Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama to Speak in Portland Maine April 1

UPDATE April 1: See the video here.


Obama will speak at 3:25 pm eastern on health insurance reform at the Portland Expo. Hundreds waited in line for tickets today and people are actually excited. Imagine that! The event will be live audio streamed at WhiteHouse.gov. There's also likely to be a stream at msnbc.com. It will also be live streamed locally at WCSH6.com or WLBZ2.com.

Obama will then fly to Boston where he'll speak at a DNC reception at 6:05 pm eastern and a fundraiser at 8:05 pm eastern. Expect Obama to rally the democrats to keep the momentum going.

Michelle Obama's Remarks at Workplace Flexibility Forum Video

Michelle said that while she was on maternity leave with Sasha she got a call for an interview at a hospital, but she couldn't find a babysitter so she brought Sasha with her. She got the job. Obviously, her employer was very progressive.

The Long History of Healthcare and Questions Answered

Marketplace's Tess Vigeland talked to a healthcare historian. Does this sound familiar?

Opponents of the reform effort came up with a strategy. This was in the years leading up to World War 1. America was about to go battle with Germany. And Germany had been the first country to pass universal health care.

DUBIN: And they used this anti-German feeling as a way to attack compulsory health care as some insidious plot to undermine the American government and the American people.

WARNER: So they called them the dirtiest word you can call an American, which is a European.

DUBIN: Right, and only in this time, there were various, "Germans," and "Prussians" and "doing the Emperor of Germany's work."

This became the pattern. When reformers tried to restart the debate in the 20s, they were called socialists.

DUBIN: Right and in Harry Truman's era they called them Bolsheviks and communists. And that's the whole history of health care reform is, champions, they lose, someone picks it up again, champions it, they lose.

Until the day comes when they win. Read more at Marketplace
Healthcare has a long and tangled history of reformers trying to get it done, and alas, it is done. Well, first steps anyway. It's interesting that those who have tried to reform healthcare have been called names throughout history. Some people will always stand in the way of change because change is scary.
In addition to the history of healthcare, this episode of Marketplace also had some more details on the new healthcare law and how it affects you, including information on the exchanges that we've heard so much about. It's becoming more apparent to me that this really is a big deal, even beyond its historical relevance. Listen to the whole program:

Obama's Cesar Chavez Day Proclamation

Obama with the Chavez family

A PROCLAMATION

The rights and benefits working Americans enjoy today were not easily gained; they had to be won. It took generations of courageous men and women, fighting to secure decent working conditions, organizing to demand fair pay, and sometimes risking their lives. Some, like Cesar Estrada Chavez, made it the cause of their lives. Today, on what would have been his 83rd birthday, we celebrate Cesar's legacy and the progress achieved by all who stood alongside him.

Raised by a family of migrant farm workers, Cesar Chavez spent his youth moving across the American Southwest, working in fields and vineyards, and experiencing firsthand the hardships he would later crusade to abolish. At the time, farm workers were deeply impoverished and frequently exploited, exposed to very hazardous working conditions, and often denied clean drinking water, toilets, and other basic necessities. The union Cesar later founded with Dolores Huerta, the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), still addresses these issues today.

After serving in the United States Navy, Cesar Chavez became a community organizer and began his lifelong campaign for civil rights and social justice. Applying the principles of nonviolence, he empowered countless laborers, building a movement that grew into the UFW. He led workers in marches, strikes, and boycotts, focusing our Nation's attention on their plight and using the power of picket lines to win union contracts.

"The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being, but it is also the most true to our nature," Cesar Chavez once said. Since our Nation's earliest days of independence, we have struggled to perfect the ideals of equal justice and opportunity enshrined in our founding documents. As Cesar suggests, justice may be true to our nature, but as history teaches us, it will not prevail unless we defend its cause.

Few Americans have led this charge so tirelessly, and for so many, as Cesar Chavez. To this day, his rallying cry -- "Sí, se puede," or "Yes, we can," -- inspires hope and a spirit of possibility in people around the world. His movement strengthened our country, and his vision lives on in the organizers and social entrepreneurs who still empower their neighbors to improve their communities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2010, as Cesar Chavez Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez's enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.
Obama also issued a statement on the standard bearer of teachers:
"I was saddened to hear about the passing of Jaime Escalante today. While most of us got to know him through the movie that depicted his work teaching inner-city students calculus, the students whose lives he changed remain the true testament to his life’s work. Throughout his career Jaime opened the doors of success and higher education for his students one by one, and proved that where a person came from did not have to determine how far they could go. He instilled knowledge in his students, but more importantly he helped them find the passion and the will to fulfill their potential. Jaime’s story became famous. But he represented countless, valiant teachers throughout our country whose great works are known only to the young people whose lives they change. Michelle and I offer our condolences to Jaime’s family, and to all those who knew him and whose lives he touched."

Michelle Obama Plants the White House Spring Garden Video

Michelle Obama says the White House garden started a national conversation on food. I'll say. There seems to be a convergence of forces. If you haven't seen chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, it's so funny and it illustrates the obstacles to healthy eating. Oliver goes head to head with the lunch ladies of a school in Huntington, West Virginia. You can watch the first episodes online here.

Michelle has high approval rating

White House Press Briefing March 31

Filling in for Robert Gibbs is Bill Burton.

Obama to Close White House Flexibility Forum

Updated with Obama's remarks. Watch Michelle Obama's remarks opening the forum here.

Obama will close the day-long session on flexibility in the workplace. He'll speak at 4:15 pm eastern. This is a live stream:

Letterman Interviews Idaho's Tea Party President

At first, Pam Stout starts off as a sweet, soft-spoken British-born woman, not the raving mad variety of tea partier. But giver her a minute. First, her choice of Jim DeMint (who she calls her hero) as a presidential candidate pretty much says it all.

Part 2. I agree with her on the fact that many people demonize business. Businesses are started by people and businesses are made up of people. But business needs to be regulated because as we've seen, left on their own, they will do whatever maximizes profits. That's their job, though there is a trend toward more socially responsible business.
Alas, Stout's facade falls. Stout says that Obama spent a lot of money to cover up documentation of his school records (no evidence of that), and though many tea partiers believe that Obama wasn't born in the U.S., she's okay with that. She said that's irrelevant. BINGO. Woman is a hater, not a fiscal conservative. FAIL. LOSE. GAME OVER.

Part 3. Game really over. Stout says Glenn Beck made her think.

Obama Documentary: a Listener With a Killer Instinct


Wow, listen to the beginning of this audio (alternate link), which documents Obama's leadup to his presidential run. I had forgotten just how fiery Obama was. He's still fiery at times, but not like that. Given the realities of the job, I wouldn't expect him to be as impassioned. Obama is described in part as a good poker player, who doesn't take chances or tip his hand and plays to win, someone with a "killer instinct."

There are a whole slew of presidential documentaries at onlineuniversities.com.

Ken Salazar Speaks on Offshore Drilling Video

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar says he's hopeful that the energy plan will include cap and trade, which many have dismissed as dead. Sen. John Kerry supports the new plan that Obama announced this morning (watch that here) largely because it is a energy plan that will attract the 60 votes needed to pass climate change legislation. Read republican reaction to the plan here. Environmentalist groups have mixed reactions.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Obama's Speech on Expanding Offshore Drilling

Here we go again. Obama's proposal to expand offshore drilling is being portrayed in the media as a "reversal" of his stance on offshore drilling. Obama, even as a candidate, has always said that oil drilling is part of an overall energy plan, but "drill baby drill" wasn't the sole answer.
During the 2008 campaign, the political ploy from the republicans was that oil drilling would lower gas prices, which was nearly $5 a gallon. Remember?
The real story, according to The Business Insider, is that oil drilling is a concession for cap and trade:

The real story is that Cap & Trade is back on the table, as Ken Salazar is stating on CNBC right now.
Obama gives a gift to oil drillers, and in exchange he gets the equivalent of an energy tax (though not actually an energy tax) with some corporate support.
Watch Ken Salazar's interview with CNBC.
Obama announced his new plan at Andrews Air Force Base. Here is the video of the speech. Transcript is below:

Thank you, Secretary Salazar. Ken and I were colleagues in the Senate, and I appointed him because I knew he'd be a faithful and pragmatic steward of our natural resources. As Secretary, he's changing the way the Interior Department does business so that we are responsibly developing traditional sources of energy and renewable sources of energy, from the wind on the high plains to the sun in the deserts to the waves off our coasts.

It's also good to see so many members of our Armed Forces here today. Andrews is the home of Air Force One, and I appreciate everything you do for me and my family. You've got a 100-percent on-time departure record. And you don't charge for checking luggage. So it's a pretty good deal. But in all seriousness, I want to thank you not only for the support you provide to me – but also for the service you perform to keep our country safe.

We are here today to talk about America's energy security, an issue that has been a priority for my administration since the day I took office. Already, we've made the largest investment in clean energy in our nation's history. It's an investment that's expected to create or save more than 700,000 jobs across America: jobs manufacturing advanced batteries for more efficient vehicles, upgrading the power grid so that it's smarter and stronger, and doubling our nation's capacity to generate renewable electricity from sources like the wind and the sun.

Just a few months after taking office, I also gathered the leaders of the world's largest automakers, the heads of labor unions, environmental advocates, and public officials from California and across the country to reach an historic agreement to raise fuel economy standards in cars and trucks. Tomorrow, after decades in which we have done little to increase auto efficiency, those new standards will be finalized, which will reduce our dependence on oil while helping folks spend a little less at the pump. So my administration is upholding its end of the deal, and we expect all parties to do the same. I'd also point out: this rule will not only save drivers money; it will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. That's like taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.

Today, we're also going one step further. In order to save energy and taxpayer dollars, my administration – led by Secretary Chu at Energy and Administrator Johnson at GSA – is doubling the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet, even as we seek to reduce the number of cars and trucks used by our government overall. We're going to lead by example and practice what we preach: cutting waste, saving energy, and reducing our reliance on foreign oil.

But we have to do more. We need to make continued investments in clean coal technologies and advanced biofuels. A few weeks ago, I announced loan guarantees to break ground on America's first new nuclear facility in three decades, a project that will create thousands of jobs. And in the short term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we'll have to make tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development in ways that protect communities and coastlines.

This is not a decision that I've made lightly. It's one Ken and I – as well as Carol Browner, my energy advisor in the White House, and others in my administration – looked at closely for more than a year. But the bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.

So today we're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration – but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources. Under the leadership of Secretary Salazar, we'll employ new technologies that reduce the impact of oil exploration. We'll protect areas vital to tourism, the environment, and our national security. And we'll be guided not by political ideology, but by scientific evidence. That's why my administration will consider potential new areas for development in the mid and south Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, while studying and protecting sensitive areas in the Arctic. That's why we'll continue to support development of leased areas off the North Slope of Alaska, while protecting Alaska's Bristol Bay.

There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.

On the other side, there will be those who argue that we do not go nearly far enough; who suggest we open all of our waters to energy exploration without any restriction or regard for the broader environmental and economic impact. They'd deny the fact that with less than 2 percent of oil reserves, but more than 20 percent of world consumption, drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and that for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.

Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates between right and left, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.

For decades we've talked about how our dependence on fossil fuels threatens our economy – yet our will to act rises and falls with the price of a barrel of oil. For decades we've talked about the threat to future generations posed by our current system of energy – even as we can see the mounting evidence of climate change from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf Coast. And for decades, we've talked about the risks to our security created by our dependence on foreign oil – even as that dependence has grown year after year after year.

And while our politics has remained entrenched along worn divides, the ground has shifted beneath our feet. Around the world, countries are seeking an edge in the global marketplace by investing in new ways of producing and saving energy. From China to Germany, these nations recognize that the country that leads the clean energy economy will be the country that leads the global economy. Meanwhile, here at home, as politicians in Washington debate endlessly whether to act, our own military has determined that we can't afford not to.

If there was any doubt about that, you need only look to the F-18 fighter and the light armored vehicle behind me. The Army and Marine Corps have been testing this vehicle on a mixture of biofuels. And this Navy fighter jet – called the Green Hornet – will be flown for the first time in just a few weeks, on Earth Day. If tests go as planned, it will be the first plane ever to fly faster than the speed of sound on a fuel mix that's half biomass. The Air Force is also testing jet engines using biofuels and had the first successful biofuel-powered test flight just last week. Though I don't want to drum up any kind of rivalry.

Now, the Pentagon isn't seeking these alternative fuels just to protect our environment; they are pursuing these homegrown energy sources to protect our national security. Our military leaders recognize the security imperative of increasing the use of alternative fuels, decreasing energy use, and reducing our reliance on imported oil. That's why the Navy, led by Secretary Mabus who is here today, has set a goal of using 50-percent alternative fuel in all planes, vehicles, and ships in the next ten years. And that's why the Defense Department has invested $2.7 billion this year alone to improve energy efficiency.

Moving toward clean energy is about our security. It's about our economy. And it's about the future of our planet. And what I hope is that the policies we've laid out – from hybrid fleets to offshore drilling, from nuclear energy to wind energy – underscore the seriousness with which my administration takes this challenge. It's a challenge that requires us to think and act anew.

So I am open to proposals from my Democratic and Republican friends. I believe we can move beyond the broken politics of the past. And I know that we can come together to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that will foster new industries and millions of new jobs protecting our planet and helping us become more energy independent. That's what we can do. That's what we must do. And I am confident that that is what we will do.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obama Speaks on Energy Security March 31

Obama and Karzai in Afghanistan


Update March 31: See video of Obama's speech on expanding offshore drilling here.

Obama will speak on energy security at 11:05 am eastern.
It will be live audio streamed here.
Later, the Obamas will host a workplace flexibility forum at the White House. Michelle Obama will launch the forum at 1:15 pm and Obama will close out the session with remarks at 4:15 pm.
The forum will also be live streamed at WhiteHouse.gov.
In between, Obama will sign a proclamation in honor of Cesar Chavez Day (2:40 pm) and Michelle Obama kicks off spring planting in the White House garden (4 pm).

In the meantime, here are some more awesome photos from Pete Souza:

Seder at the White House
Obama and Karzai at dinner
Obama's visit with troops in Afghanistan
Obama rallying the troops




White House Press Briefing March 30

Scientists Drank Champagne Today

Smashing atoms could give clues to the Universe's beginnings. Apparently, the "atom smasher" broke a record today and could usher in a new era of physics.

“It’s a great day to be a particle physicist,” said CERN1 Director General Rolf Heuer. “A lot of people have waited a long time for this moment, but their patience and dedication is starting to pay dividends.” Read more
CERN's twitter stream was very excited today.
Scientists know that only 4 percent of the matter in the universe is actually visible. The rest, according to theory, is a mix of so-called dark matter and dark energy. But by looking at the subatomic debris from these collisions, scientists are hoping they can sort out what those invisible sources of energy and matter are.

The 'God' Particle

The ultimate prize would be to find a particle called the Higgs-Boson — it's the linchpin of modern physics. It's been predicted by a theory called the Standard Model. Some people even call it the "God particle." That's because this particle could help explain how the energy from the Big Bang turned into mass.

"This will give us a clue of how we were created in the beginning," CERN scientist Despiona Hatzifotiadu told AFP.

Scientists know that only 4 percent of the matter in the universe is actually visible. The rest, according to theory, is a mix of so-called dark matter and dark energy. But by looking at the subatomic debris from these collisions, scientists are hoping they can sort out what those invisible sources of energy and matter are.

The 'God' Particle

The ultimate prize would be to find a particle called the Higgs-Boson — it's the linchpin of modern physics. It's been predicted by a theory called the Standard Model. Some people even call it the "God particle." That's because this particle could help explain how the energy from the Big Bang turned into mass.

"This will give us a clue of how we were created in the beginning," CERN scientist Despiona Hatzifotiadu told AFP. NPR

RNC Spending More than it's Taking In

Forget about the bondage club. The party of fiscal conservatism's fundraising arm, the RNC, headed by Michael Steele, is spending more than it's taking in. Steele's spokesman calls the spending an "investment." Now that's American style fiscal conservatism!

Carla Bruni Visits D.C. School Video

Carla and her hubby, Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, will dine tonight with the Obamas. The Sarkozys had lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl. From CBS' Mark Knoller:

Obama also hailed Sarkozy's "discriminating pallette" for choosing to have lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl, famous for chili dogs & half-smokes.


And here they are visiting Ben's:

Obama and Sarkozy Joint Press Conference Live Stream March 30

Full video:

Event over. Nothing but tweets until we get some video up. These are from Mark Knoller:

Obama says he doesn't meddle in the DOD procurement process but promises Sarkozy the rebidding process will be open and fair.
Sarkozy says he raised French concerns about its company losing bid to build air tankers for US, but says he trusts Obama.
Sarkozy says there may be disagreements between him and Obama, but never for the wrong reasons. "There's a lot of trust," says Sarkozy.
Sarkozy says Obama is "easy to work with." "When Obama says something he keeps his word. His word is his bond."
Obama says of pressuring Iran: "‘we think that we can get sanctions within weeks."
Obama and Sarkozy agree on Israel:
During the press conference, Sarkozy also joined Obama in condemning Israeli settlement activity in east Jerusalem.

Sarkozy said his own commitment to Israel's security was well known, but added that the settlement activity in an area claimed by the Palestinians "contributes nothing."

Sarkozy praised Obama for trying to engage the two sides in peace talks. Sarkozy said the "absence of peace" in the region "is a problem for all of us" — and that it feeds terrorism around the world. MSNBC

Obama Expecting Financial Overhaul by June

On a roll....

White House officials said President Barack Obama expects the Senate to approve a financial overhaul by the end of May.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday said Obama expects to sign the legislation before the two-year anniversary of the financial collapse.

“I don't think that's an unrealistic timetable at all,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he expects financial reform to be the next piece of business the Senate picks up after the Easter recess. The Hill

Obama's second year agenda:

Arne Duncan on New Student Loan Reforms

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Obama Signs Healthcare and Education BIll March 30

Updated with video
Update: Obama signed the bill with one of many pens and the bill is now law!!!

Jill Biden introduced Obama, who is set to sign the reconciliation bill, which includes the health fixes and the student loan reform. Obama is speaking at Northern Virginia Community College. The event started at 11:05 am eastern.

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Obama's Interview With Matt Lauer March 30

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ray LaHood Likes Bikes

The transportation secretary speaks at the National Bike Summit. Read more at Ray LaHood's blog. I like that our transportation secretary has a blog called the Fast Lane.

The Obamas Host White House Seder 2010

Seder has become an Obama tradition at the White House.

As the sun sets Monday evening, President Obama will break matzo in celebration of Passover.

Obama will gather with friends, family and staff in the Old Family Dining Room to retell the story of how God inflicted 10 plagues on Egypt until the pharaoh let his Hebrew slaves go. And, if last year is any guide, they’ll recite prayers and eat gefilte fish, and Malia and Sasha will ask the traditional four questions about the meaning of the dinner. More at Politico

Obama and Sarkozy Speak to the Press March 30

The Obamas greet the Sarkozys in France


Obama and Joe Biden will meet with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy at 3 pm eastern. Obama and Sarkozy will speak to the press at 4:45 pm. It will be live streamed at WhiteHouse.gov.
Later, the Obamas will host Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, at the White House for din din.

Obama's Interview With Matt Lauer March 29

Update March 30: See Obama's full interview with Matt Lauer here.

On healthcare:

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Obama says Karzai is listening but the progress is too slow:

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Race to the Top Winners: Delaware and Tennessee

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that Delaware and Tennessee have won grants in the first phase of the Race to the Top competition.

"We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee," Duncan said in announcing the winners. "Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students."

Delaware will receive approximately $100 million and Tennessee $500 million to implement their comprehensive school reform plans over the next four years. As with any federal grant program, budgets will be finalized after discussions between the grantees and the Department, and the money will be distributed over time as the grantees meet established benchmarks.

The U.S. Department of Education will have about $3.4 billion available for the second phase of the Race to the Top competition. Read more at the Dept. of Ed

Karzai Uncomfortable Around Obama

Afghanistan is getting so much aid and yet Karzai's government remains corrupt. For once, someone is holding Hamid Karzai to account, which makes any corrupt person squirm.

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Romney in Hot Tea Water Over Healthcare

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Obama to Throw Opening Day Pitch April 5

UPDATE April 5: Watch Obama's pitch here.

President of the United States Barack Obama will throw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. prior to the 2010 season opener between the Washington Nationals and the defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, April 5 at 1:05 p.m.

"Opening Day of the baseball season is a special event for our country and its importance has been reinforced by the 100-year history of Presidential participation," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, who will be in attendance for the historic First Pitch. "I am proud that President Obama will continue the long Presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch of Opening Day in Washington D.C." Washington Nationals
That's the same day as the White House Easter Egg Roll:
The President and First Lady have announced that this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll will be held on Monday, April 5, 2010 with the theme of “Ready, Set, Go!” promoting health and wellness. The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. All of the activities will encourage children to lead healthy and active lives and follow the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, a national campaign to combat childhood obesity. The White House will open its South Lawn for children aged 12 years and younger and their families. Full ticketing information is below. We hope to see you at the White House! More at WH

U.S. to Sell Citigroup Stock for Net Profit

The Treasury Department said Monday it will begin selling the stake it owns in Citigroup Inc., which could result in a profit to the government of about $7.5 billion.

The government received 7.7 billion shares of Citigroup in exchange for $25 billion it gave the bank during the 2008 credit crisis. It said it will sell the shares over the course of this year, depending on market conditions. ....
Citi, one of the hardest hit banks during the credit crisis and recession, received a total of $45 billion in bailout money, one of the largest rescues in the program. Of the $45 billion, $25 billion was converted to the government's ownership stake in the bank.

The Treasury paid $3.25 a share for its stake.

New York-based Citi repaid the other $20 billion it owed the government in December.
MSNBC

Obama's Statement on Moscow Metro Suicide Bombings

I send my deepest condolences to the people of Russia after the terrible loss of life and injuries resulting from the bombings on the Moscow Metro. The American people stand united with the people of Russia in opposition to violent extremism and heinous terrorist attacks that demonstrate such disregard for human life, and we condemn these outrageous acts. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost loved ones, and I wish all who sustained injuries a succesful recovery.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama in Afghanistan Live Stream March 28

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Tea Partiers Won't Vote for John McCain for One Reason Alone

In Searchlight, the tea partiers call themselves the "world's premier human rights movement," and that all the talk of racial slurs is "a crock." What? It's all on video. All of it. The hate signs, the slurs. Human rights movement? Maybe human waste movement.

The fact is Sarah Palin is wasting her time propping up McCain and she's ruining her tea party cred. Tea partiers won't vote for McCain for one reason: immigration. He's long been in favor of immigration reform, and tea partiers hate immigrants. They blame immigrants for all of their woes like they're now blaming government. They believe that government is boosting the lives of immigrants and minorities, leaving all the white folks behind.
Tea partiers didn't come to Searchlight to stand in the windy, dusty desert to see McCain. They came to see Sarah Palin. Let's face it. She's pretty and she's angry--tea party turn ons.

Obama Touches Down in Afghanistan March 28

Update: See Obama's speech to the troops here.
Obama plans to speak to troops at the Bagram Air Base:
President Obama landed in the dark at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan this morning after a secret, 13-hour flight from Washington. He's scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his cabinet, then spend some time with U.S. troops. He's expected to leave the country before the Afghan sunrise, and be back in Washington early Monday.

The unannounced visit comes as the U.S. and allied forces consolidate their hold on the territory surrounding Marjah and prepare for a bigger battle in Kandahar — the birthplace and spiritual home of the Taliban.

National Security Adviser Jim Jones describes this as a "strategic moment" in the Afghan conflict, in which coalition forces are beginning to implement the president's new strategy for the region. The meeting with Karzai is intended to impress on the Afghan leader the role his government has to play in rooting out corruption, battling narco-traffickers, and building credible government services in the countryside. More at NPR
According to CBS' Mark Knoller, Obama left Andrews AFB at 10:55 pm eastern.
Obama was met on arrival at Bagram Air Base by US Amb. Karl Eikenberry and top US Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
He also tweets:
US officials say Obama will stress need for more progess against corruption, narco-trafficking & merit-based appointment of officials.
Obama welcomed in Afghanistan:

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sam Kass Unveils White House Winter Garden

Harvest time!

Obama's Weekly Address March 27

Transcript

Obama Makes 15 Recess Appointments

Obama fills vacancies due to continued republican obstruction. From the White House:

After facing months of Republican obstruction to administration nominees, President Obama announced his intent to recess appoint fifteen nominees to fill critical administration posts that have been left vacant, including key positions on the economic team and on boards that have been left with vacancies for months.

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” said President Barack Obama. “Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government.”

Following their appointment, these nominees will remain in the Senate for confirmation.

Obama Administration appointees have faced an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate.

President Obama currently has a total of 217 nominees pending before the Senate. These nominees have been pending for an average of 101 days, including 34 nominees pending for more than 6 months.
The 15 nominees President Obama intends to recess appoint have been pending for an average of 214 days or 7 months for a total of 3204 days or almost 9 years.

President Bush had made 15 recess appointments by this point in his presidency, but he was not facing the same level of obstruction. At this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.
The President announced his intention to recess appoint the following nominees: Read the nominee bios here

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama Off to Camp David a Happy Camper


After signing healthcare reform into law, agreeing to a new nuclear arms reduction treaty and moving forward with financial reform, President Barack Obama will spend the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

And top White House aides say, "He knows he has" earned it.

"Best week we've had in a long damn time," one senior administration official told The Hill. More at The Hill

Obama Signs Healthcare Part 2 in Virginia March 30

Update March 30: Watch video of Obama signing the bill/speaking here.



Update March 29: Obama will speak at 11:05 am eastern. Jill Biden will also be in attendance. The event will be audio streamed at WhiteHouse.gov and it's likely to be live streamed at msnbc.com.

This is the second part of healthcare, the so-called reconciliation bill that just passed the House yesterday. The bill also has the student loan reform, which begins July 1, 2010:
On Tuesday morning, March 30th at Northern Virginia Community College, President Obama will sign the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which delivered a significant down payment on the President's ambitious agenda to make higher education more affordable and help more Americans earn a college degree.

New Obama Book: The Bridge

A new book about Obama by David Remnick (read his latest column on Obama in the New Yorker) gets a positive review. I'm looking forward to this book:

The book has a rich account of Obama's childhood and student years, and includes interviews with people, such as Obama's college roommates, who shunned the media freak show in 2008, but were willing to talk to Remnick, and even to share with him their old, well-written letters and short stories (!) from Obama in Chicago.

The book doesn't dramatically change the public portrait of Obama, but it deepens it, and and is the strongest effort since Dreams from My Father to put him in a kind of narrative context. The narrative doesn't always follow Dreams; notably, it's far clearer on Obama's ambition, which had become clear before he left Chicago for Harvard, to run for office. Read an excerpt on how Obama became Obama by walking through Central Park at Politico

New Homeowner Program for Underwater Mortgages

Obama's got a new program, HAMP, to help homeowners who are behind on their mortgages. Details are at makinghomeaffordable.gov.

The Administration’s goal is to promote stability for both the housing market and homeowners. To meet these objectives, the Administration has developed a comprehensive approach using state and local housing agency initiatives, tax credits for homebuyers, neighborhood stabilization and community development programs, mortgage modifications and refinancing, and support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Administration’s efforts for homeowners have focused on giving responsible households an opportunity to remain in their homes when possible while they get back up on their feet, or to relocate to a more sustainable living situation. Today, mortgage rates are at record lows and, thanks in large part to these programs, more than four million homeowners have refinanced their mortgages to more affordable levels helping to save more than $7 billion annually, more than one million are saving an average of over $500 per month through the Administration’s modification program, home equity increased by more than $12,000 for the average homeowner in the last three quarters last year and the economy is growing.

Even with this success, we continue to see challenges. Servicers were slow to implement HAMP, resulting in a slow start for the program. Recent improvements in the program have accelerated the pace of modifications, and the adjustments announced today will improve performance. But our strategy to address the crisis must evolve because our challenges have also evolved.

Our housing initiatives must balance the need to help responsible homeowners struggling to stay in their homes, with the recognition that we cannot and should not help everyone. The President has said: “We can’t stop every foreclosure.” And in fact, we can’t maintain the balance described above if we assist every borrower. For example, investors and speculators should not be protected under our efforts, nor should Americans living in million dollar homes or defaulters on vacation homes. Some people simply will not be able to afford to stay in their homes because they bought more than they could afford. Instead, the Administration must focus on providing responsible homeowners opportunities to obtain a modification or to refinance and prevent avoidable foreclosures and, when necessary, must facilitate the transition to a more sustainable housing situation. The adjustments announced today are tailored to accomplish these goals by helping a targeted group of borrowers.

Eligible homeowners for modifications under HAMP must, for example: live in an owner occupied principal residence, have a mortgage balance less than $729,750, owe monthly mortgage payments that are not affordable (greater than 31 percent of their income) and demonstrate a financial hardship. The new flexibilities for the modification initiative announced today continue to target this group of homeowners.

The FHA refinance options being announced today will provide more opportunities for lenders to restructure loans for some families who owe more than their home is worth. This is a voluntary program for lenders and homeowners. The population eligible for a FHA refinance must be current on their mortgage. This rewards responsible homeowners and creates stabilizing incentives in the housing market.

Taken together, the Administration’s broad housing initiatives and the new flexibilities announced today will offer a second chance to millions of responsible, middle-class American families struggling to stay in their homes and will help to stabilize our households, neighborhoods and communities.

Police Report: Bullet in Cantor's Office Random

Eric Cantor, while insincerely condemning violence against democrats yesterday, declared he was the victim of violence too. Turns out the bullet he had mentioned yesterday was random:

Richmond police say the bullet that hit a window of Republican Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor's office had been randomly fired skyward.

Amid reports of threats and vandalism against Democrats who voted Sunday for sweeping health care reforms, Cantor said at a Washington news conference Thursday that a bullet was fired into his Richmond office.

In a news release, Richmond police said that the bullet had been fired into the air early Tuesday. It hit the front window of a building that houses Cantor's campaign office as it fell to back earth at a sharp angle. Wdbj7

Obama and Medvedev Reach Deal to Reduce Nukes

Obama and Medvedev will sign the new treaty April 8 in Prague. Read facts about the treaty here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Obama Girls Spring Break in New York City

It wasn't Indonesia, where the Obama girls originally intended to spend spring break with their dad, the POTUS, rather the Big Apple with FLOTUS, while Obama scored big on healthcare and student loan overhaul and in general, DELIVERED. All that could've rhymed.

Reconciliation Done Healthcare Done


Healthcare is done and done. Tonight the House passed the fixes in a reconciliation bill, which also includes student loan reform. Republicans tried hard to obstruct but they didn't get very far this time. John Dingell is pleased:

My dad is smiling. In the end, nothing could stop this
Obama is expected to sign the reconciliation bill soon:
The House of Representatives cleared the final hurdle in Congress' overhaul of the nation's health care system, passing a health care reconciliation bill by a 220-207 vote.

In Iowa, the president challenges Republicans to campaign on repealing new law.

The amendment bill, which included the fixes made to the Senate version of the health care bill, will now go to President Obama for his signature.

The Senate passed the legislation this afternoon by a 56-43 margin after defeating 41 amendments offered by Republicans.

Three Democrats, including Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- all of whom voted for the original Senate health care legislation -- voted against the reconciliation bill. ABC
Pelosi's last healthcare gavel!

Obama Visits Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City Video

WestWingReport twitter: while in Iowa City, Obama stopped into Prairie Light Books and spent about $37 on books for Malia and Sasha and Robert Gibbs' son, Ethan:

he books Obama bought for the girls: “Journey to the River Sea” by Eva Ibbotson & “The Secret of Zoom” by Lynne Jonell.

Graham Takes His Toys and Goes Home

Lindsey Graham makes good on his threat that if healthcare passes, he's not playing anymore:

Immigration reform legislation is "dead" in the Senate this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday.

Graham, who's sought to work with some Democrats on the controversial issues, said that healthcare efforts had "poisoned the well" for bipartisan cooperation going forward.

"When I say immigration's dead in the Senate, risk-aversion abounds," Graham said during a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday. "Some of my colleagues will lose over healthcare. The consequences of this vote are going to be long-lasting politically." The Hill
Then he sticks out his tongue and tells Obama to play by himself:
The senator issued a challenge to Obama, too: write your own bill.

"To the president: If you want to deliver on your unwavering commitment to immigration reform, write a bill," he said. "You write the bill, send it to the House. See what happens, because I don't think you have much of a chance of getting it through the Senate."