Obama’s executive actions: the power of taking small steps

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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U.S. President Obama stands next to Vice President Biden as he discusses unemployment, in the East Room of the White House in WashingtonBy Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama's sixth year in office is starting out as a testament to the power of taking small steps. Frustrated by congressional gridlock, he has turned to the "pen and the phone" to provoke a "year of action" with a flurry of executive orders, directives, meetings and reviews to get his presidency back on track after the difficulties he encountered last year. None of the steps he is taking are going to change the world and indeed, they may be best-remembered collectively as a declaration of Obama's own relevance, an attempt to go over the heads of his Republican opponents in Congress and grab the attention of the people. It is a strategy that Democratic President Bill Clinton used in his 1996 re-election campaign.

Christie issues denial as ‘Bridgegate’ scandal flares up anew

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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By Edith Honan and Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former New Jersey official on Friday claimed Governor Chris Christie knew about politically motivated traffic jams as they happened, re-igniting a political scandal that has taken a toll on the prominent Republican. The letter from a former official at the agency that oversees the busiest U.S. bridge sparked a quick response from Christie, who again denied wrongdoing, and prompted a top New Jersey newspaper to suggest the governor could face impeachment. David Wildstein, who resigned his Port Authority post late last year, said in a letter that he had proof of the “inaccuracy” of some of Christie’s statements about the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal, which polls show has already started to weigh on Christie’s potential 2016 White House bid. Since the scandal first came to light, Christie has denied knowing the cause of the George Washington Bridge lane closings, which occurred after the mayor of Fort Lee declined to endorse the governor in a re-election bid and caused four days of massive traffic jams in that city.

KFF poll: Most still don’t understand Obamacare, but still don’t want it repealed

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (R) and other Americans the White House says will benefit from the opening of health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, in the Rose Garden

Time to warm up that bully pulpit.

If this week’s Gallup poll hints that there’s still a big lack of awareness about the details of Obamacare, this month’s tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation proves it. Nearly four years after its passage, the American public is still pretty damned vague about what this whole thing is about.

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that even after most of the ACA’s major provisions took effect on January 1, a large majority of the public (62 percent) continues to believe that only “some” provisions of the ACA have been put into place thus far. Only about one in five (19 percent) say “most” or “all” provisions have been implemented, up somewhat from 9 percent last March.

When it comes to the individual elements of the law, awareness has increased slightly for two of the big ones: the individual mandate (81 percent now say it is part of the law, up from 74 percent last March) and the health insurance exchanges (68 percent, up from 58 percent). Still, large shares of the public–and even higher shares of the uninsured–remain unaware of some other major provisions of the law. For example, roughly four in ten adults overall, and about half of the uninsured, are not aware that the law provides financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them purchase coverage, gives states the options of expanding their Medicaid programs, and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

It’s an old story. The public is aware of the stuff that gets the most ink in the traditional media and that’s the negative stuff; the mandate because Republicans have been hammering on it for four years, and the exchanges because the dominated news coverage all fall because HealthCare.gov was so screwed up. In this poll, 56 percent of people report that they’ve only seen stories about the controversies and the politics of the law, not the substance. Additionally, “about half the public (47 percent) reports hearing at least one story in the last month about an individual or family who was impacted by the law, with about twice as many saying they saw more stories about people being harmed (27 percent) as saying they saw more stories about people being helped (13 percent).”

The failure of the traditional media to report on the substance of what this law can do to help people means that the majority of the people who really need the help don’t know that it’s out there! Though KFF doesn’t give breakdowns by geography, it’s a good bet that most of those who lack this awareness are in the 36 states on the federal exchange and have seen a concerted effort to advertise the law that we’ve seen in the states that created their own exchanges and have enthusiastically embraced the new law.

Consistent with months and months worth of KFF polling, though, while the law still isn’t popular the large majority of people—55 percent—want Congress to improve the law, not repeal it. That’s continuing bad news for Republicans, who’s latest plan would completely scrap the existing law. There’s no interest at all in the public for that. Even 30 percent of those who have negative opinions about the law agree that it needs to be improved, not repealed.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais goes for the bigot vote. Nobody tell Reince Priebus.

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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I can’t imagine why any random person off the street or in the MSNBC tweet-writing room would get the idea that Republicans were still gigantic freaking loud-mouthed bigots.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) took to Facebook last Friday to inform his constituents that he had heard their concerns about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro being permitted to construct a cemetery on its grounds loud and clear and shared their worries.

“Friends, I have received numerous calls over the last couple of weeks regarding the Murfreesboro mosque cemetery,” DesJarlais wrote. “Although this is a state issue, I am deeply concerned over the impact it might have on our community.”

Yeah, can’t be too freaking careful of those church mosque cemeteries. If the zombie apocalypse comes and the dead claw their way out of the ground, the last thing the good people of Murfreesboro want to be faced with is an army of zombies with slightly different religious beliefs than the people they’re chewing on. “Oh noes,” the good people will cry, “we have been bitten by Muslim zombies and now we are turning into Muslims. And zombies.”

I do enjoy how DesJarlais flat-out complains about the stupid “religious freedom” law his stupid state passed, since it’s stopping the good Not-Bigots of Murfreesboro from withholding that freedom from, you know, the wrong religions:

“Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved,” the two-term representative wrote. “There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis.”

The “circumvention of laws” bit referring to the more usual process of deciding which laws to follow based on how much you like the person, then inventing new laws if the old laws aren’t enough for the people you don’t like to get the hint. And the Mursfreesboro mosque has been the target of vandalism, arson and protests from fine white folks who are not at all bigoted assholes for years, now—this portion of the country has a bit of a history as to what happens to the churches of people they don’t like, and that’s all we’re going to say about that lest Reince Priebus demand another public apology for somebody pointing something out.

The Republican’s newfound opposition to the bill was seen as surprising to Saleh Sbenaty, a board member of the Murfreesboro mosque. “Republicans in particular call for smaller government and the local government to manage itself,” she told to The Daily News Journal. “So now here he is interfering with a local process that has been following all rules and regulations […] There are 514 cemeteries in Rutherford County. None of them have gone through the scrutiny we have gone through.”

It is because Rep. Scott DesJarlais is a bigot. There is no great mystery here: Scott DesJarlais would run over his own mother in an attempt to sign most things purporting to enshrinken government, but wide swaths of the Republican Party are currently up in arms—again, my deepest apologies, Reince, you may want to cover your ears for this part—that allowing any Muslim American the same religious freedom that we drone on about incessantly the other 99.99 percent of the time, or allowing even a single mosque to go un-arsoned, will result in Sharia law overtaking us all. I am not making this up: the party is absolutely batshit crazy on this subject.

Vocally “anti-Sharia law” GOP lawmakers in Tennessee had their fears quelled this week when they were assured that a mop sink in one state Capitol building was not secretly installed for use as a Muslim foot-washing station.

DERP, as the children say these days. A big, fat, Tennessee bigot DERP.

So yes, the issue is bigotry, and the specific issue is that Rep. Scott DesJarlais needs to court that bigotry if he wants to stay in the good graces of the very Republican—take deep breaths, Mr. Priebus—bigots in his deeply batshit party. Of course the stupid Tennessee Religious Freedom Act was not supposed to apply to those people and their religion, as Reince Priebus would no doubt happily tell us if he was not busy wallowing in self-pity over people in America pointing this shit out.

Ex-official says Christie knew about bridge lane closures -report

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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By Edith Honan and Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) – The former New Jersey official at the center of a political scandal dogging Governor Chris Christie said on Friday the prominent Republican knew about a traffic jam orchestrated by his top aides during the blockage, the New York Times reported. Christie, seen as a 2016 White House hopeful, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of a plan to snarl traffic at the busy George Washington Bridge as political retribution and severed ties with several top aides over their role in the incident. David Wildstein, who resigned his post at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey late last year, said he had evidence that proves Christie had knowledge of the jams “during the period when the lanes were closed,” according to a letter sent to the authority’s lawyer and released to the newspaper. The closures last September caused four days of severe traffic jams for commuters and residents of Fort Lee, New Jersey, whose mayor declined to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign, and prompted official investigations into the role of the governor’s office.

Exclusive: Obama considering Citi’s Sheets for senior Treasury post – sources

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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The United States flag flies atop the U.S. Treasury Department in WashingtonBy Jason Lange WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration is considering nominating Citigroup economist Nathan Sheets to be the Treasury Department's top official for international affairs, according to two sources familiar with the matter. If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Sheets would be a key figure in U.S. financial and economic diplomacy and would help lead international discussions on the global economy. As the Treasury's under secretary for international affairs, Sheets would have to field questions from emerging market nations whose markets are reeling from a dramatic reversal of money flows tied partly to the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to curtail its economic stimulus. He would also get an earful from developing countries frustrated by U.S. intransigence in following through on a promise to give emerging economies a bigger say at the International Monetary Fund.

Obama foundation launches presidential library project

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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Velma Smith sings with one of the students in the library at Leo Catholic High School in Chicago, IllinoisSupporters of President Barack Obama launched a foundation on Friday that will plan the building of his presidential library. "The Barack H. Obama Foundation is tasked with planning the development of a Presidential Library that reflects President Obama's values and priorities throughout his career in public service: expanding economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship, and promoting peace, justice, and dignity throughout the world," the foundation said in a statement. It is not yet known where the library will be built but Hawaii, where Obama was born, and Chicago, his political base, are top contenders. The foundation said it expected to decide on a site for the project in early 2015, two years before Obama is due to leave office after serving two terms.

Christie knew about lane closings, former Port Authority official says

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christiestands on stage before being sworn in for his second term as governor in the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey, January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

If David Wildstein really has the evidence to prove that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been, uh, less than truthful when he said he knew nothing about last fall’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, this is huge:

In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.

“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.

Christie’s polling has already suffered as a result of the bridge scandal; though no evidence has directly connected him to the decision to gridlock the town of Fort Lee, clearly his denials haven’t been universally believed and revelations about how his office operated have taken a toll. Testimony from one of the people who carried out the lane closures, especially if there’s solid evidence, would be disastrous for Christie.

1:03 PM PT: Wildstein is not alone in making lane closure news today:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager will plead the Fifth Amendment when he is asked about his role in an apparent plot to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., according to a filing from his lawyer.

That’s Bill Stepien, whose lawyers are filing a number of objections to the subpoena.

1:10 PM PT: Here’s the letter from Wildstein’s lawyers.

Report: Keystone pipeline would have minimal environmental impact

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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A new State Department report on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline finds that the project would have a minimal impact on the environment, an assessment likely to increase pressure on the White House to approve it. But the report sets no deadline for doing so.



House Republicans struggle over debt limit plan: lawmaker

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2014-05-2008

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A view of the Capitol Building in WashingtonRepublicans in the U.S. House of Representatives struggled on Friday to reach consensus on a strategy for lifting the federal debt limit but decided what they don't want – a "clean" increase and a default crisis, a senior Republican lawmaker said. Representative Tom Cole, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, said that House Republicans still had not settled the conditions they would attach to any increase, and were "working through" their strategy. The U.S. Treasury estimates that it would exhaust all remaining borrowing capacity by the end of February, which would increase the risk debt default and rattle markets. "Clearly, we don't agree with the president that we should just raise the debt ceiling and do nothing about the debt," the Oklahoma congressman said.