12:20: VP Biden and President Santos Speak to the press, Bogota, Colombia (Audio only at WH Live)
The Oklahoman: President Barack Obama came to Oklahoma on Sunday to comfort grieving families, laud the work of emergency responders and offer assurances that the nation stands ready to assist with recovery from last week’s deadly tornadoes.
…. He also talked with Moore School Superintendent Suzy Pierce, Shelley Jaques-McMillin, principal of Briarwood Elementary, which also was badly damaged, and several others, including Scott Lewis, who was able to get his son, Zack, out of school and into a storm shelter in the nick of time.
“He just wanted to speak to the boy and tell him how brave he was,” Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said. “Told us everything will be OK. And he reassured us. We told him how great FEMA was and the first responders.”
…. Afterward, the president met in private at the station for about 30 minutes with several family members of the children killed at Plaza Towers.
Republicans have tested the limits of hyperbole in attacking Obamacare. You can’t really top then-Minority Leader John Boehner warning that passage of the Affordable Care Act would be “Armageddon.” Well, we’re still here.
…. There’s no doubt that this new system that requires a health care marketplace to be set up in all 50 states will be complex and onerous to put in place — especially with Republicans purposely trying to engineer a disaster. But they’ve set expectations so low that there’s a good chance Obamacare will actually impress, especially in the blue states that are taking advantage of the landmark law.
NYT: The state of the economy is far from ideal, but some very definite positives are brewing. It’s not just that we are continuing to recover from a deep recession; we are also seeing signs that America’s long-term future may be looking up, too.
The case for optimism is hardly open-and-shut. The economy’s problems include high unemployment, mediocre productivity gains and stagnant or slow-growing earnings for most income classes. Still, let’s consider five indicators that the future is starting to brighten:
Roxanne Jones: “Thank you, Mr. President, you’re not such a bad-looking guy yourself.”
That would have been my response if I were California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who finds herself in the middle of a media dustup after President Obama introduced her as: “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country,” at a fundraiser earlier this week. Harris is a beautiful woman. She’s also super intelligent and accomplished, which the president also noted. In fact, he lauded her professional merits first. So, I say take the compliment and move on. Or, if you’re slightly embarrassed by the comment, give it back and move on. President Obama’s observation is not a major offense to women around the globe. Ridiculous flaps such as this one have always made me uncomfortable with calling myself a feminist, especially if that means I have to fly into a fit each time a man makes an awkward comment about a woman.
Clearly, the president realized in hindsight that his comment didn’t go over very well, and he has apologized. But I don’t believe an apology was necessary. It’s impossible to believe that anyone could seriously call President Obama a chauvinist over this banter between friends. No matter your politics, you will have a hard time finding a president who has included women more in his agenda. What has he done for us lately? Let me recall just a few things: Appointed two female Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored worker protections against pay discrimination. The bill had failed in the Senate in 2007.
Reid Epstein: President Barack Obama’s got a volunteer army — and all their marching orders come from carefully organized paid generals back at headquarters.
Obama won two terms by harnessing a grassroots movement through a tightly controlled, top-down campaign organization. Now the group formed out of Organizing for America is now bringing that approach to Organizing for Action.
It’s what differentiates OFA from other grassroots groups, and even the Democratic National Committee: they’re combining large-dollar donations and unpaid local leaders for a carefully built, lasting structure that they believe will be just as effective in supporting the president as it was in electing him.
So far, OFA has alternated its agenda – a week on gun control, then a week on immigration, with some connection to Obama’s White House schedule. Starting next week, OFA will for the first time run concurrent national campaigns on gun control and immigration, blasting emails to supporters and holding local events
Surrounded by members of Congress, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Bill, Jan, 2009
In Defense Of Barack Obama’s Kamala Harris ‘Best Looking’ Comment
Angela Rye: I have never labeled myself as a feminist, but I wholeheartedly support the parity of the sexes particularly as it relates to justice, and fairness. The values listed are those shared very clearly by President Barack Obama—as evidenced by his words and more importantly, his actions. Let’s start with the very first piece of legislation ever signed into law by the 44th president—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. He went on to establish the White House Council on Women and Girls. Most recently, the president signed a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. And remember, the president’s two appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States were also women.
The president was inspired to ensure parity in the health care system because of the challenges his motherfaced with ovarian cancer. The president lovingly called his wife the “closer” during the 2008 campaign because of the critical role she played and now, as first lady, she continues to address some of the most important policy issues of our time. The president has openly stated that his daughters have everything to do with his evolution on gay marriage. The president has a cabinet full (not just binders, but actual appointments) of women and one of his closest advisors is Valerie Jarrett, among many other key White House personnel. Needless to say, the president is influenced by women personally, professionally and politically.
Ambassador Susan Rice conducted an interview with Andrea Mitchell and she was great. She discussed North Korea, the Middle East, and Women’s Rights. She was wonderful in pushing back against Mitchell’s erroneous claims about President Obama and his white house being hostile towards women. This is a must watch interview.
For The Ideologue Left, Social Security Concern Trolling Is A Racket
The People’s View: Dejavu. Once again, both the Republican right and the inconsolable whiny Left have found common ground over just how much they hate President Obama. Neither like the president’s upcoming budget – or at least the reporting on the upcoming budget. Why not? Well, because it looks like the President is going to propose a compromise that neither side’s ideologues are going to like (surprise!).
The president’s budget, it’s being reported, will include both revenue increases by closing tax loopholes for the rich and the use of Chained CPI to calculate the cost of living adjustments under Social Security. John Boehner seems to be grasping for a drink and complaining loudly that the president is being a meanie by asking the super rich and the corporate behemoths to pay their fair share. And the Left? They can barely contain the traitor-drum:
I have explained this before. The President’s proposal would create a minimum baseline for Social Security benefits so that no one who works their whole life has to live in poverty in retirement. The minimum benefit would be above the poverty line, for the first time fulfilling the promise of Social Security to end elderly poverty and actually boosting benefits for the lowest wage workers, which the protectors of the Entitlement Status Quo are effectively against. The president’s proposal would also boost benefits at age 85, making sure the people most at risk of running out of their savings are taken care of. Let me say that again: for those in the greatest need, the president’s proposal would increase benefits.
The Left’s Math Problem: The Truth About “Cumulative” Social Security Benefits
The People’s View: Yes, yes, this will be another post on Chained CPI. But a little more dry. This is about the math. Previously, we have discussed why Chained CPI isn’t actually a cut in benefits, what different it makes in the calculations of the cost of living adjustments, and why in the context of broader reforms and progressive social investments, it’s worth doing. But what we haven’t talked about in very explicit terms is what the minor reductions in COLA will end up adding up to. The scaremongerers are very interested in exploiting this. They arevery interested in scaring people with numbers about how much they will lose.
Take the AARP’s “How much you will lose calculator,” for example. Did you know that if you are a retiree with an average $15,190 in benefit today, over the next 30 years you will lose $20,000 in benefits? Wow. Talk about catfood, right? Somebody stop that conniving bastard Obama! I mean, right?
Giving context to scary numbers: Actually, there’s a lot of funny math going on here. First, the 30-year math completely ignores that President Obama is proposing to boost benefits for the oldest beneficiaries, at age 85. But let’s play along. $20,000 out of how much? The context is to define this “cut” they are talking about with respect to currently scheduled benefits. We can use total benefits in nominal dollars under current methods of COLA. So let’s work out those numbers. Let’s use AARP’s own calculations
5:0 EST: President Obama departs West Palm Beach, Florida
7:30 EST: Arrives White House
NYT: The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.
The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness.
Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses.