President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House. President Obama met with Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and spoke on the gunmen attack at the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France.
President Barack Obama approaches Marine One on the snow covered South Lawn prior to his departure from the White House
President Barack Obama, accompanied by 89th Airlift Wing Commander Col. John Millard, smiles as they walk on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
President Barack Obama, followed by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., as they arrive on Air Force One at Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport in Detroit
President Barack Obama speaks at Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., about the resurgent American automotive and manufacturing sector
Ford plant manager, Phillip Calhoun, President Barack Obama, Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford, and Bill Ford eye a new mustang at Ford Michigan Assembly Plant
5:0: The First family attends the National Christmas Tree lighting; President Obama delivers remarks
So much for my intention never to watch anything from MSNBC again … but I never knew the story behind this photo – here it is:
NYT (June 2013): In Mandela, Obama Found a Beacon Who Inspired From Afar
Barack Obama had been a United States senator for just weeks in early 2005 when Oprah Winfrey offered to carry a message for him to Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African leader.
Mr. Obama disappeared into a back room in Ms. Winfrey’s television studio to write the note, but he was gone so long that his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, popped his head in after half an hour.
“You’ve got to give me some time here,” Mr. Obama, pen in hand, told Mr. Gibbs, who recalled the moment recently. “I can’t just wing a note to Nelson Mandela.”
…. The two have met in person only once, in a spontaneous encounter in Washington in 2005, when Mr. Mandela was in town and was urged by advisers to take a few minutes to meet a rising Democratic senator named Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama was in a car, on the way to a meeting, but diverted to the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown, where Mr. Mandela was staying. The conversation produced a lasting image of Mr. Obama, in silhouette, standing next to a reclining Mr. Mandela.
I have deliberately stayed away from commenting on Mandela, not because I have no appreciation for who he was and what he did, but rather both who he was and what he did are beyond my ability to pay tribute to.
I first heard about him about the same time I was reading Patton’s Cry, The Beloved Country. Looking back, it was like it was fated the two would happen together. Here I was reading, and being deeply influenced by, a book that exposed the worse of the apartheid system while along came a person who was willing to sacrifice everything to bring it to an end.
I remember being aghast at the hatred I heard expressed whenever his name was mentioned and the open support for the system of apartheid. Remember, this was during the Civil Rights era here and I was old enough to recognize that part of the support for apartheid was a defense of this country’s segregation policies. I think many were so against Mandela because they knew that if South Africa was able to end its racist approach to existence then the US would be at the forefront of nations that deliberately and maliciously oppressed a major segment of its population.
LL made a comment last night about how in SA they were celebrating his life, not mourning his loss. And that is the way it should be. The man gave so much of himself not for his own glory, which I think matter not one whit to him, but for the welfare of his people. And by “his people” I mean the people of SA, no matter what their color or religion was. He knew that oppression impacts both the oppressed and the oppressors in negative ways. He was never into revenge for prior wrongs but rather about having all move forward. Considering all that was done to him, that may well be his greatest legacy.
I’m breaking my MSNBC boycott again 😕 – but only for the President!
Avoided depression. Huge health reform. Jump-started clean energy. School reform. Financial reform. Kinda consequential presidency, no?
Steve Benen: Job growth picks up steam, unemployment drops
Expectations going into this morning’s new monthly jobs report were fairly strong, and as it turns out, the totals from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were even better than expected.
According to the new BLS report, the U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November, ahead of economists’ predictions. In a pleasant change of pace, the public sector did not drag down the overall figures – the private sector added 196,000 jobs, while the public sector, which has hemorrhaged jobs in recent years, added 7,000.
The overall unemployment rate dropped 7%. That’s a five-year low, though it’s a little misleading – it reflects furloughed federal workers who returned to their jobs after the government shutdown ended.
Bloomberg: Payroll Gains in U.S. on Track for Best Year Since 2005
Job growth in November was probably strong enough to keep payroll gains on track for the best year since 2005, economists said before a report today.
Employers added 185,000 workers last month after taking on 204,000 in October, based on the median forecast of 89 economists in a Bloomberg survey before today’s report from the Labor Department. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent, matching an almost five-year low, from 7.3 percent as federal employees returned to work, according to the survey median.
The pickup in employment over the last three months signals companies are confident that demand will improve and gives American workers the means to spend.
Washington Post: Refusing Medicaid expansion will cost states billions of dollars
When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government could not compel states to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, it gave Republican opponents of the measure the opportunity to decline to participate in one of the law’s central tenets. But a new study estimates the decision not to participate will cost those states billions of dollars over the next decade — costs that will be passed on to taxpayers.
…. By refusing to expand Medicaid, Texas will forgo $9.2 billion in federal funding in 2022. Florida, another state that has said it won’t expand Medicaid, stands to lose more than $5 billion.
Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia will all forgo more than $2 billion in federal funding, while Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin will miss out on more than $1 billion. Both Tennessee and Indiana, two states that have yet to formally decide whether to expand the program, face losing more than $2 billion in federal funding if they decide against expansion.
As overflow guests look on in the Grand Foyer, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait to be introduced before the Kennedy Center Honors event that was held in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Pete Souza: “Having seen more than 25 Bruce Springsteen concerts since 1978 and having seen just about every movie Robert DeNiro has ever made, it was a great thrill to be in their presence as the President greeted them before the Kennedy Center Honors at the White House.” Dec. 6, 2009
President Obama and Vice President Biden talk before the start of the Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama applaud Bruce Springsteen during the Kennedy Center Honors, Dec. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a formal portrait in front of the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 6, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama tours the biotech facilities at Forsyth Technical Community College West Campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., Dec. 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Pete Souza: “En route to his speech at Osawatomie High School in Kansas, I noticed a lot of people lining the motorcade route. So on departure, I rode in his vehicle so I could photograph some of the onlookers waving to the President.” Dec. 6, 2011
President Obama arrives aboard Marine One at Osawatomie-Paola Municipal Airport in Osawatomie, Kan., Dec. 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama prays with, from left: Richard Santana, Velma Massenburg, Jimmie Massenburg, and Tiffany Santana, during a visit to the Santana’s home in Falls Church, Va., Dec. 6, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
…. when Putin tries to lecture “the American people and their political leaders” from a position of moral superiority, no one on earth can take him seriously. As for Syria, the sinister and barbarous government of dictator Bashar al-Assad would not last one week without the military hardware that Russia generously provides. Putin thus has the blood of tens of thousands of civilians on his hands.
…. To me, the concept of exceptionalism underpins Obama’s strongest argument for taking military action in Syria. When we see more than 1,400 men, women and children killed with poison gas, it is not our nature to look away. We ask ourselves whether there is anything we should do. We weigh the costs and benefits, the risks and rewards, and we do what we can. The moral case for a strike against the Assad regime is predicated on the fact that if the United States doesn’t do something, nobody will.
Yes, Mr. Putin, you can call that American exceptionalism. I like it a lot better than the Russian kind.
President Obama closes a long week Friday by meeting with labor leaders and the Amir of Kuwait, and by tapping a new top economic adviser.
Obama is expected to announce that former White House official Jeffrey Zients will be the next director of the National Economic Council; Zients will replace Gene Sperling, who will depart at the start of next year.
….. Secretary of State John Kerry is still in Switzerland, talking with Russian officials about a plan to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons to international control; the U.S. is insisting on verification, and reserving the right to use military action.
Later this afternoon, Obama and Vice President Biden meet with labor leaders who have questions and criticism of the new health care plan.
ThinkProgress: How Obamacare Could Revolutionize Addiction Treatment
Obamacare’s treatment of alcoholism and other drug addiction as chronic diseases that must be covered by insurance plans could lead to as many as 40 million Americans entering rehabilitation programs, according to California Health Report.
Government data shows that about 24 million Americans aged 12 and older require treatment for a substance abuse issue — but only 11 percent of them received it at a specialty facility. These facilities charge an average of $4,000 for admission, and even outpatient facilities cost an average of $1,500 per course of treatment.
Obamacare could help eliminate those cost barriers for people seeking treatment. “I don’t think there’s another illness that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Thomas McLellan, former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy…
ThinkProgress: Don’t Worry, Young People Won’t Avoid Signing Up For Obamacare
Uninsured young people are eager to sign up for health care coverage, a new Reuters survey finds, suggesting that the new health care exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act could attract enough healthy people to “offset the costs of covering sicker Americans and keep the system afloat financially.”
Half of Americans between the ages of 18 through 34 support the health care law, the poll found, while one-third of “young adults in the poll said they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to buy insurance through their state’s exchange.” As Sharon Begley writes, if half of that population follows through and purchases coverage, “the White House would easily meet its goal of getting 2.7 million young adults – out of about 16 million uninsured 19-to-29-year-olds – to buy Obamacare insurance for 2014.”
Major League Soccer’s D.C. United have signed on to help promote DC Health Link, the health care exchange that opens in just three weeks as part of Obamacare, President Obama’s major health care reform law. United are the second major franchise to agree to promote the law, after the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens agreed to partner with the state of Maryland to promote an exchange there.
United will promote the law through on-field activities, public address announcements, and tailgating at RFK Stadium, United’s home, during an October 4 home game….
Steve Benen: House GOP like a jukebox that only plays one song
….. Their irrational, wild-eyed hatred of “Obamacare” has become all consuming, GOP lawmakers can apparently think of little else. Real work is pushed to the backburner so symbolic “message” votes like these can make the right feel better about itself.
Indeed, it’s this mindless contempt for the moderate health care law that’s become all-consuming for congressional Republicans – it’s why a government shutdown is increasingly likely and why the GOP may very well trash the full faith and credit of the United States next month for the first time in American history.
“Obamacare,” in other word, has pushed Republicans to madness, for no particular reason….
Business Insider: You Can’t Resist The Medicaid Expansion — Another Republican Governor Wants In
Even though conservatives want to resist Obamacare implementation in any way they can, nine of 30 Republican governors have pushed for their states to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. It looks like that number is about to rise to 10.
According to various publications Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) will announce on Monday a plan for his state to expand Medicaid …. Corbett, like other Republican governors, is in a tough position. Conservatives are obsessed with blocking Obamacare and they don’t want states to participate in any way, even if the federal government will pay substantially all the costs. But when Republican state officials decline to participate, they will have to explain to both medical providers and potential Medicaid beneficiaries that they turned down free federal money just to spite the president.
TPM: Florida Takes Obamacare Obstruction To Whole New Level
The Florida Department of Health took a big step toward obstructing Obamacare outreach this week — then almost immediately walked it back Thursday, at least in one of the state’s biggest counties.
The state health department quietly sent a directive Monday to local county health departments, telling them that Obamacare’s so-called navigators — federally funded groups that are charged with helping people sign up for coverage under the law — would not be allowed to do outreach in their offices.
…. County Commissioner Kenneth Welch, a Democrat, told TPM that the actions of the state health department, which is under the authority of Gov. Rick Scott, a vehement Obamacare opponent, were “purely political.”
“It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s ridiculous,” said Welch, whose county is the sixth-largest in Florida. “They’re reaching for any way to obstruct anything that’s related to the Affordable Care Act.”
TPM: Revealed: The Secret Koch Group That Gave Conservatives $236 Million In 2012
An almost completely unknown group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has identified itself as the secret source of almost a quarter of a billion dollars received by conservative political groups in 2012.
The group, Freedom Partners, raised $256 million in the year following its creation in November 2011, and made grants totaling $236 million to conservative groups, according to Politico, which was shown a draft of an IRS document the group plans to file shortly. As Politico put it, the upshot of Freedom Partners’ revelation is that “a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.”
Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday called House Republicans “Neanderthals” for initially opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).”
“I’m going to say something outrageous,” Biden said at a party at his home in Washington to celebrate the 19th anniversary of VAWA …. “I think I understand the Senate better than any man or women who’s ever served in there, and I think I understand the House … I was surprised this last time … The idea we still had to fight? We had to fight to reauthorize [VAWA]?”
Biden then blamed “this sort of Neanderthal crowd” in the House for initially opposing the legislation.
“Did you ever think we’d be fighting over, you know, 17, 18 years later to reauthorize this?,” he asked.
Ricky Watson of Littleton, Colorado wipes tears from his eyes after he thanked President Barack Obama for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at a campaign rally in Golden, Colorado, September 13, 2012. Watson was kicked out of the Air Force 25 years ago for being gay.
Powerful words from Sybrina Fulton: “No prom for Trayvon. No high school graduation for Trayvon. No college for Trayvon. No grandkids coming from Trayvon. All because of a law; a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful crime.”
Washington Post: Maryland issues insurance rates that are among lowest in U.S.
Maryland insurance officials approved final rates Friday for health plans to be sold in the online marketplace for individuals beginning Oct. 1. The rates offered by nine carriers are among the lowest of the 12 states that have proposed or approved rates for comparison and among the lowest in the D.C. area, according to an analysis by Maryland officials who will be operating the state’s marketplace.
“I didn’t want to be right,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says about her prediction that striking a key prong of the Voting Rights Act will lead to a wave of minority voter suppression, “but sadly I am.” In an interview with the Associated Press’ Mark Sherman, Ginsburg reiterated one of the core points of her dissent from the five Republican justices’ voting rights decision — “The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn’t make any sense to me,” Ginsburg said. “And one really could have predicted what was going to happen” once the law was struck down.
On two crucial issues this week, the extremists who dominate the Republican majority in the House of Representatives made it clear how little interest they have in the future prosperity of their country, or its reputation for fairness and decency.
The House will refuse to consider a comprehensive immigration bill that could lead to citizenship for millions of immigrants, Republican leaders said on Wednesday, and will slowly and casually consider a few border-security measures that have no chance of passing on their own.
And, on Thursday, the House passed a farm bill that stripped out the food stamp program, breaking a pact that for decades has protected the nutrition needs of low-income Americans. It was the first time since 1973 that food stamps haven’t been part of a farm bill, and it reflected the contempt of the far right for anyone desperate enough to rely on the government for help to buy groceries.
Robert Greenstein: For several decades, legislation to reauthorize farm programs and SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) have moved together. Now, the House Republican leadership is splitting the bills, moving a stand-alone farm bill today and planning to move a separate SNAP bill later.
The reason is clear. Even though the farm bill the House defeated a few weeks ago contained more than $20 billion in SNAP cuts (nearly all of them in food assistance benefits) as well as an unprecedented measure allowing states to cut families off SNAP if a parent wants to work but can’t find a job and letting state politicians take half of the resulting savings and use them for any purpose, that wasn’t enough for many of the most conservative House Republicans. So the House leadership has dropped the SNAP provisions and plans to come back later with a still harsher SNAP bill designed to pass solely with Republican votes.
Andrew Rosenthal (NYT): Just because there is no sign of actual governing arising from Congress, it doesn’t mean that the right-wing dominated House Republican Caucus is just sitting around doing nothing. To the contrary, in addition to plotting the demise of the first real chance at immigration reform in decades, House G.O.P. leaders are thinking of new ways to continue their long-running show of trying to stop health care reform from taking effect.
…. Nothing is going to stop Congressional Republicans from this kind of outrageous behavior. It’s worth keeping an eye on, though, if for no other reason than to see your tax dollars at work.
I stood up and began talking on the floor of the Texas State Senate not long ago because I hoped the Republicans in power would listen to how their latest cruel health care proposal would hurt the women of Texas.
Simply put, this bill would take away access to the most fundamental form of health care women need.
It would close down almost 90% of the women’s clinics in this state. This comes after more than 50 women’s health clinics providing cancer screening and family planning services were closed because the Republicans withdrew state-financed support from them. We now have 42. Under this draconian proposal, a state as expansive as Texas would have only five clinics remaining to serve thousands and thousands of women.
Real Texans don’t want any woman to die of cancer because she can’t get decent health care or medical advice. Real Texans don’t want any woman to lose control of her life because she can’t get birth control.
Texas Tribune: The abortion fight that has engulfed the Texas Capitol this summer appears headed toward a dramatic conclusion today.
At 2 p.m., the state Senate will take up the sweeping abortion legislation that late last month fell victim to a filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, giving rise to two weeks of fiery protests and sustained national media attention.
The House approved the legislation — which would ban abortion after 20 weeks and potentially close up to 90 percent of the state’s abortion clinics — on Wednesday, leaving only Senate approval standing between the bill and Gov. Rick Perry’s desk.
Steve Benen: Back in April, the federal government ran a surplus of $113 billion. In case anyone’s forgotten what a surplus is – the word largely disappeared from our vernacular after Bush/Cheney took office in 2001 – it’s the opposite of a deficit. In the month of April, the federal government took in $113 billion more than it spent.
And then in June, it happened again:
The U.S. government posted an unexpectedly large budget surplus in June, a further sign of the rapid improvement in public finances that has taken the heat off Congress to find savings and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.
Rising tax revenue, public spending cuts and big payments to the Treasury from government-backed mortgage companies helped the government take in $117 billion more last month than it paid out, the U.S. Treasury said on Thursday.
It was the largest monthly surplus in the United States in over five years, and the largest June surplus in the nation’s history….
Jon Favreau: The GOP Is Terrified Obamacare Could Be a Success
I know, we’re all supposed to think the End Is Nigh because the government has decided to give the 10 percent of large employers who don’t insure their workers another 365 days to do so before levying a small penalty. This could not possibly be a reasonable accommodation to protect jobs and businesses, because as everybody knows, this president hates jobs and businesses.
No, this brief delay must be a sign that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is destined to result in abject failure. After all, that’s what every Congressional Republican with the ability to hit send on a press release has told us, over and over again, hoping that repeating their prediction enough times will somehow make it true.
But here’s my question: if Republicans are so confident Obamacare will end badly, why not just shut up about it? It’s not like they have the votes to repeal the law — a math problem they still haven’t solved after 37 different tries. Their appeal to the Supreme Court ended in defeat at the hands of a conservative chief justice. And now the bulk of the plan will begin to take effect in just a few months.
Arizona Daily Star: Less than five months before the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in, hospitals are improving care and saving millions of dollars with one of the least touted but potentially most effective provisions of the law.
While much of the focus on the health law has been on the government rush to open insurance exchanges by Oct. 1, 252 hospitals and physician groups across the country have signed up to join the administration’s accountable-care program, in which they share the financial risk of keeping patients healthy.
…. The government expects the savings may be as much as $1.9 billion from 2012 to 2015. Early indications suggest they are starting to add up.
Jonathan Chait: Obamacare Haters Struggling to Understand What ‘Nonessential’ Means
Many of us have suggested that the employer mandate, which the Obama administration is delaying for a year, isn’t a crucial element to making the law work. Cato scholar Michael Tanner has a killer reply: “If the provision is so unimportant, one might wonder why it was included in the law in the first place, given its potential for reducing employment.” Well, then I guess Michael Tanner has proven that every single provision of the Affordable Care Act is essential to the entire thing. Why would it be in there if it wasn’t absolutely necessary?
It’s surprising to encounter such naïveté in a professional policy analyst, let alone one of staunch anti-government bent, but here goes: Sometimes laws contain provisions that are not essential to their central purpose. (I hope this revelation does not so sadden Tanner as to make him even more dogmatically anti-government than he already is.) Some of those extraneous provisions served useful ancillary purposes. For instance, Obamacare requires restaurant menus to label calories, a helpful health-related measure, but one that could be removed without harming the main functions of the law.
Business Insider: Elizabeth Warren Introducing A Bill That Would Be Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare
Elizabeth Warren is making good on her promise to scare Wall Street. Today (Thursday), she’ll introduce a bill to reenact Glass-Steagall.
Glass-Steagall is the 1933 law that separated commercial and investment banking. Back in 1999 it was repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act at the urging of Wall Street heavyweights like then-Citi CEO Sandy Weill.
Then the financial crisis happened. Many banks failed and others got swallowed up into larger banks.
…. Elizabeth Warren was elected to the Senate based in part on her crusade against Wall Street excess. For many, this is one massive way to do that….
Washington Post: Democrats offer new evidence that IRS targeted progressive groups
The House Oversight committee’s top Democrat on Friday will release new evidence that the Internal Revenue Service targeted both progressive and conservative groups for extra scrutiny during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a draft letter to committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif) that congressional investigators have discovered training materials from an July 2010 “Screening Workshop” that prove IRS agents were told to be on the lookout for groups from both sides of the political spectrum.
So, this guy who made a stink-pile of money in the car alarm business, and had some youthful trouble with the law over auto-related liberties, gets the break he’s been waiting for after Republicans win control of the House in 2010. He’s given the keys to the biggest Caddie in Congress: the main oversight committee. It’s loaded with everything — subpoena power, an overhead cam worth of auditors and investigators, a hyperkinetic staff devoted to keeping shine on the boss.
He’s got plans, lots of plans. He’s going to stage television-ready hearings and investigations of the White House. He will bring Barack Obama to his knees. “I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” he says. Don’t worry about substance, he says of one subject field, “it’ll be good theater.”
… But then, after millions of dollars in investigative forays, the wheels come off the ride. Fast and Furious … Move along …. Solyndra …. Next…. Internal Revenue Service …. D’oh!
July 12, 2012: President Obama blows a kiss to Oren Baer, son of Ken Baer, the departing Associate Director for Communications and Strategic Planning at OMB, during a visit to the Oval Office (Photo: Lawrence Jackson)
July 12, 2011: First Lady Michelle Obama with Nancy Reagan, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rosalynn Carter at the funeral of former First Lady Betty Ford at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, Calif. (Photo: Chuck Kennedy)
July 12, 2011: President Obama talks with Andrew Kline, outgoing Chief of Staff, Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement, in the Oval Office. Kline’s daughter, Logan, sits atop the Resolute Desk (Photo: Pete Souza)
July 12; 2011: President Obama hugs Bertha Petry, the grandmother of Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry, U.S. Army, in the Blue Room of the White House. The President later awarded SFC Petry, left, the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Paktya, Afghanistan, in May 2008. (Photo: Pete Souza)
July 12, 2010: President Obama shakes hands with Cub Scout Raphael Cash from Bowie, Md., in the Oval Office (Photo: Pete Souza)
July 12, 2010: First Lady Michelle Obama walks along the beach during her visit to Panama City Beach, Fla. (Photo: Samantha Appleton)
MoooOOOooorning! 50 gazillion thank yous to UT, LP and LL for their posts yesterday, I wasn’t (unexpectedly) able to be around at all, so endless thanks for posting such brilliant stuff and keeping the ship sailing – legends!
Steve Benen: U.S. job growth improves, exceeds expectations
Going into this morning, most economists projected job growth from June to be about 155,000 new jobs. With this in mind, the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows not only good news, but unexpectedly good news…..
The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 195,000 jobs in June and employment gains for May and April were revised sharply higher, the U.S. government said Friday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.6%, but the size of the labor force increased by 177,000, according to the Labor Department said.
…. Perhaps the most important – and most heartening – detail in this new report is the upward revisions for the previous two months…
In 2010, a tiny Palestinian-rights group called Minnesota Break the Bonds applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status. Two years and a lot of prodding later, the I.R.S. sent the group’s leaders a series of questions and requests almost identical to the ones it was sending to Tea Party groups at the time.
…. The controversy that erupted in May has focused on an ideological question: Were conservative groups singled out for special treatment based on their politics, or did the I.R.S. equally target liberal groups? But a closer look at the I.R.S. operation suggests that the problem was less about ideology and more about how a process instructing reviewers to “be on the lookout” for selected terms was applied to any group that mentioned certain words in its application.
ThinkProgress: What The Mainstream Media Misses About Texas’ Ongoing Abortion Battle
Over the past week, Texas has captured national attention with a dramatic show-down between a Republican-controlled legislature and thousands of reproductive health advocates…. but many of the narratives the media is crafting aren’t actually getting at the full scope of the story.
In addition to criminalizing abortion services after 20 weeks, the other provisions in Texas’ abortion proposals would impose harsh restrictions on abortion providers. By subjecting abortion clinics to new regulations that would force them to make expensive updates to their facilities — unnecessary measures that major medical groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose — Texas’ bill would force 90 percent of the state’s clinics to close their doors. That would leave just five abortion clinics in the entire Lone Star State, which happens to be the second most populous state in the country.
…. And the real catch? Outside of the debate about abortion access after 20 weeks — even outside of the fight for abortion rights altogether — the “abortion clinics” in question are often providing health services that encompass much more than helping women terminate a pregnancy. Many of them also provide preventative care, family planning counseling, STD testing, and cancer screenings. And they offer those health services to Texans of both genders who are typically uninsured.
News Observer: Gov. Pat McCrory doled out handshakes and hailed parade-goers as he rode in this Rowan County town’s Fourth of July parade Thursday, but he wouldn’t say what he’d do about a controversial abortion bill if it reaches his desk.
That question has been on many minds in North Carolina this week, after the N.C. Senate Wednesday approved sweeping new rules that could limit abortions. The bill now goes to the N.C. House.
The legislation would require N.C. abortion clinics to meet tougher standards similar to those governing outpatient surgery clinics. As a result, critics say, it would effectively close the majority of the state’s 16 abortion clinics. It would also require doctors to be present when women take pills to induce abortions.
Mediaite: Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, was a little shocked when reporters switched from questioning him about the U.S.’s openly gay nominee for Ambassador to the Dominican Republic to the subject of the regional egg trade: “We go from faggots and lesbians to this?” he said, laughing. “We’re jumping to chickens now?”….
2:05: The President makes a personnel announcement
12:45: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
USA Today: President Obama will announce Friday that he’s picked James Comey, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to be his next FBI director……
…. Comey, who previously served as deputy attorney general and supervised operations for the Justice Department, was a key player in one of the most dramatic moments of the Bush administration. In 2004, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft – who was ill with acute pancreatitis – to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program while in his hospital bed.
Comey learned of Gonzales and Card’s plan and rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital room, along with Mueller. Both threatened to resign if the White House renewed the program. As a result, it was not reauthorized.
USA Today: …. The President holds his first meeting today with the newly constituted Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, in part to discuss criticism of National Security Agency programs that gather phone and Internet records.
Obama will discuss his recent direction to the Director of National Intelligence to de-classify certain information “to better contextualize these programs, correct misrepresentations, and provide an opportunity for the dialogue he welcomes about the right balance between national security and privacy,” the White House said.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was actually created in 2004 as part of the executive branch, and made an independent agency in 2007, but it has never met amid disputes over its duties.
AP: The Republican chairman of a House committee considering new abortion regulations in Texas has told more than 300 women that they would not be allowed to testify against the bill because it had become too repetitive.
The predominantly-female audience roared in disapproval when Corsicana Rep. Byron Cook made the announcement. State troopers flooded the room as he and other Republicans left.
The new bills would limit how, when and where women could get abortions in Texas and shut down 38 out or 42 clinics in the state.
Bravo to the hundreds of TX men and women who made sure their disdain against #HB60#HB16 anti-women bills were heard loud and clear #TXLege
UT/NerdyWonka: I am so proud of the hundreds of Texas men and women who showed up to make their voices heard.
I am proud of us standing up and keeping the debate going for over 14 hours so that the anti-women bills would not just have a smooth sailing through committee.
I am proud of Texans for making sure the world knew that these destructive bills had died in a regular session and the GOP is trying to sneak them past in shoddy special sessions.
I am so proud of everyone who made sure the draconian bill #HB60 trended worldwide on Twitter and made people from other states and countries tune into the fight and realize what damage and destruction really is.
I am proud of the Democratic State Reps who made sure voices were heard even when the GOP Chair Byron Cook tried to shutdown debate.
People forget that California used to be red until the GOP tried to ram down Prop 187 and then California became blue and has stayed blue since then. That is is Texas right now.
What I saw yesterday and into the morning shows that the groundwork for Texas turning purple and eventually blue has been laid. People in states who vote Blue in presidential elections and those who don’t but are controlled by GOP state legislatures and Governors need to be vigilant because these laws have and will spread to your states too. See Ohio for example. These laws have also come to the U.S. House of Rep so be on the lookout. States are a blueprint for what can and will become national anti-women bills and laws.
The war on women is real but the Texas Legislature found out that you don’t mess with Texas women.
We might be controlled by majority republicans but our voices will not be silenced. 2014 is no joke.
Reuters: It takes an army: Tens of thousands of workers roll out Obamacare
From the chief actuary at the California health insurance exchange that President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law established to the legions of call center staffers who will help people trying to buy insurance through such state exchanges, the number of people working to implement “Obamacare” has reached the tens of thousands, a Reuters analysis has found.
No one said that overhauling healthcare, which accounts for 17 percent of all national spending, was going to happen with a skeleton crew.
State offices that will run insurance exchanges are hiring tens of thousands, either on staff or through outsourcing firms. Federal agencies that are key to implementing the law, such as the Internal Revenue Service, plan to hire thousands more, and private non-profit groups backed by the White House are dispatching thousands of newly hired staffers and volunteers into the field.
Greg Sargent: In another embarrassment for House Speaker John Boehner, the farm bill went down to a surprise defeat in the House, 195-234. Most Democrats voted against it, because of its deep cuts to food stamps, but what really sealed its fate is that in spite of those cuts, 62 Republicans voted against it, too, apparently because it didn’t cut spending enough.
….. “This underscores that Boehner cannot pass bills on his own,” Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein told me in a quick interview today. “He can’t do anything with only Republicans. The real power center in the House is not Boehner. It’s not Cantor. It’s not Ryan. It’s not McCarthy. It’s the extreme right. This shows the real dilemma ahead for a Speaker who is very weak and very conscious of his weakness within the party.”
….. Ornstein’s final verdict on today’s display from House Republicans: “They’re pathetic.”
Steve Benen: …. From a progressive perspective, it’s hard to shed tears over the bill’s demise – this was an awful, needlessly punitive piece of legislation. Its GOP proponents, without so much as a hint of shame, were a little too eager to redistribute wealth in the wrong direction – punishing poor families and rewarding wealthy agricultural interests – and their efforts to slash funds for food stamps bordered on cruel.
To be sure, even if the House had passed its bill, it wasn’t going far given the scope of the opposition from Senate Democrats and an unambiguous veto threat from the Obama White House.
But the real takeaway here is that the House Republican leadership, once again, failed miserably….