A man wearing an Obama shirt takes part in a candlelight vigil outside the United States Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 49 people were killed after a gunman opened fire on people in a gay nightclub in Orlando
All Times Eastern
10:30AM: President Obama departs the White House
12:30PM: He arrives in Orlando, Florida
1:20PM: President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with families of the victims and also first responders
4:35PM: President Obama departs Orlando
6:40PM: President Obama arrives at the White House
Friday afternoon announcements in Washington are usually aimed at attracting as little attention as possible, but last Friday was different. President Obama’s decision to nominate Eric Fanning — an openly gay man — to head a branch of the military which only four years ago did not allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, was both historic and attention-grabbing. And it underscored an often-overlooked feature of the Obama presidency: Obama has presided over the most demographically diverse administration in history, according to a new analysis of his top appointments. The majority of top policy appointments within the executive branch are held by women and minorities for the first time in history. The shifts are significant enough, experts say, that they may have forever transformed the face of government. The Obama White House, by contrast, has established specific programs to boost diversity among appointees.
For the 1st time ever the majority of top exec branch posts aren't held by white men. Here's how @POTUS @vj44 did it wapo.st/1KsI5Xk
The Presidential Personnel Office targets historically black colleges and universities, as well as minority-serving institutions, as part of a new campus recruitment program. It has a liaison to identify candidates by working with leaders from underrepresented groups, including those who are LGBT or have disabilities. The impact of Obama’s diversity efforts could reverberate for decades in people such as Michael Blake, a son of Jamaican immigrants who was homeless as a child but worked on Obama’s two presidential campaigns and in the White House as associate director of public engagement. Last year, Blake won election to the New York State Assembly, with the help of a lot of other Obama alumni, including Marlon Marshall, who is now Hillary Rodham Clinton’s director of state campaigns and political engagement. Blake’s campaign slogan was about his transformation: “No House to the White House.” Obama, Blake said, has helped create a new network of people of color now climbing the ranks of government. “He did that,” Blake said. “He grew that.”
Today as the US woke up, it was greeted with horrific news. The Pakistani Taliban attacked a school run by the Pakistani Army and slaughtered over 140 civilians, mostly children. Yes, the school wasn’t a military school, but an ordinary school for kids. At the same time, a car bombing in Yemen carried out by Al Qaeda claimed the lives of 20 children. And over the weekend, a crazed gunman with pretensions of Islamic State membership took a restaurant hostage in Sydney, causing his own death and the death of two hostages when the Australian special forces stormed the building.
I think the fallacy that the Taliban and AQ are “freedom fighters” combating “Western hegemony” has been put to rest. The last I checked, the children in Yemen and Peshawar weren’t on the CIA’s payroll. What the Taliban, AQ, IS, and their affiliates are is death cults. Any legitimate grievance they may have had has long faded into the rear view mirror. They now perpetuate violence, all in the service of a dark utopia. That utopia is being partly realized in the IS-held sections of Iraq like Mosul, and the results aren’t pretty, even for orthodox, conservative Muslims. It is a cult of death and austerity, a yearning for a return to some prelapsarian state which never existed. It is a search for a dark Eden which never was but should have been.
But, of course, a death cult isn’t peculiar to the Muslim world. We have our own versions here.
Rolling Stone: The Obama Hope And Change Index: 6 Years Of Progress, By The Numbers
Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2013: 4.1 percent of GDP
Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719
Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent
Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030
Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000
If you haven’t read The Obama Diary’s call out to Shaun King (here and here), you really should.
Shaun King has been passionate about the horrors occurring in Ferguson. I don’t fault him for that. I actually laud him for his efforts to keep a light shining on something too many Americans want to have swept under the rug.
The crux of Chip’s open letters to Mr. King was that his attacks on President Obama were not helpful to the larger cause. That they were shortsighted. That they were unfair. That they were, at heart, dishonest. They certainly seem to be done as a pro-forma exercise. Pres. Obama always has to be criticized, as not being “good enough”. (The book I’ve been hawking for 2 weeks, “Against Football” by Steve Almond, descends in its final chapter to such an attack on the President.)
It’s the “not good enough” which kills the progressive movement. It’s the “not good enough” which destroys social justice.
Another piece you should read is one by Twitter warrior ReignOfApril. President Obama Is Not Our Savior is a slap to the face of every disappointed lefty who feels that every “failing” by this president is a betrayal of deeply held hopes.
The problem is that these hopes were of their own making.
It was 2003. My sister-in-law was visiting us. It was a weekend, and her, my wife, and our niece were going to go up the coast to a fish shack just over the Ventura County line. They asked if I wanted to join them. I said no.
The fly-by-night telecommunications company for which I worked had just closed its doors, but I had quickly found a job at a similar company. I started that following Monday. And all I could see was a hopeless, endless succession of dead-end jobs, one following the other, none leading to anything, no hope of doing anything better, anything more meaningful. I was trapped. I was in the grip of my depression.
Depression can be triggered by anything—or it can be triggered by nothing. It can have warning signs; or it can come upon you like Judgment Day, as a thief in the night. It robs you of you, turning you into someone other than who you were, altering you irrevocably. You are suddenly or not so suddenly this person you weren’t before, a distorted image of the person loved and cherished by others, an image of yourself dark, twisted, sent into the world too soon.
My depressive episodes, stretching back to the late Nineties, have usually been triggered by the combination of pointless work, or lack of work, and the curious malady of my stutter which made me despair of ever being able to do anything other than what I was doing. But triggers don’t always happen. As Robin Williams shows, people who have it all can feel as if they have nothing. Fame, glory, money: they don’t matter. When depression strikes, it doesn’t discriminate. It will take the high and the low, the rich and the poor. It’s very democratic in that way.
From CNET: A bulletproof blanket seeks to shield kids during school shootings
Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.
– Arnold Toynbee
Let’s review a few news items from the past few days/months:
— A scofflaw rancher attracts a motley assortment of militia defenders threatening to shoot federal agents.
— A “sovereign citizen” in Georgia dies in a shootout with deputies while trying to take over a courthouse.
— Right wing extremists walk up to two Las Vegas police officers and shoot them, declaring the beginning of a revolution.
— A POW is released, and a sizable portion of the nation, instead of celebrating, rains down opprobrium upon the POW, his family, and President Obama.
And those are just off the top of my head. I could also include Senator Rand Paul tweeting that next time Pres. Obama does a prisoner swap, he should send five Democrats instead.
Things which were once beyond the pale have become commonplace, even excused. This isn’t something endemic solely to the Age of Obama. Oklahoma City happened on the watch of the previous Democratic president, who shares the trait of being demonized with Pres. Obama.
The pass in which we find ourselves has been long in gestation. It’s just been brought to gruesome birth upon the election and re-election of the nation’s first black President.
For close on two decades, the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and their cohorts on right wing hate radio and Fox News hate television have been providing a steady diet of outrage and conspiracy. But outrage and conspiracy are like heroin: each successive hit has to be more potent, has to up the high, as their acolytes seek to keep the outrage up, seek meaning for all the travails besetting them. Thus you get people like Alex Jones, who is more than willing to feed the addicts with ever more insane junk, upping the potency, wasting what’s left of their minds.
TPM: Justice Department To Launch Push For Full Recognition Of Same-Sex Marriage
In an assertion of same-sex marriage rights, Attorney General Eric Holder is applying a landmark Supreme Court ruling to the Justice Department, announcing Saturday that same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages. The Justice Department runs a number of benefits programs, and Holder says same-sex couples will qualify for them. They include the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries in the line of duty.
AG Eric Holder about to expand fed recognition of same-sex marriages "to the greatest extent possible under the law."
“In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said in prepared remarks to the Human Rights Campaign in New York. The advocacy group works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.
On Monday, the Justice Department will issue a policy memo to its employees instructing them to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law. After the Supreme Court decision last June, the Treasury Department and the IRS said that all legally married gay couples may file joint federal tax returns, even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. The Defense Department said it would grant military spousal benefits to same-sex couples. The Health and Human Services Department said the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer a bar to states recognizing same-sex marriages under state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said it is now able to extend benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.
One of the most popular shows on television is CBS’ “Two and a Half Men”. And I’ve often wondered at its popularity.
It is a very well-written and acted show, as far as it goes. But if you watch it for any length of time, you come away with a wretched taste in your mouth. It is, without a doubt, a show with characters who have no redeeming qualities. Everyone is gleefully mean to everyone else, reveling in cutting barbs and casual humiliation. Obviously, it’s a comedy painted in broad strokes, as sitcoms normally are. However, if you watch it on your local station in reruns before the prime time schedule comes on, you’ll be forgiven for wondering why anyone should give a damn about what happens to any of the show’s characters.
And yet, for more than a decade it has been one of the most popular shows on television. Before Charlie Sheen melted down, he was the highest paid actor on TV thanks to it. Millions of people tune in to watch a weekly display of dysfunction so severe that suspension of disbelief becomes increasingly difficult.
What’s clear is that the shifting views on health care predate the Affordable Care Act. The number of Americans who think health care is the government’s responsibility hovered around two-thirds for the first half of the 2000s, peaking at 69 percent in 2006. Then those numbers started falling, hitting 50 percent in 2010 and 42 percent this year.
The shrinkage of American generosity during that period wasn’t just about health care. The onset of the recession corresponded with a change in public opinion on a range of issues, and in most cases the effect was to make Americans less caring about others.
Starting in 2007, the portion of Americans who said the government should guarantee every person enough to eat and a place to sleep started falling, from 69 percent to 59 percent last year. People who said the government should help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, fell from 54 percent to 43 percent over the same period.