Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Proof that Harry Reid the Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate is an idiot

Our Government in action

"Hell, back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now we are trusting the economy of our country and our banking system to the same nit-wits who couldn't make money running a whore house and selling whiskey!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama orders 60-day cybersecurity review

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Monday ordered an immediate 60-day review of federal cyber security efforts and named Melissa Hathaway, a top U.S. intelligence official, to oversee the effort, according to a White House statement.

Hathaway, who served as a top cyber security adviser to Mitch McConnell, the former director of national intelligence, will conduct the review for the White House National Security and Homeland Security Councils.

The review, which will examine what the federal government already is doing to protect vital U.S. computer networks, underscores mounting concerns about the risks of cyber attacks, and points to a growing market for U.S. contractors.

Northrop Grumman Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, the Pentagon's biggest contractors, already are working on a variety of cyber security projects for the U.S. government, many of which are classified.

Industry executives say the sector will be one of their fastest-growing markets in coming years, and analysts say it could generate over $10 billion in contracts by 2013.

Hathaway, who had been coordinating cyber security efforts for the intelligence community, will serve as acting senior director for cyber space during the review period, according to the White House statement, which was released late on Monday.

Obama highlighted the importance of safeguarding the nation's vital computer networks against enemy attacks during his campaign, and has promised to appoint a national cyber adviser to coordinate federal agency efforts and develop a national cyber policy.

Just before he left office last month, McConnell told reporters that the Internet had introduced an unprecedented level of vulnerability. "If you get in our systems and you're trying to destroy banking records or electric power distribution or transportation, it could have a debilitating effect on the country," he said.

The Senate last month confirmed Adm. Dennis Blair to be the new director of national intelligence, replacing McConnell.

Immediately upon taking office, the Obama administration underscored the importance of protecting U.S. information networks in a posting on the White House website.

It pledged to work with industry, researchers, and citizens to "build a trustworthy and accountable cyber infrastructure that is resilient, protects America's competitive advantage, and advances our national and homeland security."

The White House also said it would initiate a drive to develop next-generation secure computers and networking for national security applications; establish tough new standards for cyber security and physical resilience; battle corporate cyber espionage and target criminal activity on the Internet.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Panetta says he would end harsh CIA interrogation tactics

Panetta says he would end harsh CIA interrogation tactics

By Mary Anne Ostrom

Mercury News
Posted: 02/05/2009 06:01:41 PM PST

Vowing a clean break from the CIA's controversial recent past, Leon Panetta, President Barack Obama's surprise pick to lead the spy agency, promised Thursday to end controversial detainment and interrogation practices used during the Bush years and bluntly declared that "waterboarding is torture."

The former Monterey congressman's denouncement of the harsh interrogation tactic used on suspected terrorists came during his first day of Senate confirmation hearings, which are expected to conclude today.

Describing waterboarding as torture is the toughest language yet used by a would-be senior Obama administration intelligence official. Panetta promised a thorough review of Bush administration policies at the Central Intelligence Agency, and he vowed to share findings with congressional intelligence committee members.

Already Obama has issued executive orders to start the process of closing down the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba and to assess what should happen to the remaining detainees. Panetta said he would not support prosecution of CIA agents who used harsh interrogation practices if they were following Bush administration guidance.

Asked about recent comments by Vice President Dick Cheney that Obama's executive orders put the nation at risk, Panetta said, "The implication is that somehow this country is more vulnerable to attack because the president of this country wants to abide by the law and the Constitution.
I think we are a stronger nation when we abide by the law and Constitution."

Asked what would happen to Osama bin Laden if he were captured, Panetta said, "We would debrief him and incarcerate him, probably in a military prison."

Among the biggest challenges facing the agency, he said, is the growing economic crisis and its repercussions on global stability. He said the CIA needs to fill intelligence gaps, focusing on Russia, China and Africa. "My biggest challenge now is to figure out where those gaps are," he said.

Since leaving Washington in 1997, after serving as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, Panetta has spent most of his time running the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, headquartered at California State University-Monterey Bay.

When the confirmation hearing resumes today, Republican senators are expected to ask Panetta about details of his income since leaving government. In a filing with the Office of Government Ethics, Panetta reported that last year he was paid for making speeches to troubled financial institutions Merrill Lynch and Wachovia. He reported making $1.2 million from his activities and investments last year and said he had assets worth nearly $4 million.

Obama's nominees are under increased scrutiny in the wake of discoveries that forced two nominees to withdraw after it was learned they had failed to pay taxes.

The White House has said that Panetta has no similar tax problems and did not have to pay any back taxes after being tapped by the White House to lead the CIA.

Obama appoints Indian American in interfaith council

Obama appoints Indian American in interfaith council
6 Feb 2009, 0947 hrs IST, IANS
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has included an Indian American in a revamped White House office for faith-based and neighbourhood
programmes, expanding an initiative started by the Bush administration to support charitable organisations delivering social services.

Indian American Eboo S. Patel, founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Corps, was named to a 25-member President's Advisory Council composed of religious leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.

"No matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone," Obama said, creating the new office by executive order. "There is a force for good greater than government."

While at home it will focus on making community groups an integral part of US economic recovery as its top priority, beyond American shores the new office will work with the National Security Council to "foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world".

The revamped office will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs, Obama said.

"It is an expression of faith, this yearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, that reveals itself not simply in places of worship, but in senior centres and shelters, schools and hospitals, and any place an American decides."

The new office "will be a resource for nonprofits and community organisations, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer".

Headed by Joshua DuBois, a former associate pastor and advisor to Obama in his US Senate office and campaign director of religious affairs, the office will carry out its priorities upholding the principle of "the separation of church and state".

The revamped office has reignited a contentious debate over whether religious organisations that accept funds from the government should be allowed to discriminate when hiring.

Obama's executive order does not rescind Bush's provision to allow faith-based groups to discriminate in their hiring practices, but does provide a legal process for organisations to go through in order to that ensure hiring is legal and non-discriminatory.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Congressman Twitters secret trip to Iraq

For security reasons, the congressional delegation led by House Minority Leader John Boehner to Iraq today was supposed to be secret. Everything had been going fine in that regard. Even media outlets that knew of the trip, like the Congressional Quarterly, kept a lid on the news.

That was, until Representative Peter Hoekstra Twittered his arrival into Baghdad. "Just landed in Baghdad. I believe it may be first time I've had bb service in Iraq. 11 th trip here," he sent from his Blackberry.

I don't know if Rep. Hoekstra broke any laws by revealing the trip, but the political blogs are fond of pointing out that such a security lapse is surprising for the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Senate Leaders Reach $780 Billion Compromise

Senate Leaders Reach $780 Billion Compromise
Democrats and GOP Moderates Negotiate a Leaner Plan as Obama Ratchets Up the Pressure After Dismal Economic Report

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WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic leaders struck a deal with a handful of moderate Republicans late Friday on a leaner economic-recovery package and pushed for a vote after five days of partisan deadlock over a plan that had swollen to $930 billion.

Senate leaders valued the compromise, struck on the same day as the government announced the loss of nearly 600,000 more jobs in January, at about $780 billion, although some aspects of the plan remained unclear late Friday. The deal's proponents said the new plan would cut spending for an array of projects, such as $870 million for pandemic flu preparedness, included in the earlier House and Senate bills.

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Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins of Maine, who helped craft the less-costly stimulus plan with a bipartisan group of moderate senators, board an elevator at the Capitol Friday after a meeting where they bargained with Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
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Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins of Maine, who helped craft the less-costly stimulus plan with a bipartisan group of moderate senators, board an elevator at the Capitol Friday after a meeting where they bargained with Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins of Maine, who helped craft the less-costly stimulus plan with a bipartisan group of moderate senators, board an elevator at the Capitol Friday after a meeting where they bargained with Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins of Maine, who helped craft the less-costly stimulus plan with a bipartisan group of moderate senators, board an elevator at the Capitol Friday after a meeting where they bargained with Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

The compromise didn't sway some Republican opponents. Among those criticizing the stimulus plan – Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), the losing Republican Presidential candidate. "This is a Christmas tree," Mr. McCain thundered.

The deal jettisons or pares back a number of items that President Barack Obama had wanted. Funding to computerize health records is all but gone, as is a national study on the comparative effectiveness of health treatments. Mr. Obama's Make Work Pay payroll tax holiday was clipped back, and an expansion of the per child tax credit for the working poor was also trimmed. At least half the funds to stop cutbacks at the state level in education were eliminated.

White House aides refused to call those cuts a defeat for the president. Instead, one called it "a strategic retreat" to get the bill into House-Senate negotiations and off the Senate floor where it was being picked apart.

"Wait til conference," another White House aide cautioned. The reference was to the House-Senate conference that will shape the final bill.

The compromise package makes some $20 billion to $25 billion in trims from the tax-relief elements of the earlier Senate package. Under the package, the cuts would fall on planned investments in Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health to the poor, housing, energy and education. But proponents said it would still offer tax relief for low and middle income families, breaks for small businesses, and a one year patch to protect millions of Americans from paying the alternative minimum tax.

With Republicans and Democrats in the Senate still at loggerheads over an economic stimulus package, President Barack Obama expressed frustration at the GOP's demands to cut spending and focus on tax cuts in the bill.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the decision to scale back the tax cuts reflected "push back from the left," which insisted that all of the reductions in the package not come from spending. One Senate aide said some of the reductions in tax relief would come from trimming a tax cut that would promote development of clean energy, as well as money-losing firms by allowing them to get refunds for taxes paid in past years.

Still unclear is what the Senate will do with popular tax breaks -- for home and auto purchases -- that received wide support on the Senate floor. Some senators suggested those provisions would still remain in play, as efforts to meld the House and Senate bills begin.

Even a scaled-down Senate package, if passed, would likely be broadly consistent with the House-passed bill, and well within the range of what Mr. Obama originally called upon Congress to approve.

The new plan would still provide an array of tax cuts for individuals and business, aid to cash-strapped states, and billions of dollars in new spending, boosting support for jobless benefits, food aid for the poor, and road and bridge construction, among other things.

If the Senate passes a plan, it would set up private House-Senate negotiations, which are expected to begin next week. That will be where Mr. Obama and senior Democrats could exert far more influence on the details of the final package, amid efforts to conclude action by the end of the week.

Senate passage would be a critical victory for Mr. Obama, a little more than two weeks into his term. The past three days have strained Mr. Obama's efforts to shape a post-partisan presidency that leaves behind decades-old ideological debates. The stimulus debate has highlighted the reality that President Obama faces: a smaller but more vociferously conservative Republican Party and a liberal Democratic leadership anxious to put its large majorities to work passing long-deferred priorities.
[Harry Reid]

Harry Reid

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, in his effort to round up the votes to push the measure through, bargained for much of Friday with Republican Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), who all played key roles in developing a bipartisan alternative to the Obama plan. Working in concert with a group of moderate Democrats led by Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Sen. Collins and others proposed to cut tens of billions of dollars from the original Senate bill, with the goal of snipping out projects -- from education funding to spending on polar ice breakers -- not deemed of immediate benefit to the economy.

Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Reid in the wee hours of Friday, and again Friday morning. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel worked the phones with Democratic leadership all day. White House budget director Peter Orszag ran through the spending and tax totals with lawmakers, while the president's legislative staff buzzed in and out of Senate meetings.

The delays in Senate action on the economic-stimulus plan provoked sharp criticism from Mr. Obama, who seized on the bleak jobs report to blast the Senate's inaction.

"These numbers demand action," Mr. Obama said early Friday, as he announced the creation of an outside advisory board on economic policy. "It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay and politics, while millions of Americans are being put out of work."

After a closed-door caucus of Senate Democrats, party leaders emerged saying they are ready to go to the floor. "We have a deal," said Mr. Baucus, the Senate Finance Chairman.

Unclear, though, was whether the full Senate would push immediately toward a final vote Friday night. Mr. Reid, the majority leader, said he wanted to vote on more amendments to the plan Friday night, but it was unclear whether Mr. Reid could get a final vote Friday. Mr. Reid said the Senate would vote "if not tonight…then in next day or so."

The push for action reflected the sense of renewed urgency among lawmakers over the deepening recession.

* Discuss: Do you think the stimulus legislation will work?


* Wash Wire: White House Calls for Speed
* Video: Stimulus Plan May Hurt Housing
* Opinion: Why "Stimulus" Will Mean Inflation
* See the full text of the Senate bill prior to this week's amendments.

To ratchet up the political pressure on lawmakers, who must still reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill, the president will make his first foray Monday out of the Washington area since his inauguration, to a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind., where the jobless rate in the last year has soared to 15.3% from 4.7%, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced Friday. Following a Monday night press conference on primetime television, he will head to Fort Myers, Fla., another hard-hit city, to sell the package on Tuesday.

Mr. Reid had to compromise to win the handful of Republicans he needs to swing behind the president's plan and pass the bill. Democrats control the chamber with a 58-41 majority. But they need Republican support to achieve the 60 votes needed to ensure passage of any measure.

Two Republican senators -- Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- endorsed the package, Friday night.

Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who has been ill, was flying back to Washington Friday night to bolster the vote for the plan.

But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.) Friday night criticized the compromise plan, and said the plan is "not likely…to produce the results we desire."

The tenacity of the Republicans' opposition to the stimulus plan in the House and Senate has appeared to catch the Obama administration off balance.

"In the political hurly-burly, we've lost contact with the basic economic concepts here: States are trying to balance their budgets, and they are raising taxes, cutting benefits and laying people off," a White House economist said. The economist said the education cuts under discussion Friday were unacceptable.

Obama sends labor another bouquet

In his latest labor-friendly move, President Obama signed an executive order this afternoon encouraging the use of union workers for big federal construction projects.

The order instructs federal agencies to have construction contractors make agreements that require contractors to negotiate with unions, recognize union wages and benefits, and follow collective bargaining agreements.

Obama's order restores a Clinton administration rule that was rescinded by President George W. Bush, the Associated Press reports.

In response, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, issued a statement:

"Today's executive order has the unfortunate potential to limit contractors' ability to compete for projects at a time when the government is reporting that over one million construction workers have lost their jobs. Given that federal agencies have no demonstrated expertise in writing contracts that cover contractors and their employees, we strongly encourage officials to exercise the discretion this order provides and avoid government-mandated labor agreements," he said.

The full text of the order is below:

- - - - - - -
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, 40 U.S.C. 101 et seq., and in order to promote the efficient administration and completion of Federal construction projects, it is hereby ordered that:
Section 1. Policy. (a) Large-scale construction projects pose special challenges to efficient and timely procurement by the Federal Government. Construction employers typically do not have a permanent workforce, which makes it difficult for them to predict labor costs when bidding on contracts and to ensure a steady supply of labor on contracts being performed. Challenges also arise due to the fact that construction projects typically involve multiple employers at a single location. A labor dispute involving one employer can delay the entire project. A lack of coordination among various employers, or uncertainty about the terms and conditions of employment of various groups of workers, can create frictions and disputes in the absence of an agreed-upon resolution mechanism. These problems threaten the efficient and timely completion of construction projects undertaken by Federal contractors. On larger projects, which are generally more complex and of longer duration, these problems tend to be more pronounced.
(b) The use of a project labor agreement may prevent these problems from developing by providing structure and stability to large-scale construction projects, thereby promoting the efficient and expeditious completion of Federal construction contracts. Accordingly, it is the policy of the Federal Government to encourage executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements in connection with large-scale construction projects in order to promote economy and efficiency in Federal procurement.
Sec. 2. Definitions.
(a) The term "labor organization" as used in this order means a labor organization as defined in 29 U.S.C. 152(5).
(b) The term "construction" as used in this order means construction, rehabilitation, alteration, conversion, extension, repair, or improvement of buildings, highways, or other real property.
(c) The term "large-scale construction project" as used in this order means a construction project where the total cost to the Federal Government is $25 million or more.
(d) The term "executive agency" as used in this order has the same meaning as in 5 U.S.C. 105, but excludes the Government Accountability Office.
(e) The term "project labor agreement" as used in this order means a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project and is an agreement described in 29 U.S.C. 158(f).
Sec. 3. (a) In awarding any contract in connection with a large-scale construction project, or obligating funds pursuant to such a contract, executive agencies may, on a project-by-project basis, require the use of a project labor agreement by a contractor where use of such an agreement will (i) advance the Federal Government's interest in achieving economy and efficiency in Federal procurement, producing labor-management stability, and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing safety and health, equal employment opportunity, labor and employment standards, and other matters, and (ii) be consistent with law.
(b) If an executive agency determines under subsection (a) that the use of a project labor agreement will satisfy the criteria in clauses (i) and (ii) of that subsection, the agency may, if appropriate, require that every contractor or subcontractor on the project agree, for that project, to negotiate or become a party to a project labor agreement with one or more appropriate labor organizations.
Sec. 4. Any project labor agreement reached pursuant to this order shall:
(a) bind all contractors and subcontractors on the construction project through the inclusion of appropriate specifications in all relevant solicitation provisions and contract documents;
(b) allow all contractors and subcontractors to compete for contracts and subcontracts without regard to whether they are otherwise parties to collective bargaining agreements;
(c) contain guarantees against strikes, lockouts, and similar job disruptions;
(d) set forth effective, prompt, and mutually binding procedures for resolving labor disputes arising during the project labor agreement;
(e) provide other mechanisms for labor-management cooperation on matters of mutual interest and concern, including productivity, quality of work, safety, and health;
(f) fully conform to all statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders.
Sec. 5. This order does not require an executive agency to use a project labor agreement on any construction project, nor does it preclude the use of a project labor agreement in circumstances not covered by this order, including leasehold arrangements and projects receiving Federal financial assistance. This order also does not require contractors or subcontractors to enter into a project labor agreement with any particular labor organization.
Sec. 6. Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR Council), to the extent permitted by law, shall take whatever action is required to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to implement the provisions of this order.
Sec. 7. The Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor and with other officials as appropriate, shall provide the President within 180 days of this order, recommendations about whether broader use of project labor agreements, with respect to both construction projects undertaken under Federal contracts and construction projects receiving Federal financial assistance, would help to promote the economical, efficient, and timely completion of such projects.
Sec. 8. Revocation of Prior Orders, Rules, and Regulations. Executive Order 13202 of February 17, 2001, and Executive Order 13208 of April 6, 2001, are revoked. The heads of executive agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law, revoke expeditiously any orders, rules, or regulations implementing Executive Orders 13202 and 13208.
Sec. 9. Severability. If any provision of this order, or the application of such provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.
Sec. 10. General. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Sec. 11. Effective Date. This order shall be effective immediately and shall apply to all solicitations for contracts issued on or after the effective date of the action taken by the FAR Council under section 6 of this order.

Obama upholds Bush faith policy

Religious groups that discriminate in hiring may still receive federal funding, as Bush declared in 2002. Democrats and civil libertarians are dismayed.
By Peter Wallsten and Duke Helfand
February 6, 2009
Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington -- It seemed like a firm campaign promise. Barack Obama pledged to continue President Bush's faith-based office in the White House, but with a key change: Groups receiving federal money would no longer be allowed to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.

On Thursday, however, as President Obama disclosed the details of his faith-based program, he left the controversial Bush policy in place.

The decision angered Democrats and civil libertarians who thought Obama had agreed with their view that Bush's 2002 executive order went too far.

"Based on what he said, we thought the issue had been resolved," said Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.).

"You'll have to ask them why they think it's all right to discriminate," Scott said. He added that administration officials are "either offended by the idea of discrimination, or they're not."

But Thursday's announcement surprised and pleased some religious leaders, particularly religious conservatives, who had a strong ally in Bush and had been pressing the Democratic president to revoke his earlier promise.

"I'm very excited about this," said Frank Page, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of more than two dozen religious leaders named Thursday to a new White House council that will advise Obama on faith-based issues. "I know he was struggling with this particular issue. But this will allow religious groups to be true to themselves."

Obama announced that White House officials might seek guidance from the Justice Department if questions arise about the legality of potential grant recipients.

In essence, the executive order, which did not specifically mention discrimination, gives the White House the option to review a specific grant for legal reasons but does not overturn Bush's broader policy.

Administration officials rejected the notion that Obama was backtracking on a campaign promise.

A White House spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, said the new executive order "strengthens the constitutional and legal footing" of the faith-based office. She said the order "doesn't resolve all issues at the outset, but it does provide a mechanism to address difficult legal issues."

"On contentious issues like hiring, the president found that one of the problems with the previous initiative was that tough questions were decided without appropriate consideration, data and input from different sides," Psaki said.

Thursday's announcement marked Obama's first official step in redesigning the White House faith-based office, created by Bush to help direct federal dollars to religious charities and social service organizations.

Religious groups such as Catholic Charities and Salvation Army have long received government money, but the faith-based office was intended to direct federal help to smaller churches and organizations.

Critics said the Bush initiative was used largely as a tool to court influential pastors and award grants in politically important states.

The hiring issue was a major point of controversy between Bush and Democrats. The president signed an executive order in 2002 that paved the way for allowing federal grants to certain groups that hired only people of like-minded religions. Supporters of the policy argued that a small Christian organization, for example, could not operate according to its ideals if it were forced to hire non-Christians.

Obama clearly singled out the policy during a campaign speech in July, declaring that "if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them -- or against the people you hire -- on the basis of their religion."

But once he won the election, religious conservatives began lobbying Obama and his transition team on the issue. It was the subject of intense internal debate, according to participants.

That debate is now expected to continue among the members of the new advisory council, which includes a broad range of political and religious ideologies.

Along with Page of the Southern Baptist Convention, another top conservative voice in favor of the existing policy is Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, a Christian service organization based in Washington state.

Obama Orders New Rules to Raise Energy Efficiency

Obama Orders New Rules to Raise Energy Efficiency

WASHINGTON — President Obama ordered the Energy Department on Thursday to immediately draft long-overdue standards to make a variety of appliances and light bulbs more energy efficient.

Over the last three decades, Congress has demanded stricter efficiency standards on 30 categories of products, as varied as residential air-conditioners and industrial boilers. But successive administrations have failed to write regulations to enforce the laws, even when ordered to by the courts.

In remarks to employees of the Energy Department, and in a presidential memorandum, Mr. Obama said he intended to comply with the laws, starting this year with nine categories of products, including ovens, vending machines, microwave ovens, dishwashers and light bulbs.

He said the new standards would cut energy use and reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases that scientists blame for global warming.

“This will save consumers money, this will spur innovation and this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ll save through these simple steps over the next 30 years the amount of energy produced over a two-year period by all the coal-fired power plants in America.”

All recent administrations have been tardy in drafting the standards, leading to a lawsuit in 2005 by 14 states and a number of consumer and environmental groups. A year later, a federal court ordered the Bush administration to begin issuing the standards. But former President George W. Bush left office with only seven standards completed and 15 still to be written, according to government documents.

Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said that in addition to moving quickly to complete the new rules, Mr. Obama should toughen some standards issued by the Bush administration, particularly for industrial furnaces and transformers. Mr. deLaski also said some of the most significant savings would come from the lowly light bulb.

The Energy Department is under orders to develop stricter efficiency standards for florescent light bulbs and reflector bulbs, saving businesses and households as much as $67 billion over the next 30 years. Congress has ordered the phasing out of the traditional incandescent light bulb by 2014.

Charges dropped vs. suspect in 2000 USS Cole blast

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says the senior military judge overseeing terror trials at Guantanamo Bay has dropped charges against a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing.

The military charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay.

The legal move by Susan J. Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantanamo, brings all cases into compliance with President Barack Obama's executive order to halt all terrorist court proceedings at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The senior military judge overseeing terror trials at Guantanamo Bay is expected to drop charges Friday against a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing.

The military charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay. The legal move by Susan J. Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantanamo, would bring all cases into compliance with President Barack Obama's executive order to halt all terrorist court proceedings at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

On Thursday, two Obama administration officials told The Associated Press that the charges against al-Nashiri will be dismissed without prejudice. That means new charges can be brought again later. He will remain in prison for the time being.

It also gives the White House time to review the legal cases of all 245 terror suspects held there and decide whether they should be prosecuted in the U.S. or released to other nations.

Obama was expected to meet with families of Cole and 9/11 victims at the White House on Friday afternoon to announce the move.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the legal decision publicly. The White House declined comment.

Seventeen U.S. sailors died on Oct. 12, 2000, when al-Qaida suicide bombers steered an explosives-laden boat into the Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, as it sat in a Yemen port.

The Pentagon last summer charged al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian, with "organizing and directing" the bombing and planned to seek the death penalty in the case.

In his Jan. 22 order, Obama promised to shut down the Guantanamo prison within a year. The order also froze all Guantanamo detainee legal cases pending a three-month review as the Obama administration decides where — or whether — to prosecute the suspects who have been held there for years, most without charges.

Two military judges granted Obama's request for a delay in other cases.

But a third military judge, Army Col. James Pohl, defied Obama's order by scheduling a Feb. 9 arraignment for al-Nashiri at Guantanamo. That left the decision on whether to continue to Crawford, whose delay on announcing what she would do prompted widespread concern at the Pentagon that she would refuse to follow orders and allow the court process to continue.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk S. Lippold, the commanding officer of the Cole when it was bombed in Yemen in October 2000, said he will be among family members of Cole and 9/11 victims who are meeting with Obama at the White House on Friday afternoon.

Groups representing victims' families were angered by Obama's order, charging they had waited too long already to see the alleged attackers brought to court.

"I was certainly disappointed with the decision to delay the military commissions process," Lippold, now a defense adviser to Military Families United, said in an interview Thursday night. "We have already waited eight years. Justice delayed is justice denied. We must allow the military commission process to go forward."

Crawford was appointed to her post in 2007 by then-President George W. Bush. She was in the news last month when she said interrogation methods used on one suspect at Guantanamo amounted to torture. The Bush administration had maintained it did not torture.

Last year, al-Nashiri said during a Guantanamo hearing that he confessed to helping plot the Cole bombing only because he was tortured by U.S. interrogators. The CIA has admitted he was among terrorist suspects subjected to waterboarding, which simulates drowning, in 2002 and 2003 while being interrogated in secret CIA prisons.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act

the first piece of legislation that Obama signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, makes it easier for workers to sue for pay discrimination.

The measure, which was hailed by women�s rights advocates and labor leaders, effectively trumps a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Lilly Ledbetter in her 10-year pay discrimination battle against Goodyear Tire & Rubber.

�Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. In fact, I will never see a cent from my case. But with the president�s signature today, I have an even richer reward,� Ledbetter, 70, said about the prospect of women now facing a changed playing field. �That�s what makes this fight worth fighting.�

Obama Announces Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

President Obama signed an executive order to create the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Obama named Joshua DuBois, a minister who did religious outreach during the campaign, to head the office. He also named 25 diverse religious and secular leaders to a new advisory board.

The announcement came after Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast where he said the program would adhere to strict separation of church and state. He said; "The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another – or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."

The initiative under President Bush faced many constitutional challenges, specifically regarding whether groups receiving tax dollars could use those federal funds to hire on the basis of religion. A few groups have issued statements in response to the order, disappointment calling on Obama's failure to overturn the policy allowing participating religious groups to continue discrimination in hiring. Americans United for Separation of Church and State's press release cites executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn; "It should be obvious that taxpayer-funded religious bias offends our civil rights laws, our Constitution and our shared sense of values." According to an Associated Press article, Obama "asked White House lawyers and the Justice Department to write a policy that would address the question of hiring."

Under Obama, the office will emphasize the work with neighborhood groups. At the prayer breakfast, Obama also said, "whether it's a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what's happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them."

Obama Blasts Stimulus Delay Amid Job Losses

President Barack Obama decried as "inexcusable and irresponsible" the delay of his economic recovery legislation in Congress with an estimated 3.6 million Americans losing their jobs since the recession began.

Mr. Obama's remarks were some of his most direct and pointed in support of the massive economic package that the Senate considered Friday and tried to pare down. Obama acknowledged the $900-billion-plus plan was not perfect and pledged to work with lawmakers to refine the measure, which he called "absolutely necessary."

"But broadly speaking, it is the right size," Obama said in prepared remarks. "It is the right scope... It will take months -- even years -- to renew our economy. But every day that Washington fails to act, that recovery is delayed." (Read the full text of Obama's prepared remarks on the economy.)

Employers slashed payrolls by 598,000, the most since the end of 1974, catapulting the unemployment rate to 7.6%. The rate is the highest since September 1992. (See related article.)

"These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work. It is time for Congress to act," Mr. Obama said bluntly.

"That's 3.6 million Americans who wake up every day wondering how they are going to pay their bills, stay in their homes, and provide for their children. That's 3.6 million Americans who need our help," he said.

Making good on a promise to name a diverse outside economic advisory panel, Mr. Obama appointed a slate of business, economic and labor leaders – from conservative economist Martin Feldstein to AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka – to help guide him on the path out of recession.

The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, will be modeled after the existing Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to bring in voices from outside government to help shape policy.

Obama aides say the board will focus on short-term measures to stimulate the economy as well as longer-term efforts to restructure the regulatory apparatus overseeing financial markets. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist and close campaign aide, will be its executive director.

Some of the panel's members have close Republican ties, such as Mr. Feldstein, a Reagan White House economist, and William H. Donaldson, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission appointed by President George W. Bush. Others have close political ties to the president, including Penny Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, and Robert Wolf, chairman of chief executive of UBS Group Americas. The group also includes Roger W. Ferguson Jr., a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, not chief executive of TIAA-CREF, Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, and Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric.
The advisory board:

William H. Donaldson, Chairman, SEC

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF

Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas

David F. Swensen, CIO, Yale University

Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P.

Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group

John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.

Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion

Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation

Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU

Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO

Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean, Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley

Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, GE

Thursday, February 5, 2009

This administration has become a joke, a parody

Yet another Obama cabinet nominee turns out to be a tax-cheat.

A Senate committee today abruptly canceled a session to consider President Obama's nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis to be labor secretary in the wake of a report saying that her husband yesterday paid about $6,400 to settle tax liens against his business -- including liens that had been outstanding for as long as 16 years.

She also has small problem with violating House ethics rules. But, hey, what's a frakking huge little conflict of interest when you're pledged to serve The One?

Hmmm... Has anyone checked the President's taxes yet? Thinking

The new Obama poster, via Exurban League:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

4-Block World

WSJ NEWS ALERT: CIA Nominee Panetta Earned $700,000 in Fees in 2008


WASHINGTON -- The White House's nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has earned more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since the beginning of 2008, with some of the payments coming from troubled banks and an investment firm that owns companies that do business with federal national security agencies.

Mr. Panetta received $56,000 from Merrill Lynch & Co. for two speeches and $28,000 for an Oct. 30, 2008 speech for Wachovia Corp. Both firms suffered big losses last year and were acquired by larger banks.

The Wachovia honorarium was on Oct. 30, while the last Merrill Lynch honorarium was on Oct. 11, according to disclosure forms filed by Mr. Panetta in connection with his nomination. At the time, Bank of America had already agreed to a rescue of Merrill Lynch, while Wachovia had agreed to be acquired by Wells Fargo & Co.

Mr. Panetta also received a $28,000 honorarium from the Carlyle Group, which owns a number of companies that do business with the national-security agencies of the U.S. government.

Mr. Panetta is a former congressman from central California who served as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. A White House spokesman for Mr. Panetta didn't immediately respond to inquiries about the disclosures.

Mr. Panetta also reported receiving a $60,000 "Governmental Advisor Fee" from the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping industry. The group lobbies the federal government regarding terrorism laws that affect shipping. A spokesman for the association didn't respond to a request for comment.

Another big source of income for Mr. Panetta was California State University, Monterey Bay, which hosts his nonprofit foundation, the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. The school paid Mr. Panetta $150,000 in "consulting fees," he reported.

Mr. Panetta is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday about his nomination.

McCain, Coburn Threaten to Hold Up Legislation in Name of Fiscal Discipline

McCain, Coburn Threaten to Hold Up Legislation in Name of Fiscal Discipline

By John Stanton
Roll Call

January 28, 2009

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) told their colleagues Wednesday that they would block legislation they believe violates a series of government reform proposals the Obama administration unveiled earlier this month, including the creation of duplicative programs or earmarks over $25,000 that are not competitively bid.
Citing the continued economic crisis, the two fiscal hawks pledged in a letter to Senators to back Obama’s “Plan for Restoring Fiscal Discipline.” The duo argued that it will help ensure any legislation does not increase the national debt. Read the entire letter here.

“This is why we believe it is essential that President-elect Barack Obama is successful in his pledge to bring change to Washington by changing Congress’ irresponsible spending habits,” Coburn and McCain wrote.

Obama’s reform plan is designed to eliminate most earmarks and redundant federal programs, require that new spending be offset by reductions elsewhere in the budget and require performance measures for new programs proposed in legislation.

While Coburn and McCain commit to holding up legislation that does not fall within those broad outlines, they also warn that other measures could end up being blocked as well.
“This is not an exhaustive list of all of the reasons we may individually object to a particular bill or a unanimous consent agreement for consideration of legislation, but these will be the fundamental parameters by which we will evaluate all legislation,” they said, adding that “our intent is not to be obstacles, but rather to give you the courtesy of knowing how we can work together to accomplish our individual and collective goals and to cooperate with our new President to help him succeed with his plan for restoring fiscal discipline to Washington in a bi-partisan manner.”

Coburn and McCain, Obama’s rival for the White House in 2008, have long been champions of the government reform cause in Congress, and they worked with Obama on a number of earmark and other reform measures in the past several sessions of Congress.
However, Coburn’s use of holds has often run him afoul of leaders from both parties, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). In fact, he and Reid spent more than year battling over Coburn’s use of holds on a package of public lands bills.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What GOP Leaders deem wasteful in Senate stimulus bill

(CNN) -- On Monday, Congressional Republican leaders put out a list of what they call wasteful provisions in the Senate version of the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill that is being debated:
The Senate is currently the nearly $900 billion economic stimulus bill.

The Senate is currently the nearly $900 billion economic stimulus bill.

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.

• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.

• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).

• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.

• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.

• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.

• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.

• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.
Don't Miss

• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.

• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.

• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.

• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."

• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.

• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.

• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.

• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.

• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.

• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.

• $500 million for state and local fire stations.

• $650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.

• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.

• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.

• $412 million for CDC buildings and property.

• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.

• $160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

• $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

• $850 million for Amtrak.

• $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.

• $75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.

• $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.

• $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

WSJ NEWS ALERT: Obama to Announce New Executive-Pay Caps

President Barack Obama plans to unveil a series of new pay curbs Wednesday, including limits to executive salaries.

Among the new restrictions being considered is a cap on salaries for executives at companies that receive a substantial amount of government aid. Such a move would amount to an unprecedented effort to limit executive pay.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will unveil a series of pay curbs on Wednesday, including a strict new limit on executive salaries for companies that receive "exceptional assistance."

The rules represent the White House's attempt to ensure that financial institutions receiving government money are held accountable for spending it responsibly, an administration official said.

President Barack Obama, pictured at the White House Tuesday, plans to unveil a series of pay curbs Wednesday.

Under the new rules, companies that receive "exceptional assistance" from taxpayers may not pay any top executive more than $500,000 a year, an administration official said. Any additional compensation would have to be in restricted stock that will not vest until taxpayers have been repaid, the official said.

This goes beyond current rules, which bar such companies from taking a tax deduction for compensation above half a million dollars.

Moreover, all banks receiving help will face tougher restrictions, including new rules limiting "golden parachutes" and requirements that shareholders have a say on compensation for top executives, so-called "say on pay" policies. Specifically, senior executive compensation plans and rationale must be submitted to a non-binding shareholder resolution.

All banks will face tougher disclosure rules, which will affect spending on matter such as aviation services, office renovations, entertainment and holiday parties, conferences and events, and golden parachutes.

The rules are expected to be announced by Mr. Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the White House.

It's not clear yet what counts as "exceptional assistance." People familiar with the matter have suggested it refers to a situation where the government invests heavily in an ailing company, as it did with American International Group Inc.

The new rules would not be applied retroactively to companies that have already received aid. Instead, companies that have already received help from Treasury will be required to demonstrate that they have complied with the existing rules and agree to strict monitoring and oversight.

Financial institutions participating in the Generally Available Capital Access Programs can waive the $500,000 limit but would have to disclose those plans and, if requested, submit to a non-binding "say on pay" shareholder resolution.

The administration official added that the president intends for these standards to mark the start of a long-term effort to institute a "sensible framework" for executive compensation that promotes sound risk management and long-term growth while preventing future financial crises.

Possible steps for the future include requiring compensation committees on all public financial institutions to review and disclose strategies for aligning compensation with sound risk-management.

Another possibility is requiring top executives to hold stock for several years after it is awarded to encourage a more long-term focus on the firm's economic interests.

The Treasury Department plans a conference on executive pay reform to discuss many of these ideas.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Official: Obama to repeal 4 Bush executive orders

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to overturn four Bush-era executive orders that organized labor opposed.

A labor official tells The Associated Press that Obama will reverse one order that allowed unionized companies to post signs informing workers that they were allowed to decertify the union. Critics said the order was unfair because nonunion businesses were not required to post signs letting workers know they were legally allowed to vote for a union.

The official says the other three orders address similar administrative rules for labor groups. The official disclosed the plans on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to pre-empt the White House's plans.

Monday, January 26, 2009

President Obama has ordered the EPA to allow states set their own fuel-efficiency standards

President Obama has ordered the EPA to allow states set their own fuel-efficiency standards (fourteen states had begun the process when President Bush put a stop to it a couple of years ago.) He's also asked the DOT to "develop higher fuel-efficiency standards automakers would have to follow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The orders will shut down the Guantanamo Bay terror prison and close secret CIA "black sites" within a year, ban interrogation techniques not in the Army Field Manual and support the Geneva Conventions outlawing inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Presidential Memorandum on Review of the Detention of al-Marri

The president instructed the attorney general, the secretaries of defense, state and homeland security, and the director of national intelligence to conduct a review of the status of the detainee Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri who is currently held at the Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C. This will ensure the same kind of legal and factual review is undertaken of the al-Marri case that is being undertaken of the Guantanamo cases.

Executive Order Regarding Interrogation

Executive order revokes Executive Order 13440 that interpreted Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It requires that all interrogations of detainees in armed conflict, by any government agency, follow the Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines. The order also prohibits reliance on any department of justice or other legal advice concerning interrogation that was issued between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009.

The order requires all departments and agencies to provide the (International Committee of the Red Cross) access to detainees in a manner consistent with department of defense regulations and practice. It also orders the CIA to close all existing detention facilities and prohibits it from operating detention facilities in the future.

Finally, the order creates a special task force with two missions. The task force will conduct a review of the Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines to determine whether different or additional guidance is necessary for the CIA. It will also look at rendition and other policies for transferring individuals to third countries to be sure that our policies and practices comply with all obligations and are sufficient to ensure that individuals do not face torture and cruel treatment if transferred. This task force will be led by the attorney general with the secretary of defense and the director of national intelligence as co-vice chairs.

Executive Order Regarding Detainee Policy

Executive order creates a special task force, co-chaired by the attorney general and the secretary of defense, to conduct a review of detainee policy going forward. The group will consider policy options for apprehension, detention, trial, transfer or release of detainees. Other task force participants include the secretary of state, the secretary of homeland security, the director of national intelligence, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The special task force must submit its report to the president within 180 days.

Obama signs order to close Guantánamo Bay

- - - - - - -
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States
of America, in order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the
Department of Defense at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (“Guantánamo”) and promptly to
close the detention facilities at Guantánamo, consistent with the national security and foreign
policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, I hereby order as follows:
Section 1. Definitions. As used in this order:
(a) “Common Article 3” means Article 3 of each of the Geneva Conventions.
(b) “Geneva Conventions” means:
(i) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and
Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3114);
(ii) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and
Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3217);
(iii) the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949
(6 UST 3316); and
(iv) the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War,
Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3516).
(c) “Individuals currently detained at Guantánamo” and “individuals covered by this
order” mean individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense in facilities at
the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base whom the Department of Defense has ever determined
to be or treated as enemy combatants.
Sec. 2. Findings.
(a) Over the past seven years, approximately 800 individuals whom the Federal
Government has identified as enemy combatants have been detained at Guantánamo.
The Federal Government has moved more than 500 such detainees from Guantánamo,
either by returning them to their home country or by releasing or transferring them to a
third country. The Department of Defense has determined that a number of the
individuals currently detained at Guantánamo are eligible for such transfer or release.
(b) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have been there for more than
six years, and most have been detained for at least four years. In view of the significant
concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally,
prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo
and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests
of the United States and the interests of justice. Merely closing the facility without
promptly determining the appropriate disposition of the individuals detained would not
adequately serve those interests. To the extent practicable, the prompt and appropriate
disposition of the individuals detained at Guantanamo should precede the closure of the
detention facilities at Guantanamo.
(c) The individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have the constitutional privilege of
the writ of habeas corpus. Most of those individuals have filed petitions for a writ of
habeas corpus in Federal court challenging the lawfulness of their detention.
(d) It is in the interests of the United States that the Administration undertake a prompt
and thorough review of the factual and legal bases for the continued detention of all
individuals currently held at Guantánamo, and of whether their continued detention is in
the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests
of justice. The unusual circumstances associated with detentions at Guantánamo require
a comprehensive interagency review.
(e) New diplomatic efforts may result in an appropriate disposition of a substantial
number of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo.
(f) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo may have committed offenses for
which they should be prosecuted. It is in the interests of the United States to review
whether and how any such individuals can and should be prosecuted.
(g) It is in the interests of the United States that the Administration conduct a prompt and
thorough review of the circumstances of the individuals currently detained at
Guantánamo who have been charged with offenses before military commissions pursuant
to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109-366, as well as of the military
commission process more generally.
Sec. 3. Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantánamo. The detention facilities at Guantánamo
for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one
year from the date of this order. If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at
Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their
home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States
detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy
interests of the United States.
Sec. 4. Immediate Review of All Guantánamo Detentions.
(a) Scope and Timing of Review. A review of the status of each individual currently
detained at Guantánamo (“Review”) shall commence immediately.
(b) Review Participants. The Review shall be conducted with the full cooperation and
participation of the following officials:
(1) the Attorney General, who shall coordinate the Review;
(2) the Secretary of Defense;
(3) the Secretary of State;
(4) the Secretary of Homeland Security;
(5) the Director of National Intelligence;
(6) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and
(7) other officers or full-time or permanent part-time employees of the
United States, including employees with intelligence, counterterrorism, military,
and legal expertise, as determined by the Attorney General, with the concurrence
of the head of the department or agency concerned.
(c) Operation of Review. The duties of the Review participants shall include the
(1) Consolidation of Detainee Information. The Attorney General shall, to the
extent reasonably practicable, and in coordination with the other Review
participants, assemble all information in the possession of the Federal
Government that pertains to any individual currently detained at Guantánamo and
that is relevant to determining the proper disposition of any such individual. All
executive branch departments and agencies shall promptly comply with any
request of the Attorney General to provide information in their possession or
control pertaining to any such individual. The Attorney General may seek further
information relevant to the Review from any source.
(2) Determination of Transfer. The Review shall determine, on a rolling basis and
as promptly as possible with respect to each individual currently detained at
Guantánamo, whether it is possible to transfer or release the individuals consistent
with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and, if
so, whether and how the Secretary of Defense may effect their transfer or release
on appropriate terms and conditions. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of
State, and, as appropriate, other Review participants shall work to effect promptly
the release or transfer of all individuals for whom release or transfer is possible on
such terms and conditions.
(3) Determination of Prosecution. In accordance with United States law, the cases
of individuals detained at Guantánamo not approved for release or transfer shall
be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to
prosecute the detained individuals for any offenses they may have committed,
including whether it is feasible to prosecute such individuals before a court
established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution, and the
Review participants shall in turn take the necessary and appropriate steps based
on such determinations.
(4) Determination of Other Disposition. With respect to any individuals currently
detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under subsections
(c)(2) or (c)(3) of this section, the Review shall select lawful means, consistent
with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the
interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals. The appropriate
authorities shall promptly implement such dispositions.
(5) Consideration of Issues Relating to Transfer to United States. The Review
shall identify and consider legal, logistical, and security issues relating to the
potential transfer of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo to facilities
within the United States and the review participants shall work with Congress on
any legislation that may be appropriate.
Sec. 5. Diplomatic Efforts. The Secretary of State shall expeditiously pursue and direct such
negotiations and diplomatic efforts with foreign governments as are necessary and appropriate to
implement this order.
Sec. 6. Humane Standards of Confinement. No individual currently detained at Guantánamo
shall be held in the custody or under the effective control of any officer, employee, or other agent
of the United States Government, or at a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department
or agency of the United States, except in conformity with all applicable laws governing the
conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The
Secretary of Defense shall immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at
Guantánamo to ensure full compliance with this directive. Such review shall be completed
within 30 days and any necessary corrections implemented immediately thereafter.
Sec. 7. Military Commissions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately take steps sufficient
to ensure that during the pendency of the Review described in section 4 of this order no charges
are sworn, or referred to a military commission, under the Military Commissions Act of 2006,
Pub. L. 109-366, and the Rules thereto, and that all proceedings of such military commissions to
which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered, and all
proceedings pending in the United States Court of Military Commission Review, are halted.
Sec. 8. General Provisions.
(a) Nothing in this order shall prejudice the authority of the Secretary of Defense to
determine the disposition of any detainees not covered by this order.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the
availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or
procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its
departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
[signed:] Barack Obama
January xx, 2009

Obama "plunged into the Mideast conflict with a series of phone calls

Obama "plunged into the Mideast conflict with a series of phone calls from the Oval Office, and immediately caused a flap over who he called first." Palestinian officials boasted that Obama called Abbas first; Israel brushed it off. "Diplomatic sources said who a President phones first when he makes a flurry of calls is more often a matter of scheduling and availability, not favoritism."

Click here to find out more! Text size: increase text sizedecrease text size Obama, in executive order, limits discretion to keep records of ex-presid

“Bush's rule allowed former presidents, vice presidents and their heirs to cite executive privilege to block the release of documents after they have left office. With his order, Obama essentially threw out that rule, allowing only the current president to block the release of documents and depriving heirs of that right."

New executive order to unblock past presidents, vice presidents and their heirsof documents

“Bush's rule allowed former presidents, vice presidents and their heirs to cite executive privilege to block the release of documents after they have left office. With his order, Obama essentially threw out that rule, allowing only the current president to block the release of documents and depriving heirs of that right."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Issues Executive Order on FOIA and Secrecy

President Obama has reportedly issued an order aimed at reversing the secrecy policies of the Bush administration.

Former Bush administration Attorney General John Ashcroft encouraged information officers to vigorously search all the Freedom of Information Act exemptions before releasing anything, which yielded all sorts of excuses for not releasing documents. President Obama today issued a memo instructing “all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government,” according to a White House press release.

Obama to Lift Ban on Funding for Groups Providing Abortions Overseas

President Obama will issue an executive order on Thursday reversing the Bush administration policy that bans the use of federal dollars by non-govermental organizations that discuss or provide abortions outside of the United States.

Obama will sign the executive order on the 36th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

The policy, known in governmental circles as the "Mexico City policy," requires any non-governmental organization to agree before receiving U.S. funds that they will "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."

Executive Order Contains Toughest and Most Far Reaching 'Revolving Door' Provisions Ever Adopted

The ethics Executive Order issued by the Obama Administration goes further than any previous action taken by a President to restrict the ability of presidential appointees who serve in the Executive Branch from coming back to lobby the Administration, and also to limit the role of lobbyists coming in to serve in the Administration.

It also bans presidential appointees from accepting gifts from lobbyists and lays the groundwork for extending this gift ban to all Executive Branch employees.

The new Executive Order contains the toughest and most far reaching revolving door provisions ever adopted.

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I don't want to mess around with these guys! Censorship is alive and well in The USA.
Blogger DMCA takedown notification
Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that certain content in your blog infringes upon the copyrights of others. The URL(s) of the allegedly infringing post(s) may be found at the end of this message.

The notice that we received from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the record companies it represents, with any personally identifying information removed, will be posted online by a service called Chilling Effects at We do this in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Please note that it may take Chilling Effects up to several weeks to post the notice online at the link provided.

The IFPI is a trade association that represents over 1,400 major and independent record companies in the US and internationally who create, manufacture and distribute sound recordings (the "IFPI Represented Companies").

The DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider liability in case of copyright infringement. We are in the process of removing from our servers the links that allegedly infringe upon the copyrights of others. If we did not do so, we would be subject to a claim of copyright infringement, regardless of its merits. See for more information about the DMCA, and see for the process that Blogger requires in order to make a DMCA complaint.

Blogger can reinstate these posts upon receipt of a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and 3) of the DMCA. For more information about the requirements of a counter notification and a link to a sample counter notification, see

Please note that repeated violations to our Terms of Service may result in further remedial action taken against your Blogger account. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel. If you have any other questions about this notification, please let us know.


The Blogger Team

Affected URLs: