One of my favorite British shows is “Time Team”. Hosted by the awesome Sir Tony Robinson (Baldrick to you “Blackadder” fans), a team of archaeologists scours Great Britain for interesting sites to excavate.
In the just completed and final Series 20, the fifth episode finds the gang excavating on a military site on Salisbury Plain. Brought in to help, Tony et. al. are seconded to an already existing excavation. And a big part of this excavation is an organization which seeks to heal wounded UK vets reintegrate and heal their psychic and physical wounds via archaeology. I found myself smiling throughout the entire episode, especially when the program’s founder explained what had helped him escape the miasma of depression in which he was sunk after his tours of duty.
TPM: A lesser-known but important provision in “Obamacare” that regulates how health insurance companies spend their money is yielding benefits for consumers, a new study finds.
By this August, insurers are projected to send consumers a total of $1.3 billion in rebates, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Thursday – $541 million to large employers, $377 million to small businesses and $426 million to people with their own insurance plans.
The rebates are the result of a rule in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent or 85 percent of premium earnings on health care – as opposed to marketing and administrative activities – or otherwise provide rebates to their consumers.
Steve Benen: Joe Weisenthal published a pretty remarkable chart today noting economic growth in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe over the last nine years….
…. Once President Obama took office and the Recovery Act/stimulus began putting capital back into the economy, the U.S. economy began growing again. In the U.K., the economy started to improve, right up until British officials began implementing an austerity agenda – at which point the national economy stagnated and slipped back into a recession.
Obama rejected austerity, and as a result, American growth, while fragile and insufficient, is easily outpacing Europe’s and UK’s, where austerity measures have ruled the day.
….When David Cameron’s austerity policies began, Republicans were not only certain they would work, they pleaded with American policymakers to follow the Tories’ lead …. The remarkable thing is, Republicans aren’t the least bit chastened by the track record of failure.
ThinkProgress: …. The Romney campaign organized a conference call today with three of Romney’s foreign policy advisers to push back (against VP Biden’s foreign policy speech). During the call, Romney adviser Ambassador Pierre Prosper attacked President Obama for dealing with Russia, albeit using geographical terms from the Cold War era:
PROSPER: ….. The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia….
Aside from the fact that “Czechoslovakia” broke up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia nearly 20 years ago, the Obama administration never “abandoned” missile defense sites because they were never there to begin with….
Michael Tomasky: It seems clear that the main issue Mitt Romney is going to use to try to reestablish himself as a moderate is immigration …. Can Romney, who staked out an immigration position during the primaries that left him sounding like Pat Buchanan, really pull this off? My bet: He’ll be smooth, he’ll do almost everything right, he’ll say all the right things — and he’ll end up with something very much like the 31 percent of the Latino vote John McCain got, maybe two or three points more, tops. The reason is simple: Romney, like his party, is just too white.
…. There is no signal, at least yet, that Rubio would make a whit of difference. Last weekend, a poll came out in which 1,000-plus Latinos were asked about Obama-Biden matchups against Romney-Rubio, and Romney paired with various other Hispanic Republicans ….. in Florida, Obama did better among Latinos against Romney with Rubio on the ticket, suggesting that maybe to know him isn’t to love him.
NYT: The group Americans for Prosperity just went up with a $6.1 million ad buy in swing states that accuses the Obama administration of squandering American taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, asserting that some of the money actually went to foreign entities….
In making the general assertion that “billions of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries,” the ad cites as evidence $1.2 billion that went “to a solar company that’s building a plant in Mexico.” In fact, the company involved in the plant, SunPower, said that the $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee was for its solar ranch in California….
The ad also says that the Obama administration sent “half a billion to an electric car company that created hundreds of jobs in Finland.” …. Loans under the agency’s alternative vehicle program went to Fisker Automotive, an American electric car company based in California that has facilities in Finland, as well as China and Germany. The agency provided $169 million for engineering and tooling work, all carried out in the United States….
USA Today: President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.
In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.
The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney’s support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group. Romney’s main advantage is among men 50 and older, swamping Obama 56%-38%.
…. In the poll, Romney leads among all men by a single point, but the president leads among women by 18.
David Javerbaum (NYT): A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney. The recent remark by Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom that upon clinching the Republican nomination Mr. Romney could change his political views “like an Etch A Sketch” has already become notorious. The comment seemed all too apt, an apparent admission by a campaign insider of two widely held suspicions about Mitt Romney: that he is a) utterly devoid of any ideological convictions and b) filled with aluminum powder.
…. according to the latest theories, the “Mitt Romney” who seems poised to be the Republican nominee is but one of countless Mitt Romneys, each occupying his own cosmos, each supporting a different platform, each being compared to a different beloved children’s toy but all of them equally real, all of them equally valid and all of them running for president at the same time, in their own alternative Romnealities, somewhere in the vast Romniverse.
Rupert Cornwell (UK Independent): Obamacare is in the hands of the unelected – The Supreme Court has the power to trump Congress and consign to history the US’s boldest attempt at universal healthcare.
….. If the so-called “individual mandate” is rejected, then the whole financial edifice of Obamacare comes crashing down. With the stroke of a judicial pen, unelected judges would have voided the most important piece of health legislation since the Medicare and Medicaid Acts in 1965, and destroyed the boldest effort yet to give America what is taken for granted in every other industrial country: universal health coverage.
…. The biggest casualty of all, however, could be the reputation of the Supreme Court itself … it would be shown once and for all as just another player, albeit a mightily powerful one, in the partisan warfare that has brought the American political system almost to the point of dysfunction. Maybe, that will induce one conservative justice at least to step back from the brink on Obamacare. But don’t bet on it.
Tuesday: PBO will deliver remarks at the AP Luncheon during the ASNE Convention.
Wednesday: PBO will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. Christian leaders from across the country will join the President at this breakfast for a time of prayer, reflection, and celebration of Easter. Also on Wednesday, the President will sign the STOCK Act, which makes clear that Members of Congress are subject to the same insider trading laws that apply to everyone else. This was legislation the President called on Congress to pass in his 2012 State of the Union Address.
Thursday: PBO will sign the JOBS Act, which includes key initiatives the President proposed last fall to help small businesses and startups grow and create jobs.
Friday: PBO will deliver remarks at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy. Later, the President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.
In case you missed BWD’s comment last night, she was involved in a car crash a few days ago – it was a horrible experience that has left her badly shaken. I know BWD loves this video, so this is for her – look after yourself, get strong soon friend.
Love, too, to QuietObserver whose Dad is battling ill-health, as are Fred and HZ. And Sam UK, this is a tough time for you too, we’re thinking of you.
The Guardian: Vince Cable (UK Government Business Secretary) has launched an extraordinary attack on “rightwing nutters” in America who are trying to block the raising of the US government’s debt ceiling and who are, he said, a bigger threat to the world economy than problems in the eurozone.
… He said: “The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few rightwing nutters in the American Congress rather than the eurozone.”
Negotiations on raising the US government’s debt limit above its current level of $14.3tn (£8.7tn) collapsed in acrimony late on Friday over details of a package of spending cuts and tax rises that would help to pay for such a move.
A visibly angry Barack Obama attacked the Republican speaker of the house, John Boehner, for refusing to return his phone calls and said he had been “left at the altar” in trying to reach an agreement. Most experts agree that if the US were to default on its debt payments, stock and bond markets worldwide would plunge, threatening a new great recession. The deadline for agreement is just over a week away, on 2 August……
Channel Four (UK): You get a flavour of why David Cameron might be so keen to bask in Barack Obama‘s glory on this trip in various photo ops. We asked YouGov to repeat a poll they did in November 2003 when President George W Bush was in town and see how the numbers changed. It suggests that Brits love Obama as much as they hated Bush.
The 2003 poll suggested that 75 per cent polled had little or no confidence in President Bush. Today 72 per cent have a great deal or fair mount of confidence in President Obama. In today’s poll, 81 per cent think President Obama is highly intelligent, back in 2003 17 per cent thought the US had got itself an highly intelligent president. You get the picture.
Matthew Norman (The UK Independent): He is not the Messiah, but he deserves to sleep easy in his bed, and leave the 3am angst to malevolent midgets like Donald Trump who will never trouble him again
…Obama is said to be a strong player in the tight-aggressive style, which means that he doesn’t play a lot of hands or bluff much; but that when the potential return justifies the risk, he isn’t scared to push all his chips in … This is what he did in Abbottabad…
He bet the lot – his presidency, re-election chances, and place in history … had it gone wrong, Obama would by now have been measured up for the Jimmy Carter One Term Memorial Shroud…
It did not go wrong, and so he finally became the President of the United States of America, rather than President of That Chunk Of America That Doesn’t Regard A Black Man In The Oval Office As The Cleaner Or An Imposter.
… Obama did more than quell the screechings of the wingnuts, chat-show rabble-rousers, the Birthers and those we should term the Placentas (the After-Birthers who have now progressed to post-certificate conspiracy theories to question his legitimacy). He reminded the world why it fell in love with him in the first place.
…People have criticised him for being “professorial” as well as arrogant. They will do so no longer. He pondered for months, studied the research, weighed up the evidence, and reached the right conclusion. This is one cool, tough prof, and the lesson he has taught by example won’t quickly be unlearnt. In asymmetric warfare against a stateless enemy, invading sovereign states and slaughtering civilians is not the way to go. You don’t punish the guilty by killing the innocent. You do so by killing the guilty.
….Let no one hear attempts to share Obama’s credit with Dubya without revulsion. He failed pitifully in this, as in almost every thing else … Obama hasn’t honoured on every promise, nor will. He is not the Messiah, although if the Kool Aid truck has redelivered at last, make mine an octuple. For tempering vengeance with mercy, by refusing to reckon countless civilian lives a price worth paying to safeguard himself, hedeserves to sleep easy in his bed, and leave all the sweaty 3am angst to Donald Trump and the other malevolent midgets who will never trouble him again.
Jonathan Freedland (The UK Guardian): Last week, when Barack Obama released his birth certificate to silence those who had long questioned his American identity, he explained that he did not normally respond to such nonsense because “you know, I’ve got other things to do”. Now we know that those “other things” included meticulous planning for an event that could well transform his presidency, reshaping both the way he is seen and the foreign policy he pursues.
… the success of the operation in Abbottabad now makes Obama’s rivals look small indeed, Lilliputians chasing wild fantasies while Gulliver deals with the things that matter. He has rendered even more laughable Donald Trump’s declaration that “I feel proud of myself” for flushing out the proof of Obama’s Hawaiian birth. The president has shown what a true achievement looks like.
For, like it or not, no trophy mattered more to American public opinion … Obama’s role in slaying the dragon may not make him a national hero, but it will take a special kind of stupidity for Republicans to question his patriotism now.
The killing in Pakistan will bury another criticism, rarely articulated explicitly: the suggestion that Obama was somehow insufficiently tough, insufficiently macho, to be America’s commander-in-chief … Crude though it may be, Obama just passed that test with flying colours of red, white and blue.
He did it, though, his own way … he avoided the crass cowboy talk that was a hallmark of the previous administration: the official statement of Saddam’s capture began with the words “We got him”. Obama’s style was, by contrast, measured and steady, recalling 9/11 and speaking movingly of the images of “that September day” that the world did not see, starting with “The empty seat at the dinner table”.
From now on Obama will be viewed slightly differently at home and abroad, his coolness understood to be unflappable and poker-faced, rather than chilly and professorial. One former foreign minister who has seen the president up close believes that Bin Laden’s scalp will lead other world leaders to conclude that, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, “Obama may speak softly – but he carries a big stick”…
…he has scored a valuable victory, one that lifts his own standing but also arrests the gloomy, declinist mood that has gripped some in his country, convinced that American power is on the slide. He has done in two years what his predecessor failed to do in eight. But Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner should stay in the White House basement: al-Qaida remains, the war in Afghanistan is not over, and there is still so much more work to do.
Johann Hari (The UK Independent): Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.
Sarah Palin told cheering rallies that her message to the world was: “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way!” – but that wasn’t enough. So the party found Michele Bachmann, who said darkly it was an “interesting coincidence” that swine flu only breaks out under Democratic presidents, claims the message of The Lion King is “I’m better at what I do because I’m gay”, and argues “there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
That wasn’t enough. I half-expected the next contender to be a lung-fish draped in the Stars and Stripes. But it wasn’t anything so sophisticated. Enter stage (far) right Donald Trump, the bewigged billionaire who has filled America with phallic symbols and plastered his name across more surfaces than the average Central Asian dictator. CNN’s polling suggests he is the most popular candidate among Republican voters. It’s not hard to see why. Trump is every trend in Republican politics over the past 35 years taken to its logical conclusion. He is the Republican id, finally entirely unleashed from all restraint and all reality…..
…So who should be the Republican nominee? I hear the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were considering running – but they are facing primary challenges from the Tea Party for being way too mild-mannered.
UK Independent: …Think what would have happened if Washington had taken the lead in declaring a no-fly-zone over Libya without UN agreement or Arab backing. The people now criticising President Obama for dilatoriness would be accusing him of being another Bush. And if he’d refused to have anything to do with the no-fly-zone, commentators in Europe and the Middle East would be saying that it was because, at the end of the day, America doesn’t want democracy in the Arab world, that it prefers the rulers of Bahrain and Yemen to suppress revolt than bow before it….
…Obama’s cautious approach is perfectly sensible. Libya is not America’s dogfight. Thanks in large part to Lockerbie, Washington has never favoured Gaddafi. It is, in US eyes, and rightly, a European problem. It was France and Britain – Sarkozy and Blair – who spent their time sucking up so obscenely to the Libyan dictator, just as Silvio Berlusconi embraced him in a Faustian pact to stop illegal migration from Africa. Washington under President George W Bush certainly welcomed Gaddafi’s dramatic (and largely meaningless) gesture of giving up nuclear ambitions – but they didn’t sell their souls to him in the way we (the British), and the French, did.
Nor can Washington be blamed for being forced into military command of the first phase of the Libyan operation by the simple fact that it is only the US that has the hardware and control systems to do it. French objections to this becoming a Nato exercise are just so much hot air. They can’t do it, nor can the British in alliance with them.
Obama is also right to spell out, as he did this week, a clear separation between the objectives of the UN resolution, which is to protect Libyan civilians, and the objectives of American policy, which is to see the back of the Colonel.
…Once Gaddafi had turned the military tide and was openly threatening, by word as well as deed, to wreak his wrath on the rebels in Benghazi, the world couldn’t stand by and watch a massacre. Memories of Srebrenica and Rwanda are too raw for western politicians to allow it to happen again….
The UK Guardian: If the Obama administration does nothing else, it will always compare favourably with Bush’s for its diplomacy over Libya
The New York Times called it “inconsistent”. The Wall Street Journal questioned whether “any direction” could be divined behind the decision. But in referring to America’s part in the attack on Libyan forces, the mainstream media is blind to what has been a brilliant diplomatic – and domestic – political strategy on the part of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
…Having learned the lessons of Iraq and countless other American boondoggles in the region, President Obama has played his hand deftly to avoid accusations of American imperialism and to project the optics of consensus. Today, as the United States engages once more in the Middle East, it does so with the imprimatur of a United Nations resolution and an impressive coalition of allies – not just George Bush’s “coalition of the willing” – but countries not usually associated with military intervention in the region, including France and the countries of the Arab League.
…President Obama has “played it cool” – refusing to cut short his trip to Latin America and emphasising that American action will be short (if committed). This is a far cry from the sort of chest-thumping bellicosity from the Oval Office we saw under Bush.
There are, of course, domestic politics at play here as well. America is tired of seeing its military in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone getting involved in a new Middle Eastern conflict. But through diplomatic and strategic manoeuvering, President Obama has ensured that the United States is simply one nation among many engaging in the region, lifting some of the weight of history from the shoulders of the nation.
President Obama arrives to make a statement authorizing limited military action against Libya, March 19
UK Independent: The Paris summit yesterday of the 10-nation coalition of the willing, including the Arab League, backed by a United Nations resolution authorising the use of force to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, marks a triumph of diplomacy.
Inevitably, it is marred by the besetting fault of such negotiations: it has taken too long for the world community to come to this point …. but that is the price of unity. Far better to have the Arab League call for a no-fly zone and the UN respond than to have the rich Western nations of Nato decide what is good for north Africa.
…Barack Obama made it clear last week that US troops would not be deployed in Libya and the UN resolution specifically excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”. President Obama, incidentally, has been criticised in recent weeks for his apparent uncertainty and lack of assertion. We do not join in that criticism. It is wise that the United States should allow European and Arab states to take the lead in the Mediterranean theatre, while supporting the rule of law under the aegis of the UN.
…The no-fly zone may seem inadequate to the task of protecting the Libyan people, but, however difficult it may be to accept, it may be that the best we can hope for is that the international community blunts the worst excesses of Gaddafi’s brutality.
BBC: Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will visit the UK on their first official state visit in May. US presidents who have met the Queen have mostly stayed in London, but where else in the UK might the Obamas travel?
The Obamas’ planned visit to the UK in May is their second trip to the country, but the first as official guests of the British Royal Family.
Since the turn of the 20th Century, 11 American presidents have made the trip across the Atlantic. Most have stayed in London, visiting Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and other sights on the diplomatic tourist trail.
….President Obama might consider a trip to Bracknell where his half sister Auma used to live and, it is thought, his step mother Kezia still does. A short train ride from London, the commuter town might not be an obvious choice for a world leader, but Mr Obama has already made a trip to the area. Before he became president he attended his former brother-in-law’s stag do in nearby Wokingham…..