The White House began installing solar panels on the First Family’s residence this week, a White House official confirmed Thursday. The Obama administration has already undertaken a number of measures to increase the federal government’s energy efficiency and use of renewable energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, a plan the president outlined in an executive order he signed in October 2009.
The administration has doubled the number of hybrid cars and truck in the federal fleet, increased the government’s use of renewable energy to 7 percent, cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent and committed $2 billion to upgrade federal buildings’ energy efficiency through contracting requirements at no up-front cost to taxpayers.
So far these measures have collectively saved 7 million gallons of gas and been equivalent to permanently removing 1.5 million cars from the road, according to the White House.
Heidi Mitchell: Stand And Deliver: After Her 12-Hour Filibuster, How Far Will Texas Senator Wendy Davis Run?
Just a week prior, the scene besieging the two-term senator was altogether less serene. On the final day of a special session of the Eighty-third Legislature, an omnibus antiabortion bill known as SB 5, which proposed new restrictions on family-planning clinics, was up for a vote in the Senate—and Davis arrived at the Capitol building in Austin prepared for a long fight.
Wearing pink Mizuno running shoes and a sky-blue Escada day coat concealing a back brace, the 50-year-old runner and cyclist held the floor for a twelve-hour filibuster that packed the rotunda with pro-choice defenders and had the nation biting its collective nails as coverage streamed online and the clock ticked down to midnight. In those hours, Davis’s Facebook likes spiked. The hashtag #StandWithWendy began trending as high as some 125,000 tweets per hour. Barack Obama used it. Lena Dunham tweeted her support. John Oliver made a joke about a new line of shoes, the Fila-busters, the next night on The Daily Show.
We’ve known for a few weeks now that conservative groups are attempting to sabotage Obamacare by planning and staging campaigns to dissuade young people and families from enrolling in state insurance exchanges. Via Greg Sargent, these efforts include a new radio spot from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, and the good news is that in addition to being heartless and cruel, it’s also incredibly stupid. “Two years ago, my son Caleb began having seizures … if we can’t pick our own doctor, how do I know my family is going to get the care they need?”
Set aside for a moment that the one factual claim about the law in that quote — “we can’t pick our own doctor” — is false, and will be false until the president of Kaiser Permanente hypnotizes all of Washington and persuades Congress to ban PPOs. Set aside too that the single most well known and well liked provision of the Affordable Care Act is the one banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. That’s the reason Caleb will never have to worry about being locked out of coverage for the rest of his life.
A spirited debate has unfolded within the Republican Party over the last several weeks about what the party intends to do to sabotage the federal health care system. A significant contingent within the GOP has demanded a hostage strategy: Republicans should tell Democrats that they’ll shut down the government unless Dems agree to deny health care benefits to millions of Americans. The strategy is, of course, destined to fail. Democrats will never agree to pay such a ransom, and Republicans don’t want to be on the hook for a shutdown that puts their control of Congress in jeopardy.
It seems increasingly obvious that congressional Republicans are less a governing party and more a group of intemperate children who like to play with matches — and it just so happens they’ve stumbled upon some explosives. To be sure, a government shutdown would be an awful development that would hurt the economy and severely undermine public services Americans rely on. But a debt-ceiling crisis is on a whole other level — it’s like comparing cutting your hand with a kitchen knife and needing stitches, and amputating your hand altogether. The former is serious; the latter is tough to recover from.
Maybe there’s something about presidential vacations that many folks find irksome on a reflexive level. Americans may think that presidents shouldn’t take off when there’s so much work to be done. But RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is taking these attitudes to a very silly level. First, President Obama is taking an eight-day break because, well, humans in stressful jobs occasionally need to take a breather. But for Republicans to make hay out of this is absurd — Obama has taken 87 days off since his first inauguration, and at the comparable point in George W. Bush’s presidency, Obama’s Republican predecessor had taken 399 days off. Remember this chart?
At this point, I imagine conservatives are asking, “Why is it Bush’s days off were fair game for criticism but Obama’s aren’t?” The answer is pretty straightforward: it’s because Bush’s time away from the office was extraordinary. No modern president ever took as much time off as he did. Bush’s vacation days, in other words, became noteworthy because they were record-breaking. For every day off Obama has taken, Bush took 4.5 days off over a comparable period of time.
CNBC: Housing Starts Up 5.9%; Q2 Productivity Beats Forecasts
The Commerce Department said on Friday that housing starts increased 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000 units. June’s starts were revised up to show a 846,000-unit pace instead of the previously reported 836,000 units.Permits to build homes rose 2.7 percent in July to a 943,000-unit pace. Meanwhile, productivity increased at a 0.9 percent annual rate, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected productivity to gain at a 0.6 percent rate.
Output rose at a 2.6 percent rate in the second quarter, while the number of hours worked increased at a 1.7 percent rate. Unit labor costs—a gauge of labor-related costs for any given unit of output—rose at 1.4 percent rate in the second quarter, slightly above forecasts of economists polled by Reuters. Builders have been complaining about a shortage of labor and materials. Still, residential construction remains on a firmer footing and should again contribute to economic growth this year.
President Barack Obama has breakfast with small business owners at Rausch’s Cafe in Guttenberg, Iowa, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest, Aug.16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama browses crafts and antiques at Grasshoppers store in LeClaire, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks with people at Grasshoppers store in LeClaire, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
A year ago today: “The President hugs the First Lady after she had introduced him at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa. The campaign tweeted a similar photo from the campaign photographer on election night and a lot of people thought it was taken on election day.” (Photo by Pete Souza)
The Hill: Obama Group’s New Ad Touts Healthcare Law Insurance Rebates
The political advocacy group spun off from President Obama’s reelection campaign on Thursday unveiled a new ad touting the benefits of ObamaCare, their third national ad as the administration readies to rollout their healthcare reforms.
The new ad from Organizing for Action (OFA), titled “Every Day” features a North Carolina family discussing the insurance rebate they received under the healthcare law. The parents Rebecca and Russell worried about how to pay for their son’s medical care in the face of rising premiums.
“When the Affordable Care Act was passed we ended up getting a $350 rebate from our insurance company and then his premiums were going to go down by $60 a month,” says Rebecca in the ad.
“ObamaCare is helping everyday families every day,” reads onscreen text.
“It’s nice to see somebody looking out for the little guy,” says the father Russell.
The Grio: Eric Holder’s Sentencing Reforms Represent A Sea Change
This week, Attorney General Holder announced that Federal Prosecutors would have more discretion (i.e. more leeway) in maneuvering around some of this nation’s more draconian sentencing practices impacting substance abusers and others whose lives and families have been decimated by the so-called War on Drugs. Nearly half of the federal inmate population is serving time for drug offenses. The significance of this policy shift initiated by AG Holder and the DOJ should not be underestimated.
Holder’s announcement this week signals both his leadership and commitment to these issues as well as his capacity to hear and respond to calls for equal justice from the litany of voices aimed at ending the war on drugs and reforming our broken criminal justice system. The Department of Justice memo sent to all U.S. federal prosecutors this week requires them to not include information regarding drug quantities – thereby allowing them to sidestep mandatory minimums – for drug defendants that meet a reasonable set of criteria, including having no affiliations with drug cartels or other criminal organizations, no prior criminal record, and no violent crimes connected to their offenses.
Obamacare critics keep insisting that Obamacare is a bad deal for most people buying insurance on their own. And a big reason is that they don’t think much of the subsidies.
I know. You’re getting tired of hearing about the subsidies. Bear with me, because today we have some new and important information, thanks to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
To review: Obamacare provides offers tax credits to offset the cost of insurance. If your income is less than four times the poverty line, and if you’re buying through one of the new insurance exchanges, then the tax credit will operate like a discount. The less money you have, the bigger the discount. Nowadays, most Obamacare critics acknowledge that the subsidies exist. But they tend to dismiss them as trivial. “Some low-income people will get subsidies,” Rich Lowry of the National Review wrote on Monday. “But that doesn’t change the essential facts.”
Actually, it does change the essential facts—by quite a lot….
The Obama administration has made changes to a college loan program designed to help more families qualify for college aid.
African-American college presidents and lawmakers had sought changes to the PLUS loan program…..
“The Education Department says families that have recent but small-scale debt may now become eligible for PLUS loans through appeals …. Black lawmakers have been pressuring the administration, saying large numbers of previously eligible applicants have been denied aid under tighter credit rules.
“Parents and graduate students who use PLUS loans have no borrowing limit, but they face some of the highest interest rates in the federal student loan system.”
Carrie Healey: Obama’s Half-Sister Speaks On Human Trafficking, Peace Gardens
President Obama’s half-sister, peace advocate and educator, Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng spoke today at the Center for American Progress on human trafficking.
Dr. Soetoro-Ng proposed the U.S. plant peace gardens, create “reflective spaces,” and practice yogo in an effort to bring peace to victims of trafficking.
“My brother’s administration is committed to addressing this issue,” she said in regards to Obama’s handling of the issue. ”But today I would like us to consider some grassroots, pro-active, preventative, and educational solutions.”
USA Today: Obama bus stops: Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton
President Obama’s two-day bus tour next week will start with three cities in Upstate New York: Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton.
The major topic will be college education.
Obama will “discuss the importance of ensuring that every American has access to a quality education by reducing costs and improving the value of higher education for middle-class students and their families,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The tour will be Aug. 22 and 23.
The bus tour – the latest in a series of middle-class speeches Obama has been delivering – will also include yet-to-be-determined stops in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Remember when a whole bunch of suckers from our side of the aisle got all gooey about Rand Paul, because Aqua Buddha and Aqua Buddha alone stood between us and a Hellfire missile fired up our keisters from a drone because we said mean things about the president? Well, in the days since, Aqua Buddha’s shown that he has more than a small sweet-tooth for the days when Freedom meant states could keep black people from eating in restaurants and, of course, voting:
“So really, I don’t think there is objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer.”
….The suckers should be embarrassed to have lined up with this clown.
ThinkProgress: Three Republicans Who Opposed Sandy Relief Now Demand Disaster Aid For Arizona
Arizona Republicans Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Paul Gosar all voted against emergency relief funding after SuperStorm Sandy ravaged much of the New Jersey and New York area earlier this year. Now, following an Arizona wildfire, the same trio is vocally complaining that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is not doing enough to aid their state.
Aug. 15, 2010 – Pete Souza: “Back in the Gulf Coast for a weekend, the President and First Lady toured St. Andrews Bay on a boat in Panama City Beach, Fla. I noticed their hands touching as they held the rail on the boat.”
Aug. 15, 2010: President Obama and daughter Sasha steer the “Bay Point Lady” during a tour of St. Andrews Bay off Panama City Beach, Fla. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 15, 2011: President Barack Obama greets children from the Valleyland Kids summer program outside a school in Chatfield, Minn., during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 15, 2011: President Obama holds a baby as he arrives for lunch at the Old Market Deli in Cannon Falls, Minn. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 15, 2011: President Obama greets people outside the Old Market Deli in Cannon Falls, Minn. (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
You might recall the genius that is Scout Tufankjian dropping in to TOD a while back to praise one of my horse poo pics from the 2009 inauguration parade? Well, she clearly was inspired – have a look at her completely and utterly majestic ‘Four More Years: Obama 2012’ here – thank you BWD!
Cape Cod Times: …. President Obama arrived at Nancy’s Restaurant and shook hands with a couple of dozen people waiting to place their order.
The presidential motorcade arrived at the Lake Avenue restaurant shortly after 1 p.m. and Obama hopped out of an SUV, undeterred by a steady rain. He was upbeat and made a point of chit-chatting with customers and restaurant employees as he made his way to the take-out counter.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” said Serena Creary of Natick. “I knew he was here (on the island), of course, but I never expected to see him.”
Milt Shook: Why Do We Allow So Many Ex-GOP to be “Authorities” on “Real Progressives”
Look, folks; I peg my progressive roots to the age of 14, when I worked for the McGovern Campaign, but my actual roots probably precede that. My father was a union steelworker, and my mom was the daughter of a union worker, as well. I was royally pissed off at the Kent State massacre. I thought Abbie Hoffman was amazing. Spiro Agnew’s and Richard Nixon’s names were said with derision in my house as early as 1968, and I cried, at the age of ten, when Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. To this day, Bobby Kennedy is still my idol.
I am just as liberal as anyone out there who claims to speak for the progressive cause, and I have been for pretty much my entire life. So, it really pisses me off when someone comes along and insinuates or says that I’m not a “real” progressive, because I don’t think exactly the way they do. Being liberal or progressive is about being tolerant, and about understanding that not everyone sees every issue the same way. There are a lot of moderates out there who are actually progressive, but they don’t know it, in part because some of the loudest elements of the liberal media scream at the top of their lungs, telling us all what we should believe on every issue. Because they don’t believe exactly that, they figure they’re not very progressive. The problem with this is, they may hate the right wing, but they also come to hate us, even though they probably agree with us on most things.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the National Anthem at the start of an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the suspension of the 1950-1953 Korean War at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. July 27
President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to take time from their “hurried lives” to listen to the heroic stories of Korean War veterans who returned to a country weary of war and deserved a better homecoming.
“Unlike the Second World War, Korea did not galvanize our country. These veterans did not return to parades,” Obama said in a speech at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, making the 60th anniversary of the war’s end.
“Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country. These veterans did not return to protests. For many Americans tired of war, there was it seemed a desire to forget, to move on,” Obama said.
They “deserve better,” the president said, adding that on this anniversary, “perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you came home.”
ThinkProgress: Growing Number Of States Are Reporting Lower Than Expected Health Care Premiums
Health premiums in Maryland’s exchanges will be “among the lowest of the 12 states that have available proposed or approved rates for comparison,” the state’s exchange — Maryland Health Connection — announced Friday. The news comes just as New York,Oregon, Montana, California, and Louisiana are also reporting lower than expected premiums.
In Maryland, a 25-year-old will be able to purchase a plan that is more comprehensive than policies currently available on the individual market for $114 per month, while a middle aged adult will have to pay approximately $260 per month for insurance. A 21-year-old non-smoker can start as low as $93 a month. Officials say they used their authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Thirty other states have have similar authority.
ThinkProgress: Steve King: In Private, Republicans Actually Agree With My ‘Cantaloupe-Sized Calves’
A growing number of Republicans are publicly distancing themselves from Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that many undocumented youths are drug mules with cantaloupe-sized calves, but the conservative congressman claims that GOP lawmakers are backing him in private.
During an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, King said that Republicans are in fact standing by him, but are afraid to publicly support him for fear of sparking outrage and losing their legislative leverage…..
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement Saturday after at least 65 people were killed and over 1,000 were injured in Egypt during clashes between security forces, armed men, and protesters demonstrating against the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi.
Kerry said he spoke with Egypt’s Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei and Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy Saturday morning to express “our deep concern about the bloodshed.” He also described the situation as a “pivotal moment for Egypt” and called for an “independent and impartial inquiry into the events of the last day.”
Asawin Suebsaeng: Obama Says Ho Chi Minh Was Inspired By Founding Fathers, Conservatives Freak Out
After a meeting with Vietnam’s president Truong Tan Sang on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the following to reporters (emphasis mine): At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it’s 67 years later, it’s good that we’re still making progress. (Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese communist and nationalist revolutionary leader who died in 1969. He fought alongside Allied forces during World War II, but fought American forces during the Vietnam War.)
Several conservative media outlets blasted the president on similar terms. “Obama may have just been trying to flatter his guest who was obviously eager to show that Ho was not the monster history shows him to be,” Chris Stirewalt, digital politics editor for Fox News wrote. “But his connection between the American founders and Ho shows either a massive lack of historical knowledge on the part of the president or a remarkable degree of moral flexibility.”
Yes, it is true that the United States once waged a disastrous, pointless, and horrific waragainst Ho Chi Minh and the people of Vietnam. But Obama’s comment wasn’t a gaffe or insult to American war vets. What Obama said is literally a historical fact. In September 1945, Ho Chi Minh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi to a crowd of nearly a million Vietnamese. Not only was the “The Star-Spangled Banner” played by a Vietnamese band during his address, but he opens his speech by quoting Thomas Jefferson.
First lady Michelle Obama watches the women’s singles tennis match between Serena Williams of the U.S. and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympics Games, July 28
.. with Venus Williams and former gymnast Dominique Dawes
Serena Williams gives a thumbs up gesture toward her sister Venus and first lady Michelle Obama after she defeated Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic
A year ago …… July 16, 2012: President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama for the “Kiss Cam” while attending the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team’s game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Today (All times Eastern):
10:0 Vice President Biden will swear in Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) as the freshman Massachusetts senator at the U.S. Capitol
11:0: President Obama is interviewed by Spanish language news anchors
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
On Thursday, the First Lady, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule, will visit Urban Alliance Chicago, a year-long career education and employment program for underserved high school seniors which enriches students’ lives through paid internships, formal training, and mentoring. The visit is part of the First Lady’s focus on youth empowerment and providing more opportunities for young people to achieve their full potential.
George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush present President Obama with a pair of socks, July 15 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Steve Benen: For three-and-a-half hours last night, nearly every member of the Senate met behind closed doors in the Old Senate Chamber to discuss a political crisis of sorts: whether the minority would continue to block President Obama’s executive-branch nominees and what the majority intended to do about it.
The meeting itself was rather odd. Senators already have a forum in which they can hold a debate — it’s called the Senate. But their usual chamber has cameras and public seating, and last night, for whatever reason, members wanted to debate in private for a candid conversation.
By all accounts, it was a constructive conversation, but there was no resolution. As I type, there are some back-channel talks underway, but barring a breakthrough, the Senate Democratic leadership intended to move forward with its “nuclear option” plans.
Eugene Robinson: Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free. Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid. Jurors knew that Zimmerman was an overeager would-be cop, a self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood who carried a loaded gun. They were told that he profiled Martin — young, black, hooded sweatshirt — as a criminal. They heard that he stalked Martin despite the advice of a 911 operator; that the stalking led to a confrontation; and that, in the confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.
If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing. We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight. And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?