Look what President Obama has done

Nate Silver:

Poll: Egyptian Public’s Views Toward United States Are Much Improved

Understandably, there’s been a lot of concern about what sort of regime might replace Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, if a new one replaces it at all.
How friendly might a new regime be toward the United States, for instance? No one certainly can predict that.
What does appear to be the case, however, is that Egyptian popular opinion toward the United States has substantially improved over the course of the past 2 to 3 years, to the point that a new leader would probably not gain any points by expressing anti-American sentiment.

The BBC World Service conducts an annual survey in 28 countries, in which it asks participants how they feel about each of the others. The BBC has interviewed Egyptians as part of its survey since 2007.
Egyptian sentiment toward the United States has improved dramatically since the survey began. In 2007, just 11 percent of Egyptians said they viewed the United States as having a “mostly positive” influence, versus 59 percent who said it had a “mostly negative” influence. The numbers were even worse the next year: 16 percent positive, but 73 percent negative.

The election of President Obama created a major change in opinion, however. In 2009, positive opinions about the United States rose to 40 percent against 48 percent negative. And last year — the first survey conducted after Mr. Obama’s well-received June 2009 speech in Cairo — positive opinions became the plurality, at 45 percent, against 29 percent negative views.

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And here’s a little evening treat, thanks to Pro President Obama Blog:

San Jose Mercury News Letters to the Editor

Jan. 31 Readers’ letters

This Republican favors Obama

This Republican is up to here with all the negative comments that bombard us from most Republicans and some Democrats against the current administration and the work it is doing. Thank goodness we have President Baracj Obama in the White House, someone who will fight for our country. The “loyal opposition” either just sits back and says no, or tries to strategize to get Obama defeated — no talk or effort to improve the country or have any plan to get us out of the bind he inherited. Reminds me of children who, when they are sick, don’t like the medicine designed to make them well. We were so lucky in 2008.

I want and wait for a Republican with Obama’s stature, savvy and political will. Our country needs a system of strong, responsible two-party leadership. But, until this happens, we are in the best hands possible.

Robert Rutherford,
Portola Valley, CA

Monday morning mishmash

Hi guys,

1. Today’s schedule:

10:00 AM President Obama receives the presidential daily briefing.
11:00 AM Secretary of the Department of Commerce Gary Locke, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee and other W.H. advisers will launch the “Startup America” program.
11:10 AM PBO meets with senior advisers.
12:00 PM  
1:00 PM Gibbs briefs the press.VP Biden meets with Sen. Bill Bradley.
2:00 PM  
2:15 PM VP Biden meets with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

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2. Egypt:

 LA Times: White House quietly prepares for a post-Mubarak era in Egypt

Washington Post: Obama administration aligns itself with protests in Egypt

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3. Recovery!

Consumer Spending in U.S. Rose More Than Forecast in December

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4. Recovery!

U.S. Auto Sales May Reach Second-Fastest Rate in 17 Months

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5. Recovery!

Chicago PMI reading rises in January more than expected

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6. The audacity to get bureaucracy out-of-the-way:

Backlog of Farm Loan Applications Cleared 

The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has used $181 million in Recovery funds to clear a backlog of federal loan applications and provide assistance to minority and beginning farmers.

 FSA initially received $173 million in Recovery funds for its Direct Operating Loans, which can be used to buy equipment, livestock, feed, seed, fertilizer, fuel, insurance coverage, or to make repairs to fences and buildings. The agency said that the $173 million was later increased by $8 million.

 Prior to receiving the funds in February 2009, FSA had a backlog of 1,783 loan applications totaling $130 million. By the end of March 2009, the agency had processed the applications and awarded the loan amounts. FSA awarded the rest of the money in spring 2010. The agency says the average amount of a Direct Operating Loan is $50,000.

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Have a great day, everyone!

Frank Rich: The State of the Union week was another salutary one for Obama

This is a good one from Rich:

Obama’s rhetorical Morning in America is exquisitely timed to coincide with the Gipper’s centennial — and, of course, the unacknowledged start of his own 2012 re-election campaign. It’s remarkable how completely the G.O.P. has ceded the optimism of its patron saint to the president just as the country prepares for a deluge of Reaganiana. Obama’s post-New Year’s surge past a 50 percent approval rating — well ahead of both Reagan’s and Bill Clinton’s comeback trajectories after their respective midterm shellackings — may have only just begun.

There was no drama to Obama’s address — just a unifying theme, at long last, as he reasserted the role of government in rebooting and rebuilding the country for a new century and putting Americans back to work. The president wisely left any theatrics to his adversaries, and, as always, they were happy to oblige.

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Obama must be laughing about how the party that spent a year hammering him for focusing on health care over jobs is now committing the same supposed sin. And one can only imagine his astonishment on Tuesday night, when the G.O.P. respondents to his speech each played Jimmy Carter to his Reagan by offering a grim double-feature of malaise and American decline.

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Ryan, who has the television manner of a solicitous funeral home director, was darkly warning that America could be the next Greece. Bachmann channeled Glenn Beck to argue that we are living in a nascent police state where government “tells us which light bulbs to buy” (G.E.’s, presumably).

The most revealing moment in either Republican response, though, came from Ryan, who, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, implicitly threatened another government shutdown, or catastrophic fiscal meltdown, if the House majority doesn’t get its way. “The president is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit,” he said with distaste, referring to the vote required possibly as soon as March to allow the Treasury to keep paying its bills. Should the House majority hold that vote hostage to its vision of the budget, it will throw the markets into turmoil and upend our still-embryonic recovery.

It tells you all you need to know about Ryan’s tilt to the right that, for all his professed disapproval of increasing the debt limit during an Obama administration, he voted to do so twice himself during the gushing deficits of the Bush years. Funny he didn’t mention that Tuesday night. It tells you all you need to know about the G.O.P.’s overall tilt to the right that not just the Tea Party is making barely veiled threats to play dangerous political games with the debt limit. Mitch McConnell and Cantor did so last weekend, as have a plethora of potential 2012 presidential candidates, from Tim Pawlenty to Gingrich. The Bachmann-Beck-Palin tail is now firmly wagging the Republican dog.

Like virtually every other week since the shellacking, the State of the Union week was another salutary one for Obama. But the state of the union itself could yet be in the hands of radicals whose eagerness to see the president fail is outstripped only by their zeal to make an ideological point, even if it forces America into default.

 
 

Sunday’s mishmash

Hi guys,

Have a great Sunday.

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1. Egypt:

NYT: “The president said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events”

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2. Change we can believe in:

Red Cross: The United States has become far more transparent about the prisoners it is holding in Iraq and Afghanistan

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3.  The world is a very exciting place these days.

South Sudan referendum: 99% vote for independence

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4. You can say that again:

Education secretary: ‘No Child Left Behind’ has led to a ‘dumbing down’

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5. Gail Collins:

Is Michele Bachmann the new Sarah Palin?

And do we really need a new Sarah Palin? Shouldn’t the first one be made to go away before we start considering replacements?

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Saturday’s Mishmash

Hi guys,

Have a great weekend. :)

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President Obama’s weekly address. Optimism never looked so pretty. ;)

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Here’s President Obama’s statement regarding the situation in Egypt. As someone who lived in the Middle East for many years, I can say that this was a perfect statement. Ignore those who are against America getting involved in other countries business, until it comes to Barack Obama and suddenly they are all in favor of  getting involved in other countries business. This is not that simple. Mubarak is a dictator, but he helped to keep the ME stable and the chances of his replacement being even worse - are pretty high. This is very very complicated and all I can say is: Thank god for having a smart, cool, deliberate and calm president.

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If you didn’t get to see the president’s speech at the Families USA Health Action Conference, don’t miss it:

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Here’s a terrific read. NY Times opinion piece by Kate Betts about Michelle Obama:

Boosting America, in Her Own Fashion

…Michelle Obama’s impact on fashion extends far beyond the “made in America” label stitched into her dress. The optimism, glamour and accessibility that she communicates through her style of dressing transcends cultural borders and economic boundaries. Yes, she is sometimes an ambassador for American designers, but more important, she is an ambassador for the self-possession that defines American style.

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And, most important, we dress for ourselves, something the first lady does so effortlessly it’s hard to imagine that there had ever been any dress code for her position. With her floral prints and hula hoops, she’s not afraid to flaunt her femininity — so why should the rest of us be?

No matter what hopes we pin on her husband, or disappointments we suffer, Americans look to Michelle Obama to set the emotional tone of his administration. As we are with all first ladies, we are subconsciously invested in her looking good — it’s almost as if there’s some sort of national pride at stake. But her decision to wear an American-designed dress doesn’t make it easier for American designers to sell more clothes in the Chinese market.

After all the discussion of the red dress at the state dinner, Mrs. Obama stepped into the House chamber on Tuesday for the State of the Union address in a silvery-white sheath by the American designer Rachel Roy. Its color and simplicity signaled fresh beginnings — as did that inaugural gown she wore in January two years ago. For this there was not so much criticism. Only a lot of American women silently thinking about where they might find a simple, pale sheath dress.

 

“I’m happy to report that granny is safe” (Or, the second mishmash)

President Obama’s gave just a terrific speech to the highly enthusiastic attenders of the Families USA Health Action Conference. I still can’t believe that there’s even one sane, moderately-moral person who opposes this HCR. Oh well, there’s nothing they can do now.

Watch the entire event, including the forever classic “YES WE CAN” moment.  (Still awaits the WH to upload their clip. Once they’ll do so, I’ll bring it). Enjoy it, it’s awesome.

Transcript:

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you.  Thank you, Ron, for not only the generous introduction but for the wonderful leadership and for sharing some of your applause with me.  (Laughter.)  To Phil and Kate Villers, for founding Families USA, we thank them.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  To all of you -– organizers and advocates and activists, all of you who believe that change does not come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up, and you guys activated the country — thank you so much for your great work.  (Applause.)   
 
On Tuesday, I gave this little speech here in town — (laughter) — the State of the Union.  I outlined my vision for an America that’s more determined, more competitive, better positioned for the future — an America where we out-innovate, we out-educate, we out-build the rest of the world; where we take responsibility for our deficits; where we reform our government to meet the demands of a new age.
 
That’s what will be required for the new jobs and new businesses of the 21st century to set up shop here in the United States.  That’s how our people will prosper within our communities.  That’s how America will remain a place where each of us is free to choose our own destiny and make of our lives what we will.
 
Now, for most families, that freedom requires a job that pays the bills, covers your mortgage, helps you look after your children.  It means a chance to send those children to college, save enough for retirement.  And it means access to quality, affordable health care.  That is part of the American Dream.  (Applause.)
 
That security is part of the American Dream.  And that’s what brought me here, to this conference, four years ago this week.  I looked younger then.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t have as much gray hair.  (Laughter.)
 
Even before the pangs of this historic recession that we’ve just gone through — so four years ago, that was still on the horizon — our friends and neighbors were already dealing with the anxiety and the cruelty of a health care system that just did not work for too many American citizens.
 
We believed we could change that.  We believed that we could finally guarantee quality, affordable care for every American.  And even though I hadn’t announced my candidacy for this office, I joined you that day in a promise, that we would make health reform a reality by the end of the next President’s first term.  That was our commitment.  (Applause.)
 
     That was our commitment, and together that is what we did.  That is what you did.  So thank you for all those years of work to help make it happen.  I couldn’t be prouder of you.  (Applause.)
 
Now, since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law 10 months ago, Americans already have more power, greater freedom, stronger control of their health care.  This law will lower premiums.  It is limiting costs.  It is reining in the worst abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known.  (Applause.)  This is making a real difference for families across this country as we speak.
 
Now, it’s no secret that not everyone in Congress agrees with this law.  (Laughter.)  And as I said on Tuesday, I believe that anything can be improved.  As we work to implement it, there are going to be times where we say, you know what, this needs a tweak, this isn’t working exactly as intended, exactly the way we want.  Here’s a way of doing it smarter, better.  We may be able to serve families to lower costs and improve care every more.
 
And so I’m willing to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, to make care better or to make their health care more affordable.  I’ve even suggested we begin by correcting what was a legitimate concern, a flaw, in the legislation that placed unnecessary bookkeeping burdens on small businesses.  I’m open to other ideas, including patient safety innovations and medical malpractice reform.
 
But here’s what I’m not open to, and I said this on Tuesday.  I am not willing to just refight the battles of the last two years.  I’m not open to efforts that will take this law apart without considering the lives and the livelihoods that hang in the balance.  Families USA, we are moving forward — we are moving forward.  (Applause.)
 
Already, small business owners are taking advantage of the new health care tax credit that can offset as much as 35 percent of the cost of covering their employees.
 
We’ve got small business owners like Janine Vaughn of Spokane, Washington.  Janine always tried to do the right thing and cover her workers.  But she explained, “We’re a small business.  We care about everybody who works here.”  But over the last 12 years, her premiums have tripled, so that was eating away at her profit margin.
 
But today, that new tax credit that was part of the Affordable Care Act is helping her cover her workers.  And in 2014, she’s going to be able to pool together with other small business owners to shop for a better deal for her staff and for herself, just like large companies can do.
 
As we speak, Americans are enrolling in new programs that provide affordable coverage for folks who had been shut out of the insurance market because of preexisting conditions.  People like Gail O’Brien of Keene, New Hampshire, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma while working full-time as a preschool teacher at a school that couldn’t afford to offer insurance to its employees.
 
Because she was sick, no insurer would cover her.  As she put it, she was scared to death -– not of cancer, but how she’d pay her bills with each round of chemo that cost $16,000.  And she thought that she and her husband, Matt, would have to spend everything they saved to pay for their two sons’ college education in order to afford treatment.
 
Gail was the first person in New Hampshire to sign up for the program available under the Affordable Care Act, and today she is doing great.  And by 2014, no insurer will be able to discriminate against her or any one of the up to 129 million other Americans with a preexisting condition.  (Applause.)  They’ll have more affordable private insurance options through state exchanges that promote competition and transparency and better deals for consumers.
 
Parents of children who suffer from a preexisting condition can finally breathe a sigh of relief, too.  Parents like Dawn Josephson of Jacksonville, Florida.  Dawn is self-employed, so she buys insurance on the individual market.  And her son Wesley, who I had a chance to meet — he’s adorable — he has an eye condition that demands frequent surgeries.
 
So in the past, insurers have excluded important benefits from Dawn’s plan.  As her premiums soared, she called around last summer, after the Affordable Act — Affordable Care Act had taken effect, to find any plan that would cover Wesley.  So she finds a company, it’s offering her a reasonable rate, but out of habit, Dawn is ready for the runaround.  She says, “What’s not covered?”  And the insurer says, “No, you’re covered.  Everything’s covered.”  And Dawn says, “I’m not being very clear here.  What about my son?”  And after going back and forth a few times, the insurer made it clear.  He said, “No.  Your son is covered.  We can no longer exclude preexisting conditions for children.  Wesley is covered.”  (Applause.)
 
Imagine what that felt like.  Imagine the relief that comes with knowing that treatment for your sick child no longer has to threaten the dreams you’ve worked a lifetime to build for him.  You’re not going to have to make these heartbreaking choices.
 
That’s happening now.  Millions of young Americans can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.  Millions of older Americans are receiving better access to preventive services and more affordable prescription drugs.  We’ve torn down the barriers that stood between the American people and their doctors so that inside your network, you can see the primary care physician, the pediatrician, the OBGYN of your choice, and you can use an emergency room outside your network without your insurer sticking you with extra charges.
 
As of last fall, every American who buys a new plan can access preventive care like mammograms, immunizations, and prenatal care to get and stay healthy for free.  And all of this information about the new choices and new rights available to you is available in one simple place:  Healthcare.gov.  You can even log on, plug in your zip code, and compare prices for different insurance — private insurance plans.  Right now you can do that.
 
And this is all before we set up the exchanges that will allow 30 million Americans to get access to care and will allow small companies to finally get the same deal that big companies get, and people being part of a big pool that gives them a better deal across the board.
 
Now, as important as what is happening right now is what isn’t happening right now.  You may have heard once or twice that this is a job-crushing — (laughter) — granny-threatening — (laughter) — budget-busting monstrosity.  That’s about how it’s been portrayed by opponents.  And that just doesn’t match up to the reality.  I mean this thing has been in place now for 10 months, all right?  (Applause.)
 
So let’s look at what’s happened over the last 10 months.  Not only has the economy grown and added jobs since the Affordable Care Act became law, but small businesses across the country have already chosen to offer health care to hundreds of thousands of their employees, many for the first time.  That’s something that regardless of politics, we should all celebrate.  (Applause.)
 
Estimates from the Business Roundtable — now this isn’t some left-wing organization — the Business Roundtable, the organization of all the country’s largest corporations, and other experts indicate that health insurance reform could save large employers anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per family, per year, that they cover in health care costs by 2019.  And that’s money that businesses can use to grow and invest and to hire.  That’s money that workers won’t have to see vanish from their paychecks or bonuses in the form of higher deductibles or bigger co-payments.  That’s good for all of us.
 
And I can report that granny is safe.  (Laughter and applause.)  In fact, grandma’s Medicare is stronger than ever.  And if she was one of the millions of seniors who fell into the doughnut hole last year, she received a $250 check, or soon will, to help her afford her medications, and a new 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, as part of the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)
 
Finally, because it is absolutely true that we’ve got to get a handle on our deficits, that the debt we are carrying right now is unsustainable if we don’t start taking action, it is important for us to be clear about the truth when it comes to health care reform.
 
Health reform is part of deficit reform.  (Applause.)  We know that health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, are the biggest contributors to our long-term deficit.  Nobody disputes this.  And this law will slow these costs.  That’s part of the reason why nonpartisan economists, why the Congressional Budget Office, have said that repealing this law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit over the next decade, and another trillion dollars to our deficit in the decade after that.  They’re not just making this up.  And what’s more, repeal would send middle-class premiums up, would force large employers to pay that extra $2,000-$3,000 per worker, and shift control of your health care right back to the insurance companies.
 
Now, I’ve repeatedly said, I believe that our system of private insurance is strong and viable, and we need it to be.  It saves lives.  It employs large numbers of Americans.  And by the way, it’s still making pretty good profits.  But just as we are a people who believe in the power of the individual, the promise of the free market, we are also a people who believe, from the time of our founding, that we aspire to protect one another from harm and exploitation.  (Applause.)
 
Our task has always been to seek the right balance between the dynamism of the marketplace, but also to make sure that it’s serving people.  And sometimes that means removing barriers to growth by lifting rules that place unnecessary burdens on business, but other times it means enacting common-sense safeguards like these — like the Affordable Care Act — to ensure our American belief that hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by a sense of security and fair play.
 
That’s at the heart of this reform.  That’s why we fought so hard for this reform.  That’s why we have to keep on telling people across the country about the potential of this reform and what it means for them and their families.  And that’s why we’re not going to fall back.
 
I don’t want to tell students that we’re booting them off their parents’ coverage.  I don’t want to tell seniors that their medicine is out of reach again.  I don’t want to tell Janine her taxes are going back up, or Gail that she’s got to choose between keeping her home and getting well.  I don’t want to tell Dawn, or any other mother, that their child can’t get the care that he or she needs after all.
 
     I don’t want that for America.  I don’t want that for our families.  That’s not who we are and that’s not what we stand for.  (Applause.)  We don’t believe that people should have to hope against hope that they’ll stay healthy, or hang all their fortunes on chance.  We don’t believe, in a country like ours, that one in 10, one in eight of our citizens should be that vulnerable no matter how hard they’re working.  We believe in something better.
 
So the time for fighting the battles of the last two years has now passed.  It’s time to move forward.  And these efforts -– strengthening our families, getting our fiscal house in order, allowing small businesses to grow, allowing entrepreneurs to strike out on their own free from crushing costs –- they’re critical to our economic success.  And by reforming our health care system so it doesn’t dictate anybody’s economic fate, America can decide its own.
 
Now, as vital as this reform is, as committed as we are to getting our implementation right, to win the future in this new and changing world is going to require more from us –- and I believe we’re up to the task.  I think that we can create the jobs of the future by fortifying our lead in innovation -– including investing in biotechnology that can deliver new cures for crippling diseases.  We can fill those jobs by guaranteeing all our children have the best skills and education possible.  We can convince the businesses and industries of the 21st century to take root right here by building and deploying a new network of infrastructure.
 
We can bring down our deficits by taking responsibility, just as we’ve done in our own lives, to cut wasteful and excessive spending wherever we can find it.  And we can restore our people’s belief in our capacity to meet this moment by reforming our government so it’s smarter and nimbler and equal to our times.  
 
We can do all these things.  All of you believe we can do all these things, because just think back to where we were standing four years ago.  Think of all the hard work and all the heart you put into a cause that you believed in for years — for years.  And think of the feeling you had the moment your efforts finally paid off, that feeling when your faith was rewarded.  (Applause.)
 
All of you are a reminder — you are proof of the fact that we are a people that can change our country for the better.  And if all of us summon that spirit now, through all the hardships and the ups and downs and twists and turns, then I am absolutely convinced that our best days still lie ahead.
 
So I could not be prouder of you, Families USA.  Thank you for your extraordinary work.  Thank you, Ron.  Let’s keep on going.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

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Oh, look. Obama is just destroying the economy. 

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Medvedev signs ratification of nuke pact with US

MOSCOW – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday signed the ratification of a nuclear arms cut pact with the United State the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s efforts to reset ties with Moscow.

The treaty, known as New START, limits each country to 1,550 strategic warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200, and also re-establishes a system for monitoring that ended in December 2009 with the expiration of a previous arms deal.

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Here’s a nice story aout the school in Denver, the president mentioned in the SOTU:

DENVER — When President Barack Obama spotlighted a successful school in his State of the Union speech, he picked Bruce Randolph School in Denver.

 “Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver,” the president said. “Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado. Last May, 97 percent of seniors received their diploma.”

Bruce Randolph was a middle school when it opened in 2002. In 2007, Denver Public Schools gave Bruce Randolph School permission to operate autonomously. It was the first school in the state to be granted autonomy from district and union rules.

Each teacher then had to reapply for his or her job. A published report said only six teachers remained.  “Teachers who didn’t believe in the students didn’t come on board,” said Kristin Waters, principal during the transition. Teachers also had to have “a willingness to learn and to grow and to work with other teachers.”

 Bruce Randolph became a school for students in sixth to 12th grades. The school’s website described the school’s Challenge 2010 Plan. It said each class of students will be cultivated to identify themselves collectively as people who will graduate together, six years after they are assembled.

“All of our teachers are really dedicated to the students and they are really focused on getting us past high school to college,” said Maria Miller, a senior. “Our teachers take more time with us and they make sure we are getting what we need to know.”

The goal is a 100 percent graduation rate. As the president said, when the first class graduated in May 2010, 97 percent of the seniors graduated. “Most will be the first in their families to go to college,” said Obama. “And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, ‘Thank you, Miss Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.’”

DENVER — When President Barack Obama spotlighted a successful school in his State of the Union speech, he picked Bruce Randolph School in Denver.

“Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver,” the president said. “Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado. Last May, 97 percent of seniors received their diploma.”

Bruce Randolph was a middle school when it opened in 2002. In 2007, Denver Public Schools gave Bruce Randolph School permission to operate autonomously. It was the first school in the state to be granted autonomy from district and union rules.

Each teacher then had to reapply for his or her job. A published report said only six teachers remained.

“Teachers who didn’t believe in the students didn’t come on board,” said Kristin Waters, principal during the transition. Teachers also had to have “a willingness to learn and to grow and to work with other teachers.”

Bruce Randolph became a school for students in sixth to 12th grades. The school’s website described the school’s Challenge 2010 Plan. It said each class of students will be cultivated to identify themselves collectively as people who will graduate together, six years after they are assembled.

“All of our teachers are really dedicated to the students and they are really focused on getting us past high school to college,” said Maria Miller, a senior. “Our teachers take more time with us and they make sure we are getting what we need to know.”

The goal is a 100 percent graduation rate. As the president said, when the first class graduated in May 2010, 97 percent of the seniors graduated.

“Most will be the first in their families to go to college,” said Obama. “And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, ‘Thank you, Miss Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.’”

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President Obama to visit Penn State University on Wednesday

President Obama will visit Penn State on Wednesday, a White House spokesman confirmed this afternoon.

Obama will visit an energy innovation hub on campus, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said. The facility at Penn State is partnered with the energy innovation hub at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, he said.

Obama will also speak on campus, though no further details are available, Lehrich said.

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Finally, thank you, Kelly, for this awesome clip of PBO’s motorcade in Wisconsin this week. The ending is just to die for. :)

Friday morning mishmash (updated)

Hi guys.

1. Today’s schedule:

All Times ET

9:30 am
The President and the Vice President receive the Presidential Daily Briefing

10:20 am
The President addresses Families USA’s 16th Annual Health Action Conference
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill

11:00 am
The President and the Vice President receive the Economic Daily Briefing

11:30 am
The President meets with senior advisors

1:00 pm
Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

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2. Before I’ll forget, if you didn’t see this Rachel Maddow’ segment from the day after the SOTU, make sure you will. This is some of the best, original, educated, thought-provoking pieces of punditry I’ve seen from any journalist in the last couple of years – Let alone from the entire hysterical professional left.

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3. So, this is the Oval Office. No biggie.

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4. Why, why is it that ordinary people can ask so much better questions than the media?? This is just a delightful public interview with the president.

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5. Well, he told you he was persistent:

White House renominates Berwick as Medicare chief

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6. Homophonic president continue to hate the gayz.

Obama Nominee for Judge Could Be First Openly Gay Man on the Federal Bench

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7. Here’s one reason why I love this administration so much:

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8. Goodbye fear mongering, hello adult-mongering:

Color Coded Terror Alerts Retired by Department of Homeland Security

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced today that the color coded terrorism alert system would end within 90 days. It will be replaced, she said, with a new two-tiered system to provide clear and specific information about terrorist threats, and actions people should take.

“Today I announce the end of the old system of color-coded alerts. In its place, we will implement a new system that’s built on a clear and simple premise: When a threat develops that could impact you — the public — we will tell you.” Napolitano said. “We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities.”

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9. As most of you probably know already, Jay Carney is the new WH Press Secretary. I like Gibbs, I like his fire and loyalty to the president, but I wasn’t too happy with him as a spokesman for the president. Carney is a better choice.

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10. Finally, one of the latest I’m Grateful posts:

President Obama, Is the most intelligent and ingenious president, I have lived to witness in my 59 years. He has a heart like gold and a smile you will never forget. All the negative talk which is geared toward him, he continues to be our ingenious president and keeps that million dollar smile.
The harder people try to belittle him, the higher his head and his foot steps get. It is time to stop the drama, and omit the man has done a swell job in his short time in office.
Rosa Brice

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Economy update:

The U.S. economy accelerated in the fourth quarter of 2010, driven by the biggest gain in consumer spending in more than four years and rising exports.

Preach, Axelrod. Preach!

Via Greg Sargent:

David Axelrod chatted with around a dozen bloggers at the White House late yesterday, and I got a chance to ask him to respond to all the claims — coming from left-leaning, right-leaning and nonpartisan observers alike — that Obama is in the midst of an ideological makeover in the wake of the 2010 losses and in preparation for reelection.

Axelrod adamantly denied there had been any discussions about repositioning at all and reaffirmed that Obama is a “progressive.” Axelrod’s answer, alternately frustrated and pleading, is worth quoting at length, because it captures something interesting about the collision between Obama and Axelrod and Washington’s permanent culture.

And here’s what Axelrod said:

I’m not going to change the nature of this town and the nature of our politics….But we tend to sit on the back of the truck and look at what happened before, and then define what’s happening now in the context of what happened some other time.

So, Bill Clinton repositioned himself to the center, and that’s the prescription for what you do and so on. I guarantee you, as God is my witness, we have not had a repositioning discussion here. We have not talked about, “let’s move three degrees to the right.” That’s not the way we view this.

It is true that we have to go back to first principles and really think about what it is that drives us and what it is that has been so central to Barack Obama’s public life and outlook. Because some of that has been sort of ground down in the minutia of day-to-day governing here…

I mean, there’s nothing that the President said last night that I couldn’t draw a straight line from to speeches that he has made way back to 2004.

I got a reporter’s inquiry, `the President seemed very optimistic and he seemed to be talking about American exceptionalism last night, and is this a reaction to the elections?’ And I said, go back to his convention speech in 2004.

When the President got the call that he was going to give the keynote speech at the convention in 2004, I was with him. We were driving in a car in downstate Illinois, on some dark road somewhere with bad cell service. So we had to call back and confirm that he actually was going to be the keynote speaker, because the call got dropped. And the first thing he said was, “I think what I want to do is wrap my story in the larger American story and talk about what it is that makes us who we are.”

And it’s something that he believes deeply in, and it’s what he talked about last night…I mean, there’s no doubt he is progressive in his outlook and that’s what he believes in. But he has never been particularly dogmatic…His fundamental view is you don’t have to agree on everything, or even most things, to work together on some things. And so there was no sort of grand repositioning…

But I’m not going to defeat this. I had a politician in this town say to me, after the speech in Tucson, “Boy, that was a great speech. I can see he is really thinking about re-election.” And I’m thinking, “What are you talking about?” Because I spoke to the President before and after that speech, and I’ll tell you what he was thinking about more than anything else. He was speaking about a nine-year-old girl who was about the same age as his girl. And he was pretty broken up about it. And all he wanted to do was speak to that moment.

But everything in this town gets evaluated in that way, and that’s just the way it is. Anybody who says that, I will give them a volume of Barack Obama speeches going back many, many years, and I will defy them to say, where has he changed? Where is he different? Where is his basic approach different than it was when he started on this journey five and six and seven years ago?

YES!

Thursday morning mishmash

Hi guys,

1. Today’s WH schedule:

First Lady Michelle Obama visits Columbia, S.C. to highlight the intersection of Let’s Move! and military readiness.

Gibbs briefs the press.

7:00 AM
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
9:45 AM President Obama and VP Biden receive the presidential daily briefing.

10:00 AM
10:15 AM President Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

11:00 AM President Obama meets with his national security team for his monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan; Biden, Secretary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder will be among the attendees.

12:00 PM
12:45 PM President Obama and VP Biden meet for lunch.

1:00 PM
2:00 PM
2:30 PM President Obama participates in a YouTube interview with Steve Grove.

3:00 PM
4:00 PM
5:00 PM VP Biden attends a reception for the Democratic National Committee.

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2. You can spend the entire day watching the WH live stream, with the main dish at 2.30pm EST – A live YouTube interview with the president.

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3. Recovery.

AP survey: Outlook for 2011 economy is brightening

WASHINGTON – Employers will hire more workers this year, and the economy will grow faster than envisioned three months ago, according to an Associated Press survey that found growing optimism among leading economists.

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4. Recovery.

New-home sales rise to 329,000 in December, highest since April

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5. Slow recovery.

Weekly jobless claims climb 51,000 to 454,000

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – New applications for unemployment benefits jumped last week by 51,000 to 454,000, partly because poor weather caused administrative backlogs in four Southern states, the Labor Department reported Thursday. A labor spokesman said snowstorms earlier in the month forced unemployment offices in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to open fewer hours and process fewer claims. A reduction in the backlog contributed to the sharp increase in new claims, the spokesman said.

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6. E.J. Dionne

Be ready for the paradoxical phase of Barack Obama’s presidency. Many things will not be exactly as they appear.

Paradox No. 1: Because over the next two years he can’t get sweeping, progressive legislation through the Republican-led House, Obama will be doing far more to make the core progressive case that energetic government is essential to prosperity, growth and equity.

// snip

The era of no politicking is over. This speech laid out a rationale for the Obama presidency that stands a chance of enduring through Election Day 2012. The choice is between backward-looking Republicans who talk grumpily about government spending and “Obamacare,” and forward-looking Obama Democrats who would use government—carefully and efficiently, of course—to restore American leadership and a humming, innovative economy.

This Obama is all about balance. Notice that when he spoke of making regulation less intrusive, he actually defended rules protecting our food, water and air. His overarching case was also nuanced. “Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation,” he said. “But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.

// more

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7. Joe Conason:

….The president cannot expect the Republicans to move his agenda forward during the next two years, but he can start to demonstrate why their own agenda is empty and stagnant.

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With grace and openness, Obama invited the Republicans to engage those issues, as well as the more immediate debates over health care, taxes and the budget. He reminded them and the public that Democrats stand for fiscal equity. He urged the nation’s millionaires to give up their obscene tax breaks and set forth a deal to close loopholes and lower rates if every corporation pays its share of taxes. He explicitly rejected cutbacks that would fall most heavily on the most vulnerable and offered a spending freeze far less destructive than that proposed by the Republicans.

// more

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8. Bunch of excellent reads from TNR:

1. President Obama isn’t caving to business. He’s shrewdly co-opting it.

2. The Barack Obama you heard speaking to Congress was the Barack Obama who ran for president in 2008. And I think he’s here to stay this time.

3. Obama At His Best. The president’s excellent, nationalistic State of the Union address

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9. OFA watch parties made the news. This is cool.

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10. Hilarious.

Sarah Palin’s Incredibly Clever State of the Union Joke

Former Governor of Alaska and alternate-universe U.S. President Sarah Palin was on Fox News host Greta Van Susteren’s show On the Recorder to talk about the State of the Union. And she packed her bag of zingers!

You see, on Tuesday the president gave a speech about salmon to the winners of a contest. He called this speech “Winning the Future,” because he is secretly a comic actor playing the president in a critically-acclaimed satirical British television show about middle-management culture right now we are losing the future, to THE POLITICO, and this was sort of a “half-time speech.”

// More hilarity plus video

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