Wednesday, September 30, 2009

White House Press Briefing Sept. 30

Alan Grayson Says Democrats Need Guts

He's right about that. Democrats need guts.
He goes on to call republicans "knuckle dragging neanderthals." He might be right about that. But hyperbole from either side is obnoxious.

Grayson apologizes to the dead:

Beck Moves on To New Target: Valerie Jarrett

Glenn Beck is a twisted simpleton, the worst kind of simpleton.

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Gibbs Dismisses Cantor

John McCain and Eric Cantor and other republicans have been saying Obama should stop thinking and do whatever it is that Stanley McChrystal says. What a bunch of malarkey. And why do they care now? For longer than eight years no one cared what was going on in Afghanistan. Now it's hurry up? Do republicans really think we're all that stupid?
Obama has more to consider than the General. He also has far more to consider than McCain or Cantor. Gibbs puts Cantor in his place:

Public Option Not Dead Yet

What's next for health care reform?


In an online chat this morning, Chuck Todd declared public option dead:
Steve -- Bill Nelson is not necessarily in a safe seat... Florida is still a swing state. I think the possibility of a "trigger" (the Olympia Snowe idea) is still possible... but it's the only way public option survives... a strong trigger.

Do We Lack Moral Courage?

Why, yes we do. That is why whenever Obama pushes something that's good for the greater good, such as healthcare reform, he has to explain "what's in it for you." He can't simply make the moral argument that it's not right to let people with cancer die. As a whole, our society is moving away from the you're-on-your-own mentality. But it will take a few generations before the greater good is what matters. Be warned, in this Morning Joe video, Pat Buchanan continues to show his ignorance and irrelevance. Other than entertainment value, I don't understand why he's on TV at all.

Michelle Obama Arrives in Copenhagen Video

Obama Announces $5 Billion for NIH Research


Scientists talk about how this money will help prevent, diagnose and treat diseases--and create jobs:

Friedman: Rightwing Putting Obama's Life in Danger

I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish settler as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.
....
And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now — nation-building at home — we are in serious trouble. We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally. NYT

Obama Staffers Address Tax Reform

Obama is in Maryland at the NIH, where he'll speak at 11 am (details here). At 3 pm, he'll meet via video conference with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and other high level officials.
Michelle Obama is in Copenhagen trying to win the Olympics for the U.S.
Meanwhile, Obama staffers are taking on tax reform today. The meeting will be live streamed at 12:30 pm eastern. Obama maintained during the campaign that he would streamline the tax system:

Today, the tax subgroup of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) will hold a meeting to gather ideas on tax reform. It will be the first of several such meetings. The meeting will center on tax simplification and will be live streamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live .

I wanted to take the opportunity to explain why we assembled this subgroup, what areas the PERAB tax reform subgroup will focus on and what it has been tasked to produce.

Tax reform is important to the President and a priority for many members of Congress. As the President said when he announced his international tax proposals in May, "It's a down payment on the larger tax reform we need to make our tax system simpler and fairer and more efficient for individuals and corporations." Read more at WH

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Obama Declares American Samoa Disaster Releases Aid

From @BreakingNews, Obama declares the area a disaster, making aid available.

Tsunami waves ripped across islands of the South Pacific, wiping out several villages and killing at least 34 people in Samoa and American Samoa, with the number of dead expected to escalate as more bodies are found.

The tsunami followed a massive earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, that struck about 120 miles off the Samoan coast at 6:48 a.m. local time Tuesday.

Large swells began rolling into populated areas soon afterward, sweeping some people and cars out to sea, demolishing buildings Read more at WSJ

Shumer Says Attack Ads Hurting Public Option

Liberal democrats have been attacking moderate democrats with attack ads. But Shumer says it's not working. Shumer says democrats have to show Baucus that there are 60 votes. Shumer said he's spoken to the moderate dems and no one has closed the door on the public option. "We lost today," Shumer said. But there's momentum for public option.

Jay Rockefeller Speaks on Public Option Failure

Rockefeller said he got 8 votes, better than he expected. He said the fight is not yet over.

Obama on His Chat With NATO Chief Video

Obama spoke with NATO chief Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Afghanistan and missile defense. Rasmussen says strategy first and then troops.

Obama Video Conferences With McChrystal Sept. 30

Tomorrow, Obama will hold a video conference with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and other high-level officials, according to Jake Tapper.
Tapper also has Gibbs' response as to why Obama has only talked to McChrystal once in 70 days-- chain of command and memos. The 60 Minutes episode Sunday, featuring McChrystal, left the impression that McChrystal was upset for not being able to communicate with the president. I was left with the impression that the reporting was biased and edited to look that way. But perhaps McChrystal felt as though he wasn't being heard.

“The president receives a memo every week from General McChrystal,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs says that the weekly memo, which has both military and diplomatic components, guides the President’s decisions regarding Afghanistan and emphasized that Obama meets regularly with the military chain of command.
In response to a question about how the president views McChrystal, Gibbs responded, “Understand that the President signed off on putting General McChrystal where he is.”
ABC
Here is the clip. It looks as though there could've been a quick edit right after McChrystal answers the question. In other words, it wasn't filmed as a continuous line of questioning:

Senate Panel Votes Against Public Option

A key Senate panel on Tuesday voted against creating a new government health insurance plan to compete with the private market.

The 15-to-8 vote in the Senate Finance Committee could forecast the fate of the public option in the Senate as a whole.

The outcome was expected but still a defeat for liberals who view government-sponsored insurance for the middle class as a key component of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. MSNBC
Now, they're debating a Chuck Schumer amendment, a supposed conservative public option -- whatever that is. Update: Shumer's option also failed. Watch the Senators debate health reform:
Some context:

Get a Look at Our Supreme Court Justices

Faces to names: Our Justices. Sonia Sotomayor is beaming.

Bios

Gibbs Asks: Who's Steele Rooting For?

Michael Steele, leader of the Opposite Party (as in the opposite of whatever Obama says/does), jumps on an easy target whenever he sees one. He's been criticizing Obama for a one-day trip to Copenhagen. Obama hopes to score the 2016 Olympics for the U.S.

You'd think republicans would be rah rah patriots! Go America! Bring home the Olympics.

Pittsburgh G20 Photos 2009

Working din din at the G20Obama and Australian PM Kevin Rudd
Obama and Brazil's Da Silva (also Obama's Olympic competition) Rio de Janeiro is in the running with Chicago.
Obama and Mike Froman, deputy NSA
Obama and Germany's re-elected chancellor Angela Merkel
Obama and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev
Obama and Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Obama and China's president Hu Jintao
Obama and Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy

Chicago Mayor Woos Olympics

Michelle Obama arrives in Copenhagen tomorrow morning in hopes of winning the 2016 summer Olympics for the U.S.

First lady Michelle Obama vowed Monday to "take no prisoners" as she and her husband launch an unprecedented bid for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid.

"It's a battle -- we're going to win -- take no prisoners," the first lady said with a smile at a roundtable discussion with reporters in the White House State Dining Room.

She compared the intense lobbying effort to the 2008 presidential campaign, noting that in the election campaign, a lot of voters made their decision in the final days. She said members of the International Olympic Committee may do the same.

"And our view is, we're not taking a chance," she said. "We're just not going to assume that the bids -- that the decisions are made, and so that no matter what the outcome is, we'll feel as a country, as a team, that we've done everything that we can to bring it home." CNN
Obama heads to Copenhagen Oct. 2 for a one-day trip.

Fitness Guru Jack LaLanne is 95

The jumping jack was named after Jack. I would've loved to hear LaLanne's thoughts on health care reform, but the reporter did not ask. Go figure.

Grassley: Medicare is Part of the Social Fabric of America

Klobuchar on School Nutrition Bill and Obesity

See the school nutrition bill here.

Howard Fineman High Profile Hack

Howard Fineman has long had a beef with Obama. I don't mind critics. David Brooks is a good critic. Paul Krugman is a good critic. Fineman is just a bad critic and a lazy one. I bet he's overpaid as well.

This argument of ubiquity and charisma is the laziest of all criticism of Obama because it's not only the lowest hanging fruit, it's the one that's rotting on the ground.

It's absurd because it's not relevant to anything. It's a personal attack. Fineman never does any reporting for his columns criticizing Obama. He writes the same column over and over.

Here's Fineman's lead for his Newsweek column, which has no reporting whatsoever (it's strictly an opinion straight out of Fineman's head):

If ubiquity were the measure of a presidency, Barack Obama would already be grinning at us from Mount Rushmore. But of course it is not. Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He's a man with an endless, worthy to-do list—health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked "done." This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he's not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota. NW
I'm sure Obama isn't thinking about being enshrined in South Dakota. And after nine months in office, it's not reasonable to expect that Obama would check AfPak done or Middle East done. Come on. The Middle East problem is centuries old. Obama's supposed to have that checked off?

Obama's approach, obviously, is to tackle different issues at the same time because he has a holistic take on governing. Every piece is connected. Climate change is connected to the economy. So is Afghanistan. Education is connected to everything.

I bet, despite Obama's TV appearances, there still are people in this nation who couldn't tell you who the president was. There are people who still don't know how to spell his name. That's for sure.

The criticism that Obama is too charismatic is also a favorite criticism of the rightwing haters, such as the birthers. If the rightwing wasn't pumping out so many lies and distortions from their hate factory, Obama wouldn't have to expend so much time dispelling rumors and myths and debunking personal attacks. The burst of TV appearances wasn't a long-term strategy. It was an attempt to replace bad information with the good. Far too many people still believed in "death panels."

In addition, the problems we face need to be tackled today because they've been put off for so long. Obama has a cabinet and a large staff that work on various issues--education, healthcare, economy, foreign policy. People shouldn't be complaining that our government is doing too many things. Obama has always touted efficient government, not big government.

The argument that Obama would get more done if he tackled problems one by one is ignorant because it's not even feasible. The criticism that Obama relies on charisma is just lazy. I suspect Fineman is jealous. I suspect he is the one who battles a very large ego and thinks he sees the same in Obama. Fineman is one of those overpaid people that gets to keep his job because he's been around for so long.

For Fineman, it's personal.

He clearly loathes Obama. I suspect Obama hasn't given Fineman the time of day (and it's no wonder). This is what he wrote in Sept. 2008, some insight into the root of his criticism:
But if I were an Obama partisan I would be worried that his mistakes have a common thread - pride.

Obama seems to want to do things on his own, and on his own terms. It’s understandable. Obama has his own crowd – from Chicago, from Harvard, and from a new cadre of wealthy, Ivy-educated movers and shakers.

“He’s an arrogant S.O.B.,” one of the latter told me today. “He wants to do it his way, and his way alone.” But politics doesn’t work that way. And has Obama should know, or is about to find out, that everyone needs a little help. msnbc
In 2007, Fineman writes that Oprah out-shined Obama. Fineman didn't think Obama was charismatic enough. He also slighted Michelle Obama:
Whether by instinct or design, the thin-as-a-rail, youthful looking Obama looked somehow innocent as he appeared—a man-child in this setting, doted over and presented by two powerful, commanding women (his wife and his endorser).
He said all the right things for the crowd—expressing his support for universal health care, for better public schools funding, for a defense of the nation based on diplomacy as well as military might. His biggest applause line came when he reminded the crowd that George Bush would not be on the ballot in 2008.
The pictures were great—there will be ads on the air soon from this event (the Obama staff had three cameras working it). But the candidate went on—and on—and toward the end seemed to leave the crowd less pumped up than Oprah had made it.
These sentences and this lead from another Fineman column is the sign of a hack: "A knack for riding political waves" and "But now the president's skill at riding well-timed waves into history is being tested."
Barack Obama has a knack for riding political waves. I put that down to his upbringing in Hawaii, where surfing is second nature. He also yearns to make history. I put that down to his time as editor of the Harvard Law Review, where it dawned on him that a son of a Kenyan and Kansan could be president, and a path-breaker in the process. But now the president's skill at riding well-timed waves into history is being tested. In fact, he's in danger of wiping out. The reason is health-care reform. Why? Because his timing isn't good and his plan, at least what we've seen so far, isn't "reform." NW

Companies Quitting U.S. Chamber Over Climate Change


The U.S. Chamber is against reducing greenhouse gases. How weird is that? Exelon quit because they could benefit from energy legislation. It's always: what's in it for me? Companies should start thinking about what benefits the greater good because ultimately, that benefits them too. I know, La-La Land:

Exelon, the nation's biggest operator of nuclear power plants, said Monday that it's quitting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the business group's lobbying against climate and energy legislation.

Last week, two other large energy companies, Pacific Gas and Electric and PNM Resources, also quit the Chamber over objections to its stance on climate change.

The Chamber lobbied vigorously against the climate bill that narrowly passed the House in June. The measure would set an annually declining cap on emissions and set up a system of tradable emissions allowances, and also included incentives for renewable energy and efficiency. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., plan to unveil their draft of a Senate version on Wednesday. McClatchy
The Chamber's energy legislation beefs are rising energy prices, which means higher business costs, and the excuse that cutting greenhouse gases wouldn't work anyway. Speaking of beef, if we all stopped eating meat ONE DAY a week, that would go a long way to saving the planet. Meat processing puts out nearly one-fifth of greenhouse gases:
The Chamber, the nation's largest business lobby, contends that the climate legislation would curtail energy from coal and other fossil fuels, creating energy scarcity that would increase prices. It's also argued that the legislation wouldn't result in a cut in greenhouse gases globally because the reduction would be outweighed by the growth of emissions from developing countries.

The proposed legislation would direct funds from the sale of allowances back to fossil fuel companies during a transition period, a plan aimed at preventing price spikes and shortages. It also provides incentives for the development of renewable energy.

"The bottom line is that there's rarely unanimous agreement among our membership on any given issue," said Chamber spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel, noting that the Chamber of Commerce represents more than 3 million companies. McClatchy
It should be known that the Chamber complains about everything that requires business to be more responsible. It is also against Obama's proposed consumer financial protection agency that would regulate the financial markets to prevent another meltdown.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Palin's Going Rogue

Just in time for the holidays....

Sarah Palin’s publisher plans to announce Tuesday that the title of her eagerly awaited memoir will be “Going Rogue: An American Life.”

Publication is being moved up from spring to Nov. 17 in order to catch the holiday book-buying season. The former Alaska governor has been in huge demand as a speaker, and continues to harvest a bounty of media attention.

A mammoth first printing of 1.5 million copies has been ordered — the same first run as “True Compass,” the memoir of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
I'm sure it will do a lot better than Joe the Plumber's book. Going Rogue is a good title, kind of poking fun of herself, a play off of Tina Fey's portrayal of Palin:

Secret Service Probes Facebook Pollster

UPDATE Oct. 1: Just as I thought, just a dumb kid, probably with dumb parents. The Secret Service concluded their investigation.


This was all over Twitter yesterday (which tipped off Secret Service) and it took Facebook a long enough time to take down the poll:
The social networking site Facebook is cooperating with a Secret Service investigation into a survey posted on the site asking users if they supported killing the president. A spokesman for Facebook confirmed the company was cooperating with the government investigation, but downplayed Facebook's culpability in the creation of the poll, emphasizing that it was posted using third-party application hosted on the Facebook website.
Politico
The poll is so stupid that it probably wasn't the work of a full-fledged Beck follower, but rather a dumb dumb with nothing better to do.

Republicans Cared Less About Afghanistan for Years

And now they care?
Give us a break. Anybody would know this hurry-up ploy by republicans is a farce.
If it wasn't for Obama, Afghanistan wouldn't even be on the tips of people's tongues.
Before Obama can decide on troop numbers, he has to decide on the new strategy, which will dictate troop numbers. Robert Gates said on Sunday that the wrong strategy would be deadly. Kit Bond clearly hasn't a clue what he's talking about. Obama is the Commander in Chief. He's the one with the thousand foot view. He's the one who considers all of the consequences of our actions in Afghanistan. He makes the decision--not Gen. McChrystal.

White House Press Briefing Sept. 28

Obama Visits National Institutes of Health Sept. 30

UPDATE: See the video here.

UPDATE: Event concluded. Obama announced $5 BILLION in research grants for NIH. I'll post video when it's up.

UPDATE: Obama will arrive at NIH at 10:30 to tour. He's scheduled to speak at 11 am eastern. via Politico
Obama will visit the National Institutes of Health in Maryland on Sept. 30, along with Kathleen Sebelius and Francis Collins, director of the NIH. Obama will make an announcement regarding NIH Challenge Grants, a recovery act program. It should be live streamed at cnn.com, whitehouse.gov/live or msnbc.com.
Visit recovery.gov to see where the stimulus has gone.
The NIH received $8.2 billion in stimulus:
The recent ARRA legislation provides an unprecedented level of funding ($8.2 billion in extramural funding) to the NIH to help stimulate the US economy through the support and advancement of scientific research. While NIH Institutes and Centers have broad flexibility to invest in many types of grant programs, they will follow the spirit of the ARRA by funding projects that will stimulate the economy, create or retain jobs, and have the potential for making scientific progress in 2 years. Read more about plans for the money here.
See recently funded NIH projects here.
What is a challenge grant?
President Obama and Vice President Biden believe federally funded scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab.

The Challenge Grant program is designed to spur new areas of research and trigger an influx of research dollars into communities across the nation. NIH requested applications on topics in fifteen broad scientific areas the agency believes will benefit from a jumpstart or in which scientific challenges need to be overcome. They include bioethics, translational science, genomics, health disparities, enhancing clinical trials, behavioral change and prevention, and regenerative medicine.

The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) will check the applications for compliance and review them in a two-phase process. Reviewers with expertise in the specialized topic areas were recruited to do the first phase reviews. Their reviews and the applications will be further assessed by one of about 30 study sections comprising researchers who will focus on overall significance and impact.

All Challenge Grant applications will receive a summary statement containing critiques with criterion scores from three assigned reviewers. More than 18,000 scientists are expected to be involved in the Challenge Grant peer review process.

CSR typically reviews 16,000 applications with the help of about 8,000 reviewers in each of the three main yearly review rounds. Including Challenge Grants and other ARRA grants, CSR will assess about 40,000 applications this round with about 28,000 reviewers.

The deadline for Challenge Grant applications was April 27. Scores and summary statements will be available in August 2009. Challenge Grant awards will be issued by September 30, 2009. NIH
Read more about challenge grants at the Dept. of Health and Human Services here.

Obama Travels to Copenhagen Oct. 2 to Woo Chicago Olympics

At first Valerie Jarrett was leading the delegation to win the Olympics for the U.S. in 2016. Then Michelle Obama signed up. Now, Obama has decided to go. It will be a one-day trip:

President Barack Obama will fly to Copenhagen this week to attend a vote on where the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held, Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president said.

Obama will attend the final presentation on Oct. 2 before the International Olympic Committee for the bid by his adopted hometown of Chicago, Jarrett said in an interview.

“It strengthens our bid,” she said. “There is nothing like the president expressing what it means to him.”

Chicago is competing against Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Organizers of the U.S. bid had been lobbying the White House to have Obama make the final pitch, although the president had previously said he was too busy with the battle in Congress over health-care legislation.

“President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama symbolize the hope, opportunity and inspiration that makes Chicago great, and we are honored to have two of our city’s most accomplished residents leading our delegation in Copenhagen,” Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said in a statement issued by the Chicago 2016 bid committee. Bloomberg
Oprah's going too:
Obama’s decision to make the trip will add star power to a U.S. delegation that already includes the first lady, television host Oprah Winfrey, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
See Copenhagen's International Olympic Committee program here. White House announcement via Politico:
"President Obama will join First Lady Michelle Obama, who will be leading the United States delegation to Copenhagen. Mrs. Obama will arrive in Copenhagen on Wednesday, September 30, along with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and head of the White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport.

"President Obama will depart Washington on the evening of Thursday, October 1 and arrive in Copenhagen on the morning of October 2 local time, just prior to Chicago’s presentation to the voting members of the IOC. He will arrive back in Washington on Friday afternoon.

"President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will both make presentations to the IOC during Friday’s session. They will discuss why Chicago is best to host the 2016 Summer Games, and how the United States is eager to bring the world together to celebrate the ideals of the Olympic movement.

"While in Denmark, the President and First Lady will meet with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort. President Obama will also meet with Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bacevich Advocates a Cold War For Afghanistan

This plan, an alternative to all-out or all-in, sounds like the best plan yet:

The counterinsurgency campaign proposed in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's strategic assessment will prolong the war for an additional five or 10 years. The war's most ardent proponents insist that President Obama has no choice: It's either fight on or invite another 9/11.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to a global counterinsurgency campaign. Instead of fighting an endless hot war in a vain effort to eliminate the jihadist threat, the United States should wage a cold war to keep the threat at bay. Such a strategy worked before. It can work again.

At the dawn of what the Bush administration came to call the Long War, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told U.S. military personnel: "We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter." In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the work of changing the way they live has turned out to be difficult, costly and problematic. After years of exertions, $1 trillion expended and more than 5,000 American troops lost, U.S. forces have yet to win a decisive victory. The high-tech American way of war developed during the 1990s (once celebrated in phrases such as "shock and awe" and "speed kills") stands thoroughly discredited.

Changing the way they live -- where "they" are the people of the Islamic world -- qualifies as mission impossible. The Long War is a losing proposition; it will break the bank and break the force.
Bacevich hits the nail on the head. We can't change the way they live. Only they can change the way they live. The Cold approach:
As during the Cold War, a strategy of containment should include comprehensive export controls and the monitoring of international financial transactions. Without money and access to weapons, the jihadist threat shrinks to insignificance: All that remains is hatred. Ideally, this approach should include strenuous efforts to reduce the West's dependence on Middle Eastern oil, which serves to funnel many billions of dollars into the hands of people who may not wish us well.

During the Cold War, containment did not preclude engagement, and it shouldn't today. To the extent that the United States can encourage liberalizing tendencies in the Islamic world, it should do so -- albeit with modest expectations. Sending jazz musicians deep into the Eastern Bloc in the old days was commendable, but Louis Armstrong's trumpet didn't topple the Soviet empire.

Finally, there is the matter of competition. Again, the Cold War offers an instructive analogy. During the long twilight struggle with the Soviets, competition centered on demonstrating scientific superiority (putting a man on the moon) and material superiority (providing cars, refrigerators and TVs for the masses). The West won. Read it all at WaPo

Biden Speaks on Medicare at Leisure World Video

No one says it like Joe. He says his mom asked: "Joe! What about these death panels?"

The long version:

Hillary Clinton on Face the Nation Sept. 27

World Leader To Obama: Explain the Hitler Mustache

I'll explain it to Mr. or Ms. World leader: America has an obnoxious yet small minority of irrational idiots who equate universal health care with the tyranny of Hitler. They are people who lack common sense, civility and a basic knowledge of history. Obama told the tale last night during his speech to the black caucus (watch the full speech here).

"I was up at the G20 -- just a little aside -- I was up at the G20, and some of you saw those big
flags and all the world leaders come in and Michelle and I are shaking hands with them," the
president said. "One of the leaders -- I won't mention who it was -- he comes up to me. We take
the picture, we go behind.
"He says, 'Barack, explain to me this health care debate.'
"He says, 'We don't understand it. You're trying to make sure everybody has health care and
they're putting a Hitler mustache on you -- I don't -- that doesn't make sense to me. Explain that
to me.'" read more at ABC

Robert Gates on This Week Sept. 27

On This Week, the roundtable debated a middle ground on Afghanistan and Obama's gut. The roundtable concluded that Obama has not yet made up his mind yet.
Bob Woodward said this is what makes Obama unique. He's listening and he's willing to change his mind.
George Will, who's against boosting troops in Afghanistan, says that's the hardest thing for a president to do--change his mind in public.
The biggest hindrance to progress in Afghanistan now appears to be the vast corruption in the Afghan government and the flawed election. Read Stanley McChrystal's assessment of Afghanistan here.
Watch John McCain, who's for an increase in troops (the surge in Iraq was his idea after all). McCain said he recently gave Obama his input on Afghanistan.
There is a question as to whether our troops are too stretched already.
Watch Robert Gates talk about the strategy decision here. Having the wrong strategy could be more deadly in Afghanistan, Gates said. Gates said he is sitting on McChrystal's troop request. He hasn't given it to Obama yet. Gates and McChrystal differ troop numbers.
Moving to Guantanamo, Gates said he was one of the people who recommended a deadline for closing Gitmo. A deadline needed to be imposed to overcome bureaucracy, he said. McCain disagreed.
This week's This Week was a good one. It was a rational discussion of Afghanistan, Gitmo and Iran. I highly recommend taking in the whole show.

Michelle Obama's Visit to CAPA in Pittsburgh

Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni and other world leader spouses pose at CAPA


CAPA, Creative And Performing Arts School, is a magnet school:
11:34 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Good morning! (Applause.) How are you all doing today?

AUDIENCE: Good!

MRS. OBAMA: This has been a great morning for us. Don't we think, my fellow spouses? What do we think of these students? (Applause.) Bravo!

Thank you so much, Melissa, thank you for that wonderful introduction, thank you for introducing my fellow spouses. And Melissa, thank you for your tireless work, your inspired leadership, and your unflagging devotion to the students here at CAPA. You have every reason to be proud.

It is such a pleasure to be here. I mean, it is more than a pleasure to be here. I have been looking forward to this day the entire week. So have my colleagues, as well. So it is thrill -- I am thrilled, and to welcome our distinguished guests from all around the world. You can literally say that the world is watching you all today. (Laughter.) That's a good thing. And we're here as we celebrate some of America's most gifted performers and some of the hottest up-and-coming young talents in our nation. That would be you. (Applause.)

I want to start by recognizing one of the country's greatest composers -- and I know as students of the arts and music, you've heard of this gentleman, Marvin Hamlisch, who also happens to be one of the few people probably in the history of this country to have won an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy and an Oscar. Now, that's pretty good. (Laughter.) And he's been working with the students here today to put on the fabulous show that we're going to see, so we want to thank him for his generosity. (Applause.)

And I want to honor Gregory Lehane -- a widely recognized director and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University -- for giving his time to help direct today's performances. Let us give a hand to Mr. Gregory Lehane. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

And I also want to express my gratitude to the renowned artists who have given their time to come today to be a part of this performance -- some of my very favorites. Sara Bareilles. I have to say, she is on my iPod. (Laughter.) She has gotten me through many a day with "Gravity" and "Love Song." I love her. (Laughter.) Yo-Yo Ma. You know, what more is there to say? (Applause.) And another one of my favorites, Trisha Yearwood. So I'm just excited as you all. (Laughter.)

And finally, I want to thank the marvelous young people -- oh, all of you -- who performed for us today who will be singing and dancing and playing music for us today in this performance and during this morning. You brought tears to our eyes. It means so much to see such talent on display.

As my good friend, Carla Sarkozy, said, you know, in America, you know, here you have people who can sing, and they can dance, and they can act. Now, she said in France it's not often that you get all of those wrapped in one. But she said there's something unique about America's talents where it's just so natural to see all of that talent on display. So you all should be so very proud.

Now, there are a number of reasons why I personally wanted to come and bring our international visitors here to CAPA this morning.

We're here because I wanted to introduce them to some of America's finest, most creative, most accomplished young people. I wanted to come here because I wanted to showcase the value of arts education -- and you put that on display. That fact that it gives the chance to our young people to discover their voices and to develop their talents, this should be an opportunity that is available for every single child in this nation and quite frankly around the world. Read the rest here
Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni visit the Andy Warhol Museum

Colin Powell Skeptical of More Troops in Afghanistan


Whatever decision Obama makes on Afghanistan, at the very least, he has considered and weighed all the options. It appears that most of the hefty advisers, including Joe Biden, are against more troops. But Hillary Clinton is for more troops, according to the NYT:

The competing advice and concerns fuel a pivotal struggle to shape the president’s thinking about a war that he inherited but may come to define his tenure. Among the most important outside voices has been that of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a retired four-star Army general, who visited Mr. Obama in the Oval Office this month and expressed skepticism that more troops would guarantee success. According to people briefed on the discussion, Mr. Powell reminded the president of his longstanding view that military missions should be clearly defined.

Mr. Powell is one of the three people outside the administration, along with Senator John F. Kerry and Senator Jack Reed, considered by White House aides to be most influential in this current debate. All have expressed varying degrees of doubt about the wisdom of sending more forces to Afghanistan. Read more at the NYT
Other Obama advisers against more troops:
In the West Wing, beyond Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has advocated an alternative strategy to the troop buildup, other presidential advisers sound dubious about more troops, including Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, and Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, according to people who have spoken with them. At the same time, Mr. Obama is also hearing from more hawkish figures, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. NYT

Bill Clinton on Meet the Press Sept. 27

Full episode:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Republicans Praise FEMA Efforts in Georgia

FEMA seems to be doing its job. Even republicans couldn't criticize:

Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, both Georgia Republicans, applauded the White House's quick response to their calls for aid. Isakson further thanked Biden for spending extra time consoling victims present at the civic center.

"Out of every disaster, we have the opportunity for something good to come about," Chambliss said. "Out of this, we're going to become a stronger community."
This wasn't the first time that republicans had praise for FEMA. Last month, Bobby Jindal also had some kind words for FEMA. It appears that Craig Fugate, the new FEMA chief, is competent.
Janet Napolitano and Fugate led the efforts and Biden added his personal touch:
Biden took a half-hour helicopter tour of the area before the news conference. He said he saw flooded homes, an amusement park under water and trees with watermarks 16 feet up their trunks.

There will no "bureaucratic stalling and shuffling" as the federal government deals first with emergencies before making longer-term assessments of personal losses as well as damage to the communities' infrastructure, he said.

"We're going to have people come see you," he said. "This is not going to happen overnight. This is not going to happen tomorrow, but it's going to happen."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the federal government will provide rental, housing and small business assistance. Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, vowed to rebuild the damaged communities with future hazard mitigation in mind -- "so next time there's a flood, it doesn't get damaged."

Biden, who before speaking doled out hugs to disaster victims and posed for personal pictures, stayed at the Cobb County Civic Center well past the time allotted on his itinerary. CNN

Obama Speaks to Black Caucus on Healthcare


President Barack Obama used a dinner-time address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to make an impassioned plea for health care reform, placing it in the tradition of the civil rights struggle.

Obama, who last year addressed the group as one of its members, was hailed as "our great president" by caucus chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). The crowd was jubilant as Obama came to the stage with first lady Michelle Obama, who Rep. Kendrick Meek introduced, saying she had "brought a new flavor to this country."

Delivering the keynote address at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Phoenix Awards to a group of about 3,000 people at a black tie dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Obama gave a speech that at several points evoked his remarks at the NAACP convention in July.

The president opened with a fiery civil rights talk, ticking off racial disparities, calling for greater enforcement of civil rights laws and saying that the new White House Office of Urban affairs is working to address inequality. Politico

Yankees Fan Sotomayor Throws Out First Pitch Video

Uninsured Flock to Dr. Oz's Free Clinic in Texas

I love Dr. Oz's approach to medicine. Dr. Oz said the clinic broke the record of the largest number of people seen at a free clinic outside of a disaster. One patient hitchhiked to the clinic. Oz talks about health care reform too. Houston has the highest level of uninsured in the country.

Faux Christians Uptight About Muslim Day of Prayer in DC

I wondered why the wingnuts were talking about Obama "canceling" the National Day of Prayer, which was in May. They were upset because Muslims had organized a day of prayer in D.C. on Friday and linked the two together. Back to the whole Obama is a secret terrorist Muslim thing. But Obama didn't organize the event.
Obama didn't cancel National Day of Prayer either. It just went low key. Wingnuts all around the world abuse religion and it's no wonder that more people are turning toward atheism, spirituality and humanism or agnostic. I can't wait until this era of American stupidity is finally over. Now that Limbaugh and Beck are getting mainstream attention, getting gigs on the Jay Leno show and scoring time with Katie Couric, that may have the effect of shining the light on the cockroach. This is like the final showdown. The wingnuts are kicking and screaming on their way out.

McChrystal Delivers Troop Request

General Stanley McChrystal hand delivered his long-awaited request to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral James Stavridis, said spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tadd Sholtis.

"At the end of that meeting General McChrystal did provide a copy of the force requirements to Admiral Mullen on the U.S. side and Admiral Stavridis on the NATO side," Sholtis said after McChrystal returned from the meeting at an air base in Germany. WaPo
Obama has to decide and he said his decision will be based on whatever is most effective at eradicating Al Qaeda:
Sitting in an air-conditioned office within this gargantuan NATO encampment in southern Afghanistan, a U.S. officer pointed to a map of Kandahar province that indicated, with small, rectangular boxes, where soldiers deployed by President Obama earlier this year were now operating.

There were two battalions to the north of Kandahar city. Another to the far south. Canadian forces were going to swing to the west. About 5,000 new U.S. troops in all.

"But there, there and there," the officer said, pointing to towns just outside a belt where the Americans and Canadians were stationed, "and there," putting his fist on the city, which with 800,000 residents is the country's second-largest population center, "we don't have anyone."

If more forces are not forthcoming to mount counterinsurgency operations in those parts of the province, he concluded, the overall U.S. effort to stabilize Kandahar -- and by extension, the rest of Afghanistan -- will fail.

"We might as well pack our bags and go home . . . and just keep a few Predators flying overhead to whack the al-Qaeda guys who return," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "There's no point in doing half-measures here."
I'm not a fan of war, any war, and I'd like to see us pull out but it seems if we're going to be there then we should be all in. We should also set a deadline. We have to set benchmarks for progress, an exit strategy. Polls show that most people are opposed to more troops in Afghanistan. People are war weary but they're also clueless about Afghanistan, so I'm not sure that we should leave Afghanistan based on an uninformed public.
Obama, who has already ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year, has described himself as a "skeptical audience" of the case for sending more, and says he wants to be sure the strategy is correct first. Republican critics have reacted sharply to the delay, accusing him of dithering.

POLL SHOWS OPPOSITION TO EXTRA TROOPS

A Gallup poll published Friday showed a fall in support for the war, with 50 percent of Americans opposed to sending more troops, while 41 percent supported it. Obama said he understood the public's concerns.

"This is not easy and I would expect that the public would ask some very tough questions," he told a news conference at a summit of world leaders in Pittsburgh Friday. "That's exactly what I'm doing, is asking some tough questions."

Increasing evidence of fraud in last month's Afghan presidential election has made the case for sending more troops to protect the Afghan government more difficult to defend. WaPo
But republican critics should shut their pie holes. Afghanistan languished under Bush for years and all of a sudden they want Obama to hurry up? They now care about Afghanistan? They didn't care then. They only care now because it's Obama making the decision. Obama's not George Bush and he's not going to plunder a nation just because. Republicans are still acting like trolls under the bridge. They serve no useful purpose, not even "loyal opposition:"
Obama, who has already ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year, has described himself as a "skeptical audience" of the case for sending more, and says he wants to be sure the strategy is correct first. Republican critics have reacted sharply to the delay, accusing him of dithering.

Iran Allows U.N. Inspections of its Nuclear Plant

It would appear that the path of diplomacy is working out well. What I'm wondering is if the Iranian people will pressure Ahmadinejad to stop acting like a jerk.


The backstory:
On Tuesday evening in New York, top officials of the world nuclear watchdog agency approached two of President Obama’s senior advisers to deliver the news: Iran had just sent a cryptic letter describing a small “pilot” nuclear facility that the country had never before declared.

The Americans were surprised by the letter, but they were angry about what it did not say. American intelligence had come across the hidden tunnel complex years earlier, and the advisers believed the situation was far more ominous than the Iranians were letting on.

That night, huddled in a hotel room in the Waldorf-Astoria until well into the early hours, five of Mr. Obama’s closest national security advisers, in New York for the administration’s first United Nations General Assembly, went back and forth on what they would advise their boss when they took him the news in the morning. A few hours later, in a different hotel room, they met with Mr. Obama and his senior national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, to talk strategy. Read more at NYT
Bill Clinton on Meet the Press tomorrow:

White House Stepping Up Efforts to Close Gitmo

This is one of those stories that makes me wonder if it's really a story. At the same time the AP reports that the White House might not be able to meet the deadline, it reports that the White House has stepped up its effort to meet the deadline. So which one makes the better headline? The one that says the White House is boosting efforts to close Gitmo by January or the one that says they might not be able to keep that promise?

Obama's aides have stepped up their work toward closure and the president remains as committed to closing the facility as he was when, as one of his first acts in office, he pledged to shut it down, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in order to more freely discuss the sensitive issue.

They said the White House still was hoping to meet the deadline through a stepped-up effort. AP

Friday, September 25, 2009

Obama Reviews G20 Progress in Weekly Address Sept 25

G20 Pittsburgh Class Photo 2009

Obama's Speech at G20 Sept. 25 Video

This speech concludes the G20. Obama heads back to Washington and probably back to health care.

Obama answers press questions:

Obama answers a question on negotiating with Iran. When the U.S. meets with Iran on Oct. 1, they need to decide what they want to do, he said. Obama said he's not going to discuss sanctions yet. "We're going to give Oct. 1 a chance."
A question on demonstrators who see capitalism as "devilish." Obama says capitalism isn't the source of all ills. If the protesters were paying attention, they would've heard a strong recognition from a diverse group of leaders that the market needs to work for ordinary people and that government has a role in regulating the market, he said. Relative to other summits, this one was "tranquil," he said.
Obama is asked about the war in Afghanistan: Obama says we went into Afghanistan because Al-Qaeda killed Americans and vowed to continue. The overriding goal is to dismantle Al Qaeda. Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan are critical to that goal, he said. The allegations of fraud in the recent election are concerning, he said. What's important is that the people see their government as legitimate. If they don't view their government as legitimate, then the task is more difficult. Our military strategy is only part of a broader project, he said. "This is not easy," he said.

Chip Reid gets all sarcastic and asks if he views this as a victory. Obama: "This isn't a football game." Chip Reid shut down again.

Obama Holds News Conference at G20 Sept. 25

Update: Watch video of Obama's speech here.


Today, the last day of the G20 in Pittsburgh, Obama will hold a news conference at 4:40 pm eastern. It should be live streamed at cnn.com or msnbc.com. Also on Obama's agenda today is a meeting with Gordon Brown. The meeting with Brown wasn't on the original schedule, which led Brian Williams, following the lead of the British press, to suggest that Brown was snubbed by Obama. In light of today's announcement on Iran's secret nuclear plant, the two will probably be discussing Iran.
Michelle Obama will visit the Andy Warhol Museum in downtown Pittsburgh and she and other spouses will visit Pittsburgh Creative And Performing Arts School, a magnet school (politico). Watch the students prepare for the visit here.
Last night the Obamas hosted world leaders and their spouses.

This from Helene Cooper at the NYT:
At 6:15 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Obama stepped out of the Phipps Conservatory, underneath an awning to greet their first guests. Mr. Obama in a dark blue suit, Mrs. Obama in a taupe, pink and green patterned cocktail dress with straps. Pink patent leather two-inch heels. Hair pulled back in a full, bouffant faux ponytail. Long pearl necklace, pearl earrings. No stockings.

Mr. Obama: “Where’d my First Lady go?”

Mrs. Obama: “Right here,” stepping beside him, as it started to drizzle.

Mr. Obama pokes fun at the pool, whispering something to Reggie Love and Mrs. Obama, then looking at pool and saying: “We’re talking about how you guys are all waiting to write something down.”

First to arrive is an Allegheny County official who’s name your pooler didn’t get. (There’ll be a lot of that to come).

Then the mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl and his wife.

Mr. Obama: “Hey Luke, sorry about those Steelers, man.”

Mr. Ravenstahl: “So am I.”

There’s a pause for a while between arrivals, and the First Couple turns to the pool for entertainment.

Mrs. Obama: “You guys are so quiet. Somebody should sing.”

Mr. Obama: “We should have music. Where’s the music?” Read the rest here