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Final Edition

Saturday, February 28, 2009

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Ed Stein: Goodbye

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President Obama: Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq



Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
Friday, February 27, 2009

Good morning Marines. Good morning Camp Lejeune. Good morning Jacksonville. Thank you for that outstanding welcome. I want to thank Lieutenant General Hejlik for hosting me here today.

I also want to acknowledge all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes the Camp Lejeune Marines now serving with – or soon joining – the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq; those with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan; and those among the 8,000 Marines who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America. And I want all of you to know that there is no higher honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Ryan Crocker, who recently completed his service as our Ambassador to Iraq. Throughout his career, Ryan always took on the toughest assignments. He is an example of the very best that this nation has to offer, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. He carried on his work with an extraordinary degree of cooperation with two of our finest Generals – General David Petraeus, and General Ray Odierno – who will be critical in carrying forward the strategy that I will outline today.

Next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. By any measure, this has already been a long war. For the men and women of America’s armed forces – and for your families – this war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation. You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.

To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.

But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services. Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community

In short, today there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope rests upon an emerging foundation.

On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security. I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis.

We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.

Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.

What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars. America’s men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it.

The first part of this strategy is therefore the responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq.

As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

As we responsibly remove our combat brigades, we will pursue the second part of our strategy: sustained diplomacy on behalf of a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend upon decisions made by Iraq’s leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people. Iraq is a sovereign country with legitimate institutions; America cannot – and should not – take their place. However, a strong political, diplomatic, and civilian effort on our part can advance progress and help lay a foundation for lasting peace and security.

This effort will be led by our new Ambassador to Iraq – Chris Hill. From his time in the Peace Corps, to his work in Kosovo and Korea, Ambassador Hill has been tested, and he has shown the pragmatism and skill that we need right now. He will be supported by the courageous and capable work of so many American diplomats and aid workers who are serving in Iraq.

Going forward, we can make a difference on several fronts. We will work with the United Nations to support national elections, while helping Iraqis improve local government. We can serve as an honest broker in pursuit of fair and durable agreements on issues that have divided Iraq’s leaders. And just as we will support Iraq’s Security Forces, we will help Iraqi institutions strengthen their capacity to protect the rule of law, confront corruption, and deliver basic services.

Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. These men, women and children are a living consequence of this war and a challenge to stability in the region, and they must become a part of Iraq’s reconciliation and recovery. America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act. In the coming months, my administration will provide more assistance and take steps to increase international support for countries already hosting refugees; we’ll cooperate with others to resettle Iraqis facing great personal risk; and we will work with the Iraqi government over time to resettle refugees and displaced Iraqis within Iraq – because there are few more powerful indicators of lasting peace than displaced citizens returning home.

Now, before I go any further, I want to take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq.

You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land. In years past, you have persevered through tyranny and terror; through personal insecurity and sectarian violence. And instead of giving in to the forces of disunion, you stepped back from a descent into civil war, and showed a proud resilience that deserves respect.

Our nations have known difficult times together. But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people. We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.

There are those who will try to prevent that future for Iraq – who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing. They represent the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come. America, too, has known these forces. We endured the pain of Civil War, and bitter divisions of region and race. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope.

So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.

That leads me to the third part of our strategy –comprehensive American engagement across the region.

The future of Iraq is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East, so we must work with our friends and partners to establish a new framework that advances Iraq’s security and the region’s. It is time for Iraq to be a full partner in a regional dialogue, and for Iraq’s neighbors to establish productive and normalized relations with Iraq. And going forward, the United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria.

This reflects a fundamental truth: we can no longer deal with regional challenges in isolation – we need a smarter, more sustainable and comprehensive approach. That is why we are renewing our diplomacy, while relieving the burden on our military. That is why we are refocusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world. And that is why we have named three of America’s most accomplished diplomats – George Mitchell, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke – to support Secretary Clinton and me as we carry forward this agenda.

Every nation and every group must know – whether you wish America good or ill – that the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.

Finally, I want to be very clear that my strategy for ending the war in Iraq does not end with military plans or diplomatic agendas – it endures through our commitment to uphold our sacred trust with every man and woman who has served in Iraq.

You make up a fraction of the American population, but in an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, you did the opposite – you volunteered to bear the heaviest burden. And for you and for your families, the war does not end when you come home. It lives on in memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn’t going away, the dream that wakes you at night, or the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street.

You and your families have done your duty – now a grateful nation must do ours. That is why I am increasing the number of soldiers and Marines, so that we lessen the burden on those who are serving. And that is why I have committed to expanding our system of veterans health care to serve more patients, and to provide better care in more places. We will continue building new wounded warrior facilities across America, and invest in new ways of identifying and treating the signature wounds of this war: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as other combat injuries.

We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform. In her visits with military families across the country, my wife Michelle has learned firsthand about the unique burden that your families endure every day. I want you to know this: military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration. We’ll raise military pay, and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. We will also heed the lesson of history – that those who fight in battle can form the backbone of our middle class – by implementing a 21st century GI Bill to help our veterans live their dreams.

As a nation, we have had our share of debates about the war in Iraq. It has, at times, divided us as a people. To this very day, there are some Americans who want to stay in Iraq longer, and some who want to leave faster. But there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved.

And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.

There are many lessons to be learned from what we’ve experienced. We have learned that America must go to war with clearly defined goals, which is why I’ve ordered a review of our policy in Afghanistan. We have learned that we must always weigh the costs of action, and communicate those costs candidly to the American people, which is why I’ve put Iraq and Afghanistan into my budget. We have learned that in the 21st century, we must use all elements of American power to achieve our objectives, which is why I am committed to building our civilian national security capacity so that the burden is not continually pushed on to our military. We have learned that our political leaders must pursue the broad and bipartisan support that our national security policies depend upon, which is why I will consult with Congress and in carrying out my plans. And we have learned the importance of working closely with friends and allies, which is why we are launching a new era of engagement in the world.

The starting point for our policies must always be the safety of the American people. I know that you – the men and women of the finest fighting force in the history of the world – can meet any challenge, and defeat any foe. And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That is the most important lesson of all – for the consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable.

You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them.

"Semper Fidelis" – it means always being faithful to Corps, and to country, and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. These young men enlisted in a time of war, knowing they would face great danger. They came here, to Camp Lejeune, as they trained for their mission. And last April, they were standing guard in Anbar. In an age when suicide is a weapon, they were suddenly faced with an oncoming truck filled with explosives. These two Marines stood their ground. These two Marines opened fire. And these two Marines stopped that truck. When the thousands of pounds of explosives detonated, they had saved fifty Marines and Iraqi police who would have been in the truck’s path, but Corporal Yale and Lance Corporal Haerter lost their own lives. Jonathan was 21. Jordan was 19.

In the town where Jordan Haerter was from, a bridge was dedicated in his name. One Marine who traveled to the ceremony said: "We flew here from all over the country to pay tribute to our friend Jordan, who risked his life to save us. We wouldn’t be here without him."

America’s time in Iraq is filled with stories of men and women like this. Their names are written into bridges and town squares. They are etched into stones at Arlington, and in quiet places of rest across our land. They are spoken in schools and on city blocks. They live on in the memories of those who wear your uniform, in the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served.

Each American who has served in Iraq has their own story. Each of you has your own story. And that story is now a part of the history of the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar. You teach us that the price of freedom is great. Your sacrifice should challenge all of us – every single American – to ask what we can do to be better citizens.

There will be more danger in the months ahead. We will face new tests and unforeseen trials. But thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending this war.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America. Semper Fi.

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Final Edition

Friday, February 27, 2009


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo


After 149 years and 311 days, the Rocky Mountain News published its final edition on February 27, 2009.

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Business,US economic growth and recession,US economy shrinks at worst pace in 25 years

Dow plunges in early trading as commerce department says US gross domestic product contracted at 6.25%

By Daniel Nasaw
The Guardian UK

The US economy contracted at the worst pace in 25 years in the last three months of 2008, as nervous businesses and consumers spent less money and exports declined.

Markets dropped on the economic news. On the New York stock exchange, the Dow Jones industrial average of blue chip stocks plunged more than 100 points in the first hour of trading, to 7,049, the lowest level since October 1997.

The US gross domestic product contracted at a frightening 6.25%, a rate much higher than the 3.8% decline in the third quarter of 2008, according to preliminary statistics released today by the US department of commerce.

The worsening economic climate, combined with near daily news of job losses, could mean even less business investment and consumer spending in the coming months, despite the federal government's massive $787bn effort to jump-start the economy.

"Right now we're in the period of maximum recession stress, where the big cuts are being made," economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics, told the Associated Press.

The economy grew 1.1% in 2008, compared with a 2% increase the previous year and 2.8% growth in 2007. Economists said the GDP slowdown was preliminarily caused by a decline in consumer spending and business spending on equipment and software.

A decline in computer and automobile purchases subtracted 0.01 percentage points and 2.04 percentage points from the total change in gross domestic product....(Click for remainder).

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Climate of Change

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished.

For this budget allocates $634 billion over the next decade for health reform. That’s not enough to pay for universal coverage, but it’s an impressive start. And Mr. Obama plans to pay for health reform, not just with higher taxes on the affluent, but by putting a halt to the creeping privatization of Medicare, eliminating overpayments to insurance companies.

On another front, it’s also heartening to see that the budget projects $645 billion in revenues from the sale of emission allowances. After years of denial and delay by its predecessor, the Obama administration is signaling that it’s ready to take on climate change....(Click for remainder).

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'Fast Break' Obama

Moving at the speed of light, the new president aims to score early victories, and keep critics on their toes.

By Howard Fineman
Newsweek

The president is moving so fast, so sweepingly, that we may as well call him "Fast Break" Obama. For several reasons—the urgency of the economic crisis, a backlog of frustrated Democratic dreams and his own shrewd strategic sense—he's racing up the basketball court of American public life at a furious pace.

Obama wants to pile up a crushing lead on the scoreboard early in the game—when his popularity is high and he can still lay all the blame on his predecessor—and hope that the resulting momentum will impress the world (he goes to Europe for the G-8 in April), reluctant global investors (the sovereign wealth funds are sitting on trillions) and, of course, American voters and consumers.

The guy appears laid back, and he can be patient when he has to be, but right now he believes in motion—lots of it. If you move fast enough, he also knows, people don't have time to flyspeck details—and some of the details in his new budget, the outlines of which he released Thursday, are either squishy, controversial or both. There are literally hundreds of things in the budget to focus on, but I will pick out just three:

1. War Arithmetic. In a clever bit of budget making, Obama is taking advantage of George W. Bush's dishonesty to make his own budget look better. The former president's administration never counted spending on Iraq and Afghanistan in the regular budget it sent to Congress. By taking the hit early, and including that spending—now roughly $140 billion a year—Obama will be able to claim major savings down the road. In 2011 and 2012, that spending is slated to decline to $50 billion a year. So Obama and his budget crew can book savings of $180 billion—assuming, of course, that Obama is in fact able to wind down those wars....(Click for remainder).

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Statue of gay activist to be placed at Utah's Capitol?



By ABC4 Salt Lake City

Senator Chris Buttars meet Harvey Milk.

In response to the senator's recent anti-gay comments, a Sandy man now wants to put a statue of the famous gay activist at the state capitol.

When Senator Buttars compared gays to radical Muslims and said gays represent America's greatest threat, Roger Carrier never thought he would hear a public official speak that way.

Roger Carrier: "When I heard Senator Buttars comments, I was disgusted and appalled."

To repair what he feels is Utah's badly damaged image, Carrier wants a statue built on Utah's Capitol Hill - a statue of gay activist Harvey Milk.

Carrier told ABC 4 News, "I thought that would help restore the reputation of the state of Utah that has been dragged through the sewer by Senator Buttars."

Carrier picked Milk because the slain San Francisco politician has become an instantly recognized martyr for the gay cause.

Carrier says, "If somebody wanted to set up an account to fund the memorial, I am willing to donate a hundred dollars of my own money."

Carrier, a retired teacher and now wed to the same woman for four decades, thinks gay marriage or civil unions are inevitable....(Click for remainder).

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The Far Right's All Out Offensive Against Medical Research

By Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.
The Huffington Post


Opponents of fixing our broken health care system are at it again, attempting to use their same old scare tactics and falsehoods to kill a common-sense health care provision is the economic recovery package. Fortunately Congressional leaders have recognized these tactics for what they are and have wisely kept this provision in the legislation.

Under attack is a provision that is in the package that will help your doctor be better informed and more effective at the job they signed up to do in the first place - taking care of you and your family.

Comparative Effectiveness Research:

At issue is something called "Comparative Effectiveness Research" which basically means giving your doctor access to the latest research on what treatments and therapies work and which don't. This also helps doctors know which treatments are more expensive than others, and helps both patients and doctors decide if there is a cheaper treatment that is just as effective. As a doctor and the husband of a doctor, I know how important it is to have solid scientific research to make critical decisions for my patients.

This research will help doctors choose the best treatment for their patients' situation and help them make more informed choices rather than risk prescribing less effective or even potentially harmful treatments.

Essentially, in order to control costs and provide patients with better care as we reform health care, the Federal Government will fund and disseminate research that evaluates the effectiveness of different treatments and medicines. This research will give doctors and patients better choices, and most importantly better health care for their money....(Click for remainder).

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Commanders In Iraq Challenge Petraeus On Pullout Risk

By Inter Press Service
Via The Huffington Post


WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (IPS) - CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus and Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) Commander General Ray Odierno have submitted assessments of Iraq combat troop withdrawal plans to President Barack Obama based on the premise that his 16-month withdrawal plan would pose significantly greater risk to "security gains" than the 23-month plan they favour.

But a senior commander in Iraq appeared to contradict that premise last week by declaring that security gains in the Shi'a provinces of Iraq are "permanent", and a field commander in Iraq says there is no objective basis for any Petraeus-Odierno finding that Obama's plan carries greater risk than their 23-month plan.

Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, U.S. commander for the eight southern provinces of Iraq, denied in remarks to reporters Feb. 12 that the security gains in that region were fragile, contrary to the premise that Odierno has publicly asserted. Oates cited the dramatic reduction in activities by Shi'a militia fighters and the holding of the Jan. 31 elections without any major attacks.

In a previous press briefing Jan. 14, Oates had told reporters that, even if violence were to break out after provincial elections, Iraqi security forces "are well prepared to handle that".

He also cast doubt on Iranian involvement with Shi'a militias in the south, saying he had "no evidence or reports of people training in Iran", despite periodic "anecdotal intelligence reports" of such training camps.

Oates said he had already reassigned combat forces in the region to non-combat missions, either training or economic development, despite grumbling by soldiers....(Click for remainder).

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Kill This Myth: Media Not The Reason for Sarah Palin's Demise

By Greg Mitchell
The Huffington Post


In the months after the November election, and then even more so since the Inauguration, we have heard from pundits and disgruntled GOPers that the media helped elect Obama by attacking, or mocking, Sarah Palin. These critics still allege that she had given John McCain a big boost in the polls when first named and that she would have help drive him to victory if not for the later treatment by Katie and Tina and Charlie Gibson and all the rest.

But this is not true. The myth should be put to bed.

In fact, Palin never really helped him except with his "base," which he would have won over anyway. She never had broad based appeal and, as I have written here previously (and in my new book, Why Obama Won), McCain had been fooled by false media coverage of the purported huge number of Hillary Clinton fans (women and the working class) who were eager to bolt Obama for the GOP. This never came to pass.

In reality, the undermining of Palin happened well before the networks and SNL got to her. The polls proved it. Her home state paper, the Anchorage Daily News was quick to expose elements of her past that raised questions and just days after she was named the Fairbanks, Alaska daily called her choice by McCain a silly one. And the evidence mounted from there, within days.

More than anything McCain was hurt by shattering his strongest calling card -- "experience" -- by picking a neophyte to serve one heartbeat away....(Click for remainder).

Greg Mitchell is the author of 'Why Obama Won'.

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Sarah Palin In Trouble As Oil Prices Fall

By Rachel D'Oro
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's first two years in office have been called a time of milk and honey, when the resource-rich state was flush with wealth from record oil prices.

The second half of her term isn't looking so rosy as Palin faces her first major financial challenge as governor.

The rapid decline of oil prices has left the state in a looming budget crisis and a late-entrant in the national recession. And that could have political repercussions for the former Republican vice presidential hopeful, who has signaled an interest in a 2012 presidential run but must stay visible in the Lower 48 to be successful.

"Given these bad times, she's going to have a much more difficult time traveling outside Alaska," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "When times are good, people will let their governor roam. In bad times, citizens expect their governor to stay home and work on solving the problems."

Oil accounts for as much as 90 percent of state revenues. So the plunge of North Slope crude from an all-time high of $144.59 per barrel last July threatens to give the state an estimated budget shortfall of up to $1.5 billion in the fiscal year that ends June 30....(Click for remainder).

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The Idiot Strikes Back

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


About a month ago, Rush Limbaugh proudly boasted that he hopes President Obama "fails" in office. More recently, Limbaugh added, "I want the stimulus package to fail." This sparked a fair amount of controversy, since it's odd for high-profile Americans to publicly root against the country.

Yesterday, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), without mentioning Limbaugh's name, said, "Anybody who wants [the president] to fail is an idiot, because it means we're all in trouble."

Today, the "idiot" responded.
"I am told that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford called me an idiot, not by name. But he said, 'Anybody who wants Obama to fail is an idiot.' Well, I don't know anybody else who said it, so I guess he's talking about [me].... [P]oliticians have different audiences than I do and they've got to say things in different ways. So, after he said, 'Anybody who wants Obama to fail is an idiot,' then went on in his own way to say, 'Gosh, I hope this doesn't work.' ... He just had to say, 'We don't want the president to fail.'

"Hell we don't! We want something to blow up here politically. We want something to not go right.... We're talking about freedom that is under assault!"
Ryan Powers added that Sanford's communications director said the governor wasn't "referring to anyone" in specific when he talked about "idiots," and was not aware of Limbaugh's comments on the issue....(Click for remainder).

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USGS Tells Gov. Jindal To Sit Down, And Shut Up Over Volcano Remark

By CNN

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's swipe at federal spending to monitor volcanoes has the mayor of one city in the shadow of Mount St. Helens fuming.

"Does the governor have a volcano in his backyard?" Royce Pollard, the mayor of Vancouver, Washington, said on Wednesday. "We have one that's very active, and it still rumbles and spits and coughs very frequently."

Jindal singled out a $140 million appropriation for the U.S. Geological Survey as an example of questionable government spending during the GOP response to President Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night.

The governor, a rising Republican star, questioned why "something called 'volcano monitoring' " was included in the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus bill Obama signed earlier this month.

"Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington," Jindal said.

But Marianne Guffanti, a volcano researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey, said, "We don't throw the money down the crater of the volcano and watch it burn up."

The USGS, which received the money Jindal criticized, is monitoring several active volcanoes across the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. One of those is Mount St. Helens, about 70 miles north of Vancouver, Washington, and neighboring Portland, Oregon.

The volcano killed 57 people when it erupted in 1980 and sputters back into action periodically, most recently in late 2004 and early 2005, when it sent plumes of steam and ash thousands of feet into the air....(Click for remainder).

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Professor Asks Chancellor to Fire John Yoo

This is an amazing letter from UC Berkley Professor J. Bradford Delong to the Chancellor asking that John Yoo be fired.

Thanks to Chip @ After Downing Street for the original post.

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FACT CHECK: GOP Adrift On Small Business Claim

By Calvin Woodward
Associated Press via Yahoo! News


WASHINGTON – Claims that President Barack Obama's tax plans are an assault on small business skirt the likelihood that most job-producing small businesses wouldn't feel that pinch at all.

Obama is proposing to raise taxes on households earning over $250,000 by increasing the rate on the top two tax brackets and limiting deductions, starting in 2011.

Republicans and other critics, knowing they will get little mileage from defending the rich, instead are casting the plan as a tax hit on people who run industrious little companies driving job growth.

That's not likely, according to one in-depth analysis, which found that more than 95 percent of small business owners would be off the hook.

Obama does not propose higher business taxes.

But critics reason that owners of many small companies report business income on their personal tax returns instead of filing corporate taxes. That exposes their business's earnings to Obama's higher tax rates on the wealthy.

To be sure, some business owners would get caught in that net.

But for one thing, most small businesses don't create jobs. They tend to be lawyers, accountants and other professionals who earn some of their money from partnerships or otherwise organize themselves as a business entity....(Click for remainder).

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Barack Obama and Watermelons on the White House Lawn? Oh My God -- Did You Think That Up All By Yourself?

By Pat Morrison
The Huffington Post


How old do you have to be to be the mayor of Los Alamitos, California?

Because I can't believe that the guy who sent out this stupefying email is more than six -- at least his sense of humor, and that may be doing a disservice to six-year-olds.

The Orange County Register reported that Dean Grose, the Los Alamitos mayor, sent an email from his personal account that shows a picture of the White House. On its lawn are rows of watermelons, and the caption reads, "No Easter egg hunt this year."

I'll pause for a moment here while you recover from the gasping guffaws, the belly laughs that are no doubt incapacitating you right now as a consequence of that devastating thigh-slapper from Mayor Grose.

Do people really still tell these so-called jokes? Do people really still find them funny?

One recipient of the email was Los Alamitos council member Keyanus Price, who is black. Grose told the Associated Press that Price is a friend of his, that he didn't send it to offend her or African-Americans, and that he was unaware of the racial stereotype about black people and watermelons.

Uh-huh.

I'm white as a polar bear's belly and I'm offended....(Click for remainder).

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White House Appoints Gay Man to Head AIDS Policy Office

By Will Dunham
Reuters


WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama named a Georgetown University health policy expert to head the White House AIDS policy office and coordinate efforts to reduce new HIV infections in the United States, officials said on Thursday.

Jeffrey Crowley, who previously worked for the National Association of People with AIDS activist group, was appointed to head the Office of National AIDS Policy, the White House said.

About 1.1 million Americans are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC last year said more Americans are becoming infected each year than previously estimated, with 56,300 new HIV infections in 2006. Previous estimates put that number at about 40,000 a year.

Crowley comes to the job after serving at the Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. He is a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, serving as a science teacher in Swaziland....(Click for remainder).

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Bloggers and Unions Join Forces to Push Democrats to Left

By Jim Rutenberg
The International Herald Tribune


WASHINGTON: A group of liberal bloggers said it was teaming up with organized labor and MoveOn.org to form a political action committee that would seek to push the Democratic Party further to the left.

Soliciting donations from their readers, the bloggers said they were planning to recruit liberal candidates to challenge more centrist Democrats currently in Congress.

The formation of the group is another step in the evolution of the blogosphere, which has proven effective at motivating party activists to give money and time to political campaigns, especially in local races.

But it also illuminates a deepening wrinkle for President Barack Obama, whose attempt to build a broad governing coalition — often by tempering some of his more liberal positions — has already angered some of his supporters on the left.

The new organization is in many ways the liberal equivalent of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that has financed primary challenges against Republicans it deems insufficiently dedicated to tax cuts and small government.

Organizers of the new group, called Accountability Now, said their intention was to enable Obama to seek more liberal policies without fear of losing support from the more conservative members of his party serving in Congress. But they did not rule out occasional friction with Obama, as well....(Click for remainder).

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The GOP's Anti-Obama Propaganda

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Today’s Republicans are thumbing through Newt Gingrich’s worn playbook of 1993 looking for tips on how to blunt President Barack Obama’s political momentum and flip it to their advantage. In doing so, they also appear to have dug in to what might be called the secret appendix.

By Robert Parry
Consortium News


The official history of what happened during Bill Clinton’s difficult first two years – which ended in a sweeping Republican congressional victory in 1994 – focuses on the GOP’s united resistance to his economic plan and Hillary Clinton’s failed health care reform. But there was a darker side to the political damage inflicted on the early Clinton administration.

Republicans and their right-wing allies disseminated what – in a covert operation – would be called “black propaganda.” Some exaggerated minor scandals, like the Travel Office firings and Clinton’s Whitewater real-estate deal, while other key figures on the Right, such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, spread ugly conspiracy rumors linking Clinton to “mysterious deaths” and cocaine smuggling.

Sometimes, these multiplying “Clinton scandals” built on themselves with the help of their constant repetition in both the right-wing and mainstream news media. For instance, overheated accusations about some personnel changes at the White House Travel Office pushed deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster into a deep depression.

Then, on July 30, 1993, a distraught Foster went to Fort Marcy Park along the Potomac River and shot himself. The Right quickly transformed the tragedy into a new front in the anti-Clinton psychological warfare, with Foster’s death giving rise to a cottage industry for conspiracy theorists and a new way to raise doubts about Clinton....(Click for remainder).

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The Stupid Party

By Scott Horton
Harper's Magazine


How do Americans view Barack Obama and his relationship with the Republican minority? Nearly 80 percent say that Obama is outstripping their expectations as a President; nearly 70 percent say he is delivering on his promises; roughly two-thirds of Americans approve his performance. Republicans do not fare so well. Their approval numbers come in at half or less of Obama’s, and the public believes, also by a large margin, that Obama has stretched out a hand of cooperation to the Congressional G.O.P., and they have responded by spurning him. The public, it seems, is forming a very harsh judgment on the performance of the Republican leadership, which in time of crisis has reduced itself to a simple mantra: just say “no.”

The poll also offers us a chance to understand how Republicans view the world. The Washington Post reports: “74 percent of Republicans in the new poll expressed grave worry about the deficit, 29 points higher than in December when George W. Bush held the reins.” Nothing has changed about the deficit—it is still a deficit that George W. Bush created. But the Republican Party’s attitude has been dramatically transformed. Telling indeed.

My theory is that the American public would be happy with an opposition party that plays a constructive role in governance by forcing the exploration of the government’s proposals and putting forward its own alternatives. Our experience as a democracy is that such a process of lively public debate helps us move to correct answers. But the Republicans are not behaving as a responsible opposition party. Their behavior reminds us of John Stuart Mill’s label for the unconstructive Tories: he called them the “stupid party.”...(Click for remainder).

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Credit Cards: The Next Ticking Time Bomb

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

By Arianna Huffington
The Huffington Post


Hot on the heels of the banking crisis, the employment crisis, and the mortgage/foreclosure crisis, the country is on the verge of experiencing a credit card crisis.

According to the Federal Reserve, the total outstanding credit card debt carried by Americans reached a record $951 billion in 2008 -- a number that will only climb higher as more and more people reach for the plastic to make ends meet. What's more, roughly a third of that is debt held by risky borrowers with low credit ratings.

Credit card defaults are on the rise and are expected to hit 10 percent this year. This will obviously drive many banks closer to failing their stress tests -- but it will have an even greater impact on the lives of people who find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into debt.

It's a particularly vicious economic circle: every day, Americans, faced with layoffs and tough economic times, are forced to use their credit cards to pay for essentials like food, housing, and medical care -- the costs of which continue to escalate. But as their debt rises, they find it harder to keep up with their payments. When they don't, banks, trying to offset losses in other areas, then turn around and hike interest rates and impose all manner of fees and penalties... all of which makes it even less likely consumers will be able to pay off their mounting debts.

And that's not the end of the economic downward spiral. As more and more Americans default on their credit card debt, banks will find themselves faced with a sickening instant replay of the toxic securities meltdown from the mortgage crisis. In another example of Wall Street "creativity," credit card debt is routinely bundled together into "credit-card receivables" and sold to investors -- often pension funds and hedge funds. Securities backed by credit card debt is a $365 billion market. This market motivated credit card companies to offer cards to risky borrowers and to allow greater and greater amounts of debt....(Click for remainder).

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David Shuster smacks down Rep. Darrell Issa's lies



By SilentPatriot
Crooks and Liars


When California Congressman Darrell Issa brings up the right-wing stimulus lie du jour -- the so-called "train to Sin City" -- David Shuster delivers a well-deserved smackdown, practically laughing at Issa for having the balls to spread that lie on his show. Good stuff. Bravo, David. Watch Issa start squirming as Shuster unloads at around 4:30.
ISSA: When we see $8 billion into a train to Sin City as part of a stimulus, we reject it.

SHUSTER: But Congressman, there's no project for a train from California to Las Vegas. You Republicans know better. It's $8 billion that's going to the Department of Transportation, and a Republican, Ray LaHood -- he was a Republican in your Congress -- he's the Transportation Secretary who gets to decide where the money is spent! It it wrong to say there is a project from L.A. to Las Vegas. It's not in the bill, Congressman.
When will people learn that this is how Republicans roll? They cherry-pick and try to exploit (or, in this case, flat-out fabricate) minor parts of a bill and run around repeating it over and over until the entire bill is defined by those few "controversial" programs. Too bad more of the DC establishment isn't like Shuster, who's always ready, willing and able to shoot them down....(Click for original).

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They Must Rally Hate Us

By Tom Degan
OpEd News


It is something that can no longer be denied: America's politicians who carry the banner of the Republican party must really hate the American people with a passion. That is the only conclusion one can draw, given their behavior in recent weeks. Does that sound like an extreme statement? Just consider these nasty facts:

While your average right-wing extremists may not be the brightest bulbs on the porch, they do have some knowledge of history. They know that the stimulus Franklin Delano Roosevelt put into motion three quarters of a century ago saved the American economy from certain destruction. Roosevelt did such a good job as president, the GOP would not control the executive branch for a full 20 years after 1933. By the time 1953 rolled around, it wasn't the domestic performance of Democratic President Harry Truman that people were sick and tired of, it was American involvement in the Korean War. Truman offered no easy end to the stalemate and Dwight D. Eisenhower was promising to end it (as he did indeed) within the first six months of his administration. But for that conflict, Herbert Hoover today might be remembered as the last Republican president in American history. I know that sounds far fetched but I can dream, can't I?

With only two exceptions -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, both of Maine -- the current crop of Republican politicians on Capitol Hill have only one mission on their agenda -- the complete and utter failure of the Obama Administration. The rescue of the people from this financial catastrophe that they are now suffering under means not a thing to these assholes. They want to make damn good and sure that President Obama fails. That is the only way they will be able to regain control of the Senate and the House in 2010 -- the American people be damned. While it cannot be argued that the Democrats are far from perfect (Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Please) The Republicans (in their present incarnation anyway) are beyond redemption.

During the week of the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial, it was next-to-impossible not to imagine what the great emancipator -- along with Theodore Roosevelt -- might have felt about the corrupt and sorry state of their once-great party. Would they even recognize it? It started out 153 years ago with such great promise, and such noble intent: the freeing of human beings from bondage. Let's get real here, folks. The Democrats, for all their great and rich history, never had an issue half that good to rally around. What the hell happened to the Republican party?...(Click for remainder).

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Polls Say Obma Wins

By Sam Stein
Huffington Post


Instant public surveys on Barack Obama's address before Congress showed, by in large, that the public was incredibly receptive to his speech, regardless of political party. But that did not hold true for every single study.

A CBS News poll of approximately 500 people saw approval of the president rise from 62 percent before the speech to 69 percent afterward.

Meanwhile, a poll on CNN showed that 68 percent of respondents -- who skewed a bit Democratic -- viewed the speech positively, 24 somewhat positively, and only eight percent not positively. Eighty-two percent supported the president's economic plan as outlined in the speech, while 17 percent opposed it.

Those results were buttressed by the findings of longtime Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. In his own dial poll, which included 50 participants of mixed gender, education and politics, Greenberg found a large swath of bipartisan support for Obama's addres. That included a 14 percent jump, from 62 to 76 percent, in the favorability rating for the president.

Saying at the onset that this was an "immensely successful speech," he highlighted a few issues on which Obama won over the audience.
On taxes, "there was a 26-point gain," from 38 to 64 percent, "the biggest gains that he made." * On the deficit, "there was an 18 point swing... from 42 percent to 60 percent." * On Iraq, "there was a 18-point swing" (no numbers were offered)
"I've never seen this," Greenberg added. For a large part of the speech, all three, the Republican, Democratic and independent line where virtually in the same place."...(Click for remainder).

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A Geology Lesson For Bobby Jindal

By Charles Lemos
MyDD


How is it that the GOP continues to shoot itself in the foot with its anti-science crusade? Back during the general election, Governor Sarah Palin, in a moment of horrific ignorance, wailed against fruit flies, not realizing the role that the humble fruit fly plays in scientific research. Then there is Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma who believes that global climate change is "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

Now it's Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's turn to demonstrate a profound ignorance of the country he lives in with yet another flippant anti-science remark. The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, in the number of historically active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are found in the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest. The remainder are widely distributed in the western part of the nation from California to Colorado. The entire Western United States sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire. A part of this ring of fire is the Cascade Volcanic Arc which includes nearly 20 major volcanoes. Seattle and Portland are both firmly at least until the Earth shakes within the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

In total, there are 169 volcanoes in the United States. Eighteen of them have been designated as "Very High Threat Volcanoes" by the United States Geological Survey. Twelve of these have been active or erupted within the last 200 years and eight since 1984. Here's what the USGS has to say on the dangers posed:
These volcanoes have devastated large areas with volcanic blasts, invaded their surroundings with lava flows, produced large mudflows that have swept over hundreds of square miles, emitted noxious gases that have caused lung ailments and produced ash clouds that have brought down passenger jets and blanketed thousands of square miles.
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So Much For the Jindal Breakthrough

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


Expectations were high for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) last night, delivering the Republican response to the president's address to Congress. Practically every feature on the young governor includes the words "rising star" and "2012," and this was going to be his chance to shine on the national stage.

Instead, we're left with five simple words: "not ready for prime time."

To be sure, it's a tough -- and risky -- gig. These response speeches are very difficult to pull off, and very few manage to appear impressive. (Jim Webb was great a few years ago, but he was more the exception than the rule.) Jindal not only was given a tough assignment, he had to try to follow President Obama, who had just set a very high bar by delivering a terrific national address.

But context notwithstanding, Jindal was something of a disaster. The delivery was awkward and sing-song (comparisons to Kenneth from "30 Rock" are ubiquitous). The arguments were tone-deaf and tiresome. The anecdotes were long and pointless. Jindal hadn't quite practiced enough with a teleprompter. He not only seemed like a guy selling a bad product in an infomercial, Jindal seemed like he was new at it.

It was painful to watch, both because the speech was bad and because it was hard not to feel bad for the guy embarrassing himself on national television.

On one of the cable networks, viewers were told that Jindal was "almost childish," and this "was not Bobby Jindal's greatest oratorical moment." The network? Fox News.

I was under the impression that the whole point of inviting Jindal to offer the Republican response was to present the public with something new and different. But as bad as Jindal's performance was, his ideas were even worse -- tax cuts, drilling, school vouchers, spending bad, government bad. Why bother picking a fresh face if all the party has to offer is stale ideas? Why ask a young governor with a reputation for innovation to present the same old agenda that the GOP has pitched for a generation?...(Click for remainder).

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GOP Governor accuses Republicans of “gratuitous political griping”



John Huntsman, the Republican Governor of Utah, tells MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell that the GOP response to President Obama’s economic recovery legislation is “gratuitious political griping.”

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President Obama's Address to Congress and the Nation


Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to Joint Session of Congress
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

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