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During his speech now at the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic, President Obama just got in an ad-libbed jab at the right-wingers who are speaking out against his back-to-school speech.

Obama said he was for "an America that commits to education, because the countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. And the best jobs will go to the best-educated. So we got to do a better job educating our sons and our daughters."

He then deviated from the prepared remarks -- and the crowd cheered quite passionately along with it: "And yes, I'm gonna have something to say tomorrow to our children, telling them to stay in school and work hard, 'cause that's the right message to send."

After the extended cheering quieted down a bit, Obama let out a brief laugh, and continued with his remarks.

Last week, Republicans intensified their calls for the ouster of Rep. Charles Rangel from his job as chair of the House Ways and Means committee. The Harlem Democrat has been under fire thanks to a string of revelations about irregularities in his personal financial arrangements. But Nancy Pelosi is so far unmoved, with her aides telling Politico she'll wait for the results of a House ethics investigation before taking any action.

The probe has been underway for almost a year, and it's not clear when the results might be made public. So while we all wait, it's worth a quick refresher on what the ethics panel is looking at, and what it might all amount to.

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In prepared remarks to the AFL-CIO, President Obama will say, "I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs."

Not much meat there, though he will caution, "I'll have a lot more to say about this Wednesday night, and I don't want to give it all away."

But surely reformers--and AFL leaders who've vowed to oppose health care reform legislation that does not include a public option--were hoping to hear more.

You can read the full text of his remarks here.

Amidst the right-wing activists mobilizing against President Obama's national back-to-school address, there's also another narrative emerging: A backlash of sorts by relatively saner people, speaking out in favor of the speech, and against local officials who have decided to not show it.

The makeup of these groups differs from place to place. In some areas it's a county Democratic organization. In others, it's headed up by churches and civil rights activists.

All in all, it's a fun additional wrinkle to a very absurd story -- and it presents another side of the narrative that definitely deserves attention. Check out some examples, after the jump.

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[President Obama addressed the AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic today in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he spoke on the progress of the Recovery Act and the hope for passing health care reform soon.]

"Hello Cincinnati. Hello Ohio. I can't think of a better place to be on Labor Day than at America's biggest Labor Day picnic-with the workers and families of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO.

First, give a big round of applause to Charlie. Charlie reminds us that in these tough times, America's working men and women are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work."

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This morning, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called on President Obama to stop wasting his efforts on securing the votes of one or two Republican senators and instead pass a health care bill with a public option through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.



As we've reported, passing health care reform in a reconciliation bill presents some procedural hurdles, but it seems likely that a public option would meet parliamentary muster if there are 51 votes in the Senate to pass it.

Former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH), who was released from prison last week after serving seven years for corruption charges, was greeted in Youngstown, Ohio, Sunday night by 1,200 supporters, including an Elvis impersonator, polka band and those vying for best Traficant look-alike.

Traficant reportedly reveled in the spotlight. He told the crowd the federal government "had to cheat" to convict him, he railed against the IRS, FBI and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and he promised to make "some significant statements" in an interview on Fox this Friday.

He even paraphrased Nelson Mandela, saying, "If you want to know the true nature of a country, you must go through its prisons. I know America. I've seen the other side of it, and I don't like it."

Fans, who had paid $20 a pop, chanted "Run for Senate!" and swarmed the stage, vying for Traficant's autograph.

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[The White House has released the text of Obama's speech to schoolchildren scheduled for Tuesday, September 8 as prepared for delivery.

The speech has generated some controversy from parents and school board supervisors who fear the President will be delivering a (radical) political speech to young, impressionable students. The White House decided to release the remarks 24 hours in advance to defuse the rumors; in the speech, Obama preaches personal responsibility and asks kids to stay in school.
]

The President: "Hello everyone - how's everybody doing today? I'm here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we've got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I'm glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school, so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could've stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday - at 4:30 in the morning."

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President Obama announced today that Ron Bloom will serve as his Senior Counselor for Manufacturing Policy. Bloom is also a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, assigned to the President's Task Force on the Automotive Industry, a position he will maintain.

Here's the statement from Obama:

Last week we learned that our manufacturing sector expanded for the first time in 18 months and had the highest monthly output in two years. It's a sign that we're on the right track to economic recovery, but that we still have a long way to go. That's why I've asked Ron Bloom to help coordinate my Administration's manufacturing policy. Distinguished by his extraordinary service on the Auto Task Force and his extensive experience with both business and labor, Ron has the knowledge and experience necessary to lead the way in creating the good-paying manufacturing jobs of the future. We must do more to harness the power of American ingenuity and productivity so that we can put people back to work and unleash our full economic potential.

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We told you on Friday that David Ayres, a close John Ashcroft ally, looks set to plead the fifth in the latest corruption trial of a Jack Abramoff underling. And over the weekend we got fresh detail on what looks like Ayres's cozy relationship with Team Abramoff.

In documents filed yesterday in the corruption trial of Abramoff aide Kevin Ring, and examined by TPMmuckraker, prosecutors asserted that Ayres -- who at the time was Ashcroft's chief of staff at the Justice Department -- helped Ring win federal money for a prison to be built on the reservation of the Choctaw Indians, an Abramoff client. Prosecutors also asserted that Ring then gave Ayres tickets to the 2002 NCAA basketball tournament in Washington D.C. And, they say, the following year, Ring gave Ayres's wife tickets to a pro hoops game after she had said that she wanted them as a birthday gift for her husband. Ayres didn't report any of these tickets on financial disclosure forms, say the Ring prosecutors.

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