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Subcabinet Appointments

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                   April 14, 2009

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: Daniel B. Poneman, Deputy Secretary, Department of Energy; Fred P. Hochberg, President and Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States; Francisco "Frank" J. Sánchez, Under Secretary for International Trade, Department of Commerce; Miriam E. Sapiro, Deputy Trade Representative; Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Department of State; Philip J. "P.J." Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Department of State; Bonnie D. Jenkins, Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs (with the Rank of Ambassador), Department of State; Thomasina Rogers, Chairman, Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission; Lorelei Boylan, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor; David F. Heyman, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Homeland Security; Andrew C. Weber, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs), Department of Defense; Stephen W. Preston, General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency; and Laurie Mikva, Board Member, Legal Services Corporation.

President Obama said, "Our nation will be well-served by these fine individuals, who all bring dedication to our country and impressive expertise in their fields. I am confident that they will be effective advocates on behalf of the American people as we work to strengthen the economy, keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and make America work for our families. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years."

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:

Daniel B. Poneman, Nominee for Deputy Secretary, Department of Energy
Since 2001, Daniel B. Poneman has been a Principal of The Scowcroft Group, an international business advisory firm based in Washington, D.C.  Prior to that he was a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson. From 1993 through 1996, Poneman served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council. He joined the NSC staff in 1990 as Director of Defense Policy and Arms Control, after serving as a White House Fellow in the Department of Energy. Poneman has served on several federal commissions and advisory panels, and has authored books on nuclear energy policy and on Argentina. He coauthored Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis, which received the 2005 Douglas Dillon Award for Distinguished Writing on American Diplomacy. Poneman received A.B. and J.D. degrees with honors from Harvard, and an M.Litt. in politics from Oxford University. He is an Adjunct Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Aspen Strategy Group.

Fred P. Hochberg, Nominee for President and Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States
Mr. Hochberg, formerly the Dean of the New School for Management and Urban Policy has more than 30 years of experience in business, government, civil rights, and philanthropy. From 1998 through 2001, he served as deputy then acting administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), an agency elevated to cabinet rank by President Bill Clinton, with more than 4,000 employees and 100 offices across the country. At the SBA, he directed the delivery of a comprehensive set of financial and business development programs for entrepreneurs, with particular outreach to women and minorities. He also served on President Clinton’s Management Council.  Prior to that, he was president and chief operating officer of the Lillian Vernon Corporation, where he led the transformation of a small family mail order company into a publicly traded direct marketing corporation, one of the great success stories of American entrepreneurship. He has served on numerous civic and corporate boards of directors including the Human Rights Campaign, where he was co-chair and is currently on the boards of the Citizens Budget Commission, FINCA International Microfinance, Fusion TELECommunications, the Howard Gilman Foundation, Seedco, and the Port Authority of New Jersey.   

Francisco "Frank" J. Sánchez, Nominee for Under Secretary for International Trade, Department of Commerce
Francisco J. Sánchez served as a Policy Advisor on Latin America to the Obama For America Campaign. He was also the Chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Council for the Obama Campaign.  In 1999, Sanchez became a Special Assistant to the President of the United States working in the Office of the Special Envoy for the Americas.  While at the White House, Sanchez worked with the National Security Council, the State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative.  President Clinton later appointed Sánchez as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Transportation where he developed aviation policy and oversaw international negotiations.  Prior to his work in the federal government, Sánchez practiced corporate and administrative law with the firm of Steel, Hector and Davis in Miami, Florida.  Before practicing law, he served in the administration of former Florida Governor (now U.S. Senator) Bob Graham, as the first director of the state’s Caribbean Basin Initiative Program.  For the last fifteen years, Sanchez has worked with several consulting companies on projects involving complex transactions, labor-management negotiations, litigation settlement, negotiation strategy, alliance management, facilitation and training, most recently as a partner with CM Partners.  Among his public-sector engagements, Sánchez headed a team in Medellín, Colombia as part of a "Teaching Tolerance" program.  He also advised the president of Ecuador in negotiations to settle the 56-year-old border dispute with Peru.  He is a contributing author to Negociación 2000, a collection of essays on negotiation published by McGraw-Hill. A Florida native, Mr. Sánchez attended the University of Florida, received his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Miriam E. Sapiro, Nominee for Deputy Trade Representative
Miriam E. Sapiro is President of Summit Strategies International, which advises non-profit organizations and companies on international Internet and telecommunications policy issues.  She has more than twenty years of experience as an executive in the private sector and as an official in the government during the administrations of Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.  Over the course of her career Sapiro has represented the United States in numerous complex multilateral and bilateral negotiations.  In 1999, President Clinton appointed her Special Assistant to the President for Southeast European Stabilization & Reconstruction.  Sapiro supervised efforts to revitalize the region, working with USTR and other agencies, as well as other governments and international financial institutions.  From 1997 to 1999 she served at the National Security Council as Director for European Affairs, developing and coordinating implementation of security and economic policies.  Previously she was a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff and worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser.  Sapiro received her B.A. from Williams College and her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was an editor of the Law Review.  She has taught international law as an Adjunct Professor at New York University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center and Columbia University.

Judith A. McHale, Nominee for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Department of State
Ms. McHale is a leading media and communications executive whose career has been devoted to building companies and non-profit organizations dedicated to reaching out to and connecting people around the world. She is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications. From 1987 to 2006, McHale helped build the parent company of the Discovery Channel into one of the world’s most extensive  media enterprises, with more than 100 channels telecast in over 170 countries and 35 languages to more than 1 billion subscribers.  In the 1990s, McHale launched the non-profit Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership, which supplies free educational video programming to more than half a million students across Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.  After two decades at Discovery, McHale extended her commitment to helping build opportunity for people in Africa.  With the Global Environment Fund, a private equity firm, she worked to launch the GEF/Africa Growth Fund, an investment vehicle intending to focus on supplying  expansion capital to small and medium-sized businesses that provide consumer goods and services in emerging African markets. McHale’s commitment to global outreach efforts also includes her service on the boards of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Democratic Institute, and Vital Voices. She previously served on the board of Africare.  The daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, McHale was born in New York City and grew up in Britain and apartheid-era South Africa. Before joining Discovery, McHale served as General Counsel for MTV Networks and helped guide the company’s international expansion.

Philip J. "P.J." Crowley, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Department of State
Mr. Crowley is a Senior Fellow and Director of Homeland Security at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. At CAP, he authored a detailed homeland security strategy called Safe at Home and was a frequent public commentator on a wide range of national security issues.  During the Clinton administration,  Crowley was Special Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs, serving as Senior Director of Public Affairs for the National Security Council. Prior to that, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. In all, he served as a spokesman for the U.S. government for 28 years, including three at the White House and 11 at the Pentagon. He is a retired Air Force colonel and veteran of Operations Desert Storm and Provide Comfort in 1991. During the Kosovo conflict in 1999, he was temporarily assigned to work with then NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in Brussels.  Prior to joining the Center for American Progress, Crowley served as a national spokesman for the property/casualty insurance industry, focusing on strategic industry issues that included the impact of terrorism on commercial insurance in the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy. He is a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.

Bonnie D. Jenkins, Nominee for Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs (with the Rank of Ambassador), Department of State
Dr. Jenkins is the Program Officer for U.S. Foreign and Security policy at the Ford Foundation. Her grant making seeks to strengthen public engagement in US foreign and security policy debate and formulation in order to promote support for multilateralism, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the rule of international law.  Prior to joining the Foundation, Jenkins served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States ("9-11 Commission"), as counsel. She was the lead Commission staff member on counterterrorism policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on U.S. military plans to go after Al Qaeda prior to 9-11. She wrote part of the 9/11 report, which has since become a national bestseller. Jenkins also served as General Counsel to the U.S. Commission to assess the organization of the federal government to combat proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and as a consultant to the 2000 National Commission on Terrorism. She also worked at the RAND Corporation in their National Security Division.  She recently served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserves and completed a year of deployment at CENTCOM.  Jenkins has worked in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Policy Planning as a consultant of the Kosovo History Project. An expert on arms control and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Jenkins also served for nine years as legal advisor to U.S. Ambassadors and delegations negotiating arms control and nonproliferation treaties during her time as a Legal Advisor in the Office of General Council at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. She began her years in government when appointed as a Presidential Management Fellow.  Jenkins is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the American Bar Association.  She received a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Virginia; an LL.M. in international and comparative law from the Georgetown University Law Center; an MPA from the State University of New York at Albany; a J.D. from Albany Law School; and a BA from Amherst College. She also attended The Hague Academy for International Law.

Thomasina Rogers, Nominee for Chairman, Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
Thomasina Rogers is a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.  She was first appointed to the Review Commission by President Clinton in 1998 and served as Chairman from 1999 to 2002; she was then reappointed to the Review Commission in 2003.  The agency Chairman is responsible for the administrative operations of the quasi-judicial agency, along with participating with the other Commissioners in case adjudication.  Ms. Rogers previously served as Chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States from 1994 until its dissolution at the end of 1995.  Rogers also served for seven years in the Federal Government's Senior Executive Service (SES).  During her time in the SES, she served as Legal Counsel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where she had primary responsibility for managing the development of the Americans With Disabilities Act employment regulations. She is a member of the American Bar Association and the National Bar Association.  Rogers is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Journalism and the Columbia University School of Law.

Lorelei Boylan, Nominee for Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor
Lorelei Boylan is currently the Director of Strategic Enforcement at the New York State Department of Labor, Labor Standards Division.  In this capacity she supervises the Apparel Industry/Fair Wages Task Force, a state-wide specialized unit charged with investigating low-wage industries where workers are at risk of exploitation.  Under her leadership, the Task Force has flourished into a groundbreaking investigative unit with a high rate of success in the resolution of wage and hour investigations.   The Task Force has developed complex investigations, conducted around-the-clock field work and built coalitions with low wage workers’ advocates.  Boylan has a wealth of experience in the enforcement field, ranging from private monitoring for retailers with social accountability initiatives to affirmative litigation and field investigative experience.  Prior to heading the Task Force, Boylan spearheaded the Bureau of Immigrant Workers’ Rights, a newly formed division of the Department of Labor, where she formulated innovative policies to respond to the needs of individuals with Limited English proficiency. She is the recipient of the 2008 Frances Perkins Leadership Award for exceptional leadership in developing the mission of the Department.   Boylan practiced law as an Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Attorney General’s Office.  She was hired under the Honor’s Program to represent the State in defensive and affirmative litigation.  In this position, Boylan investigated businesses for violations of state and federal labor laws and represented the Department of Health in New York State Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals.  Prior to becoming an attorney, Boylan worked for several years for a global monitoring company, counseling firms on compliance with state and federal labor laws, OSHA, Immigration and tax laws.  She graduated cum laude from Hunter College and received a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School where she was a Writing Competition and Articles Editor of the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law.  Boylan speaks Spanish and French fluently and is admitted to practice law in New York State.

David F. Heyman, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Homeland Security
Mr. Heyman is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Homeland Security Program and an adjunct professor in security studies at Georgetown University. Before joining CSIS, Heyman served in a number of government positions, including as a senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on national security and international affairs. Prior to that, he was the head of international operations for a private-sector software/systems engineering firm developing supply-chain management systems for Fortune 100 firms. He has worked in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.  Heyman has authored numerous publications, including "America’s Domestic Security" in Five Years After 9/11 (CSIS, 2006); Model Operational Guidelines for Disease Exposure Control (CSIS, 2005)—which has been utilized by cities and states across the country and was the basis for some of the government’s pandemic flu planning guidance; DHS 2.0: Rethinking the Department of Homeland Security (CSIS/Heritage Foundation, 2004); and Lessons from the Anthrax Attacks (CSIS, 2002). Heyman has testified before a number of committees in Congress and has appeared in various media outlets including NPR, CNN, BBC, FOX News, and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Andrew C. Weber, Nominee for Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs), Department of Defense
Andrew Weber is currently an adviser for threat reduction policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he is responsible for Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction initiatives to reduce the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where he teaches a course on force and diplomacy in the Foreign Service Program.  He was previously a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, where he served in diplomatic assignments in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Kazakhstan, and Hong Kong.  Weber has an MS from Georgetown University and a BA from Cornell University.  He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife Julie and daughter Eleanor.  

Stephen W. Preston, Nominee for General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency
Stephen W. Preston is currently a Partner at WilmerHale, where he is co-chair of the Defense, National Security and Government Contracts Practice Group, and a member of the Regulatory and Government Affairs and Litigation/Controversy Departments. He joined the firm in 1986, and later returned in 2001 after serving at both the Pentagon and the Justice Department. He was the Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 1993 to 1995, during which time he served for an extended period as Acting General Counsel. From 1998 to 2000, Preston served as General Counsel of the Department of the Navy, a Presidential appointment requiring Senate confirmation. Mr. Preston’s responsibilities covered the full range of legal matters confronting the Defense Department and the national security establishment. He was actively involved in criminal, inspector general and congressional investigations, civil fraud and contract claims litigation and alternative dispute resolution. From 1995 to 1998, Mr. Preston served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, responsible for civil litigation in the courts of appeals on behalf of the United States. In addition to overseeing work in a wide variety of substantive areas and assisting the Solicitor General in cases before the Supreme Court, he also argued several significant appeals involving constitutional law, statutory interpretation, federal court jurisdiction and testimonial privileges. Mr. Preston holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard University.

Laurie Mikva, Nominee for Board Member, Legal Services Corporation
Laurie Mikva has a strong record of working to aid indigent people to obtain necessary legal services.  From 1993-2008, Mikva worked in Champaign, Illinois, as a staff attorney at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc., the legal aid provider for central and southern Illinois.  Specializing in areas of family law and domestic violence, Mikva represented clients in cases involving divorce, custody, orders of protection and child support.  She helped to establish the Domestic Violence Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Law, and supervised students in the Clinic.  She collaborated with service providers including shelters, victim advocates, prosecutors, and police to address family violence issues in the community.  As Family Law Task Force Chair, she oversaw the provision of family law services throughout the organization, and provided support and training to both legal aid and pro bono attorneys.  Between 1988-1991, Mikva worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Urbana, Illinois, where she represented indigent defendants in criminal cases, and parents in juvenile abuse and neglect proceedings.  Before that, she worked in the Appellate Division of the Maryland Public Defender’s Office, where she represented indigent appellants in criminal cases.  From 1984-1985, Mikva was a fellow in the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C.  From 1983-84 she clerked for Judge Luther M. Swygert on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.  Mikva received a J.D. from New York University in 1983, where she was a Note Editor for the N.Y.U.Law Review.  Mikva is currently employed as a staff attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

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LaBarbera Will Not Tolerate Gays in the GOP

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


Back when Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Peter LaBarbera issued an entirely unprovoked warning to him that under no circumstances should he even contemplate ever meeting with the Log Cabin Republicans, saying that it would be "foolish and impractical to risk alienating millions of pro-family, pro-life, conservative grassroots Republicans to appease a tiny homosexual special interest group."

Well, now there is a new gay Republican group, known as GOProud, emerging as something of a counterweight to the Log Cabin Republicans, which you'd assume would be welcome news to LaBarbera ... but nope, he wants in known that they are unwelcome as well:
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, says although it will go by a different name, GOProud will be carrying out the same mission of the Log Cabin Republicans.

"This is all about promoting the acceptance of homosexuality within the GOP under the guise of so-called 'conservatism,'" says LaBarbera. "The fact is [that] homosexuality is not a conservative issue, it's not a family issue -- and this is all about changing the pro-family platform of the GOP."

LaBarbera says if homosexuals are conservative on economic issues, they can vote Republican, but if the party wants to remain pro-life and pro-family, it cannot be promoting homosexuality and abortion.
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Anti-Gay Organization Attempting To Scrub Leaked Audition Videos From YouTube

By Jason Linkins
The Huffington Post


By now, you're likely familiar with the festival of unintentional hilarity that is the National Organization for Marriage (or NOM). But in case you're not up to speed, here's the story. There are a bunch of people for whom everything and everyone they ever loved or held dear was ruined, utterly and forever, because of gay marriage.

So, they launched a campaign against gay marriage, and made some commercials about chasing tornadoes, and rainbow coalitions, and gay thunder. And mostly, people laughed, because WTF? Well, as it turns out, whatever remained in these peoples' lives, spared from ruin by all the gay marriage, ended up getting ruined by leaked videos of the terrible actors giving terrible auditions for their terrible commercial. So, naturally, NOM is now against anyone seeing those audition videos, ever, and has launched a campaign against them, as well.

Last week, the Washington City Paper's Amanda Hess reported that NOM was going hard at removing their audition videos from YouTube in a desperate attempt to keep them from going viral, and Wired's Threat Level blog detailed what was being done to thwart the thwarting:

The audition videos, uncovered by the Human Rights Campaign, seem too good to be true. But NOM has helpfully authenticated them by sending DMCA notices to YouTube to get them pulled down. Vimeo.com hosted the banned videos for a while, but now also appears to have folded like an umbrella.

So internet rebels are saving the videos with keepvid.com, and then uploading them back to YouTube when they're pulled.
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Gay Marriage and the Evil Empire

This Havel argument is complete BS. Any rube, with a modicum of Internet ability, can do a Google search and find out that Václav Havel is a supporter of same-sex marriage. On the 27th of March 2006, according to Idnes.cz, Havel said "he welcomed" the move by the Czech Parliament in adopting same-sex marriage. Furthermore, Havel dismissed the ideology of the Christian right as "absurd" and "false." So Rod Dreher and Ms. Gallagher need to get their facts straight before they start evoking revolutionaries.

Add to this, that here in Belgium same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003. Oh, and guess what? The sky hasn't fallen. People still go to church. The government hasn't told churches what they can and cannot do. These people are doing nothing but peddling lies and deceit. They call themselves Christians? What about the 9th Commandment you hypocrites?


By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


Václav Havel was an anti-communist dissident who was repeatedly imprisoned for his efforts before eventually becoming the President of Czechoslovakia and being awarded the International Gandhi Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Maggie Gallagher is a right-wing activist who defends people like Dan Quayle for his attack on fictional television characters and secretly took tens of thousands of dollars from the Bush Administration to pimp its marriage initiative and eventually became the head of the National Organization for Marriage and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

What do the two have in common? According to Gallagher, quite a lot:
Rod Dreher: Maggie, you and I are on the same side of the gay marriage issue, but I am pessimistic about our chances for success. You, however, are optimistic. What am I missing?

Maggie Gallagher: Vaclav Havel mostly. "Truth and love wlll prevail over lies and hate." On that basis Havel took on the Soviet empire. Where is that invincible empire now?

Same-sex marriage is founded on a lie about human nature: 'there is no difference between same-sex and opposite sex unions and you are a bigot if you disagree'.

Political movements can--sometimes at great human cost and with great output of energy--sustain a lie but eventually political regimes founded on lies collapse in on themselves.
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We Need More Stimulus, Not More Bailout

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog


With only $110 billion remaining in the TARP bailout fund, all signs are that Tim Geithner is preparing to return to Congress seeking more bailout money. He’ll bring along the results of his bank “stress tests,” which will probably show many that big banks are still technically insolvent, along with bankruptcy scenarios for General Motors and Chrysler, and a couple of CEO scalps – he’s already got GM’s. Congress won’t be happy but in the end it will cough up another 300 to 500 billion.

Geithner believes the only way to rescue the economy is to get the big banks to lend money again. But he’s dead wrong. Most consumers cannot and do not want to borrow lots more money. They’re still carrying too much debt as it is. Even if they refinance their homes – courtesy of the Fed flooding the market with so much money mortgage rates are dropping – consumers are still not going to borrow more. And until there’s enough demand in the system, businesses aren’t going to borrow much more to invest in new plant or machinery, either.

That’s the big issue – the continued lack of enough demand in the economy. The current stimulus package is proving way too small relative to the shortfall between what consumers and businesses are buying and what the economy could produce at full capacity. (According to today's report from the Commerce Department, retail sales fell in March, as did prices paid to U.S. producers.)...(Click for remainder.)

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Congress Probing AIG Spin Shop

By Zachary Roth
Talking Points Memo


Congress is demanding information from AIG about reports that the bailed-out insurance giant has four PR firms on its payroll -- and about its recent PR blitz aimed at discrediting former CEO Hank Greenberg.

In a letter sent this morning to AIG chief Ed Liddy and obtained exclusively by TPMmuckraker, House Oversight committee chair Ed Towns requests detailed information on AIG's PR expenses, specifically mentioning Hill & Knowlton, and Mark Penn's Burson-Marsteller, two high-priced experts in Washington spin that have signed on to represent the firm.

For both the PR firms, Towns wants to know: when and why they were hired; which staffers at the firms have worked with AIG; and which subcontractors they've hired, and for what. Towns also wants copies of all documents exchanged between AIG and both of the two firms, including bills and payments.

Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton are both among the heaviest of hitters in shaping Beltway opinion. Just yesterday, Burson announced (sub req.) that Dana Perino, President Bush's last White House press secretary, had signed on as "chief issues counselor." In addition to CEO Penn, who masterminded Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Burson's roster also boasts former Clinton administration communications director Don Baer, former Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer, and top Bush adviser Karen Hughes. As for Hill & Knowlton, it has represented Wal-Mart, the CIA, and a string of other big-name clients. Stacie Paxton, the DNC's national press secretary during the 2008 campaign, recently joined the firm as a vice president....(Click for remainder.)

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Do the Restrictions On Cuba Travel Violate The Constitution?

By Big Tent Democrat
Talk Left


In the wake of President Obama's announced initiatives on Cuba, I've been reading some commentary that the restrictions on travel to Cuba are unconstitutional. As a general matter, travel restrictions imposed by the Executive and the Congress (see the Helms Burton Act (PDF)) are constitutional. See Zemel v. Rusk and Regan v. Wald. In Regan, the court held:
[A]lthough the ban in question effectively prevented travel to Cuba, and thus diminished the right to gather information about foreign countries, no First Amendment rights of the sort that controlled in Kent and Aptheker were implicated by the across-the-board restriction in Zemel. And the Court found the Fifth Amendment right to travel, standing alone, insufficient to overcome the foreign policy justifications supporting the restriction. . . . We see no reason to differentiate between the travel restrictions imposed by the President in the present case and the passport restrictions imposed by the Secretary of State in Zemel. Both have the practical effect of preventing travel to Cuba by most American citizens, and both are justified by weighty concerns of foreign policy.
Thus, a general ban on travel to Cuba is constitutional. The question now being raised (though it is not new) is whether allowing persons with family in Cuba to travel (and presumably also to send money to relatives) to Cuba violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. I'll discuss that theory on the flip....(Click for remainder.)

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We've Already Won the Battle Over Gay Marriage

Public support for marriage equality is on the rise, and it is conservatives who are ceding ground.

By Paul Waldman
The American Prospect


It sometimes seems as though American domestic political history is one long conflict between the guardians of tradition and the forces of progress. The controversies change, but the essence of the battle remains the same, whether the contestants are arguing over slavery, women's suffrage, Jim Crow, or abortion rights.

But though the larger culture war continues, one by one these controversies can get settled, and we reach a consensus on which side was wrong and which side was right. Today, the hottest culture war issue is gay rights, specifically marriage equality. Although most conservatives will be loath to admit it, this battle is over, and they have lost. Not that there won't be plenty more arguing, and fights in courts and legislatures and at the ballot box -- there will be, and it will take years before there are no more skirmishes. But the outcome is no longer in doubt.

We know this not only because of the extraordinary events of the last couple of weeks, but because of how the debate has shifted so quickly to the left. The most striking change hasn't been among prominent progressives or Democratic politicians; instead, what's most remarkable is how far conservatives have moved.

Of course, events are galloping in the right direction: same-sex marriage is now legal in Vermont and Iowa, and the District of Columbia city council voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. New York, which also recognizes such out-of-state marriages, could be next. The state assembly there has already passed a marriage equality bill, and the bill is a few votes away from winning a majority in the state Senate (Governor David Patterson supports it, and is attempting to press the issue)....(Click for remainder.)

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President Obama: House on a Rock

I may not agree with President Obama on some things, i.e. nationalization, but isn't it great to have a President with a brain in his head, and that is able to speak in complete, coherent, sentences?

It has now been twelve weeks since my administration began.  And I think even our critics would agree that at the very least, we've been busy.  In just under three months, we have responded to an extraordinary set of economic challenges with extraordinary action – action that has been unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.

I know that some have accused us of taking on too much at once.  Others believe we haven't done enough.  And many Americans are simply wondering how all of our different programs and policies fit together in a single, overarching strategy that will move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity.

So today, I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can.  I want to talk about what we've done, why we've done it, and what we have left to do.  I want to update you on the progress we've made, and be honest about the pitfalls that may lie ahead.

And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America's future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation, and fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century.  That is the America I see.  That is the future I know we can have.

To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.

Recessions are not uncommon.  Markets and economies naturally ebb and flow, as we have seen many times in our history.  But this recession is different.  This recession was not caused by a normal downturn in the business cycle.  It was caused by a perfect storm of irresponsibility and poor decision-making that stretched from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street.

As has been widely reported, it started in the housing market.  During the course of the decade, the formula for buying a house changed:  instead of saving their pennies to buy their dream house, many Americans found they could take out loans that by traditional standards their incomes just could not support.  Others were tricked into signing these subprime loans by lenders who were trying to make a quick profit.  And the reason these loans were so readily available was that Wall Street saw big profits to be made.

Investment banks would buy and package together these questionable mortgages into securities, arguing that by pooling the mortgages, the risks had been reduced.  And credit agencies that are supposed to help investors determine the soundness of various investments stamped the securities with their safest rating when they should have been labeled “Buyer Beware.”

No one really knew what the actual value of these securities were, but since the housing market was booming and prices were rising, banks and investors kept buying and selling them, always passing off the risk to someone else for a greater profit without having to take any of the responsibility.  Banks took on more debt than they could handle.  The government-chartered companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose traditional mandate was to help support traditional mortgages, decided to get in on the action by buying and holding billions of dollars of these securities. AIG, the biggest insurer in the world, decided to make profits by selling billions of dollars of complicated financial instruments that supposedly insured these securities.  Everybody was making record profits – except the wealth created was real only on paper.  And as the bubble grew, there was almost no accountability or oversight from anyone in Washington.

Then the housing bubble burst.  Home prices fell.  People began defaulting on their subprime mortgages.  The value of all those loans and securities plummeted.  Banks and investors couldn't find anyone to buy them.  Greed gave way to fear. Investors pulled their money out of the market.  Large financial institutions that didn't have enough money on hand to pay off all their obligations collapsed.  Other banks held on tight to the money they did have and simply stopped lending.

This is when the crisis spread from Wall Street to Main Street. After all, the ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education.  It's how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.  So when banks stopped lending money, businesses started laying off workers.  When laid off workers had less money to spend, businesses were forced to lay off even more workers.  When people couldn't get car loans, a bad situation at the auto companies became even worse.  When people couldn't get home loans, the crisis in the housing market only deepened.  Because the infected securities were being traded worldwide and other nations also had weak regulations, this recession soon became global. And when other nations can't afford to buy our goods, it slows our economy even further.

This is the situation we confronted on the day we took office.  And so our most urgent task has been to clear away the wreckage, repair the immediate damage to the economy, and do everything we can to prevent a larger collapse.  And since the problems we face are all working off each other to feed a vicious economic downturn, we've had no choice but to attack all fronts of our economic crisis at once.

The first step was to fight a severe shortage of demand in the economy.  The Federal Reserve did this by dramatically lowering interest rates last year in order to boost investment.  And my administration and Congress boosted demand by passing the largest recovery plan in our nation's history.  It's a plan that is already in the process of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. It is putting money directly in people's pockets with a tax cut for 95% of working families that is now showing up in paychecks across America. And to cushion the blow of this recession, we also provided extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

Now, some have argued that this recovery plan is a case of irresponsible government spending; that it is somehow to blame for our long-term deficit projections, and that the federal government should be cutting instead of increasing spending right now.  So let me tackle this argument head on.

To begin with, economists on both the left and right agree that the last thing a government should do in the middle of a recession is to cut back on spending.  You see, when this recession began, many families sat around their kitchen table and tried to figure out where they could cut back.  So do many businesses.  That is a completely responsible and understandable reaction.  But if every family in America cuts back, then no one is spending any money, which means there are more layoffs, and the economy gets even worse.  That's why the government has to step in and temporarily boost spending in order to stimulate demand.  And that's exactly what we're doing right now.

Second of all, I absolutely agree that our long-term deficit is a major problem that we have to fix.  But the fact is that this recovery plan represents only a tiny fraction of that long-term deficit. As I will discuss in a moment, the key to dealing with our deficit and debt is to get a handle on out-of-control health care costs – not to stand idly by as the economy goes into free fall.

So the recovery plan has been the first step in confronting this economic crisis.  The second step has been to heal our financial system so that credit is once again flowing to the businesses and families who rely on it.

The heart of this financial crisis is that too many banks and other financial institutions simply stopped lending money.  In a climate of fear, banks were unable to replace their losses by raising new capital on their own, and they were unwilling to lend the money they did have because they were afraid that no one would pay it back.  It is for this reason that the last administration used the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to provide these banks with temporary financial assistance in order to get them lending again.

Now, I don't agree with some of the ways the TARP program was managed, but I do agree with the broader rationale that we must provide banks with the capital and the confidence necessary to start lending again.  That is the purpose of the stress tests that will soon tell us how much additional capital will be needed to support lending at our largest banks.  Ideally, these needs will be met by private investors.  But where this is not possible, and banks require substantial additional resources from the government, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

Of course, there are some who argue that the government should stand back and simply let these banks fail – especially since in many cases it was their bad decisions that helped create the crisis in the first place.  But whether we like it or not, history has repeatedly shown that when nations do not take early and aggressive action to get credit flowing again, they have crises that last years and years instead of months and months – years of low growth, low job creation, and low investment that cost those nations far more than a course of bold, upfront action.  And although there are a lot of Americans who understandably think that government money would be better spent going directly to families and businesses instead of banks – “where's our bailout?,” they ask – the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in eight or ten dollars of loans to families and businesses, a multiplier effect that can ultimately lead to a faster pace of economic growth.

On the other hand, there have been some who don't dispute that we need to shore up the banking system, but suggest that we have been too timid in how we go about it.  They say that the federal government should have already preemptively stepped in and taken over major financial institutions the way that the FDIC currently intervenes in smaller banks, and that our failure to do so is yet another example of Washington coddling Wall Street.  So let me be clear – the reason we have not taken this step has nothing to do with any ideological or political judgment we've made about government involvement in banks, and it's certainly not because of any concern we have for the management and shareholders whose actions have helped cause this mess.

Rather, it is because we believe that preemptive government takeovers are likely to end up costing taxpayers even more in the end, and because it is more likely to undermine than to create confidence.  Governments should practice the same principle as doctors: first do no harm.  So rest assured – we will do whatever is necessary to get credit flowing again, but we will do so in ways that minimize risks to taxpayers and to the broader economy.  To that end, in addition to the program to provide capital to the banks, we have launched a plan that will pair government resources with private investment in order to clear away the old loans and securities – the so-called toxic assets – that are also preventing our banks from lending money.

Now, what we've also learned during this crisis is that our banks aren't the only institutions affected by these toxic assets that are clogging the financial system.  A.I.G., for example, is not a bank.  And yet because it chose to insure trillions of dollars worth of risky assets, its failure could threaten the entire financial system and freeze lending even further.  This is why, as frustrating as it is – and I promise you, nobody is more frustrated than me – we've had to provide support for A.I.G.  It's also why we need new legal authority so that we have the power to intervene in such financial institutions, just like a bankruptcy court does with businesses that hit hard times, so that we can restructure these businesses in an orderly way that does not induce panic – and can restructure inappropriate bonus contracts without creating a perception that government can just change compensation rules on a whim.

This is also why we're moving aggressively to unfreeze markets and jumpstart lending outside the banking system, where more than half of all lending in America actually takes place.  To do this, we've started a program that will increase guarantees for small business loans and unlock the market for auto loans and student loans.  And to stabilize the housing market, we've launched a plan that will save up to four million responsible homeowners from foreclosure and help many millions more re-finance.

In a few weeks, we will also reassess the state of Chrysler and General Motors, two companies with an important place in our history and a large footprint in our economy – but two companies that have also fallen on hard times.

Late last year, the companies were given transitional loans by the previous administration to tide them over as they worked to develop viable business plans.  But the plans they developed fell short, and so we have given them some additional time to work these complex issues through.  We owed that, not to the executives whose bad bets contributed to the weakening of their companies, but to the hundreds of thousands of workers whose livelihoods hang in the balance.

It is our fervent hope that in the coming weeks, Chrysler will find a viable business partner and that GM will develop a business plan that will put it on a path to profitability without endless support from the American taxpayer.  In the meantime, we are taking steps to spur demand for American cars and provide relief to autoworkers and their communities.  And we will continue to reaffirm this nation's commitment to a 21st century American auto industry that creates new jobs and builds the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us toward a clean energy future.

Finally, to coordinate a global response to this global recession, I went to the meeting of the G20 nations in London the other week.  Each nation has undertaken significant stimulus to spur demand.  All agreed to pursue tougher regulatory reforms.  We also agreed to triple the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund, an international financial institution supported by all the major economies, and provide direct assistance to developing nations and vulnerable populations – because America's success depends on whether other nations have the ability to buy what we sell.  We pledged to avoid the trade barriers and protectionism that hurts us all in the end.  And we decided to meet again in the fall to gauge our progress and take additional steps if necessary.

So all of these actions – the Recovery Act, the bank capitalization program, the housing plan, the strengthening of the non-bank credit market, the auto plan, and our work at the G20 – have been necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle.  They have been designed to increase aggregate demand, get credit flowing again to families and businesses, and help them ride out the storm.  And taken together, these actions are starting to generate signs of economic progress.  Because of our recovery plan, schools and police departments have cancelled planned layoffs. Clean energy companies and construction companies are re-hiring workers to build everything from energy efficient windows to new roads and highways. Our housing plan has helped lead to a spike in the number of homeowners who are taking advantage of historically-low mortgage rates by refinancing, which is like putting a $2,000 tax cut in your in pocket.  Our program to support the market for auto loans and student loans has started to unfreeze this market and securitize more of this lending in the last few weeks.  And small businesses are seeing a jump in loan activity for the first time in months.

This is all welcome and encouraging news, but it does not mean that hard times are over.  2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America's economy.  The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures, and more pain before it ends.  The market will continue to rise and fall.  Credit is still not flowing nearly as easily as it should.  The process for restructuring AIG and the auto companies will involve difficult and sometimes unpopular choices.  All of this means that there is much more work to be done.  And all of this means that you can continue to expect an unrelenting, unyielding, day-by-day effort from this administration to fight for economic recovery on all fronts.

But even as we continue to clear away the wreckage and address the immediate crisis, it is my firm belief that our next task is to make sure such a crisis never happens again.  Even as we clean up balance sheets and get credit flowing; even as people start spending and business start hiring – we have to realize that we cannot go back to the bubble and bust economy that led us to this point.

It is simply not sustainable to have a 21st century financial system that is governed by 20th century rules and regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the entire economy.  It is not sustainable to have an economy where in one year, 40% of our corporate profits came from a financial sector that was based too much on inflated home prices, maxed out credit cards, overleveraged banks and overvalued assets; or an economy where the incomes of the top 1% have skyrocketed while the typical working household has seen their income decline by nearly $2,000.

For even as too many were chasing ever-bigger bonuses and short-term profits over the last decade, we continued to neglect the long-term threats to our prosperity:  the crushing burden that the rising cost of health care is placing on families and businesses; the failure of our education system to prepare our workers for a new age; the progress that other nations are making on clean energy industries and technologies while we remain addicted to foreign oil; the growing debt that we're passing on to our children.  And even after we emerge from the current recession, these challenges will still represent major obstacles that stand in the way of our success in the 21st century.

There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men.  The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit.  But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not:  for it was founded upon a rock.”

We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand.  We must build our house upon a rock.  We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.

It's a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century:  new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation; new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive; new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and industries; new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses; and new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations.  That is the new foundation we must build.  That must be our future – and my Administration's policies are designed to achieve that future.

The first step we will take to build this foundation is to reform the outdated rules and regulations that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place.  It is time to lay down tough new rules of the road for Wall Street to ensure that we never find ourselves here again. Rules that punish short-cuts and abuse.  Rules that tie someone's pay to their actual job performance.  Rules that protect typical American families when they buy a home, get a credit card or invest in a 401k.  We have already begun to work with Congress to shape this new regulatory framework – and I expect a bill to arrive on my desk for signature before the year is out.

The second pillar of this new foundation is an education system that finally prepares our workers for a 21st century economy.  In the 20th century, the GI Bill sent a generation to college, and for decades, we led the world in education and economic growth.  But in this new economy, we trail the world's leaders in graduation rates and achievement.  That is why we have set a goal that will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the 21st century:  by 2020, America will once more have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

To meet that goal, we have already dramatically expanded early childhood education.  We are investing in innovative programs that have proven to help schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps.  We are creating new rewards tied to teacher performance and new pathways for advancement.  I have asked every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, and we have provided tax credits to make a college education more affordable for every American.

The third pillar of this new foundation is to harness the renewable energy that can create millions of new jobs and new industries.  We all know that the country that harnesses this energy will lead the 21st century.  Yet we have allowed other countries to outpace us on this race to the future.

Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders.  It is time for America to lead again.

The investments we made in the Recovery Act will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  And we are putting Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions on our energy bills and grow our economy at the same time.

But the only way to truly spark this transformation is through a gradual, market-based cap on carbon pollution, so that clean energy is the profitable kind of energy.  Some have argued that we shouldn't attempt such a transition until the economy recovers, and they are right that we have to take the costs of transition into account.  But we can no longer delay putting a framework for a clean energy economy in place.  If businesses and entrepreneurs know today that we are closing this carbon pollution loophole, they will start investing in clean energy now.  And pretty soon, we'll see more companies constructing solar panels, and workers building wind turbines, and car companies manufacturing fuel-efficient cars.  Investors will put some money into a new energy technology, and a small business will open to start selling it. That's how we can grow this economy, enhance our security, and protect our planet at the same time.

The fourth pillar of the new foundation is a 21st century health care system where families, businesses, and government budgets aren't dragged down by skyrocketing insurance premiums.

One and a half million Americans could lose their homes this year just because of a medical crisis.  Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts, and small businesses are closing their doors.  We cannot allow the cost of health care to strangle our economy any longer.

That's why our Recovery Act will invest in electronic health records with strict privacy standards that will save money and lives.  We've also made the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep costs under control. And included in the budgets that just passed Congress is an historic commitment to reform that will finally make quality health care affordable for every American.  So I look forward to working with both parties in Congress to make this reform a reality in the coming months.

Fixing our health care system will certainly require resources, but in my budget, we've made a commitment to fully pay for reform without increasing the deficit, and we've identified specific savings that will make the health care system more efficient and reduce costs for us all.

In fact, we have undertaken an unprecedented effort to find this kind of savings in every corner of the budget, because the final pillar in building our new foundation is restoring fiscal discipline once this economy recovers.  Already, we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade.  We have announced procurement reform that will greatly reduce no-bid contracts and save the government $40 billion.  Secretary Gates recently announced a courageous set of reforms that go right at the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and cost overruns that have bloated our defense budget without making America safer.  We will end education programs that don't work, and root out waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program.

Altogether, this budget will reduce discretionary spending for domestic programs as share of the economy by more than 10% over the next decade to the lowest level since we began keeping records nearly half a century ago.  And as we continue to go through the federal budget line by line, we will be announcing additional savings, secured by eliminating and consolidating programs we don't need so that we can make room for the things we do need.

Now, I realize that for some, this isn't enough.  I know there is a criticism out there that my administration has somehow been spending with reckless abandon, pushing a liberal social agenda while mortgaging our children's future.

Well let me make three points.

First, as I said earlier, the worst thing that we could do in a recession this severe is to try to cut government spending at the same time as families and businesses around the world are cutting back on their spending.  So as serious as our deficit and debt problems are – and they are very serious – major efforts to deal with them have to focus on the medium and long-term budget picture.

Second, in tackling the deficit issue, we simply cannot sacrifice the long-term investments that we so desperately need to generate long-term prosperity.  Just as a cash-strapped family may cut back on luxuries but will insist on spending money to get their children through college, so we as a country have to make current choices with an eye on the future.  If we don't invest now in renewable energy or a skilled workforce or a more affordable health care system, this economy simply won't grow at the pace it needs to in two or five or ten years down the road.  If we don't lay this new foundation, it won't be long before we are right back where we are today.  And I can assure you that chronically slow growth will not help our long-term budget situation.

Third, the problem with our deficit and debt is not new.  It has been building dramatically over the past eight years, largely because big tax cuts combined with increased spending on two wars and the increased costs of government health care programs.  This structural gap in our budget, between the amount of money coming in and the amount going out, will only get worse as Baby Boomers age, and will in fact lead us down an unsustainable path.   But let's not kid ourselves and suggest that we can do it by trimming a few earmarks or cutting the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.  Along with defense and interest on the national debt, the biggest costs in our budget are entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that get more and more expensive every year.  So if we want to get serious about fiscal discipline – and I do – then we are going to not only have to trim waste out of our discretionary budget, a process we have already begun – but we will also have to get serious about entitlement reform.

Nothing will be more important to this goal than passing health care reform that brings down costs across the system, including in Medicare and Medicaid.  Make no mistake: health care reform is entitlement reform.  That's not just my opinion – that was the conclusion of a wide range of participants at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit we held at the White House in February, and that's one of the reasons why I firmly believe we need to get health care reform done this year.

Once we tackle rising health care costs, we must also work to put Social Security on firmer footing.  It is time for both parties to come together and find a way to keep the promise of a sound retirement for future generations.  And we should restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by shutting down corporate loopholes and ensuring that everyone pays what they owe.

All of these efforts will require tough choices and compromises.  But the difficulties can't serve as an excuse for inaction.  Not anymore.

This brings up one final point I'd like to make today.  I've talked a lot about the fundamental weakness in our economy that led us to this day of reckoning.  But we also arrived here because of a fundamental weakness in our political system.

For too long, too many in Washington put off hard decisions for some other time on some other day.  There's been a tendency to score political points instead of rolling up sleeves to solve real problems. There is also an impatience that characterizes this town – an attention span that has only grown shorter with the twenty-four hour news cycle, and insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers.  When a crisis hits, there's all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died away and the media coverage has moved on, instead of confronting the major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained and focused way.

This can't be one of those times.  The challenges are too great.  The stakes are too high.  I know how difficult it is for Members of Congress in both parties to grapple with some of the big decisions we face right now.  It's more than most congresses and most presidents have to deal with in a lifetime.

But we have been called to govern in extraordinary times.  And that requires an extraordinary sense of responsibility – to ourselves, to the men and women who sent us here, and to the many generations whose lives will be affected for good or for ill because of what we do here.

There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet.  But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope.  And beyond that, way off in the distance, we can see a vision of an America's future that is far different than our troubled economic past.  It's an America teeming with new industry and commerce; humming with new energy and discoveries that light the world once more.  A place where anyone from anywhere with a good idea or the will to work can live the dream they've heard so much about.

It is that house upon the rock.  Proud, sturdy, and unwavering in the face of the greatest storm.  We will not finish it in one year or even many, but if we use this moment to lay that new foundation; if we come together and begin the hard work of rebuilding; if we persist and persevere against the disappointments and setbacks that will surely lie ahead, then I have no doubt that this house will stand and the dream of our founders will live on in our time.  Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

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FreedomWorks: Pay No Attention To...Us...Behind The Curtain

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Wrong On So Many Levels

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


Brendan Steinhauser, a spokesperson for Freedomworks, a group started by Dick Armey, offers his take on the historical context of the "Tea Parties" he's helped organize.
"We're applying Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals' here," said Steinhauser. "We're using methods that the Left has used, and that other movements have used, all the way back to the Civil Rights movement. First of all there has to be a real grievance, and that's what Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King had. That's what we have."
This is so dumb, it's hard to know where to start. The most obvious problem, I suppose, is the idea of a Republican activist comparing his plight to those who suffered under the violence and discrimination of segregation. The comparison itself is ridiculous enough to be insulting.

What's more, the Tea Baggers continue to think they have "a real grievance" to justify their Fox News rallies, but they haven't quite explained what that grievance is. Indeed, no one seems capable of explaining why, exactly, tomorrow's events are taking place....(Click for remainder.)

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Germany Bans GM Corn


Greenpeace activists take a sample from a Monsanto test site near Borken in North Rhine-Westphalia: The GM crop MON 810 has been banned in Germany. (DPA)

By Spiegel Online


Germany has banned the cultivation of GM corn, claiming that MON 810 is dangerous for the environment. But that argument might not stand up in court and Berlin could face fines totalling millions of euros if American multinational Monsanto decides to challenge the prohibition on its seed.

The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German farmers will not be planting genetically modified crops: German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the cultivation of GM corn in Germany.

Under the new regulations, the cultivation of MON 810, a GM corn produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto, will be prohibited in Germany, as will the sale of its seed. Aigner told reporters Tuesday she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed "a danger to the environment," a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans.

"Contrary to assertions stating otherwise, my decision is not politically motivated," Aigner said, referring to reports that she had come under pressure to impose a ban from within her party, the conservative Bavaria-based Christian Social Union. She stressed that the ban should be understood as an "individual case" and not as a statement of principle regarding future policy relating to genetic engineering....(Click for remainder.)

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Glenn Beck Calls for States to Sedede

By Todd Beeton
MyDD
Video via Media Matters


When the right-wing criticizes Obama's policies and roots for him to fail (ya know, the same thing labeled as treasonous when Democrats did so to Bush), you see, it's for America's own good. It's because they want America to succeed that they want Obama to fail. So we have Congresswoman Bachmann calling for "revolution" and referring to Washington as "enemy territory" and there's no outcry about her being anti-American; ditto Glenn Beck's call for secession from the union. As Beck's logic goes, any state should be able to "opt out" of an economic "suicide pact." In other words, secession is the only way for a state to survive.
You can't convince me that the Founding Fathers wouldn't allow you to secede.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and if a state says: `I don't want to go there, because that's suicide, they have a right to back out. They have a right -- people have a right to not commit economic suicide...

...Texas says go to hell, Washington, which by the way has been said before. I believe it was Davey Crocket...it's about time that somebody says that again."
You gotta listen to it -- complete with revisionist Davey Crocket history -- to believe it....(Click for remainder.)


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Robert Ariail: How to Protect a Ship From Pirates

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Right-Wing Bloggers Angry at Department of Homeland Security for Monitoring Right-Wing Terrorists

By Blue Texan
Firedoglake


Memo to wingnuts: if you don't want to look like a bunch of crazy right-wing extremists, it's probably best not to criticize the federal government for keeping an eye on crazy right-wing extremists.

The Department of Homeland Security has...created a secret report that wasn’t supposed to be made public but has leaked out nonetheless. In it we see the same outrageous conclusions that “right-wing terrorists” are a danger in this country.
Outrageous! Where would they get that idea that terrorism is dangerous?

And notice the language here. "Secret report." "Leaked out." The Anchor Baby sees a dark conspiracy at work.
In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.
See? It's all a devious Janet Napolitano ploy, masterminded by David Axelrod, to make Teabaggers look bad. Makes perfect sense if you also believe Obama is a Manchurian Muslim who isn't a US citizen and is going to send your kids to socialist re-education camps after taking away your guns, like the shooter in Pittsburgh did....(Click for remainder.)

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To Wingnuts, Rush Limbaugh Is More Important Than Life Itself

By Lisa Derrick
La Figa @ Firedoglake


American conservatives have shifted their focus away from preserving the lives of unborn fetuses to saving Rush Limbaugh from the Fairness Doctrine, which they believe will be re-instituted in order to destroy their hours of slavering, frothing radio fun:
According to the official CPAC polling of its members, restoring the Fairness Doctrine is the third-most-significant Democratic Congress policy initiative opposed by the right wing, ranking behind only expanding government and public health care.
Oh noes! What about protecting innocent babies from femi-nazis and Planned Parenthood, because every good conservative knows that if America allows abortions, then the tewwowists will win because Jesus will pull out his immaculate protection from our nation!

Instead, conservatives are busy propping up the gaseous windbag that is Rush Limbaugh--not that he needs much help, since he's already subsidized. According to Bill Mann:
To launch the show, Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks -- the same folks who syndicate wingnut du jour Glen Beck -- gave Limbaugh's three hours away -- that's right, no cash -- to local radio stations, mostly in medium and smaller markets, back in the early 1990's.

So, a local talk station got Rush's show for zilch. In exchange, Premiere took for itself much of the local station's available advertising time (roughly 15 minutes an hour) and packed the show with national ads it had already pre-sold...Radio sources say that small- and medium-market stations still get Limbaugh's show for free, or pay only a token amount of cash for it.
(Click for remainder.)

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Palin Wants SENATOR ''NAUGHTY MONKEY''

By Shannyn Moore
The Huffingtion Post


Grab a Red Bull® and a seat belt. Prepare yourselves for another episode of ERRATIC PALIN BEHAVIOR. (EPB)

Governor Gump has some sort of party dyslexia when it comes to appointing a replacement to the seat vacated by Democrat Kim Elton. I saw the former Senator in Anchorage this morning. He's traveling with his new boss, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. I damn near begged him to come back to Juneau, but knew it was no use. Kim Elton hates drama.

The procedure is this:

1. The party officials in the district of the vacated seat GIVE THE GOVERNOR SEVERAL NAMES.

2. The governor selects one of the names.

3. The Senators of the party with the open seat vote on confirming the new Senator.

4. TA DA! A NEW SENATOR! Fabulous!

WHAT has happened to Sarah? Seriously. Update? New to this?...(Click for remainder.)

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Anti-Gay Religious Lies About Gay Marriage Exposed

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Virginia GOP Embraces Soft-Core Porn

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos


Not Larry Sabato:
Virginia Republicans are for [Lesbian] Lovers

Wow- at the official Republican Party of Virginia Youtube channel- look at what video they loaded as a "favorite" on Youtube.
The video in question? A hot-n-steamy kiss between two women.

Here's a screenshot of the channel:



(Larger screenshot here.)

Somewhere, Virgil Goode is cackling.

Update (10:55AM, by Jed): The Virginia GOP has removed the video in question, but as you can see here, we've preserved the record with a screenshot....(Click for original.)

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Ed Stein: The First Puppy

By Ed Stein


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Resurrection of Intolerance: Obama and the Far-Right Fanatics

By Walter Brasch
The Public Record


The fanatic right-wing, after taking a few days off to catch their breath, is back again with vengeance.
         
Name anything that President Obama is doing, and this broken wing will try to slap it down, unmindful that more than two-thirds of Americans support the President, with his popularity rising each week, according to several independent polls.

During the campaign, they attacked Obama for being a Muslim. After all, they figured anyone with a name that wasn't WASP-sounding must not be a Christian. Of course, they overlooked the Constitution, which says anyone—Christian, Muslim, Jew, or even atheist—has a right to be president.        

When the Muslim connection didn't wash with the people, the right-wing said that Obama went to the wrong Christian church. The United Church of Christ, many claimed, wasn't even Christian because it allowed people of all views into its congregations. For the shrill-voiced pretend-Christians, their religion is more a religion of exclusion than of inclusion.
         
This past week, the holiest of Christian holidays, the lunatic fringe has shown just how far from Christianity it is. On talk shows and in vitriolic columns, the hard-core conservative base blasted the President for not going to church every Sunday. But then, the President and his family attended Easter Day services at St. John's Episcopal Church. The family's plans had been kept secret, both for security reasons and because the President had stated many times both before and after his inauguration that he needed time to find an appropriate congregation and because he was mindful that his presence would, even unintentionally, disrupt services.
         
Undoubtedly, the harpies of the extreme right-wing will now suggest that the President attended services only because they had raised the issue, and that his attendance was solely for political reasons. ...(Click for remainder.)

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Former Bush Officials Can't Travel Overseas For Fear of War Crimes Extradition

Thanks for John Aravosis at AMERICAblog for posting this.  I couldn't agree more, this is totally hysterical!  I guess it's a good thing that the Spanish are willing to enforce our laws for us; note the sarcasm.



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SEC Tells Kucinich it is Checking Into Bank of America Transparency on Bonuses

By Sabrina Eaton
The Clevelend Plain Dealer


 Washington - The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining whether Bank of America improperly failed to tell shareholders about $3.6 billion in bonuses that Merrill Lynch gave employees before the companies merged and may penalize the bank if it finds wrongdoing, SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro said in a letter to Cleveland Democratic U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

"Where the SEC believes that there has been an omission of material facts necessary in order to make the statements not misleading, we will carry out our enforcement responsibilities with vigor and vigilance," said the letter, which Kucinich released on Monday.

If SEC concludes Bank of America "failed to provide required information in the proxy statement it used to solicit votes to approve the merger agreement, the remedy would not necessarily be to include that information in a proxy statement for a subsequent annual meeting," Schapiro's letter continued.

Kucinich, who chairs a congressional committee probing the bonuses, sent a letter last week that asked Schapiro about potential SEC action against Bank of America.

"There is no question that any reasonable BOA shareholder would have considered the Merrill bonuses to be material to their decision on whether to approve the merger," Kucinich's letter said. "The federal securities laws were designed to protect shareholders against precisely such omissions of material information."...(Click for remainder.)

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