President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting of the President’s Export Council at the White House. Flanking President Obama are Boeing CEO Jim McNerney and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. The President’s Export Council advises the President on policies and programs that effects US trade performance and promote export expansion
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. President Obama said the US will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq, set up joint operation centers
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to retired Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Carpenter took a blow from a grenade to protect a fellow Marine in Afghanistan, sustaining major wounds including the loss of his right eye. He is the eighth living recipient to be chosen for the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan
Retired Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter smiles as President Barack Obama speaks at a ceremony awarding Carpenter the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry
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.
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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.
PM Carpenter: “They need to do their job,” barked the president of Congressional trolls. If his daughters, 13 and 10 years of age, can get their homework done ahead of otherwise guaranteed disaster, then surely the grown men and women of high elected office can settle, on a timely basis, a debt-ceiling dispute that’s been charging down the foreseen tracks for months.
Jesus, I pity him. Obama is now having to publicly scold and even ridicule the infantile, recalcitrant yokels of the United States Congress, just to get them to do their bloody homework, for which they draw government paychecks…..
…It’s a tribute to Obama’s miraculous temperament that he doesn’t explode more often.
PM Carpenter: Eric Cantor, in his own oblivious way, has redefined the art of political compromise:
I believe that we have identified trillions in spending cuts, and to date, we have established a blueprint that could institute the fiscal reforms needed to start getting our fiscal house in order. That said, each side came into these talks with certain orders, and as it stands the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases.
And there you have it. Each side entered negotiations with “certain orders,” yet those from the White House and its Democratic majority in the Senate are illegitimate, and thus obscene, while those from House Republicans are immutable, untouchable, and thus divine……
four panelists – [gay-activist Lt. Dan] Choi, immigration reform supporter Felipe Matos, America Blog writer John Aravosis and Fire Dog Lake Founder Jane Hamsher – said they are planning to hold the White House’s collective feet to the fire for its decisions on civil rights, whether it would hurt Obama’s reelection chances or not.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to chuckle. I realize these are serious issues, and in no way do I diminish their importance. But being threatened by the adolescent malcontents of the utterly insignificant, whining teapot-tempests of Americablog and FireDogLake is like being under fire from the Italian infantry, circa 1943. One scarcely notices.
PM Carpenter: A spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots, 2,300 of whom convened in Phoenix, Arizona last weekend, said that “[Democrats] can’t win if we’re focused on issues.”
…To be sure, it’s exceptionally difficult to beat a party or movement that regards a “focus” on issues as a bundle of pithy slogans with enormous emotional appeal, backed by mounds of propagandistic cash. The current “debate” on government’s size and spending is exemplary.
Which is easier to sell to a mass electorate? “Government’s too big” and “We’re drowning in debt” …
or … “The size of the federal government and the spending it does is less important than its effectiveness; take, for instance, those funds allocated to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which tea partying machete-accountants insist on slashing — Do you, Mr. and Mrs. Voter, care to save a few bucks now, only to grease the skids for another catastrophic collapse down the road, caused by fewer financial watchdogs and far less oversight?”
And that’s the short version.
…….so many Americans — I’d venture most — have no clue as to why government ever grew, as it did; they’ve no sense of the social carnage of the Gilded Age or of the vast disparities of wealth in the 1920s or the vicious official assaults on organizing labor or the atrocities of child labor or the repulsive depths of elderly poverty or … None of which Hoover’s pathetic “volunteerism” and limited government for ideology’s sake could help when it all inexorably came crashing down.
And would have again, to the selfsame severe proportions, had it not been for lessons learned — now being forgotten.
Huge thanks to Rita for letting me know about this blog post – loved it.
p m carpenter’s commentary: This morning the Post’s Dan Balz assesses the choice of Bill Daley as “another significant step in the post-election evolution of President Obama,” noting that Daley “has a reputation for shooting straight, playing hard, talking bluntly and, above all, remaining calm in a crisis.”
Indeed, the Beltway consensus is that Daley is pragmatic, thoughtful, damn smart, diplomatic, effective, loyal and philosophically mature — all in all he’s a judicious choice, one that will serve the administration well and frustrate the Republican noise machine.
So, naturally, with the notable exception of Howard Dean, who has responded as a model of reason, the activist progressive community launched into orbital unhingement over the Daley pick.
Gloomily representative of what’s become their orthodox overreaction to most everything Obama was the Torquemada of ProgThink, Adam Green, who said … “(bla bla bla)”
Yes, just another White House “mistake” …. such as rescuing the nation from the Great Depression II, securing universal health care, pulling DADT’s repeal out of a hopeless hat, saving the domestic auto industry, and so on, and so on, and so on.
CNN/P.M. Carpenter: ….once the reality of Obama’s extraordinary success within a mere half-term is noted — a stimulus package that prevented the Great Depression II; health care reform that achieves the decades-long goal of near universality; financial reform that reimposes some grown-up supervision of Wall Street gamblers — a bit of culling must be done when confronting American opinion on all this. Opinion that seems to be running downhill.
….The pseudoconservatives’ perception is that Obama’s success is a sprinting, despotic socialism enforced by jackbooted bureaucrats of anti-constitutional intensity. Most of this opinion, it seems to me, reflects a pathological loathing of Obama’s very success and a nostalgic, all-power-should-be-ours longing for the actual despotism of George W. Bush’s “unitary executive” humbug.
….On opposite ground, today’s progressive activists (known in some unmentioned circles as the “professional left”) perceive Obama’s success as a tragic, alienating failure simply because that success has been less than 100 percent. Their ideological purity is a brutal taskmaster; it accepts no compromise with political realities.
It wants and demands a society approaching Utopia — and that Utopia lies, it seems, only inches away from a snarling, presidential ideologue. They’ll deny that, but their own snarling, in my mind, tends to outweigh their pleas of innocence.
Case in point: A nearly $900 billion tax compromise, of which more than $700 billion is geared to middle-class and unemployment relief, is excoriated by activist progressives as an insufferable Obamian sellout.
As for traditional liberalism’s rank and file? They have few problems with President Obama; the base holds — according to pollsters about three-fourths of it — understanding that America’s utopian future still likely remains at least a few years down the road…