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A mishmash ahead.

ETA: A touching CNN interview with the wife of a soldier who's coming home from Iraq.  

NYT Op-Ed, July 2008:

....The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

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As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

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Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Brigadier General Nickolas P. Tooliatos, deputy commanding general for First Theater Sustainment Command in Kuwait, salutes as the last U.S. combat troops leave Iraq and cross the border into Kuwait in this August 18, 2010 video frame grab.
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The president spent the last few days fundraising and campaigning for Democrats in 5 states.
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Full transcript is here and full video is here.

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"All they have to offer is cynicism and fear, all they know is how to pit us against each other".
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...You remember our slogan during the campaign -- "Yes, we can"?  This year, their slogan is, "No, we can’t."  (Laughter.)  It’s catchy.  (Laughter.)  It’s really inspiring.  It puts a little pep in your step -- "No, we can’t."  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s their philosophy.

And the reason they’re saying no is because they won’t give up on the economic policies, the philosophy, that they’ve been peddling for most of this decade.  And their agenda is pretty straightforward:  You cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; you cut rules for special interests; and then you cut working folks loose to fend for themselves.  If you can’t find a job, or you can’t afford college, or you don’t have health insurance, or your child doesn’t have health insurance -- tough luck, you are on your own.

The thing is, we tried this philosophy, remember?  For eight years.  And it didn’t work out real well.  All it gave us was record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.   (Applause.)

Now, I bring this up not to re-litigate the past.  I bring it up because I don’t want to relive the past.  (Laughter and applause.)  It would be -- it would be one thing if Republicans, after y’all voted them out, had said, you know what, maybe our philosophy doesn’t work; they had gone off into the desert and kind of meditated and came back -- we’ve learned from our mistakes; we promise to do things differently this time; we’ve got some new ideas we want you to try.  I would have gladly said, all right, come on, let’s work together.  But that’s not what they’re doing.

One of the leaders in Congress was asked what his party would do if he took over Congress.  He said, we will pursue "the exact same agenda" as before President Obama took office.  The exact same agenda.  Now, think about that.  Basically, they’re betting on -- between now and November, they’re betting on you coming down with a case of amnesia.  (Laughter.)  That’s their strategy.  They figure you’re going to forget what their agenda did to this country over the last eight years.

I was using an analogy --  imagine our economy is a car.  And these guys, I don't know what they were doing.  I don't know whether they were on their BlackBerry while they were driving, or they were doing something else irresponsible.  They drive it into the ditch.

And so me and Sherrod and Mary Jo and Steve and Ted and a whole bunch of folks, we’re all putting our boots on, and we go down into the ditch.  And it’s muddy down there, and it’s hot, and there are bugs swirling around.  And we’re pushing on the car, trying to get it out of the ditch, putting our shoulder -- shoving it, pushing it.  And the Republicans are up there looking at us, sipping on their Slurpees.  (Laughter.)  "You’re not pushing hard enough.  You’re not pushing the right way.  Push harder."  And we invite them to come down and help us out.  They just sort of said, no, we don’t want to.  No, we can’t.  (Laughter.)    

And then finally we get this car up on level ground and it’s ready to finally move forward.  And we feel this tap on our shoulders, and we turn around and it’s those Republicans, and they're saying, "We want the keys back."  (Laughter.)

Well, no, you cannot have the keys to the car back!  (Applause.)  You drove it into the ditch.  You don't know how to drive!  We worked hard to get it out of the ditch.  We now want to move forward.  We don't want to move backwards!  (Applause.)  We don't want to move backwards.  We don't want to move backwards.  If you want, you can sit in the back.  (Laughter.)  We’re happy to have you along for the ride.  But we’re moving forward.

And I just want to point out, when you want your car to go forward, what do you do?  You put into "D."  When you want it going backwards, what do you do?  You put into "R."  (Laughter and applause.)  We don't want to go into reverse.  We don't want to go back into the ditch.  That's not a coincidence.  (Laughter and applause.)  That's not a coincidence.  That's not a coincidence.  (Laughter.)

Let me tell you what will happen if the other party takes over Congress in November.  If you want to know what will happen if the other party takes over Congress, all you’ve got to do is look what they’ve done over the last 18 months -- on issue after issue.  They’ve sided with special interests over the middle-class families; voted to keep giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas -- despite folks like Sherrod Brown, who fought hard on this issue; voted to give insurance companies the power to keep denying coverage to people who are sick.

The top Republican on the Energy Committee, you may recall  -- this is the guy who would be in charge of the Energy Committee in the House of Representatives -- apologized after the oil spill to BP.  (Laughter.)  Remember this?  He apologized because I had said to BP you need to set aside $20 billion to make sure that we’re making fishermen and small business owners whole as a consequence of your mistakes.  This guy, he apologized to BP.  He said, oh, the President shook you down -- a Chicago-style shakedown.  That's what he called it.  (Laughter.)  That's what he called it.  He had to throw in the Chicago thing in there.  (Laughter.)

Imagine that.  That's what’s at stake in this election.  If we give them the keys back, they will drive right back into the ditch.  And riding shotgun with them will be every other special interest under the sun....

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Now, I know that times are tough, Columbus.  And when times are tough, it can be easy to give in to cynicism and it can be easy to give in to fear; to set our sights lower; to settle for the status quo; to pit people against each other; to find wedge issues; to focus on those things that appear to give a tactical advantage but have nothing to do with whether or not our country is going to be successful over the long term.  That’s -- let’s face it, that’s how politics works too much.

That’s what the other side is counting on in this election. They’re not offering new plans.  They’re not offering new idea. They’re just offering cynicism and they’re offering fear.
The American people do not believe in the words, "No, we can’t."  That’s not how this country got built.  In times of great challenge, we pushed forward with the unyielding faith that, "yes, we can."  (Applause.)

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Joe Conason:

Courage and Lower Manhattan

Nothing tests a president like standing up against a wave of fear and prejudice, even at potentially great cost to his own party and prospects. That is what Lyndon Baines Johnson did when he signed the civil rights acts he knew would forfeit the South to the Republicans for a generation or more.

And that is what Barack Obama has done by defending the right of American Muslims to build a community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan.

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As the son of a Kenyan Muslim and with an Arabic middle name, Obama obviously carries a heavy burden in this confrontation with opportunists and bigots. It would be difficult for any president to stare down opponents who are riding high on the current wave of anger and paranoia directed at a religious minority. It is far more difficult for this president, who has been subjected to scurrilous media campaigns questioning his own faith and even his citizenship.

Those hard circumstances emphasize his courage—and the cowardice of those who sidle away or remain silent now. The deepest responsibility falls upon George W. Bush, who could silence the worst excesses of his fellow Republicans and conservatives with a simple statement backing his successor. He knows that Obama is doing the right and lonely thing. His duty is clear, and he too must choose: either redemption or ignominy.

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No regrets.


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GM files for landmark public share offering

NEW YORK — US auto giant General Motors on Wednesday took the first step to selling shares to the public, seeking to free itself from government control after pulling back from the abyss of bankruptcy.

Filing for what may be one of world's largest initial public offerings (IPO) of shares, GM did not disclose the number of stocks that will be offered or the price range.

But the market expects GM to raise between 12 and 16 billion dollars, with the potential to be the second largest IPO in US history, after the credit card giant Visa, which raised more than 19 billion dollars in March 2008.

The landmark step also bodes well for President Barack Obama as it offers the American public some hard evidence for the success of his economic policies to pull the country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.

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Here's president Obama's entire "backyard hall" in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday. Among other things, he was very clear about the future of Social Security:

"Social Security is not in crisis. There are some fairly modest changes that could be made in order to strengthen it, without resorting to any newfangled schemes that would continue Social Security for another 75 years, where everybody would get the benefits they deserve. I have been adamant that Social Security should not be privatized, and it will not be privatized as long as I am president".

The entire thing is very interesting and informative.
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Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us President Barack Obama talks with the Weithman family, Rhonda, Joseph, daughter Rachel, 9, and son Josh, 11, in their home in Columbus, Ohio. August 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us President Obama helps spell out "Ohio" with the Weithman family. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: Seniors Already Seeing Lower Prescription Drug Costs

This afternoon, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare prescription drug plan premiums for 2011 will stay similar to rates beneficiaries are currently paying this year. The average premiums in 2010 were $29 per month -- in 2011 we expect average monthly premiums to be just a dollar more. All beneficiaries should check to make sure that the plan offerings that will be available in 2011 are right for them when information on those plans becomes available in October.

While there has been almost no change in premiums for 2011, people with Medicare will see big improvements in drug coverage next year. Under the Affordable Care Act, they will see lower prescription drug costs, if they fall into the coverage gap or "donut hole."  This year, people with Medicare who are in the donut hole are receiving one-time $250 rebate checks. Next year, they will receive 50% discounts on brand-name drugs and in each year their costs will be reduced even more until the donut hole is closed in 2020 - meaning that after 2020 there will be no more coverage gap, and people with Medicare will just pay their normal cost-sharing amount until they reach the annual out-of-pocket limit.

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The Affordable Care Act was designed to strengthen the Medicare program and ensure that it will continue to provide health security to our seniors for many years to come. Today's announcement -- just like the recent news that the Affordable Care Act will help extend the life of the trust fund by 12 additional years -- is good news for them and their children.

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No matter how your weekend read-list looks like, make sure that this Vanity Fair feature is there. It's amazing.
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How broken is Washington? Beyond repair? A day in the life of the president reveals that Barack Obama’s job would be almost unrecognizable to most of his predecessors—thanks to the enormous bureaucracy, congressional paralysis, systemic corruption (with lobbyists spending $3.5 billion last year), and disintegrating media. Inside the West Wing, the author talks to Obama’s top advisers about the challenge of playing the Washington game, ugly as it has become, even while their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

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Five cities in three days - Milwaukee, L.A., Seattle, Columbus, Miami - All by AP.
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Joseph Webb, 10, wears a homemade shirt that his Grandmother helped him make as he waits for a visit by President Barack Obama to Seattle, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010.

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Chinese-made flip-flops are displayed outside a shoe store in Mumbai on August 18, 2010. Store owner Prashant of Kamble Shoes in central Mumbai is left with only four pairs having already sold close to 100 pairs at INR 249 (5.3 dollars) in the last week. Kamble has ordered more stock as these are in great demand.
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Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us 103-year-old Milwaukee veteran James Edwards backstage at ZBB Energy Corporation in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Aug. 16, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Originally posted to blackwaterdog on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 01:26 PM PDT.

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