@dougmillsnyt: President Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the Oval Office
Yahoo: NATO Chief Warns Afghanistan Must Sign Security Pact By Early September
NATO’s chief warned Tuesday that, despite a disputed election, Afghanistan must sign a security pact on a post-combat international training mission by September, or there will be “severe” problems for the Western alliance. Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after meeting President Barack Obama that allegations of poll fraud were a “grave concern”
Steve Benen: …. It’s a safe bet the Bishops won’t be satisfied, but it’s a pretty straightforward fix: religiously-affiliated employers that don’t want to pay for contraception coverage as part of their benefits packages won’t have to, but these employees will still get the coverage because the White House will instruct insurers to pick up the costs.
…. several major stakeholders in this fight have already offered praise for the White House move. Planned Parenthood, for example, endorsed the compromise …. Similarly, EMILY’s List said it was “reassured” by the new policy, and NARAL Pro-Choice America’s statement struck a similar note.
What’s more, Sister Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association have also endorsed the administration’s position, which not only offers the White House some political cover, but also further isolates the Bishops…..
For the White House, having support from both the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood was critical…..
Greg Sargent: …. the Obama team is betting that any further objections to this policy will unmask opponents primarily as hidebound foes of birth control at any costs, a politically difficult position to sustain, rather than as defenders of religious liberty. Indeed, this looks like an effort to reframe the debate to Obama’s advantage: If Team Obama has its way, the argument will now be about whether all women should have access to contraception, and not about whether these institutions are having their religious freedom impinged upon.
For those who freaked out about a major compromise with the Catholic church (eh, me):
When will I ever learn?
Don’t miss Liberal Librarian’s first post at The People’s View – it’s predictably brilliant
President Obama signs the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012 as former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly look on. The bill was the last piece of legislation on which Giffords voted before she resigned in January, a year after she sustained a gunshot wound to the head.
First lady Michelle Obama high-fives the Dallas Cowboys mascot Rowdy as she arrived at the Kleberg-Rylie Recreation center in Dallas
Michelle Obama judges food, along with assistant White House chef and food initiative coordinator Sam Kass and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio, during a taping of the TV cooking show “Top Chef” in Dallas
Time: The number of people seeking unemployment aid fell to nearly a four-year low last week, an encouraging sign of continued improvement in the job market.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000. That’s the second-lowest level since April 2008.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 366,250, the lowest since late April 2008.
The figures come a week after the government reported that employers added 243,000 net jobs last month. That pushed the unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent, the lowest in nearly three years.
When applications fall consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
Steve Benen: The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, though there have been setbacks, and most analysts expected this morning’s report to show an uptick in filings.
The good news is, that didn’t happen. The better news is, initial jobless claims have reached one of the lowest levels we’ve seen in four years.
….. here’s the chart, showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007 (see above)
Nick Baumann (Mother Jones): President Barack Obama’s decision to require most employers to cover birth control and insurers to offer it at no cost has created a firestorm of controversy. But the central mandate — that most employers have to cover preventative care for women — has been law for over a decade. This point has been completely lost in the current controversy, as Republican presidential candidates and social conservatives claim that Obama has launched a war on religious liberty and the Catholic Church.
Despite the longstanding precedent, “no one screamed” until now, said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert at George Washington University.
Gail Collins (NYT): ….. This new rule on contraceptive coverage is part of the health care reform law …. The churches themselves don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion’s doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.
We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?
Organized religion thrives in this country, so the system we’ve worked out seems to be serving it pretty well. Religions don’t get to force their particular dogma on the larger public. The government, in return, protects the right of every religion to make its case heard.
Romney’s network of influence could make a real difference in the policies that matter to all of us. Get the word out, and share this infographic with everyone you know – click here
Steve Benen: …. the Conservative Political Action Conference will get underway in Washington today, and will feature a cavalcade of Republican leaders and prominent far-right voices…. ….. every member of the Republican congressional leadership and each of the leading GOP presidential candidates will be on hand to shamelessly pander to the right-wing audience.
But they’re not the only ones who’ll be part of CPAC 2012: ….. CPAC is hosting the panel “The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the pursuit of diversity is weakening the American Identity” with Peter Brimelow, the founder and head of VDARE.com. VDARE is a White Nationalist website, run by Brimelow, which frequently publishes the works of anti-Semitic and racist writers….
When BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray asked CPAC organizers if they would renounce Brimelow’s participation at the conference, they chose not to.
Rasmussen: Voter confidence in President Obama’s handling of the economy is at its highest level in a year’s time. That’s in line with the recent upticks in overall economic confidence and in Obama’s job approval ratings as measured by the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
Forty percent (40%) of Likely U.S. Voters now rate the president’s performance in the economic area as good or excellent – That’s up from 36% a week ago and is the highest positive finding since the first week in February 2011.
2:00: VP Biden attends a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas.
6:30: VP Biden attends a campaign event in DeKalb, Texas.
7:15: PBO delivers remarks at a campaign event.
9:10: PBO delivers remarks at a campaign event.
11:00: First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at a DNC reception in Los Angeles.
Michelle Obama appears on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.
In case you missed…
Chief of Staff Jack Lew briefs President Barack Obama during Lew’s first senior advisors meeting as chief of staff in the Oval Office, Jan. 30, 2012. Participating in the meeting are, from left: Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Lew; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; Counsel to the President Kathryn Ruemmler; Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer; Counselor to the President Pete Rouse: Press Secretary Jay Carney; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy; Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; and Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Sun Times: While the attention is on the Tuesday Republican primary here, the Obama 2012 re-election team has been organizing in this state for months and already has 11 Florida offices.
…. Here are highlights of the Chicago-based Obama campaign on-the-ground organizing in the Sunshine state:
• 194 State of the Union Watch Parties ranging from Key West all the way to Pensacola.
• Held nearly 3,000 trainings, planning sessions, house parties, and phone banks.
• Held 4,500+ one-on-one meetings.
• Opened 11 campaign offices across the state, including in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
In November, Romney was rated somewhat or very negatively by 22 percent of independents.
In December, Romney was rated somewhat or very negatively by 29 percent of independents.
And in the new poll, Romney was rated somewhat or very negatively by 42 percent of independents — 20 points higher than two months ago.
Also: In November, Romney was beating Obama 47-34 among those voters. Now the numbers are upside down: Obama is beating Romney 44-36.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first act President Obama signed, fulfilling a campaign pledge.
The Act amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It gave legal support to Lilly Ledbetter’s 1998 equal-pay lawsuit – a lawsuit that the Supreme Court ruled against in 2007, by a 5-4 majority.
Lilly Ledbetter’s case had been largely ignored until then, but the decision made it “a rallying issue for the left … in their attempt to persuade the public that the Supreme Court was moving too far to the right”. (See more here)
The bill was re-introduced in Congress in January 2009. It passed in the House of Representatives with 247 votes in support and 171 against. The vote was nearly perfectly split along party lines…. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the Senate, 61-36, on January 22, 2009.
President Obama had long championed this bill and Lilly Ledbetter’s cause and by signing it into law ensured that women like Lilly Ledbetter and other victims of pay discrimination could effectively challenge unequal pay.
By the way, here’s how professional left darling Cenk “Obama is a moron” Uygur (the pure ‘progressive’ who’s only 41, but ….. is a ‘former’ Republican whose hero was Reagan, who voted for George HW Bush and Bob Dole, who opposed affirmative action, was anti-choice on the abortion issue, supported Clarence Thomas, had a serious problem with feminism, attended Federalist Society meetings (an organization of conservatives and libertarians co-founded by the charming Robert Bork) and, to this day, is an Armenian Genocide denier – and opposed PBO from almost his first day in office and called on Democrats to vote against him in this year’s Iowa primary …. PBO got 98.5% of the vote, so that worked well) described The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:
“Eventually the Democrats had a 60 seat majority in the Senate, they were unstoppable. And what did we get? Lilly Ledbetter. If you don’t know, that’s a minor bill that passed in the beginning of the administration … it’s a good bill, that’s why I bring it up … about women being entitled to equal pay. God bless. Incredibly easy victory.”
A “minor” bill?
Ooops, Uygur’s inner Republican slipped out. He should try telling Lilly Ledbetter it’s a “minor” bill.
Read Hoos Left on this fraud, fantastic: “A failed corporate lawyer and neocon with an enhanced opinion of himself and an ego as fat as his broad ass.”
PS Uygur is so progressive, he followed Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald’s lead by setting up a PAC pleading for donations for causes he, um, passionately believes in. And as Hamsher and Greenwald could tell you, these PACs can be very profitable ;-)
First Lady Michelle Obama shows NFL PLAY 60 Super Kid James Gale, 11, historical photos from previous administrations on display in the Booksellers Area during a National Football League (NFL) taping in the East Wing of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012. At right is James’ mother Lisa Gale. The taping will air during the Super Bowl, Feb. 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
TPM: President Obama and the Democrats have succeeded at convincing voters that Republicans are trying to delay economic recovery, according to a series of recent polls.
The new data suggests that about half the country, including a majority of self-identified independents, believe that congressional Republicans are using their political power to thwart Obama’s efforts to reduce unemployment, presenting Democrats an opportunity to make this argument more explicitly as the 2012 campaign moves forward – to undercut Republicans’ claims that Obama and the Dems bear full responsibility for the economy, and to make their pattern of obstruction a real liability for them.
WH: …. On Monday morning, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a new report based on the Census Bureau’s new data which found that provisions passed as part of the Recovery Act directly lifted nearly 7 million Americans out of poverty in 2010 and reduced poverty for 32 million more. This is on top of 6 million people lifted out of poverty by these policies in 2009. And these numbers are conservative estimates that do not reflect the indirect benefits from the jobs created through these policies.
In contrast to this approach, Republicans in Congress opposed all of these measures and passed a budget that would both cut back on many of these programs and also convert them into block grants, which would prevent them from automatically expanding in hard times. Had we followed that path, many more Americans would be in poverty today.
Steve Benen: The new national Gallup poll shows where the race for the Republican presidential nomination currently stands.
1. Mitt Romney: 21% (up one point from October)
1. Herman Cain: 21% (up three points)
3. Newt Gingrich: 12% (up five points)
4. Rick Perry: 11% (down four points)
5. Ron Paul: 8% (no change)
6. Michele Bachmann: 3% (down two points)
7. Rick Santorum: 2% (down one point)
8. Jon Huntsman: 1% (down one point)
The development that will get the headlines, obviously, is the fact that Cain has caught up to Romney at the national level, and Gingrich’s recent bump that’s pushed Perry to fourth place.
But what I still find remarkable is Romney’s inability to put some distance between himself and the rest of the Republican field … He’s running against misfits, clowns, and con men, and Romney’s still stuck at 21%.
Reuters: President Barack Obama’s fortunes are improving slightly, although he would face a tough struggle for re-election next year if Mitt Romney were the Republican nominee, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Friday.
Forty-nine percent of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, up from 47 percent in an October poll.
President Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the White House, November 7
Steve Benen: …. I’m not in a position to evaluate the merit of the claims against Cain. I would note, however, that (a) the number of accusers matters; (b) it seems unlikely all four are part of a coordinated, 15-year campaign organized by the media, liberals, racists, the D.C. establishment, and Rick Perry.