Covering

Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.



Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why Is President Obama Calling African Americans "Mongrels"?

Showing yet again, he really is bad at handling the race issue, and perhaps feeling just a bit too comfortable with the women of The View last week (in the presence of Sherry Shepherd and the agreeing Whoopi Goldberg who said Mel Gibson isn't a racist), President Obama calls African Americans "mongrels", saying, "We're all mixed up."



We know that Obama, of mixed race heritage, (Who has been losing points in the polls.  I can't imagine this will help) meant that African Americans are made up of different races due to the heinous American robbery, enslavement, rape, and selling of African forefathers, that resulted in many mixed raced Africans here in America.

What the president doesn't perhaps know is the definition of the word - mongrel.   So, we'll point it out for him here, courtesy of dictionary.com.

mon·grel   

–noun

1. a dog of mixed or indeterminate breed.

2. any animal or plant resulting from the crossing of different breeds or varieties.

3. any cross between different things, esp. if inharmonious or indiscriminate.

–adjective

4. of mixed breed, nature, or origin; of or like a mongrel.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Origin:

 heraldic term for a type of dog; equiv. to mong ( e ) mixture (OE gemang; cf. mingle) + -rel

—Synonyms

1. mutt. 2. cross, half-breed. See hybrid.

—Antonyms

2. thoroughbred, purebred.

All terms related to dogs or animals. 

It isn't enough to have white folks calling African Americans out of their name, now we have to hear it from the first Black U.S. president?

Not to leave anyone out, Obama says the same of white folks. 

"I mean we're all kind of mixed up.That's actually true of white people as well, but we just know more about it."

Last I checked, no one in my family even resembles a dog.  And no one in the Obama family resembles that Portuguese water dog, Bo.

Perhaps it is just you, Mr. President who seems confused, or "mixed up".

So, to Mr. President I say, Man, please!  Or N-please! Or, Chile please!  Whichever you prefer. 

Don't you ever use that word to disrespect the people you just spoke to at the National Urban League, or those who voted you in, or those who had high hopes for you, or those who look up to you, and somehow still respect you. 

That is all!

One Year Anniversary of Detained Hikers Gets Presidential Awareness

Shane Bauer, shown here, one of three hikers detained in Iran.

Tomorrow marks one year since Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal were detained by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sarah, Shane and Josh committed absolutely no crime. When they were arrested and detained, they were hiking in the region along the border of Iran and Iraq. Yet for a full year, they have been held in prison, causing extraordinary grief and uncertainty for them, for their families, and for their loved ones.

President Obama made the following remarks on the eve of their one-year detention: 

"I want to be perfectly clear: Sarah, Shane and Josh have never worked for the United States government. They are simply open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America, and of the human spirit. They are teachers, artists, and advocates for social and environmental justice. They have never had any quarrel with the government of Iran, and have great respect for the Iranian people.
I call on the Iranian government to immediately release Sarah, Shane and Josh. Their unjust detention has nothing to do with the issues that continue to divide the United States and the international community from the Iranian government. This is a humanitarian imperative, as these three young people are innocent of any crime. As a signatory to multiple conventions on human rights, the government of Iran should act in line with the principles of justice, and allow Sarah, Shane and Josh to be reunited with their families. This call has been echoed by people in many countries, and is shared by all who respect human freedom and decency.
I want to particularly acknowledge the suffering and advocacy of Sarah, Shane and Josh’s families. Earlier this week, I spoke with the mothers of these three young people, who have worked tirelessly for the release of their children. The Iranian government’s gesture of allowing these mothers to visit their children was welcome, but I cannot imagine how painful it was for these three courageous women to return home without their children. I told these three mothers that Sarah, Shane and Josh are in my thoughts and prayers, and that the U.S. government would continue to do all that it could to secure their release.
I also spoke earlier this week with the wife of Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran over three years ago. We continue to have no information about his welfare, and reiterate our call for the government of Iran to provide any information that it has about his whereabouts. It is time to facilitate Robert Levinson’s return to the family and friends who have suffered so greatly in his absence. We continue to have him in our thoughts and prayers, and to do all that we can to reunite him with his family.
Each of these cases reminds us of the dignity that is shared by all human beings, and the necessity of justice. All Americans stand together in support of our citizens who are suffering through unjust detention abroad, and we will not rest until they are home."
Learn more at http://www.freethehikers.org and http://www.helpboblevinson.com.

Related
Mumia Abu-Jamal, Innocent, Still On Death Row.  Will Obama Help?

Friday, July 30, 2010

President Obama Driving?

President Visits GM Auto Plant in Hamtramck Michigan

President Obama samples the electric care of the future, a Chevy Volt.

"The auto industry had lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales had gone down by 40 percent. And two of the Big Three, GM and Chrysler, were on the brink of a liquidation bankruptcy", said President Obama during a speech this week at a General Motors plant in Michigan.

The president credits his Administration for turning the auto industry around after bailing out the Big Three auto industries with a $25 billion loan.

"And now here we are a year later. And a year later, GM and Chrysler, along with Ford, are all posting a profit. The U.S. auto industry has hired 55,000 workers, the most job growth in a decade.  And not only that, but you’re producing the cars of the future right here at this plant, producing cars that are going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This car right here doesn’t need a sip of gasoline for 40 miles and then keeps on going after that."

The Administration is also working to bring back made-in-America products, thus putting more Americans back to work in an economy that still has high unemployment rates, especially in Detroit.

"And along with creating these new products, we’ve also started to say, well, why don’t we make the advanced batteries that go into the Volt right here in the United States of America? So we were making 2 percent of the advanced batteries right here in the United States. By 2015, in five years, we will have 40 percent of the market in advanced batteries right here in the United States of America being made by American workers.

The President got to drive the Chevy Volt about 12 inches.  Not very far even for a modest test drive, to say the least.

"Smooth", said President Obama.

The president used the same adjective when describing his own Cadillac that the Secret Service designed for him.

"They don't let me drive much these days. But the Cadillac that I drive in is made right here. I got to admit the Secret Service soups it up a little bit. But it’s a nice ride. It’s very smooth."
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed the President's drive was "a highly unusual, though not unprecedented opportunity for President Obama."

Gibbs said he believes the last time Obama drove was 3-4 months ago, when he drove a Dodge Charger at a Secret Service training facility.

Related
Homeowners Want A Bailout, Too!

While the President was relishing saving the auto industry in Michigan, hundreds of protesters lined up in D.C. outside the Washington Convention Center where the president spoke at a National Urban League event to send a message to the Commander In Chief that homeowners need a bail out, too.

The continued loss of jobs and illegal mortgage practices have left many homeowners fighting to save their homes.   Homeowners and members of NACA have been at the Convention Center for most of last week in an effort to help homeowners modify their existing mortgages.

"We just want to show President Obama that homeowners need help too", said a spokesman for the organization.

"We need a bailout too."

Earlier this year, the adminstration announced adjustments to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) programs designed to better assist responsible homeowners who have been affected by the economic crisis through no fault of their own.

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.

Please see the following links for program details and information:  (1), (2), (3), (4).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

President Obama Speaks At National Urban League's 100th Anniversary

**Updated**

On Thursday, July 29th, at the National Urban League Centennial Conference in Washington, DC, President Obama delivered a major education reform speech emphasizing how his signature Race to the Top program and other initiatives are driving education reform across the country and focusing the nation on the goal of preparing students for college and careers.

The president made a promise to the National Urban League that if he became President he would deliver an address at the organizations Centennial Conference.

The President highlighted the unprecedented support for and adoption of common standards by a majority of states already, and the Administration’s commitment to develop the next generation of high-quality assessments bench marked to common standards.

"Instead of Washington imposing standards from the top down, let’s challenge states to adopt common standards voluntarily, from the bottom up. That doesn’t mean more standards; it means higher standards, better standards, standards that clarify what our teachers are expected to teach and what our children are expected to learn -– so high school graduates are actually prepared for college and a career. I do not want to see young people get a diploma but they can’t read that diploma", said President Obama.

The President's speech focused on the dramatic reforms that states, school districts, schools and teachers unions have undertaken over the past 18 months, including steps to improve teacher effectiveness and transform persistently low-performing schools.

"So I want teachers to have higher salaries. I want them to have more support. I want them to be trained like the professionals they are –- with rigorous residencies like the ones that doctors go through. I want to give them a career ladder so they’ve opportunities to advance, and earn real financial security. I don't want talented young people to say I’d love to teach but I can’t afford it.

The president went on to say on the issue of teachers that he wants teachers to "have a fulfilling and supportive workplace environment."
 
"I want them to have the resources. From basic supplies to reasonable class sizes that help them succeed. And instead of a culture where we’re always idolizing sports stars or celebrities, I want us to build a culture where we idolize the people who are shaping our children’s future. I want some teachers on the covers of some of those magazines. Some teachers on MTV, featured."
 
The president said he is "110 percent behind teachers", but stated "if we’re not seeing results in the classroom, then let’s work with teachers to help them become more effective. If that doesn’t work, let’s find the right teacher for that classroom."  

Seated near the stage was D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee, who just last week fired another round of school teachers - totaling over 400 - for what she says is an issue of under performance.  Rhee has been critical of teachers she deems as not working hard enough to ensure students have higher standardized test scores.   The Washington Teacher's Union plans to contest the firings.

With many students struggling in the classroom, and having to deal with issues like teacher retention, President Obama admonished students that "an education is not something you just tip your head and they pout it in your ear.  You've got to want it.  You've got to reach out and claim that future for yourself.  And you can't make excuses."

Many young people and students we talked to called the president's remarks, "encouraging."
 
Watch video.

Congress Passes Monumental Fair Sentencing Act, Restoring Fairness In Cocaine Sentencing

The United States Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (S.1789), reducing the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine violations.

“I applaud the passage in the House today of the Fair Sentencing Act, which will dramatically reduce a 100-to-1 disparity between trafficking offenses for crack and powder cocaine,” said White House Drug Control Policy Director, Gil Kerlikowske. “The Obama Administration is committed to the fair and equal application of our Nation's laws. The Fair Sentencing Act marks the first time in 40 years that Congress has reduced a mandatory minimum sentence.

“As Director of National Drug Control Policy, I'm charged with ensuring the United States is doing all it can to reduce drug use and its consequences. Our efforts to do so should be grounded in science and evidence, and there is no scientific basis for the crack/powder sentencing disparity,” said Kerlikowske.

The National Drug Control Strategy promotes a balanced and holistic approach for reducing drug abuse and its consequences. The Strategy highlights several key principles for breaking the cycle of drug use, crime, delinquency, and incarceration including: providing communities with the capacity to prevent drug use and drug-related crime; developing infrastructure to promote alternatives to incarceration when appropriate; and using community corrections programs to monitor and support drug-involved offenders.

Reducing drug use and its consequences will require a sustained and effective collaboration between the drug prevention, drug treatment and law enforcement communities.

“By promoting laws and policies that treat all Americans equally, and by working to amend or end those that do not, we can only increase public confidence in the criminal justice system and help create a safer and healthier Nation for us all,” said Kerlikowske.

For more visit www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov.

BP Oil In The Gulf Not The Only Thing Leaking.

Recently Leaked Documents Beg The Question: War. What Is It Good For?

WikiLeaks has released a document set called the Afghan War Diary, an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.

The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers, and mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related details.

The document collection is available on a dedicated web page.

When White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs was questioned about whether charges could be brought against the person who leaked the documents, Gibbs replied, "There is an ongoing investigation that is looking into the leaking of the classified information. As I’ve said here before, my transmitting one of those documents to you would constitute a violation of federal law, and certainly, as I said earlier, handling that type of information comes with certain responsibilities. And if you don’t meet those responsibilities, you’re held liable."

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman talks exclusively to WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange in the video below where, among items discussed about the war in Afghanistan, are incidents of torture and murder, not reported to the media.



Related
Dems Pressured For Answers

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just the Facts, Please. NAACP Director, The White House, and Congress Member Speak On Shirley Sherrod Incident

Call Shirley Sherrod Firing A Mistake.

When the viral video of Shirley Sherrod hit the Internet earlier this week, people called Sherrod, a Black woman - accused of not helping a white farmer lose his farm -  a racist. 

Tea Party member Andrew Breitbart. Video editor and fire starter.

As we now know, the video didn't show the entire story.  The story that Sherrod, a product of the racist, segregated Georgia South, has been a crusader championing the cause for equal rights her whole adult life.

Sherrod was fired from her job as an official with the US Department of Agriculture, and received from the agency's Tom Vilsack scathing remarks.  (He has since retracted them).

Said Vilsack,  "This is a good woman." She has been put through hell. I could have done and should have done a better job."

But Vilsack wasn't the only person in this firestorm of attacks on Sherrod.  The NAACP, once they saw the video, also acted in kind saying, "We have a zero tolerance policy for racism, of any kind", and also denounced the ousted USDA official."

We spoke with NAACP Director Hiliary Shelton, who, on a CNN special said the NAACP was "snookered" into believing what was on a video clip that was later found to have been taken out of context.

"It was really sad, that you had someone that was so maliciously edited the words of such a good woman at an NAACP event with the intent of impugning the NAACP and smearing the administration", Shelton told us.

NAACP Director Hilary Shelton at an event at the Ronald Reagan Building this week.  Photo/CD Brown.

"What’s more shameful is that this individual acted with collusion with FOX television, and FOX News. So this wasn’t something that came through as pundits talk about their views all the time this was reported as a news item. Someone very slickly manipulated the video tape through I guess their computer editing process and actually created this kind of problem that they did. The upside is it exposes this guy who considered himself a member of Tea Party and the antics of the Tea Party shows how discriminatory and how problematic they really are, and quite frankly, how uncivilized they are in promoting this kind of mayhem", said Shelton.

The NAACP has also issued an apology to Ms. Sherrod and has asked for a reconsideration in order Sherrod to regain her position with the USDA.

We also spoke to members of Congress who gave us their remarks on the event.

"I’ve had the opportunity to get up to speed on what happened with Ms. Sherrod", said Congresswoman Maxine Waters. "And I think all of those who criticized her, who doubted her, who fired her, have to step back. Not only reassess what they did, but they’ve got to make it right. I hope that they are grateful enough to offer her job back."

Said Congressman J.C. Watt, "Obviously, they started out with misinformation on the totality of what was going on. And probably took a premature position and now they’ve seen the wisdom of correcting their premature position and we hope the Dept of Agriculture sees the wisdom of correcting its premature decision."

What a difference 24 little hours makes.  What an even bigger difference getting truth makes.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Mrs. Sherrod is owed an apology.  "If we learn anything, everybody involved made a determination without knowing the facts."   Saying of the mishap, "A disservice was done.  An apology is owed."

The White House has made good on that apology, although no official White House invitation has been extended to Ms. Sherrod.

The apology comes one year to the day that President Obama invited Henry Louis Gates to the White House for a beer after a police incident found Gates being arrested for being inside his own home.

Sherrod has accepted apologies from both the White House and USDA's Vilsack.  No apology from the video's vicious editor, Andrew Brietbart.

If nothing else, both of these stories, and others like them, have one thing in common.   They both show harmless people being made victims of a much larger institutional anomaly that still prevails - proving yet again, that in America, race matters.

Full Shirley Sherrod NAACP video can be seen here.


Related
The Sherrod story brought to light the plight of Black Farmers who still have not been awarded the $1.5B owed to them from a racial discrimination lawsuit with the US Department of Agriculture.

"Well, we’re hoping that this will incentivize the Senate to go ahead and move on the funding to fund the settlement and you never know, in politics, what the straw is that will move something [to action] so at the end of the day, perhaps this will serve some useful purpose", said Congressman Mel Watt.

NAACP's Hilary Shelton told us the NAACP has sided with the plight of the Black Farmers since the beginning.

"We testfied and supported their initiative before Federal District court when they filed the Pigford suit in the first place.  We supported those initiatives through the Congress to receive the funding we needed with the Pigford I settlement.  We realize the some farmers have been locked out and we continue to work with organizations like the Black Farmers Association, and with Black farmers themselves, to make sure Pigford II is passed to extend the eligibility to farmers that got left out of the first Pickford settlement.

Shelton said the NAACP is working now with the Department of Agriculture, who he says, recognizes and supports the $1.5B settlement owed to Black Famers.

"The issue for us is making sure the House and Senate support appropriating the funds to pay the farmers what they're due."

Rangle Wrestles With Reporter

**Updated** 
Congressman Rangel Indicted on 13 Counts. Trial to Begin In September.
2nd House Member, Maxine Waters Also Under Investigation

**//**

During Presser Rangel Admonishes Media to "Wait Until Thursday"

U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel sparred with an MSNBC reporter (the late Tim Russert's son, Luke) over being investigated for possible ethics violations.

Rangel, who (among other items) reportedly did not disclose income on rental property he owns in the Caribbean, called Russert's questions - "dumb" when asked if he thinks he will lose his job over the violations. He has since apologized.




Speaking on the Joe Madison Show earlier today, Rangel said "there's no better preparations than the truth" when asked how he will prepare for the upcoming investigation.

"Fortunately in this country, and in the Ethics Committee, whatever they have to say they have to prove.  I look forward to the evidence being exposed before my primary election and before the November election", Rangel went on to say.

He also said "the truth is on my side."

In other Rangel news, the Democratic who serves New York's 15th District, joins a group of leaders hoping to have the 2011 All-Star Game to be moved out of Phoenix, Arizona.

The request comes at a time when Arizona has implemented a controversial SB1070 immigration law, allowing local law enforcement to identify, prosecute and deport undocumented immigrants.

Rangel, who stepped down earlier this year as Ways and Means Chair, held a press conference today in response to yesterday's language with Luke [Russert] where he admonished the media to "wait until Thursday", the day the Ethics Committee is expected to reveal its findings.

Rangel looks good for 80. Doesn't he?

Related
Rangel's Resume
Gore Cleared of Sex Abuse Charges Alleged By Masseuse

Thursday, July 22, 2010

NOAA To Re-Open Gulf To Commercial Fishing

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will re-open 26,388 square miles of Gulf waters to commercial and recreational fishing, it announced today.

The reopening of a third of the overall closed area was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

“Today’s decision is good news for Gulf fishermen and American consumers,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “Following the best science for this re-opening provides important assurance to the American people that the seafood they buy is safe and protects the Gulf seafood brand and the many people who depend on it for their livelihoods.”

Florida Representative, Kendrick Meek (D) responded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announcement saying, "This announcement is great news to fishermen in Florida and their families. The BP oil spill has had a terrible impact on those who rely on Gulf waters for their livelihood. Through no fault of their own, these hardworking men and women remain most affected by BP's negligence. But this is only a first step in a long process of permanently stopping the flow of oil and continuing many months of clean-up. I will do everything in my power to fight for those Floridians who have been affected by the oil spill, and I will continue to work tirelessly to hold accountable those who helped cause it."

Since mid-June, NOAA data have shown no oil in the area, and United States Coast Guard observers flying over the area in the last 30 days have also not observed any oil. Additionally, trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

Related
Severe Weather Response Plan in Place for Oil Spill Response

The Unified Area Command center is tracking tropical weather near the Bahamas very closely and is constantly engaged in discussions with the National Hurricane Center, NOAA and FEMA to ensure the safety of more than 40,000 people currently assisting in the oil spill response and recovery efforts.

To prepare for the possibility of severe weather, Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, Federal On Scene Coordinator, has directed the movement of surplus response equipment to inland staging areas. These considerations are meant to protect people, boats, boom and other equipment while planning for the safe and speedy resumption of oil spill recovery after a storm.

“We are repositioning assets away from low-lying areas to higher ground staging areas to protect our ability to respond to the dynamic requirements of the incident. The protection of the equipment and crew is paramount to ensure maximum ability to respond to any new challenges a storm may pose to the enormous mission. We are committed to following through with our response. There will be no reductions in effort, urgency or commitment even as we sustain the long-term relief effort,” said Zukunft.

Activities that are underway for storm preparedness include evacuating specialized vessels from the path of any severe weather to prevent damage and ensure that oil recovery operations can resume as soon as possible after a storm. Additionally, boom is being removed from marsh areas where oil is not threatening the shore to prevent damage from the heavy equipment getting pushed into the delicate area by strong winds and high tides.

It is necessary to begin moving equipment to inland staging areas well in advance of a potential storm. The consolidation of boom and other equipment at our inland staging areas will in no way hinder the current response operations, but will serve to protect as much of this vital resource from the elements as possible through the risky hurricane season.

Wednesday, Zukunft sent a letter to local officials to provide an update on resource protection in case of a storm. The letter can be viewed here.

Statement by President Obama on Signing the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010

After weeks (and seemingly months) of rangling between the House and Senate President Obama signed the unemployment insurance extension today.

At the signing, the president made these remarks: "Today, I signed the unemployment insurance extension to restore desperately needed assistance to two and a half million Americans who lost their jobs in the recession. After a partisan minority used procedural tactics to block the authorization of this assistance three separate times over the past weeks, Americans who are fighting to find a good job and support their families will finally get the support they need to get back on their feet during these tough economic times.

Now it’s time for Congress to act on more proposals that support our economic recovery, including passing critical aid to our states and support to small businesses, continued Obama. Small businesses are the engine of job growth, and measures to cut their taxes and make lending available should not be held hostage to partisan tactics like those that unconscionably held up unemployment insurance."

Republicans blocked the unemployment aid three separate times over the past weeks, a partisan move that could have cost millions of Americans the essential aid needed for rent and to feed their families. 

Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe both gave their support of the extension.

The bill will add 20 weeks of unemployment insurance, providing a much needed reprieve for the millions of out of work Americans.

Congress had debated on how the benefits would be paid.

In a White House briefing earlier in the week, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs likened the funding of the benefits extension to a family deciding how pay for college, or fixing a leaking roof.

"You make an investment in a college education not because you may have four years of tuition sitting in your savings account, but because you understand that it’s a better investment for the next day. Or if you came home and you had a leak in your roof, but you didn’t have the money to pay for it and the only thing you could do was borrow the money,  would you argue at the kitchen table that we ought to just -- everybody ought to just get wet until we can scrape together the money to pay for it, or should we deal with the emergency as it exists so that everybody doesn’t get rained on?

I think that might be a good lesson for Washington, that we all don’t just get rained on as 8.5 million people are out of work."

H.R. 4213, the “Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010,” will extend the initial eligibility for emergency unemployment compensation and 100% Federal funding for extended unemployment insurance benefits through November 30, 2010.

A much needed gesture in a moment when U.S. unemployment levels stand at 9.5%, or higher in some states.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

President Obama Signs Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

Accountability From Wall Street Means Protection For You.

No more exorbitant credit card rate hikes, and unexpected overdraft fees. No more footing the bill for Wall Street. No more complex mortgage fees.

That was the order of the day set by President Obama as he signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act during a ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building today. (See video).


President Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law.  Photo/CD Brown.

The President was joined by an array of individuals instrumental in the legislation, including consumer advocates, business leaders, state and local officials, and members of Congress, including two Americans Americans struggled with credit card rate hikes.

The bill is named for the work of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT) (C) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA).

"For the last year, Chairmen Barney Frank and Chris Dodd have worked day and night  to bring about this reform. And I am profoundly grateful to them", remarked President Obama.
President Obama points to and credits House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank after signing.

Said Frank, in an exclusive interview with Politics. On Point., " I think we have done something very significant for the American economy. It’s the best package of consumer reform. It will prevent, I believe, the kind of acts we had in the past, and it does it in a way that doesn’t interfere at all with the functioning of the economy. So, I think it’s a very, very good package."

A package so good that Frank thinks Republicans won't want to repeal it.

"I believe, [number] one, the consumer protection act will become so popular they’ll forget about even trying. Secondly, they’re not even going to be in the position to try it", said Frank.

Quite a different take from the comment we received from Maryland Congressman, Steny Hoyer who told us House Republican Leader John Boehner has already planned to repeal the bill.

But the Democrats are prepared.

"We know that the kind of progressive work that’s done on a bill like this is going to get opposition from people who care more about Wall Street than they do about Main Street. And so we will meet the challenge, we will deal with it, and we are not going to allow this bill to be repealed", said Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Congressman Emanuel Clever, III (D-MI) said the bill looms with ideas that came from Republicans.  

"I think it’s just one of those times when we can point to a very real problem that government has essentially resolved. It’s going to take a very long time before all of the different components of the Financial Reform Bill are implemented, but there’s no question that future generations will not face the kind of melt down that damaged us because of what we have accomplished over the last two years, and the signing today."
 
The law will not only terminate unscrupulous practices by credit card companies but will also crack down on abusive practices in the mortgage industry and large financial institutions. 
 
"If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy. And there will be new rules to make clear that no firm is somehow protected because it is “too big to fail,” so that we don’t have another AIG", said President Obama.

"There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."

Said Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), "For the first time, perhaps ever, in the history of this country we have legislation that is really going to regulate the financial services industry and protect consumers and give this country an opportunity to dig out from under the mess that was created by them when we had to bail them out."

Congressman J.C. Watts calls the bill "a culmination of a long hard struggle" going back to 2004 when he helped introduced the anti-predatory lending bill.  "It’s been a long process and I’m delighted that we’ve finally gotten to this point."

The president also recognized Senator Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their leadership.

"It wouldn’t have happened without them."

The law marks the second major accomplishment for President Obama as it relates to reforms.  Earlier this year he signed into law a massive healthcare reform bill designed to improve patient-doctor relations.

Related
Video:  What Wall Street Reform Means To You!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vice President's Task Force On Equal Pay For Women and Girls.

Today, Vice President Joe Biden held a Middle Class Task Force event on solutions for families balancing the dual demands of work and caring for family.  The Vice President and members of the White House Middle Class Task Force and Council on Women and Girls announced recommendations from the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force and discussed the Administration’s ongoing commitment to improving work-family balance for all Americans.

Chair of the White House Middle Class Task Force, Vice President Biden said: “Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works. Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities – and it must.  Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility – these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle class economic security.”

To implement President Obama’s pledge in the State of the Union address to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, the Administration created the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, bringing together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”), and the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”).

Although a number of laws exist to address equal pay enforcement, the Task Force has identified five persistent challenges in this area, made recommendations to address each challenge, and developed an action plan to implement those recommendations.  The recommendations from the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force are as follows:
1.      Improve interagency coordination and enforcement efforts to maximize effectiveness of existing authorities. 
2.      Collect data on the private workforce to better understand the scope of the pay gap and target enforcement efforts. 
3.      Undertake a public education campaign to educate employers on their obligations and employees on their rights. 
4.      Implement a strategy to improve the federal government’s role as a model employer.
5.      Work with Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

To read more about this set of recommendations and action plan, please click here.  
 
The White House Council on Women and Girls also announced the White House’s launch of a Work-Flex Event Starter Kit to encourage greater dialogue around workplace flexibility at the community level and bring people together to start making changes. Employees, businesses, and universities are encouraged to use the Event Starter Kit to host a discussion in their own community about how innovative workplace flexibility policies can help employees balance work and family responsibilities, while simultaneously improving employers’ bottom lines.To view the White House’s Work-Flex Event Starter Kit, please click here. 
 
At the event, the Vice President was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, and Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Jacqueline Berrien.  Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama to fight pay discrimination and ensure fundamental fairness to American workers, introduced the Vice President.

The Department of Justice:  Attorney General Eric Holder pledged that the Department of Justice and other enforcement agencies will coordinate and collaborate through investigations, litigation, policy guidance, data analysis, and public education efforts to make meaningful progress in closing the wage gap.  Already, the Justice Department, in conjunction with the EEOC and four of its district offices, has launched a robust and intensive pilot program to coordinate the investigation and litigation of charges against state and local government employers.  The Department is also coordinating with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to better enforce the laws that protect the civil rights of employees of federal contractors.  The Attorney General recommitted the Department of Justice to these critical efforts and to ensuring equal opportunity and equal treatment in the workplace. For more information, please visit:  http://www.justice.gov/.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:  The EEOC committed to engage in increased outreach and education to improve awareness of wage discrimination laws; evaluate wage data collection needs and current capabilities, working in concert with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to avoid duplicative data collection efforts; work with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to improve the federal government’s status as a model employer; and work with the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice to improve interagency coordination toward enforcement of our nation’s wage discrimination laws.  For more information, please visit:  http://www.eeoc.gov/.

The Department of Labor:  Through a collaborative effort between the Departments of Labor, Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Administration will ensure strategic enforcement of pay discrimination cases. In addition to hiring nearly 200 more enforcement staff, DOL will publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking early next year.  The ANPRM will seek input from stakeholders on how the Equal Opportunity survey can be improved.  The Labor Department will also launch new public education efforts, including an Equal Pay Checklist, a revamping of the Equal Pay Employer Self-Audit tool, and hosting an Equal Pay Research Summit.

To address issues related to work/family balance, the Labor Department will conduct a new Family and Medical Leave Act survey in 2011.  The survey will provide needed insights into how families use leave. In addition to baseline data collection, the survey will also provide information on regulatory changes including a recent administrative interpretation of the FMLA. In 2011, DOL intends to sponsor a supplement to the American Time Use Survey.

The data collection will be designed to gather more information on parental leave, child care responsibilities, family leave insurance program usage, and other issues related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities.  Building on the White House’s Flexibility Forum, the Department will also host a series of “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” forums across the country.  For more information about the U.S. Labor Department’s pay equity and workplace flexibility initiatives, please visit:  http://www.dol.gov/.

President Obama made the following remarks earlier today:
"In America today, women make up half of the workforce, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman’s wages as a significant portion of their families’ income.  

Yet, even in 2010, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The gap is even more significant for working women of color, and it affects women across all education levels.  As Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force will discuss today, this is not just a question of fairness for hard-working women.  Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income.  And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole.  In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden.

My Administration has already begun to address this problem. In my first week in office, I signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women who face wage discrimination recover their lost wages, and in my State of the Union Address, I promised to crack down on violations of equal pay laws. Today the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force will present its recommendations, which include ways to better coordinate among enforcement agencies and inform employees about their rights.  These steps support women, and they also support businesses that are doing the right thing and paying their employees what they deserve."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Press Secretary Tackles Pressing Issues

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Taking Questions From The Media. Photo/CD Brown.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answers questions from Washington's press pool ranging from topics like extending unemployment benefits to millions of unemployed Americans, to the recent release of the Lockerbie Bomber.

Here's what he had to say today on the issues:

On Having Enough Votes To Extend Unemployment Benefits:  "...We’re obviously hopeful that we have the votes. Obviously, with the appointment of a senator -- a new senator from West Virginia, that’s certainly important. We have the support of Senator Collins and Senator Snowe from Maine. But I don't think you would take -- we certainly don't take anything for granted given the fact that this will be the fourth vote on extending unemployment benefits, when if you look, I think, at the past this has tended not to be a confrontational -- or controversial thing to do.

We have hundreds of thousands of Americans each week that exhaust whatever stage of their unemployment benefits they're in. For many of them -- and you heard the President tell some stories today -- these are people that are having to make decisions not just this month, but next month, on how to pay the bills and how to pay the mortgage. We don't take any of that for granted in trying to ensure that we have in place the type of emergency benefits that are necessary.
 
It’s important to the President; it’s important to the 2.5 million Americans who have already seen their benefits disappear. That number would grow to 2.8 million by the end of the week... This piece of legislation, if the Senate passes it tomorrow, goes back to the House. We hope to get it back to the President’s desk as quickly as possible so that we don't see that number of 2.5 million Americans go to 2.8 million.

On the BP Oil Spill Being Contained: "We had some concerns, I think as you heard, over the past 24 hours about commitments that BP had made that we did not feel that they were adequately living up to in terms of that monitoring. That was dealt with last night on a call that lasted late into the evening where we believe that we’re getting the type of overall monitoring, particularly the seismic and the monitoring with the remotely operated vehicle, so that we can look at each of these different steps.

The original intention of this test was, engaging that pressure you could make a few different determinations, first and foremost, in bad weather, which we’ve seen more of earlier than we have in recent memory. Could you temporarily cap the well? Would the pressure sustain itself to temporarily cap the well in the event that boats had to be moved out for a hurricane? To what degree is the structure and the integrity of the well -- how can that -- can that sustain either assisting with a kill operation as it relates to the relief well, or can you try a separate kill operation using this cap and this blowout preventer?

That monitoring continues. And we will continue that each day. About 1:00 p.m., there is a conference call with the scientists -- I don't know if it’s still going on -- where they will determine whether or not, based on the pressure readings that they're seeing, are we okay to move to an additional 24 hours of testing -- again, to make these determinations -- all the while monitoring to ensure, as I said last week, that we do not do any harm to the well itself. 

The good news is we have a containment architecture that we believe is likely to contain all of what could come out of that well."

On Whether the Topic of the Lockerbie Bomber Will Surface When the President Meets With PM Cameron Tomorrow:  "Let me say this: Our viewpoint on this case last year was well known, and that was we opposed the release of the Lockerbie bomber. We made that opinion known. I think the government that will visit from -- Prime Minister Cameron’s government also opposed that release. I anticipate that in some form, yes, this will probably come up tomorrow."

On Whether BP Had A Role In The Release of the Lockerbie Bomber: "I think in many ways that will be up to the British government to determine. I know that whatever -- I do not know the role that BP played. It certainly -- we were unaware of any role that they played in rendering an opinion. If they did, we certainly didn't agree with the opinion that he should be released, and that's what we enunciated to the government."

On If The U.S. Is Winning In Afghanistan: "I think he [President Obama] would tell you that we are in a better -- in better shape than we were, that we have -- and we are constantly evaluating the resources that we've added. As you know, there will be a White House-led review in December on where we are on the strategy. I don't think anybody in this building or anybody in the Pentagon or anybody in this town that is aware of the decisions that we've had to make, that anybody that thought this was going to be quick, anybody that thought this wasn’t going to be a tough slog each and every bit of the way -- and I think it’s proved to be that.

Click here for full briefing.

Message To Republicans: Stop Holding Up Progress!

Today, President Obama called on Congress to extend critical unemployment insurance to millions of Americans looking for a job. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday will vote on extending unemployment benefits for Americans still struggling to find work and overcome the lingering effects of the recession. In the three previous efforts, Senate Republicans have blocked the extension of emergency relief for the unemployed. Across the country, this stonewalling has already blocked assistance to 2.5 million Americans, and hundreds of thousands more are impacted by each additional week of delay.



The President also highlighted that many Republicans have previously supported unemployment extensions under Republican administrations but refuse to offer relief to middle class families today. Many of these Republicans want to extend hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while telling working families that we can’t afford to help them when they need it most.

At the White House, the President was joined by three Americans in need of the extension who shared their story:

Jim Chukalas, from Fredon Township, NJ, was laid off as a parts manager at a Honda dealership in 2008. He ran out of Tier III benefits and his Tier IV expired two weeks ago because Congress has failed to act. Jim has persistently searched for work and fights to keep his spirits up for his family’s sake.

Denise Gibson from Queens, NY, was laid off as a maintenance supervisor in January and has been receiving unemployment insurance benefits since February. She will receive the benefits only until August unless the extension is passed. She is currently late on her rent and due back in housing court in early August. She is interviewing for jobs and has plans to go to nursing school later this year.

Leslie Macko, from Charlottesville, VA, lost her job as an aesthetician in 2009. She received, and exhausted, Virginia unemployment compensation benefits. She has also exhausted her Tier I benefits and had 4.9 weeks of Tier II EUC for which she is eligible. However, there has been a 6-week delay in the Tier II benefits and once she receives these benefits, she will not be eligible for additional unemployment insurance. She has persistently searched for work, and continues to do so. To pay her rent, utilities, food, and other expenses she has had to borrow money from her father on a monthly basis.

Click here to watch President Obama's remarks from this morning.

Broadway Comes To The White House!

Our First Lady with performers from the Joy of Motion dance troup at today's White House rehearsal. Photos/CD Brown.

The White House is celebrating Broadway this evening with a little help from a few local students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and the Joy of Motion Dance Center, continuing the White House Music tradition of celebrating the arts and demonstrating the importance of arts education with its Performances At The White House series.

"This is exactly what we envisioned happening when we started this music series, opening up this White House to just so many original forms of music. And we’re going to have Broadway right here in the East Wing tonight, and it is phenomenal", said an enthusiastic First Lady.

Performers at the White House.  Photo/CD Brown.

Earlier today, we got a sneak peek from what is forthcoming in tonight's salute to Broadway (to be aired on PBS October 20th at 9:00 p.m) that featured a segment from the Broadway show Hairspray, led by choreographer Jerry Mitchell.

Mitchell, who instructed the dancers during the rehearsal to straighten their arms just a bit higher during the rehearsal, was met with a bit of opposition when the First Lady questioned his recommendation.

"What's wrong with it?", asked the First Lady who was clearly enjoying the rehearsal of You Can't Stop The Beat as she could be seen dancing in her seat.

"I see nothing wrong with it", she said.

With many of the performers getting their first chance to be on TV, Mitchell wants everything to be perfect.

Especially since the entire First Family will be in attendance.

"Grandma’s coming, Malia, Sasha -- Bo, if he wouldn’t bark. But he’s not allowed to come", said the First Lady.  "The President will be sitting there. Don’t be intimidated. He’s harmless."

President Obama will make opening remarks at the event which will be held in the East Room of the White House and streamed live on
www.whitehouse.gov beginning tonight at 7:00 p.m.

Expected at tonight's performance: Elaine Stritch, Margo Lion, George Wolfe,
Brian d'Arcy James, and Idina Menzel.

Previous “Performance at the White House” events have featured Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, Joan Baez, and A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement, and Fiesta Latina. 


Related
First Lady To Through Out First Pitch

The First Lady will announce a joint initiative relating to her Let’s Move! childhood obesity campaign with members of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. Mrs. Obama will join Sue Selig, wife of Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Tim Brosnan, MLB Executive Vice President of Business, Tony Clark, Director, Player Relations, MLB Players Association and the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Raysleadership and players for an 11:00 AM press conference at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Following the announcement, the players will conduct a baseball clinic on Camden Yards field for 50 young baseball players from local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) leagues and Boys & Girls Clubs. Later that evening, Mrs. Obama will be escorted out to home plate by young baseball players from the RBI and the Boys & Girls Club who will throw out the first pitch at the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays game.