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



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

White House Holiday Tour 2011: Shine, Give, Share

First Lady Michelle Obama invited military families and their children to the White House today to marvel at the White House Christmas decorations, while their children engaged in ornament making in the State Dining room with the First Lady.

Photo by Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT.
Four year old Gerald Hogan, Jr. was the star of the day, all smiles with his ornament of White House dog, Bo.   Gerald tied a green ribbon on his ornament and lifted it up for photographers to see. 

When asked if he was going to put the ornament of Bo on his tree at home, he replied, “We don’t have a tree.” 


Cute four year-old talks about  his White House Christmas ornament.

It may be a bit early yet for the Hogan family Christmas tree, but the White House was decked with boughs of holly, Christmas trees, and more.  Thirty-seven Christmas trees to be exact, to include 30 natural trees, seven made from paper, felt or aluminum.


“It just draws me [in] when you walk in and smell [them], the smell is breathtaking”, said Diana Jackman, who was visiting with a Gold Star military family.
“This is just awesome.”


First Lady with children and the White House gingerbread house.

The 18 foot balsam fir, delivered to the White House last week courtesy of Schroder’s Forevergreens, sits in the East Landing as a tribute to Gold Star military families.  Many military families served as volunteers, helping to decorate it.  The tree is decorated with notes of thanks written to service men and women.  Buttons from soldier uniforms adorned the tree’s blue skirt.
Jennifer Jackman, a Gold Star mother from Kansas, along with another Gold Star mom and a military wife were asked by the First Lady to be volunteers.  

Jackman got the distinct honor of introducing the First Lady who thanked the military families for their service to the country.

Said the First Lady, “And it’s also why we’re using the holiday season here at the White House to highlight our troops and our veterans, and all of their families through this year’s theme, which is “Share, Give, Shine.”
Mrs. Obama also took the moment to talk about why she, along with second lady, Dr. Jill Biden, started their Joining Forces tribute to military families initiative. 

“We don’t all understand what it’s like to be in a military family.  And that’s one of the reasons why Jill and I started our Joining Forces initiative, because we wanted to rally all Americans to honor, recognize, and support our military families.  We wanted to make sure that never again would someone have to ask the question, what is a Gold Star family, and what does that sacrifice mean.  We all should know”, she said. 
White House dog, Bo, not to be outdone by Christmas trees and all the shimmering ornaments, can be seen just as often throughout the White House rooms.  There are five Bo Topiaries made from various materials, in the likeness of the famous Portuguese water dog, to include 35 yards of wool felt, 750 pom poms, 12 marshmallows and 1,911 pieces of licorice.  No material was spared while making replicas of the famous first dog; trash bags were also used (6,850 feet worth).

“So, trust me, our dog has been a little confused walking around the house for the last couple of weeks, seeing himself in gigantic form”, said First Lady Obama. 
A gingerbread replica of the White House graced a table inside the State Dining room.  The gingerbread masterpiece, created with the help of volunteers who began in October of this year, made the work of art with 400 pounds of white chocolate and marzipan.  The House is surrounded with short and tall trees also made with marzipan and with macaroons. The tall trees are made out of almond macaroons, while the shorter trees are made with almond paste shaped into fruit. 

Holiday decorations, in any home, wouldn’t be complete without a Nativity scene.  The White House Nativity scene is a brilliantly shimmering display of color and arrangement displayed in the center wall of the East Room.  It is a late 18th-century Italian presepio (crèche), made in Naples, and has been on exhibit in the East Room of the White House during the holiday season since 1967.   It boasts angels hovering above the manger with Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. 
“It’s absolutely gorgeous”, exclaimed Diana Jackman.  “Absolutely beautiful.” 

To learn more about the holiday decorations, touring schedule throughout the month of December, and even holiday recipe ideas, visit www.WhiteHouse.gov/2011HolidayTour.
Photos at Denver Post.  Watch the video here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surprise: Vice President Makes a Stop in Iraq

(via White House Press Office)

Vice President Biden has made a suprised visit to Iraq today.
While there, the Vice President will co-chair a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee. He will also meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and other political leaders. The Vice President will also participate in, and give remarks at, an event to commemorate the sacrifices and accomplishments of U.S. and Iraqi troops.


Over nearly three years in office, the Administration has kept its promises on Iraq. American forces withdrew from Iraq’s cities in July 2009. The United States ended its combat mission in Iraq on August 31, 2010, and drew down to fewer than 50,000 troops from approximately 144,000 in January 2009. Throughout this period, violence in Iraq has remained at its lowest level since 2003. On October 21st, President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki agreed that it was in the best interests of both the United States and Iraq to draw down U.S. forces by the end of 2011 and embark on a new phase in our relationship—a long-term strategic partnership across a range of sectors. In accordance with the 2008 Security Agreement between our two nations, all U.S. forces will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.

Now, pursuant to the U.S-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, we are deepening our cooperation on politics and diplomacy; trade and finance; energy; services, technology, the environment, and transportation; law enforcement and the judiciary; and defense and security. This week’s meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee in Baghdad will address and enhance our joint efforts on each of these important policy areas.

This is Vice President Biden’s eighth trip to Iraq since his election as Vice President.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Congressman Barry Frank Announces His Retirement

Representative Barry Frank (D-MA), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee has announced his retirement.

Speaking on the House floor Frank said, "I do not chose to run for Congress in 2012."   Citing "I've gone through some changes here."  



Frank's work has included issues from agriculture to veterans affairs.  An openly gay Congressman, Frank has supported the rights of the LGBT community.  In 2010 Frank helped pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Frank states he will still function in some sort of "legislative capacity", and admitted he does not like fund raising, which he is required to do. (Full press conference here).

He has been outspoken on the deficit reduction talks, going against cuts in social benefits.  Stating just last week Barney said,"We should not be told that we have to reduce two of the great achievements of the United States in the 20th century, Medicare and Social Security."

Slated to replace Frank, 71, is Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), another passionate Congressional members on the people's issues.

On the news of his retirement President Obama remarked, "This country has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him.  For over 30 years, Barney has been a fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice.  He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable.  He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them.  And it is only thanks to his leadership that we were able to pass the most sweeping financial reform in history designed to protect consumers and prevent the kind of excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis from ever happening again.  Barney’s passion and his quick wit will be missed in the halls of Congress, and Michelle and I join the people of the Bay State in thanking him for his years of service."

Frank will retire at the end of this year.

Related
Obama signs Dodd-Frank.  Our coverage here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Arrival of the White House Christmas Tree

The White House Christmas tree arrived today courtesy of Sue and Tom Schroeder of Wisconsin. 

The Schroeders, who have a Christmas tree farm about 90 miles southwest of Green Bay, won the honor to present their tree to the First Lady after winning a national Christmas tree contest given by the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).



This marks the 46th tree presented by a member of the NCTA.  The 18 1/2 foot Balsam fir, which can take s long as 15 years to grow, will grace the Blue Room of the White House where it will serve as the centerpiece of the White House Christmas decorations.
Last year’s tree, a Douglas fir, was delivered courtesy of Christopher Botek of Pennsylvania.
First Lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha were on hand to accept the delivery, as was White House dog, Bo.



“Bo, do you like the tree?”, asked the First Lady.
After sniffing around the horse-drawn carriage that delivered the tree up to the North Portico of the White House, it was clear that the tree met Bo’s approval.
The tree was acceptable to the First Lady and daughters as well.

“Happy Holidays”, said the First Lady to the media attended, as she waved and headed back into the White House.
The F irst Lady will invite military families, including Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children, to the White House to view its decorations.  This year, a special Gold Star Christmas tree decorated by Gold Star families will be displayed at the visitor’s entrance on the East Wing Landing. The theme of this year’s Blue Room Christmas Tree will be honoring Blue Star families.  
About the NCTA
The NCTA was founded in 1955 and represents about 4,500 people involved in the production and sale of real Christmas trees.  NCTA provides industry educational progams as well as consumer product info.  The vision is to have a real Christmas tree in every family’s Christmas celebration.  Visit realchristmastrees.org for more info.

See also www.RealChristmasTrees.org, and www.treesfortroops.org.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This Thanksgiving Liberty And Peace Have a Different Meaning

While America gears up to celebrate Thanksgiving and President Obama traditionally pardoned ‘Liberty’ and ‘Peace’, two Thanksgiving turkeys who were spared  from ending up on a family's Thanksgiving dinner table, one local family saw both their liberty questioned and their peace interrupted.

"Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American", said President Obama today at the White House.  "It’s a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company."

For one Prince Georges County family their holiday will be marred by the resounding sounds of Prince George’s county police officers banging at their door.

Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee and established attorney for more than two decades and her family, were met early Monday by the sounds of swat and police raiding their home at 5:30 am.

“They held us a gunpoint for three hours”, said Arnwine, who is helping to lead the charge of identifying  voter fraud and discrimination in states around the country for the upcoming 2012 election.

This summer Arnwine, Reverend Jesse Jackson and other Civil Rights activists, held a press conference at the National Press Club to make citizens aware of the tactics being used.



 
“These efforts to limit access to the ballot take several forms, including voter identification and proof of citizenship laws, voter intimidation and suppression and "election integrity" squads who challenge voters at the polls”.

While Arnwine and members of the Lawyers Committee are calling for the Department of Justice to stop what she, and others call ‘assaults’ on voters, she found her and own family under assault.
She, her son, and nephew were all held at gun point while the officers raided her home.

The reason has yet to be determined.

  
Arnwine explains her ordeal with PG County police to Pacifica Radio/WPFW's Askia Muhammad.

“It’s on the way”, we were told, said Arnwine.

Arnwine said the officers even went as far as to demean her education asking her in derogatory fashion, where did she go to school and the year she graduated as to suggest she wasn’t properly credentialed. When she told the officers that their actions weren’t warranted and she knew her constitutional rights she was met with ‘they don’t apply here today’.
The officers, with guns drawn, challenged Arnwine and her family, suggesting that if they made one wrong move, she and her family would be met with a unfavorable-like fate.
“Don’t make me hurt you” seemed to be the order of the day, recounted Arnwine.
Arnwine later said after the police failed to produce a warrant, and acted as though they didn’t know who she was, misspelling her name, that she thinks the swat team had the wrong house.  She called the ordeal a “fishing exposition”.  
Said Arnwine, “This is totally, totally sloppy, bad, careless police misconduct.  Truly unprofessional. Totally unjustified.”

President Obama, learning of the event, sent emails to members of Congress asking for an explanation of what happened.
Arnwine said she believes the ordeal was totally meant to “intimidate, humiliate and threaten” her and her family.

She said the police even went as far as to ask her son what car he drove, “so we’ll know you when we see you in the street.”

“There was no other purpose that I could see”, Arnwine explained.

Arnwine said she plans to file a law suit against the PG County police department.
“Shame on them”, she said.

--

Related
This article was read and featured here.

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The First Lady Hosts Country Music Night at the White House.

Continuing the White House music series, the First Lady hosted a country music workshop at the White House featuring the likes of country music artists Darius Rucker (Hootie and the Blowfish), Lyle Lovett and Kris Christopherson.
Students from H.D. Woodson, and other area schools, were invited participated in the workshop where they asked questions and learned about the careers of the musicians.

The advice given to the students about pursuing their passions, "keep at it".   "If it's in your heart, then you should keep doing it", said Kristofferson.

Things you might not have known about the three singers.

Kris Kristofferson was a janitor before making it big.
Darius Rucker shared a house with 14 siblings growing up.
Lyle Lovette thought he wanted to be a journalist before becoming a singer.

Watch the video below to learn even more about the trio who blessed the students with individual performances.



The evening event, which will also feature James Taylor, Dierks Bentley and The Band Perry, will be shown on PBS Thanksgiving evening.

Said President Obama in his remarks, "As Charley Pride, who played here two years ago, once said: “There is enough room in country music for everybody.”  And over the past five years, I’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to travel all across America.  I’ve hopped on planes to big cities.  I’ve ridden buses through small towns.  And along the way, I’ve gained an appreciation for just how much country music means to so many Americans."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. Vice President!

We're sending out a very special Happy Birthday to Vice President Joe Biden who celebrates his birthday this Sunday.

The 47th US Vice President, Joe Biden, turns 69 on Sunday, November 20th.
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The former Delaware senator turns 69.

His wife, and second lady, Dr. Jill Biden would love for you to sign his birthday card.

Just click here to send your well wishes, and a Happy B-day to Mr. VP!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bullet Hits White House Window?

Sixteen hundred Pennsylvania Avenue narrowly came under siege last weekend when 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega fired shots at the White House.

Oscar Ortega wanted for firing shots at White House.
Photo collage/Politics. On Point.
Further examination revealed a bullet smashed a White House glass window, but didn't not penetrate due to its anti-ballistic properties.

It is believed that Ortega fired the shots last Friday night around 9pm using an AK-47-style rifle.  The rifle was later recovered from an abandoned car Friday thought to belong to Ortega.  Additional rounds of weaponry were also found.

Ortega is described as a 5'11" tall, 160 pound Hispanic man with a medium build. He has brown eyes and black hair.

Officers obtained an arrest warrant for Ortega on a felony charge of carrying a dangerous weapon.

This charge should be increased from 'carrying a dangerous weapon' to 'firing a dangerous weapon' into a residence, and other related charges.

No one firing shots into the White House should just be charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, or possessing a dangerous weapon, for that matter.


President Obama and the First Lady were traveling in Hawaii for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. 

No remarks from the president on the White House shooting have been reported.

President Obama and the First Lady return to Washington this weekend after a visit in Australia and Indonesia.

**Latest Updates** 

November 18, 2011, 3:00 p.m.
Ortega thought he was God.  Mental Illness suspected.
Ortega, a troubled man with a troubled past and a possible mental illness, referred to President Obama as the Antichrist.  Made a video detailing his thoughts.


 More.

November 17; 4:25 pm.
Ortega Formally Charged.
Oretega  in custody.  Charged with trying to assassinate President Obama.  Claims state he was convinced the government is against him.   (Please. Everybody thinks that, including the Occupy Wall Street protesters).

**Updated** November 16, 2011
Reports indicate that Ortega has been apprehended.  Had an 'obsession' with the White House.
Ortega was apprehended in Pennsylvania on today, after a four-day search.

Police arrested the 21-year-old Idaho man at a hotel after a desk clerk recognized his picture. Ortega was scheduled to make his first appearance at 2 p.m. Thursday in federal court in Pittsburgh and many questions remained about his motive and background.  (Source).

Side bar:   This news should make for some very expressive photographs of President Obama by his photographer, Pete Sousa.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The First Lady Creates Jobs!

Announces Major Private Sector Commitments to Hire 100,000 Veterans and Military Spouses in Support of Joining Forces

Just in time for Veterans Day, First Lady Michelle Obama in her keynote address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Business Steps Up: Hiring our Heroes event, announced that the International Franchise Association (IFA) which represents 1,100 franchises has committed to hiring 80,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. 5,000 jobs of this commitment are promised to wounded warriors. 

Calling the announcement "unprecedented" Mrs. Obama also announced that the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) which Dr. Jill Biden helped launch at the Chamber of Commerce last summer and which includes nearly 100 companies and organizations has committed to employ 20,000 military spouses. These organizations include companies like Microsoft, Home Depot and Citi and franchises like UPS, Guidant Financial and Data Doctors. Together, the commitment by the International Franchise Association and the Military Spouse Employment Partnership represents a commitment to hire 100,000 veterans, wounded warriors and military spouses by 2014.
The IFA and MSEP are supporting Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative and answering President Obama’s challenge to the private sector to offer jobs and career opportunities to veterans, wounded warriors and their families. Last month, the First Lady joined the President at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in announcing that the American Logistics Association (ALA) and their 270 affiliate companies committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.
As part of the Joining Forces program’s focus on employment, the First Lady also announced a Veterans Job Bank tool, an open online resource supported by nearly a dozen technology and job search companies, including Simply Hired, Monster, and others to help veterans and military spouses search job openings from committed employers based on their location and skills. The Job Bank is designed with a simple, easy to use approach which is why last week, companies like Guidant Financial and Data Doctors learned about the tool and were able to quickly tag their postings, now part of the 550,000+ jobs available to veterans and military spouses today.
“When we think about what we’re announcing today, 100,000 new jobs committed and 550,000 searchable jobs online, those aren’t just numbers. There are millions of Americans all across this country who are working hard every day to find new ways to honor military families’ service,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “All of this is adding up and thanks to the IFA and MSEP, they’re part of the wave of support forming that stretches across this country.”
“Over the past year, the White House’s Joining Forces and the Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes initiatives have been united for a common goal: to ensure our veterans and military spouses can find jobs,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “While we have made great strides in the past year, there is still much to do. Our partnership with Joining Forces will continue, as we spread this movement across the country to create an environment in which thousands of military veterans and military spouses can find meaningful employment in their local communities.”

“First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s leadership of Joining Forces has mobilized the franchise industry to step up its longstanding effort to provide opportunities for franchise small business ownership and employment opportunities to veterans and their families,” said IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira. “Franchising, due to its structured, scalable model, is an engine of job creation and provides a tremendous opportunity for returning veterans and their families to join the franchise industry and help lead the country to economic recovery. We are grateful and proud to be part of the White House Joining Forces Initiative.”

“Military spouses face unique challenges when pursuing careers, with time constraints and portability issues topping the list of obstacles.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) aims to solve these challenges by connecting military spouses to career opportunities available through MSEP's employment partners,” said Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. “The Joining Forces effort, led by the First Lady and Dr. Biden are helping to address the issue of military spouse employment in a very personal and direct way -- by connecting jobs opportunities with the military spouses who need them.”

Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden created Joining Forces to bring Americans together to recognize, honor and take action to support military families as they serve our country and throughout their lives. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has supported their initiative by conducting hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses in 100 local communities across the country and will expand that number to several hundred next year.

Said Mrs. Obama to veterans, "America has your back.  America has your back."

For more information, visit JoiningForces.gov.  See also The Veterans' Job Bank.

Two Thumbs Up! Keystone XL Pipeline Decision Delayed

The decision to build the oil pipeline that would potentially cover approximately 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas, better known as the Keystone XL, has been delayed.

The State Department announced today that it will explore a new route for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline citing its concerns the route’s impact on the Sand Hills of Nebraska.




Opposers of the Pipeline proposal, like Friends of the Earth, site that the project could potentially offer hazardous affects to indigenous people along its route, and the environment.  It could also carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil.

Protesters took the White House in opposition of the XL Pipeline, with members Congress joining them in their concerns. 

A business agent for a plumbers union we spoke to at the president's Georgetown Key Bridge event urging Congress to pass his Jobs bill, told us he and many other construction workers would welcome the construction of the Pipeline.

"We support the Keystone Pipeline because it would put a lot of construction workers back to work", noting the project would mean jobs for plumbers, welders, and fitters. 

"We hope the president supports the Pipeline", he said.

The 2010 State Department extension for determining the worthiness of the pipeline was extended.

Today, the Department announced it is delaying a decision on TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline to study an alternative route that avoids environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska.

President Obama, who saw the full affects of the BP Oil Spill two years ago, said in a statement released by the White House today, that he is in support of the delayed decision of the State Department. 

"I support the State Department's announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal.  Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.  The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.  At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cain Accuser Works for Current Administration?

Who'd have thunk it?, as the saying goes.

Is it a coincidence that one of the Herman Cain sexual harrassment accusers shares commonality with the Obama Administration?

Kraushaar, alledging misconduct by Hermain Cain, works for the Obama administration.
Karen Kraushaar, who hails from Chicago, released an anonymous statement through her lawyer, Joel Bennett, suggesting that Cain was responsible for a "series of inappropriate behaviours and unwanted advances" in 1990s while he was head of the National Restaurant Association.

Kraushaar, 55, works as the Communications Director at the Inspector General's Office of the Treasury Department.

Sharon Bialek was the first woman who came forward this week about the Cain allegation, saying she did so in part to "put a face to the name" of the person alledging the misconduct of the 67 year-old presidential hopeful.

Sharon Bialek, with power attorney, Gloria Allred.

Cain, in a press conference in Arizona yesterday, said he could not recall the incident Bialek referred to, nor Bialek at all.

“I reject all the accusations. I don’t remember that,” Cain said on Bialek claiming that he put his hand up her dress and tried to fondle her.  

Additionally, Cain said, “I don’t remember knowing her.”

Is it a coincidence that these woman are now coming forward as Cain's status has propelled to the top GOP contender for the 2012 presidential election?

Could there be behind-the-scenes meandering going on in the president's camp to try to discredit Herman Cain?

Said President Obama in an appearance on the Jay Leno Show earlier this month, I’m going to wait until everybody is voted off the island. Once they narrow it down to one or two, I’ll start paying attention.”

One can bet President Obama is "paying attention" now.

President Obama's African American Policy in Action Leadership Conference

Many have wondered if President Obama is on the side of  African Americans.
What with the president seemingly promoting the agendas of Latinos, Muslims, Asians, Native Americans, while telling African Americans during the Black Caucus dinner this year to "stop whining" when African Americans lift their voices in protest of high unemployment, mass incarceration, health care and economic disparity, it may have been hard to tell if he was an ally.
Seemingly, the before mentioned groups can voice their opinions about what is wrong in their population, and the president will speak to the issues specific to that group.

When it comes to speaking on issues and making positive changes relative to the Africa American community, we get from the president something to the affect of, 'my policies will work for ALL Americans".  From African American 'leaders' we're led to believe that the president isn't the president of African Americans, he's the 'people's president'.
Well, finally, today President Obama tackled the issues that affect the African American community in a first-of-its-kind White House African American Policy in Action Leadership Conference.

It must be an election year.

Discussion topics include strengthening the economy through the American Jobs Act, job training, access to capital for growing businesses, reforming our nation’s education system, protecting civil rights, community development initiatives, and strategies targeting poverty.
Said President Obama, "We have been through tougher times before. Our parents have been through tougher times; our grandparents have been through tougher times. We know tough times. And what we also know, though, is that if we are persistent, if we are unified, and we remain hopeful, then we’ll get through these tough times and better days lie ahead.

The president is expecting his advisors to inform him of the ideas proposed during the various 'breakout' and 'brainstorming' sessions that included Senior Advisor to President Obama,Valerie Jarrett, Gene Sperling, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Melody Barnes.

"So use today as an opportunity to share ideas with us", said Obama.

"We’re going to have breakout sessions. Let’s do some brainstorming. We want your input, we want your ideas. At the end of the conference, I’ve asked Valerie Jarrett as well as Gene Sperling, who is my chief economic coordinator, the head of the National Economic Council, to come back and hear what ideas were proposed."

The president is hoping that the African American community "will emerge from these economic times stronger than before."

Said President Obama today, "I just want everybody to participate here in a spirit of persistence, determination and unity. And if you maintain that spirit, then I’m confident that not only will the  African American community emerge from these difficult economic times stronger than we were before, but this entire nation is going to come out more unified, better equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st century than we were before."

He is the people's president.

The White House released a new policy report outlining how the President's policies directly impact the African American community. A copy of the policy report is available at www.whitehouse.gov/africanamericans.

Related

From the White House:  A Fact Sheet, titled The President's Agenda and the African American Community.

The President has fought consistently for policies that create opportunity for all Americans and, as result, has lifted millions out of poverty and invested in long-term reforms to grow the middle class. This new report highlights how the Obama Administration’s reforms and investments to reward work, improve education and increase college access and affordability, keep Americans in their homes, increase access to health care, and investments in small businesses have made a significant impact in African American Communities:

Tax Relief for Virtually All Working Americans. The President secured the Making Work Pay tax credit in 2009 and 2010 and a payroll tax cut in 2011 that amounted to a 2 percent raise for working Americans through 2011. In addition, the President secured historic expansions in refundable tax credits Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income families. The American Jobs Act will extend and expand tax relief for every American family next year. The American Jobs Act will extend and expand tax relief for virtually every American family next year, including nearly 20 million African American workers.

Subsidized Jobs for Low-Income Adults and Youth. Through the Recovery Act, 367,000 low-income youth received summer employment and over 260,000 adults and youth were placed in subsidized jobs. The American Jobs Act builds on the success of these programs by supporting summer jobs and pathways to work for unemployed Americans and youths.

Support for African American-Owned Small Businesses. Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has enacted 17 tax cuts for small businesses, including billions of dollars in tax credits, write-offs, and deductions for Americans who start new businesses, hire the unemployed, and provide health insurance for their employees. In addition, through the Small Business Jobs Act and other measures, the President has taken steps to expand American American-owned small businesses’ access to credit –through programs like the Community Development Financial Institutions and the New Markets Tax Credit, which provided over $4 billion in capital to predominantly African American communities. The American Jobs Act would cut payroll taxes in half for every American small business, including more than 100,000 African American owned firms.

Reform K-12 and Early Education through Innovative, New Programs. President Obama created Race to the Top with a historic $4.35 billion investment. As a result of the initiative, over 40 states have raised standards, improved assessments, and invested in teachers to ensure that all of our children receive a high-quality education. A similar Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge has been developed to raise the quality of and increase access to critical programs that ensure our kids are entering school ready to learn. In addition to these historic investments, the President has also fought against Republican budget cuts to critical programs like Head Start. The American Jobs Act provides $30 billion for States to hire new teachers, rehire those laid off, and prevent as many as 280,000 teachers whose jobs are at risk next year from being laid off.

Increase College Access and Affordability. Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has dramatically increased Pell Grant funding to support an additional 200,000 African American students, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit to ease college costs, and championed bold and comprehensive reform of student loans that will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade. Together, these represent the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill. The President also secured $850 million in additional funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and $150 million for Predominantly Black Institutions.

Keep Americans in Their Homes During a Housing and Economic Crisis. The Administration’s programs, both through their direct and indirect impact on the market, have helped more than 4 million families permanently modify their mortgages so they can stay in their homes. Through the Recovery Act, the President provided $1.5 billion for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program to prevent homelessness for 1 million Americans. The American Jobs Act builds on the success of these programs with the new “Project Rebuild,” which will invest in the communities hardest hit by the housing downturn.

Create Economically-Sustainable Neighborhoods. The Administration has secured $40 million for Promise Neighborhoods and $126 million to Choice Neighborhoods that provide a continuum of services to combat the challenges facing communities most in need. The new Strong Cities, Strong Communities is helping strengthen cities and regions by increasing the capacity of local governments to execute their economic growth plans, while also delivering federal assistance tailored to the local government’s needs.

Expand Health Care Access for Families and Workers. Within a month of taking office, the President signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act into law, expanding health coverage to more than 4 million children who would otherwise go uninsured. And the historic Affordable Care Act, when fully implemented, will expand health coverage to about 34 million Americans, including as many as 7 million African Americans.

Protect Civil Rights and Promote Criminal Justice. The President has signed major legislation like the Fair Sentencing Act and the Claims Resolution Act, and worked to expand and enforce hate crimes prosecutions, reduce unfairness in sentencing, and counter employment discrimination.

Read the full policy report at www.whitehouse.gov/africanamericans.

Washington's Power Duo Take To the Road Promoting Quality Education

President Obama and First Lady Michelle spent this week speaking about the importance of a good education.
 
From revamping Head Start programs for kids just starting out, to mentoring college bound students as they begin their college journey, Washington's White House power duo continues to heavily promote education for America's next generations.


Washington, D.C., area high school students get first hand advice about college from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The First Lady, speaking at a Georgetown University college mentoring event, told a group of high school students she believes in them, and that they should believe in themselves too.

"Everyone here who is hosting you today, they’re here for one simple reason, and it’s important for you all to know:  We’re here because we all believe that all of you belong at colleges and universities just like this one.  And that’s one of the reasons why we want you to spend time on these campuses.  We believe that all of you have exactly what it takes to continue your education after high school, and to succeed in any career or any endeavor that you choose.  And we really want you to believe that as well.  I want you to believe that.  That’s why we do this not just all across the country, but we have done mentor ship sessions like this all over the world."

The students participated in a Q&A session with the First Lady she answered questions the students had about college life.

One student asked the First Lady what her strengths and weakness were when she attended law school.

On her strengths, the First Lady answered, "I think one of my strengths was that I had a big mouth and I liked to talk a lot.  That’s why mother said I should go to law school.  It’s like, “You like to talk, just go.”

The First Lady revealed one her weaknesses was gearing up for courses she wasn't particularly excited about.

"You don’t really get to choose any courses on your own, so you’re trying a little bit of everything.  Well, I like criminal law.  I love contracts.  Sometimes civil procedure wasn’t as interesting because it’s about the rules of law.  So I had to find a way to stay pumped up and engaged even in courses that weren’t my choosing." 

Offering advice to the students who may be faced with the same issue during their own college journey, the First Lady added, "So you got to be able to get over the hump of doing well in things that you’re not necessarily good at or not particularly interested in."

President Obama, speaking at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Philadelphia announced his plan to hold Head Start programs more accountable.




"We know that three and four year-olds who go to quality preschool are less likely to repeat a grade, are less likely to need special education, are more likely to graduate from high school, the president said.  "This makes early education one of our best investments.”


The president said again he would move forward with or without the help of Congress who he referred to as a Congress that stands for "dysfunction and delay".

Congress has argued to cut Head Start programs, and Pell Grants for college students.

"We can’t wait to give our youngest children the same basic opportunities we give all children", the president said, telling attendees he's on their side when it comes to making sure young kids start out receiving a quality education.

Said Obama, "You've got a president who’s got your back."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finding Political Parties In Unsuspecting Places

Tuesday Funnies

Taking a break from all the political news in a month that has already seen its share, I'm posting this episode of The Mary Tyler Moore  Show.   This might be the only episode of the show where a political figure was a guest.

Take a look see.  It's a cute, enjoyable episode.


You just never know where a political figure might show up.

**Updated**   January 13, 2012.   First Lady Michelle Obama guest stars on iCarly.  Does 'random dancing' with cast at Alexandria, Virginia school.   Click here!

President Obama Forging Ahead (of Congress) To Assist Returning Military With Finding Jobs

Leading veterans’ organizations joined President Obama at the White House and announced their support for the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits, two provisions in the American Jobs Act Congress is scheduled to consider this week. President Obama also announced three executive actions that will help veterans find jobs. Today’s announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.


The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides firms that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran. The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities with a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.  

“No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas,” said President Obama. “Congress should pass the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits, but we can’t wait for Congress to act. That’s why today, I am directing my Administration to move forward with three initiatives that will help make it easier for veterans to find jobs when they return home.”

The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars announced their support for the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits.

“The American Legion, on behalf of its 2.4-million members, appreciates the efforts of President Obama and Congress to curb the unacceptably high rate of unemployment among the men and women who have selflessly served our country,” said  Peter Gaytan, Executive Director of the Washington D.C. office of the American Legion. “Tax credits will augment the good and patriotic intentions of employers with tangible, financial incentives. The rewards will be great for them and, most importantly, for the most deserving of our citizens, our military veterans.”

“It’s time to pull out the stops. After their service to the country, our war fighters have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic downturn with unemployment rates that eclipse their non-military cohorts,” said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. “Without using every option available to assist them, unemployment for veterans will only rise with the draw-down of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are proud to see that the Administration has recognized the immediate needs of our veterans by focusing on extending and improving tax credits for job-creators who wish to hire hard-working, battle-proven leaders.”

“The Disabled American Veterans welcomes any and all efforts to encourage businesses to hire veterans,” said DAV National Commander Donald L. Samuels. “President Obama’s plan will be an added incentive to do so. The men and women who have served and sacrificed for our nation deserve a square deal in the job market.”

“We applaud President Obama for continuing to lead on this important issue. With new veteran unemployment increasing for the second month in a row, this announcement could not have come at a more critical time. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are coming home to unacceptable levels of joblessness. By offering tax credits to companies that hire veterans, and setting in motion the reverse boot camp announced in August, the New Greatest Generation will have increased opportunities to lead at home,” said IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. “There is no better way to show veterans that Washington really honors their service this Veterans Day (11/11/11) than by unanimously passing this legislation.”

The President also launched a series of initiatives that will make it easier for veterans to find jobs. Those initiatives include:

Veteran Gold Card: Effective today, Post-9/11 veterans will be able to to download the Veteran Gold Card, which entitles them to enhanced services including six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling, at the roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers located across the country.  This could help serve the more than 200,000 unemployed Post-9/11 veterans.  The President directed the Department of Labor to launch this initiative in his August 5, 2011 speech at the Navy Yard.

My Next Move for Veterans: The Department of Labor will launch My Next Move for Veterans, a new online resource that allows veterans to enter their military occupation code and discover civilian occupations for which they are well qualified. The site will also include information about salaries, apprenticeships, and other related education and training programs.

Creating a Veterans Job Bank: Starting Monday, the Administration will launch the Veterans Job Bank, at National Resource Directory, an easy to use tool to help veterans find job postings from companies looking to hire them. It already searches over 500,000 job postings and is growing. In a few easy steps, companies can make sure the job postings on their own websites are part of this Veterans Job Bank.

All of these services can be accessed by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/vets.

Together, these initiatives and the tax credits will lower veteran unemployment through increased hiring, improve resources for veterans to translate their military skills for the civilian workforce, and provide veterans with new tools to aid their search for jobs. View a fact sheet to learn more about these tax credits and the President’s executive actions.

Related

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Congress Says No to President Obama's Jobs Bill

Speaking with the Key Bridge in the backdrop, President Obama set out once again to express the urgency for Congress to pass his American Jobs bill.

President Obama speaking to workers with the Key Bridge back drop. 
The bridge is one of many across, the country, in need of repair.  Photo/CD Brown.
"The truth is, the only way we can attack our economic challenges on the scale that’s needed is with bold action by Congress", the President said.  "They hold the purse strings.  It’s the only way we’re going to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work right now - not five years from now, not 10 years from now, but right now.  It’s the only way that we’re going to rebuild an economy that’s not based on financial bubbles, but on hard work, on building and making things right here in the United States of America."

True to form, Congress blocked the president's bill. 

But so did Democrats, who fell nine votes short of the 60 needed to move the president's agenda forward. The vote was 51-49, with all Republicans and two members of the Democratic caucus (Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. and Ben Nelson), chiming in with 'Nays'.

In response President Obama, currently attending G-20 summit events in Europe, made the following statement:

"For the third time in recent weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a jobs bill that independent economists said would boost our economy and put Americans back to work.  At a time when more than a million construction workers are looking for a job, they voted “no” to putting them back to work doing the work America needs done – rebuilding  our roads, bridges, airports and transit systems.  That makes no sense."

The president announced on Wednesday his plan to expedite loans and competitive grants for new infrastructure projects across the country, creating thousands of new jobs.

"We can’t wait for Congress to do its job.  If they won’t act, I will", the president said. 

Oddly enough, Senator Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor today, tried to explain the Republican model that he claims will “extend the current highway bill for another two years, giving states and contractors the certainty they need to start new infrastructure projects and create jobs."

He goes on to say, “Best of all, it’s fully paid for through funds that were originally appropriated for another purpose but not spent. Whatever’s left over after these projects are funded goes to pay down the deficit."



This sounds very similar to President Obama's plan, doesn't it?

Yet Republicans say 'no' when Obama proposes the same ideology, leaving voters in the upcoming election to wonder what this cat-and-mouse game really all about.

More
Wednesday's Key Bridge photos.  Click here.

Free Tibet Protesters, Again, Take To the White House

Protesters demonstrated in front of the White House yesterday with a message for President Obama to acknowledge the human rights abuses taking place in Tibet.

In response to what is taking place in the region, Tibetans are setting themselves on fire in extreme protest.

A Tibetan nun died after setting herself on fire. Palden Choetso is the 12th person to self-immolate this year in protest at the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet.



The Free Tibet movement stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.

Here is more video from yesterday's White House protest.  Protester has message for President Obama.



Protests have also taken place in front of the U.S. State Department, and were present during the Chinese state visit of China's president, Hu Jintao, earlier this year.

First Lady Hosts the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards

First Lady Michelle Obama was front and center yesterday supporting the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama with Jeffrey Meeuwsen, Executive Director of Urban Institute for
 Contemporary Arts and ArtWorks' Ja'Quari Moore-Bass (center).
High-quality arts and humanities education has a positive effect on the lives of young people, helping to close achievement gaps and lowering youth dropout rates.

The First Lady serves as honorary chairman and works with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Service.

The First Lady chats with awardee from the Young Shakespeare Workshop in Seattle, WA.  Photo/CD Brown.
Said the First Lady to the attended audience members, “Over the past few years we’ve worked to make this place a showcase for our country’s rich cultural life, and to throw open our doors to as many young people as possible. We’ve hosted students at concerts and workshops on everything from jazz to spoken-word poetry to modern dance. We’ve done it because we want them to know that they can be part of our arts community; that this community is for them. We say that every year. You own the space; it is yours. And we want to support your efforts to show them that if they work hard, and if they believed in themselves, then anything is possible. Anything.”

The 2011 awardees are Positive Directions Through Dance/The Dance Institute of WashingtonArtLab; ArtWorks; Fleisher Youth Art Programs; Humanities Rock; Native American Composer Apprentice Project; Positive Directions Through Dance; Saturday Academies of American History; Sojourn to the Past; Young Shakespeare Workshop; Zumix; 826 Seattle; and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.

The Young People’s Chorus of New York City www.ypc.org performed their vocal rendition of the great Duke Ellington jazz masterpiece, 'Take the A Train’.



"You guys sound really good", said the First Lady. “We have to have you back for the Holidays.”

This year’s International Spotlight Award went to Kampung Halaman (a.k.a. ‘Back Home’), a program from the Republic of Indonesia that inspires youth to tell their stories through media arts.

"On behalf of the Indonesian government, I’d like to express my deep appreciation for this award”, said Mrs. Rosa Rai Djalal, wife of the Ambassador to Indonesia*, who said the award “will have a big impact” on the youth in the Indonesian community.

“They can change young people’s lives. The can promote good things in their communities”, she said.

The 2011 finalists include (among others), the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc. (NYC), After School Arts Program for Youth (SE, WA); the Washington Performing Arts Society (WA, DC); and the Young Audiences of Maryland, Inc. Careers in the Arts (Baltimore, MD).

See the complete list of finalists and other info here.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs that recognizes and supports programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. They also provide safe harbors after-school, weekends, and evenings for students of at-risk rural and urban settings.

Related
President Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother, Ann, where his half sister Maya Soetoro Ng was later born. He and the First Lady are planning to revisit the region, to include Hawaii, when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum later this month.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hillary Clinton's Mother Passes

Dorothy Rodman, mother of Hillary Rodman Clinton passed today, shortly after midnight.  She was 92.

Standing together:  Chelsea Clinton, Dorothy Howell, and Hillary Clinton.

Born Dorothy Emma Howell on June 4, 1919 in Chicago, she was often between families at times living with her grandmother and other family relatives, in a dysfunctional setting. Her mother, Della Murray, was accused of abandoning Dorothy and was sued by her then husband Edwin John Howell Jr., a Chicago firefighter.  Howell had a sister, Isabelle, who was born five after her in 1921.

Secretary of State Clinton wrote of her mother in her autobiography, “Living History”, recounting the hardship of her mother.  “I thought often of my own mother’s neglect and mistreatment at the hands of her parents and grandparents, and how other caring adults filled the emotional void to help her.”

The Clinton family released these remarks on the passing of Howell:

"She overcame abandonment and hardship as a young girl to become the remarkable woman she was. A warm, generous and strong woman; an intellectual; a woman who told a great joke and always got the joke; an extraordinary friend and, most of all, a loving wife, mother and grandmother."

President Obama made the following statement on the passing, calling Howell  “a strong, determined, gifted person". 

"For her to have lived the life that she did and to see her daughter succeed in the pinnacle of public service in this country, I’m sure was deeply satisfying to her. My thoughts, Michelle’s thoughts, the entire White House’s thoughts go out to the entire Clinton family,” the president said.

The family is planning a private ceremony in her honor, and asks that in lieu of flowers that friends and the public make donations in Howell's memory to George Washington Hospital where she received care, and to the Heifer Project,  an organization dear to her heart. 

The family also suggests making a donation to a local organization that helps neglected and mistreated children.

President Declares Fort Monroe A National Monument

Fort Monroe (also known as Fortress Monroe), a historic fort in Virginia’s Tidewater region of Hampton, played a pivotal role in the history of slavery in the United States. Built between 1819 and 1834, Fort Monroe has occupied a strategic coastal defensive position since the earliest days of the Virginia Colony. It was the place where the Dutch purchased Africans in 1619.

Today, the President will sign a proclamation designating Fort Monroe a national monument today in the Oval Office.

During the Civil War, the fort remained in Union possession and became a place for escaped slaves to find refuge. Fort Monroe was the site of General Benjamin Butler’s “Contraband Decision” in 1861, which provided a pathway to freedom for thousands of enslaved Africans during the Civil War and served as a forerunner of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

Fort Monroe closed on September 15, 2011. Many of its functions were transferred to nearby Fort Eustis (which was named for Fort Monroe's first commander, General Abraham Eustis, a noted artillery expert). Several re-use plans for Fort Monroe after it is decommissioned are currently under development in the Hampton community.  (Source)

Today marks the first time President Obama has used this authority under the Antiquities Act. The announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.