Pawlenty To Appeal Unallotment Ruling

Saying that Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin had inserted herself into a “political” process, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced today his intent to appeal her ruling on unallotment. Gearin ruled on Wednesday that Pawlenty’s reshaping of the Minnesota budget to his liking by dropping programs was unconstitutional.

Court Ruling “Big Defeat” For MN Governor Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s attempt to remake Minnesota’s budget to his liking took a huge hit today.  
“Unconstitutional” was how a Minnesota Judge described the cuts Governor Pawlenty made to state programs at the end of this year’s legislative session. Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin issued a temporary restraining order today blocking Pawlenty’s “unallotment” that adversely affected six poor people who filed the lawsuit.  
Attorney David Lillehaug, who is very familiar with the suit, helps us interpret the ruling during our “Quick on The UpTake” program (video above). Link to the ruling here.

Obama: Anti-Terrorist Security System Failed

Kaneohe Bay Marine Base, Kaneohe, Hawaii (Dec 29, 2009)
Good morning.  Yesterday I updated the American people on the immediate steps we took — the increased screening and security of air travel — to keep our country safe in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day.  And I announced two reviews — a review of our terrorist watch list system and a review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks.  
Those reviews began on Sunday and are now underway.  Earlier today I issued the former [sic] guidelines for those reviews and directed that preliminary findings be provided to the White House by this Thursday.  It’s essential that we diagnose the problems quickly and deal with them immediately.  
Now, the more comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I’m committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.  
I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns.  It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views.  It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.  
There appears to be other deficiencies as well.  Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together.  We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks.  But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Employee Idea Will Save Tax Dollars

Video from the White House.  
Nancy Fichtner has an idea that will save the government a lot of money. She presented the idea to President Obama at the White House. Her idea won the SAVE award. The SAVE Award was held for the first time this year, it is a contest for federal employees to come up with the best ideas to save taxpayer dollars and make the government perform more effectively and efficiently. 

Obama Promises To “Dismantle” Terrorists Behind NWA Plot

Kaneohe Bay Marine Base, Kaneohe, Hawaii (Dec 28, 2009)
Good morning, everybody.  I just want to take a few minutes to update the American people on the attempted terrorist attack that occurred on Christmas Day and the steps we’re taking to ensure the safety and security of the country.  
     The investigation is ongoing and I spoke again this morning with Attorney General Eric Holder, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan.  I asked them to keep — continue monitoring the situation, to keep the American people and members of Congress informed.  
     Here’s what we know so far.  On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit.  As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire.  
     Thanks to the quick and heroic actions of passengers and crew, the suspect was immediately subdued, the fire was put out, and the plane landed safely.  The suspect is now in custody and had been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft.  And a full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.  
     This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland.  Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.

Christmas Wishes From President & Mrs. Obama

How many have watched this video? Click here
Transcript: PRESIDENT:  Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas.  As you and your families gather to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to take a moment to send greetings from our family—from me, from Michelle, from Malia and Sasha—and from Bo.  
FIRST LADY:  This is our first Christmas in the White House, and we are so grateful for this extraordinary experience.  Not far from here, in the Blue Room, is the official White House Christmas Tree.  It’s an 18-foot tall Douglas-fir from West Virginia and it’s decorated with hundreds of ornaments designed by people and children from all over the country.  Each one is a reminder of the traditions we cherish as Americans and the blessings we’re thankful for this holiday season.  
PRESIDENT:  That’s right, especially as we continue to recover from an extraordinary recession that still has so many Americans hurting: parents without a job who struggled to put presents under the Christmas  tree; families and neighbors who’ve seen their home foreclosed; folks wondering what the new year will bring.   
But even in these tough times, there’s still so much to celebrate this Christmas.  A message of peace and brotherhood that continues to inspire more than 2,000 after Jesus’ birth.  The love of family and friends.  The bonds of community and country.  And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours.  
To all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen—I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.  I’ve been awed by your selfless spirit, your eagerness to serve—at the Naval Academy and West Point.  I’ve been energized by your dedication to duty—from Baghdad to the Korean Peninsula.  Michelle and I have been moved by your determination—wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda, fighting to recover, to get back to your units.  
And I’ve been humbled, profoundly, by patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  In flag-draped caskets coming home at Dover.  In the quiet solitude of Arlington.  And after years of multiple tours of duty, as you carry on with our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, your service, your readiness to make that same sacrifice, is an inspiration to us and to every American.

Obama Hails Senate Passage Of Health Care Reform

Good morning, everybody.  In a historic vote that took place this morning members of the Senate joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a landmark health insurance reform package — legislation that brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America’s health care system. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform in 1912, seven Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike — have taken up the cause of reform.  Time and time again, such efforts have been blocked by special interest lobbyists who’ve perpetuated a status quo that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people.  But with passage of reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people. The reform bill that passed the Senate this morning, like the House bill, includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable.  Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition.  They will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick.  No longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for the treatments you need.  And you’ll be able to appeal unfair decisions by insurance companies to an independent party. If this legislation becomes law, workers won’t have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change jobs.  Families will save on their premiums.  Businesses that would see their costs rise if we do not act will save money now, and they will save money in the future.  This bill will strengthen Medicare, and extend the life of the program.  It will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it — 30 million Americans.  And because it is paid for and curbs the waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this bill will help reduce our deficit by as much as $1.3 trillion in the coming decades, making it the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.  As I’ve said before, these are not small reforms; these are big reforms.  If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s.  And what makes it so important is not just its cost savings or its deficit reductions.  It’s the impact reform will have on Americans who no longer have to go without a checkup or prescriptions that they need because they can’t afford them; on families who no longer have to worry that a single illness will send them into financial ruin; and on businesses that will no longer face exorbitant insurance rates that hamper their competitiveness.  It’s the difference reform will make in the lives of the American people.  I want to commend Senator Harry Reid, extraordinary work that he did; Speaker Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership and dedication.  Having passed reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that I can sign into law.  And I look forward to working with members of Congress in both chambers over the coming weeks to do exactly that. With today’s vote, we are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country.  Our challenge, then, is to finish the job.  We can’t doom another generation of Americans to soaring costs and eroding coverage and exploding deficits.  Instead we need to do what we were sent here to do and improve the lives of the people we serve.  For the sake of our citizens, our economy, and our future, let’s make 2010 the year we finally reform health care in the United States of America. Everybody, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Q    Do you have a holiday wish for the troops? THE PRESIDENT:  I do, and I will be actually — I’m on my way right now to call a few of them and wish them Merry Christmas and to thank them for their extraordinary service as they’re posted in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Night Before Christmas- Read By Mrs. Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama visits Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. to read “The Night Before Christmas”. Joined by daughters Malia and Sasha, along with dog Bo, the First Lady continues this tradition of visiting with patients which dates back to Bess Truman.  

Obama on the meaning of Christmas

President Obama talks to kids about the meaning of Christmas. Transcript (remarks start at 12:25 on video)
THE PRESIDENT:  I think one thing that’s important to remember is that, even though there’s a lot of fun at Christmas, you know, you got — especially when it’s snowy like this, so it’s pretty outside, you got the Christmas tree, you got the Christmas cookies, you’ve got presents.  You know, I think that the most important thing is just to remember why we celebrate Christmas. 
CHILD:  I know!  
THE PRESIDENT:  Do you know?  
CHILD:  The birth of baby Jesus.  
THE PRESIDENT:  The birth of baby Jesus, and what he symbolizes for people all around the world is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with respect.  And so I just hope that spirit of giving that’s so important at Christmas, I hope all of you guys remember that as well.  You know, it’s not just about getting gifts but it’s also doing something for other people.  So being nice to your mom and dad and grandma and aunties and showing respect to people — that’s really important too, that’s part of the Christmas spirit, don’t you think?  Do you agree with me?

Scrooge Pawlenty

“Scrooge Pawlenty” is a Minnesota version of the Christmas Carol featuring Governor Pawlenty, presented on the sidewalk in front of the Governor’s Mansion, last Tuesday. The Welfare Rights Committee and their supporters wrote and performed the play. The play is based on the factthat under Governor Pawlenty’s administration that richest pay less in overall taxes on a dollar earned than everyone else.  
“In March 2010, Pawlenty will single-handedly kick over 35,000 Minnesotans in povertyoff basic health care,” says the Welfare Rights Committee. Here are some sample lines from the play:
“Pawlenty: I was just trying to pay off — I mean payback the people who supported my campaign.”

Enabling Small Lenders To Keep Economy Moving

President Obama says small banks were not the cause of the financial collapse, and need help in getting loans out to businesses that can make money. He also says he will remain in Washington until the Senate completes its work on the health care bill on Christmas eve. Transcript:
THE PRESIDENT:  All right, everybody.  Well, it’s good to see all of you.  I just concluded a meeting with 12 regional community banks to have the same conversation that I had with some of the larger banks last week and that I’ve been having with CEOs of companies across the country over the last year, and that is how do we continue to consolidate the gains we’ve made over the course of this year in terms of economic recovery, but most importantly, how we move forward over the next year so that businesses are getting the capital that they need and that we are starting to see people hired again, people able to finance their homes, finance college educations and so forth.  
Community banks serve a vital function all across the country.  They are folks who know their customers, don’t just lend them money but also provide them advice if they’re entrepreneurs and getting started.  They are intimately woven into the fabric of the community.  I think it’s fair to say that most of these community banks were not engaged in some of the hugely risky activities that helped to precipitate the financial crisis.  At the same time, they continue to try to do their best in their local and regional markets to make sure that businesses who are now being affected by the overall recession are able to pick themselves back up.  
What I did was to go around the room and to hear from each of them.  Not all these communities are the same — we’ve got everything from Kalamazoo to Harlem to small communities in Arkansas that focus mostly on farm loans. 
There were some general themes that were out there — one, that there are businesses that are looking for loans out there that are profitable, that are ready to make money.  And the key is to match them up with banks that are in a position to lend.  There are some banks that have seen the increase in the savings rate and higher deposits give them a pretty good capital base, but they’re still constrained by some regulatory restraints.

Interview with Todd Axtell, contender for St. Paul Police Chief

Current St Paul Chief Harrington is not going to renew his term, so St Paul has started the process of selecting a new police chief. Since St Paul is a leader in community partnered policing and since the police department has an active policy of growing great candidates from within, an internal candidate is expected to be chosen.
The selection process starts with two community meetings of input to an already selected 22 person interview team, who then recommends five choices to Mayor Coleman.  Mayor Coleman chooses the final candidate. Since the role of police chief is very demanding, there are a large number of family conversations happening now among potential candidates. Maria Gottfried from the Pioneer Press has the best list so far of potential Candidates.  She writes:

“Names of contenders that have been bandied around City Hall include Assistant Chief Thomas Smith, Senior Cmdr. Colleen Luna, Senior Cmdr. Bill Martinez and Cmdr. Todd Axtell.” Video and editing by Grace Kelly. 

Senate Health Care Vote “Big Victory For American People”

Transcript. THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Good morning.  Before I begin, I want to say a brief word about the historic vote which took place early this morning.  The United States Senate knocked down a filibuster aimed at blocking a final vote on health care reform, and scored a big victory for the American people.  By standing up to the special interests — who’ve prevented reform for decades and who are furiously lobbying against it now — the Senate has moved us closer to reform that makes a tremendous difference for families, for seniors, for businesses, and for the country as a whole.  
For those who have insurance, reform will mean greater security and stability.  No longer will people with preexisting conditions be excluded from coverage.  No longer will people who are seriously ill be dropped from coverage.  And no longer will families be allowed to go broke because they’re forced to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses. 
Many people recall the enormous fights around the Patient’s Bill of Rights that never got done.  Well, you know what, the Patient’s Bill of Rights is embedded in this health care bill and — to make sure that all Americans who have insurance right now are getting a fair deal from their insurance companies.  
Small businesses and those who don’t get insurance through their employer will finally be able to get insurance at a price that they can afford with tax credits to help.  And Medicare will be stronger and its solvency extended by nearly a decade.  Seniors will get more assistance with prescription drug costs than they’re getting right now.  And finally, these reforms will help the inexorable and unsustainable rise in health care costs that are overwhelming families, businesses, and the federal budget. 
The Congressional Budget Office now reports that this bill will reduce our deficit by $132 billion over the first decade, and by as much as $1.3 trillion in the decade after that.  So I just want to be clear, for all those who are continually carping about how this is somehow a big spending government bill, this cuts our deficit by $132 billion the first 10 years, and by over a trillion in the second.  That argument that opponents are making against this bill does not hold water. 
Now, embracing this kind of responsibility in Washington is what also brings us here today.  I am pleased to be joined this morning by my Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Ric Shinseki; my budget director, Peter Orszag; and our special guest, last but not least, the winner of the first annual SAVE Award — and that’s Nancy Fichtner of Loma, Colorado. 
Having met with Nancy a few minutes ago, I can tell you Nancy means business.  She is a single working mom; she’s a clerk with the VA; she’s an artist; she’s an outdoorswoman; and she is an avid hunter.  In fact, somewhere in the western United States, there is an elk that is breathing a sigh of relief because Nancy is here instead of where she would have been:  hunting with her kids.  (Laughter.)  And I believe her children are here — where’s Nancy’s kids?  There they are right there.  It’s great to see you guys.  Nancy’s daughter — she skins and guts her elk, so don’t mess with her either.  (Laughter.)
We’re all here for a simple reason.  At a time when we face not only a fiscal crisis, but also a host of difficult challenges as a nation, business as usual in Washington just won’t cut it.  We need a government that’s more efficient, that’s more effective, and far more fiscally responsible.  
When my administration walked through the door, the country faced a growing economic downturn as well as a deepening fiscal hole.  Washington had passed massive tax cuts for the wealthy and an expensive new entitlement program without paying for any of it.  Health care costs continued to rise, year after year.  And little effort was made to cut wasteful spending.  As a result, over the previous eight years, the national debt doubled — doubled.  In January, the deficit stood at $1.3 trillion.  And we had to make the difficult decision to add to the deficit in the short term to prevent the potential collapse of our economy. 
But as I’ve said, in the long run, we can’t continue to spend as if deficits don’t have consequences; as if waste doesn’t matter; as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money.  That’s what we’ve seen time and time again.  Washington has been more concerned about the next election than the next generation.  It’s put off hard choices in spending bill after spending bill, budget after bloated budget.

Progress made on health care and climate change

Transcript. THE PRESIDENT: Hello. Good afternoon, everybody. You know that I am from Chicago, so let me first say that with the place where I live covered with snow I’m finally starting to feel like home. And I am sorry to drag you guys out in this weather, but I wanted to speak briefly to you about the significant progress that we’ve made on two of the major challenges facing the American people: the crushing cost of health care and our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

Obama announces Climate Change Accord

Over the past few decades, there has been an intense struggle in Washington between the lobbyists for the insurance industry and the interests of the American people over what has been called a Patient’s Bill of Rights – a set of rules to protect Americans from some of the worst practices of the health insurance industry; rules to ensure that all Americans are getting the care they need from their doctors and the care they deserve from their insurance companies. The last time a Patient’s Bill of Rights was within reach was roughly a decade ago, and it was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, from Ted Kennedy to John McCain. It included the right to an appeals process so you could challenge an unfair decision by an insurance company before a third party. It included the right to choose your own doctor. It included the right to access information about what your health insurance plan means for you.

Time for a Patients’ Bill of Rights.

TRANSCRIPT: Over the past few decades, there has been an intense struggle in Washington between the lobbyists for the insurance industry and the interests of the American people over what has been called a Patient’s Bill of Rights – a set of rules to protect Americans from some of the worst practices of the health insurance industry; rules to ensure that all Americans are getting the care they need from their doctors and the care they deserve from their insurance companies. The last time a Patient’s Bill of Rights was within reach was roughly a decade ago, and it was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, from Ted Kennedy to John McCain. It included the right to an appeals process so you could challenge an unfair decision by an insurance company before a third party.  
It included the right to choose your own doctor. It included the right to access information about what your health insurance plan means for you.

Climate Shame

“Climate Shame” – a phrase frequently uttered by activists at COP15 as world leaders converged in Copenhagen, and five of them brokered a non-binding deal. Filmed by Chuck Olsen for The UpTake. UN Climate Change Conference.

COP15 Agrees to “Take Note” of Obama’s Climate Change Accord

It’s not legally binding, but the United Nations Climate Change Conference voted to “take note” of the climate change accord agreed to yesterday by five major nations. The accord, reached by the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa did not meet the modest expectations for the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen including notably failing to set a 2010 goal for reaching a binding international treaty

“The governments have committed to making no commitment”

Dr. Michael K. Dorsey, assistant professor in Dartmouth College’s Environmental Studies Program active in climate justice, reacts to President Obama’s speech and his limited agreement at COP15. More about Dr. Dorsey: Filmed by Pamela Juhl for The UpTake.

Fossil of the Year Award

Who gets this big stinker of an award as the UN climate talks spiral around a potential conclusion? Oh, Canada. “Canada’s 2020 (emissions) target is among the worst in the industrialised world, and leaked cabinet documents revealed that the government is contemplating a cap-and-trade plan so weak that it would put even that target out of reach,” said Climate Action Network International and “This government thinks there’s a choice between environment and economy, and for them, tar sands beats climate every time. “Canada’s emissions are headed nowhere but up.

Calderón: The accord has been signed.

In a 1:30 AM press conference, Mexican president Felipe Calderón, one of the few world leaders left at the UN Climate Change Conference, announced the climate change accord had been signed. Copenhagen. December 18, 2009.

Oxfam calls out “climate change bullies,” GOP

Why can’t the world get a climate change agreement? Politics says Oxfam’s Director Of Policy Phil Bloomer. He blames climate change “bullies” who talk about job losses. Coincidentally six Republican Congressmen from the United States held a news conference today claiming a climate change agreement would lead to job losses in the US

Klein & McKibben: Take off the kid gloves with Obama.

In a late evening interview, Naomi Klein of The Nation and Bill McKibben of react to President Obama’s Copenhagen speeches from earlier in the day. UN Climate Change Conference. Copenhagen. December 18, 2009

Obama: Time to get off the sidelines. AUDIO-ONLY.

President Obama said the COP15 climate change document has “modest goals,” and isn’t legally binding, but is a good first step. Listen to this audio-only press conference on the last day of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. December 18, 2009.