sicker consumers. The group also included representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys and Bon Jovi. Also in attendance were officials with internet video makers YouTube and Funny or Die, which are teaming up on promotions featuring comedians.
Washington Post: Oprah, Funny or Die and the Grammys want to promote Obamacare
What do Oprah, Funny or Die and the Grammys have in common? All three, it turns out, have volunteered to promote Obamacare.
Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett hosted a meeting Monday with a star-studded group of actors, musicians, writers and producers who have “expressed a personal interest in educating young people about the Affordable Care Act,” according to a White House official.
Young people are crucial to the Affordable Care Act’s success, and the White House estimates it needs 2.7 million of them to sign up for health coverage in 2014. With typically low health costs, it’s this demographic that Obama administration is relying on to keep premiums low on the new marketplaces.
Erica Lafferty, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, stops at her mother’s grave on her wedding day
People: ….. “I wanted to let her know how much I missed her,” Lafferty says. “No daughter should ever have to do that on her wedding day … and I make sure she is always part of every day, like she always had been.”
…. For her bridal ensemble, Lafferty wore custom-dyed converse sneakers, something she and her mom often joked about.
“My mom always teased me because I was such a tomboy,” she says. “When I was picking out my dress, we found you could custom Converse sneakers, so she knew I had ordered them.”
Lafferty works with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “to fight common-sense gun laws and join with others who’ve lost loved ones. I’m using my voice to make sure that things change and ensure no one else has to experience one of the most important days of their life without their mother due to gun violence.”
Steve Benen: U.S. job growth improves, exceeds expectations
Going into this morning, most economists projected job growth from June to be about 155,000 new jobs. With this in mind, the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows not only good news, but unexpectedly good news…..
The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 195,000 jobs in June and employment gains for May and April were revised sharply higher, the U.S. government said Friday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.6%, but the size of the labor force increased by 177,000, according to the Labor Department said.
…. Perhaps the most important – and most heartening – detail in this new report is the upward revisions for the previous two months…
In 2010, a tiny Palestinian-rights group called Minnesota Break the Bonds applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status. Two years and a lot of prodding later, the I.R.S. sent the group’s leaders a series of questions and requests almost identical to the ones it was sending to Tea Party groups at the time.
…. The controversy that erupted in May has focused on an ideological question: Were conservative groups singled out for special treatment based on their politics, or did the I.R.S. equally target liberal groups? But a closer look at the I.R.S. operation suggests that the problem was less about ideology and more about how a process instructing reviewers to “be on the lookout” for selected terms was applied to any group that mentioned certain words in its application.
ThinkProgress: What The Mainstream Media Misses About Texas’ Ongoing Abortion Battle
Over the past week, Texas has captured national attention with a dramatic show-down between a Republican-controlled legislature and thousands of reproductive health advocates…. but many of the narratives the media is crafting aren’t actually getting at the full scope of the story.
In addition to criminalizing abortion services after 20 weeks, the other provisions in Texas’ abortion proposals would impose harsh restrictions on abortion providers. By subjecting abortion clinics to new regulations that would force them to make expensive updates to their facilities — unnecessary measures that major medical groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose — Texas’ bill would force 90 percent of the state’s clinics to close their doors. That would leave just five abortion clinics in the entire Lone Star State, which happens to be the second most populous state in the country.
…. And the real catch? Outside of the debate about abortion access after 20 weeks — even outside of the fight for abortion rights altogether — the “abortion clinics” in question are often providing health services that encompass much more than helping women terminate a pregnancy. Many of them also provide preventative care, family planning counseling, STD testing, and cancer screenings. And they offer those health services to Texans of both genders who are typically uninsured.
News Observer: Gov. Pat McCrory doled out handshakes and hailed parade-goers as he rode in this Rowan County town’s Fourth of July parade Thursday, but he wouldn’t say what he’d do about a controversial abortion bill if it reaches his desk.
That question has been on many minds in North Carolina this week, after the N.C. Senate Wednesday approved sweeping new rules that could limit abortions. The bill now goes to the N.C. House.
The legislation would require N.C. abortion clinics to meet tougher standards similar to those governing outpatient surgery clinics. As a result, critics say, it would effectively close the majority of the state’s 16 abortion clinics. It would also require doctors to be present when women take pills to induce abortions.
Mediaite: Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, was a little shocked when reporters switched from questioning him about the U.S.’s openly gay nominee for Ambassador to the Dominican Republic to the subject of the regional egg trade: “We go from faggots and lesbians to this?” he said, laughing. “We’re jumping to chickens now?”….
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.
No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.
Congressional budget analysts on Wednesday released a positive economic assessment of the broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that passed the Senate last week, saying that the new legislation would cut more than $800 billion from the federal deficit over the next two decades and lead to 9.6 million new legal residents in the country.
Though the Congressional Budget Office had offered in June a similar estimate of the immigration bill that was then being debated in the Senate — in a report that found the benefits of an increase in legal residents from the immigration overhaul would outweigh the costs — the new report provides an analysis of the actual bill recently passed by the Senate.
Steve Benen: Koch brothers push GOP officials to sign anti-climate pledge
The Republican Party is certainly fond of its pledges. Grover Norquist, of course, has his infamous anti-tax pledge that has interfered with federal policymaking in recent decades, and in 2011, GOP presidential candidates were pushed to endorse an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage.
But as it turns out, there’s another pledge that’s taken root in Republican politics that’s received far less attention. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week on the “No Climate Tax Pledge” pushed by Charles and David Koch….
Monday: The President will host a meeting at the White House with business leaders to discuss the importance of common-sense immigration reform, including the Congressional Budget Office analysis that concludes that immigration reform would promote economic growth and reduce the deficit.
Tuesday: President Obama will speak at Georgetown University on the growing threat of climate change
Wednesday morning: The President and the First Family will depart for their trip to Africa. The trip will continue through the weekend, and the President and the First Lady will return July 2nd.
USA Today: Members of Congress will be in recess in August, but President Obama wants to make sure they hear from his supporters.
A pro-Obama organization said Friday that Obama will address an “Action August” summit designed “to plan for and discuss the action we will be taking during the August congressional recess in order to ensure that the voice of the people is heard and that Members of Congress are held accountable by those they represent.”
Organizing for Action said Obama will speak July 22 at “a working dinner with grass-roots leaders, volunteers, OFA founding members, campaign alumni and OFA staff to thank them for everything they are doing, but also to reaffirm that there is still so much left to do.”
Among the issues that OFA and Obama are pushing: an immigration bill, gun-control legislation and a new budget deal with higher taxes on the wealthy.
Washington Post: Vice President Joe Biden is not letting the gun-control issue rest. At a speech in Las Vegas Friday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting, Biden said that “at least five senators” who initially opposed background checks have sought him out for an opportunity to change their votes.
“We’re in an effort to see how we can provide another opportunity for the people who voted no” on universal background checks, which failed in the Senate in April. “That’s the hardest thing for a politician and we need to provide them a rationale. We will get to this eventually.”
Bob Cesca: The NSA absolutely can not intentionally target U.S. citizens without an individual warrant. Even if you’re the most vocal Edward Snowden supporter in the universe, you have no choice but to acknowledge the truth and accuracy of this statement.
How can I say such a thing? On Thursday, Glenn Greenwald wrote it deep within his latest “bombshell” article for the Guardian: “To intentionally target either of those groups requires an individual warrant.” The “groups” Greenwald referred to here are U.S. persons or residents.
And there you go.
This is easily the biggest news to come out of Thursday’s dispatch …. not only does it totally decimate CNet’s journalistic blunder from last weekend …. it it also represents a striking clarification in Greenwald’s reporting, not to mention Snowden’s claims of being able to target any American including the president at his own discretion and without a warrant. The “requires an individual warrant” line isn’t the centerpiece of the article by any stretch. It’s tossed into the mix almost as a throwaway ….
Here we go again. Glenn Greenwald’s latest overheated, over-long, deliberately confusing piece claims to reveal: The Top Secret Rules That Allow NSA to Use US Data Without a Warrant.
….. keep digging through the turgid prose. Keep digging. Because eventually you get to this:
FAA warrants are issued by the Fisa court for up to 12 months at a time, and authorise the collection of bulk information – some of which can include communications of US citizens, or people inside the US. To intentionally target either of those groups requires an individual warrant.
Wait a minute — did Glenn Greenwald just debunk his own exaggerated claims? Why yes, he did…..
NYT: Paula Deen, the self-proclaimed queen of Southern cooking and a sugary mainstay of the Food Network, was dropped by the network on Friday, after a bewildering day in which she failed to show up for an interview on the “Today” show and then in two online videos begged her family and audience to forgive her for using racist language.
ThinkProgress: …. what was striking both about some of the accusations she faced, and her sworn testimony in the deposition, was that Deen seemed more afraid of getting caught out being racist or being accused of having caused offense than of the idea that she might have caused someone else pain…..
Deen’s desperate to be forgiven, which in this context means not facing a boycott or loss of business …. there’s no reason anyone should gratify her until she demonstrates that she’s making real efforts to become a different person and to establish a different environment in her businesses. Paula Deen isn’t entitled to our goodwill just because she wants it…..