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



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

President Obama: Person of the Year

President Obama is Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

An excerpt from Time's managing editor Richard Stengel, White House correspondent Michael Scherer and executive editor Radhika Jones is below.  The trio ask the president about Lincoln, marijuana, the Middle East and Hawaii moments. View the full conversation here.



TIME: So we’ll start right in. In fact, we’re going to go so far ahead. If we were sitting here four years from now and you were looking back on what your legacy is as a two-term Democratic President — we know what Ronald Reagan did and we know what FDR did — what would you want people to say about your two terms?

THE PRESIDENT: I think what I’d want people to say is that having come in at a time when our economy was on the brink of collapse, when we had gone through a decade in which middle-class families were doing worse and worse, and the ladders of opportunity into the middle class for people who were willing to work hard had begun to deteriorate; at a time when, internationally, we were embroiled in two wars but our leadership around the world was being questioned, that we had steered this ship of state so that we once again had an economy that worked for everybody; that we had laid the foundation for broad-based prosperity; and that internationally we had created the framework for continued American leadership in the world throughout the 21st century, while recognizing that the world is changing and that we should encourage the kind of growth and development in other parts of the world, but over the long term will be good for us and good for the world.

It wouldn't be freedom of speech without the vitrolic rant of some people who oppose Time Magazine's decision.

On Twitter several people have expressed their 'dissapoint' over the news.




Congratulations President Obama.

PHOTOS:   Never seen before administration photos.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boehner's 'Plan B' Doesn't Pass The Smell Test

UPDATE:

As the two sides go back and forth to solve the issue of the so-called fiscal cliff, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement today that reveals President Obama is less willing to accept the latest offer from Congress.

States Carney, "The Speaker’s “Plan B” approach doesn’t meet this test because it can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families, and does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts."

"The President has put a balanced, reasonable proposal on the table that achieves significant deficit reduction and reflects real compromise by meeting the Republicans halfway on revenue and more than halfway on spending from where each side started.  That is the essence of compromise." 

 President Obama continues to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan solution that averts the fiscal cliff, protects the middle class, helps the economy, and puts the nation on a fiscally sustainable path. 

Added  Carney, "But he is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors.  

The American people are hopeful that both sides can work out the party's differences to reach a solution that avoids a tax increase on the middle class that include households making over $250,000.

PIC Announces Start of Inaugural Events Media Credentialing

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) today announced that members of the media can now apply for credentials to cover official events for the second Inaugural of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, taking place from January 19-January 22 in Washington, DC.


This media credentialing process is separate from any tickets that members of the public may be able to apply for to participate in various Inaugural events. For more information on Inaugural events that are open to the public and how to request tickets, visit www.2013pic.org.

Applications for credentials must be completed by Saturday, December 22 at 5:00 PM EDT. Please note that space is extremely limited at the open press Inaugural events and late requests for credentials will not be accepted. For a full description on how to apply for media credentials, and additional event details, please click here.

Each Inaugural event will require an event-specific media credential to gain access for media coverage. Media organizations interested in covering multiple Inaugural events must apply for each event they wish to cover.

Requests for PIC media credentials do not guarantee access to the event or the space that a media outlet has requested. Applicants will receive written notification from the PIC specifying whether their requests for credentials have been granted.

The PIC does not issue credentials for the ceremonial swearing-in taking place at the U.S. Capitol on Monday, January 21. Per tradition, those credentials are issued by the Senate Media Galleries and overseen by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

The credential deadline for the swearing-in has passed but more information may be found here.

UPDATE:   Inaugural parade participants.

Monday, December 17, 2012

After Newton Massacres Politicians Speak, Debates Spark

Sen. Joe Lieberman offered some very poignant remarks Sunday during the ceremony where president Obama spoke honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in which two classrooms of students were shoot by demented killer, Adam Lanza.

As press was getting feed off the wire about the events taking place, this one, in particular caught our eye.

Pool reporters asked Sen Lieberman about the violence commission idea he discussed on the Sunday morning talk shows.




Said Lieberman, “I’m always reluctant about commissions, but I really believe we ought to have a national commission on violence. These events are happening more frequently and I worry that if we don’t take a thoughtful look at them, we’re going to lose the hurt and the anger that we have now.”

Lieberman had also had thoughts about areas that we, too, think need to be examined in our society to avoid events like last Friday's mass shooting.

“And that includes looking at violence in the entertainment culture, mental health services and, of course, gun laws. But I said that shouldn’t stop anything that the president and Congress want to do. Two things I mentioned was to restore the assault weapons ban, which expired, which existed for 10 years, ’94 to 2004, not enough votes to re-authorize it, and it had a significant effect on murders committed with guns. In other words, down. The second was, right now the background checks that the Brady Law has, if you go into a licensed federal firearms dealer, you got to be subject to, are pretty good. But if you go into a gun show or you go and buy a gun from some antique dealer, you’re not checked at all. And those to me are two things that would be important.”

Lieberman is one of several politicians who have spoken out recently on gun laws.  The looming issue that is constant?  Will anything be done change them?

Related
Debate: After Newtown, Will Nation’s Worst-Ever Grade School Shooting Spur Tougher Gun Control?





Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns. What Are They Good For?

Newton School Shooting Amasses Twenty-Six Victims.

President Obama shared in the sorrowness felt across the country after Friday's horrendous Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of numerous small children in Newtown, Connecticut and ordered that official flags be flown at half mass.

What happened with twenty year old Adam Lanza to make him want to kill his mother, 20 children, 6 school officials, and then himself?

A skeletal, ghostly Adam Lanza.
Law enforcement officials said Lanza had four handguns on his person as he stormed the 600-student school and shot his victims at close range. There was also a rifle found in the car he drove to Sandy Hook.

The shooting in Connecticut follows a trail of recent mass shootings that include:  A shopping mall in Oregon, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Aurora Colorado and countless, seemingly minor, yet just as significant, other day-to-day shootings. 

Schools have increasingly becoming scenes of gun violence across the country.  Images of Columbine and Virginia Tech are still in the forefront of people's minds.

In our area police officers have beefed up patrols at local schools. 

A Fairfax County police officer told us that they are on alert, have more officers on site at area schools and have been briefed at morning roll calls updating them on what to look watch out for.  

Still no school can be completely safe.

Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook elementary, a school that was equipped with a security feature that allowed visitors to be buzzed in from the schools office.

Still Lanza made his way in, and went to two classrooms on a killing spree. 

Investigators are still in the process of determining his motive.  The subject of mental instability has come up, but currently there is no word on whether Lanza, the killer of so many young children, had mental health issues or not, although that is the current suspicion, as is the case in so many of America's high profile mass-style shootings of this type.

Another item that should be addressed when it comes to America's violence are violent video games and television shows.  Not a TV commercial promoting a night time drama series does so without gun violence.  If people think this doesn't have some sort of affect on people, youth especially, then you've been under a rock for quite some time.

Poet laureate, Maya Angelou said this on her Face book account, "Our country is grieving. Each child who has been slaughtered belongs to each of us and each slain adult is a member of our family. It is impossible to explain the horror to ourselves and to our survivors. We need to hold each other’s hands and look into each other’s eyes and say, “I am sorry.”"

So while the nation mourns the loss of victims of mass shootings, let's not forget the victims of every day random shootings, all across the country and the nation, whether it in professional sports, kids walking to and from school, parents of young children being assassinated by estranged boyfriends, drug deals gone bad, all should be remembered - but the bigger picture is what to avoid it in the first place.

While no real action has taken place to ratify the country's guns laws has ever taken place, America knows that the topic should be on the table - and right now.  America can no longer say it needs to just "enforce the current gun laws".  

Lanza was denied a gun for not wanting to go through a background check or waiting period, still he had access to guns.  Reports indicate that Lanza's mother had guns at the home the two shared.

"So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this", said President Obama of the Newtown tragedy.

"Regardless of the politics."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fiscal Talks Continue

President Obama held a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and a conference call with a bipartisan group of mayors, county officials and community leaders to discuss his proposals in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

The White House is reporting that the president spoke with Tampa, FL Mayor Bob Buckhorn;  St. Paul, MN Mayor Chris Coleman; St. Columbus, OH Mayor Michael Coleman; Bluffton, IN  Mayor Ted Ellis:  Dallas County, TX  Judge Clay Jenkins; Cincinnati, OH Mayor Mark Mallory;  Executive Russ Pry of Summit County, OH; Avondale, AZ Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers and Laredo, TX Mayor Raul Salinas.

Earlier this week, Micheal Steel, speaking on behalf of Boehner and company, made these comments.

"We sent the White House a counter-offer that would achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our looming debt crisis and create more American jobs. As the Speaker said today, we're still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the 'balanced approach' he promised the American people. The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in yesterday's briefing the following, "Now, it is entirely our expectation that Republicans may not agree with all of our spending cuts; Republicans may want to propose additional spending cuts.  And the President has said that he is prepared to make tough decisions.  He has said that he's not wedded to every detail in this plan and that he understands that compromise requires all sides to accept something short of the ideal, and he's committed to doing that.  What we haven't seen from Republicans, to this day, is a single specific proposal on revenue, and, in fact, we've seen less specificity from Republicans on spending cuts than the President himself has proposed."


Congress, and the president have just little than more than two weeks to strike a deal that will prevent  taxes from going up on the middle class, while those earning $250,000 and more will not see an increase in their taxes.  Middle class families could save $2200 in taxes should the parties come to a neutral conclusion.

"We can solve this problem.  All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody's income, everybody", the president said speaking last week from a Michigan car manufacturing plant.  

"That means 98 percent of Americans and probably 100 percent of you, 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up a single dime.  Even the wealthiest Americans would still get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income.  But when they start making a million, or $10 million, or $20 million you can afford to pay a little bit more."

"You're not too strapped.   So Congress can do that right now.  Everybody says they agree with it.  Let’s get it done."

Related

Reports indicate that the president did make a counteroffer to Boehner & Co. on Monday. The details of the offer aren't readily available, but multiple reports state that it calls for $1.4 trillion in additional revenue. That number is $200 billion less than what the administration initially proposed.




  




Secretary Salazar Provides Update on Resolution to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial

In the wake of the discension around one quote on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial that had some in an uproar, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today provided an update on the path forward regarding the Memorial.

Following discussions with all parties, that included a range of stakeholders, to make alterations to the “Drum Major” quote that had some believing the quote made King seem arrogant, the updated plan calls for removing the quote by carving striations over the lettering to match the existing scratch marks on the sculpture that represent the tearing of the “Stone of Hope” from the “Mountain of Despair.”

The plan to remove, instead of replace, the quote was recommended by the original sculptor, Master Lei Yixin, as the safest way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial was not compromised.

After close consultation with all parties, Secretary Salazar, the National Park Service, the King family and the Memorial Foundation, and Master Lei Yixin all concur that this is the best path forward.

“The memorial stands as a testament to Dr. King’s struggle for civil rights, and a dream of dignity, respect and justice for all,” said Salazar. “I am proud that all parties have come together on a resolution that will help ensure the structural integrity of this timeless and powerful monument to Dr. King’s life and legacy.”

Said Dr. King's youngest daughter and CEO of the King Center in Atlanta, Bernice King, “We are grateful that Secretary Salazar’s office and the National Park Service has taken such care to maintain the spirit and appearance of such an important monument to our country’s history and my father’s memory.” 

The memorial will remain open to visitors during the corrective work; however, due to scaffolding and partial coverage of the sculpture, visitors should expect limited visibility during periods of the process.

In order to ensure the best visitor experience during the Dr. King’s birthday and the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, and to address weather concerns, work will begin February - March 2013, and is estimated to be completed by spring 2013.

“The King Memorial has a special meaning to so many visitors to the National Mall,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We want to make sure that the many thousands of people expected to visit on Dr. King’s birthday are able to see and experience this powerful tribute to Dr. King.”

“Over the past year, The Memorial Foundation has been working with the National Park Service and Sculptor Master Lei to move forward with changes to the MLK Memorial. We have come up with a design solution that will not harm the integrity of this work of art. We are pleased with the recommendation and look forward to its completion," said Harry Johnson, President/CEO of The Memorial Foundation, formerly known as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation.

“While our family would have of course preferred to have the entire ‘Drum Major’ quote used, we fully endorse and support the Secretary’s proposal,” said Dr. Christine King Farris, Dr. King’s sister.The plan will be submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in January for their review as appropriate.

Dr. Maya Angelou, poet emeritus, called for the quotes change.

Dr. King's originial speech stated, "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness."

The Memorial has just a part of the quote, "I was a drum major for justice", a very shortened version of the longer quote that may have not been able to completely fit where the partial quote is placed.

One of Angelou's many famous includes includes “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”




Friday, December 7, 2012

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU PLEDGE TO WORK TOGETHER TO PROTECT CONSUMERS FROM CREDIT DISCRIMINATION

The Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) signed an agreement today to strengthen coordination on fair lending enforcement and avoid duplication of their respective federal law enforcement efforts. 


“The Department of Justice welcomes the new tools and resources the CFPB can bring to the fight against lending discrimination,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Cooperation between our two agencies promotes strong and effective civil rights enforcement, and today’s agreement will further our ongoing collaborative efforts.”

“Discrimination undermines equal access to credit,” said Richard Cordray, Director of the CFPB. “Today’s agreement is a critical step to better protecting consumers from illegal and discriminatory lending practices. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Justice Department under this new framework.”

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) can be found here.

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB works with the department and other regulators to promote consistent, efficient and effective enforcement of federal fair lending laws. The Dodd-Frank Act also expressly authorizes the CFPB to conduct joint investigations with the department in matters relating to fair lending. Both the CFPB and the Justice Department have authority to protect against discriminatory lending under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

The ECOA makes it illegal for creditors to discriminate against applicants in credit transactions because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, income coming from a public assistance program or an applicant’s exercise of certain consumer protection rights.  The department has the authority to bring federal lawsuits to enforce the ECOA against any creditor that engages in a pattern or practice in violation of the ECOA or based on referrals of ECOA violations from federal bank regulators including the CFPB.

Today, the CFPB published its first annual Fair Lending Report, which highlights the Bureau’s recent accomplishments in fair lending. The report discusses the bureau’s efforts to fulfill its mandate to ensure fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit for American consumers.  Additionally, the report fulfills the Bureau’s congressional reporting requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act, the ECOA and HMDA.  

A copy of this report is available here

Statement on the Employment Situation in November



Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the employment situation in November. You can view the statement HERE.

While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.

Most pressing, President Obama has proposed, and the Senate has passed, an extension of middle class income tax cuts that would prevent the typical middle class family from facing a $2,200 tax increase at the beginning of next year. In addition, the President has proposed a plan that will enable responsible homeowners to refinance their mortgage and take advantage of today’s historically low interest rates. To create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to urge Congress to pass elements of the American Jobs Act, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation’s ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and to enable them to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers.



Today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that private sector businesses added 147,000 jobs last month. Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 146,000 jobs in November. The economy has now added private sector jobs for 33 straight months, and a total of 5.6 million jobs have been added during that period, taking account of the preliminary benchmark revision.

"Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 146,000 in November, and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent. In 2012, job gains have averaged 151,000 per month, essentially the same as in 2011. In November, employment rose in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care", John M. Galvin acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a statement put out by the BLS this week.
The household survey showed that the unemployment rate declined from 7.9 percent in October to 7.7 percent in November, the lowest since December 2008. The labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point last month. Over the last 12 months, the unemployment rate has decreased by 1.0 percentage point as a result of growing employment, and the labor force participation rate has been essentially unchanged.

According to the establishment survey, in November employment rose notably in retail trade (+52,600), professional and business services (+43,000), and leisure and hospitality (+23,000). Manufacturing lost 7,000 jobs, and construction was down 20,000. However, the manufacturing sector has added jobs in 28 of the last 34 months, gaining half a million jobs over that period, the most for any such period since the mid-1990s.

Government lost 1,000 jobs, as federal government payrolls decreased by 5,000, state government payrolls increased by 6,000, and local government payrolls declined by 2,000.

As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.

See report here.