President Barack Obama signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; a job-training legislation which aims to help job seekers gain valuable employment skills, as guests and members of Congress look on at the White House
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Text of the President and Vice President’s remarks here
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In other important news today…
President Barack Obama meets with Apollo 11 astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission
Peter Budetti (LA Times): ….. Medicare is a success story, providing high-quality benefits and a strong safety net for seniors and people with disabilities. But as costs have grown … so have the opportunities for criminals to commit fraud.
In his Aug. 21 Times Op-Ed article, Malcolm Sparrow focused on one part of this problem, explaining how criminals take advantage of Medicare’s electronic payment system to make false claims. But what Sparrow does not mention is that over the last two years the Obama administration has undertaken an ambitious effort to rid Medicare of criminals, and we are turning the electronic payment system to our advantage in that fight.
Since President Obama took office, we have conducted an unprecedented crackdown on those who steal from Medicare, giving law enforcement greater resources, putting more boots on the ground and increasing penalties. In 2010, these efforts recovered a record $4 billion in taxpayer money.
But we’re not just prosecuting fraud. We’re also taking steps to prevent it…. (see article for details)
In the past our response to fraud was often so fragmented because different jurisdictions didn’t have easy ways to share information …. Today, not only do we have all our claims data visible in one place in real time, we’re also adding other sources of information such as the many tips that come in to our 1-800-MEDICARE hotline….
…. For criminals looking to get rich, Medicare’s electronic payment system was once an easy target. In the fight against fraud today, it’s quickly becoming one of our own greatest weapons.
Steve Benen: Last year, the Senate Banking Committee twice approved Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve. And twice, the Senate wasn’t allowed to vote on Diamond because Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and a handful of his far-right colleagues threw tantrums for unknown reasons. So, this year, President Obama resubmitted the Diamond nomination. And once again, the petulant Republican from Alabama led a small contingent that decided they’re entitled to veto power over the process.
After more than a year of waiting for a simple vote, Diamond has given up. In a New York Times op-ed, the respected Nobel laureate explained why he’s withdrawing:
Instead of going to the Fed, however, I will go about my congenial professional existence as a professor at M.I.T., where I have taught and researched since 1966, and I will take advantage of some of the many opportunities that come to a Nobel laureate. So don’t worry about me … But we should all worry about how distorted the confirmation process has become, and how little understanding of monetary policy there is among some of those responsible for its Congressional oversight.
… Diamond is among the most accomplished economists of his generation, and last year, was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics. And yet, there was Richard Shelby & Co., insisting that Diamond lacked the qualifications to join the board of governors of the Federal Reserve ……The result of this fiasco isn’t just the loss of a qualified nominee to an important post; it’s also a lost opportunity to have the Fed take actions to bolster the economy. We can only hope that this wasn’t part of a larger campaign by Republicans to hurt the economy on purpose.
Keith Olbermann: The GOP spin machine, caught with its Abu Ghraib pants down, has come up with only two rickety memes with which to pull itself out of the deep end of the political pool. The first was the simplest: “Obama merely finished what Bush began.”
But the second was a little more robust: The Peter King (R-Stupidity) claim mirrored by a tweeter who asked me: “how does it feel knowing Bin Laden courier was discovered under Bush admin & info was obtained in Gitmo?”
King: “We obtained that information through waterboarding. So for those who say that waterboarding doesn’t work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information, which directly led us to Bin Laden.”
Two problems with that. There is the unfortunate realization that if this information truly germinated during the Bush Administration, and truly came from waterboarding, that means The Bush Administration Had A Direct Link To Bin Laden Eight Years Ago And Either Didn’t Know It Or Didn’t Bother To Figure It Out.
Wait, it gets worse. Guess who’s out tonight denying that waterboarding, or even “harsh treatment” led to the info that led to Bin Laden?
“It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.”
That was said by Don Rumsfeld.
I’ll stop writing now so you can spend a few minutes laughing through your mouth, nose, ears, feet, and eyeballs.
I don’t often (ever?) quote Olbermann, but this was utterly irresistible ;-)
Peter Beinart (Daily Beast): In his speech, the president spoke from the gut, giving us his distinctive vision of American exceptionalism.
John Bolton recently said that Barack Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. Tonight, Obama answered. “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries,” Obama declared, in justifying the intervention in Libya. “The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
Obama’s is a different version of American exceptionalism. For men like Bolton, American virtue is a given. American presidents should never apologize because America never has anything to apologize for. Our mistakes are never crimes, and if others don’t see our moral greatness that just proves their moral cynicism.
Obama, by contrast, because he can see America through post-colonial eyes, knows this is a fable. He knows that in many places on earth, America has abetted dictatorship and corruption and slaughter. In some cases he has apologized, which has led men like Bolton to claim that he sees America as no different from any other great power.
But they don’t get it. For Obama, American exceptionalism is not a fact; it is a struggle. Bolton and company like to invoke World War II and the Cold War because in those conflicts we fought the evil that lay out there. Obama, by contrast, often invokes the civil-rights movement: a struggle against the evil within. That’s what makes his Libya decision powerful. He knows that there are good reasons for Middle Easterners to fear when they see American planes overhead. And yet he is acting to show that it does not have to be that way.
I don’t know how Obama’s Libya intervention will end; in his speech, he made it seem tidier than it really is. But the speech had something notably absent from his addresses on Afghanistan: the ring of authenticity. When he said that he refused to sit by and watch Benghazi be raped, he sounded like a man speaking from the gut. Obama does not romanticize the history of American power and yet he is wielding American power. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
A child of a pro-Gadhafi soldier, Tripoli, March 6
Peter Beinart: There are plenty of smart objections to America’s Libya intervention. But when President Obama addresses the nation on Monday night, he should rebut the stupidest one: that America shouldn’t wage humanitarian war in Libya because we’re not doing so in Congo, Zimbabwe and every other nasty dictatorship on earth.
The consistency argument … has nothing to do with Congo and Zimbabwe. Most of the people who invoke those ill-fated countries showed no interest in them before the Libya debate and will go back to ignoring them once Libya is off the front page. Ask someone who demands moral consistency in humanitarian war how exactly they propose to intervene in Congo and you will quickly realize that the call for moral consistency is actually a call for immoral consistency.
The point of invoking the horrors of Congo is not to convince the US to act to stop the horrors of Congo; it is to ensure that, out of respect for the raped, murdered and maimed in Central Africa, we allow innocents to be raped, murdered and maimed in North Africa as well….
There will always be horrors that outside powers cannot or will not prevent. But the fact that they cannot be stopped everywhere is no reason not to try to stop them somewhere.
….humanitarian war is not possible everywhere because war is never waged for humanitarian reasons alone. There is nothing strange or scandalous, for instance, about considering logistics. NATO is intervening in Libya in part because Libya lies relatively close to the NATO countries that are doing the intervening, as did Bosnia and Kosovo. That means the operation can be done more cheaply, at less risk to American and European lives, and with a greater chance of success, than in Zimbabwe or Congo. Those are all valid considerations, as valid as a doctor choosing to operate on the patient he has the best chance of saving.
…There will always be horrors that outside powers cannot or will not prevent. But the fact that they cannot be stopped everywhere is no reason not to try to stop them somewhere. And showing that they can be stopped somewhere – first in Bosnia and Kosovo, hopefully now in Libya – may make dictators pause to reflect that they could be next. That’s moral progress, which in the ugly, real world is a pretty impressive thing.