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Log Cabin facing money woes

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gay GOP group at least $100,000 in debt

By Chris Johnson
Washington Blade

The Log Cabin Republicans, hampered by lackluster 2008 fundraising, is facing financial difficulties and ended the year at least $100,000 in debt, according to Patrick Sammon, the organization’s president, who spoke to the Blade Friday.

Sammon said he expects the organization to have around $100,000 in debt or “maybe a little more,” adding that the figure is made up of consolidated debt.

“It’s not like we’re not paying the rent or not paying the phone bill or anything like that,” he said. “We’re current on the bills that we owe, but we do have some debt that’s consolidated.”

Sammon said the organization expected donations would be higher last year because of the presidential election.

“Really what we anticipated was that 2008 would be a better year fundraising-wise based on what we’ve seen in other presidential election years,” he said. “We just didn’t see the fundraising materialize the way that we expected.”

Sammon said the economic downturn in the past year “certainly has affected” Log Cabin’s ability to raise as much as had been forecast for the year. He added that other gay organizations and non-profits are facing similar challenges in the current economy.

“I think we’re in a place that’s similar to other organizations,” he said. “It’s a difficult time for the economic situation and we’ll make decisions accordingly and in a responsible way.”

Log Cabin began noticing the economic downturn last year and cut expenses by 20 percent compared to 2007, Sammon said.

Sammon said he expects Log Cabin to set up a reduced budget for 2009 at a meeting scheduled to take place in Atlanta the weekend before Inauguration Day. Based on preliminary budget drafts, Sammon said he expects the organization to have a budget that is 35 to 40 percent less than what it had in 2008.

“We’ll expect to spend 35 to 40 percent less because, again, I think, we have to be prudent in battening down the hatches in figuring that the economy is not going to turn around overnight,” Sammon said....(Click for remainder).


Should Gays Serve in the Military?

By Kurt Soller
Readback @ Newsweek

In Dan Ephron's story this week, he mulls whether the new administration might overturn the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that prevents those who are openly gay from serving in the military. A 2008 Washington Post–ABC News poll put public support for gays serving openly at 75 percent, showing a real opportunity for the new administration to change the current law. Obviously, it's a hot-button issue, and one that had thousands of readers coming out on both sides to speak for or against, often evoking religious arguments. Since we've gotten into the religious aspects of homosexuality before, let's move on:

One of the principal arguments for allowing gays in the military was that more than a dozen countries allow gays to serve in their infantries, and have had few problems. "I believe gays should be in the military openly," says one commenter. "Other countries do it with no problem. Gays are just like you and me. It's as if we are saying if you're blond you can't serve in the military. It makes about as much since." Many also responded to a fearful argument from the other side that allowing gays into the military would mean allowing lewd activity -- stares in the shower, or what have you -- to occur among a cohesive squad. "The more I have thought about the comments from heterosexuals in the military the more angry I get." writes one commenter. "These big strong men say they wouldn't feel comfortable sleeping or showering in the same quarters with homosexuals. Well, [with Don't Ask, Don't Tell], they've been doing it for years and didn't know it."

That's true. And as one soldier puts it, service -- not sexuality -- should be everyone in the military's top priority: "I served for 23 years and would rather have a soldier or sailor at a high performance level than be forced to work with a lesser qualified person just because of sexual orientation," says one reader. "I was trained to keep sexual harassment out of my workplace, now just apply that idea to same-gender relationships." As another puts it, given the declining rates of enlistment: "The military has enough trouble finding good men without having prejudice entering the picture."...(Click for remainder).


Don’t Ask Too Fast

On gays, Obama's Joint Chiefs chair is caught between his boss and a conservative military.

Gary Fabiano/Sipa for Newsweek

By Dan Ephron

Admiral Mike Mullen likes to talk to the enlisted troops. On a recent tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, he gathers them around at each stop and tells them to pose any question they want, large or small. Mullen is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking officer in the armed forces. Though he orders the troops to stand at ease and flashes the smile of an amiable uncle, grunts don't easily relax around such senior brass and no hand goes up. "I've got all day," he says and waits till someone breaks the silence. In Afghanistan, a Marine asks about a salary issue. A soldier in Iraq wants to know if his tour will be extended. The exchanges are awkward, but they serve to extricate Mullen from the cycle of PowerPoint briefings. "I come out to see where they're living," he tells NEWSWEEK. "I come out to see what we're asking them to do."

In the next year, Mullen might have to ask troops to do something many will find even more uncomfortable: welcome openly gay men and women into their ranks. Such was the promise made by President-elect Obama in the 2008 campaign—gay-rights groups will hold him to it. To many civilians, the shift might seem natural. American attitudes toward homosexuality have evolved since 1993, the year Congress mandated that gays could serve so long as they hid their sexual orientation. The law, known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, predates "Will & Grace," and for most Americans, even the Internet. A 2008 Washington Post–ABC News poll put public support for gays serving openly at 75 percent.

But the military has its own culture, more insular and more conservative than the broader population's. In a survey of active-duty service members released last week, 58 percent said they oppose any change in the military's policy toward gays. Up to 23 percent of troops might not re-enlist if the law is repealed, according to a Military Times poll. Mullen will have to act as kind of cultural mediator between his new boss and the old institution he has managed for more than a year. That will mean advising Obama on what changes the military can (and cannot) withstand and then obliging troops to accept them....(Click for remainder).


Italian Pensions Sapped by Private Funds Bush Backed

Remember when Bush was all gung-ho about privatizing social security? Why don't we ask the Italians how well that turned out.

By Andrew Davis and Alessandra Migliaccio
Bloomberg News

Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Italy did for retirement financing what President George W. Bush couldn’t do in the U.S.: It privatized part of its social security system. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

The global market meltdown has created losses for those who agreed to shift their contributions from a government severance payment plan to private funds meant to yield higher returns. Anger is rising both at the state, which promoted the change, and money managers such as UniCredit SpA and Arca Previdenza, which stood to profit.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s administration is now considering ways to compensate as many as 1.2 million people who made the switch, giving up a fixed return for private plans linked to financial markets. It’s also letting people delay redemptions on retirement funds to avoid losses after Italy’s benchmark stock index fell 50 percent in 2008, destroying 300 billion euros ($423 billion) in wealth.

“The reform didn’t help anyone,” said Gabriele Fava, who heads the Fava & Associati law firm in Milan and writes about labor law. “Not the government, which was hoping everyone would make the switch to take the strain off its coffers, nor the workers who have not resolved the problem of needing a supplement to their social security pensions.”

Italy’s experience shows how difficult it is to solve a problem facing governments from the U.S. to Europe to Japan as populations age and the old system of taxing workers to support retirees becomes unsustainable. Bush failed to persuade Congress to let workers put a portion of their Social Security taxes into privately invested accounts as voter opposition increased....(Click for remainder).


Boxer: EPA should regulate coal-fired power plant waste

By Halimah Abdullah and Renee Schoof
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Federal regulations are needed to make sure that ash from coal-fired power plants is stored safely, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on Thursday as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the spill of 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge in East Tennessee.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers promised to make sure that the Tennessee Valley Authority helps the region recover from one of the nation's worst spill and looks for ways to prevent other spills and leaks.

TVA president and chief executive Tom Kilgore told the committee that his agency would do a first-rate cleanup.

"We'll start with the people first, and the environment comes right after that," he said. He also said the TVA wanted to work with the environmental committee to become a leader in better ash disposal methods.

It's not entirely clear how much ash is stored around the country or where. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't track the number or have a breakdown for the states, said spokeswoman Tisha Petteway.

According to the American Coal Ash Association's latest survey, in 2007, coal-fired plants generated 131 million tons of coal ash....(Click for remainder).


Barack Obama Announces Intelligence Heads

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama - As prepared for delivery
Announcement of Intelligence Team
January 9, 2009
Washington, D.C.

Before I discuss today’s announcement, I’d like to say a few words about the latest jobs numbers that we received this morning.

Yesterday, I spoke about the need to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan so that we can jumpstart job creation, invest in our future, and lay a foundation for long-term economic growth. This morning, we received a stark reminder of how urgently action is needed.

524,000 jobs were lost in December across nearly all major American industries. That means that our economy lost jobs in all 12 months of 2008, and that the nearly 2.6 million jobs lost last year amount to the single worst year of job loss since World War II. The unemployment rate is now over 7 percent. Clearly, the situation is dire, it is deteriorating, and it demands urgent and dramatic action.

My staff and I have been engaged in a constructive dialogue with members of Congress over the last few days and weeks about my American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan which will save or create at least 3 million jobs, and make long-term investments in the critical areas of energy, health care and education. We have made good progress in these consultations, and I look forward to working closely with Congress to shape legislation that will work for the American people.

But let me be clear: today’s jobs report only underscores the need for us to move forward with a sense of urgency and common purpose. Behind each and every one of those millions of jobs lost there are workers and families who are counting on us as they struggle to pay the bills or stay in their homes. There are American dreams that are being deferred and that risk being denied. There is a devastating economic crisis that will become more and more difficult to contain with time. For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the moment to act, and to act without delay.

Now I’d like to say a few words about today’s appointments. Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have been working with our national security appointees so that we’re ready to hit the ground running on January 20th. Today, I’m pleased to complete our team by announcing my choices to lead the intelligence community and the CIA.

It is hard to overstate the importance of good intelligence in the 21st century. When much of our intelligence community was founded, it was focused on one overarching threat: the Soviet Union. Today, we face a world of unconventional challenges – from the spread of stateless terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction, to the grave dangers posed by failed states and rogue regimes.

As we learned on 9/11, we are not protected by the distance of an ocean or the ability to deter an enemy. There is no margin for error. To keep our people safe, we must seamlessly collect, analyze, share, and act on information with a sense of urgency. This requires the selfless services of countless patriots, and the skillful management of our sixteen intelligence agencies. Good intelligence is not a luxury – it is a necessity.

The men and women of the intelligence community have been on the front lines in this world of new and evolving dangers. They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation. There have been sound reforms and many successes to build on over the last several years.

But here in Washington, we have also learned some tough lessons. We have learned that to make pragmatic policy choices, we must insist on assessments grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda. To support those who carry out our intelligence mission, we must give them the resources they need and the clear guidance they deserve. And we know that to be truly secure, we must adhere to our values as vigilantly as we protect our safety – with no exceptions.

I am confident that Dennis Blair and Leon Panetta are the right leaders to advance the work of our intelligence community. They are public servants with unquestioned integrity, broad experience, strong management skills, and the core pragmatism we need in dangerous times. Together, they will form a team that is uniquely qualified to continue the good work that is being done, while making the changes we need to stay ahead of nimble threats and sustain the trust of the American people.

Admiral Dennis Blair has seen the diverse uses of intelligence from many different perspectives. Over several decades in uniform, he learned firsthand the necessity of good intelligence for our men and women in uniform. As Commander of US forces in the Pacific, he developed a deep understanding of the critical importance of Asia, and carried out a major offensive against violent extremists. And as a former NSC staffer and the first Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support, he is uniquely qualified to build bridges of cooperation among our national security institutions.

As DNI, Dennis will be the leader and manager of our intelligence community. He will have my full support as he develops our capabilities, strengthens information sharing, enhances cooperation with foreign governments, and provides policymakers with the information we need – even if it’s not always the information we want. As someone who has handled intelligence as a sailor at sea and strategic thinker in Washington, he will have the expertise and authority to ensure that our sixteen intelligence agencies act with unity of effort and purpose.

Admiral Blair’s experience will be exceptionally complemented by Leon Panetta, my choice to be director of the CIA. Leon is one of the finest public servants of our time, and has committed himself to his country since he put on the uniform of the US Army. As a Congressman, OMB Director, and White House Chief of Staff, he has unparalleled experience in making the institutions of government work better for the American people. He has handled intelligence daily at the very highest levels, and time and again he has demonstrated sound judgment, grace under fire, and complete integrity.

Let me be clear: in Leon Panetta, the Agency will have a director who has my complete trust and substantial clout. He will be a strong manager and a strong advocate for the CIA. He knows how to focus resources where they are needed, and he has a proven track record of building consensus and working on a bipartisan basis with Congress. I am confident that he will strengthen the CIA’s capability to protect the American people as it continues to adapt to our reformed intelligence community.

I will also rely on the talent and expertise of several distinguished public servants with substantial intelligence experience. The current DNI, Mike McConnell, will continue to offer his counsel through my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The National Counter-Terrorism Center – the hub of our efforts to prevent attacks and root out terrorist networks – will continue to benefit from the leadership of Michael Leiter. And I'm pleased to announce that John Brennan – a close advisor, CIA veteran and former leader of the National Counter-Terrorism Center – will be my Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, serving with the rank of Assistant to the President. John has the experience, vision and integrity to advance America's security.

The demands on the intelligence community are huge and growing. To have a successful and sustainable national security strategy, I have made it clear that we will need to deploy and balance all elements of American power – our military, diplomacy, homeland security, economic might and moral suasion. Good intelligence work is necessary to support each of these endeavors.

Right now, there are men and women working around the world to bear this burden. We may never know their names, but we will always honor their sacrifice. The task for the team that I have assembled is to guide, support, and integrate their efforts so that we protect our security and safeguard the values that all of us have pledged to uphold. Thank you.


Gay Man to Be Tapped As Deputy Director of Obama's Public Liaison Office

By Kerry Eleveld

A transition team aide has told The Advocate that President-elect Barack Obama will name Brian Bond deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.

Bond, a political veteran who has headed the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and held several positions at the Democratic National Committee, will have managerial and strategic responsibilities for the entire Public Liaison office as well as function as the point person on LGBT issues. The liaison office is tasked with communicating and promoting presidential policies to individual constituency groups and serving as a sounding board for the president on policies that affect certain interest groups.

Several LGBT insiders on Capitol Hill said Bond, who served as director of constituencies for the president-elect during his campaign, was a great fit for the position. “He’s a very skillful and experienced political strategist,” said Bob Witeck, CEO of the D.C.-based Witeck-Combs Communications, who has known Bond for 15 years. “His knowledge of our community and the competence he has in working with both leaders and activists is immense.”

Bond served as executive director of the Victory Fund, a national bipartisan group that works to elect openly gay people to public office, from 1997 to 2003. Jeff Trammell, a Democratic strategist and senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore during his presidential bid, cochaired the organization in the late 1990s and was instrumental in hiring Bond for the position....(Click for remainder).


FDA scientists complain to Obama of 'corruption'

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
The Associated Press via Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON – In an unusually blunt letter, a group of federal scientists is complaining to the Obama transition team of widespread managerial misconduct in a division of the Food and Drug Administration.

"The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the scientific review process for medical devices at the FDA has been corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers, thereby placing the American people at risk," said the letter, dated Wednesday and written on the agency's Center for Devices and Radiological Health letterhead.

The center is responsible for medical devices ranging from stents and breast implants to MRIs and other imaging machinery. The concerns of the nine scientists who wrote to the transition team echo some of the complaints from the FDA's drug review division a few years ago during the safety debacle involving the painkiller Vioxx.

The FDA declined to publicly respond to the letter, but said it is working to address the concerns.

In their letter the FDA dissidents alleged that agency managers use intimidation to squelch scientific debate, leading to the approval of medical devices whose effectiveness is questionable and which may not be entirely safe.

"Managers with incompatible, discordant and irrelevant scientific and clinical expertise in devices...have ignored serious safety and effectiveness concerns of FDA experts," the letter said. "Managers have ordered, intimidated and coerced FDA experts to modify scientific evaluations, conclusions and recommendations in violation of the laws, rules and regulations, and to accept clinical and technical data that is not scientifically valid."...(Click for remainder).


House approves bill to fight wage discrimination

It's about freakin' time! I'm sure there are feckless "conservative" wankers who'll protest. There always are.

By Jim Abrams
The Associated Press via Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON – Energized by the prospects of a pro-labor president, House Democrats marked the first week of the new Congress Friday by pushing through two bills to help workers, particularly women, who are victims of pay discrimination.

Unlike President George W. Bush, who threatened to veto the two bills when they came up in the last session of Congress, President-elect Barack Obama has embraced them.

"Today we face a transformational moment," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chief sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act. "With a new Congress, a new administration, we have a chance to finally provide equal pay for equal work and make opportunity real for millions of American women."

The Lilly Ledbetter Act would reverse a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that a worker must file claims of wage discrimination within 180 days of the first decision to pay that worker less, even if the person was unaware of the pay disparity. The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes that have enabled employers to evade the 1963 law requiring equal pay for equal work. The first passed 247-171, the second 256-163.

The Ledbetter bill could reach the Senate floor as early as next week. Democrats, who have increased their majority in the Senate, last year fell three votes short of shutting off a GOP-led filibuster that blocked the bill after it passed the House....(Click for remainder).


Not Doing Enough

Hmmm, this is certainly something to think about.

Why I worry that Obama doesn't realize just how bad things are.

By John B. Judis
The New Republic

Does Barack Obama understand the seriousness of the economic crisis? Yesterday, he laid out his economic agenda, and it was filled with all sorts of important exhortations and proscriptions. He appropriately condemned the "anything goes" policies of the last administration. He declared that government is now the solution to our woes, not the problem. Still, I worry that the president elect is underestimating the problem he and the country faces.

We may not simply be facing a steep recession like that of the early 1980s, from which we can extricate ourselves in a year or two, but something resembling the Great Depression of the 1930s. For starters, the current crisis is global, which means that one part of the world can't lift the other out of its misery; everyone will go down together, which is what happened in the 1930s. Secondly, the downturn has combined an unusual decline in the real economy--employment in durable-goods manufacturing fell by 21.9 percent from 2000 to 2008--with a financial crash precipitated by the bursting of the housing bubble. The bubble resulted from an attempt to sustain growth and employment in the face of an underlying decline, which, too, is what happened in the late 1920s.

Over the past six decades, policymakers have used some tactics from the Great Depression to quell recessions--such as spending on roads and bridges to create jobs, transferring payments to raise consumer demand, and infusing money into the credit system. But these stopgap measures, which are at the heart of Obama's recovery program, may prove inadequate....(Click for remainder).


Congress asks judge to keep Bush records at WH

The audacity of the Bush Crime Family is stupendous. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the thugs would try to destroy any evidence of their wrong-doing. These are the people who knowingly lied the nation into a pointless war, torched the world economy, spied on American citizens, has authorized Homeland Security to build "detention centers", and who knows what else. Does anyone really think that they're going to listen to a federal judge?
By Jesse J. Holland
Associated Press via Google News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new Congress on Thursday asked a federal judge to force the Bush White House to keep documents on the controversial firings of nine federal prosecutors instead of turning them over to the National Archives.

Congressional Democrats have been fighting in court to get the documents from the administration for months, and they want to make sure they don't disappear into the National Archives. They asked U.S. District Judge John Bates to order the administration to leave the documents at the White House in the custody of President-elect Barack Obama's aides in case the information is needed.

Justice Department lawyers argued that the White House is required to turn the material over to the National Archives.

The 1978 Presidential Records Act requires all presidential and vice presidential records to be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration immediately upon the end of a president's last term of office and gives the archivist responsibility to preserve and control access to presidential records.

The National Archives has already agreed to segregate the subpoenaed material from the rest of Bush's documents in case it is needed by the courts or the Obama administration, lawyers said.

"If they want the documents, they can request them from NARA," lawyer Carl Nichols said.

But Bates said he had no doubt "there will be some delay if the materials are sent" to the Archives. The judge suggested that he may order the administration to make copies of the documents so they can send the originals to the Archives and make the copies available to the incoming administration....(Click for remainder).


Obama appoints openly gay man to head Export-Import Bank


Fred Hochberg, the gay man who headed the Small Business Administration under President Bill Clinton, will be named by incoming President Barack Obama as the director of the Export-Import Bank, ABC News reports. Hochberg, a longtime figure in both Democratic and gay politics, had been buzzed about as a possible replacement for Bill Richardson at the Commerce Department, but his appointment to the bank means that Obama's cabinet will remain without a single gay member.

Hochberg was deputy administrator and then acting administrator of the SBA. More recently he was the dean of the Milano School of Management at the New School in New York City.

He supported Hillary Clinton in last year's Democratic primary.

The Export-Import Bank, according to ABC News, is the federal government's export credit arm and finances sales of goods exported from the U.S. Hochberg will be the bank's first openly gay director....(Click for remainder).



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