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DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the Passing of Basil Paterson
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement today on the passing of Basil Paterson, former New York state Senator and Secretary of State and former Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee:
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Basil Paterson. His pioneering career was defined by an unwavering pursuit of the ideals for which he fought and the betterment of the community which he loved. Mr. Paterson consistently answered the call to service, displaying savvy and poise in whichever capacity he could best represent the people of New York. Alongside his colleagues in Harlem, he opened doors not just in his home state, but across the nation, for future generations of African American leaders. As a former Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Paterson’s commitment to inclusion and the expansion of opportunity for all is an indelible legacy on the fabric of our party. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Paterson’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
50 years later voting rights still threatened
Nearly 50 years ago, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, to outlaw discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and more. The law strengthened voting rights and pushed for an end to racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and in public places. The law passed with bipartisan support -- in fact, Republicans helped lead the charge and break the filibuster.
Unfortunately, today's GOP retreats headlong from the battle towards greater equality. In fact, many Republican are trying to sabotage or undermine crucial protections in the Civil Rights Act.
One of the critical goals of the Civil Rights Act was “to enforce the constitutional right to vote.” But instead of ensuring this right, today’s Republican Party wants to make it more difficult for people to cast their ballots.
Republicans are engaged in an aggressive and sustained campaign to make voting harder for millions of Americans. Across the country, Republican controlled legislatures enact laws that put barriers between voters and the ballot box. Apparently, Republicans have decided that if voters reject their ideas at the polls, they'll just rig the system by decreasing participation and making it more difficult to cast a ballot.
In Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and Kansas, they have passed strict photo identification and proof of citizenship laws. The result: voters who change their name because they get married or can't provide an original birth certificate find it more difficult to have their vote counted.
In Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina, the GOP is restricting early voting periods.
And in Minnesota, Republicans are trying to sue the Secretary of State to stop that state from implementing online voter registration.
Voting restrictions like these impact all Americans, but they disproportionately hurt African Americans, Latinos, working people, seniors, young people, and women – the very groups the Civil Rights Act has been helping for fifty years.
Meanwhile, Democrats are committed to our mission of ensuring that every eligible voter can register, that every registered voter can vote, and that every vote is accurately counted. Because we know that our nation has never moved forward with less participation. So as we mark 50 years since the Civil Rights Act became the law of the land, it is more important than ever that we recommit ourselves to protecting and expanding the franchise for ALL Americans.
And it’s not just on voting rights that the GOP is standing on the wrong side of progress:
Republicans made clear this week that they do not support legislation that would move us closer to equal pay for equal work and address the persistent discrimination that millions of American women experience in the workplace.
On rights for LGBT Americans, the GOP blocked the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and in many states authored legislation to enshrine discrimination in the legal code.
Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take us back to the days where insurance companies could deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions, or even for just being a woman.
The GOP continues to oppose and obstruct efforts to raise the minimum wage and ensure folks who work full time don’t remain in poverty.
Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform, dividing families and leaving millions of people stuck in a broken system.
When it comes to civil rights, equality, and progress, Republicans are not only on the wrong side of the issues, their positions stand in stark contrast to the views of the American people. As Democrats, we will keep fighting to move our country forward, and work to get even closer to the ideals embodied in the Civil Rights Act over the next 50 years.
Donna Brazile is the Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee.
DNC Voter Expansion Project Announces Texas and Ohio State Directors; Additional National Staff
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced the hiring of four additional state and national staff for the Democratic Party’s newly-launched Voter Expansion Project. The new hires are: Sondra Haltom, Texas Voter Expansion Project State Director; Lindsay Langholz, Ohio Voter Expansion Project State Director; Bobby Hoffman, Deputy Director of Voter Expansion and Zara Haq, Director of Knowledge Management for Voter Expansion. Haltom and Langholz will work with both the DNC and their respective state parties.
The hires follow a recent New York Times report detailing the Republican Party’s efforts to limit voting rights and a Monday release of a DNC video featuring Vice President Biden outlining the importance of the Voter Expansion Project.
“The DNC brings unmatched institutional knowledge and experience in voter registration, engagement and protection,” said Wasserman Schultz. “With our state party partners, we have a national infrastructure and team of experts that no other organization can bring to bear. Voting laws are rapidly changing, and our Voter Expansion Project will make sure that Democrats – and all voters – across the country are able to exercise their right to vote and make their voices heard.”
As the DNC and Democrats around the country seek to expand access to voting through the new Voter Expansion Project, Republicans continue their cynical attempt to make it more difficult for people to vote.
“As Republicans continue to impede the right to vote, limit our access to the polls, and make it more difficult to cast a ballot, Democrats are fighting to expand the vote and increase access,” said Pratt Wiley, National Director of Voter Protection at the DNC. “Our team is building a professional and permanent, in-house operation that will remain in place from cycle to cycle for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.”
The Voter Expansion Project was first announced in a video by former President Bill Clinton to DNC supporters. This project helps ensure the Democratic Party not only protects the right to vote, but also works proactively with states across the country to expand access to the ballot box.
BACKGROUND ON NEW VOTER EXPANSION STAFF:
Sondra Haltom, Texas Voter Expansion Project State Director
Haltom has 15 years of experience working on election issues like ballot access, voter suppression prevention, redistricting and more. In December 2012, she founded Empower The Vote Texas (ETVT), a non-profit organization dedicated to voting rights and election reform issues. Prior to starting ETVT, Haltom served for seven years as the Political Director for the Texas Democratic Party where she built and led the TDP’s Voter Protection Program.
Lindsay Langholz, Ohio Voter Expansion Project State Director
Langholz comes to the Voter Expansion Project with years of experience protecting and expanding the vote in both Ohio and Tennessee. Langholz will be responsible for educating voters and campaign staff on election law and working with election administrators to ensure they have the resources and training they need. Langholz is a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School.
Bobby Hoffman, Deputy Director of Voter Expansion
A veteran of both Obama presidential campaigns, Hoffman joins the DNC after leadership roles in the voter expansion program in Virginia in 2012 and 2013. Hoffman will be responsible for growth and development of the in-state voter expansion programs. Hoffman is a graduate of Valparaiso University Law School.
Zara Haq, Director of Knowledge Management for Voter Expansion
Haq is a veteran of President Obama’s re-election campaign where she worked in the Chicago headquarters and later in Virginia. Haq will be responsible for making permanent the DNC’s know-how and tools necessary to build and sustain the DNC’s in-state voter expansion programs. Haq is a graduate of American University Law School.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s statement on National Equal Pay Day
On National Equal Pay Day, we are reminded of how we impede our own success when we refuse to compensate women equally. Women still make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Over a lifetime, that adds up to more than $430,000 in lost compensation for her, her family, and our economy. For Hispanic and African American women, the gap is shamefully even greater.
Women now constitute nearly half of the nation’s work force. More women are acting as their family’s primary breadwinner, and many families rely on the paycheck of a wife or mother just to make ends meet. Pay equality is not just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue, and an economic issue.
As the party of inclusion, empowerment, and opportunity, these issues are priorities for Democrats. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama, and Democrats in Congress continue to fight for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. In addition, Democrats support increasing the minimum wage, because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty. We also recognize that real economic equality includes enabling women to decide for themselves when to start a family.
The contrast with Republicans is clear. Republicans stood steadfast against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, oppose increasing the minimum wage, and have repeatedly blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. They continue to double down on their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and with it the provision that bars insurance companies from treating being a woman as a pre-existing condition increasing the cost of health care for women and their families. The net effect is that while Republicans are fighting against bigger paychecks for women, they would also subject them to higher health care costs. That is an unsustainable proposition for America’s families.
Equal pay is about more than just women’s rights. It’s about the economic security of our families. It’s about ensuring that our daughters enter a work environment that treats them with fairness and respect. And it’s about growing our economy, because we know that when women succeed, America succeeds. It’s high time Republicans get on board.
DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Response to Breitbart News’ Offensive Ad
In response to Breitbart News’ offensive characterization of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:
“To say the least, the Breitbart News ad is foul, offensive, and disrespectful to all women. It is a disgusting new low and would be reprehensible against any woman – regardless of party. It’s no wonder the Republicans are having problems appealing to women. If GOP leaders are serious about their rebrand, then both their elected and Party leadership should condemn this outrageous behavior, call on Breitbart News to immediately remove the ad, and not continue to use this website as a forum for their views.”
Working families will lose out
Thank you, Democrats!
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on 6 Million Americans Enrolling in Health Care
Washington, DC – Today the White House reported that more than 6 million people have signed up for private health plans through the state and federal exchanges. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:
“Today we reached an important milestone - more than 6 million Americans have enrolled in health care plans since the exchanges opened in October. In just six months we’ve educated millions of Americans about the benefits of signing up for health coverage, and now many who may not have had any health insurance, or were looking for better insurance, have it.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions have peace of mind that they won’t get dropped from their insurance, and 17 million kids with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage. Seniors are saving money on their prescription drugs and young people just out of college and looking for a job can stay on their family’s plan until they’re 26.
“It’s time for Republicans to drop their obsession with repeal and admit what we know. This law is working for Americans.
“For anyone who still needs to sign up, you have until March 31st to visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 / TTY 1-855-889-4325. You can also find help in your community at localhelp.healthcare.gov.”
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement Honoring Life of Robert S. Strauss
Washington, DC – Robert S. Strauss, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and former ambassador to the Soviet Union, died Wednesday at the age of 95. In recognition, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:
“I was saddened to hear of the death of Robert Strauss. He was a statesman and public servant in every sense of the word. As a Party leader and DNC Chair, he worked to revitalize the Democratic Party during the 1970's and helped lay the groundwork for Jimmy Carter's election.
"Strauss later went on to serve Presidents from both parties with distinction domestically and abroad. He was a proud Texan and legendary Democrat who always put his country ahead of all else.
"He will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with the Strauss family at this difficult time.”
Advice to my younger self
When the DNC Women's Caucus met at the DNC Winter Meeting earlier this month, we asked the members to share advice they would give their younger selves. Aside from the fact that we all need a good pair of stretchy pants sometimes, I would advise my younger self to never feel alone because you are standing on some of the strongest shoulders out there – the women who have worked to make this world a place where you can succeed. Here is more advice from some of those women:
Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Abe of Japan Before Bilateral Meeting
10:33 A.M. JST
PRIME MINISTER ABE: (As interpreted.) On behalf of the government and the people of Japan, I would like to sincerely welcome President Obama as our state guest.
At the outset, I would like to once again express my heartfelt gratitude for the assistance from the United States in the aftermath of the great East Japan earthquake. More than 20,000 servicemembers of the U.S. forces participated in Operation Tomodachi. And as a matter of fact, Japanese people were greatly encouraged and helped by the assistance extended from the government and the people of the United States. And I am truly grateful for that.
Japan has been walking on the path of peace based on its peaceful orientation in a consistent manner for the past 70 years after the Second World War. Japan and the United States share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights, and also we share strategic interests. And the alliance between these two nations is indispensable and irreplaceable as the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific region.
Your visit to Asia this time is a testament to the U.S. revised policy which attaches importance to this region. This greatly contributes to regional peace and prosperity, and Japan strongly supports and also certainly welcomes this.
My administration intends to contribute to regional peace and prosperity more practically than ever, in line with the policy of what I call practical contribution to peace based on the principle on international cooperation. And together with the United States, Japan would like to realize our leading role of the alliance in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific.
Today, at this meeting, I look forward to having exchanges with you on how the alliance should look like in the future, based on the cooperation we have had so far.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me begin by thanking you, Mr. Prime Minister, and your delegation, as well as the Japanese people for the incredibly gracious hospitality that you’ve provided us so far during this visit.
As you indicated, the U.S.-Japan alliance is the foundation for not only our security in the Asia Pacific region but also for the region as a whole. And we have continued to strengthen it. We are looking at a whole range of issues that are challenging at this time, including the threats posed by North Korea and the nuclearization that’s been taking place in that country. But because of the strong cooperation between our countries I am confident that we will continue to make progress in the future.
Of course, the bonds between our countries are not restricted to a military alliance. We represent two of the three largest economies in the world, and we have the opportunity by working together to help shape an open and innovative and dynamic economy throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Our shared democratic values means that we have to work together in multilateral settings to deal with regional hotspots around the globe but also to try to make sure that we are creating a strong set of rules that govern the international order. And the strong people-to-people bonds that we have and the educational and scientific and cultural exchanges that we have means that our friendship and alliance I'm confident will continue for generations to come.
So I look forward to very productive meetings today. And I want to once again thank you for your hospitality. As you said, my visit here I think once again represents my deep belief that a strong U.S.-Japan relationship is not only good for our countries but good for the world.
10:44 A.M. JST
Remarks by the First Lady at Joining Forces Veterans Jobs Summit and Career Forum
11:35 A.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Good morning. And it is truly a pleasure for me to be here today.
I want to start by thanking Sergeant Wanless for that very kind introduction, and, more importantly, for his service to our country both in and out of uniform. I also want to recognize my dear friend and outstanding partner in Joining Forces, Dr. Jill Biden. Jill, it has just been an extreme pleasure to work with you on this issue. She is smart. She is funny. She is beautiful. And she cares a lot about what you all are going through. So I am so grateful for her friendship and her support.
I also want to recognize our fabulous First Lady of Kentucky, Jane Beshear, who is here with her handsome grandson -- straight-A student, fifth grade. And she has just been an amazing, passionate champion for our military families. So we are grateful for your service, and we’re honored to have you here today.
I’d also like to thank Major General McConville, as well as Command Sergeant Major Smith for their commitment and leadership here at Fort Campbell.
And finally, most of all, I want to thank our soldiers and, more importantly, your fantastic spouses, right? Because, quite frankly, you couldn’t be here if they weren’t by your side. I want to thank you all for your service and for taking the time to join us here today -- although I know that you didn’t exactly have a choice about being here since this is your mandatory place of duty. And as I understand it, usually, when you’re called to a mandatory place of duty, it’s because we need you to carry out some kind of mission for our country.
Well, today it’s different. Today, you’re here for yourselves. And your mission is your future. And that’s what this summit is all about -- it is about a transformational shift across the military in how we think about your careers.
See, we’ve always done an outstanding job in preparing you to succeed during your time in uniform. And that’s why our military is second to none. But most of you aren’t going to spend your entire careers in the military. And for some of you, that transition to civilian life doesn’t always go as smoothly as it should.
Our servicemembers haven’t always had the time or the information that they need to prepare for civilian life -- things like getting your resumes together, plotting your career goals, taking the time to meet with employers to get access to the jobs that you all deserve. And that’s simply not acceptable.
As my husband has said, when you have fought for this country around the world, you should not have to fight for a job when you return home.
And that’s why the Army has adopted the new Soldier for Life initiative, so that now, starting on the day you join the service -- on the very day you join -- we’re already going to be planning for the day you leave. And we won’t just be investing in your success as soldiers, but we’re going to be investing in your future as civilians -- as employers and as employees, as entrepreneurs, as leaders who will contribute to this country for the rest of your lives.
And today, I’m thrilled to announce that every branch of the military will soon be taking this very same new approach. That means that every member of our Armed Forces will start preparing for their transition in advance. They’re going to start -- yes. (Applause.) We won’t wait for the last day. So that means you’re going to start very early drafting resumes. You’re going to start ahead of time attending job fairs and summits like this one here today. And you’re going to start applying for college if you want to go to college. And you’ll be doing all of this months before you hang up your uniforms.
And starting today, every servicemember, every veteran, and every military family member will have access to a new online tool that will revolutionize how you find jobs in both the public and private sectors. All you have to do is log on to ebenefits.va.gov. When you get to the website, you click on to “employment center,” and then you just type in your M.O.S. And within seconds, that website will translate that M.O.S. into a list of civilian skills, and it will tell you what careers you’re qualified for. You can also see which of those jobs are actually available where you’ll be living. And with a few more clicks, you can make your resume visible to the employers who are on that site. It is very simple. I have seen it myself. It is truly an amazing tool that will make your lives better.
The website will also show the companies here -- which companies have actually made commitments to hire veterans and spouses. And it will give you information about all kinds of things -- things like your higher education benefits. It will show you all of your earned benefits in one place -- everything from career counseling to the GI Bill. You can sort of consider this like your personal transition toolbox, and it’s something that will be right there for you on your computers.
And for all of the companies that are out there, not just here but out there around the country, through this tool, you’ll have access -- direct access to some of America’s most qualified employees that you will ever meet. All you have to do is log in, and you’ll see which veterans, which servicemembers and spouses have the skills you need in the communities where you need them. And then you can contact them instantly, directly right then and there. This tool is amazing. You can also see, as employers, which hiring centers are available to you as an employer, from direct financial incentives to job training for employees. It is all right there at your fingertips.
So with this website, we’re going to be connecting veterans, servicemenbers and your families to the jobs and educational opportunities that you’ve earned. And we’re doing this well before you leave the service.
And all of that is our responsibility to you. It is our obligation to you. That’s our job. Your responsibility is to take full advantage of these opportunities. We need you all to get out there and sell yourselves. We need you to tell these schools and employers about everything you’ve achieved during your time in the Army.
And I know that request might be a little counterintuitive for many of you, because I know they don’t exactly teach you how to self-promote in the military. Instead, you’ve been focused on completing the mission. You’ve been focused on being there for your fellow soldiers.
Well, today, we need you start thinking and talking about yourselves for a change. And that’s going to take a little transition for you personally. It may be a little scary to talk about yourself. But I have met so many of you over the course of these three years working with Joining Forces. I have met with so many amazing military spouses and veterans. You all have done incredible things, so don’t be afraid to brag a little bit about yourselves -- and smile every once in a while, too. (Laughter.)
I have worked in every sector out there. I have worked in government, I’ve worked in corporate America, I’ve worked in non-profits. And I can tell you from my own experience that if you want to get a job, then you can’t be modest about your qualifications. You have to be willing to sell yourself. But you all are qualified for so much, for any number of jobs.
You have got world-class training in everything from logistics to risk management to intelligence analysis. You’ve learned about leadership. You know about team building. You know about working with folks from all different backgrounds. And all of these skills, trust me, are in high demand in today’s workplaces. Anyone out there would be lucky to have you on their team. That’s why folks are here -- because they know who you are, they know what you have to offer. And that’s really another reason why we’re all here today.
You see, these summits aren’t just an investment in your futures. They’re an investment in our country’s future, as well. Because when employers can hire top talent like all of you, that makes our businesses stronger, and that in turn makes our entire economy stronger. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Just listen to what happened at the summit that we held back in February at Fort Bliss -- same summit.
Employers there took more than 700 resumes over the course of that time, and made more than 100 job offers on the spot on that day. And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the hires that we’ve seen since we launched Joining Forces just three years ago.
Back when we launched this initiative, we called on companies to step up and hire as many of you as possible. We hoped we’d meet the President’s goal of getting people to commit 100,000 jobs in two years. And we thought that that was ambitious. But the truth is, we met that goal -- and we met it in just one year. That’s how responsive employers to that request. (Applause.) That’s how ready and willing they are to step up and support you. And today, as we celebrate the third anniversary of Joining Forces, that number has risen to 540,000 jobs. That’s over half a million jobs in just three years. (Applause.)
And as Jill said, we are not stopping there. Today, I’m pleased to announce that Capital One, in partnership with Hiring Our Heroes, has secured commitments from over 300 small and medium-sized businesses to hire 55,000 veterans and military spouses. (Applause.) UPS is doubling their commitment from 25,000 to 50,000 jobs. (Applause.) Xerox will be hiring 10,000 veterans and spouses. And they just launched an initiative called Heroes@Home, which will allow folks to telework from their own homes. So that’s a good thing. We are so proud. (Applause.)
And today, more than 100 companies have come to this base. And they’re all here for just one reason -- because they want to hire you. So make no mistake about it: We’ve got your backs. We do. Because we know what your service has meant to this nation.
Just think about the history of this very base. As you all know, Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Screaming Eagles, the Band of Brothers who served in World War II -- (applause) -- and were later sent by President Eisenhower to help integrate Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. And I know that many of us will never forget the images of those soldiers facing down an angry mob so that those nine young men and women –- and, quite frankly, all of our children -- could get the education they deserve. And we’ll never forget your service in the decades since then. In fact, the 101st is still serving bravely today as we speak in Afghanistan. They are there now.
And you all have survived some of the toughest battles, risking your lives time and again to preserve our most fundamental rights and freedoms. So here’s the beauty of that: I know you can handle the pressure of a job interview with Xerox or UPS. That is nothing. I know you all can thrive in any classroom, in any business.
And ultimately, that’s really what today is all about. It’s about ensuring that you all can keep contributing to this nation. And it’s about making sure that we serve all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. You all deserve nothing less.
So thank you. Thank you so much for your service. Thank your spouses for their service and sacrifice. Thank you to our veterans for just being a shining light of what America is supposed to be.
God bless you all. And I look forward to seeing everything that you achieve in the months and years ahead. We need you out there. So go get the job.
Thank you so much. (Applause.)
11:51 A.M. CDT
Obama Administration Launches Online Veterans Employment Center: One-Stop-Shop Connects Veterans, Transitioning Service Members, and their Spouses to Employers
One-Stop-Shop Connects Veterans, Transitioning Service Members, and their Spouses to Employers
At today’s anniversary celebration of Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced the launch of a new integrated employment tool to connect veterans and service members with employers, and to help translate military skills into the civilian workforce. The Veterans Employment Center, an integrated, online tool connecting veterans, transitioning service members and their spouses with both public and private-sector employers, is the result of an interagency effort to improve, simplify and consolidate the current array of employment resources for veterans. Additionally, this will provide one comprehensive database of resumes for employers who are seeking to leverage the skills and talents of veterans, service members, and their spouses.
“Our service members haven’t always had the time or information they needed to prepare their resumes, to plot their career goals, to meet with employers and get the jobs they deserve. And that’s simply not acceptable,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “As my husband has said, when you’ve fought for this country around the world, you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you return home. Starting today, every single service member, every veteran, and every military family will have access to a new online tool that will revolutionize how you find jobs in both the public and private sectors. All you have to do is log on to ebenefits.va.gov.”
“Veterans deserve an authoritative source for connecting with employers,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The online Veterans Employment Center is the single, federal source for veterans looking for new career opportunities, service members transitioning to the civilian workforce, and spouses and beneficiaries looking to connect with job opportunities.”
The new online resource, called the Veterans Employment Center, is the first interagency tool to bring a wealth of public and private job opportunities, a resume-builder, military skills translator and detailed career and training resources together in one place. In connection with the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, the Department of Veterans Affairs worked with employers, the Departments of Defense, Labor, Education, and the Office of Personnel Management to design and develop the site and incorporate features of existing online employment tools within government.
The result is an integrated solution providing veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses with the tools they need to connect to employers. With this tool, employers will be able to search and view Veteran, Service Member, and spouse resumes in one comprehensive location.
"Our service members transitioning to civilian life, as well as their spouses, deserve the resources they need to be successful," said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. "Through this effort, they are getting that help. Our troops and their spouses are proven leaders, highly-skilled and hard-working. Employers hiring them are getting the best this nation has to offer."
“Improving veterans’ employment is an all-hands-on-deck enterprise,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “With more than 1 million service members projected to leave the military in the coming years, the Veterans Employment Center, along with the wealth of services the Department of Labor offers through its 2,500 American Job Centers, will connect our veterans and service members with both public and private sector employers eager to hire those with military experience.”
“OPM’s USAJobs program is excited to be partnering with the VA on making this a robust tool for our nation's veterans and transitioning service members seeking Federal employment,” said OPM Director, Katherine Archuleta. “It has been more than four years since President Obama established the Veterans Employment Initiative and, in that time, the Executive Branch of Government hired the highest percentage of military veterans in more than 20 years – of the 195,000 new employees hired in FY 2012, approximately 56,000 were veterans, equaling 28.9 percent of total hires. We can continue to honor and show our appreciation for the dedicated and heroic service of America’s veterans by ensuring that they have every opportunity to continue their service to this great nation as Federal civilian employees. The Veterans Employment Center helps us honor these men and women by making employment opportunities available when our servicemen and women lay down their uniforms.”
The Veterans Employment Center will provide employers with access to a targeted pool of resumes from veterans and transitioning service members, allowing them to search resumes to identify veterans with skill sets applicable to civilian employment at their organization, and to track progress towards reaching their veteran hiring goals. Resumes are visible to all employers with an active LinkedIn or Google profile. To prevent spam, an applicant’s name and email address are redacted and only visible to employers verified by the VA as registered companies with the IRS. The site is also built using open data and an open application programming interface to attract private-sector innovation.
Joining Forces is a national initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden to engage all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. In addition, Dr. Biden launched the Military Spouse Employment Partnership in June 2011 with just under 60 companies. Today, Dr. Biden announced there are 228 partner employers, more than 1.8 million jobs posted on the MSEP Career Portal and more than 60,000 military spouse hires.
The Veterans Employment Center can be found at: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/jobs
For a tutorial video on how to use the Veterans Employment Center, please visit:
Statement by the Press Secretary on South Sudan
We are horrified by reports out of South Sudan that fighters aligned with rebel leader Riek Machar massacred hundreds of innocent civilians last week in Bentiu. Images and accounts of the attacks shock the conscience: stacks of bodies found dead inside a mosque, patients murdered at a hospital, and dozens more shot and killed in the streets and at a church -- apparently due to their ethnicity and nationality -- while hate speech was broadcast on local radio. Bulldozers have buried the dead in mass graves, and the number of people seeking protection at the United Nations camp in Bentiu has grown from 8,000 to more than 22,000 in only two weeks. We are equally appalled by the armed attack last week at the UN Mission in South Sudan site in Bor that killed at least 48 civilians and injured dozens more.
These acts of violence are an abomination. They are a betrayal of the trust the South Sudanese people have put in their leaders. This is exactly the violence and suffering the South Sudanese people fought for decades to escape. Both President Kiir and Riek Machar must make clear that attacks on civilians are unacceptable, perpetrators of violence on both sides must be brought to justice, and the cycle of violence that has plagued South Sudan for too long must come to an end.
Statement by the President on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State
4:13 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, everybody. I just had a chance to tour some of the damage from last month’s mudslide. And, most importantly, I had a chance to spend some time with the families whose loved ones have been lost. I also had a chance to thank some of the amazing first responders, the firefighters, police officers, search and rescue crews, and members of the Washington National Guard who have been working around the clock to help this community recover from this devastating incident.
Governor Inslee, Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Congresswoman DelBene, Congressman Larsen, and the rest of the elected officials who are here, they’ve been relentless in making sure that Oso had the resources that it needs. And from the day of the tragedy, I’ve instructed my team to make sure that they get what they need to make sure that the search and rescue mission is going forward the way it should.
A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team was on the ground immediately after the mudslide, and a search and rescue team was deployed to help locate and recover victims. We immediately approved an emergency declaration to provide additional resources to state and local responders. And I followed that by approving a major disaster declaration to help residents and business owners rebuild, and to help state and local and tribal governments with emergency work.
Today, that work continues. There are still families who are searching for loved ones. There are families who have lost everything, and it’s going to be a difficult road ahead for them. And that’s why I wanted to come here -- just to let you know that the country is thinking about all of you and have been throughout this tragedy.
We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here as long as it takes. Because while very few Americans have ever heard of Oso before the disaster struck, we’ve all been inspired by the incredible way that the community has come together and shown the love and support that they have for each other in ways large and small.
Over the past month, we’ve seen neighbors and complete strangers donate everything from chainsaws to rain jackets to help with the recovery effort. We’ve seen families cook meals for rescue workers. We’ve seen volunteers pull 15-hour days, searching through mud up to 70 feet deep. One resident said, “We’re Oso. We just do it.” That’s what this community is all about. And I think the outstanding work of Sheriff Willy Harper here helping to coordinate all of this -- I was saying, he’s a pretty young sheriff, but he has shouldered this burden in an incredible way. And we’re very, very proud of him, as we are of all the local responders.
This is family. And these are folks who love this land, and it’s easy to see why -- because it’s gorgeous. And there’s a way of life here that’s represented. And to see the strength in adversity of this community I think should inspire all of us, because this is also what America is all about.
When times get tough, we look out for each other. We get each other’s backs. And we recover and we build, and we come back stronger. And we’re always reminded that we’re greater together. That’s how we’ll support each other every step of the way.
I have to say that the families that I met with showed incredible strength and grace through unimaginable pain and difficulty. Uniformly, though, they all wanted to say thank you to the first responders. They were deeply appreciative of the efforts that everybody has made. And I know that many of the first responders have heard that directly, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat that we’re very appreciative of what you’ve done.
And I also want to say that some terrific lessons were learned in the midst of very hard times during this process, because almost uniquely, we had not just coordination between state, local and federal officials, but also coordination between volunteers and those officials. And I know that it required some improvisation and some kinks getting worked out, but it was important for the family members themselves and the community themselves to be hands-on and participate in this process -- particularly a community like this one where folks are hearty and know how to do things, and take great pride in being self-reliant. It was important that they weren’t just bystanders in this process, they were involved every step of the way.
One last point I’ll make. I’ve received a number of letters from residents -- either Darrington, or Arlington, or Oso itself -- over the last several weeks, and one in particular struck me. It was from a firefighter who I may have met today; he didn’t identify himself. But he pointed out how those who were operating the heavy machinery during this whole process did so with an incredible care and delicacy because they understood that this wasn’t an ordinary job, this wasn’t just a matter of moving earth; that this was a matter of making sure that we were honoring and respecting the lives that had been impacted.
And two things were of note in that letter: Number one, that this firefighter pointed out properly the incredible work that’s been done under very tough circumstances. Number two, he was pointing out what others were doing, not what he was doing. And to see a community come together like this and not be interested in who’s getting credit, but just making sure that the job gets done, that says a lot about the character of this place.
And so we’re very, very proud of all of you. Michelle and I grieve with you. The whole country is thinking about you. And we’re going to make sure that we’re there every step of the way as we go through the grieving, the mourning, the recovery. We’re going to be strong right alongside you.
Thank you very much. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
4:21 P.M. PDT
Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One En Route Oso, Washington, 4/22/2014
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Oso, Washington
11:21 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning. Welcome aboard Air Force One. As you know, we’re headed to the great state of Washington, where the President will be viewing the devastation from the recent mudslide and meeting with the families affected by the disaster there, as well as with first responders and recovery workers. What they’ve been through has been devastating, and the President looks forward to spending some time with families, with first responders, and also, obviously, looking at what happened in the aftermath of the mudslide.
After that, we head to Tokyo, Japan to begin our four-nation, multi-day Asian tour.
That’s all I have at the top. Any questions? Or should we just get back to movies and food? (Laughter.)
Q Jay, the South Korean military has reported increased activity around the site of a North Korean nuclear area. Is North Korea preparing for a nuclear test of some sort?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Mark, as I said yesterday, we closely monitor actions such as that. North Korea has a history of taking provocative actions, and we are always mindful of the possibility that such an action could be taken. Depending on what it is and what they do, if they do anything, it would most likely be in violation of numerous commitments that the DPRK is bound by. But of course, that is something that they have, unfortunately, done many times.
Q Do you have any evidence to support the concerns of the South Koreans?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not in a position to discuss the information we have and how we evaluate what’s happening in North Korea. We’ve certainly seen the public reports and the press reports. And again, I would note that there is a kind of cyclical nature to the provocative actions that North Korea tends to take, and we’ll be watching it very closely.
Q Can I ask also, in reference to Japan, the Prime Minister sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, which is controversial and has raised concerns among Japan’s Asian neighbors and U.S. allies such as South Korea. Does that action cause any difficulties ahead of the President’s trip to the region where, after all, one of his goals is to sort of repair relations?
MR. CARNEY: We have an enormously important alliance with Japan, and the President is looking forward to his visit there. I believe there’s been several briefings, including at the State Department, in advance of the trip so I don’t have anything specific in reaction to that, but I would refer you to the State Department and to others. And we’ll be talking to you guys, obviously, once we get to Japan.
Q Jay, on North Korea, but a slightly different front, obviously. The U.N. published a report relatively recently about the human rights violations they’ve committed, and there was a discussion about how much, for example, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. would take in terms of pressing for establishing some sort of structure on the idea that eventually people could be held accountable for that. Could you give us any sense of where that stands or whether that’s one of the topics that will be on the President’s agenda as he meets with both the Prime Minister of Japan and the President in South Korea?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there’s no question that North Korea is a nation that violates human rights -- the human rights of its own citizens. It’s one of the most oppressive nations in the region and on the planet. It’s also one of the most closed societies and opaque societies. It’s the kind of subject that is frequently discussed in meetings between government officials of the United States and South Korea, and I would expect that would be one of the topics of discussion when we’re in Seoul.
Q Jay, is it the expectation that if sanctions are ramped up that the Japanese would be on board and remain unified? Or is there work that the administration is going to have to do on this trip to try and ensure that?
MR. CARNEY: You refer to sanctions on Russia with --
Q Sectoral sanctions.
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me first make clear that under the three executive orders, the administration, the President have a great deal of flexibility and capacity to impose additional sanctions in a way that responds to escalation by Russia with escalated costs for Russia. And that would be up to and including, potentially, sectoral sanctions -- what are described as sectoral sanctions. But there are other kinds of sanctions that can be imposed to individuals and entities. And the importance of the executive orders is that they, taken together, allow for that flexibility.
We’ve said that Russia needs to comply with the commitments it made in the agreement signed in Geneva -- an agreement signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU -- and we are calling on all parties to comply with the commitments they’ve made. And we would note that the Ukrainian government is doing its part to deescalate the situation there by making clear that it intends to offer amnesty to those who have taken up weapons and occupied buildings if they lay down their arms and vacate the buildings, and to pursue constitutional reform, and to take very seriously the concerns of those in some of the regions outside of Kyiv and eastern and southern Ukraine in terms of their relative -- their relationship with the center.
So the Ukrainian government has acted responsibly and seriously, and we commend them for that. And we call on Russia to use the influence that Russia has on the armed militants who have seized buildings and blockaded roads and stockpiled weapons to pressure them to give up their weapons and to vacate the buildings. And we will watch very closely in the coming days to see if those commitments are honored, and then will take action as necessary, if necessary, when it comes to imposing further costs.
Q How much longer is the U.S. prepared to wait before it decides whether or not to go ahead and impose additional sanctions?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a specific deadline to provide to you. As I said yesterday and again today, we’re going to evaluate this in coming days. As you know, the Vice President visited Ukraine, was in Kyiv, and announced additional assistance that we’re providing to Ukraine, made clear our support for the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government in this challenging time. And meanwhile, we, with our European and G7 partners, are closely monitoring the situation on the ground.
Q Has the U.S. made any sort of timeline to Russia in expectation of when you would want to see progress of deescalating tensions? Does Russia know when you expect to see things change?
MR. CARNEY: I think Russia understands that the United States, the EU and our G7 partners are serious about the need for all parties to the agreement to take steps to deescalate the situation in Ukraine and that, should Russia continue to engage in provocative actions, continue to support the separatists -- the so-called separatists, or the armed irregular militias in portions of Ukraine who have seized buildings, that there will be further costs imposed on Russia.
And we’ve discussed many times what Russia needs to do, which is use their influence to help deescalate the situation. That includes their influence directly on those who have seized buildings, also to remove their troops from their position on the border in a manner that is consistent with their disposition prior to this crisis, and to take other steps to engage with Ukraine together with international partners in a dialogue building on Geneva so that we can move forward, and that the -- so the Ukrainian people can move forward with stabilizing their economy, participating in presidential elections on May 25th, and getting about the business that the Ukrainian government has committed itself to of instituting reforms and dealing with corruption and all the other challenges that Ukraine faces.
Q Can we go back to North Korea for a second? If there is any sort of a nuclear test, is there any talk of changing the President’s itinerary at all?
MR. CARNEY: We’re monitoring events closely and mindful of Pyongyang’s propensity to take provocative actions, but I’m not going to speculate about that.
Q On the mudslide, obviously the President is expressing his sympathy and appreciation for the first responders and for the families there. Is there any policy that he’s going to discuss, or specific, concrete actions the federal government is going to take in response to the accident?
MR. CARNEY: The administration remains focused on supporting the state and local efforts, and first responders. Earlier this month, as you know, the President declared a major disaster in the state of Washington and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts. This assistance is in addition to the support provided under the presidential emergency declaration granted on March 24th, 2014. And we -- the President has, rather, directed his team to stay in close touch with our federal partners as well as state and local officials leading the response.
So I think the purpose of the visit, which will include remarks delivered at the Oso firehouse, is to view firsthand the aftermath of the terrible mudslide there, and to meet directly with those who lost loved ones and have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy.
Q Has the President and Vice President spoken since the Vice President went to Kyiv?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that they have spoken directly; they may have. I think the Vice President was in Kyiv until very recently; I’m not sure of the timing of his departure. But the President is obviously well-briefed on and focused on developments there and on the assistance that the Vice President announced in Kyiv, and the support that we’re giving to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government.
Q Jay, there’s an economic forum I think in St. Petersburg in a couple of weeks. There’s a number of major U.S. CEOs slated to attend -- Boeing, Citi, Goldman. Is that a concern at all for the administration? And what’s kind of the outreach to private business when it comes to Russia?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of that conference so I’ll have to direct you to the Treasury Department. But I think that the administration has engaged with companies that have sought information about the steps that we’ve taken. Treasury might have more for you on that.
Obviously, how severe the sanctions will be will depend on how much Russia wants to continue to engage in activity that supports the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So it’s hard to speculate or to know all the costs that will be imposed on Russia because, obviously, Russia does have the opportunity to avoid further costs if it participates in a positive way in deescalating the situation there.
Q How does the White House view today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on -- Michigan’s ban on affirmative action at universities?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re still reviewing the ruling, which just came down. So I don’t have a specific reaction. Generally speaking, as you know, the President believes that diversity in the classroom is important for students, campuses and schools. In an increasingly multicultural society and global economy, it is more important than ever that America’s students be exposed to a wide array of ideas and perspectives to prepare them for success.
As you know, the President has said that while he opposes quotas and thinks an emphasis on universal and not race-specific programs is good policy, considering race, along with other factors, can be appropriate in certain circumstances. But we don’t have a specific reaction to the ruling.
11:37 A.M. EDT
President Obama Signs Indiana Disaster Declaration
Today, the President declared a major disaster in the State of Indiana and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a severe winter storm and snowstorm during the period of January 5-9, 2014.
Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm and snowstorm in the counties of Boone, Clay, Hendricks, Huntington, Jasper, Kosciusko, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Noble, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Tipton, Vigo, Wabash, White, and Whitley.
In addition, federal funding is available to the state and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis for snow assistance for a continuous 48-hour period during or proximate to the incident period in Boone, Clay, Hendricks, Huntington, Jasper, Kosciusko, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Tipton, Vigo, Wabash, and White Counties and a 72-hour period in Noble and Whitley Counties.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named David G. Samaniego as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION MEDIA SHOULD CONTACT: FEMA NEWS DESK AT (202) 646-3272 OR FEMA-NEWS-DESK@DHS.GOV
Remarks to the Press by Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Cabinet of Ministers Club
1:40 P.M. (Local)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. Prime Minister, let me begin by thanking you both for your hospitality, but much more importantly for the incredible leadership you’ve shown under very, very, very difficult circumstances.
We just celebrated Easter, and Easter is supposed to be a season of peace, of family, and a time when we all come together. But today there are some who are trying to pull Ukraine apart. Ukraine is in the struggle for its very future.
When I left the hotel this morning, the hotel management asked me to sign their book that they have before I left. And as I told you, Mr. Prime Minister, I signed, “Ukraine united, Joe Biden.” I wish it were that easy, just signing my signature. But the truth of the matter is we, the United States, stand with you and all the Ukrainian people on a Ukraine united. And I’ll say at the top we do not recognize -- we do not recognize -- Russia’s actions in the Crimea.
But today, as I said, there are some trying to pull Ukraine apart. And you have -- we’re in the struggle for your very future. There’s been a lot of talk about geopolitics, about East and West. But here in Ukraine, people know that it’s about something much more fundamental. It’s not about geopolitics; it’s about unity. It’s about independence. And at its most basic level, it’s about restoring respect and dignity.
For months Ukrainians braved bone-chilling, cold weather and stood down snipers’ bullets in the Maidan. And I know not every Ukrainian feels the same way about the Maidan. I understand that. But it’s my view that all Ukrainians can agree on the core idea that government exists to serve the people. The people do not exist to serve the government. And that the people of the Ukraine -- of Ukraine should have the right to choose their own future.
I offer my personal sympathies to the families of those who laid down their lives for this cause. These heroes remind us of the true cost of a better future and the nobility of those who reach for it. I came here to Kyiv to let you know, Mr. Prime Minister, and every Ukrainian know that the United States stands with you and is working to support all Ukrainians in seeking a better future.
The road ahead obviously, as we discussed at length both here and in Washington, Mr. Prime Minister, is difficult. And you should know, as I told you at the outset, you will not walk this road alone. We will walk it with you.
Today, the Prime Minister and I talked about the work before us. We discussed the most acute problem, the most acute matter facing the Ukrainian people, the ongoing threat to their country’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. I’ll say it again, Ukraine is and must remain one country from Lviv to Kharkiv down to the Black Sea -- one country, one united Ukraine.
The United States supports a strong, united Ukraine with productive and peaceful relationships with both the East and the West, with both Russia and Europe. And that's a goal that I know you share, Mr. Prime Minister. But no nation -- no nation -- has the right to simply grab land from another nation. No nation has that right. And we will never recognize Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world, as was demonstrated by the overwhelming vote that took place in the Security Council in the General Assembly.
No nation should threaten its neighbors by massing troops along the border. We call on Russia to pull back these forces. No nation should stoke instability in its neighbor’s country. We call on Russia to stop supporting men hiding behind masks in unmarked uniforms, sowing unrest in Eastern Ukraine. And we have been clear that more provocative behavior by Russia will lead to more costs and to greater isolation. The United States has demonstrated, as Ukraine has, that it supports diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.
Mr. Prime Minister, your government has taken important steps to uphold the agreement reached in Geneva just last week, including putting forward a broad amnesty bill for separatists, which you’ve done, who give up -- amnesty for those who give up buildings and their weapons. You’ve also sent senior representatives to the east to help the OSCE move the process forward. You’ve met with the head of that delegation, as I did yesterday.
We’ve heard a lot from Russian officials in the past few days, but now it’s time for Russia to stop talking and start acting. Act on the commitments that they made: to get pro-Russian separatists to vacate buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically; to get out on the record calling for the release of all illegally occupied buildings. That's not a hard thing to do, and to send senior Russian officials to work with the OSCE in the east. These are commitments made; they should be fulfilled. We need to see these kinds of concrete steps. We need to see them without delay. We will not allow this to become an open-ended process. Time is short in which to make progress.
In this time of testing, the instability in the east is only one of several challenges Ukraine and the government must confront. It also has challenges in politics, economics and in energy.
Today the Prime Minister briefed me on preparations for the presidential election on March [sic] the 25th, and his aspirations for constitutional reform and a presentation on May the 15th. The United States for this election is providing substantial assistance to make sure that they are clean and closely monitored so that nobody on the 26th of May can question their legitimacy. I’m encouraged and I’m genuinely encouraged to see so many people in the east rejecting violence, choosing the ballot box over bullets to determine Ukraine’s future. And I’m all -- and I was pleased to hear about Ukraine’s significant progress on constitutional reform and decentralization.
This may be the most important election in the history of Ukraine. This is a chance to make good on the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians east and west and every part of this country. For a Ukraine that empowers local governance and respects and protects different linguistic and cultural traditions, but fundamentally holds together as a single state -- united and sovereign. There’s such possibilities ahead, Mr. Prime Minister.
Ukrainians have also made clear that after an era of staggering public theft -- not debt, public theft -- that they will no longer accept corruption from public officials. Your former leader had to run in hiding for fear that after everyone saw the excesses to which his theft had taken him and others. The fact of the matter is I’m of the view -- and it’s presumptuous to ever tell another man what his country thinks -- but I’m of the view that Ukrainians east, west, north and south are just sick and tired of the corruption.
Mr. Prime Minister, Ukraine’s new law on government procedure -- procurement I should say represents a first important step in dealing with this kleptocracy. The United States is ready to help Ukraine take further steps to build transparent institutions, to win back the trust of the people. And just as corruption can have no place in the new Ukraine, neither can anti-Semitism or bigotry. Let me say that again, neither can anti-Semitism or bigotry. No place. None. Zero. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms all threats and attacks against Ukrainian Jewish communities as well as Roma and others, as you do, as well, I know, Mr. Prime Minister.
Mr. Prime Minister, you and I also discussed the efforts to stabilize and strengthen Ukraine’s economy. Just last week the United States government signed a bill proposed by our administration for a $1 billion loan guarantee agreement with Ukraine. The United States has also been a driving force behind the IMF, working to provide a multi-billion package to help Ukraine address the immediate needs and get Ukraine on a stronger path. I expect the IMF package to be finalized imminently, and I congratulate you and your government here in Ukraine for having made the difficult -- and they are difficult, very difficult -- economic reforms to get this done.
The Prime Minister and I also spoke about energy. An American team is currently in the region working with Ukraine and its neighbors to increase Ukraine’s short-term energy supply. And I’ve been on the telephone with many of your neighbors, as you know, talking about the way to increase that supply. And more teams are coming to support long-term improvements so that no nation -- let me be precise, so that Russia can no longer use energy as a political weapon against Ukraine and Europe.
With the right investments and the right choices, Ukraine can reduce its energy dependence and increase its energy security. We will stand with you to help in every way we can for you to accomplish that goal.
Finally, even as we pursue diplomacy we’re also providing nonlethal support to Ukraine security services to deal with the challenges that have arisen. We’re providing communications gear, bomb disposal technology, transportation and engineering equipment for Ukraine to protect against infiltrators and deal with explosive threats. And our security support now totals nearly $20 million.
Mr. Prime Minister, I know we’ll be talking again, and I’m confident that you will continue to be as consistent and persistent as you have been in order to bring about the kind of change that's needed. We will stand with you. It’s been inspiring to watch you and your fellow countrymen. For all the obstacles placed in your way, you continue to move forward with resolve -- genuine resolve.
And I’m proud to affirm that you do so with friendship, partnership and strong support from the United States of America that will not go away. God bless your country. And God willing, we will, in fact, see a much better day for your country.
PRIME MINISTER YATSENYUK: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Let me shift to my native language.
(As interpreted) Mr. Vice President, between our two countries there is an agreement about strategic partnership. And this agreement is not only on the paper. This agreement is in action. The goal of this agreement is the development of free democratic and stable Ukrainian society and government. The goal of this agreement and objective of it is our joint work and cooperation in providing stability and peace on the continent. The goal of this agreement is to support the strategic relations between the United States and Ukraine.
We value the position of the United States and the support that the Ukrainian people receive from the United States during the past few months -- the Ukrainian people that choose their own way to manage their own country, the people of Ukraine that continues its fight for its rights, democracy and for the -- for having Ukraine as a successful country.
We separately would like to thank the administration of the United States of America, the Congress and the Senate for the allocation of $1 billion as a financial assistance for the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine asked and adopted several necessary even though complicated decisions and difficult decisions in order to reestablish financial programs with the international financial institutions.
And when we say about the package of difficult reforms, we are saying that these reforms in the packet was not passed from the IMF. It was passed and adopted for Ukraine. Ukraine needs real reforms.
Mr. Vice President, we value the level of technical assistance that is provided by the government of the United States. I separately would like focus on the corruption issue. The government of Ukraine understands and is conscious that the money is given only to those countries that actually overcome and fight corruption. And one of the key goals and objectives of my government and the new president that should be elected on May 25th of this year is real fight against corruption and victory over corruption.
And on the other note I would like to underscore our joint vision with regard to the needs of constitutional reforms in Ukraine. And we implement -- we are planning to implement the constitutional reform, not just to meet the requirements of Geneva agreement, but rather to answer the request of Russia. The constitutional reform in the country is the way to restore the balance of power. This is the requirement of the Ukrainian people. Thus within the constitutional reform we plan to provide additional power to regions and give the Ukrainian regions opportunity to have independent financial and budget policy in order for them to have special status for national minorities and language of national minorities, including the Russian language and make sure that every citizen of Ukraine would be able to affect the local and the central government. Thus the constitutional reform should be implemented and must be implemented. And it is inadmissible when the constitution is written and drawn for specific president. Constitution should be drawn for the Ukrainian citizens and Ukrainian people.
As to our talk about the energy, Mr. Vice President, I would like to reiterate that Ukraine is ready for cooperation in the broadest sense with both U.S. and European companies. We do require investments into our energy sector, and the best response for energy independence from Russia will be the presence here in Ukraine of European and American investors, and among other issues related to review, joint-use and modernization of the Ukrainian gas transportation system.
As to the elections, we did discuss this topic, and we appreciate the support of the United States in the build-up of democracy in Ukraine. We clearly understand that whatever happens in the east, and is being supported by the Russia Federation, has, among other goals, the goal of disrupting the presidential elections, while the goal of the government is to conduct fair and transparent elections.
Even now we have two dozens of candidates who run in this election who represent the whole spectrum of the political parties of Ukraine. And each of them could receive the needed support from the voters. Ukraine does require a legitimately elected president, something that Russia does not need. We will carry out the presidential elections and the elections in Ukraine, which will be conducted with the involvement of both the OECD observers and observers from the international community, should be open, fair, transparent and legitimate. Let me reiterate Ukraine should have a new president who will support the reforms -- curbing corruption, introducing changes and amendments to the constitution of Ukraine, who will support integration with Europe, energy independence, fostering of democracy and independence of the Ukrainian state.
Separately we discussed with Mr. Vice President our northern neighbors. Let me reiterate the position of the Ukrainian government once again. Never, under no circumstance Ukraine would acknowledge the annexation of Crimea. We will require from our Russian neighbors to immediately get their special forces out of the eastern region of Ukraine, so get its military forces from Crimea, thus closing down this ignoble page in history of occupation of our territory by the Russian troops. We believe that in this century and in the modern world, no country should be allowed to behave like an armed bandit.
And it’s inadmissible, especially for those countries who are standing members of the Security Council of the United Nations. And it’s inadmissible to a country that used to be a member of G8. Russia should stick to its international commitments and obligations. We are not asking anything from Russia. What we demand from them is one thing and only, they should deliver on the international commitments, and they should not behave as gangsters in the modern century.
Ukraine has signed the first part of the political part of the association agreement with the European Union, and for us this association agreement lays the course that is required to successfully implement reforms. This is the best agenda for Ukraine. In order to implement the reforms and to make Ukraine a country that meets the highest standards of democracy, that meets the highest standards of curbing corruption, that meets the highest standards of protecting human rights and the rights of citizens.
We acknowledge the challenges that Ukraine is facing. And our government will deliver difficult but so much needed reforms for Ukraine. We would like to thank once again the government of the United States and the people of the United States for their support. You also witnessed a very difficult path in developing your nation. We are going through this path. You became a successful nation. We are becoming a successful nation. If we work together side by side so that the people in the United States and people in Ukraine will live better, and the world will feel safer, then for sure, we’ll all be successful.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your visit.
2:06 P.M. (Local)
Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at a Meeting with Ukrainian Legislators
10:03 A.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. And I want to thank my colleagues for bringing me back home. For 36 years I sat in our legislature, and I used to actually have this seat in our -- I was the chairman of our committee. Thank you for making me feel relevant again, back in a legislative body.
I’m honored, and I mean this sincerely, I’m honored to be with you all, all members of the Rada representing the whole of Ukraine.
I signed the book in the hotel as I was leaving today. The management asked me to sign their book, and I signed, “Ukraine united, Joe Biden.” And as I look here, this is Ukraine united -- center, south, east, west. And as someone who has held high public office in my country for now 40 years and just because I’ve been around, literally met every major leader in the world in the last 40 years, I don't -- I want you to know I do not underestimate the incredible pressure you all are under. I do not underestimate the challenge that you all face. And I do not underestimate the frustration you must feel when someone like me comes along and says this is a great opportunity for you. (Laughter.) As my mother would say, but for the honor, I’d just as soon as pass the opportunity.
But the truth of the matter is your fellow countrymen expect a whole lot of you right now. Their expectations are high. The demands on you are -- my guess is are fairly extreme. And in addition to that, we have -- there is -- John Kennedy, President Kennedy wrote a book that became very famous called “Profiles in Courage,” and it listed those men and women in our country who had taken political positions that were overwhelmingly interest of the United States of America, but not in their personal interests. That's a profile in courage. I hope none of you have to appear in the first edition of the “Profiles in Courage in Ukraine,” but my expectation is some of you are going to have to make some really difficult, difficult personal decisions.
But you’re facing such unrest and uncertainty, and we can speak a little bit more about that today. But I also think -- it’s easy for me to say -- there’s an expression in English, it says, an expert is anyone from out of town with a briefcase. Well, I don't have a briefcase, and I’m not an expert. But I have an opinion, and I speak for the President of the United States, and he shares the same opinion. And that is that this is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution. This is a genuine opportunity to get right what is always difficult to do the first time when coming out from under the oppression or control of another power.
You’re a month away from -- I would respectfully suggest, although I will be probably criticized by the press for saying it, what hopefully will be and may be the most important election in Ukrainian history, and that is that you have an opportunity, a chance to bring about an era of reform and democratic renewal that you all hoped for two, five, 10, 15 years ago to lay the groundwork for an even more united and more prosperous Ukraine.
In speaking with your acting President, I was referencing the personal bravery and heroism of Ukrainians is well known. You are a strong, strong, strong people. And I’m not being solicitous. I mean it is real. And you face very daunting problems and some might say humiliating threats that are taking place indirectly. And -- but the opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right, is within your grasp. And we want to be your partner, your friend in the project. And we’re ready to assist.
I have an expression I use as I’ve gone around the world through my career is you never tell another man or woman what’s in their interest. They know their interest better than you know their interest. And so I want you to know that we are not suggesting we have the answers for you, but we’re merely suggesting that we stand ready to stand with you in every endeavor that you undertake to generate the united prosperous and coherent Ukraine you’re all fighting for.
And to the extent that we can be of small assistance in you holding a free election on May the 25th, we want to be part of that. To the extent that we can help in stabilizing and strengthening Ukraine’s economy by helping you withstand the unfair economic pressure being thrust upon you, we stand ready to do that, and I say the American people stand ready -- not just Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- but the American people.
As you all know well we have a significant Ukrainian-American population. We stand with you. And it is not just a foreign policy judgment, it is a personal -- it’s an emotional commitment, as well, by millions of Americans.
And as you attempt to pursue energy security, there’s no reason why you cannot be energy secure. I mean there isn’t. It will take time. It takes some difficult decisions, but it’s collectively within your power and the power of Europe and the United States. And we stand ready to assist you in reaching that. Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas. It would be a very different world you’d be facing today. It’s within our power to alter that. It will take some time, but it’s within our power. Very difficult decisions, but within our power.
Also to be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now. It’s not just the United States. You need a court system that not only you and your people, but the rest of the world assumes can actually adjudicate fairly disputes among people. But you have a chance. You have a chance. The constitutional reforms that you are envisioning now are ones that some of you have fought for in various ways your entire career, a balance of power between the parliament and the President. You’ve tried it two different ways. I think you’ve figured it out for you -- not what we think -- what you think is the correct balance.
The decentralization and empowering of local communities -- we call that devolution of power back home -- local communities able to elect their own local officials, control their own budgets, elect their councils. And as I said, maybe if you look around the world at every country that has in the last 30 years come out from under the yoke of another, the hardest thing to put in place is, as I find it around the world, is a court system, is a judicial system. In a sense it maybe is the single most important thing that can occur in any country. And it’s hard. It’s really difficult.
But it’s totally within your power, and sometimes -- presumptuous of me to say this -- but sometimes it’s -- a crisis spawns the commitment, and the desire, the willingness to make some of these bold decisions.
So it is -- I don't want to exaggerate our role or exaggerate what we -- how strongly we feel, but the United States supports the rights, the freedoms and the fundamental dignity of the people of Ukraine, all the people of Ukraine.
And you may have different traditions. It’s not quite the same, but we understand different traditions in our country -- not as deeply as you do, but we are the most heterogeneous democracy in the world. We’re soon going to get the point where over 50 percent of the United States of America is made up of people of non-European stock; the majority of the American people are not of European origin in 2020. We understand. We have millions of Muslims. We have hundreds -- but it’s not quite the same. We’re not up against a border. We’re not sitting against a border of another powerful nation.
And so -- but, we, in fact -- these different traditions, different languages, and sometimes different perspectives, but the one thing I’ve observed, even with what’s going on in the east, is that there is a much greater desire to call oneself a Ukrainian than to call oneself anything else. And that’s a major, major, major unifying power, no matter how different the traditions are.
So I’m confident -- presumptuous of me to say this -- I’m confident that in your constitutional reforms, you will find a way to guarantee those traditions and at the same time strengthen Ukrainian unity. And to the extent that the United States of America can be of assistance in that effort, we stand ready to do that.
I thank you -- and I mean this sincerely -- for the honor of being able to speak here in the Rada, or at least a committee room of the Rada.
10:15 A.M. (Local)
Presidential Proclamation -- Earth Day, 2014
EARTH DAY, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Over four decades ago, Americans from all walks of life came together to tackle a shared challenge. Pollution damaged our health and livelihoods -- from children swimming in contaminated streams to workers exposed to dangerous chemicals to city residents living under a thick haze of smog. The first Earth Day was a call to action for every citizen, every family, and every public official. It gave voice to the conservation movement, led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and pushed our Nation to adopt landmark laws on clean air and water. This Earth Day, we remember that when Americans unite in common purpose, we can overcome any obstacle.
Today, we face another problem that threatens us all. The overwhelming judgment of science tells us that climate change is altering our planet in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind. Already, longer wildfire seasons put first responders at greater risk. Farmers must cope with increased soil erosion following heavy downpours and greater stresses from weeds, plant diseases, and insect pests. Increasingly severe weather patterns strain infrastructure and damage our communities, especially low-income communities, which are disproportionately vulnerable and have few resources to prepare. The consequences of climate change will only grow more dire in the years to come.
That is why, last year, I took executive action to prepare our Nation for the impacts of climate change. As my Administration works to build a more resilient country, we also remain committed to averting the most catastrophic effects. Since I took office, America has increased the electricity it produces from solar energy by more than tenfold, tripled the electricity it generates from wind energy, and brought carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades. In the international community, we are working with our partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the globe. Along with States, utilities, health groups, and advocates, we will develop commonsense and achievable carbon pollution standards for our biggest pollution source -- power plants.
We are also taking on environmental challenges by increasing fuel efficiency, restoring public lands, and curbing emissions of mercury and other toxic chemicals. We are safeguarding the water our families drink and the waterways and oceans that sustain our livelihoods. This February, we proposed new standards to protect farm workers from dangerous pesticides. And because caring for our planet requires commitment from all of us, we are engaging organizations, businesses, and individuals in these efforts.
As we mark this observance, let us reflect on the mission of the first Earth Day and recall our power to forge a cleaner, healthier future. Let us accept our responsibilities to future generations and meet today's tests with the same energy, passion, and sense of purpose.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 22, 2014, as Earth Day. I encourage all Americans to participate in programs and activities that will protect our environment and contribute to a healthy, sustainable future.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
FCC to consider rule gutting Net Neutrality
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will propose a new set of rules issued in response to a January federal court decision that tossed out the agency's prior Open Internet rules, The New York Times reports. It also reports that the proposed rules will essentially gut net neutrality, allowing Internet service providers what they've always wanted—the ability to charge content companies extra for preferential treatment. Pay, and you get more bandwidth, a bigger tube to send yourself out. Don't pay, you'll be last on the priority list for having your content distributed.
FCC Chair Tom Wheeler
The new rules, according to the people briefed on them, will allow a company like Comcast or Verizon to negotiate separately with each content company – like Netflix, Amazon, Disney or Google – and charge different companies different amounts for priority service.
That's not the only fear. It will also be a potential disaster for sites like this one, and for nonprofits, for small businesses, for any content provider that doesn't have the big bucks to pay for priority treatment. That in turn will hurt you, the consumer of information and services via the Internet.
That, of course, could increase costs for content companies, which would then have an incentive to pass on those costs to consumers as part of their subscription prices.
Proponents of net neutrality have feared that such a framework would empower large, wealthy companies and prevent small start-ups, which might otherwise be the next Twitter or Facebook, for example, from gaining any traction in the market.
The rules will be considered by the commissioners for the next two weeks, before a vote on them on May 15. Stay tuned for our action to fight this proposed rule.
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: NYT polls are positive for Democrats, but samples pose questions
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• Senate: As part of the launch of their new data-focused site called The Upshot (which has already put out some interesting work), the New York Times has released new polls in four Southern states, conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation. The results range from middling to very positive for Democrats, and we'll get to the toplines right away, but let me warn you that there are some very serious red flags with sample composition ahead.
AR-Sen: Mark Pryor (D-inc): 46, Tom Cotton (R): 36
These numbers are all mostly in line with what we've seen lately, though that 10-point lead for Pryor is extremely gaudy. Of course, it's not the only double-digit edge he's sported recently, but we had questions about that last poll, too. And boy do we have questions about all of these.
AR-Gov: Mike Ross (D): 40, Asa Hutchinson (R): 41
KY-Sen: Alison Grimes (D): 43, Mitch McConnell (R-inc): 44; Grimes: 41, Matt Bevin (R): 35
LA-Sen: Mary Landrieu (D-inc): 42, Bill Cassidy (R): 18, Paul Hollis (R): 5, Rob Maness (R): 4
NC-Sen: Kay Hagan (D-inc): 42, Thom Tillis (R): 40; Hagan: 41, Greg Brannon (R): 39
Rather unusually, the Times conducted a poll of all adults, then further broke down the results by registered voters—but only for certain questions. So while they asked respondents how they voted for president in 2012, they only reported the "all adults" results, and those numbers just made no sense. After a bit of a firestorm erupted over this quirky decision, the paper then released the breakdowns among registered voters, but the problem is, they're still very strange:
Romney carrying Arkansas by just 2 points? (He won by 24.) Obama winning Louisiana by 4? (He lost by 17.) And 19 percent of Kentucky voters saying they didn't vote in 2012, but nevertheless plan to in a midterm? It's all hard to figure. Sensing a problem, the Times' Nate Cohn quickly penned a defense, calling the polls' critics "misguided."
(click for larger)
Cohn argues that the surveys accurately measured Obama's vote share, but that many Romney supporters abandoned him as the loser, preferring instead to they didn't remember who they backed, or went with "someone else." Cohn says that these voters were "overwhelmingly white," which in the racially polarized South buttresses the notion that they were in fact Romney partisans. (Race is a very strong predictor of voting behavior in much of the southern U.S.)
However, other pollsters who ask this demographic question don't seem to have this issue. For instance, a PPP poll of North Carolina earlier this month found 49 percent of respondents saying they voted for Romney and 47 for Obama (very close to the 2012 results), with just 4 percent saying they weren't sure or picked another candidate. Put another way, if someone released a Michigan poll showing Terri Lynn Land up 10 and Romney carrying the state by the same amount, we'd question those results sharply.
Interestingly, Cohn tries to offer a further sanity check by pointing out that Obama's approvals "look about right." Like the toplines, they do indeed mostly make sense. But it's a curious approach from Cohn, who castigated PPP for alleged methodological deficiencies while arguing that the firm's accuracy was largely beside the point. Wrote Cohn: "Pollsters, though, tend to judge one another based more on methodology than record."
In reality, though, political professionals judge pollsters on their results, and indeed, it's perfectly acceptable to point to those results to validate a survey, just as the Times has tried to do here. Whether these results are in fact valid is a separate matter, though, and as the foregoing shows, there are still plenty of reasons for skepticism.
Conservative hero Cliven Bundy: 'I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro ...'
What a surprise: It turns out that Cliven Bundy, the deadbeat cattle rancher who has become a hero to conservative politicians and pundits, is nothing but—well, besides that whole deadbeat cattle rancher thing—a racist:
"I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times they are not forgotten ..."
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro ... because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Coming up next: Watching conservatives awkwardly distance themselves from the remarks themselves while still embracing their hero's "principles."
5:36 AM PT: For more discussion, see this diary from SamLoomis.
Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9am ET!
Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.
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Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.
Cheers and Jeers: Thursday
From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…
12 Weeks 'Til Netroots Nation 2014!
Your weekly update on all things Detroit, which I shall now read aloud with perfect diction while drinking this glass of water:
• The annual Netroots Nation/Democracy for America scholarship competition is going on now through May 12th. The five applicants with the most votes overall will automatically win a scholarship covering the cost of registration and lodging. The remaining 25 spots will be chosen by a selection committee. For more details, click here. (You can also nominate someone you believe is deserving of a scholarship at that link.)
• This sounds very cool:
1937 Woolworth strikers
Join the AFL-CIO and the Michigan Labor History Society on Wednesday, July 16 (the day before Netroots Nation kicks off) for a tour of some of Detroit’s historic sites: where Martin Luther King Jr. first delivered “I Have a Dream"…the last stop on the Underground Railroad…the site of the Woolworth’s sit-down strike of 1937…Cadillac Square…the newspaper strike of 1996. The tour starts at Cobo Center and will wrap up with a drink at the Anchor Bar with the organizers from the 1996 newspaper strike who will share their stories. The tour is free, but space is limited.
To reserve your spot, Click here.
• The list of the forty training sessions is up. They range from data and analytics to field organizing to mastering social media. Take a look. Coming soon: the list of panels and keynoters.
• Last June, regular NN attendee Chris Savage of the legendary Michigan-based Eclectablog wrote about how and why the 2014 convention came to be in the Horseless Carriage City. The crux:
By the way, Eclectablog is hosting a 10th Blogiversary party on May 1 in Ypsilanti with guest Lizz Winstead. Congrats on your first decade, Chris.
Why Detroit? Because Michigan represents the future of our country if we don’t regain political control of our state governments. Michigan is a majority Democratic state that is run by Republicans due to gerrymandering and unethical political games that give them power they do not deserve to represent a citizenry that disagrees with them on most things. […]
Because many of the issues that progressives are passionate about are in full display in Michigan in general and in Detroit in particular: Immigration. Women’s reproductive freedom. Collective bargaining and right to work. Marriage equality and civil rights for the LGBT community. Environmental concerns. All of these issues and more are playing out in sharp relief in Michigan.
• We hope you'll join us at the Daily Kos/C&J eat-'n-greet in Detroit on Wednesday evening, July 16th. To add your name to the RSVP list, email Navajo. We'll keep you posted with updates by screeching into your driveway at 3am and hollering detauils through a bullhorn.
• Registration and Hotel info are here and here.
• Follow NN14 via Twitter here.
Synchronize your watches: the convention starts in 84 days. Bring comfortable shoes.
Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: 2014 and beyond
See Harold Pollack link below
Black voters played a huge role in delivering Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012. And in 2014, they will play a huge role in determining whether the president's party can stop Republicans from taking the Senate.
The Post’s Aaron Blake has a terrific piece listing the four ways “black voters could decide who controls the Senate in 2015.” He writes that “[s]ix of the 16 states with the highest black populations are holding key Senate contests in 2014.” The key nugget in the Blake post: “Basically every black voter who stays home is a Democratic voter who stays home,” he writes. “Black voters generally vote more than 90 percent Democratic, so just about every drop in turnout among black voters pretty clearly comes at Democrats’ expense.”
More politics and policy below the fold.
Open thread for nightowls: 'Post-legal' America
With Cartwright as a possible exception, the members of the national security state, unlike the rest of us, exist in what might be called "post-legal” America. They know that, no matter how heinous the crime, they will not be brought to justice for it. The list of potentially serious criminal acts for which no one has had to take responsibility in a court of law is long, and never tabulated in one place. Consider this, then, an initial run-down on seven of the most obvious crimes and misdemeanors of this era for which no one has been held accountable.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005—Extremist Sunday:
|Tomorrow in Louisville Senator Frist and his allies will demonstrate a level of blatant extremism and hate that one thought had been removed from respectable discourse in our country. Now we find it embraced by the Republican Leader of the Senate. Frank Rich has some thoughts:
The fraudulence of "Justice Sunday" begins but does not end with its sham claims to solidarity with the civil rights movement of that era. "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias," says the flier for tonight's show, "and now it is being used against people of faith." In truth, Bush judicial nominees have been approved in exactly the same numbers as were Clinton second-term nominees. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, 10 already have a majority of Republican appointees. So does the Supreme Court. It's a lie to argue, as Tom DeLay did last week, that such a judiciary is the "left's last legislative body," and that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is the poster child for "outrageous" judicial overreach. Our courts are as highly populated by Republicans as the other two branches of government.
The "Justice Sunday" mob is also lying when it claims to despise activist judges as a matter of principle. Only weeks ago it was desperately seeking activist judges who might intervene in the Terri Schiavo case as boldly as Scalia & Co. had in Bush v. Gore. The real "Justice Sunday" agenda lies elsewhere. As Bill Maher summed it up for Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show last week: " 'Activist judges' is a code word for gay." The judges being verbally tarred and feathered are those who have decriminalized gay sex (in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Kennedy) as they once did abortion and who countenance marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the animus that dares not speak its name tonight. To paraphrase the "Justice Sunday" flier, now it's the anti-filibuster campaign that is being abused to protect bias, this time against gay people.
Tweet of the Day:
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Trying to find the podcast? Congration You Done it! Cliven Bundy's got Marco Rubio Syndrome. Greg Dworkin tells us Digby's won a Hillman, points to NYT's 2014 analysis, and says Medicaid expansion's pretty popular. Joan McCarter says birth control coverage's pretty popular, too. And so's the AR "private option." More of the Gop "no backsies!" theory of governance. ALEC goes Bundy & Grijalva pushes back. Nixon (a 3rd one) to face impeachment? Bill Cassidy imagines a pivotal historical role for himself. NFL cheerleaders join the fight against wage theft. And listener Gilbert Aquino takes a stab at answering our theological questions.
High Impact Posts. Top Comments.
Economics Daily Digest: Repealing health care reform gets harder every day
By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal
Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.
Ted Cruz's Worst Nightmare Is Coming True (Politico)
As Americans get used to having access to affordable health care, repeal will become less and less likely, writes Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch. That's just as Senator Cruz predicted last summer.
AT&T Tries to Bully the Government (Bloomberg View)
Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says the Federal Communications Commission should stand strong and limit how many spectrum licenses any one wireless carrier can buy at its upcoming auction.
Elizabeth Warren is the Teacher (Esquire)
Charles P. Pierce profiles Sen. Warren's work in academia and politics, framing her as an eternal educator. Today, she continues to educate on critical issues like financial reform—but also makes that reform happen.
Elizabeth Warren’s Needed Call for Student Loan Reform (WaPo)
With graduation season upon us, Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's board of directors, praises Sen. Warren's work on student debt, which she says is holding back the economy.
The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest (NYT)
Data shows that middle-income people around the world have experienced greater gains over the past three decades than Americans, write David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy. They tie this to rising income inequality.
Waiter, Am I Subsidizing Your Pay? (Other Words)
Marjorie Elizabeth Wood argues that taxpayers are heavily subsidizing the restaurant industry, which takes advantage of tax loopholes for high CEO pay and doesn't pay its workers a living wage.
- Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow and Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alumna Lydia Austin discuss the performance pay loophole in their white paper.
The Revolt of the Cities (TAP)
Harold Meyerson looks at the new wave of progressive mayors and city councils, elected primarily with labor community coalitions. He says this new city leadership is reshaping American liberalism.
New Daily Kos Elections interactive legislative maps of Washington, New Mexico, and New Jersey
This week we have interactive state legislative district maps for Washington, New Mexico, and New Jersey. Each legislative chamber is mapped out using the presidential election results calculated by Daily Kos Elections, the legislative election results, and some info on each legislator. For maps of 21 other states' legislative chambers see the first, second, third, and fourth in this series.
Districts in solid blue were carried by Obama and are represented by a Democrat, while those in solid red were won by Mitt Romney and are held by a Republican. Lighter red districts voted for Obama and a Republican legislator, while those in lighter blue went for Romney and a Democratic legislator. All vacant seats are assigned to the party that last won them. Note that the map displays use only the two-party vote to give you a more equivalent comparison between presidential and legislative results, but the diary and Daily Kos Elections' numbers include totals for third party candidates, though the differences are minor.
Washington State Senate
A bipartisan commission drew Washington’s state legislative districts with an equal partisan split, but Democratic member Tim Ceis voted for the Republican plan that predictably benefited that party a modest amount. While Obama carried 34, Republicans hold nine. The GOP controls all 15 Romney districts. To make matters worse two renegade Democrats, SD-35's Tim Sheldon and SD-48's Rodney Tom (whose districts are colored in yellow), caucus with the 24 Republicans. This gives Team Red an effective majority of 26 over the remaining 23 Democrats. Sheldon is likely safe from losing to a real Democrat since the state's top-two system has all candidates run on the same primary ballot with top two vote winners advancing regardless of party. Sheldon also represents a swing district giving him some more room for error.
On the bright side, Rodney Tom is retiring in 2014. His seat went for Obama 62-36 and Democrats are favored to take it back, meaning the party would need to gain just one more seat for outright control of the chamber. While only half the seats are up each cycle, Republicans will be defending a lot of their 2010 gains this year, giving Democrats an excellent shot at retaking the Senate. However, the map still leans Republican with the median district voting for Obama just 54-43, putting it four points to the right of the state.
Washington State House of Representatives Position 1
Washington State House of Representatives Position 2
Along with just Idaho, Washington uses the same district map for both legislative chambers yet conducts two separate races for the lower house in each one. Obama won 68 seats to Romney's 30. Republicans hold 15 Obama seats while just two Romney seats elected Democrats, but Team Blue has a healthy 55 to 43 majority. The median seats are again the same as the Senate at 54-43 Obama, making it four percent more Republican than the state overall.
Head below the fold to see maps for New Mexico and New Jersey.
Federal judge rules Minnesota cannot bar purchases of coal-fired electricity from North Dakota
In a 48-page ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson agreed with North Dakota plaintiffs and shot down a part of a 2007 Minnesota law designed to boost renewable energy. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed to appeal and fight North Dakota's efforts to sell more coal-fired electricity to Minnesota.
Leland Olds power station near Stanton, North Dakota.
The law at issue is Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act, a key element of which was to reduce the state's use of fossil fuels by 15 percent of 2005 base levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. Utilities were not to be allowed to buy more coal-fired electricity unless emissions were completely offset. North Dakota sued in 2011, saying the law violated the Constitution's interstate commerce clause.
If any or every state were to adopt similar legislation (e.g., prohibiting the use of electricity generated by different fuels or requiring compliance with unique, statutorily-mandated exemption programs subject to state approval), the current marketplace for electricity would come to a grinding halt. In an interconnected system like [the Midwest Independent System Operator], entities involved at each step of the process—generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity—would potentially be subject to multiple state laws regardless of whether they were transacting commerce outside of their home state. Such a scenario is “just the kind of competing and interlocking local economic regulation that the Commerce Clause was meant to preclude.”
North Dakota generates 79 percent of its electricity with coal and plans to build more coal-fired plants without emissions offsets.
[...] For these reasons, the Court finds that, while the State of Minnesota’s goals in enacting [the statute] may have been admirable, Minnesota has projected its legislation into other states and directly regulated commerce therein. Accordingly, [the statute] constitutes impermissible extraterritorial legislation and is a per se violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.
At least one environmental advocacy group, Fresh Energy, which promotes renewable energy, isn't majorly upset by Nelson's ruling. The group's executive director, Michael Noble, told Minnesota Public Radio: "The world is moving on from coal now. It's uneconomical, it's impractical. Consumers don't want any more coal." And they won't need it, he said, because installation of wind- and solar-generating facilities will provide all the new electricity that is needed.
North Dakota's Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem doesn't agree with that point of view: "We are continuing to look at the prospect of additional generation here because we're living in a nation that needs it. Most of our electricity does come from coal, and that's likely to be the case for a long time to come," he said.
Stenehjem needs to catch up. The United States generated 39 percent of its total electricity with coal during the 12 months ending in January this year. In 2007, the year Minnesota's Next Generation law was enacted, coal generated 49 percent of the nation's electricity. Minnesota generated 46 percent of its electricity with coal in 2013, 21 percent with nuclear power and 15 percent with wind power.
Ex-Head of Blue Angels Faces Inquiry
Capt. Gregory McWherter, who left the post in 2012, was removed from duty at a San Diego base over accusations of tolerating sexual harassment during his time with the group.
National Briefing | Southwest: Texas: Man in Nursing Home Is Charged With Murder
A Houston nursing home resident accused of using the armrest of his wheelchair to beat two of his roommates to death faces a capital murder charge.
National Briefing | Plains: Oklahoma: Court Clears Way for Executions
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected assertions by two death row inmates that they are entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.
National Briefing | South: Louisiana: Medicaid Expansion Is Rejected Again
Lawmakers have again turned away efforts to expand the state Medicaid program under the federal health care law, with the Senate health committee voting 6 to 2 on Wednesday against an expansion.
National Briefing | South: Mississippi: Governor Signs Abortion Restriction
Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill on Wednesday to ban abortion starting at the midpoint of a full-term pregnancy.
F.D.A. Will Propose New Regulations for E-Cigarettes
The proposed rules would extend the federal government’s regulatory authority from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, cigars and tobacco pipes.
Forecast Cut on Spending for Health
The new cost estimate could help state officials and others pushing for the expansion of Medicaid undue the Affordable Care Act.
F.B.I. Informant Is Tied to Cyberattacks Abroad
While it is unclear whether the F.B.I. ordered the attacks by Hector Xavier Monsegur, the agency may have used hackers to gather intelligence even as investigators were trying to dismantle hacking groups.
A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side
The standoff over cattle grazing on public land in Nevada has highlighted divisions over Washington and its sprawling ownership of Western land.
Political Memo: With Eyes on a Possible Clinton Run, Debate on a 2-Woman Ticket
A nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton for president would likely block the paths for other women running for the White House, and for those who would like to be vice president.
THE NEW YORKER - POLITICS+/-
Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .
John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .
Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .
George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .
Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .
Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .
Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .
Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .
William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .
Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .
Joy in the Congo: A musical miracle
There's a remarkable symphony orchestra in the Congo, 200 musicians defying the poverty of their war-torn country and creating some of the most moving music we've ever heard
Modern-day Robin Hood
Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones' charity -- the Robin Hood Foundation -- fights poverty with the hard-nosed, business sense of Wall Street
Letters on "Francis"
In the mail this week, comments on our story on Pope Francis and his impact on -- and beyond -- the Catholic Church.
Imagine being able to remember virtually every day of your life. As Lesley Stahl reports, it’s a kind of memory that is brand new to science
Pope Francis' first year filled with surprises
In his first year as pontiff, Pope Francis has surprised many by spurning tradition to bring humility and humanity to the papacy
Hometown favorite aims to win Boston Marathon
Boston-area native Shalane Flanagan took the Boston Marathon bombings personally, giving the runner even more motivation to win the race this year
Update on "Discovered"
An update on a story Morley Safer reported last week about the discovery of the largest trove of missing art since the end of WWII.
Pope Francis' first year as pontiff
60 Minutes reports on the first year in the reign of Pope Francis, a new pontiff determined to challenge old traditions
American runner takes winning Boston Marathon personally
Hometown favorite Shalane Flanagan will not jinx her chances of winning the Boston Marathon by crossing the finish line on practice runs
60 Minutes/Vanity Fair: Music
In this month's poll, many agree this decade has the worst music in the 45 years since Woodstock
Billion-dollar art battle steeped in WWII history
Morley Safer reports on the discovery of the largest cache of missing art since WWII -- including some pieces looted by the Nazis -- and the battle over its ownership
Viewer Letters on "Rigged"
Viewers comment on Steve Kroft's story about author Michael Lewis who says the U.S. stock market is rigged.
Fukushima: Three years later
Bob Simon reports on the aftermath of the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, and finds toxic ghost towns frozen in time
Affordable Care for those still uninsured
Nurse practitioners are providing badly needed health care to the uninsured working poor in Appalachia -- medical mercy for those left out of Obamacare and ineligible for Medicaid
Billion-dollar art battle on 60 Minutes
Morley Safer reports the story of the largest cache of missing art since WWII and the battle over its ownership on Sunday, April 6 at 7 p.m. ET/PT
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