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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Governor McDonnell Doesn’t Know The Rules of Gifting (So he claims)

Politicians have been known to buy lavish gifts with tax payer dollars.  That isn’t news.

But when they claim they don’t know what constitutes gifting and what doesn’t, well that is just a bit concerning.
Virginia governor Bob McDonnell isn’t sure of the definition either.
According to reports, McConnell’s wife was given a gift of a pricey Rolex watch, about $6500, from a campaign donor, which she in turn ‘gifted’ to her husband.
Isn’t that re-gifting*, the tackiest form of gift giving?   Even JerrySeinfeld knows that.  And why would a woman accept a watch if it was meant for a man, unless she planned to give it to a man in the first place?

McDonnell doesn’t know, and he had a time trying to explain it on a Richmond radio show earlier this week, conceding to the age old defense, “I simply can’t comment on it right now while it’s being investigated.”
The governor of Virginia is being investigated?
“Never in my 22 years of public service...has anyone called my integrity into question”, he told the radio host.
Really?   What about this?   And this?
May not be ‘questionable’ to you, McDonnell, but to some, a big deal.
Here’s more.

[Side bar commentary:  Ok, maybe it didn't go as far as re-gifting, but it makes for some humorous commentary, right?]

President Obama Meets With the Mandela Family: Not Mandela Himself

The president spoke by telephone with the wife of Mandela, Mrs. Gra├ža Machel, who remained by her husband's side in the hospital in Pretoria.

Out of deference to Nelson Mandela’s peace and comfort and the family’s wishes, they did not visit the hospital where the 94 year old icon is still in critical condition.

Instead, the Obamas met with the Mandela family at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa where he expressed his heartfelt support for the entire family.

"It is my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones", said Obama.

The president also reaffirmed the profound impact that  Nelson Mandela's legacy has had in building a free South Africa, and in inspiring people around the world.

"Including me", the president said. "That's a legacy that we must all honor in our own lives, including this July on Mandela Day."

Members of the Mandela family meeting with President Obama included Mr. Mandela's daughters, Makaziwe (Maki) Mandela and Zindzi Mandela Hlongwane, and eight of his grandchildren.

The president continues his visit to the continent to encourage economic investment in Africa and in its youth

President Obama's Speeches While in Africa
Keeping Up With the Obamas In Africa
Goree Island Tour
A First Lady in Dakar

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Political Opinion: Martin, Zimmerman, Deen, SCOTUS and POTUS.

Here we are, six months into the New Year, with the reelection of the first African American president and seemingly the rights and civil liberties of African Americans are looking even more bleak.
Explanation forthcoming.

As the trial of George Zimmerman continues in Florida, Americans are waiting with bated breath to see if 16 year old Trayvon Martin will receive justice after being viciously assassinated, almost one year ago, by the self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman. 
Food Network’s television cook, Paula Deen was ousted last week over years of her use of the ‘N word ‘ to her staff employees.
African American youth around the country, especially in New York City, are still being profiled and singled out by police for “being in the wrong neighborhood” under the state’s Stop-and-Frisk policies.
And yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States, with its only African American judge, decided  that Section IV of the Voting Rights bill, would best serve Americans, predominantly in African American states, by excluding it altogether.

With the court’s decision, many believe the ruling has taken the legal right to vote to an all new low.
During the 1960s civil rights activists fought and died to ensure that the basic principle - having the right to vote - would be extended to all people, not just a benefit whites.
African Americans were subjected to tricks at the polls by pollsters that included guessing how many jelly beans were in a jar, and other unscrupulously, racist tactics. 
What will happen, going forward, with voting rights after yesterday’s decision?  Will voters have to guess how many ‘likes’ an individual has on his Facebook page before being able to vote?
These recent acts suggest that the rights of every group in America are being protected but those of African Americans.  It’s tantamount to an era of the past 60 years.
Seemingly, the only groups being protected by government ‘leaders’, are those of gays and Latinos.
Today, the Supreme court sided with gays, announcing that the federal ban on benefits to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

Gay rights, and gay marriage, have been increasingly accepted in several US states, without objection, and the fight to reform current immigration laws has gained even moremomentum.
Do those two groups, alone, have more rights and more support in America than the rights of African Americans? 
When will the concerns, specific to African Americans, be acknowledged, addressed, and resolved and why are said concerns always seemingly last in the minds of the powers that be?
Americans know that Congress (i.e. Republicans) is not working in the best interest of the so-called American people because of their dislike of the first African American president, and their inability to have such a president suggest to them what is best for the country.  We know that their racist attitudes have done more to hurt the country than to help.
While the president is promoting climate change, clean energy, immigration reform, Syria, China, and manufacturing, African Americans must again wait for Superman to have their concerns advanced.
Even members of the media question the president's commitment to Africa and African Americans, even as he depart to Africa.  
A reporter in last week's White House press briefing asked the following question about the president's planned trip to the continent:
"In talking to folks both here in Washington and in Africa who are sort of policy analysts and others, they say it's not only just that the President hasn't traveled there, but that the U.S. just hasn't been investing enough -- as much as they thought that President Obama would because of his personal connections, and that if anything stands out on the continent, it's the U.S. increasing military engagement with the drone bases and so on, and that's what his legacy has become at least in the first four years.  And I'm curious what your thoughts -- how you would respond to that, concerns from Africans that have said -- and explain maybe why the President did choose to go to Asia, South Asia, Latin America before Africa, despite the fact that in the Ghana speech he said this would be a new moment of promise and really pledged at that time to do the same things you’re talking about now."
In support of the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA, the president called Edie Windsor.  Who is Edie Windsor?
Edie is the plaintiff in United States v. Windsor in the Defense of Marriage Act.  And the President congratulated her on this victory, which was a long time in the making, said he was heartened by the Court's decision to strike down Section 3 of DOMA so that loving, committed couples could enjoy full equality under the law.  And, he said, that it is fitting that this historic ruling should come today, just 10 years after the Court struck down laws making same-sex relationships illegal in Lawrence v. Texas.
Now, here is the president's comment on the Supreme Court’s voting rights decision: 
"I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today.  For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans.  Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote.  But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.    And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination.  I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.  My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process."

Not even a single mention of African Americans anywhere in that statement, even though they are the most likely victims of said Supreme Court decision.
In closing, let me say that neither Congress, nor the current administration, can ill afford to ignore issues relevant to Americans, let alone those of African Americans.
To do so would breathe life into the words of the late Michael Jackson, gone from us just four years ago yesterday, June 25th  that suggests “they don’t really care about us”.
We can ill afford, any longer, to let those words become a perpetual reality.

Quotes from a Republican (you might not expect to make)

"Part of our problem, is that people in Congress look at this as a job. It's not a job....Serving in Congress is not earning a living. Largely what it is today is getting in the way of people trying to earn a living."
"Republicans have a profound opportunity here...Mr. Speaker, pull together a small task force of folks to get started on a bill now. Lay out the argument for the reestablishment of a 21st Century version of the Voting Rights Act, recognizing yes, progress has been made, but more needs to be done....(The Voting Rights Act) is fundamental to who we are as a nation. How do you have a debate on immigration when you're disenfranchising US citizens who are already here?"
MSNBC Political Analyst and Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden to Travel to India and Singapore

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will travel to India and Singapore in late July 2013.  In India, the Vice President will meet with key leaders to discuss the full range of bilateral, regional and global issues, with a focus on advancing the prosperity, security, and shared values of our two countries. 
The Vice President and Dr. Biden look forward to opportunities to engage with India’s people, including leaders in business and civil society.  In Singapore, the Vice President will consult with leaders on a range of shared priorities, including implementing the Asia-Pacific rebalance, and highlight America’s continued engagement with a key partner in Southeast Asia.
The First Family will begin their travel to South Africa, visiting Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania later this week.
Per the White House, this is the President’s second trip to sub-Saharan Africa.  He previously went to Ghana in his first term. 
This trip will focus on the "growing economic opportunities there for increased trade and investment and increased engagement by U.S. businesses."
Agenda focus, per the White House, as provided in a press briefing by: 

Trade and investment and the economic opportunities on the continent are going to be an important part of the agenda; also democracy and democratic institution-building.  Each of the countries that we’re visiting are strong democracies, and the President has made it a priority to support the consolidation of democratic institutions in Africa so that Africans are focused not just on democratic elections, but institutions like parliaments, independent judiciaries, and strengthening of the rule of law -- both as necessary elements of a democratic government, but also as necessary elements of development. 
The president plans to also focus on young people during his visit.  Africa has an extraordinarily large youth population, and it’s important for the United States to signal our commitment to investing in the future of African youth.  And this, too, is a part of unleashing development on the continent because if you have young people who are able to access opportunity and able to shape the direction of their countries, that’s going to be in the interest of Africa and the United States as well.
Additionally, the President will speak to the key pillars of  the adminstration's development agenda, which has focused on economic growth and also on issues such as food security and global health.   
While on the continent, First Lady Michelle Obama will visit Dakar, on June 27th, where she will have a tea with the First Lady of Senegal.  Then the First Lady will travel with Mrs. Sall to the Martin Luther King Middle School, which is an all-girls school in Senegal, where she’ll have a chance to see that school and speak to the girls. 
The President will host a town hall at the University of Johannesburg while in Soweto.  This is going to be a continuation of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative. The President launched this initiative when he hosted African leaders from across the continent at his town hall meeting at the White House, with the idea being that we need to reach the next generation of African leaders in civil society, in entrepreneurship, in journalism. 
The First Family also plan to meet with ailing former South African president, Nelson Mandela, who is listed as being in critical condition with a prevailing lung infection.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chicago’s Emerging Leaders Call for Action on Urban Food Security

Report proposes Chicago lead way in addressing global challenge of feeding urban populations

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a report on urban food security from its Emerging Leaders Class of 2013. The group of 20 Chicago leaders has spent the last year developing an action plan for analyzing and addressing urban food security and the dual challenges of under-nutrition and obesity that have beset many urban centers.

Representatives of the Emerging Leaders Class of 2013 presented their report, Feeding an Urban World: A Call to Action, at a Chicago Council public event last evening. In it they proposed Chicago utilize its extensive corporate, academic, philanthropic and public policy resources to assume a leadership role and become a model for other cities in addressing the challenges of feeding urban populations.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policy director, Mike Simmons, and global food security expert, Ambassador William J. Garvelink, also delivered remarks and commented on the report at the event,  at the InterContinental Hotel, 505 North Michigan Avenue.

“As a long-standing leader in food production and distribution, historically earning the city the titles of ‘Nature’s Metropolis’ and ‘Hog Butcher to the World,’ Chicago is well positioned to spearhead efforts to address the emerging urban food issues of the 21st century,” said Joseph Seliga, a member of the Emerging Leaders Class of 2013 and partner at the law firm Mayer Brown.

Healthy, safe, nutritious food at an affordable price is particularly difficult to come by in urban centers with concentrated poverty such as Nairobi, Mumbai and Jakarta. In many ways, Chicago and other urban centers in the developed world are no different.

In Cook County, with a population of about 5.2 million people, over 800,000 residents are food insecure. Each year nearly 678,000 people rely on emergency and supplemental food provided by the Food Depository and its member network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

As in other urban centers around the world, food insecurity in Chicago corresponds with chronic obesity and undernourishment. Twenty-seven percent of the adult population in the Chicago metropolitan area is obese, with higher rates in many of the low-income neighborhoods of the city.
While these challenges are daunting, substantial work to address them is already underway. In January 2013, the city planning document, A Recipe for Healthy Places, outlined the policy priorities for the city in relation to food and nutrition.

Many of these priorities address the components of availability and utilization, but some also promote economic access to healthy foods. The City Council amended the Chicago zoning ordinance to help facilitate the further development of urban farms and community gardens by recognizing them as approved land uses and providing clear guidelines for their development in the city.

“These Emerging Leaders are committed to the future of Chicago, and with their report, offer diverse perspectives on how to address a global challenge in a city that is receptive to and known for innovation,” said Marshall M. Bouton, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “They were encouraged by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to address this growing problem in Chicago and are confident that Chicago can become a global leader in this area.”

Co-chaired by Chicago Council Vice Chairs John F. Manley and Shirley Welsh Ryan, the Chicago Council’s Emerging Leaders Program assembles a class drawn from the best and the brightest emerging leaders from across business, civic, government and academic sectors from the Chicagoland area.

Support for the program is generously provided by Manley, the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day of Direct Action: Jobs, Justice and Just Say No!

Chanting “Just say No to the new Jim Crow” and “The War on Drugs is a war on us”, hundreds of protesters, many of them young activists who had come to Washington DC in buses from Pittsburgh and New York, marched on June 17th from the AME Church on 15th Street to Lafayette Park across from the White House where they staged a rally demanding that the Obama Administration end the war on drugs which disproportionally targets young African Americans.

They also called on the president to focus more attention on the “epidemic” of Black unemployment across the country.

Featured speakers at both the church and Lafayette Park rallies were Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of Rainbow Push and Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW).

The War on Drugs: 40 Years Later
African American Think Tank To Obama:  End War On Drugs Now

Thursday, June 6, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama Meets with Students from William R. Harper High School at the White House
First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students from William R. Harper High School in Chicago, Ill., in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, June 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) LINK
In April, the First Lady addressed a joint luncheon in Chicago, IL hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Mrs. Obama urges Chicago’s business and civic leaders to invest in expanded opportunities for young people in neighborhoods throughout the city. Following the event, the First Lady met with a small group of students and counselors at William R. Harper High School to hear firsthand about their experiences. After extending an invitation to the students, the First Lady met with them at the White House.
At the time of her speech in April, Harper High School, a Chicago public school, was profoundly affected by gun violence including 29 current or former students who were shot in the past year; 8 of them died.
Video from the First Lady’s speech on April 10, 2013. 

Other First Lady News
Heckler paid $500 to be escorted out of DNC fundraiser after she heckled FLOTUS:  "One of the things I don't do well, is this!"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

[PHOTOS]: Baltimore Travels To Washington

Super Bowl Champions Baltimore Ravens were honored by President Obama today at the White House.

President Obama and Super Bowl Champions, The Baltimore Ravens.  Photo/CD Brown.

Coach John Harbaugh and his Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers (and brother Jim), 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.

Nestor Aparicio, Baltimore sports radio host and author of Purple Reign 2.  Photo/CD Brown
Giving back to the community, the Ravens plan to donate brand new uniforms for varsity football and girls’ basketball teams at Baltimore public schools (42 teams in all).

"That is very, very significant", said Baltimore resident and Ravens' fan, Congressman Elijah Cummings who lauded the team for their community outreach. 

"It's a real powerful moment", said Cummings. "It's one thing to have a team, it's another to have a team that reaches out to its city. When you think about it, there are only a few things that can unite a city or a region.  It means a lot to me personally to be representing Baltimore and the Baltimore Ravens", added Cummings, who had Ravens' Torrey Smith interning in his office earlier this year.

Other recent Ravens' community activities include helping young people get active through the NFL's Play 60 campaign, and Skyping with a Maryland National Guard unit stationed in Afghanistan. 

Ray Rice eyes the Lombardi trophy. Photo/CD Brown.
Later this month, Coach Harbaugh will host a youth football clinic that emphasizes player safety and proper tackling technique. The team also plans to visit area hospitals, schools and senior centers this coming season.

The day may have been in honor of the guys black and purple, but the president made sure there were a few Chicago Bears fans featured in the audience.

Wishing the team good luck, Obama told the Ravens they would need it.

"You’re going to need it in week 11 when you go to my hometown of Chicago to play the Bears.  I brought some Chicago fans in here. Just so we weren’t overwhelmed to keep things in proper perspective."

Other jokes on the day included the president calling safety, Ed Reed "old".

President Obama hugs Shandra Brigance, wife of Ravens O. J. Brigance.
"I will point out, by the way, that Ed is getting some gray hair, though.  I’m not the only one.   You’re like an old man."

Reed is giving up his post in Baltimore, moving on to the pastures of the Houston Texans. (Fans -us included - still can't understand why this has to be).  Reed took out a full page ad in the Baltimore Sun thanking Ravens' fans for their support.

"That's the class act of this team" continued Cummings.  

Ray Lewis and Ray Rice leaving White House.  Photo/CD Brown
Also not returning to the Ravens' roster, linebacker Ray Lewis, who will retire his post after 17 remarkable seasons in the NFL. 

What are the Ravens to do without those two characters right there?

Susan Rice Nominated As Next National Security Advisor

Replaces Outgoing Advisor, Tom Donilon

With no Senate approval needed, President Obama today named Susan Rice as his pick for the next U.S. National Security Advisor.

President Obama with (l to r): Samantha Power (new United Nations Ambassador), Tom Donilon (outgoing US National Secruity Advisor), and Susan Rice (newly appointed USNSA).  Photo by CD Brown.
Rice, former United Nations Ambassador, has served in various capacities in the National Security Council and at the State Department. She is described by the Obama administration as "a consummate public servant", "fearless" and "tough".  She is described as "the most qualified and experienced experts in the field of foreign policy in the country."

Rice gained attention over differing statements she made after the September 11, 2012 attacks on Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other Americans. 

Rice's family:  Husband, Ian; daughter Maris; sister; brother John, and mother Lois.

During today's White House briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney said of Rice's comments on Sunday national media talk shows revealed what was confirmed all along: "Ambassador Rice conveyed what was the intelligence community’s best assessment of what had happened in Benghazi at the time."

Rice was thought to have been the next Secretary of Defense after the resignation of former Secretary of Defense Hillary Clinton, but was met with opposition from Republicans, and subsequently withdrew her name from the running.

Outgoing National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and his predecessor, Susan Rice. Photo/CD Brown.

Outgoing NSA, Donilon, who called his position "the privilege of a lifetime" was given praise by Obama who said that Donilon "played a critical role as we’ve bolstered the enduring pillars of American power."  Donilon, who will exit his post at the beginning of  July, began his public service in the Carter White House when he was twenty-two years old. 

Donilon worked as Executive Vice President for Law and Policy at mortgage company Fannie Mae, and was also a lobbyist from 1999 through 2005.

Samantha Power replaces Rice as United Nations Ambassador.  Power was the lead White House staffer on issues related to the United Nations and is described as "one of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy."

Verizon and cell phone records
***UPDATE**  President Obama tells reporters, "Nobody Is listening to your telephone calls."

Jay Leno Joke:  "We all knew that Big Brother would be watching us; but now we have a 'brother' watching."