The times are even more perilous then they were when the US was poised to strike at Syria. Russia would have kvetched about Syria, but ultimately not have done much about it. Ukraine is an entirely different matter.
So, as we sit and wonder what will happen next, a recap of the master class @WillMcAvoyACN gave last night on Ukraine, and the difficulty of effecting any good solution to this crisis.
NYT: In Signing Farm Bill, Obama Extols Rural Growth
President Obama signed the $956-billion farm bill on Friday at Michigan State University, where he extolled the benefits of a thriving agricultural sector for the nation’s overall economy. In his remarks, Mr. Obama announced a new “Made in Rural America” initiative that he said would help rural businesses market their goods abroad. White House officials also announced five regional forums on rural exports and an “investing in rural America” conference. Mr. Obama directed the White House Rural Council to host sessions in all 50 states to train Department of Agriculture staff members on how to promote rural exports.
The White House released a report Friday from Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers that said farm income had risen significantly since the president took office in the depths of the recession. The report says that farm income is expected to total $131 billion in 2013, a 46 percent increase since 2008. Most of the increase is attributed to improved productivity, and the report notes that the values of livestock and crops are rising. One of the most contentious elements of the farm bill was the elimination of $5 billion in direct subsidies to farmers for their crops, whether they grew them or not. The subsidies were replaced by an insurance program that will help farmers only when they need it.
“I haven’t had insurance in years and my husband had a shared insurance junk-type policy. The day I signed up on Dec 10, I actually cried when the application went through. I got my first premium notice in the mail yesterday and was never so happy to see a bill before.”
Gayla W., New Hampshire
“I lost my job last April. My partner and I both have pre-existing conditions so our only option was to COBRA my employer-provided plan — at a cost of $1,676 a month. It was a good plan, but now we have a comparable plan through the ACA for $87 a month. I can’t describe just how life changing this is for us. We can afford to live again.”
Fred Kaplan: Barack Obama Isn’t Disengaged: The President’s Foreign Policy Is Just Smarter
There’s a strange notion out there that the dreary outcomes of the two wars this country fought all through the past decade—and the savage sectarian violence erupting across much of the Middle East and surrounding regions today—are due to President Obama’s “disengagement” from the world. It’s a strange notion because the United States is more engaged with the world than at any time in recent memory. There are nuclear talks in Iran (after 34 years of no talking whatsoever), an internationally supervised dismantling of chemical weapons in Syria What many of these critics don’t like about Obama—what they mistakenly, or misleadingly, call “disinterest”—is his disinclination to go to war.
And who can blame him? Obama seems to realize this. He too has an unsentimental outlook on the world. His views have been tempered by Iraq and scorched by Afghanistan. He’s not shy about using military force, but insists, when possible, to grip it tightly. “Escalation” is a suspect term; “uncontrolled escalation,” is an unacceptable one. As evidence, see Libya, Syria, drone strikes, and Stuxnet. One can admire or criticize the actions he’s taken, or not taken, in those crises or with those precision instruments. But they’re all preferable to sending in 100,000 troops in pursuit of a mission that we have no power to accomplish, even with all those men and women in arms. And if going into such conflicts lightly, or not at all, is the emblem of disengagement, let him wear it proudly.
Tom Joyner: Michelle Obama Discusses Health Care And Black History Month
Michelle Obama just turned 50 and she’s looking great. The First Lady is a prime example of how health can help keep you looking and feeling great. With her Let’s Move campaign, Mrs. Obama wants to help all Americans become more aware of the importance of eating healthy and staying fit. This morning she joined the Tom Joyner Morning Show to talk about the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in her husband’s time in the White House. The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to have affordable health insurance, but there are still some misconceptions about it. The best way for you to start to get more information about how the ACA can work for you is to head to the website, www.healthcare.gov and check out the options for yourself. Here’s why Mrs. Obama thinks it will be the best move you and your family can make this year.
Michelle Obama: We’re talking about education, because as Barack said in his State of the Union address, you know, what we have to focus on, particularly as we celebrate Black History Month, is not just the progress we’ve made but remember how much more work we have left to do. And we need to focus on increasing opportunity for everybody. And for this administration, it means healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. It means economic mobility. It means helping our young men of color. It means making sure more kids have access to college and it’s affordable. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on, not just this month, but for the rest of this administration, and making sure that people are signing up for healthcare is critical.
Derek Thompson: The Spectacular Myth Of Obama’s Part-Time America – In 5 Graphs
If you’ve been paying attention to a certain slice of the financial media—see:Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Fox News—you know for a fact that Obama and his health care law have tag-teamed with global economic trends to drive America inexorably toward a part-time economy. This is a testable claim. So let’s test it.
The first thing you would expect to see from a Part-Time America is that the number of part-time jobs added would rival the number of full-time jobs added. But in the last year, new full-time jobs outnumbered part-time jobs by 1.8 million to 8,000. For every new part-time job, we’re creating 225 full-time positions.
Washington Post: Democratic Mayors Who Backed Christie Struggled To Weigh Politics Vs. Local Needs
In September, Adam Schneider, the liberal mayor of the New Jersey shore town of Long Branch, was having trouble with the state utility board. After repeatedly getting the run-around, Schneider decided to instead try his luck with the office of Gov. Chris Christie. “I’m not talking to any more underlings, and I’m not being delegated to,” Schneider said he told Christie’s aides. In the end, he said, it worked. “I got what I needed.”
Schneider’s call came four months after he crossed party lines to endorse the 2013 reelection of Christie (R), whose performance he admired after Hurricane Sandy. Schneider said that the governor never promised him anything but that he believes he has received “enhanced” access to state officials since the endorsement. Schneider’s experience is typical of many Democratic mayors, who made clear that they thought endorsing Christie’s reelection bid likely directly benefited their towns in the pursuit of Sandy recovery aid and other state support.
Since early 2011, President Obama hasn’t been able to host many bill-signing ceremonies. After two years in which the White House made arguably historic progress on its agenda in 2009, Congress hasn’t achieved any major legislative accomplishments since Republicans claimed the House majority. But some bills still manage to get through both chambers, and though the farm bill hasn’t always risen to the level of major legislative breakthroughs, Obama and his team nevertheless decided to host a big event in East Lansing, Michigan, today to sign the new $956 billion farm bill into law.
The president won’t be joined today by any Republicans, though it’s not for lack of effort. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said that about 50 lawmakers — including many Republicans — had been invited to the bill signing, but that no Republicans had accepted the invitation. […] the fact that every Republican invitee declined the White House’s offer should send a pretty loud signal to those Beltway pundits who still believe Obama would thrive in Washington if only he schmoozed more.
Dylan Scott: Cruz, Rubio, Other GOPers Urge Court To Stop Obamacare Subsidies
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with other top congressional GOPers, have urged a federal court to block Obamacare subsidies for people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov. The group of eight — which includes Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Mike Lee (UT) and Rob Portman (OH) along with Reps. Dave Camp (MI) and Darrell Issa (CA) –
filed an amicus brief Thursday on behalf of businesses and individuals who sued to stop the subsidies from flowing through the federal website, the Washington Times reported. The case, being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit next month, centers on whether people can receive tax subsidies through the federal website, HealthCare.gov. A federal district judge rejected that argument in January, ruling that subsidies should continue to be delivered through HealthCare.gov, which sent the case to the appeals court.
Think Progress: Texas Man Pays Off Students’ School Lunch Debts So They Can Keep Eating
After he heard about the children in Utah whose school lunches were thrown out because their parents were behind on payments, Kenny Thompson was worried about the elementary school kids he tutored and mentored in Houston, Texas. So he went in to check whether they were getting the proper nutrition. “I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’ So I came in and inquired about it,” Thompson told local station KSDK.
What he found disappointed him: Dozens of students were on “reduced” lunches, receiving cold peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches instead of the full hot meals they used to receive, all because their parents had fallen behind on lunch payments that amounted to mere 40 cents a day. So Thompson took action. He forked over $465 of his own money and zeroed out the balances on over 60 students’ accounts. “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling,” Thompson told station KPRC.
President Barack Obama signs the farm bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Watching, from left are, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich. and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.
Even if you were stuffing yourself full of the first weekend of college football, by now you know that President Barack Obama conducted one of the most important Rose Garden addresses in the history of the modern Presidency.
Taking the baton from his Secretary of State John Kerry, he again laid out, in forceful, passionate language, the situation as it was in Syria. He explained that the intelligence community had concluded with great certainty that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical attacks in contested areas of Damascus the week before. He passionately argued that American values and national interest dictated that Assad’s regime be punished militarily for the use of those chemical weapons against civilians. He stated that the military had assets in place and was ready to go at any time.
And then he did something no modern president had done. Even though he believed he had the authority to act, he knew that this was a divisive issue, and that the people’s representatives had to join in the decision. He called for Congress to debate and vote on a resolution granting him specific authority to militarily strike Assad for violating international treaties banning the use of chemical weaponry, some of the oldest weapons conventions in international law. He had heard the rumblings from Congress saying that he had to seek approval before any strike, and agreed.
But why did he agree? This is where he pivots beyond what all the pundits and talking heads expected. Just before declaring that he would seek Congressional approval, he reiterated that he believed that he had the authority to conduct the attacks with or without Congressional approval. But such an action, in a region of the world where such action could quickly spiral out of control, needed more than just Barack Obama’s say-so as Commander in Chief. Syria is not Libya. In the Libyan crisis, the President had a UN resolution with which to work. As a signatory to the UN charter, all member nations had a duty to enforce Security Council resolutions. That was all the authorization he needed.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters yesterday that President Obama and congressional Democrats are “in denial.” Yeah, denial’s just awful, isn’t it? Capping a legislative work period more noted for what it failed to pass than for what it completed, the House voted for the 40th time on Friday to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law before heading home for a five week recess.
The GOP-controlled House voted to approve a measure to prevent the IRS from enforcing “Obamacare” in a 232-185 vote. The legislation faces virtually no chance of advancing in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. How many House Republicans voted for repeal? All of them who were on the Hill this morning. If we include the Senate, the total number of votes held by congressional Republicans to repeal all or part of the federal health care law is 68. We’re talking about a group of folks who are very slow learners.
Andrew Cray: New Federal Legislation Introduced To Protect Homeless LGBT Youth
Although they comprise only 5 to 7 percent of all youth in America, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth make up an average of 40 percent of all homeless youth in cities across the United States. These youth face a high risk of rejection and abuse in their homes, in their schools, and on the streets. For LGBT children and young adults left without safe homes, life on the street is dangerous, and the future may seem bleak.
But Thursday, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced legislation that would offer hope for LGBT youth and the providers charged with serving them. If passed, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act would amend the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to prohibit discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the programs intended to offer them stability and shelter, and would promote data collection processes to help policymakers better understand LGBT youth homelessness.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) supports federally-funded programs for homeless youth, including street outreach, shelters and drop-in centers, and transitional living programs.
Igor Volsky: New ObamaCare Rule Throws Lifeline To Federal Employees
Congressional lawmakers and their staff will be able to afford health care coverage this fall when they begin enrolling in the exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is expected to rule that the federal government can continue contributing to the cost of health care plans purchased through an exchange, putting to end months of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying from members of both parties which culminated in President Obama assuring Democrats that he is personally involved in the issue.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the National Anthem at the start of an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the suspension of the 1950-1953 Korean War at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. July 27
President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to take time from their “hurried lives” to listen to the heroic stories of Korean War veterans who returned to a country weary of war and deserved a better homecoming.
“Unlike the Second World War, Korea did not galvanize our country. These veterans did not return to parades,” Obama said in a speech at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, making the 60th anniversary of the war’s end.
“Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country. These veterans did not return to protests. For many Americans tired of war, there was it seemed a desire to forget, to move on,” Obama said.
They “deserve better,” the president said, adding that on this anniversary, “perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you came home.”
ThinkProgress: Growing Number Of States Are Reporting Lower Than Expected Health Care Premiums
Health premiums in Maryland’s exchanges will be “among the lowest of the 12 states that have available proposed or approved rates for comparison,” the state’s exchange — Maryland Health Connection — announced Friday. The news comes just as New York,Oregon, Montana, California, and Louisiana are also reporting lower than expected premiums.
In Maryland, a 25-year-old will be able to purchase a plan that is more comprehensive than policies currently available on the individual market for $114 per month, while a middle aged adult will have to pay approximately $260 per month for insurance. A 21-year-old non-smoker can start as low as $93 a month. Officials say they used their authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Thirty other states have have similar authority.
ThinkProgress: Steve King: In Private, Republicans Actually Agree With My ‘Cantaloupe-Sized Calves’
A growing number of Republicans are publicly distancing themselves from Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that many undocumented youths are drug mules with cantaloupe-sized calves, but the conservative congressman claims that GOP lawmakers are backing him in private.
During an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, King said that Republicans are in fact standing by him, but are afraid to publicly support him for fear of sparking outrage and losing their legislative leverage…..
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement Saturday after at least 65 people were killed and over 1,000 were injured in Egypt during clashes between security forces, armed men, and protesters demonstrating against the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi.
Kerry said he spoke with Egypt’s Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei and Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy Saturday morning to express “our deep concern about the bloodshed.” He also described the situation as a “pivotal moment for Egypt” and called for an “independent and impartial inquiry into the events of the last day.”
Asawin Suebsaeng: Obama Says Ho Chi Minh Was Inspired By Founding Fathers, Conservatives Freak Out
After a meeting with Vietnam’s president Truong Tan Sang on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the following to reporters (emphasis mine): At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it’s 67 years later, it’s good that we’re still making progress. (Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese communist and nationalist revolutionary leader who died in 1969. He fought alongside Allied forces during World War II, but fought American forces during the Vietnam War.)
Several conservative media outlets blasted the president on similar terms. “Obama may have just been trying to flatter his guest who was obviously eager to show that Ho was not the monster history shows him to be,” Chris Stirewalt, digital politics editor for Fox News wrote. “But his connection between the American founders and Ho shows either a massive lack of historical knowledge on the part of the president or a remarkable degree of moral flexibility.”
Yes, it is true that the United States once waged a disastrous, pointless, and horrific waragainst Ho Chi Minh and the people of Vietnam. But Obama’s comment wasn’t a gaffe or insult to American war vets. What Obama said is literally a historical fact. In September 1945, Ho Chi Minh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi to a crowd of nearly a million Vietnamese. Not only was the “The Star-Spangled Banner” played by a Vietnamese band during his address, but he opens his speech by quoting Thomas Jefferson.
First lady Michelle Obama watches the women’s singles tennis match between Serena Williams of the U.S. and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympics Games, July 28
.. with Venus Williams and former gymnast Dominique Dawes
Serena Williams gives a thumbs up gesture toward her sister Venus and first lady Michelle Obama after she defeated Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic