A series of tubes filled with enormous amounts of material
Lots of folks are noticing that the president is having a pretty good month. Republicans are beside themselves because they expected him to curl up in a fetal position in a corner after the midterm election. Instead, with a series of executive orders, new government agency rules, diplomatic initiatives, and the results of his policies yielding positive benefits, the president is finishing the year strong.
November 10: Surprised everyone by announcing his support for strong net neutrality.
November 11: Concluded a climate deal with China that was not only important in its own right, but has since been widely credited with jumpstarting progress at the Lima talks last week.
November 20: Issued an executive order protecting millions of undocumented workers from the threat of deportation.
November 26: Signed off on an important new EPA rule significantly limiting ozone emissions.
December 15: Took a quiet victory lap as Western financial sanctions considerably sharpened the pain of Vladimir Putin's imploding economy.
December 16: Got nearly everything he wanted during the lame duck congressional session, and more. Democrats confirmed all important pending nominees, and then got Republican consent to several dozen lesser ones as well.
December 17: Announced a historic renormalization of relations with Cuba [...]
All of these things are worthwhile in their own right, of course, but there's a political angle to all of them as well: they seriously mess with Republican heads. GOP leaders had plans for January, but now they may or may not be able to do much about them. Instead, they're going to have to deal with enraged tea partiers insisting that they spend time trying to repeal Obama's actions. They can't, of course, but they have to show that they're trying. So there's a good chance that they'll spend their first few months in semi-chaos, responding to Obama's provocations instead of working on their own agenda.
"Provocations", indeed. Democrats like to call them "good government initiatives".
Paul Waldman at The American Prospect: "... the man certainly looks like he's been set free. He doesn't have to worry about getting reelected or about losing Congress (done both), so he can go back to see what fell off the to-do list and do things that he's always wanted to, whether they were politically risky or not."
But Greg Sargent at WaPo notices something else about "Obama Unbound": it is not just "cementing a legacy" but setting up some stark contrasts between Democrats and Republicans going into the 2016 election cycle:
When you step back and look at the degree to which these actions are beginning to frame , it's striking. Hillary Clinton has now endorsed Obama's move on Cuba. GOP presidential hopefuls are lining up against it. She has vowed to protect Obama's actions on climate "at all costs," a stance that could take on added significance if a global climate treaty is negotiated next year. Potential GOP presidential candidates will likely vow to undo those actions and line up against U.S. participation in such a treaty. Clinton has come out in support of Obama's action to shield millions from deportation. GOP presidential hopefuls have lined up against it, effectively reaffirming the party's commitment to deporting as many low-level offenders and longtime residents as possible.
So to the extent that there is an "Obama coalition" to pass on to the Democratic nominee in 2016, his actions have created policy positions that the Republicans are already on board as opposing. These positions are popular with youth and minorities, groups that will be courted in the 2016 general election.
Black men live and dream. Have emotions, feelings, hopes and fears. At a time when black men, especially younger ones are being vilified, de-humanized, incarcerated in massive numbers, and yes-shot dead in the streets, with an outcry and nationwide demonstrations as a result and reaction, I hope people will share the following film by a young black artist.
Thank you, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for standing up to the NRA and paving the way for Dr. Vivek Murthy to be our next Surgeon General!!!
What?!!?? That was not your intent when you forced the Senate to remain in session on Saturday? Regardless, Dr. Vivek Murthy will finally get a vote:
[Dr.] Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He's an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate, so when Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications. But Murthy, like so many in his field, also sees a connection between gun violence and public health, which meant Republicans and the NRA decided to destroy his nomination.
Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, Nominee for Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services
Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy is the Co-Founder and President of Doctors for America, a position he has held since 2009. Dr. Murthy is also a Hospitalist Attending Physician and Instructor in Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, a position he has held since 2006. In 2011, Dr. Murthy was appointed to serve as a Member of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. Dr. Murthy has been the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of TrialNetworks, formerly known as Epernicus, since 2007. Dr. Murthy co-founded VISIONS Worldwide in 1995, a non-profit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the United States, where he served as President from 1995 to 2000 and Chairman of the Board from 2000 to 2003. Dr. Murthy received a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.B.A. from Yale School of Management, and an M.D. from Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Murthy's nomination was approved by Senate committee but put on hold in February by red state Democrats frightened by the NRA. Yes, the same NRA that spent millions to support those red state Democrats' opponents in November 2014 (how'd that work for you, soon-to-be-former Senator Mark Pryor?).
But Saturday afternoon, thanks to the "intervention" of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Dr. Murthy cleared the first procedural hurdles to his confirmation by a vote of 52-40. On Monday, Senators will vote on cloture, and because of the 50+1 rule, confirmation.
Later this morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee will release an executive summary of what's come to be known as its "torture report."
The report is expected to be the most comprehensive public accounting the interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
What's in it is so sensitive and controversial that the report's release has sparked public spats between the CIA and Senate lawmakers.
It all came to a dramatic head on the floor of the Senate in March. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence panel, accused the CIA of trying to thwart her committee's work by deleting files and later by illegally spying on Senate computers. The CIA - which eventually apologized to the Senate - had accused Feinstein and her committee of improperly removing classified documents from a government network.
The Senate is expected to release a 460 page executive summary today.
It's official: torture doesn't work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact "produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden," as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11.
The report's executive summary is expected to be released Tuesday. After reviewing thousands of the CIA's own documents, the committee has concluded that torture was ineffective as an intelligence-gathering technique. Torture produced little information of value, and what little it did produce could've been gained through humane, legal methods that uphold American ideals.
In this week's address, the President highlighted the good news in Friday's jobs report - that American businesses added 314,000 new jobs this past month, making November the tenth month in a row that the private sector has added at least 200,000 new jobs. Even with a full month to go, 2014 has already been the best year of job creation since the 1990s. This number brings total private-sector job creation to 10.9 million over 57 consecutive months - the longest streak on record.
But even with this real, tangible evidence of our progress, there is always more that can be done. Congress needs to pass a budget and keep the government from a Christmas shutdown. We have an opportunity to work together to support the continued growth of higher-paying jobs by investing in infrastructure, reforming the business tax code, expanding markets for America's goods and services, making common-sense reforms to the immigration system, and increasing the minimum wage.
You've seen all of the major national news outlets covering Ferguson, and the events surrounding the murder of Mike Brown through their own lens, especially focused on demonizing both Brown, and the people protesting. There were hundreds of reporters assigned to cover "violence" in Ferguson, "looters" etc. It's telling how many aren't covering the ongoing protests and strategies being enacted by people committed to long term change. Try searching the headlines for what is going on right now. Where did the cameras go?
... I think Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis or that area, and is not unique to our time, and that is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color. The sense that in a country where one of our basic principles, perhaps the most important principle, is equality under the law, that too many individuals, particularly young people of color, do not feel as if they are being treated fairly.
And as I said last week, when any part of the American family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that's a problem for all of us. It's not just a problem for some. It's not just a problem for a particular community or a particular demographic. [...]
It was a cautionary note I think from everybody here that there have been commissions before, there have been task forces, there have been conversations, and nothing happens. What I try to describe to people is why this time will be different. And part of the reason this time will be different is because the President of the United States is deeply invested in making sure this time is different. When I hear the young people around this table talk about their experiences, it violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful, even after they've done everything right. That's not who we are. And I don't think that's who the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to be.
Chuck Ramsey, the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University, and a former assistant attorney general will be chairing the task force.
[The task force] is not only going to reach out and listen to law enforcement, and community activists and other stakeholders, but is going to report to me specifically in 90 days with concrete recommendations, including best practices for communities where law enforcement and neighborhoods are working well together -- how do they create accountability; how do they create transparency; how do they create trust; and how can we at the federal level work with the state and local communities to make sure that some of those best practices get institutionalized.
He will also be changing some rules related to reporting the use of military equipment local law enforcement acquires via the 1033 program, "proposing some new community policing initiatives that will significantly expand funding and training for local law enforcement, including up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement agencies", some of which will require Congressional action, and sending Attorney General Eric Holder to convene meetings such as this one in various parts of the country. Attorney General Holder will start with a trip to Atlanta.
For 44 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defended the American people's right to breathe clean air by setting national air quality standards for common air pollutants.
Successful public health protection depends on the latest science. Think of it this way: If your doctor wasn't using the latest medical science, you'd be worried you weren't getting the best care.
That's why the Clean Air Act requires EPA to update air quality standards every five years, to ensure standards "protect public health with an adequate margin of safety" based on the latest scientific evidence.
So today, following science and the law, I am proposing to update national ozone pollution standards to clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk -- our children, our elderly, and people already suffering from lung diseases like asthma. [...]
Ground-level ozone pollution, commonly known as smog, comes from industrial action, motor vehicles, power plants, and other activities. Breathing ozone irritates the nose, throat, and lungs. Thousands of scientific studies (from renowned institutions like Harvard University, the University of North Carolina Medical School, and many others) tell us that cutting air pollution to meet ozone standards lowers the risk of asthma, permanent lung damage, cardiovascular harm, and premature death.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It's an understandable reaction. But I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael's father's words: "Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone." Michael Brown's parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes. [...]
Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is we know there are things we can do to help. And I've instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement. [...]
Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there's never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues.
On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn't try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn't everything that it could be.
In this week's address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President's plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes. These are commonsense steps, but only Congress can finish the job.
As the President acts, he'll continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill -- like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago -- that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.
A record 2.5 million children in the U.S. were homeless at some point in 2013, according to a new report from the National Center for Family and Homelessness.
This amounts to one in 30 children and an 8 percent increase in child homelessness between 2012 and 2013. Nearly half the children are under the age of six. While the problem is most prevalent in Alabama, Mississippi, and California, it exists in every city, county, and state in the country.
Why does this matter?
Chilly temperatures and cold on tap
- The arctic chill dominates the Midwest with highs in the 10s and 20s for most areas.
- Slightly less cold 30s are confined to eastern Kentucky and the upper Ohio Valley.
- Record low temperatures are likely Monday night from the eastern Plains through the Ohio Valley as the mercury drops into the single digits and lower teens.
In this week's address, the President reminded Americans that Affordable Care Act open enrollment begins this weekend. In the past year, more than 10 million people have gained health insurance, including more than 7 million who enrolled in Health Insurance Marketplace coverage. They are proof that the Affordable Care Act is working, making health care more affordable, accessible, and of higher quality for millions of people.
The President encouraged all Americans to take advantage of open enrollment, and remind their friends and families to do so as well.
Next February, I'm walking the half of the Austin Marathon, with a group I've been training with since August. My team raises money for Austin Children's Services, formerly known as the Austin Children's Shelter. They changed the name because they now embrace a broader continuum of services to address the needs of children and their families. Their programs include Austin Children's Shelter residential care (Emergency Shelter, Transitional Living Program, Teen Parent Program and Respite Care), Foster in Austin, Care Academy child development and family support center and a child abuse prevention program through Strong Start.
Our team slogan is "Creating a world without child abuse & neglect, one step at a time." If you want to skip the pleading, you can donate to my ACS campaign page
The United States and China pledged Wednesday to take ambitious action to limit greenhouse gases, aiming to inject fresh momentum into the global fight against climate change ahead of make-or-break climate talks next year.
President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would move much faster in cutting its levels of pollution. Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to cap China's emissions in the future - a striking, unprecedented move by a nation that has been reluctant to box itself in on global warming. [...]
Developing nations like India and China have long balked at being on the hook for climate change as much as wealthy nations like the U.S. that have been polluting for much longer. But China analysts said Beijing's willingness to cap its future emissions and to put Xi front and center signaled a significant turnaround.
For Obama, the fight against climate change has become a central facet of the legacy he hopes to leave. Facing opposition in Congress, Obama has sought to bypass lawmakers through emissions regulations on power plants and vehicles.
This is not just about "cementing a legacy", this is caring about the future of the human species.
But Obama's opponents in Congress balked, dismissing the new U.S. target as "job-destroying red tape" that would squeeze the middle class.
"This unrealistic plan that the president would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is set to become the majority leader early next year.
Yes, those pesky regulations ... killin' jobs again!! Who needs clean air or safe work environments??!? Why, wanting people to have better lives and a brighter future is downright un-American!!
President Obama is asking the FCC to keep the Internet open and free. Help spread the word - share his plan with your friends.
An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.
"Net neutrality" has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation - but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.
For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information - whether a phone call, or a packet of data. [...]
So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act ...
In this week's address, in advance of Veterans' Day, the President paid tribute to the men and women in uniform who have given so much in service of America.
Veterans have risked their lives to protect our freedom, and we need to be there for them when they return from duty by ensuring they get the care they need and the opportunities they deserve. The President asked every American to thank and welcome home the veterans in their lives who, like all who fight for our country, are heroes worthy of our constant gratitude and support.
President Obama held a press conference yesterday to discuss the mid-terms and his plans for the next two years two and a half months of his presidency, 805 days to be exact. The president has an advantage there, by the way. During those 805 days, if history is any guide, John Boehner's and Ted Cruz's Congress will be in session about 200 days ... total.
The president also sent a letter to make sure that the important point was not missed because, frankly, the White House press corps' interests are quite different from the American peoples'. From the White House:
... what stands out to me is that the message Americans sent yesterday is one you've sent for several elections in a row now. You expect the people you elect to work as hard as you do. You expect us to focus on your ambitions -- not ours -- and you want us to get the job done. Period.
I plan on spending every moment of the next two years rolling up my sleeves and working as hard as I can for the American people. This country has made real and undeniable progress in the six years since the 2008 economic crisis. But our work will not be done until every single American feels the gains of a growing economy where it matters most: in your own lives.
While I'm sure we'll continue to disagree on some issues that we're passionate about, I'm eager to work with Congress over the next two years to get the job done. The challenges that lay ahead of us are far too important to allow partisanship or ideology to prevent our progress as a nation.
The president was welcome to constructive changes to the Affordable Care Act, he asked for Congress' help in procuring funds to fight Ebola and authorizing the use of military force against ISIL, and looked forward to working together on the budget, which expires on December 11. He hoped that comprehensive immigration reform could be passed.
But what he did not do is back down on his plans to issue an executive order expanding the deferred action program, giving millions of people who lack documentation a chance to get out from under the dark cloud of deportation.
That's a commitment I made not just to the American people -- and to businesses and the evangelical community and the law enforcement folks and everybody who's looked at this issue and thinks that we need immigration reform -- that's a commitment that I also made to John Boehner, that I would act in the absence of action by Congress.
So before the end of the year, we're going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system. [...]
But what I'm not going to do is just wait. I think it's fair to say that I've shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible, and I'm going to keep on doing so. But in the meantime, let's figure out what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the existing system.
And when asked whether taking this action would somehow "poison the well", a well that the Republicans have refused to drink from for 4 years, he called bs on the notion that the people upset by his actions are people who have any interest in immigration reform:
I have no doubt that there will be some Republicans who are angered or frustrated by any executive action that I may take. Those are folks, I just have to say, who are also deeply opposed to immigration reform in any form and blocked the House from being able to pass a bipartisan bill. [...]
... if, in fact, there is a great eagerness on the part of Republicans to tackle a broken immigration system, then they have every opportunity to do it. My executive actions not only do not prevent them from passing a law that supersedes those actions, but should be a spur for them to actually try to get something done.
The president used the phrase "two years" over and over and over again throughout the press conference (I counted 12).
President Obama will not allow the Republicans to nullify the 2012 presidential election with their claims of a mandate from a low turnout mid-term election.
As people head to the polls to vote today, and as we wait to hear election results come in this evening and late into the night-along with demographic data about turnout, and the inevitable dissections by pundits and analysts-one thing is clear, even before the results come in. We have been pushing hard to GOTV, and a key part of the mobilized electorate is black female voters. One major effort has been #BlackWomenVote. As they put it:
Black women had the highest voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election, representing almost 70 percent of the Black electorate and surpassing our 2008 record-breaking numbers. Many are expecting us to stay home on November 4th, in fact only 37 percent of African Americans normally show up to the polls for midterm elections.
Black women have the potential to take this country by storm. We have the collective power to elect representatives who will champion our interests and support legislative actions that will improve education, health care and economic opportunities for our communities.
If you harbor any doubt as to how the Republicans prefer to hold onto power in states like Wisconsin, look no further than the comment by Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R):
"... high turnout elections have typically favored Democrats while low turnouts favor the GOP ..."
Fitzgerald is correct ... but he will never be right. It can never be right to want to govern without the consent of those being governed, to wish that democracy fails so that you can ignore the will of the majority of the people.
Republicans all over the United States, like Fitzgerald, are glad when fewer people vote because they know that most people reject their puny vision of America.
I am reminded of what happened as the result of a low-turnout midterm 4 years ago. In February 2011, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) fulfilled his secret promises to his campaign donors and ended collective bargaining for public employees. People protested and the Democratic state senators left the state to deny Sen. Fitzgerald a quorum. Those were heady times for small d democracy as Walker discovered that winning an election with 32% of the registered voters of a state (25% of the voting age population) did not give him a mandate. He won the election but he lacked one very important thing: the Consent of the Governed.
"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
It is time to stand up and be counted as one of the governed who does NOT consent to Scott Walker's governance, one who rejects his minoritea rule.
There is no excuse to not vote today. No excuse to not take our state back from the special interests and elect a governor who cares about Wisconsin and wants to make life better for Wisconsinites. Mary Burke will have one focus: moving Wisconsin Forward.
In this week's address, the President highlighted the progress our economy is making, and the commonsense policies that could make it even stronger by ensuring that everyone who works hard has the opportunity to get ahead, especially women and working families.
This commitment has been a core part of the President's Year of Action and a priority since the start of his administration, which is why he has put forth a range of policies that would help women and working families get ahead, from raising the minimum wage, to ensuring equal pay for equal work, to increasing access to high-quality child care and paid family leave. This week's address follows remarks the President delivered on Friday at Rhode Island College, where he discussed the importance of harnessing our economy's momentum by making policy choices that will help women and all working parents fully participate in and contribute to our economy.