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.
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)
Statement from the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden:
Yesterday our son Beau underwent a successful procedure. He is in great shape and is going to be discharged tomorrow and heading home to Delaware. He will follow up with his local physicians in the coming weeks.
FACT: In the 250 days since Newtown, more than 7,000 Americans have been killed by gun violence. #WhatWillItTake for Congress to act?
A few months ago, conservative senators felt the need to kill a popular, bipartisan proposal on firearm background checks, and relied primarily on a single talking point: the proposal might lead to a firearm database. The very idea of some kind of national gun registry was so offensive to the right that the legislation had to die at the hands of a Republican filibuster.
It didn’t matter that the bipartisan bill had no such database. It didn’t matter that the bipartisan bill explicitly made the creation of such a registry a felony. All that mattered was that conservatives had a lie they liked, and which they used to great effect.
Four months later, Steve Friess reports that a massive, secret database of gun owners exists after all. But it wasn’t built by the Justice Department or the Department of Homeland Security; it was compiled without gun owners’ consent by the National Rifle Association.
ThinkProgress: The Worst Thing In That Maureen Dowd Column Isn’t Actually Her Misquote Of Bill DeBlasio’s Wife
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is taking a lot of very justified heat for a column about New York City mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio and his wife Chirlane McCray, in which she appears to have distorted a quotation of McCray’s to imply that McCray is impugning rival Democratic candidate Christine Quinn for being a lesbian.
…. Dowd is now suggesting that a noisy coffee shop obscured her audio recording, and she ended up relying on what turn out to have been bad-quality notes for the quotation….
…. as bad as Dowd’s quoting malpractice is, and as frivolous as the overall column is, these problems aren’t actually the worst part of the column. That would be the way Dowd describes McCray’s sexual orientation, and places it in a context of Sexuality and the New York Mayoral Race….
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.”
Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.
Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
Mr. Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the United States over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
Steve Benen: …. We’re left with a dynamic that the political establishment still finds difficult to fully grasp: GOP officials could make the federal health care system better and more to their liking, but they see no value in that. They’d rather sabotage it, regardless of the real-world consequences. They could help get rid of a mandate they oppose, but they’d rather keep the policy they hate in the hopes it won’t work, people will feel adverse consequences, and there will be new fodder for 30-second attack ads a year from now.
Some people pursue public service want to build things, and some pursue public service because they just want to watch things burn.
…. The most generous thing I can say about their approach is that it’s fundamentally unserious about helping anyone. The least generous thing I can say is probably inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.
Ezra Klein: Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harder
This hasn’t been a banner news week for Obamacare. But can it really be true, as my colleague Jennifer Rubin writes, that “Everyone now agrees: Obamacare can’t be implemented”?
I asked around …. Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation: “….. If anything the delay removes some potential administrative complexities from the plates of the implementers……” …. Timothy Jost, a health law expert at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, was even blunter. “Implementation just got easier rather than harder,” he said.
Well, so much for “everyone.”
As those interviews indicate, the thinking among health-care experts is closer to the precise opposite of Rubin’s bombastic headline: The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year…..
Steve Benen: On Friday, when he hoped no one was looking, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) approved sweeping new restrictions on reproductive rights, including a requirement that women receive a medically unnecessary ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy, and regulatory measures that would close half of the state’s abortion clinics.
The law was supposed to go into effect statewide yesterday. A federal court had other ideas…..
ThinkProgress: Sorry, Republicans, Your Own Investigation Proves No Dead People Voted In South Carolina….
South Carolina never found a single dead voter in recent elections. At least, that is the final word from the State Election Commission investigation into whether 900 people voted using a dead person’s name….
…. When Attorney General Alan Wilson demanded the original investigation, he cited “an alarming number” of cases reported by the DMV that “clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.” ….
…. [This] will not prevent state Republicans from redoubling strict voter ID efforts, invigorated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. In fact, Wilson celebrated the decision, calling the Voting Rights Act an “extraordinary intrusion” and pledging to implement voter ID ….
ThinkProgress: Bush-Appointed Judge Slams Decision Striking Voting Rights Act — Court’s Reasoning Was ‘Made Up’
If a leading conservative scholar and former judge were now on the Supreme Court instead of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito, it is likely that the Voting Right Act would remain intact.
Judge Michael McConnell was a leading conservative law professor at the time President George W. Bush named him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2002 …. McConnell was also widely viewed as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Bush Administration.
In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, McConnell has harsh words for the five conservative justices’ recent decision neutering much of the Voting Rights Act — labeling the reasoning that drove that decision “made up.”
President Barack Obama shoots baskets on the White House basketball court with Justin Friedlander and his family, July 6, 2010. Friedlander, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March, 2009, has launched an initiative called “Justin’s Quest,” in which he will shoot 63,000 basketball shots, one for every person diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year in the United States. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
ThinkProgress: While the unemployment rate for all veterans fell below the national unemployment rate months ago, one group of veterans — those who have served since September 11, 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan — continued to lag behind as the rest of the job market recovered. But in the last few months, the unemployment rate for so-called Gulf War II era veterans —defined by the BLS as those who served in the Armed Forces sometime since September 2001 and have since returned to civilian life — has steadily declined, even eventually dipping below the national unemployment rate for the first time since February 2012. That trend continued on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its June jobs report showing that the unemployment rate for this newest group of veterans fell to just 7.2 percent last month, its lowest level ever since the BLS regularly began tracking veterans’ unemployment rates in 2009. June also marks the fifth consecutive month in which the unemployment rate for new veterans has fallen.
Always cute when the party that left us losing 900,000 jobs a month complains that only 195,000 jobs were created.
The unemployment rate for veterans overall still remains lower than the national average, at just 6.3 percent. A coalition of businesses and officials in the Obama administration have placed a premium on the hiring of veterans. Legislation like the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 offer businesses tax credits for each veteran a company hires and strengthens federal transition assistance programs, while companies like Tesla Motors, Southwest Airlines and JPMorgan Chase have been commended by veterans groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) for their commitment towards the hiring of returning veterans.
First Lady Michelle Obama has also made a big effort to help transition veterans into civilian jobs upon their return, most recently with the announcement of a new credentialing program that aims to help veterans acquire the necessary civilian certification for jobs in the IT industry.
Bryce Covert: Rhode Island state House voted 53-18 to pass a bill that would allow workers to take paid time off to care for a new child or a sick or injured family member. The Senate had previously passed the bill, but due to a technical change in the House version it headed back for a final vote in the Senate. That vote will send it to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s (D) desk, who activists expect will sign it into law.
The bill expands the state’s current Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, which currently only covers those who need time off for a work-related illness or injury, to cover those who need family leave. Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) will allow workers to pay into the program through a payroll deduction and then, starting January 2014, take up to four weeks of paid leave, which would rise to six weeks the year after and eight weeks by 2016. Paying into the program would cost someone making $43,000 a year 83 cents a week. The minimum weekly payment for the TDI program is currently $72 and the maximum is $752. It would cover nearly 80 percent of the state’s workforce. California and New Jersey are the only other two states that have programs similar to this one, which allow employees to pay into paid leave insurance. Connecticut also took a step toward creating such a program recently by setting up a task force to study the feasibility.
Bryce Covert: All but 12 House Republicans voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act two weeks ago, which would ban abortions in the country 20 weeks after fertilization. But for the party of supposed fiscal restraint, such a move comes with a cost. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill last week and found that it would increase government spending and deficits. This should surprise no one, however. Reducing access to women’s reproductive choices comes with a high price tag for taxpayers. In scoring the House bill, the CBO said, “Depending on the number of additional births under H.R. 1797, such Medicaid costs could range from about $75 million over the next 10 years to more than $400 million over that period.” The bill would increase the deficit by $75 million between 2014 and 2018 and by $225 million from 2014 to 2023. These costs are thanks to the fact that 40 percent of all births are paid for by Medicaid and additional births will drive up those costs.
Texas, however, should know that cutting off reproductive choices can drive up the government’s costs. In 2011, state legislators slashed funding for family planning services by $73 million in an attempt to deny Planned Parenthood taxpayer dollars because it provides abortions, despite the fact that the clinics that receive state subsidies didn’t provide the service. Denying low-income women access to family planning services was going to mean the delivery of 24,000 babies that they wouldn’t otherwise have had, which were going to cost Texans as much as $273 million thanks to medical expenses and covering their infants under Medicaid. After staring down those numbers, Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have started working to reinstate the funds.
Guests take pictures as President Barack Obama signs HR 4348, the Transportation and Student Loan Interest Rate bill, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, July 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Jamelle Bouie: Today’s story from the New York Times on IRS “filtering” should be the final word on whether this was political targeting or a more mundane instance of mistakes and misjudgments from overworked bureaucrats. Of the nearly 200,000 applications for tax-exempt status the IRS received between 2010 and 2012, it flagged 22,000 for further review. Of those, just 296 came from partisan political groups. In other words, notes the Times, “most of the applications pulled aside for further scrutiny in those years had nothing to do with politics, conservative or liberal, just as most of the red flags thrown up by the I.R.S.’s lookout lists were not overtly political.”
What were some of the other groups flagged by the IRS? “Medical marijuana purveyors, organizations formed to carry out President Obama’s health care law, and open source software developers who create software tools for computer code writers and distribute them free of charge.” Unless Republicans can prove that the White House has it out for open-source developers as well as tea party activists, it’s hard to see how they continue to stand by their claims.
President Barack Obama listens during a communications planning meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Neil Irwin: Usually, we are among the first to insist that the monthly jobs report matters not for the wild swings it can create on financial markets but for what it tells us about the state of the U.S. economy and the employment and earnings prospects of our 300 million fellow citizens. Not today. The jobs numbers were pretty good: The nation added 195,000 positions in June, and job creation was significantly stronger than it seemed in April and May. The unemployment rate was unchanged, but more people joined the workforce. All in all, things seem to be getting better, and maybe getting better more quickly than it had seemed 24 hours ago.
Tom Kludt: The 7-year-old Virginia boy who was struck by a stray bullet while on his way to watch a Fourth of July fireworks display died Friday, according to Richmond-based NBC affiliate WWBT. Police said the accident was likely the result of someone firing a gun in the air to celebrate the holiday. It is still unknown who fired the shot.
The boy and his father were walking to watch a fireworks show in Brandermill, Va. when the youngster fell behind before suddenly dropping to the ground. His father thought his son had passed out until he noticed the bullet wound on top the boy’s head. The boy died at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Va.
Zoe Schlanger: A South Dakota man fell asleep on his back porch while holding a loaded handgun, and accidentally shot himself in the midsection when a relative turned on the porch light, the Daily Republic reported.
The 34-year-old man suffered minor flesh wounds and was able to transport himself to the hospital.
TPM: Baltimore man Lassiter Basket, 82, was careful to use blanks and shoot indoors when he fired his handgun to celebrate the Fourth of July, the Baltimore Sun reported. Fragments of a blank moved through his great-granddaughter’s bedroom wall, and burned into her wrists and leg.
LOLGOP: As some debate whether this country has become more like George Orwell’s 1984 of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, keep in mind that for millions of Americans who have no time to debate such a lofty question, actual oppression exists. This oppression isn’t a overwhelming fear of a the Thought Police or even a steady drugging that manufactures consent. It isn’t theoretical or some slippery slope that slowly envelops true liberty. It’s a never-ending concern about survival and sustenance. It’s a need to keep children fed, clothed and well. It’s knowing that disaster lurks every time your boss is unhappy with you.
The dystopian future we may fear already exists for millions. If you’re expecting fascism to come with a cross and a flag, you’re immune — due to over or underexposure — to the actual economic feudalism that has always trapped the working poor in the country. It’s called wage slavery. The easiest way to trap someone into a life of wage slavery is deny them education and have them start a family before they can afford it. Texas Republicans have this formula for a lifetime of poverty worked out to a science.
The Texas GOP’s jihad against family planning and Planned Parenthood creates unintended pregnancies and leaves poor women with no options. This creates generational poverty and a low-wage workforce with no time to consider how the petrol-funded theocracy of the Lone Star state is designed to make the rich richer and workers less safe and more dependent on the corporations that have indentured them.
President Barack Obama shares his strawberry pie with a boy during a lunch stop at Kozy Corners restaurant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Christopher S. Rugaber: U.S. employers added a robust 195,000 jobs in June and many more in April and May than previously thought. The job growth raises hopes for a stronger economy in the second half of 2013. The unemployment rate remained 7.6 percent. That was because more people started looking for work in June — a healthy sign. Once people without jobs start looking for one, the government counts them as unemployed. Pay also rose sharply in June, the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report Friday showed. Pay has now outpaced inflation over the past year.
Stock index futures rose shortly after the report was released at 8:30 a.m. EDT. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped from 2.56 percent to 2.65 percent, a sign that investors think the economy is improving. Friday’s report showed that the economy added 70,000 more jobs in April and May than the government had previously estimated — 50,000 in April and 20,000 in May. Average hourly pay rose 10 cents to $24.01, 2.2 percent higher than a year ago. The hotels, restaurants and entertainment industry added 75,000 jobs last month. Retailers added 37,000. Temporary jobs rose 10,000. Manufacturing shed 6,000 jobs. But construction added 13,000, and health care gained 20,000.
Auto sales in the January-June period topped 7.8 million, their best first half since 2007, according to Autodata Corp. and Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Sales of previously occupied homes exceeded 5 million in May, the first time that’s happened since November 2009. New-home sales rose at their fastest pace in five years.
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?”….
Greg Sargent: “Senate Democrats believe that they have several new votes in favor of a bill that would expand background checks for gun buyers, after weeks in which those who opposed the legislation faced strong political backlash at home. One of these votes currently in play may be Senator Johnny Isakson, who sponsored a background check bill on the state level in Georgia. A gun control advocate who met with Senator Isakson today tells me that he said he is open to voting for Manchin-Toomey if and when it comes up again — and that he is in active talks with Senator Joe Manchin about the measure.
To be sure, this is very little grounds, by itself, for hoping for future passage of Manchin-Toomey. After all, Dems need to flip five senators to break the GOP filibuster. But it is clear that Dem leaders really do want to hold another vote, that conversations are continuing, and that a few senators may be open to changing their stance. This will only encourage the gun reform forces to keep up the pressure, which is key.
Dylan Matthews: Robert Rector and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation have made a splash by releasing a paper claiming that the immigration reform bill being weighed in the U.S. Senate will cost the government $5.3 trillion. Or, more precisely, that undocumented immigrants under current law will cost the government $1 trillion, and legalizing those immigrants will increase that to $6.3 trillion. Subtract one from the other and you get the $5.3 trillion total cost estimate.
So does the Heritage estimate hold up? Not really. They make a lot of curious methodological choices that cumulatively throw the study into question. It’s likely that immigrants would pay a lot more in taxes, and need a lot less in benefits, than Heritage assumes, and that other benefits would outweigh what costs remain. the best study we have on the fiscal effects of immigration reform, from the CBO, finds the impact to be minimal or positive. But the Heritage numbers simply are not credible.
President Obama in the Connecticut Post: As a society, our first task must be to care for our children – to shield them from harm and give them the tools they need not only to pursue their dreams, but to help build this country. That is how we will be judged. And in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, it’s clear we have a long way to go.
That’s why, last month, I asked Vice President Biden to lead an effort to come up with concrete steps we can take right now to keep our kids safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. And on Wednesday, I put forward a specific set of proposals based on Joe’s recommendations. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence – if even one life can be saved – we have an obligation to try……
USA Today: NEWTOWN, Conn. — In this town where tragedy relaunched the nation’s debate over gun violence, people on all sides of the political divide expressed support Wednesday for President Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons and establish tighter background checks for gun buyers.
“It shouldn’t be a Democratic or a Republican issue,” said Marsha Moskowitz, a Democrat who supports the president’s proposals. “It’s a human issue. It’s about humanity.”
…. Sandy Hook resident Alan Brown, a gun owner and “a life-long Republican” who voted for Romney, said Obama’s proposals make “a whole lot of sense.” “I don’t think our Founding Fathers who adopted the Second Amendment would have ever wanted Americans to have a machine of mass destruction in their hands,” he said.
…. Newtown resident Trish Dardine, a Democrat, said Obama’s gun-control efforts — “more than the killing of Osama bin Laden” — could be the “greatest act and lasting legacy” of his presidency.
Michael Tomasky: The GOP Will Lose on Guns – Conservatives’ appalling response to Obama’s gun-control proposals shows just how out of touch they are with America
Among the moon-howling reactions to the president’s surprisingly bold gun-control proposals on the right, the one that most struck me was the boiling indignation that he had the temerity to speak of, and surround himself with, school children …..
…. If those lives were real to you, you try to do something. Obama keeps that one girl’s drawing up on the wall of his private office? Thank God for that. She is real to him; her classmates are real to him, the event is real to him. That he is trying to do all this – up to and including the assault-weapons ban, the executive orders, all with the sure knowledge that the Republicans might not only block him but then find some grounds on which to impeach him – is evidence enough for me that it’s real to him….
Time: As he prepares to pitch an expansive new package of gun restrictions to a bitterly divided Congress, Barack Obama has the majority of voters on his side. A new TIME/CNN/ORC poll finds that 55% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as President, compared to 43% who disapprove.
That ratio mirrors the public appetite for tighter restrictions on guns, with 55% of respondents favoring stricter gun control laws and 44% opposed.
…. The new poll also shows that Vice President Joe Biden’s approval rating has spiked to 59%, up from 54% in December…
E.J. Dionne: President Obama went big in offering a remarkably comprehensive plan to curb gun violence, and good for him …. Far from acting as if his work was now done, the president made clear that he is fully invested in seeing his agenda realized — and fully prepared to lead a national movement to loosen the grip of resignation and cynicism in the face of brutality and carnage…..
…. Most heartening of all was the tone the president took. He did not cast himself as an evenhanded umpire far above the fray, handing down ideas that all people of good will would inevitably accept. He acknowledged that the battle ahead would be difficult. He predicted he would have to fight the lie that his plan constituted “a tyrannical assault on liberty.” And he sought to mobilize a new effort to counteract the entrenched power of those who have dictated submissiveness in the face of bloodshed.
“Enough,” Obama declared, insisting that change would come only “if the American people demand it.”
Greg Sargent: GOP officials are greeting President Obama’s announcement of 23 executive actions on guns today as if they constitute an abuse of presidential power not seen since the dark days of Watergate….
Guess who disagrees? The former Solicitor General of the United States … under Saint Ronald Reagan.
“These are either standard exercises of presidential power, or even more benignly, standard examples of the power of the president to exhort the public or state officials to be aware of certain problems and to address them,” Charles Fried, who was Reagan’s solicitor general during his second term, told me today…
11:55: President Obama and VP Biden hold an event at the White House to unveil a package of proposals to reduce gun violence
Washington Post: President Obama on Wednesday will formally announce the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations as he presses Congress to mandate background checks for all firearms buyers and prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
…. Obama will begin this effort Wednesday in the presence of children who wrote him letters after last month’s mass shooting at a grade school in Newtown….
In addition to background checks and restrictions on military-style guns and ammunition magazines, Obama is expected to propose mental health and school safety initiatives such as more federal funding for police officers in schools….
….. the proposals amount to the most comprehensive federal regulations of the firearms industry since 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson acted in the aftermath of high-profile assassinations…..
BBC: The mother of a British boy shot in the Newtown school massacre has wept as she told how she learned of his death. Dylan Hockley, six, was one of 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December.
Speaking to BBC News, Dylan’s mother Nicole recalled “shaking” and not being able to stop as police revealed their son was among the gunman’s victims …. Dylan’s body was found in the embrace of his classroom assistant, Anne Marie Murphy.
…. Mr Hockley urged Washington to act on a number of different areas, saying: “The unthinkable has happened. All the shootings that have come before have indeed been terrible tragedies, but now it’s sunk so low that very small children have now been the target of this.
“How could it possibly get worse? If they cannot address this now, it’s as if they think they can never address it and they will give up and this will go on.”
Michael Tomasky: The NRA’s new ad is beyond anything we’ve seen, in political propaganda terms, in the modern history of this country….
…. It’s designed to make people who despise the president despise him even more; and it’s designed to make them despise his children, 14 and 11 years old, because they live a cosseted life that you and your kids don’t; they are ergo elitist hypocrites just like their father.
It’s not even the logic, though, that’s most disturbing … Just mentioning the president’s daughters in an ad full of violent imagery and sounds – silhouettes of assault rifles, profiles of heavily armed soldiers, martial music – is an invitation to certain viewers to make certain mental connections. I’ll stop there. But it’s really a shocking thing…..
Josh Marshall (TPM): It takes a lot for the NRA to shock. But this is just beyond disgusting …. There are so many vile things about this ad. But one thing to note is the ad is really only designed to appeal to people who have a deep – really deep – animosity toward the President. The sort of people who don’t think he and his daughters should be in the White House and wish him the sort of ill citizens should never wish upon a freely elected head of state.
Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns tells TPM: “At some point the NRA’s Washington lobbyists may realize that this kind of thing is making them irrelevant. It does nothing but offend the reasonable people who make up the bulk of their country – and the bulk of their own membership.”
Economy Watch: Retail sales rose more than expected in December as Americans shrugged off the threat of higher taxes and bought automobiles and a range of other goods, suggesting momentum in consumer spending as the year ended….
Economy Watch: For nine straight months, national home prices have been in the positive, and the gains are only getting larger. The latest reading for November shows a 7.4 percent jump from a year ago, according to CoreLogic. That includes sale prices of distressed properties, bank-owned homes and short sales. This is the largest year-over-year jump since 2006 when we were at the height of the housing boom
Chicago Sun-Times: The Chicago Public Library today unveiled artist Steve Musgrave’s new portrait of President Obama to celebrate the upcoming inauguration …. the portrait reflects Obama’s efforts as a community organizer in the South Side Chicago neighborhood prior to seeking public office.
…. the portrait features images of people who have influenced the president’s life including his First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, his mother and grandmother, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Harold Washington, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, among others.
President Barack Obama talks with Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, in the Outer Oval Office, Jan 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)