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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Driving toward a more equal, just America?

The wheels that grind this country's racist ways have to come to an end.   Over the last days and weeks America has started to see the country move in that direction.   From discussions over whether or not the Confederate flag that flies at the state capital in South Carolina is a sign of racial hatred, prompting its removal, to fighting disparities in housing, healthcare, and same-sex marriage.

Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that disparate-impact standard has worked to combat systemic discrimination in the case of  Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project Inc.  (See Supreme Court Syllabus here).

America, the equal?  A flag symbolizing equality flies in front of the Supreme Court.

Under the Fair Housing Authority, "it is unlawful to refuse to sell, rent or otherwise make unavailable or deny a dwelling to a person because of race, or other protected characteristic."

Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighing in on the court's decision said, "“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Fair Housing Act encompasses disparate impact claims, which are an essential tool for realizing the Act’s promise of fair and open access to housing opportunities for all Americans.  While our nation has made tremendous progress since the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, disparate impact claims remain an all-too-necessary mechanism for rooting out discrimination in housing and lending."  

Said Justice Anthony Kennedy, “Much progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation. In striving to achieve our historic commitment to creating an society we must remain wary of policies that reduce homeowners to nothing more than their race.

The ICP brought a disparate-impact claim under §§804(a) and 805(a) of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), alleging that the Department and its officers had caused continued segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods.

In a statement Thursday, HUD Secretary Juli├ín Castro wrote, “Today is another important step in the long march toward fulfilling one of our nation’s founding ideals: equal opportunity for all Americans.  The Supreme Court has made it clear that HUD can continue to use this critical tool to eliminate the unfair barriers that have deferred and derailed too many dreams.  Working with our partners on the ground, we will continue to do all we can to build a housing market that treats all Americans with basic dignity and respect.”

Also Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.   Congress had tried numerous times to vote it down and presidential candidates ran on the platform of either vowing to repeal or replace Obamacare.

Speaker John Boehner on Thursday all but said the fight to repeal the ACA is all but over saying, "This [the ruling] changes nothing."

Clearly, this week has found some justice in battles for justice and equality.  As Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

In other news on moving toward equality, on Friday, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states.  Gay couples now have the same legal rights as other married couples.

Supporters call the ruling "historic" and President Obama's Twitter account is trending with "#LoveWins".  The president spoke Friday in the White House Rose Garden where he said:

A married gay couple stroll
hand-in-hand.  Photo/CD Brown.
"Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens.  And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt." 

No word on whether Congress plans to devote the same negative energy to repeal or replace Friday's same-sex ruling as they have opposing healthcare for all Americans.

The Supreme Court did in one (1) week what Congress and the administration has been trying to get done in nearly seven years.

Perhaps one day America will even rejoice in like terms over monetary reparations for African Americans.

Maybe it is "SCOTUScare"; then again it may just be that the "hope" and "change" Americans were promised is coming to fruition, incremently small.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump declare run for the White House

Saturday on Roosevelt Island former Democratic Secretary of State (and former first lady) Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the United States presidency.  Other Democratic candidates include former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who announced his candidacy at the end of May.  Here's an official list that rounds out the current Democratic candidates; some you may, or may not, be familiar with.

A Virginia motorist displays her choice for the 2016 presidency.  Photo CD Brown.

VIDEOS: Candidates announce run for White House

Republican Jeb Bush (Monday) announced his intent to run and millionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump announced on Tuesday his intent to make a run for the White House a second time.

Bush and Trump join an ever-growing list of Republican candidates, to include noted neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson who is the current forerunner according to a recent poll that shows Carson leading with an 11% favor over the likes of:

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (8%), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (6%), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (5%), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (4%), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (4%), and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (3%).

Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (2%)Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former New York Gov. George Pataki found zero support in the Monmouth poll.

Donald Trump tied with Fiorina and Graham at just 2%.


Education for every girl on the planet: First Lady Michelle Obama's Financial Times op-ed

The first lady has traveled to the UK this week promoting education for girls.   She wrote an op-ed piece in the Financial Times on Monday in adamant support of education for all girls.  

First Lady Michelle Obama: Throw the School Gates Open to Girls Everywhere

Right now, more than 62m girls around the world are out of school — a heartbreaking injustice that deprives these girls of the chance to develop their potential. Too often, young women face insurmountable barriers to attend school: unaffordable school fees; early and forced marriage and pregnancy; and societal beliefs that girls are simply less worthy of an education than boys.

This is not just a moral issue — it is a serious public health issue: girls who attend secondary school marry and have children later, have lower rates of maternal and infant mortality and HIV/Aids, and are more likely to immunise their children. It is a national security issue, as education is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against violent extremism. And girls’ education is an urgent economic issue. Studies show that each additional year a girl attends school can increase her earning power by 10 to 20 per cent, and that sending more girls to secondary school can boost a country’s entire economy.

But for me, this is not just about policy or economics. This is deeply personal, because I come to this issue not just as a first lady but as a mother.

First Daughters Sasha and Malia stroll down Downing Street.

Every time I meet these girls on my travels abroad, I am blown away by their passion, intelligence and hunger to learn — and I cannot help but see my daughters in them. Like my own girls, each of these young women has the spark of something extraordinary inside. The only difference is that my girls have had the opportunity to develop their promise. So all of us who are parents and grandparents need to ask ourselves whether we would ever accept our own precious girls being pulled out of school and married off to grown men at the age of 12, becoming pregnant at 13, confined to a life of dependence and, often times, fear and abuse.

That kind of life is unthinkable for the girls in our lives, so why would we accept this fate for any girl on this planet?

This week I will join Prime Minister David Cameron in London to begin to answer that question, and announce a series of new partnerships between the US and the UK to educate adolescent girls in developing countries around the world.

The UK has long been a global leader for adolescent girls’ education worldwide. America has invested as well, launching an initiative earlier this year called Let Girls Learn, which includes efforts by US Peace Corps volunteers to help communities in developing countries find their own solutions, such as girls’ leadership camps and mentorship programmes.

First Lady Michelle Obama meets British PM David Cameron.

Our new partnerships build on these efforts, bringing new focus to reach even more adolescent girls across the globe. Among them is an effort of up to $180m over five years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will benefit more than 750,000 girls.

In addition, our development agencies and two of our countries’ leading universities will collaborate on evidence-based research to determine the best ways to educate adolescent girls. And British and American partners will work together to support teacher training, girls’ leadership camps, and other community-based programmes in developing countries.

Combined, these efforts total nearly $200m — but, given the scope of this challenge, even that is nowhere near sufficient. Girls’ education is a global issue that requires a global solution. That’s why, in March, I traveled to Japan and stood with Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as we announced a similar partnership between the US and Japan to help girls worldwide attend school.

I intend to use my remaining time as first lady — and beyond — to rally leaders across the globe to join us in this work. Because every girl, no matter where she lives, deserves the opportunity to develop the promise inside of her.


While in the UK the first lady, two daughters and grandmother Mrs. Robinson had tea with Prince Harry and watched a performance by gymnasts as a school in London.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Kids' "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge" winning recipes announced

Winners to Attend Kids’ "State Dinner" at the White House

Washington D.C. – First Lady Michelle Obama, PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe challenge for kids that promotes cooking and healthy eating.  Winners representing all U.S. states, four territories, and the District of Columbia will attend a Kids' “State Dinner” at the White House hosted by Mrs. Obama on  July 10.   

“Reading over these winning recipes, two things become very clear,” says First Lady Michelle Obama. “America’s kids are passionate about not just eating healthy food, but about cooking healthy food, too.  And we’re raising some truly inventive and talented chefs. I can’t wait to meet our 2015 winners and try some of their recipes at the Kids’ “State Dinner.’”

The 55 aspiring young chefs and a parent or guardian will join the First Lady for a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden.

Winners, from all over the country, are listed below along with their winning recipes.  Timothy Burke, Age 8, from Washington, D.C. won with his now-famous Vegetable Confetti Spring Rolls. The Maryland and Virginia winners are highlighted in red. 

·         ALABAMA: Jay Wolanzyk, Age 10, Alabama Fancy Fish Tacos  
·         ALASKA: Sable Scotton, Age 10, Deliciousness over Rice  
·         ARIZONA: Nia Thomas, Age 10, Oodles of Zoodles with Avocado Pistachio Pesto  
·         ARKANSAS: Aspen Smith, Age 11, Arkansas Baked Almond Catfish
·         CALIFORNIA: Aria Pelaez, Age 9, California Rainbow Taco with Mic-Kale Obama Slaw and Barack-amole
·         COLORADO: Rain Adams, Age 11, Rain's Turkey Chili
·         CONNECTICUT: Hannah Betts, Age 10, Hannah’s Eggy Potato Scramble
·         DELAWARE: Emilie Monnig, Age 12, Spinach Power Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette  
·         FLORIDA: Bobby Sena, Age 12, Caribbean Delight
·         GEORGIA: Corey Jackson Jr., Age 10, Mango-Cango Chicken  
·         GUAM: Gracie Giles, Age 9, Y'obama Yakisoba  
·         HAWAII: Luca Casano, Age 11, East Meets West! Chinese Pot Stickers and Tuscan Salad with Aloha Sorbet  
·         IDAHO: Josie Roll, Age 8, Scrumptious Veggie Noodles with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce and Chicken  
·         ILLINOIS: Shreya Patel, Age 9, Garam Masala Quinoa Burger with Raita  
·         INDIANA: Abigail Horne, Age 8, Little Man Lunch  
·         IOWA: Mary McFetridge, Age 11, Mary’s Garden Farfalle Feast  
·         KANSAS: Jasmine Dulan, Age 11, Black Bean Burger with Kale Chips and Jasmine's Freeze Out Smoothie
·         KENTUCKY: Izzy Washburn, Age 9, Shake It Off with a Turkey Roll  
·         LOUISIANA: Samuel Davis, Age 11, Sam’s Southern Savoring Salmon Supreme (S to the 5th power)  
·         MAINE: Leo Koch, Age 8, Vegan Superhero Soup with Vegan Power-Packed Parfait  
·         MARYLAND: Braxton Young, Age 8, Quinoa Crusted Spinach Tofu Pie  
·         MASSACHUSETTS: Aster Toole, Age 10, Melting Pot Soup  
·         MICHIGAN: Eva Paschke, Age 12, Fizzle Sizzle Stir Fry  
·         MINNESOTA: Ava Nebben, Age 9, Secret Service Pizza Delight  
·         MISSISSIPPI: Bre Donald, Age 11, Ground Turkey Flower  
·         MISSOURI: Blake Koehr, Age 12, Gateway Crescent  
·         MONTANA: Colton Kuka, Age 9, Hungry Brother’s Stew
·         NEBRASKA: Grace Brown, Age 8, Fabulous Fish Tacos
·         NEVADA: Jack Newkirk, Age 9, Eggplant “Obama”san
·         NEW HAMPSHIRE: Ana Bernazzani, Age 8, Corn and Turkey Meatball Lentil Soup with Whole-Wheat Pita Chips  
·         NEW JERSEY: Emma Schramm, Age 9, Crispy-Skin Salmon Over Pasta with Garbanzo Bean Sauce
·         NEW MEXICO: Hannah Torres, Age 10, New Mexican Style Layered Tostada with Cauliflower Tortilla 
·         NEW YORK: Julia Rissberger, Age 11, Spinach and Apple Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette and Whole-Grain Cheese Pennies  
·         NORTH CAROLINA: Alexander Tschegg, Age 8, Curried Chickpeas with Baked Tofu over Cilantro Rice
·         NORTH DAKOTA: Carter Cassola, Age 11, Stuffed Peppers Delite  
·         NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS: Claire Park, Age 9, Rota Sweet Potato Salad with Grilled Chicken Breast  
·         OHIO: Sydney Mazik, Age 12, S.S. Asparagus Pie  
·         OKLAHOMA: Riley Higgins, Age 9, M“eggs”ican Quesadillas with Pineapple Dipping Sauce  
·         OREGON: Phoebe Garrett, Age 11, Phoebe's Phish Tacos with Kale Chips
·         PENNSYLVANIA: Sydney Tyner, Age 11, Chicken Taco Tower  
·         PUERTO RICO: Felix Gonzalez, Age 11, Wrap It Up  
·         RHODE ISLAND: Clara Aizenman, Age 11, Mexican–Jewish Barley Pozole  
·         SOUTH CAROLINA: Summer LaPress, Age 9, Pan-Roasted Grouper with Carolina Gold Rice Salad  
·         SOUTH DAKOTA: Griffin Storm, Age 8, Storm of Deliciousness BBQ Chicken Soup  
·         TENNESSEE: Evie Braude, Age 9, Farro with a Tennessee Twist
·         TEXAS: Jianna Garcia, Age 10, Couscous Salad with Chicken, Artichoke, and Lemon Skewers and Tangy Texas Tzatziki  
·         U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: Jalani Phillips Jr., Age 10, Hurricane Salmon and Lentil Patties
·         UTAH: Indiana Coyle, Age 8, Mix It Up Sushi  
·         VERMONT: Maya Elliott, Age 10, Maya's Delicious Vegetarian Little Lasagnas  
·         VIRGINA: Simone Spalding, Age 8, Rainbow Chili  
·         WASHINGTON: Simone Harvey, Age 10, Teriyaki Chicken with Cabbage Salad
·         WASHINGTON, D.C.: Timothy Burke, Age 8, Vegetable Confetti Spring Rolls  
·         WEST VIRIGINA: Reagan Blasher, Age 10, Honey Baked Salmon with Spinach Quinoa, Pineapple Salsa, and Cucumber-Dill Dipping Sauce  
·         WISCONSIN: Anna Ganser, Age 10, Mediterranean Rockin’ Roasted Vegetables in Cool Cucumber Boats  
·         WYOMING: Dillon Andrews, Age 12, Indian Tacos   

Friday, June 5, 2015

Nearly 300,000 jobs added in May

White House Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman announced today that 280,000  jobs were added for the month of May in what he refers to as "the strongest month of the year so far."

The May employment situation saw 12.6 million jobs being added over a 63 month period in what the White House is calling the "longest streak" of job growth on record.

The White has also announced five key points on the labor market for the month of May.

1. The private sector has added 12.6 million jobs over 63 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that private-sector employment rose by 262,000 in May. Our businesses created more than 200,000 jobs in fourteen of the past fifteen months—the first time that has happened since 1995. On the whole, our economy has added 3.1 million new jobs over the past twelve months, just off the fifteen-year high achieved in February.
2. Manufacturing employment is up strongly as compared with the previous business cycle, while construction employment still has not recovered. In the manufacturing sector, employment trended down through the business cycle from 2000 to 2008. But manufacturing employment has rebounded since the financial crisis: today, there are 22 percent more manufacturing jobs than there would have been if the pre-existing pattern had persisted. A similar pattern is evident in the information services sector. Construction employment, however, has yet to return to pre-crisis levels and remains 22 percent below the trend over the previous business cycle. This is partly explained by an unsustainably high starting point for construction employment in January 2008, reflecting the state of the housing market at the time. 
3. More highly educated Americans participate more in the labor force at all ages, and, compared with less educated workers, their participation does not drop off until much older ages. The overall labor force participation rate has been highly stable over the past thirteen months. However, there is important internal variation in participation, particularly with respect to education. For all ages over 25, labor force participation is unsurprisingly higher for more educated workers. Eighty-eight percent of prime age Americans (those aged 25 to 54) holding four-year college degrees participate in the labor force, compared with only 66 percent of Americans without a high school diploma or equivalent. Notably, the education-participation gap increases toward middle age as less-educated workers stop participating at younger ages. College graduates ages 50 to 54 participate at the same rate as those fifteen years their junior (88 percent), but for those without high school diplomas, the gap is 8 percentage points (60 percent for 50-54 year-olds versus 68 percent for 35-39 year-olds). It appears that not only do educated workers participate more, but they also participate longer. Indeed, encouraging access to higher education and making it more affordable promotes all three of the main drivers of middle-class incomes: participation, productivity, and equality.
4. The distribution of job growth across industries in May was highly consistent with the pattern observed over the past year. One way to evaluate whether the composition of job growth is in line with recent trends is to consider the correlation between the most recent one-month percent change and the average percent change over the last 12 months across various industries. Looking across the 17 industries shown in the next point, the correlation between the May change and the average percent change over the last 12 months was 0.90, suggesting that the distribution of employment gains last month was very much in line with recent trends, albeit shifting up in most sectors, reflecting the stronger overall job growth in May. Indeed, this month saw the highest correlation of monthly and annual employment changes since January 2009. From 2008 on, this correlation has averaged 0.60. It therefore appears that employment growth in May generally followed the sectoral pattern of the last twelve months.
5. The majority of industries experienced stronger job growth in May than they have on average over the past year. Although the distribution of job growth generally followed recent patterns, in some cases it was a little above or below recent norms. May was an especially strong month for leisure and hospitality (+57,000), government (+18,000), health care and social assistance (+58,000), private educational services (+17,000), and temporary help services (+20,000). May was a weaker than usual month in mining and logging (-18,000), wholesale trade (+4,000), and information services (-3,000). In fact, May was the fifth consecutive month of declining mining and logging employment, likely reflecting cutbacks in oil production. 
As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and payroll 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.
Jason Furman is the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Third Time Giants Honored at White House

The adage 'the third time is the charm' really holds true for the San Francisco Giants.

The 2014 World Series champions were honored Thursday, for a third time, by President Obama in White House East Room style.

President Obama recognizes World Series champions San Francisco Giants
Thursday in the East Room.  Photo/CD Brown.

In usual celebratory fashion the president poked fun at the players, shed hope for his team (the Chicago White Sox) and commended the giants team for their championship season.

"Whenever the Giants make the playoffs... they'll probably win it", said the president.

Commenting on what could be defined as the team's winning strategy, the president said, "They've got that even-year magic, they've got that championship experience."

The president even suggested he was good luck for them.

The team imparted gifts upon the president, among them a team-autographed jersey, baseball, and new this year - a team autographed base with the president's name and date secured along the side.

President Obama marvels at signed baseball base presented to him  from
World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.  Photo/CD Brown.

The team was also recognized for the part in helping building a multi-million dollar Junior Giants Urban Youth Academy for boys and girls from under served areas of San Francisco.  The state-of-the-art facility, with training facilities and two baseball fields, will also offer mentoring, tutoring and college prep programming.

Said the president, " It’s the kind of initiative that fits right in with the goals of our My Brother’s Keeper initiative to keep all of our young people out of trouble and give them the opportunity to stretch as far as their dreams will take them.  And it builds on the work that Major League Baseball is already doing to lift up young people in communities like Compton and New Orleans, and right here in Washington, D.C."

The Junior Giants program has also awarded $500,000 in scholarships, said the president.

Legends in the House

Baseball icons and Hall of Fame inductees Monte Irvin and Willie Mays joined the team on stage.  Both men got a rousing applause from the attended audience members as they were being assisted from their wheelchairs to their assigned seats. 

In 2009 Mr. Mays joined President Obama aboard Air Force on a trip to St. Louis where the president threw out the first pitch at the MLB All-Star game.
A Buster Posey baseball card and a baseball wait to be autographed by the SF Giants. Photo/CD Brown.

A signed SF Giants jersey and baseball base were gifts presented to the president by the Giants.  Photo/CD Brown.