Something feels different about this Israeli war. Previous incursions have gone without much import, the IDF killing hundreds of Palestinians, Palestinians making the diplomatic rounds excoriating Israel, and then everything settling back down into a dull stalemate. Even with US media bias, it’s gotten through the media filter that Israel’s war against Gaza is both disproportionate and horrific. When you trap a population in a Mediterranean gulag, and then pummel it, even the most jaundiced see that it’s morally reprehensible. No, Hamas shouldn’t launch rockets at Israel. But Israel has a rather effective missile defense system. Gaza has AK-47s. It is not an equal contest.
Perhaps it’s the prevalence of social media. During Israel’s previous incursion into Gaza, Twitter was in its infancy. Now with over a billion users, real time pictures from the killing zone are scrolling across millions of Twitter feeds. News organizations won’t show photographs of the dead and maimed; Twitter users will. Smoke plumes, flattened buildings, and screaming children are just a few of the images completely and effectively circumventing the media filter.
On This Day: President Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital, July 22, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
All times Eastern
10:35: The President meets with Apollo 11 representatives to recognize the 45th anniversary of the moon landing
11:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press
12:10: The President signs H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, South Court Auditorium
1:0 Departs the White House
3:30: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama, The White House
All times PDT
3:15: President Obama arrives Seattle, Washington
5:05: Attends a DNC fundraiser; private residence, Seattle
6:0: Attends a fundraiser for Senate Democrats; private residence, Bellevue, Washington
Reuters: Obama, Biden Highlight Job-Training In Middle-Class Push
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will put a spotlight on job-training programs on Tuesday as part of a White House push to boost economic opportunities for middle-class Americans, an important voting group in November elections.
Obama will sign the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” which the White House said would help “improve business engagement and accountability across federally funded training programs.”
Biden will unveil a new report that will show the results of a study about how to make federal training programs more successful and better tailored to employers’ needs.
ThinkProgress: Palestinian Civilians Make Up Three-Quarters Of The Dead In Gaza
The Israeli ground operation in Gaza extended on Monday, as international calls for a cease-fire mounted and the death toll continued to increase. While Israel lost several soldiers in the last day, the number of those killed during the latest iteration of the war between Hamas and Israel has been disproportionate, with the vast majority of the dead being both Palestinian and civilian.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) publishes a daily snapshot of the crisis, pulling together the numbers from health officials in Gaza and reports from the various humanitarian organizations in the field. In their last report, which covered from July 19 -20, they noted that 3,008 Palestinians had been injured in the course of the fighting, “904 of whom are children and 533 women.” And at the time the report was published on Sunday, the number of those killed was 395: 375 on the Palestinian side “including 270 civilians, of whom 83 are children and 36 women” and 20 Israelis “including two civilians and 18 soldiers.”
Ian Millhiser: BREAKING: Two Republican Judges Order Obamacare Defunded
Near the end of 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a final crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, eventually announcing on the Senate floor that “I intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare, I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.” Cruz did succeed in goading his fellow Republicans into shutting down the federal government, but his effort was ultimately doomed. The American people’s elected representatives voted not to defund Obamacare, and the shutdown ended.
On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal. Ted Cruz is undoubtedly smiling today. Two unelected Republicans just voted to erase his most embarrassing and most public defeat, and they voted to take away millions of Americans health care in the process.
TPM: Journalist Who Accused MSNBC Of Pro-Israel Bias: I’ve Been Canceled!
After expressing some candid on-air criticism of MSNBC, network contributor Rula Jebreal is wondering if she’s in the cable news channel’s dog house. Jebreal said in a tweet Monday evening that her “forthcoming TV appearances” had been canceled. The Palestinian journalist also questioned if there might be a “link” between the cancelations and her comments earlier in the day in which she said MSNBC’s coverage had been biased toward Israel amid the nation’s ongoing conflict with Hamas.
While appearing on Monday’s episode of “Ronan Farrow Daily,” Jebreal said the channel’s coverage of the conflict was too favorable toward Israel. She even singled out Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News foreign affairs correspondent and MSNBC host. “Look at how many airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal said. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on theses same issues.”
Amy Traub: The Enduring Success Of The CFPB At Three
Three years ago today the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors. It was a new government agency produced by the Dodd-Frank Act: part of Congress’ attempt to address the rampant misconduct by banks, mortgage lenders, ratings agencies and other financial institutions that brought on the 2008 financial crisis and started the Great Recession. In its three years of existence, the CFPB has already forced credit card companies to return $1.5 billion to consumers that they deceived with fraudulent add on products; reformed mortgage lending rules to ensure borrowers have a genuine ability to repay their loans; and began to sue student loan companies for predatory practices, among many other accomplishments. The agency also handles direct consumer complaints about abusive and deceptive financial products and services—400,000 of them so far. It’s a highly impressive record for a fledging agency.
Now the CFPB wants to let consumers take their complaints public, going beyond the existing database of bare-bones information to enable consumers to provide a full narrative with context about the financial products or services they believe harmed them and how the problem has impacted their lives. Consumers can anonymously tell the whole story about the credit reporting company that refused to remove a blatant error from their report, the mortgage servicer that started a foreclosure despite a history of on-time payments, or the car dealership that marketed deceptive auto loans. The companies they are complaining against would have an opportunity post a public response that would appear alongside the complaint at the same time it is made public.
Martin Shaw: Wagging The Dog: Gaza & MH17 Plane Deaths Stem From Netanyahu, Putin, Search For Popularity
The Ukraine and Gaza crises alike demonstrate the risks of aggressive policy based on short-term calculations. Vladimir Putin and Binyamin Netanyahu’s war-as-politics invites damaging long-term consequences.
The slaughters in Ukraine and Gaza have one thing in common. Both result from governments authorising violence which is overwhelmingly motivated by domestic politics and appears almost gratuitous from a strategic point of view. Such policies promise short-term domestic popularity, but risk losing international credibility and producing serious blowback. Vladimir Putin is now finding this out. Binyamin Netanyahu should take note: the blowback for Israel could be far more serious.
Michael Krancer: The Surprising Reasons Why Lowering CO2 Emissions Will Drive Our Electricity Bills Down, Not Up
If the customer wants clean energy, he’ll have to pay for it, right? Wrong. There’s actually no premium attached to low-carbon power, state utility regulators heard last week at their annual conference in Dallas. I’ll cut to the chase. Check out this report from Analysis Group, a five-star consultancy based in Boston, who presented at the conference. “Based on our own analysis and experience, we believe that the impacts on electricity rates from well-designed CO2-pollution control programs will be modest in the near term, and can be accompanied by long-term benefits in the form of lower electricity bills and positive economic value to state and regional economies.”
Here’s the back-of-the-envelope math. The EPA says that the Clean Power Plan—America’s no-nonsense blueprint to cut carbon pollution from its power plants—will cost between $4.3 billion to $7.5 billion per year by 2020. Let’s take a mean of $5.9 billion for the sake of fairness. That’s a mere 1.6 percent of America’s total spending of $363.7 billion on electricity in 2012. If you want an itemized bill, that $5.9 billion will include investment in cleaner generation, including increased zero-carbon low-cost nuclear power, the expense of wringing efficiencies from existing plants, fuel-switching costs, and “demand-side” efficiency measures—which translates to getting your customer use power more smartly.
Steve Benen: Russia’s U.S. Standing Plummets, Still More Popular Than Congress
It wasn’t too long ago that Russia was fairly popular in the minds in the American mainstream …. It takes real effort to go from 41% to 19% favorability in the course of five months.
But what stands out for me is a CNN poll from a few weeks ago that said Congress has a 14% approval rating.
Let’s pause to appreciate what this is telling us.
Most Americans believe that Russia will try to cover up its possible involvement in the death of 298 people ….. despite this recent bloodshed, still very much on the minds of millions, Russia is still a few points more popular than Congress.
The People’s View: Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, And Lessons In Reform And Pragmatism
This will be a little hard to hear for the fashionable Lefty detractors of the president’s: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is openly celebrating President Obama’s financial reform law. There have always been detractors who routinely bemoan the Barack Obama’s “capitulation” and “friendliness” to big banks, presenting as evidence what they call a meaningless banking reform bill – Dodd-Frank – the president’s key financial reform accomplishment. In the next breath, they lament why Barack Obama could not “fight” the banks like Elizabeth Warren – with no hint of irony that a key part of President Obama’s financial reform is Warren’s brainchild: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Even when acknowledged, the moaning crowd is still upset that Warren is now a United States Senator rather than the head of CFPB.
And of course… no perpwalks on Wall Street! Because, what good is reform without theater? Today is the fourth anniversary of the most significant financial reform law since the 1930s, which among other things created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is a fact not often noticed by those who see Warren as salvation from the “compromiser in chief” Obama, but the gravity of the achievement certainly did not escape Warren herself. On her Facebook page and in an email sent to supporters, Warren has two words for Dodd-Frank and the CFPB: It worked.
The Obama administration said that employers that stop covering contraceptives in workers’ health plans under a Supreme Court ruling must disclose the change to beneficiaries. The court’s late-June Hobby Lobby decision allows some closely held companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement on religious grounds. The administration’s notice Thursday made clear that if all or a subset of contraceptive services aren’t covered under a group health plan,
beneficiaries must be informed of the extent of the exclusions. Federal law covering pension and health plans requires that employers alert employees if they change or drop benefits. Plans that reduce or eliminate coverage must provide expedited notification, generally no longer than 60 days after the change. The requirement applies to all group health plans, including those that pay workers’ health claims directly and those that rely on an insurer for that.
Rabbi David Saperstein claps as President Obama approaches to sign an executive order to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination
Surrounded by LGBT supporters, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, President Barack Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House. President Obama’s executive orders prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations
President Obama arrives to make a statement on the situation in Ukraine and Gaza
President Obama attends a town hall meeting to discuss his My Brother’s Keeper initiative while at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys’ access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions
President Obama bestows former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts with the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House. Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan
• • •
Chips butting in on Nerdy’s post:
A year ago today, the weirdest thing happened: Manchester United and Chelsea teamed up.
Yup, it’s exactly 12 months since Chelsea Girl took over the running of TOD with me, and I don’t have to tell you how much she has contributed since then, or how much work she has put in to the site with wonderful posts like this, every single day. And without her, TOD honestly wouldn’t even exist any more.
Thank you for everything – your intelligence, your energy, your passion, your determination, your dedication, your friendship, and your support.
It was a very, very happy day when you came in to TOD’s life, and mine.
On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama listens as Gen. David H. Petraeus discusses security improvements in Baghdad while giving him and Sens. Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel an aerial tour of the city Monday, July 21, 2008
• • •
Today (all times Eastern)
10:30: The President signs an Executive Order that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, East Room
11:0: The President makes a statement on the situation in Ukraine
11:45: Participates in a town hall focusing on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative; Walker Jones Education Campus, Washington
1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press
3:10: The President awards Ryan M. Pitts, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor, East Room
NYT: Obama to Issue Order Barring Anti-Gay Bias by Contractors
President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work….
The order will also, for the first time, explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, officials said. Federal workers are already protected based on their sexual orientation.
…. “With the stroke of a pen, the president will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of L.G.B.T. people across the country,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement on Friday. “These actions from the president have the potential to be a keystone in the arch of his administration’s progress, and they send a powerful message to future administrations and to Congress that anti-L.G.B.T. discrimination must not be tolerated.”
MSNBC: Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative gets $104 million boost
Six months since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper – the president’s boldest effort since taking office to address the dire state of young minority men – Obama is set to announce that millions are being dedicated to expanding the initiative.
According to a White House official, Obama will announce Monday at the Walker Jones Education Center in Washington new partnerships with public and private groups to the tune of about $104 million in funding to help this demographic succeed at critical stages throughout their lives – from early education to college and career.
Young minority men generally faces some of the worst social, academic and economic outcomes in the country.
“Tomorrow’s announcements are an important next step in continuing to build ladders of opportunity for all and to highlight the President’s commitment to ensuring that all children have a fair shot to succeed in this country,” a White House official said.
BBC: Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500
The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Cairo for talks on the crisis amid a mounting death toll.
Over 500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began two weeks ago, Gaza’s health ministry says.
Twenty Israelis – 18 of them soldiers – have died, Israel says, as it seeks to end rocket fire on the country.
On Sunday Gaza saw its deadliest day since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, with 13 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians killed. Israel says it has killed at least 120 militants since the ground offensive began on Thursday night.
Washington Post: Flight 17: U.S. builds case against rebels, Russia in downing of jet in Ukraine
The Obama administration expanded its case Sunday accusing Ukrainian separatists and Russian forces of working hand in hand to acquire and operate a missile battery believed to have shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner last week, killing nearly 300 people.
Citing an “enormous amount of evidence,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry accused Russia of providing SA-11 antiaircraft missiles to the pro-Russian rebels and training them how to fire the advanced weapons. He also said U.S. intelligence agencies “saw the launch” of a missile from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine and recorded its trajectory at the moment the passenger plane vanished from radar.
Meanwhile, in Kiev, the U.S. Embassy said American intelligence analysts had confirmed the authenticity of recorded conversations in which rebel leaders bragged about shooting down what they thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane moments after the Malaysian jetliner was blown apart.
WH.gov: President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor
On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and Sen. Barack Obama at Baghdad International Airport, July 21, 2008
Sen. Obama shakes hands with a U.S. Soldier outside Multi-National Division South East Headquarters in Basra, Iraq July 21, 2008
Gen. David H. Petraeus gives an aerial tour of Baghdad to Sen.’s Obama, Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel Monday.
Sen. Obama looks on during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, July 21, 2008
• • •
President Obama tapes an interview before an event celebrating country music at the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The First Family listens to a performance during an event celebrating country music in the East Room of the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
President Obama and Vice President Biden walk from the Oval Office to the motorcade on the South Lawn driveway, July 21, 2010. They traveled to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
First Lady Michelle Obama colors props for a theater production with children during a visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
In September, 2009, just eight months into Barack Obama’s first term, when it was still possible for unsentimental observers to perceive the Tea Party’s riotous fulminations as a passing blip, Jimmy Carter remarked that opposition to the President’s agenda was driven, largely, by one thing: race. “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said. One hears it in the questioning of Obama’s American birth and legitimacy—the idea that he couldn’t really be President without trickery, that he has stolen something—and his presence in rooms where someone like him shouldn’t be.
Carter’s words are, if not conventional wisdom, then certainly one of those truths that most of us know but few are willing to admit. That reticence, along with a large dose of cynicism, explains the reaction to Eric Holder’s statement, in an interview with ABC News, that the opposition to the Administration (“You know, people talking about taking their country back”) is partly driven by racism. Holder’s assessment that “I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus” is, on the whole, more tempered than Carter’s words, and far less incendiary than Charlie Rangel’s dismissal of the Tea Party, in 2013, as “the same crackers who fought against civil rights.”
Thank you Nath, for this perfect summation of America’s history
You know what, Kathleen, President Carter was spot on! For some of us with a little knowledge of history, the reaction to the election of President Obama was reminiscent of the reaction to the election of Black people to local, state and national offices, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites made sure that Reconstruction State governments, with substantial Black participation, failed. Black elected officials were routinely accused of ignorance and corruption. Even though those accusations were false. Eventually whites resorted to violence to finally force Blacks from political office. But they were able to accomplish that with the complicity of the media, the Congress and the two political parties. Beginning with the 1877 “Hayes Compromise” the Republican party–the party of Abraham Lincoln– began abandoning Black people. By the beginning of the 20th Century Black folks, especially in the South, had no where to go politically. Lilly white Republicans shunned them and Dixiecrat Democrats were hostile against them. The migration of Blacks from the South to Northern cities during the World War I era began to change the racial demographics of many of those cities. Blacks in Northern cities slowly gained political clout. In 1928, South side Chicago elected the firs black to Congress from the North. In the 1950s Chicago would be joined by other Northern cities like Detroit and New York in electing Blacks to the House of Representatives. Still, two or three members of House of Representatives were never considered a threat to white supremacy.
The situation changed dramatically when Blacks were able to form coalitions to elect mayors to some of the biggest cities in America. White supremacist reaction to the election of Black Mayors in major cities during the late 1960s to 1980s was comparable to white supremacist reaction during Reconstruction, and white supremacist reaction following the election of President Obama. White supremacists on city councils made absolutely sure to obstruct everything the Black Mayors proposed to do. In some cities, major businesses relocated to suburbs or other states so as to deprive cities ruled by Black mayors of tax revenues. The goal: to make cities ruled by black mayors so dysfunctional, and thus to consequently discredit the wisdom of electing Black mayors. This is exactly the playbook the GOP in Congress decided to follow from day one of President Obama’s presidency. Thankfully, in his first two years, the GOP playbook was thwarted by Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress. Then came the 2010 and Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, and enough votes to use the filibuster to paralyze the U.S. Senate.
Basically, the GOP’s goal is the same as the white supremacists’ goal, advocated by Rush Limbaugh: Make sure that President Obama fails! GOP and Rush could care less if President Obama’s failure translates into a failure that affects the vast majority of Americans. Other than their idiotic followers who stand to suffer if President Obama’s policies are defeated, people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch and Fox, GOP members of Congress, and the billionaire Koch brothers, wouldn’t experience that much suffering and hardship. They are, however, certain that if President Obama fails, America will never again make a mistake of electing another Black person President.
• • •
IDF wants Gazans to leave Gaza and thus not suffer from their bombings. REALLY??? Where do they go? Their summer homes in Southern France?
As a peace advocate, I am forever confronted by Israeli and/or American Jews (and the occasional gentile) who take one look at any exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants and say: “Yes, sure, all civilian deaths are terrible — but for Israelis, they’re unintentional. The Palestinians actually target civilians.” And as one of those civilians who used to be targeted on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have no problem saying that intentionally targeting civilians is wrong — is, in fact, a war crime…. But I weary of the desperate clinging to the word “unintentional” on my side of this decades-long war.
From the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2012, Israel was responsible for the deaths of 3,034 Palestinian noncombatants, of whom well more than a third were minors: 1,338. And that’s not counting the noncombatants and children (including several toddlers and at least one pregnant woman) killed in the last week alone. But when I look at those numbers, when I see the pictures of tiny, broken bodies pulled from utter destruction, when I see the wailing of fathers and mothers, their dead children wrapped in white shrouds, never to feel their parents’ arms around them again—I no longer care. Incompetence or indifference, neither can be an excuse anymore. And in the meantime, more children die.
Fiscal doom will be delayed thanks to lower health care inflation in recent years. But will Congress take notice? For years, America’s health care costs grew at an unsustainable rate. That was the main reason America’s long-term fiscal position looked unsustainable as well; Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs were spiraling out of control. But our health care cost inflation is no longer unsustainable. That’s huge news, because it means our long-term deficits should be manageable, too.
Republicans have spent the last five-and-a-half years griping about the budget deficit, and most of their gripes have been absurd. They were wrong to accuse President Obama of creating a record trillion-dollar deficit, which he actually inherited from President Bush. They were wrong to criticize Obama for increasing the deficit with his 2009 stimulus bill, which was an amazingly effective Keynesian response to an economic crisis; the budget-balancing austerity approach the GOP was advocating led to much slower recoveries and double-dip recessions in Europe. And they were wrong to accuse Obama of turning the U.S. into Greece; the deficit has shrunk by more than half during his presidency, dropping from 10 percent of GDP to less than 4 percent as the recovery has progressed.
Edwin Lyngar: I was Poor, but A GOP Die-Hard: How I Finally Left The Politics Of Shame
I hated government – even as it was the only thing trying to save me. Here’s how, one day, I finally saw the light I was a 20-year-old college dropout with no more than $100 in the bank the day my son was born in 1994. I’d been in the Coast Guard just over six months. Joining the service was my solution to a lot of problems, not the least of which was being married to a pregnant, 19-year-old fellow dropout. We were poor, and my overwhelming response to poverty was a profound shame that drove me into the arms of the people least willing to help — conservatives. Looking around, I saw no other young servicemen. Coming from the white working class, I’d always been taught that food stamps were for the “others” — failures, drug addicts or immigrants, maybe — not for real Americans like me.
I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash. I finally “got it.” In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault. They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?
Variety: Michelle Obama Calls For Focus On The Arts In Grammy Museum Speech
First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education. “We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said. Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.
She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.” “For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks. She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”
No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney. “Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.
Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.
Anne Barnard: Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, And Into Center Of Mideast Strife
The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous. As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.
The Israeli military acknowledged later that it had launched the strike, which it said was aimed at Hamas militants, and called the civilian deaths “a tragic outcome.” The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.
L.A. Times: Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.
Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.
Reuters: U.S. Retail Sales, Manufacturing Data Point At Firming Economy
A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in June, in the latest indication that the economy ended the second quarter on a stronger footing. That momentum appeared to have carried into the third quarter, with another report on Tuesday showing factory activity in New York state expanded sharply in July. “This is not a fragile economy,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. “The consumer continues to play their part in moving the economy forward.”
Core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased 0.6 percent last month after rising an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. Core sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported as being flat in May. Economists had expected them to rise 0.5 percent in June. The report added to signs of the economy’s strengthening fundamentals, which could buoy optimism the recovery is on a self-sustaining path, after output contracted sharply in the first quarter.
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs six-time Grammy nominee singer Janelle Monae as they attend the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award luncheon honoring Monae and Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles
President Barack Obama attends a bipartisan meeting of freshman House members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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On a weekend trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, the President showed his daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to skip stones during a hike in the park.” July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets tourists and hikers in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia watch the World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Japan, from the Treaty Room office in the residence of the White House, Sunday, July 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)