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Weekly Address: President Obama – Congress Should Do its Job and Pass a Serious Budget

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President emphasized that we need to do everything we can to strengthen economic growth and job creation. This week, despite the fact that more than half of Republicans in Congress voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years, Congress managed to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open for another ten weeks. That means that in December, we could face yet another Republican threat to shut down the government. The President emphasized that Congress needs to stop kicking the can down the road and do its job. He stressed that Republicans and Democrats need to work together to pass a budget that fully funds the government and reverses the harmful sequestration cuts, and vowed that he would not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent him this past week.

President Obama: “How can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?”

From the White House, President Obama spoke of another mass shooting, this time at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon.

[As] I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now. […]

And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

He calls out the NRA lies:

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: We need more guns, they’ll argue. Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true. We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

And the cowards in Congress:

We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up. And that will require a change of politics on this issue. And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

Full transcript below …

Good Government: Protecting Farm Workers from Pesticides

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new safety rules for farm workers:

President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring healthy work environments for all Americans, especially those in our nation’s vulnerable communities,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables—and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections. With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued the growth of our agricultural economy.”

“No one should ever have to risk their lives for their livelihoods, but far too many workers, especially those who work in agriculture, face conditions that challenge their health and safety every day,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Workplace illness and injury contribute greatly to economic inequality, and can have a devastating impact on workers and their families. By promoting workplace safety, these provisions will enhance economic security for people struggling to make ends meet and keep more Americans on the job raising the crops that feed the world, and we are proud to support the EPA in this effort.”

Democratic Party Principles: “Civil Rights is not a political issue, it is a moral issue to be resolved through political means.”

On Sunday evening, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, spoke at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

EWarrenEMKI

She reminded us of the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose seat in the Senate she now occupies, connecting the Civil Rights movement to electoral politics. April 9, 1964 floor speech in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

“This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.”

Senator Warren spoke about racial justice, economic justice, and voting rights and pointed out that economic justice alone is not enough to make black Americans feel safe in their own country.

SENATOR WARREN:

Economic justice is not – and has never been – sufficient to ensure racial justice. Owning a home won’t stop someone from burning a cross on the front lawn. Admission to a school won’t prevent a beating on the sidewalk outside. But when Dr. King led hundreds of thousands of people to march on Washington, he talked about an end to violence, access to voting AND economic opportunity. As Dr. King once wrote, “the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice.”

The tools of oppression were woven together, and the civil rights struggle was fought against that oppression wherever it was found – against violence, against the denial of voting rights, and against economic injustice..[…]

In the same way that the tools of oppression were woven together, a package of civil rights laws came together to protect black people from violence, to ensure access to the ballot box, and to build economic opportunity. Or to say it another way, these laws made three powerful declarations: Black lives matter. Black citizens matter. Black families matter.

Fifty years later, we have made real progress toward creating the conditions of freedom-but we have not made ENOUGH progress. […]

Fifty years after John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.

And what about voting rights? Two years ago, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates ever wider for measures designed to suppress minority voting. Today, the specific tools of oppression have changed-voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and mass disfranchisement through a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates black citizens. The tools have changed, but black voters are still deliberately cut out of the political process. […]

Violence. Voting. And what about economic injustice? Research shows that the legal changes in the civil rights era created new employment and housing opportunities. In the 1960s and the 1970s, African-American men and women began to close the wage gap with white workers, giving millions of black families hope that they might build real wealth.

But then, Republicans’ trickle-down economic theory arrived. Just as this country was taking the first steps toward economic justice, the Republicans pushed a theory that meant helping the richest people and the most powerful corporations get richer and more powerful. I’ll just do one statistic on this: From 1980 to 2012, GDP continued to rise, but how much of the income growth went to the 90% of America – everyone outside the top 10% – black, white, Latino? None. Zero. Nothing. 100% of all the new income produced in this country over the past 30 years has gone to the top ten percent.

She concluded her remarks:

The first civil rights battles were hard fought. But they established that Black Lives Matter. That Black Citizens Matter. That Black Families Matter. Half a century later, we have made real progress, but we have not made ENOUGH progress. As Senator Kennedy said in his first floor speech, “This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.” So it comes to us to continue the fight, to make, as John Lewis said, the “necessary trouble” until we can truly say that in America, every citizen enjoys the conditions of freedom.

Racial justice, economic justice, fair and honest elections that include all citizens … goals that align with Democratic Party principles.

Winning elections is how we gain the political power to effect change. Elections matter: in 2016, they will matter more than ever before.

(Full text of the speech, as prepared, is below)

Weekly Address: President Obama – Dispose of Your Expired and Unwanted Prescription Drugs

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, on “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day,” the President spoke about the importance of preventing and treating substance use disorders. Overdoses from prescription pain medications kill thousands of Americans every year, and more often than not, those drugs come from the family medicine cabinet. In addition, many heroin users started out by misusing prescription drugs. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and safely, conveniently, and responsibly dispose of expired and unwanted prescription drugs at collection sites throughout your community—no questions asked. Drug disposal programs are part of the President’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, which also included increasing education for prescribers, expanding Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and pursuing Smart on Crime enforcement. In his address, the President called on us all to continue to work to reduce substance use disorders through evidence-based treatment, prevention, and recovery.

Democratic Party Principles: An Energy Program for the Future

Senate Democrats unveiled their energy bill this past Tuesday.

There is not much hope that the bill will be passed and signed into law but it is an important step in defining where Democrats stand on energy and the environment:

“Today’s announcement should send a clear signal that it is a top priority for Senate Democrats to invest in our nation’s energy future and address climate change before it’s too late,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at a Tuesday press conference. The legislation “is a technology driven pathway to a clean energy future,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) who sponsored the bill, dubbed the “American Energy Innovation Act of 2015.”

SenateDemocratsEnergy

Though it would not set a price on carbon emissions, like the failed cap-and-trade bill from five years ago, her bill does contain many provisions intended to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy, and sets a more ambitious carbon target than the White House.

It is important to establish what Democrats are for in order to help voters understand that there is a real difference between the two national parties:

“At a time when the majority in Congress is seemingly at the beck and call of the fossil fuel industry, legislation like this … lays out clear clean energy priorities, offering a blueprint for the kind of energy policy that actually represents what the American public actually wants and reflects the direction the market and the nation are actually going,” Sierra Club legislative director, Melinda Pierce, told ThinkProgress. Pierce said that it would not be surprising to see some parts of the bill adapted into other bills that would have a better chance of passage.

This past week, Democratic Party candidate for president Hillary Clinton announced her energy plan, which began with her stating her opposition to building the Keystone Pipeline. She is the second Democratic candidate to release a plan (Martin O’Malley also released one).

Clinton had long refused to take a public stance on Keystone, a project that was first filed with the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State. But the increasingly-visible threat of climate change, Clinton wrote in an essay published today on Medium, caused her to finally release an official position on the proposed pipeline, which would bring tar sands crude from Canada to Nebraska.

“We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” Clinton said in the essay. “Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That’s what I will focus on as president.” […]

“American energy policy is about more than a single pipeline to transport Canada’s dirtiest fuel across our country,” Clinton wrote. “It’s about building our future — a future where the United States will once again lead the world by constructing state-of-the-art infrastructure, creating new jobs and new markets, accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy, and improving the health, safety, and security of all Americans.”

Secretary Clinton’s full statement on Keystone and her plan is below the fold.

Cherry-picking Pope Francis’ Address to Congress

Well, at least I am honest about it!

Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress this morning.

PopesAddress
(CSPAN Video)

The audience included some of the justices of the Supreme Court but not the ones (Catholics Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) who won’t submit to lecturing by THIS pope in case he would dare to talk about things like corporate greed, climate change, the poors, and the death penalty. And he did!

I don’t agree with everything this pope says but I welcome his words that encourage people to join with those of us who care about people, justice, and our endangered planet.

Selected quotes …

Viola Davis: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else … is opportunity”

I don’t watch television so I did not follow the Emmy Award Ceremony last night. But I do follow the news and when this video showed up in my newsfeed this morning, it begged to be shared.

Viola Davis plays a law professor in the TV show “How to Get Away With Murder”. On Sunday night, she won an Emmy, the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a dramatic series.

Transcript:

‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

“That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

“So, here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes. People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.

“And to the Taraji P Hensons and Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goodes, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you for the Television Academy. Thank you.”

Some people were not happy about this … because racism is not a thing in America, and what about white women????

Trending on Twitter: Viola Davis’ Emmy Speech

ViolaDavis