Covering

Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Presidential Nominations

President Obama nominated Kenneth Magidson, Sarah Ruth Saldaña, Robert Lee Pitman, and John Malcolm Bales to serve as United States Attorneys.

John Malcolm Bales: Nominee for United States Attorney, Eastern District of Texas. Malcolm Bales is the interim United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas,a position he has held since 2009. Over the course of his career, Mr. Bales served within the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas as the Chief and Deputy Criminal Chief for the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (2009; 1992-1995), Assistant U.S Attorney for Special Prosecutions (2006-2008), Chief of the Criminal Division(2003-2006), Attorney-in-Charge (1995-2003), and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney(1989-1992). Mr. Bales also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado in 1995. From 1982 to 1989, Mr. Bales was a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Bales was an attorney for Hancock, Piedfor, Galton, McGill from 1981 to 1982. Mr. Bales graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977 and the University of Texas School of Law in 1980.

Kenneth Magidson: Nominee for United States Attorney, Southern District of Texas. Kenneth Magidson has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas since 1983, serving as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Regional Coordinator since 1987, and as the Chief of the Narcotics Section from 1987 to 1989. From 1996 to 1997, Mr. Magidson was the Director of the Executive Office for OCDETF in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Magidson has served Harris County, TX as he District Attorney in 2008, as an Assistant District Attorney from 1977 to1983, and as the Chief Felony Prosecutor from 1981 to 1983. Prior to this, Mr. Magidson was an attorney for the U.S. Customs Service from 1976 to1977. Mr. Magidson graduated from the University of Maryland in 1973 and the South Texas College of Law in 1976.

Robert Lee Pitman: Nominee for United States Attorney, Western District of Texas. Robert Pitman is a Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, a position he has held since 2003. Previously, Judge Pitman served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1990 to 2003, serving as Division Chief from 1997 to 2001, interim U.S. Attorney in 2001, and Deputy U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2003. From 1996 to 1997, Judge Pitman was an Attorney Advisor for the General Counsel’s Office of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. Judge Pitman was an Associate at Fulbright and Jaworski, LLP, from 1989 to 1990. Following law school, he served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable David O. Belew, Jr., U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Texas, from 1988 to 1989. Judge Pitman graduated from Abilene Christian University in 1985 and the University of Texas School of Law in 1988.

Sarah Ruth Saldaña: Nominee for United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas. Sarah Saldaña has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas since 2004, serving as Deputy Criminal Chief for Fraud and Public Corruption since 2009. Ms. Saldaña was an attorney for Baker Botts, L.L.P, from 1987 to 1998, and Haynes Boone, from 1985 to 1987. Following law school, she served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Texas, from1984 to 1985. Ms. Saldaña graduated from Texas A&M University in 1973 and from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1984.

“These nominees have proven to be tenacious and diligent in their pursuit of justice and I am honored to nominate them to serve their fellow Americans as U.S.Attorneys,” President Obama said. “They will be distinguished public servants.”

The nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

Deciphering Michelle Baachman

She's Not Who She Says She Is

Most folks know that if you can't trust the words of a potential presidential candidate before an election begins, you'd be hard pressed to find people who believe you during a presidential campaign; and even if they won, they’d still be considered questionable.

Some would-be politicians think that given a mic, a podium, a few hundred folks to listen, and a national spotlight, they can say anything, as though it were truth.
                                                                                
Rep. Michele Bachmann appearing on "Face the Nation." Maybe she should face ‘the truth’.
Luckily someone has been listening.   Journalists (and hopefully fellow Americans) have been listening to Bacchman’s statements over the last few days (and weeks) and have found them to be unfounded; i.e. lies.  Particularly Baachman’s statement suggesting that President Obama released all of the oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) serves.

President Obama did not release all of the nation’s oil supply.

In the email we received (the same one Baachman and her camp probably received as well), it reads:

 U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that the U.S. and its partners in the International Energy Agency have decided to release a total of 60 million barrels of oil onto the world market over the next 30 days to offset the disruption in the oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East.  As part of this effort, the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). 

Notice this last part:

“The SPR is currently at a historically high level with 727 million barrels”. 

Since when did 30 million taken from 727 million, mean all?  (Maybe Baachman was just being cynical).

Not only has Baachman been wrong about oil, she’s been quoted as saying she’s raised 23 foster kids; has not received one dime from the Baachman Family Farm subsidy; and has said more than one person needs to say about the LBTG community.

Democracy Now reporter, Amy Goodman, who likes to heavily criticize President Obama, actually went in on Baachman this time, talking to Michelle Goldberg, author of the book "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism”, and journalist Karl Bremer, who has covered Michele Bachmann’s political career for the last decade from Stillwater, Minnesota, which is where the Bachmanns live.

The two journalists had some pretty insightful things to say about Mrs. Baachman. 

Take a listen, check the facts and then ask yourself, Is this Donald Trump ’ in a dress? Or has this Baachman done turned into overdrive?  (Get it?  Bachman Turner Overdrive?).

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Sister, and Presidential Act?

President Obama spoke tonight at the Broadway Theatre in New York, his third fundraiser of the evening in the Big Apple. He delivered remarks at the 1,400-plus seat theatre, where the full house had just finished watching Whoopi Goldberg’s musical “Sister Act”, to which the president joked that the movie helped him decide which convent to send Sasha and Malia, who he described as "getting a little too old and a little too cute."

Patting himself on the back, the president made mention, again, of his accomplishments the last two years.

"And so I had to make a series of decisions very quickly.  And they were big and often tough decisions.  We had to make sure that we yanked the economy back from the brink of a Great Depression.  We had to make sure that we stabilized the financial system so that we didn’t have a full meltdown, and so that businesses could get financing and keep their doors open and keep their employees and make payroll". 

To a cheer of thunderous applause the president remarked on his latest effort of bringing more troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

"And overseas, we’ve brought back a hundred thousand troops out of Iraq, and we ended the combat mission there.  And because of the extraordinary diplomacy of our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and all the great work that's been done we were able to help restore a sense of standing and a sense of purpose around the world".

The president also spoke at New York's Sheraton Hotel and Towers, and Daniel restaurant in Manhattan.

Let's Move! Goes To Africa!

The First Lady continues her exercise regime, and her Let's Move! message, while in South Africa, this time including one of the world's most beloved diplomatic figure, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Photobucket
The First Lady, at a youth soccer camp, does pushups with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
In her remarks to youth at a youth soccer camp at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, the First Lady said, "But I want to just make sure that we acknowledge all of the organizations who are responsible for supporting and educating and inspiring these young people, because in order to be a VSP (Very Special Person, how Tutu described the First Lady), you’ve got to be, what?, a VHP, a Very Healthy Person, right? Which means you’ve got to have the knowledge and the internal wisdom to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and that you’re making good choices so that you’re healthy and you grow up strong, because it’s hard to have an impact if you’re not in the best condition possible".

Related
Check out these videos of the First Lady's trip to South Africa.
** Emthonjeni Community Center
** Meeting Nelson Mandela
** Arriving in Botswana
** Young Women's Leadership Conference

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Out of Afghanistan, Into Oil Reserves.

Bringing the Boys Home

Two major announcements by the White House included the president's plan to deploy 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, beginning this summer.
In keeping with his commitment to draw down U.S forces this July, President Obama addressed the nation last evening to explain:
"Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals", the president said. "As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."





While many Americans are in favor of bringing U.S. troops home (and who wouldn't be?), members of both the Republican and Democratic parties express their 'dissatisfaction' with the number of troops the president is planning to start with.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., supportive of President Obama's statement said, “The president’s decision represents a positive development, although in my view the conditions on the ground justify an even larger drawdown of U.S. troops this year than the president announced tonight. I will continue to advocate for an accelerated drawdown in the months ahead, and for enhanced training and partnering with Afghan forces, said Levin.


68,000 troops were in Afghanistan when the president took office.

The president visited Fort Drum, NY where he met with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, many of whom have just returned from Afghanistan.  

The president's speech at Fort Drum can be read here.

Tapping Into U.S. Oil Reserves
  
The White House also announced today that the U.S. and its partners in the International Energy Agency have decided to release a total of 60 million barrels of oil onto the world market over the next 30 days to offset the disruption in the oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East. As part of this effort, the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR is currently at a historically high level with 727 million barrels. 
A gas station employee gets down from ladder after changing its station's price at this Alexandria, Virginia station.  Photo/CD Brown.


In a conference call today with reporters, senior White House officials explained that the decision was made  to tap into the reserves based on an “anticipated increase demand for oil in the next few months”.
 
The United States has been in close contact with oil producing and consuming countries about disruptions to the international oil market that could affect the global economy. The situation in Libya has caused a loss of roughly 1.5 million barrels of oil per day – particularly of light, sweet crude – from global markets. As the United States enters the months of July and August, when demand is typically highest, prices remain significantly higher than they were prior to the start of the unrest in Libya.
 
Gas prices have come down almost fifty-cents in some areas, ranging from $3.49 a gallon to prices that still hover around $4.00.
 
"There is no silver bullet", an official explained, commenting on if the decision would help relieve tensions over the seemingly oil crisis that has plagued the U.S. economy for the last year.
 
The White House official said the decision to tap into U.S. oil reserves was one that was brewing for the "last several months".

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Keeping Up With The First Lady In South Africa

This week, the First Lady, daughters Sasha and Malia, First Mom Mrs. Robinson, and family members and friends are in South Africa for the First Lady's mission to inspire, educate and uplift the young people of South Africa. 

First Lady Michelle Obama with daughters Malia and Sasha at the home of former
South African president Nelson Mandela.

The president remarked earlier this year that Africa "is a fundamental part of our interconnected world.  And when it comes to the defining challenges of our times: creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease -- for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner".
The First Lady met Tuesday with former South African president Nelson Mandela at his home.  The meeting is being called historic as it represents Mr. Mandela, 92, an iconic symbol of the country's fight against apartheid, and First Lady Michelle Obama, wife of the first U.S. president, Barack Obama.

Sasha and Malia were given South African blankets with colors of the nation's flag by young children of the protocol officer as a welcome. They wrapped themselves in the blankets. It is winter and a chilly 51 degrees.
The First Lady, her two daughters, her niece and nephew, and Mrs Robinson met privately with Mandela, his wife Graca Machel, and about 15 members of the Mandela family for approximately twenty minutes. (The niece and nephew are Avery Robinson, 19, and niece, Leslie Robinson, 15, children of the First Lady's brother, Craig Robinson, who is the basketball coach at Oregon State - whom we've had the pleasure of interviewing three years ago before his family became mega famous). 

Today, the First Lady gave remarks at a Young African Women Leaders Forum at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto where 76 extraordinary young women leaders from South Africa and across the continent were recognized and honored.   Mrs. Obama praised them for "transforming their communities and their countries".




Mrs. Obama also paid tribute to those students of the uprising in Soweto, sparked by a police riot on peaceful protesters in the region. 

In her remarks the First Lady said, "And you all know the story –- how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans. Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.

But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church. The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets.

And while no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15.

Many of the students hadn’t even known about the protest when they arrived at school that morning. But they agreed to take part, knowing full well the dangers involved, because they were determined to get an education worthy of their potential".

The First Lady was introduced by Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, who welcomed her "as a daughter of Africa" and referred to Mrs. Obama as "the queen of our world".
The First Family, paid homage to young Pieterson in a wreath laying ceremony at Pieterson's  memorial, located in Soweto a few hundred yards from where he was gunned down. She was accompanied by Pieterson's sister, Antoinette Sithole, who ran along side her brother as an 18-year-old student carried his lifeless body. The First Lady and family members later toured the adjacent museum that honors him.

The First Lady likened the Soweto uprising to the marches of the Civil Rights era here in the U.S. saying: "It is a story that has unfolded across this country and across this continent, and also in my country -- the story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw, who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked, and sacrificed, everything they had for the freedom they deserved. And it is because of them that we are able to gather here today.  It is because of them that so many of these young women leaders can now pursue their dreams.  It is because of them that I stand before you as First Lady of the United States of America.   That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation.  And all of you -– the young people of this continent -– you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love".

The First Lady continues in South Africa with plans later to visit Botswana before her week-long visit comes to an end.

Related
Read the First Lady's remarks at the Young Women's conference here, and watch below as she explains why traveling to South Africa is so important.




View more pictures of the First Lady in Africa.  Kudos, First Lady.   Kudos.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Juneteenth: President Obama Recognized It. Organization Wants More.

Last week was the official Juneteenth observance day. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. The state of Texas is widely considered the first U.S. state to begin Juneteenth celebrations with informal observances taking place for over a century; it has been an official state holiday since 1980.

Imagine that.

The state that jails more African American people than any other; the state where James Byrd was dragged from the rear of a pickup truck - body parts strewn along the highway by a white hate group, was the first state to recognize the emancipation of its slaves.

Last Friday, The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation held a prayer breakfast and discussion at the National Press Club.  Among the panelists was Reverend Ronald Myers of the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council.  In our video interview with him, Dr. Myers explains the need for a national Juneteenth holiday .


Kem Lambert, president of Blacks in Government at the Department of Interior, where Abraham Lincoln tasked the government agency, in an effort ‘deal’ with the race problem in America,  with colonizing free Blacks  to areas like Haiti, the Panama, and Liberia.

On the effort to have President Obama make Juneteenth a national holiday, Lambert said, “The president observes every other holiday.  He has Hispanics and Asian Americans at the White House to celebrate their holidays, while we can’t even get in the front door, not to mention the back.”



Several legislators, include Rep. Danny K. Davis are also helping to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Alice Patterson of Texas, author of Bridging the Racial and Political Divide, founder of Justice At the Gate, and the granddaughter of a Klu Klux Klan member, says it’s “America is divided and needs to be united.  She is calling for a healing between the races, especially in politics as she explains the difference between the parties, and expresses a concerted genocidal effort aimed at African Americans. She sees the Juneteenth holiday as a way to mend the past.   She was awarded the National Juneteenth Black Holocaust MAAFA award at the prayer breakfast.  Watch our interview with Ms. Patterson as she discusses politics, her life as the granddaughter of a KKK member, and Black genocide.



President Obama issued the following Juneteenth remarks this weekend:

"On this day in 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the word finally came down to slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free and entitled to the same “absolute equality of rights” and “right to property” protected under law.

It would take many more years and many more struggles before African-Americans received full and equal treatment under the law. But today, here and around the world, we commemorate Juneteenth as a time to celebrate the rich heritage and significant contributions of African-Americans, and to recommit ourselves – as Americans – to the enduring pursuit of a more perfect union and to the eternal principles of liberty and justice for all".

For more on Juneteenth visit www.NationalJuneteenth.com.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strong Fathers. Strong Communities.


With this Sunday being Father's Day, the Administration is getting involved with a message about responsible fatherhood.

“Father’s Day reminds us parents that we have no more solemn obligation than to care for our children.  But far too many young people in America grow up without their dads, and our families and communities are challenged as a result,” said President Obama.  “Through my administration’s fatherhood initiative and the year of Strong Fathers, Strong Families, we’re taking steps to offer men who want to be good fathers a little extra help, while working with partners around the country to encourage personal responsibility and help fathers connect with kids.”

The administration is hosting military fathers and their children at the White House today for a picnic, along with a screening of Disney's movie, Cars 2.

Over the past two years, the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative has helped fathers nation-wide engage with their families by providing support for local fatherhood programs, town halls around the nation, partnerships with outside organizations and through http://www.fatherhood.gov/.  This effort is supportive of all families, and affirms the central role of mothers in the lives of our children, especially those who have stepped up to the plate when dads haven't been around.

The President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative is working to promote simple, yet meaningful, opportunities for dads and kids to connect through partnerships with organizations like bowling centers, sports leagues, zoos and aquariums and companies like LivingSocial and Groupon. Additionally, the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Office of Public Engagement have worked with cabinet secretaries across government to hold events highlighting fatherhood and mentorship:

· June 13th: On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan encouraged fathers and father figures to become more involved in education at a Watch D.O.G.S. program taking place at Two Rivers Public Charter School. Duncan was joined by Principle Maggie Bello and Watch D.O.G.S. coordinator Eric Snow. He toured the school and discussed the importance of father involvement in schools and education with students, parents and community members. He also spent time with participants of the Watch D.O.G.S. program and children who they’ve impacted.

· June 17-19th: U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan will announce a new effort to focus on fathers in public housing.

· June 20th: Through the Office of Public Engagement’s “Champions of Change” website, the White House will spotlight 12 dads from around the country who are doing great things for their families and communities, many in trying circumstances. The Corporation for National Services will continue to highlight additional “Champion” dads throughout the year.   
 
In an essay this month in People Magazine, the president, who grew up without a father, shares how growing up without a dad made him want to be the best parent he could.
 
"I have certain memories of him taking me to my first jazz concert and giving me my first basketball as a Christmas present", Obama writes. "But he left when I was two years old".   
 
More here

Related
Video: Fatherhood PSA  

Select USA Initiative

In order to support private-sector job creation and enhance economic growth by encouraging and supporting business investment in the United States, President Obama signed into law today Select USA.

Here is an excerpt:

There is established the SelectUSA Initiative (Initiative), a Government-wide initiative to attract and retain investment in the American economy. The Initiative is to be housed in the Department of Commerce. The mission of this Initiative shall be to facilitate business investment in the United States
in order to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote American competitiveness. The Initiative will provide enhanced coordination of Federal activities in order to increase the impact of Federal resources that support both domestic and foreign investment in the United States. In providing assistance, the Initiative shall work to maximize impact on business investment, job creation, and economic growth.


The Initiative shall work on behalf of the entire Nation and shall exercise strict neutrality with regard to specific locations within the United States.

Read the entire legislation here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DC Mayor Joins Washington Kastles Dedication Ceremony

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony includes tennis great Billie Jean King

It's official when you have the Mayor and an all-time tennis great in your corner.  

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and tennis great Billie Jean King were present at today's Washington Kastles' dedication, marking the completion of the newly renovated Kastles Stadium at the Wharf located at 600 Water Street in SW, DC.

Workers add the finishing touches to the court at Kastles Stadium on the Wharf.  Photo/CD Brown.
The new Kastles home is set against a backdrop of the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and the Potomac River.

"We are excited to bring the Kastles and lots of other entertaining events to our spectacular new home in Southwest Washington and are thrilled to be part of the rebirth of that part of town", said team owner Mark Ein.

The Kastles season begins July 4th and will feature returning profession tennis icon Serena Williams, followed on July 5th with sister Venus. John McEnroe makes an appearance on the July 12th, with Sam Querry on the July 14th.

Ein envisions Kastles tennis bringing all of Washington, DC together. Billie Jean King, who's work on equality in sports for both boys and girls agreed. "I love coming to Washington, DC.  This is what America should look like".

The Kastles hosted several students from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School for a Quickstart Court clinic, one of many tennis clinics the Kastles have hosted since their start six years ago.
 
King credits the Washington Kastles for producing the next generation of tennis greats.



Kastles Stadium on the Wharf is part of a renonvation project revitalizing the South West waterfront area.  Upon completion the area will boast residential properties, retail stores, and eateries.   The project will bring thousands of jobs to the D.C. area. 

"Kastles Stadium at The Wharf will be a great addition to the neighborhood and we look forward to working with Mark and the Kastles to bring world class tennis and community events to the site", said Monty Hoffman of  PN Hoffman, part of the waterfront's revitalization team.

For the Kastles' exciting season schedule and teams click here.  To purchase Kastles tickets visit Ticketmaster.com.

Vice President Biden On Wasteful Government Spending

President Obama appointed Vice President Biden to look into areas of "unacceptable" government spending.

In an email that went out to supporters yesterday titled, There's A New Sheriff In Town, Vice President Biden writes...

Did you know that the government spends millions to maintain buildings that have sat vacant for years? Or that your tax dollars pay to needlessly ship copies of the Federal Register to thousands of government offices across the country even though the same information is available online?

And I bet you didn't know that your tax dollars pay for a website dedicated to the Desert Tortoise. I'm sure it's a wonderful species, but we can't afford to have a standalone site devoted to every member of the animal kingdom. It's just one of hundreds of government websites that should be consolidated or eliminated.

This kind of waste is just unacceptable. Particularly at a time when we’re facing tough decisions about reducing our deficit, it's a no-brainer to stop spending taxpayer dollars on things that benefit nobody.
That’s why President Obama asked me to head up the Campaign to Cut Waste—a new effort to root out wasteful spending at every agency and department in the Federal Government.



Vice President Biden speaking today in the EEOC building on cutting government waste.  Video not loading?  Click here.
The email continues with...

Like millions of American families, the Federal Government has to take a hard look at spending and live within its means. Most of these cuts we’re going to make are small. They won’t close our deficit or solve all of our fiscal problems. However, no amount of waste is acceptable, and these cuts will add up over time. This year alone we’ve found $33 billion in savings, but we know there’s a lot more work to be done.
When we passed the Recovery Act back in 2009, President Obama insisted that we use that program to set a new standard in government transparency and accountability. And he appointed me as “Sheriff Joe” to make sure the job gets done.

Now, there were a lot of naysayers back then who said that there was no way we could implement the Recovery Act without massive waste, fraud and abuse.
You know what? They were wrong. Thanks to our diligence (and some help from advanced computer models and sophisticated data analysis), the Recovery Act has had an unprecedentedly low level of fraud, with less than 0.6% of all awards experiencing any waste or abuse.
There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t apply these same principles and techniques to all government spending.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do with the help of a new Government Accountability and Transparency Board, a group composed of independent inspectors general and high-level agency officials who will help me root out waste, fraud and abuse across the government. Helping me ensure that your tax dollars are being spent on things that matter, like investments in education, innovation and improving our infrastructure.

So, folks, we’re changing the way your government does business (and spends your hard-earned tax dollars), and I think you’re going to like the results.

Sincerely,
Vice President Joe Biden

President Lands In Puerto Rico

President Obama made a stop in Puerto Rico today.  He is the first U.S. president to do so since John F. Kennedy in 1961.

"At that time I was four months old", joked the president, who while campaigning promised the people of  Puerto Rico that he'd return.


Part of the president's agenda for the region includes ensuring that people on the island can find work and make a living and provide for their children.  "That’s why we’re increasing access to broadband and investing in education", the president said.  "That's why we’re helping to grow local tourism and health care and clean-energy industries.  We’re giving Puerto Ricans the tools they need to build their own economic futures.That’s why our economic plan and our health care reform included help for Puerto Rico".

The president made mention of the contributions of Puerto Ricans, citing that singer Mark Anthony (husband of Jennifer Lopez) was in attendance, and thanked the Puerto Rican service men and women for work.

Earlier in the day, the president stopped by the Governor's mansion.

A pool report sums up the visit.

Giving President Obama a tour of La Fortaleza, the oldest governor's mansion in the Western Hemisphere, are Resident Commissioner Pedro Pireluisi, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno and first lady Luce Vela de Fortuno. By Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
Signs posted on street lights marked the first official visit of a sitting U.S. president in a half century. Under side-by-side photos of John F. Kennedy and Obama were the words, “1961” and “2011.’’



“We are proud to be part of history,’’ the signs read.


People held up signs showing Obama’s face superimposed on Superman’s body. Others waved posters reading, “Statehood Now.’’


... arrived at the Governor’s Mansion (“La Fortaleza”) just in time to see POTUS enter the Mirror Room in the company of Gov. Luis Fortuno, First Lady Luce Vela and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.


POTUS was marveling over the mansion, noting that it was built in 1533, making it the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the western hemisphere.


“Pretty impressive,’’ he said.


The governor said: “On behalf of the people of Puerto Rico we want to welcome you. I guess you got a taste of it driving here.’’


Obama thanked him. With a temperature of 86 degrees coupled with 85% humidity, POTUS said he wishes “we could jump into the ocean. Looked pretty nice.’’

In 2008, then Senator Obama wrote a letter to Puerto Rico to express his views on Puerto Rican status, citizenship, jobs, health and their place in America.  Read it here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How Can The U.S. Remain United? Just Add Mexican Food.

Today's conference presented by Center for Social Cohesion addressed how Americans can live together harmoniously.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor summed it up like this: "Just cook Mexican food".

"I'd get everybody together and cook mexican food and we'd sit around outside and drink beer and make friends with each other, said O'Connor while addressing a Center for Social Cohesion event at the National Press Club today.



"That works", said O'Connor.

Suffice it say, she'd have to buy a lot of 'beer', and cook a lot of 'Mexican food'.  Luckily she said she was open to other suggestions.

O'Connor's home state of Arizona is one of many implementing tough immigration laws towards its Latina residents.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law, aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants.

She made the comment when asked how to reach an accord on national issues.

Other sessions on the day included discussions addressing social issues like What's Dividing Us?, What's America's Deepest Fault Line?, and What Are We Loyal To?

It's pretty easy to sum up the answer to all three questions with these three answers: Greed (capitolism), disrepect for differences (racism), and intolerance (not in my back yard).

If America could put a 'cohesive' healing salve over those ailments, I think we'd be on to something.

I'd also throw in lack respect for humanity, resources, and God, but hey, we'll take baby steps.

The What's Dividing Us? session was paneled by Gregory Rodriguez, Executive Director, Center for Social Cohesion; Bill Bishop and Michael Lind. Panelists for other sessions included Arizona State University president,Michael Crow along with Harvard Law School professor of Law, Michael Klein and James Gimpel.

Sandra Day O'Connor was the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States. President Ronald Reagan nominated her in 1981.

Civil Rights Activists Address Voter Oppression

With the 2012 election less than a year away, voter suppression efforts are already in high gear across the nation.
That’s a direct quote from the web site of Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights, just one of several civil rights organizations bringing awareness to the current unethical voter registration practices taking place.
There is a persistent and well-coordinated effort in state legislatures to deter minority, low-income, elderly, disabled and student voters from access to the ballot. In short, the right to vote which is fundamental to our democracy is under attack, the website continues.
Several members of the civil rights community joined Lawyers Committee today for a press conference at the National Press Club to bring awareness to improper voter registration tactics being implemented across the country.

Lawyers Committee for Civil and Human Rights join Jesse Jackson, Sr and other civil rights groups at the National Press Club to address the issue of voter registration and voter assault.  Photo/CD Brown.
“There is a concerted effort to disenfranchise voters who could make a difference in the upcoming election”, said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
The upcoming election Henderson is referring to, of course, is the 2012 presidential election.  One where House Republican and Tea Party members  have pledged allegiance to make President Barack Obama a one-term U.S. president.

These efforts to limit access to the ballot take several forms, including voter identification and proof of citizenship laws, voter intimidation and suppression and "election integrity" squads who challenge voters at the polls, writes Lawyers Committee president Barbara Arnwine .  In addition to state legislative attacks, there are also attacks in the courts to challenges the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. They, not only threaten to further prevent certain eligible Americans from voting, but distract from the proactive reforms needed to fix inefficient, unequal and outdated election administration practices
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. calls the voter registration assault “an attack on the entire Civil Rights gains infrastructure.”

“Not only is the right to vote under attack, but EEOC and contract compliance are under attack, affirmative action [is] under attack”, said Jackson. “All of the infrastructure since ‘65 is under attack either by not being enforced, or not being funded.  And therefore we stand to lose 50 years of work by a solid ideological base of state’s rights.  We’re on a dangerous edge of a state’s rights takeover 150 years later”.

"Voters in North Carolina were not able to vote on Sunday, a day many register after church", said Jackson.

The voter assault issue is just one topic that will be addressed in Jackson's upcoming Rainbow/Push annual conference coming up in Chicago June 18-22.
The civil rights organizations are calling on the Department Of Justice for democracy. “The DOJ has a responsibility to examine these issues and connect the dots”, explained Henderson.
“Stop this assault!”, said Arnwine at today’s press conference.  “We’re calling upon state legislators to ban these assaults.   We call upon state legislators to rescind these laws.  We call upon the Department of Justice to enforce the law, and we call upon American citizens to speak out!”.



Adds Jackson, “If you think it’s worth fighting for democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, try fighting for democracy at home”.

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Related

If you suspect voter fraud in district call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.


Visit these web sites for more info: pushexcel.org / electionprotection.org/ rainbowpush.org / http://www.lawyerscommittee.org / rockthevote.com.
See more video here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The War On Drugs 40 Years Later

Law enforcement officers say "Enough!"

LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) is planning an event Tuesday, June 14th at the National Press Club to mark the 40th year anniversary of the war against drugs.
The group's website states:  On June 17, 1971 President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” Looking back at the damage done over the past 40 years, it is clear that drug prohibition has failed. Click here to read more about how LEAP will mark the 40th anniversary of the drug war this week and find out how YOU can stand with our cops in saying “40 years is enough!”
In an 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em-like video, Neil Franklin, a veteran officer in the state of MD, and Executive Director of LEAP, along with other law enforcement officers remark that drugs should be legalized.

Listen to his message below.



For some odd reason they're blaming President Obama for the war on drugs, calling their 10:00 am Tuesday event, Police and Jailers Decry Obama's Continuation of Nixon's 40-Year-Old-Failed Drug War.

***Update*** 6/16  -  Interestingly enough, the White House Office on Drug Policy released this statement:

"Overall drug use in the United States has dropped substantially over the past thirty years...the number of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half the rate it was in the late 70s".

Overall drug use in the United States has dropped substantially over the past thirty years. In response to comprehensive efforts to address drug use at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, the number of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half the rate it was in the late 70s. More recently, there has been a 46 percent drop in current cocaine use among young adults (age 18 to 25 years) over the past five years, and a 68 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace since 2006.

The Obama Administration has committed over $10 billion for drug prevention programs and support for expanding access to drug treatment for addicts.

Read more at www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov.

**Most recent Update**

Dr. Ron Daniels of the IBW held a summit at the National Press Club titled 'Declaring War on the War on Drugs'.  Panelists and speakers shared stories of racial profiling, false emprisonment, and failed policy, concluding that the war on drugs is a war on African Americans.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Conyers participated in the event.

See content and interviews here.

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Read More
Wikipedia: Nixon'sWar on Drugs

Photos: Gabrielle Giffords

First photos of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords have surfaced since she was shot in the head in a mass shooting in Tucson about five months ago.

The photos appeared on her Facebook page (search Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) and were taken May 17th at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, the day after the launch of Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty.


This photo collage with Giffords before (r) and after her incident (l) was created by CD Brown for Politics.OnPoint.
A statement from the photograher, P.K. Weis, says: “Any photographer in the country would have loved the opportunity to take these pictures and I was delighted to be asked. I’ve known Gabby for more than a decade and her staff asked me to do it because she wanted someone who was not a stranger – someone she would be comfortable around...."

Giffords photo by photographer P.K. Weis.




Friday, June 10, 2011

Pool Report: President Biden Susan G. Komen Event

Here's a pool report from providing details on the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden's event at the Naval Observatory for breast cancer survivors.

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden hosted an event honoring breast cancer survivors and the work of the Komen Foundation Friday evening at the Vice President's residence.

About 200 guests--including survivors and supporters-- gathered at the event inside a tent decked out in pink to honor the cause.

VPOTUS wearing a cotton candy-colored pink shirt, discussed how "We all have a serious, serious investment" to finding a cure for breast cancer.

"We all know how much work is left to be done," he said. " I'm very hopeful that it's going to get done...We have a simple straight forward goal and that is to make reality the cure for breast cancer."

In his remarks, Biden quoted his mother who once told him, "Out of everything terrible something good will happen if you look hard enough."

In her remarks, second lady Jill Biden later added, "All of us know that early detection can make all the difference....All of us must be part of the race to find a cure."

The Today Show's Hoda Kotb, a breast cancer survivor, also spoke at the event.

Prior to the start of the night, she told your pooler: "If you survive breast cancer, You get four words... 'You can't scare me. Those four words are so powerful.'"

Kotb explained that if she hadn't survived breast cancer, she never would have had the nerve to ask NBC President Jeff Zucker for a job on the Today Show. "It's funny that something terrible can give you something good."

Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker, whom Biden called "an inspiration," also spoke at the event.

Spotted in the crowd: White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Chief of Staff to first lady Michelle Obama Tina Tchen, Attorney General Eric Holder and outgoing Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and his wife Mona, (who just finished up her job at Komen on Friday) VPOTUS's daughter Ashley, and NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

Dr. Jill Biden, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, and Hoda Kotb also delivered remarks at the reception.

The annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was held last weekend, June 4th, on the National Mall.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Manufacturing Jobs: Sparks Waiting to Be Lit!

In an eleven minute speech, President Obama was quick and to the point on how he envisions putting Americans back to work, via manufacturing jobs. Speaking in Alexandria, Virginiato to about 100 attendees in the ‘body shop’ of Northern Virginia Community College’s Engineering building, the president talked about ‘lighting a spark’ to create American jobs.

“We’ve got to light more sparks all across America”, said the president.

Sparks in manufacturing.  Sparks in education. By the end of the decade the president wants to also lead the world in college graduates. He also wants to make going to college more affordable, and pledges that graduates will find a job once they graduate.

“So, I’ve set a goal that by the end of this decade, we are going to once again lead the world in producing college graduates. To achieve that, we’re making college more affordable and we’re investing in community colleges.”



Not only that, the president wants to ensure college grads can find jobs after graduation.

“But the goal isn’t just making sure that somebody has got a certificate or a diploma. The goal is to make sure your degree helps you to get a promotion or a raise or a job”, the president said. “And that’s especially important right now. Obviously we’re slowly recovering from a very painful recession. But there are too many people out there who are still out of work, without a job that allows them to save a little money or to create the life they want for their families. That’s unacceptable to me. It’s unacceptable to all of you.”

A new resource on the web, MySkillsMyfuture.org, a onestop career shop, let's the user enter their skill set to find a career.

Obama wants to invest more money in jobs programs that work, and eliminate those that don't.

"If the program does’t work, eliminate it. If it’s working, but more money into it. This will help grow the middle class and make America more competitive.America is ready to win the future."

With the end of school just around the corner, we're hoping the president is including jobs for young people too.   Last year, due to budget constraints, thousands of DC area youth were out of jobs.  You can't just talk jobs for adults and leave out the youth.

While the president is pushing auto manufacturing jobs, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told us in our interview with her that manufacturing doesn’t just include automobiles. “It includes the whole spectrum”, she said, even textile manufacturing. “For about a decade we lost interest in manufacturing and we need to revitalize this.” 



The president toured the campus’ Automotive Training Program with program head Ernest Packer. Packer worked 29 years at the Ford Motor Company. On the tour the President saw a General Motors Automotive Services classroom and a lab with Ford hybrid vehicles.

The event was in partnership with Skills for America's Future, a national initiative to connect employers with community colleges to provide 21st century skills to American workers.

Also in attendance during the president's speech were Congressman Jim Moran,and mayor of Alexandria, Virginia William Euille who provided remarks to us after the event.



Related
Dr. Biden's Support of Community Colleges

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The President Meets Nigeria's President

The president met today with Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan where the two discussed the Nigeria's latest regional and global developments.  The two also discussed U.S. and Nigerian bilateral partnership.
President Obama met in the Oval Office today with Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan. Photo/CD Brown.
Goodluck became Nigeria's 14th president last month. He was Governor of Bayelsa State from 9 December 2005 to 28 May 2007, and was sworn in as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29 May 2007. Jonathan is a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). On 13 January 2010, a federal court handed him the power to carry out state affairs while President Umaru Yar'Adua received medical treatment in a Saudi Arabian hospital. A motion from the Nigerian Senate on 9 February 2010 confirmed these powers to act as President, in recognition of her opinion. On 24 February 2010, Yar'Adua returned to Nigeria, but Jonathan continued as acting president. Upon Yar'Adua's death on 5 May 2010, Jonathan succeeded to the Presidency, taking the oath of office on 6 May 2010.  (Source).

President Obama did not attend President Jonathan's inauguration, but sent The Honorable Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Department of State to lead the U.S. delegation.  President Obama, however, called the new president to congratulate him on his election victory and to commend the people of Nigeria for their resolve and patience during Nigeria’s historic presidential, legislative and gubernatorial elections.  "The success of the elections was a testament to Nigerian voters who waited in long lines, stayed to watch their votes counted and were determined that these elections mark a new chapter in Nigerian history", said President Obama.  "Credit also belongs to the Independent National Electoral Commission, the National Youth Service Corps, and Nigeria’s vibrant civil society, all of which must play a role in ensuring that the final results reflect the will of the Nigerian people and that Nigerian authorities investigate and address any allegations of fraud or irregularities."

In a statement to the Nigerian people Goodluck writes. " In Nigeria, there is a breath of Fresh Air ushering an era of Transformation and Transparency and the walls of Corruption will be brought down not just by the government but by you the good people of Nigeria".

Then acting President, Jonathan attended the U.S. Nuclear Summit in Washington, D.C. this past April 12-13.  During his visit President Obama expressed his appreciation for Nigeria’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit and the opportunity to meet with Acting President Jonathan to discuss issues of mutual importance.  Both President Obama Jonathan agreed to continue to work together on matters of advancing global security, particularly nuclear security and international compliance to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  The leaders also discussed important security issues, including efforts to combat terrorism.

Today's visit was a continuation of those talks.

On Jonathan's FaceBook page he writes: "My life has always been about service. I am focused on serving my Creator, family and my country to the best of my ability and with your help I aim to be better at doing that."