President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands with the crowd gathered for their arrival at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:55: The President holds a Cabinet meeting
1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press
2:20: The President delivers remarks on the economy
Aaron Carroll: It’s Getting Hard To Ignore Insurance Numbers (UPDATED)
Five percent of Americans report being newly insured in 2014. More than half of that group, or 2.8% of the total U.S. population, say they got their new insurance through the health exchanges that were open through mid-April. Given the population of the United States, this means that more than 15 million about 10-11 million American adults are newly insured this year. Almost 9 million of them received private insurance through the exchanges. There’s more (emphasis mine): The newly insured using exchanges are mostly under age 65, as would be expected, given that most Americans 65 and older are covered by Medicare.
Thus, the representation of newly insured Americans is higher across all three age groups younger than 65 than is true for the general population. More specifically, newly insured Americans using the exchanges in the 18 to 29 age category are eight percentage points more prevalent than their percentage in the overall adult population, while representation of those 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 are five and four points higher, respectively.This means that the fears that the young would refrain from buying insurance, thereby fracturing the risk pools, don’t seem to be coming to pass either.
Spandan Chakrabarti: Re-Igniting War On Women, Supreme Court Makes Case For Democratic Congress (#HobbyLobby)
5 conservative men on the Supreme Court decided that a core part of women’s health cannot be part of required employer-provided insurance coverage – even if the additional coverage costs nothing – at least as applied to private, family-owned corporations. All of the court’s female justices were joined by Justice Breyer in a strong and scathing dissent. it does, however, leave Democrats a major political opening when it comes to contraception. First, the majority explicitly held that HHS could in fact levy a contraception mandate – on insurance companies. In its language, the opinion refers to the method of contraception coverage HHS uses for employers already exempt from the contraception mandate (churches and other religious nonprofits) – requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, outside of the employers’ policies but with no additional cost to the insured.
Secondly, and more importantly, the decision relies on a law passed by Congress – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993 thanks, Bill Clinton) – and not the First Amendment. it can be overridden by an act of Congress. Therein lies the major opening for Democrats in 2014 and in 2016. This decision not only puts the Right wing’s war on women back on the forefront just in time for the midterms, it points to a specific cure: have Congress change the law to override the Court’s decision. If Democrats wanted to run on a single issue from now to November, it should be a promise to write into the law protections for contraceptive coverage should we win back the House and keep the Senate. It is time that we, as Americans, found out what everyone asking for our votes stands on women’s health. Leave behind all of your trepidation about why the Democratic party isn’t perfect and how President Obama has “disappointed” you. You have no right to be outraged by today’s decision if you do not show up to the polls in November and ensure the election of a Congress that will override the law that the Supreme Court says allows for employers to control the reproductive lives of their employees.
Energy.Gov: Energy Department Project Captures And Stores More Than One Million Metric Tons Of CO2
Following the one year mark since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – in partnership with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. – today announced a major milestone, successfully capturing more than one million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the hydrogen-production facility in Port Arthur, Texas. Using an innovative technology called vacuum swing adsorption, the project captures more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the product stream of two commercial-scale steam methane reformers that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.
In addition to the secure storage, captured carbon from the project will be used to help produce additional, hard-to-access resources from existing nearby oil fields. In total, Department of Energy projects have captured and securely stored nearly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to date, equivalent to taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road for a year. In just the last year since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, these Department-supported projects have stored approximately 2.8 metric tons.
Steve Benen: Boehner Gives Up On Immigration, Obama Moving Forward
Almost exactly a year ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in no uncertain terms that he would ignore the popular, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. The plan may have been endorsed by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, immigration advocates, leaders from the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks, but the Republican leader said it didn’t matter: the Senate bill was dead on arrival. Even if it had the votes to pass, it would never reach the House floor. But, Boehner said at the time, immigration reform was very much alive. “The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” the Speaker vowed. “It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.” That was 51 weeks ago.
And while Boehner probably meant what he said, the House Speaker made a commitment he could not keep. House members “will do our job”? Well, no actually, as is too often the case, the Republican-led chamber will do nothing. No longer willing to watch the GOP-led House do nothing, President Obama intends to move forward without legislative action. For his part, Boehner’s spokesperson, Michael Steel, told reporters this afternoon, “Speaker Boehner told the President exactly what he has been telling him: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” As talking points go, I find it hard to imagine any adult seriously believing an argument so transparently foolish. For one thing, Boehner himself already discredited the argument from Boehner’s office, admitting publicly that immigration reform hasn’t happened because his own Republican allies are afraid of hard work.
Alan Gomez: Obama Rips GOP On Immigration, Says He Will Act Alone
After more than a year of urging Congress to pass an immigration law, President Obama gave a fiery White House speech Monday, saying the time had come for him to act alone on the issue. “The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for our future,” he said. “If Congress won’t do their job, at least we can do ours.” The president laid out in a letter to congressional leaders Monday several steps his administration has taken in recent weeks to respond to an unprecedented surge in children caught crossing the border. The president ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the federal agencies that have been catching, processing and housing the children. The Department of Justice is in the process of reassigning immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to the border to speed up hearings in immigration court, and
A fact everyone will politely forget: GOP leaders themselves have repeatedly said immig status quo unacceptable & legalization necessary
the Department of Health and Human Services has scoured the country to find places to put those children. In March, Obama ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a systemwide review of deportation practices to see how they could be done “more humanely.” Obama later asked that the results of that review be postponed until the end of the summer to give Congress time to work through an immigration bill. Monday, with 28 days left in the legislative calendar, Obama said the review would be completed soon and would include changes to the country’s immigration enforcement structure. Obama said the only response from Republicans has been to use the crisis as their “newest excuse to do nothing.”
Washington Post: Illinois To Allow Same-Day Registration, Expand Early Voting Hours
Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification.
“Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.” Meanwhile, students at public universities will have an easier time casting a ballot under the new measure. The bill allows students attending public schools to change their residences from their hometowns to college campuses, giving them easier access to polling places on campus.
Harold Meyerson: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More
The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their families.
The workers, then, are joint employees of both their patients and the state. And since the state allowed them to vote on whether to join a union, and since they voted to join the Service Employees International Union, these 28,000 workers have seen their pay doubled and have received, for the first time, health care coverage. Like all unionized public employees, they don’t have to pay that portion of their union dues that goes to their union’s political activities, but they do have to pay that portion of dues that goes to the union’s bargaining with the state that has produced their contract. Pamela Harris, who works at home caring for her disabled son, didn’t like those dues obligations, however, and sued to get them overturned. So, Ms. Harris had to pay $650 for her raise? Actually, no. She belongs to a different category of home-care workers, and unlike the workers who voted to join SEIU, her group voted against joining a union. She pays no dues to anybody.
Katie McDonough: SCOTUS Gets Hobby Lobby Horribly Wrong: Why This Isn’t A “Limited” Ruling
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby can ignore federal law and deny its employees comprehensive health insurance because of its “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Analysis of the case has so far called this a limited ruling because it only applies to closely held corporations and “only” impacts contraceptive coverage. But this framing completely ignores the fact that more than 90 percent of corporations in the United States are closely held, and that the court just effectively ruled that it’s fine for employers to discriminate against half of the labor force. There’s nothing limited about it. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her powerful dissent, far from being narrow in its ruling, the high court just “ventured into a minefield.” The ruling sends a strong message that women’s health and women’s rights — as individuals and employees — do not matter as much as so-called religious liberty.
It also shows once again that medically inaccurate ideas about healthcare can dictate the terms of a debate and ultimately win the day. To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.
White House: Presidential Proclamation — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Pride Month, 2014
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2014
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect — our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.
Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples.
My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy — which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.
Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.
This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity — because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
Donna Dem’s (@NoShock) Black History Month ‘Did You Know?’ Series:
In honor of Black History Month I decided to do a “Did You Know” series for the month of February. So often we hear about well known African-Americans who have made history through the ages. In order to give a little more perspective, I wanted to share some of the back stories that are rarely ever spoken of.
Did You Know That?
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on friend Maya Angelou’s birthday, on April 4, 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta’s death in 2006.
Did You Know That?
Muhammad Ali, Golden Glove champion, Olympic Gold medalist, Heavy Weight boxing champion and Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee is considered one of the greatest athletes in boxing history had a penchant of being controversial and outspoken. He didn’t disappoint when he was awarded a star on the infamous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ali didn’t want anyone “stepping on him” so of the more than 2500 stars that have been honored he is the only celebrity whose star is not located on the sidewalk. He was installed on a wall of the Kodak Theatre in true “I am the greatest” Muhammad Ali style.
Did You Know That?
Allensworth, CA is the first all-black Californian township, founded and financed by African Americans. Created by Lieutenant Colonel Allen Allensworth in 1908, the town was built with the intention of establishing a self-sufficient city where African Americans could live their lives free of racial prejudice.
It has since been designated Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.
Did You Know That?
Althea Gibson, the first AA to win a Tennis Grand Slam event, the French Open and then later Wimbledon was also a talented vocalist and saxophonist who appeared at the legendary Apollo Theater and on the Ed Sullivan show before starting her tennis career.
Did You Know That?
After the success of Negro Digest (similar to the Reader’s Digest but aimed to cover positive stories about the African-American community), publisher John H. Johnson in 1945 decided to create a magazine to showcase black achievement while also looking at current issues affecting African Americans. The first issue of his publication, Ebony, sold out in a matter of hours. The magazine has been published continually since the autumn of 1945.
Did You Know That?
Frederick Douglas, Black abolitionist, orator and writer and Moneta Sleet, the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for his iconic photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at Dr. King’s funeral and Gregory Hines, world renowned tap dancer, choreographer, actor, singer and director all share a birthday on ♥ ♥Valentine’s Day ♥ ♥ .
Did You Know That?
Carter G. Woodson, the “Father of Black History“, was an African-American historian, author, journalist and University Dean. In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1972, it was renamed Black History Week. The celebration was expanded in 1976 to include the entire month of February and today Black History Month garners support throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience.
Did You Know That?
In her early life, Coretta Scott King was as well known for her singing and violin playing as she was for her civil rights activism. The young soprano won a fellowship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, the city where she met future husband Martin Luther King Jr.
Did You Know That?
Rosa Parks known as “the mother of the freedom movement” because she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, in 1965 she moved to Detroit and worked for U.S. Representative John Conyers as a secretary and receptionist until 1988. She was a gifted speaker but would donate all of her speaking fees to charity. At the end of her life she was being financially supported by the generosity of those in her community and was the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
President Barack Obama participates in the annual hurricane preparedness briefing in the Situation Room of the White House, May 30, 2012. Seated clockwise from the President are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Daniel Poneman, Department of Energy Deputy Secretary; Eric Silagy, FP&L President; Bryan Koon, Florida Director of Emergency Management; Major General Emmett Titshaw, Florida Adjutant General; Chief of Staff Jack Lew; and Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
ABC: The Obama campaign is opening a new front in its war against GOP rival Mitt Romney, ABC News has learned, with planned attacks to begin this week on Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts and the campaign promises Democrats say he left unfulfilled.
Team Obama will point to Romney’s rhetoric on job creation, size of government, education, deficits and taxes during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign and draw parallels with his presidential stump speeches of 2012. The goal is to illustrate that Romney has made the same promises before with unimpressive results, officials say.
….Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 states in job creation under Romney. In manufacturing jobs, Romney presided over a net loss of 40,000 jobs, a drop of 12 percent according to Labor Department data.
…. “He sold the same hooey in MA ten years ago, and then turned in one of the worst performances of any gov in the USA. 47th in job creation,” senior Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted last week, hinting at the direction of the attacks to come.
…. Obama campaign officials say the latest line of attack will be a major focus from now through the election. It dovetails with a major $25 million positive TV ad campaign touting the president’s first-term record. A 14-page research document compiled by the campaign and obtained by ABC News reveals the breadth of material Democrats plan to deploy, listing dozens of examples of Romney rhetoric and corresponding video clips from 2002, 2012, and the comparative “results in Massachusetts”.
Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi and Sen. Carmelo Rios unveil a bronze statue of President Barack Obama, along the “Avenue of Heroes” outside the Capitol building, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Feb. 20. Puerto Rican officials unveiled statues of Obama and former President Lyndon B. Johnson. Every sitting U.S. president who has ever visited Puerto Rico is honored with a statue, dating back to Theodore Roosevelt. Obama became the eighth when he visited in June.
Steve Benen’s growing list of achievements by PBO’s administration on gay rights:
* announced it will not defend the constitutionality of statutes blocking same-sex military spouses from receiving marriage benefits
* successfully repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law
* expanded federal benefits for the same-sex partners of executive-branch employees
* signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law
* cleared the way for hospital-visitation rights for same-sex couples
* lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS
* ordered the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans
* expanded the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship
* directed U.S. agencies abroad to ensure our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts “promote and protect” the rights of gays and lesbians
* endorsed repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act
* stopped trying to defend DOMA against federal court challenges
A carnival float depicts US President Barack Obama as Captain America during the traditional parade in Cologne, Germany, Feb. 20
Charles P. Pierce (Esquire): ….. Having aligned itself in the mid-1960’s with the angry remnants of American apartheid, the Republican party – and the conservative “movement” which is its only real energy – is now scrambling, one state at a time, to undo the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement on the wrong side of which it decided to place itself for political advantage…..
….. The shift is driven by the fact that people do not want black people, or poor people, or Democrats in general, to vote. This was obvious from the voter cadging in Florida in 2000, and in the mischief with the voting machine placements in Ohio in 2004. It was energized recently by the fact that black people and poor people helped elect a black person president, and a substantial portion of the Republican party and its conservative base found that to be an illegitimate outcome and has worked ever since his inauguration to delegitimize him on the grounds that he is a black man who was elected and is, therefore, not really president.
SmartyPants: One of the things that concerns me as we watch the Republicans revert to their old culture wars against women, people of color, gays & lesbians, poor people, unions, etc. is that we will all divide again into our camps to defend our root causes and forget the bigger picture that binds us. Other than fear, the right’s most effective weapon against us is division.
What will keep us united is to always remember the big picture of what’s happening. As I’ve been saying, keeping an eye on the forest means recognizing that the old white male heterosexual patriarchy is dying and the Republican Party is in chaos. What we can expect is that the old beast is going to strike out at anything it perceives as a threat and therefore the cause of its demise.
Carter Eskew (Washington Post): I was thinking of taking today off, but Rick Santorum wouldn’t let me.
Rick Santorum went and said another stupid thing. “The Earth is not the objective,” he told “Face The Nation.” “Man is the objective. And, I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.”
I think he says these things not because he is, in fact, stupid, but because he is angry, and anger fuels his supporters.
Ed Kilgore: A good deal of the excitement over the recent contraception coverage mandate has resulted from the hopes of Republicans, and the fears of some Catholic liberals, that the controversy could prove to be a “wedge issue” that would drive significant numbers of Catholic voters into the GOP column in November.
The assumption behind such scenarios, of course, is that there is a self-conscious “Catholic vote” that operates independently of the rest of the electorate, and that can be moved by the pronouncements of Catholic religious leaders.
My latest column for The New Republic examines this assumption, and finds it uncompelling in several respects: Catholic voters are remarkably similar to all voters in their partisan inclinations; they do not have any overall inclination to follow the Church hierarchy on hot-button cultural issues; and in fact, they are not responding differently from other Americans to the contraception coverage mandate controversy. “The Catholic Vote” looks just like America.
Tuesday: 11:35 AM – PBO hosts a payroll tax cut event, VP Biden also attends.
The President and First Lady will invite music legends and contemporary major artists to the White House for a celebration of Blues music and in recognition of Black History Month as part of their “In Performance at the White House” series.
Wednesday: The President will deliver remarks at the construction site of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Thursday: The President will travel to the University of Miami to continue to discuss his blueprint for an economy built to last.
Friday: The President will host Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark for a meeting in the Oval Office.
Reverend Keith A. Gordon: Blues fans, circle Monday, February 27th, 2012 on your calendars, ’cause we’re going to paint the White House blue! The Emmy Award-winning PBS series In Performance At The White House is going to document a historic celebration of the blues with a taping of a February 21st concert to be held in the East Room of the White House, the event hosted by President and Mrs. Obama in recognition of Black History Month.
In Performance At The White House program host Taraji P. Henson will oversee the concert, which will feature performances by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Gary Clark, Jr., Keb’ Mo’, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Shemekia Copeland, Warren Haynes, and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Stax Records legend Booker T. Jones will serve as the concert’s music director and bandleader.
….. The concert will be streamed live (from 7:20) on the White House, Public Broadcasting, and Black Public Media websites….