Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 13

As We Dance: The Sequester Festers

It seems the media can cover ONLY ONE major story a week....and then it's on to the next one. The Sequester is old news. The HuffPo has run a couple of reports on the lack of major media coverage even though there ARE people suffering as the result of this latest government stalemate.

At the beginning of the month (April 3) the Huffington Post reported Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide, concluding:
"On the national level, sequestration may be defined by canceled White House tours and long lines at airports that never materialized. But on the local level, it is beginning to sting."
The cuts listed included:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 12

Boston Skyline (LB March 2013)
This week the whole nation mourns over the attack in Boston. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families.

I was in Boston a few weeks ago for the Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference. It was fitting that the conference was held in Boston because the city has some of the best healthcare in the country. 98% of the residents in Massachusetts are covered. In addition, the hospitals in Boston are top-rate. 

I enjoyed the city and even took time to go to the St. Patrick's Day parade where I mingled with residents. I came away with the feeling that this was a big city comprised of many close-knit neighborhoods. The various communities were represented in the parade and it was clear that Bostonians have a closeness that you don't see in other major U.S. cities. They appreciate their history and their traditions -- their faith, their schools, their sports, and their 'green beer on St. Patrick's Day.'  They are empathetic yet tough. They will continue.

In other news....this was Tax Week -- 

Where Does the Money Go?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 11

You could hear the pin drop...

President Obama released his 2014 budget plan this week to what the Washington Post called a "yawning political void." 

Now some say that a good budget in a political environment is when all sides don't like it. Shared misery it's called. But what happens if it doesn't work? What happens if one side is so entrenched in their opposition to you that they are against everything you propose (even if they once supported it)? 

Well shared misery won't work in the cold war between the President and the GOP. The GOP has shown time and time again that they are willing to go nuclear. It's what brought us the sequester.

Part of the President's latest budget deal (which was declared DOA by Congress) is a cut in Social Security's Cost-of-Living adjustments. This is a new policy for Obama. Huffpo ran a piece from Campaign 2008 with his quote:
""John McCain's campaign has gone even further, suggesting that the best answer for the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. Let me be clear: I will not do either," Obama said in a rarely viewed video that was posted online."
They even posted the video.

What's going on? Will he be the Compromiser-in-Chief or the President? He's not running for re-election and now is the time for him to come out stronger for us.  The ones who elected him -- Latino's, African-Americans, Women, Seniors, the Poor, well you know the crowd -- Mitt Romney's 47%. 

I give the President an 'A' for effort in trying to be bi-partisan, however HE WON and should act accordingly. We went along with his attempts to win over the GOP his first term. It didn't work. They stayed lock-step in their opposition and retook the House in 2010. Thankfully, they didn't get the Presidency or the Senate. But, they are still the party of NO.

Now, it's as if President Obama keeps shooting the ball and it keeps getting blocked. As I stated in my Huffpo blog from February 2010 (when the Dems still had control of Congress) : The Man With the Plan (And the Ball And the Court):
"....we already know what to expect. We've seen them play all year and it will go something like this: 'Kobe' will play offense while the rest of his team huffs and puffs their way up and down the court trying to keep up. The other team has only one play -- they all gather under the basket and block every shot."

Obama is still the best player on the court. Go for the foul. Let them foul out. Go big.

Again...YOU WON, and most of the time you have public opinion on your side.

What's going on with the President's team? Are they tired? Are they out of ideas? 

He turned the election around when he got more forceful...time for that now! It is way too early for lame-duck status.

Karl Rove has an opinion on what's going on with President Obama,
Not That We Asked for it...

Karl Rove, who still faces protesters who say he is a war criminal for the Iraq war, offered an opinion on Obama's efforts to help the Dems overtake the house in 2014 in a Wall Street Journal editorial. Rove's response to protesters regarding his Iraq actions, he reminded the audience that Hillary Clinton voted to sanction the war, saying:
"If you object to that, I want you to show up the next time Hillary Clinton comes here and tell her you disagree with her vote," Rove yelled back as he completely lost his temper on stage. "It's either that or you're saying those people were hoodwinked and that's an insult to those people including Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and others."
Which brings me to a blog I wrote in May of 2008:  "Lie, Lies, and More Lies Got us into Iraq."  It wasn't just the Bush Administration that got us into the Iraq war.

Will this be an issue in 2016? Not for Hillary Clinton. She served her country well as Secretary of State. 

Why We Still Have a Long Way to Go...

It's easy to think we're in a post-racial society, especially if you live in liberal-leaning areas. After all, we have an African-American President and a Latino electorate beginning to flex its mighty muscle. However, there are parts of our country...many parts...where racial slurs in public office are normal and the poor and downtrodden are trampled upon.

As evidence:

Think Progress (who keeps an eye out for us on these matters) reports on a movement in the Tennessee legislature to tie receipt of welfare benefits to report cards. The bill would make a family's benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program conditional on their child’s educational performance. Huh?

This is distressing considering, as the article reports:

"Research shows that children from impoverished homes tend to struggle more in school than children from economically secure households."

Think Progress also reports on Jim Gile, a Republican commissioner in Kansas, who after using a racial slur (the 'n' word), said he isn't racist because he’s “built Habitat homes for colored people,” and also that he has a black friend."

In fairness, we know we don't have to go to Tennessee or Kansas to find such attitudes. Many of us can just look within our own family or network of acquaintances.  What's scary though is when these folk are in elected office. When they influence policy and procedure. 

Obama may be in the White House .... but who else is in elected office around the country?


President Obama's First Term
A Look Back at Week 11 - 2009: 

  • Upon completion of a successful trip abroad, President Obama recognized the 2000th project approved under his Recovery Act. From road construction projects, to child disease prevention programs, the stimulus money makes it way across the country. The President gave a major economic speech to the nation this week, and quoting Scripture, reminded Americans we must build our financial house “upon the rock.”
  • A 21st-century VA. Days after visiting our troops in Iraq, the President announced needed changes for VA Health Centers. Saying the time is now to give our veterans “the care they were promised and the benefits they have earned,” Obama announced the creation of a “unified lifetime electronic health record” for members of the armed services that will contain their administrative and medical information.
  • Bo, The First Dog, Arrives. The Obama girls—Sasha and Malia—finally got that puppy their father promised them during his Presidential campaign. Bo, a 6-month-old male Portuguese water dog was given to the family as a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy. It is reported that Bo is actually related to Kennedy's own two pooches. The name Bo is for Michelle Obama’s late dad who was reported to be a fan of musician Bo Diddley.
  • Lifting Restrictions on Cubans. In a statement that was announced in English and Spanish, President Obama signaled an increased flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people, and a lifting of restrictions on family travel and money transfers between Americans and their relatives in Cuba
  • Obama Approves Use of Force Against Somali Pirates. In what is being called his first national security test, President Obama directed the use of necessary military force in the rescue of American Captain Richard Phillips who had been held hostage for five days


And Finally.....back to 2013:

Remembering Ron Brown. This week the administration remembered the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Brown was the 30th U.S. Secretary of Commerce and served during the first term of Bill Clinton. Brown also had served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1989 to 1993.He died, along with 34 others, in a 1996 plane crash in Croatia.

Ron Brown
August 1, 1941 - April 3, 1996

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 10

Since many celebrated Spring Break last week (and for some this week):

Let's Keep it Short and Sweet!  


"Many lower-income people will qualify for federal premium subsidies, which will be available only when purchasing new coverage available in state- or federal-run insurance exchanges. It would make financial sense to take advantage of that government aid. Individuals earning less than $46,000 or families below $94,000 annually would be eligible for subsidies.
However, many people who are middle income or above could face significantly higher premiums next year with no subsidies."
Two Words:  "Who Knows?"


Three Words:  "Wake up America"


One Word:  "Really?"


Two Words: "See above"

  • Lighter news reported by part of the Performance at the White House Series, the Obamas will host 'Memphis Soul' next week. Performers will include Al Green, Cyndi Lauper, Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah, Joshua Ledet, Sam Moore, Mavis Staples, and others. The concert will air on PBS on April 16th at 8:00 EST.
Three Words: "Can I Attend?"


President Obama's First Term
A Look Back at Week 10 - 2009: 

  • With still high approval ratings, the President got tough with the automakers this past week, forcing the departure of General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner. Meanwhile, as global economic conditions continue to prevent growth in developed countries, the President prepared to meet with world leaders at the G-20 economic summit in London. Accompanied by the First Lady, the eight-day European trip will be Obama’s first as President.
  • The First Online Town Hall. In a continuing effort to make use of today’s technology in government, the President conducted the first ever “virtual town hall” with almost a hundred thousand participants and more than three and a half million votes on questions. The session mixed online participants with a White House audience of about a hundred. The President answered questions from both groups. 
  • Financial Transparency for Bailout Funds.The Treasury Department has launched, a website dedicated to showing the public how monies are spent and documenting the administration’s economic actions.


And Finally.....back to 2013:

The Obamas and the Bunny

Over 30,000 people (and the Easter Bunny) joined the Obamas at the 135th annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House. Trivia question...which President started the event?

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson listen to Jessica Sanchez sing the National Anthem on the South Portico at the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll, April 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Yes, that's American Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez singing the National Anthem.