President Obama gave the press an unexpected opportunity to question him on Air Force One on his way back to Washington, D.C., from his junket to California. Yahoo News provided the following rush transcript of the presser in which Obama expressed some of his frankest opinions yet on a variety of issues. Although I have frequently criticized the President in the past, he was superb in this conference.
Breaking news from official sources in Washington, D.C.:
President Barack Obama will be announced tomorrow, October 15, as the winner of the 2009 Heisman Trophy--the 75th winner of the prestigious trophy since its inception in 1935. Questioned briefly by the AP's Helene Tomas, President Obama indicated that he "had done nothing," "jack and squat," to deserve the award but that he felt "humbled by the process and would gratefully accept it on behalf of all American sportsmen". Knute Lombardi, the head of the Heisman selection committee and son of legendary Packer and Redskin coach, Vince Lombardi, acknowledged that the choice of Obama was a surprise. Lombardi opined that although Obama has never played football, that had he taken time from his busy schedule as a law student to do so, he might have done more to "advance the cause of athletics in America than anyone." He added that if Obama had played football "he would have certainly achieved great success because he's one shifty dude. What an open field runner he coulda been! Whatta arm the lad has! he passes on most everything!"
One of Norway's major news outlets, The Norway Post, reports an almost overwhelmingly negative reaction from readers and letter writers to the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to President Barack Obama. Following an article reporting the criticism of the Norwegian Committee's selection, the exasperated Norway Post replied to a reader who asked why they didn't report any positive news about the award with the telling comment:
"The answer is, as we also wrote in the article, there were none. It took nearly 24 hours for the fiirst positive letter to arrive..."
Clearly the Norwegian Post was so rattled by the reaction that they made a mistake in spelling ("fiirst"?). Though the newspaper now claims it has finally received some letters and emails supporting the decision of the 5 Norwegians who selected the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the sentiment against the choice is 5-1. One might question even this since the newspaper has no email listed anywhere I can find it, even under "Contact". It does, on the other hand, have a colorful picture of a Lutefisk platter on its website front page.
With the Norwegian-based Nobel Prize Committee giving its Peace Prize to President Obama, I have just one question: how many Norwegians will fight in Afghanistan? Perhaps the news didn't make it to Norway that earlier this year the Obama administration ESCALATED the level of U.S. fighting forces in Afghanistan by 32,000 troops (at a cost per annum of $32 billion). Perhaps the news didn't make it to Norway that the Obama administration had also extended the war to Pakistan and risked, in Sen. Feingold's opinion, the further destabilization of that country. Perhaps the news didn't make it to Norway that Obama had selected Gen. McCrystal to head the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and that Gen. McCrystal is an arch-hawk. Perhaps the news didn't make it to Norway that at this moment Gen. McCrystal has asked for a further 40,000 troops for Afghanistan and that most pundits believe Obama will give him those troops. Perhaps the news didn't make it to Norway that Obama's Defense Secretary and most of his generals are carryovers from the Bush administration: hence, zero change.
Politico reports that the Senate passed a $625.6 billion Pentagon budget Tuesday, ending a debate that lasted--get this-- a week! The Pentagon got what it wanted by a 93-7 vote and few if any Blue Dogs or conservatives objected to the cost. Note too that such annual Defense Department budgets do NOT include supplemental funding (which was about $106 billion passed recently) and do NOT include secret, or "Black Budget" costs hidden for intelligence reasons. How these figures mount is shown by last year's budget. For 2009, the base budget of the Department of Defense was $518.3 billion. But adding emergency discretionary, supplemental and stimulus spending brought the sum to $651.2 billion. Defense-related expenditures outside the DoD, according to Wikipedia, constituted between $274 billion and $493 billion in additional spending, bringing the total for defense spending last year to $925 billion-$1.14 trillion. This year's budget will be higher especially if we escalate in Afghanistan. President Obama said for each new 1,000 troops sent to Afghanistan, it would cost another $1 billion a year. So sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan (as Gen. McCrystal wants) would constitute almost half the cost of the annual health care bill!
Rio's victory over Chicago shows us something about the current administration. The 20 hour failed Obama mission to bring the Olympics to Chicago serves as a touchstone for his entire presidency: too little, too late. In other areas more important than sports, we have seen the president flitting from one crisis or situation to another: never really spending enough time or effort to solve one problem before it's off to a new one. We saw it in the Tarp bailouts where the banks were given trillions of dollars WITHOUT having to reform their practices. We saw it the administration's economic stimulus which leading economists like Krugman and Stiglitz said was too small to address the problem. We saw it in the health care reform arena when the administration abandoned its strongest position (single payer), floated an ineffective alternative (the public option) and then backed away even from that tepid program.
Figures pouring out from the government itself show unemployment/underemployment at all time highs since the Great Depression. The national unemployment rate is almost 10%, the national underemployment rate is closer to 20%. 14.9 million people are unemployed. And new figures show that the unemployment rate among young people is higher than 25%. In numerous, populous states, the official unemployment rates are well over 10% including California, New York, Florida, and the basket case of basket cases, Michigan. Even in Nevada you have better odds at being unemployed than at winning a hand of blackjack (getting rid of Hapless Harry Reid might be the one bright spot about this whole story). When FDR came into office, he immediately began, mostly within his first 100 days in office, giant programs to mobilize the unemployed: the CCC, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the WPA and so on. When Bill Clinton became President he also initiated job growth programs almost immediately. Almost 10 million jobs have been lost in the last year. Where are your job programs, President Obama?
Henry A. Giroux, who holds a Chair at McMaster University in Canada, has written a profound article called "The Politics of Lying and the Culture of Deceit in Obama's America: The Rule of Damaged Politics". I believe that whatever your political persuasion here at DailyKos--whether you are a progressive, a centrist, or a right-leaning Democrat--this essay is indispensable reading because of its insights. It is not long, but densely written in an academic style and includes footnotes to sources like Hannah Arendt. Giroux's essay opens with:
In the current American political landscape, truth is not merely misrepresented or falsified; it is overtly mocked. As is well known, the Bush administration repeatedly lied to the American public, furthering a legacy of government mistrust while carrying the practice of distortion to new and almost unimaginable heights.
My apologies if this was diaried earlier (I attempted to check through past diaries here but as so often happens, that function was so slow, it was not practical). This diary also has some new info. David Sirota, journalist and former Democratic spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, has reported that just hours after Nancy Pelosi backed off from the public option, a major health lobbyist set a fundraiser for her in Washington, D.C. Sirota quotes CNN when he says that Pelosi and Harry Reid said "they would support any provision that increases competition and accessibility for health insurance - whether or not it is the public option favored by most Democrats." Sirota also notes that Pelosi told CNN that Pelos ruled out any non-negotiable positions (formerly she had said that inclusion of a public option was non-negotiable).
Sadly, Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary died on Wednesday. She lived as vibrant and colorful a life as the lyrics of the many wonderful songs that she and her two fellow vocalists sang ("Blowin in the Wind"; "If I had a Hammer"; "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?"; "Puff the Magic Dragon"; "Leaving on a Jet Plane", and others. Her voice was powerful but so were her beliefs. Mary and Peter, Paul and Mary didn't take the safe, commercial, conventional route. They were/are successes because of the strength of their commitments and their following through on their ideals.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that President Barack Obama has thrown his weight behind Arlen Specter for a series of fundraisers that will reap Specter's campaign half an estimated $2.5 million. Obama's support comes just five months after Specter bolted the Republican Party when it became obvious to most that he would not win the GOP's nomination.
From the LA Times:
President Obama, making an unusual foray into a Democratic primary election battle, told a paid crowd of supporters of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) on Tuesday that the senator would fight "to help me move this country forward."
The reception drew 750 people, some of whom paid $2,400 to attend. The president was scheduled to attend a more intimate gathering of Specter's big-money donors later today. Overall, the fundraiser was expected to bring in nearly $2.5 million, split between Specter's campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
He's not well known to most Americans. But he worked for almost 20 years as an insurance executive, almost 15 for Cigna (one of the nation's largest insurance companies) until he decided he'd had enough. He then blew the whistle on insurers at congressional hearings last June when he revealed how private insurers dumped patients with costly health problems to protect their profits. Now he's speaking out on the practices of these same insurers. He gave up a high paying job as an insurance company PR honcho in a giant glass and concrete high-rise for a simpler life with a non-profit, citizen based group, the Center for Media and Democracy based in Madison, Wisconsin. Ladies and Gentlemen please meet (and LISTEN UP) to Wendell Potter. Potter has insights into corporate insurance practices that are especially important now that President Obama has told us in his health care speech that his own plan will largely be based on private insurance (with some tweaks of the old, failed system). NOTE: this diary has been updated to include a long talk between Amy Goodman and Potter on democracynow.org See Update #3.
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