Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

What grade would you give President Obama?

Hi friends,
I am always being asked to grade Obama’s presidency. In place of offering him a grade, I put together a list of his accomplishments thus far. I think you would agree that it is very impressive. His first six months have been even more active than FDRs or LBJs the two standards for such assessments. Yet, there is little media attention given to much of what he has done. Of late, the media is focusing almost exclusively on Obama’s critics, without holding them responsible for the uncivil, unconstructive tone of their disagreements or without holding the previous administration responsible for getting us in such a deep hole. The misinformation and venom that now passes for political reporting and civic debate is beyond description.
As such, there is a need to set the record straight. What most impresses me is the fact that Obama has accomplished so much not from a heavy-handed or top-down approach but from a style that has institutionalized efforts to reach across the aisle, encourage vigorous debate, and utilize town halls and panels of experts in the policy-making process. Beyond the accomplishments, the process is good for democracy and our democratic processes have been battered and bruised in recent years.
Let me know if I missed anything in the list (surely I did).
Robert

1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending

2. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices

3. Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women

4. Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq

5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB

6. Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information

7. Ended media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier’s family

8. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act

9. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible

10. Limits on lobbyist’s access to the White House

11. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration

12. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date

13. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren’t even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan

14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research

15. Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research

16. New federal funding for science and research labs

17. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards

18. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect

19. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools

20. New funds for school construction

21. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out

22. US Auto industry rescue plan

23. Housing rescue plan

24. $789 billion economic stimulus plan

25. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying

26. US financial and banking rescue plan

27. The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed

28. Ended the previous policy; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards

29. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops

30. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010

31. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols

32. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic

33. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions

34. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office

35. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job

36. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast

37. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles

38. Cash for clunkers program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulated auto sales

39. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government

40. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children

41. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program

42. Instituted a new policy on Cuba , allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones

43. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions

44. Expanding vaccination programs

45. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters

46. Closed offshore tax safe havens

47. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals

48. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back

49. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry’s predatory practices

50. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources

51. Lower drug costs for seniors

52. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings

53. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel

54. Improved housing for military personnel

55. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses

56. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals

57. Increasing student loans

58. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program

59. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy

60. Established a new cyber security office

61. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.

62. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts

63. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness

64. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient

65. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced

66. Improving benefits for veterans

67. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration

68. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud

69. The FDA is now regulating tobacco

70. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules

71. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports

72. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons

73. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive

74. Making more loans available to small businesses

75. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare

76. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court

77. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans

78. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000

79. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel

80. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan

81. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan

82. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans

83. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production

84. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters

85. Paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket

86. Held first Seder in White House

87. Attempting to reform the nation’s healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more under insured

88. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform

89. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform

90. Has announced his intention to push for education reform

Oh, and he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!

by
Robert P. Watson, Ph.D.Coordinator of American Studies
Lynn University

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What The Mess???????????

NEW YORK – The couple who crashed President Barack Obama’s first state dinner are peddling their story to broadcast networks for hundreds of thousands of dollars, a television executive says.

The executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the network does not publicly discuss bookings, told The Associated Press that representatives for Michaele and Tareq Salahi contacted networks to urge them to “get their bids in” for an interview. The executive said the Virginia couple was looking for a payment in the mid-six figures range.

Meanwhile, CNN confirmed that the Salahis had canceled an appearance they had scheduled for “Larry King Live” on Monday.

Network news divisions say they don’t pay for interviews. But for eagerly sought interviews in the past, they have offered to pay for access to exclusive material, such as pictures or videos from their subjects.

Representatives for the couple did not immediately return telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

Michaele Salahis is a reality TV hopeful trying to get on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of D.C.” Her and her husband’s success in getting into the state dinner Tuesday without an invitation embarrassed the White House and Secret Service.

The agency acknowledged its officers never checked whether the couple were on the guest list before letting them onto the White House grounds. But it initially insisted Obama was never endangered by the security breach because the couple — like others at the dinner — had gone through magnetometers.

When it became clear the couple had interacted with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during the event, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan expressed concern and embarrassment. He said that while an investigation continues, the agency has taken measures to ensure the oversight is not repeated.

A White House photo showed the Salahis in the receiving line in the Blue Room with Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in whose honor the dinner was held. Obama and Michaele Salahi are smiling as she grasps his right hand with both of hers and her husband looks on. Singh is to Obama’s left.

On Saturday, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-NY, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called for a review of Secret Service practices and asked for a briefing this week.

Agency spokesmen declined to comment on reports that agents had visited the Salahis’ vineyard in Hume, Va., in search of the couple. Voice mail messages left Saturday at two separate telephone numbers for the Oasis Winery, south of Washington, were not immediately returned.

It is unclear what the couple told officers at the checkpoint that allowed them to go through the security screening. The Salahis lawyer, Paul Gardner, posted a comment on their Facebook page saying his clients were cleared by the White House to be at the dinner.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SARAH PALIN?

 

CHICAGO – Sarah Palin tells TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey that she doesn’t have her sights set on the 2012 presidency.

“I’m concentrating on 2010 and making sure that we have issues to tackle,” Palin said in the interview taped last week and broadcast on Monday’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in 2012. [Running for president is] not on my radar screen right now.”

Palin spoke to Winfrey as she began rolling out her 413-page memoir, “Going Rogue,” which will be released Tuesday. She begins a book tour Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Winfrey opened by asking Palin if she felt snubbed at not getting an invitation to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” last year. Winfrey said she didn’t have any candidates on her Chicago-based show during the campaign because of her support of President Barack Obama.

Palin said she didn’t feel snubbed and told Winfrey, “No offense to you, but it wasn’t the center of my universe.”

The former vice presidential candidate also discussed her experiences on the campaign trail and said she was confident in her abilities when she was asked to run with Sen. John McCain. When chosen, she said, “I felt like, wow, John McCain is a maverick. He’s all about empowering women. He is all about equality. He’s about the everyday working class individual who can succeed in this country and he chose someone who reflects that.”

At the time, she thought that the only skeleton in her closet was the fact that she was received a D in college.

“I thought that was going to be the extent of the controversy,” she said, laughing.

Palin said that she doesn’t blame herself for the Republicans’ election loss. “The reason we lost is because the economy tanked,” she said. “People were sincerely looking for change … Our ticket was perceived as status quo.”

Opening up about family
Palin talked about her family, telling Winfrey that the McCain campaign didn’t let her address the pregnancy of her teenage daughter, Bristol, the way that she wanted.

“This is not to be glamorized,” she said. “This is not to be emulated … I didn’t want that message getting out there that we were giddy happy to become grandparents.”

She added that her daughter called her in tears and was “devastated” and “embarrassed” when her pregnancy became public.

The former Alaska governor was asked about being pregnant with her son Trig, who has Down’s Syndrome. She said that she could understand why a woman would contemplate abortion.  

“It was easy to understand why a woman would feel that it’s easier to just do away with some less than ideal circumstance, to do away with the problem,” she said.

But the situation eventually stengthened her pro-life stance. “What I have been given is a gift,” she said.

Levi Johnston
Palin did not respond to the criticism she’s received from Levi Johnston, the father of her grandson, and denied rumors that Johnston and her daughter used to live together. She said it’s “a bit heartbreaking” to see the road that he has taken, saying that it is “not a healthy place to be,” referring to his plan to appear in Playgirl magazine.

“We don’t want to mess up the gig he’s doing: aspiring porn star,” Palin cracked. “I also saw I didn’t go to hockey games. There are so many untruths.”

The new memoir doesn’t contain any references to Johnston, who’s sparred with his former mother-in-law-to-be.

The former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate told Winfrey that Johnston has been busy with media tours and hasn’t seen his son “for a while.”

Palin said she continues “to hope for the best and to pray for Levi” and that “this can all work out for good.”

The infamous interview
When asked about her infamous interview with Katie Couric, Palin said that she was “annoyed” while speaking to Couric and said the way the interview was edited was partially to blame for how she was portrayed.

“I don’t blame people for thinking I was not qualified,” she said. “Her agenda was not neccessarily to show me in the best light.”

She added that the McCain campaign gave her the green light to continue with the multi-part interview, even though she didn’t feel she had done well.

“The campaign said, ‘Right on, good!’ … if they thought it was a good interview, I don’t know what a bad interview was.”

Winfrey ended by asking Palin if she planned to host her own talk show. “Oprah, you are the queen of talk shows,” she responded. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

I Really Need Some Comments on This Post!!!! I have So Many Opinions!!!

Nobel jury defends Obama decision

OSLO – Members of the Norwegian committee that gave Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize are strongly defending their choice against a storm of criticism that the award was premature and a potential liability for the U.S. president.

Asked to comment on the uproar following Friday’s announcement, four members of the five-seat panel told The Associated Press that they had expected the decision to generate both surprise and criticism.

Three of them rejected the notion that Obama hadn’t accomplished anything to deserve the award, while the fourth declined to answer that question. A fifth member didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

“We simply disagree that he has done nothing,” committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told the AP on Tuesday. “He got the prize for what he has done.”

Jagland singled out Obama’s efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

“All these things have contributed to — I wouldn’t say a safer world — but a world with less tension,” Jagland said by phone from the French city of Strasbourg, where he was attending meetings in his other role as secretary-general of the Council of Europe.

He said most world leaders were positive about the award and that most of the criticism was coming from the media and from Obama’s political rivals.

“I take note of it. My response is only the judgment of the committee, which was unanimous,” he said, adding that the award to Obama followed the guidelines set forth by Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite, who established the Nobel Prizes in his 1895 will.

“Alfred Nobel wrote that the prize should go to the person who has contributed most to the development of peace in the previous year,” Jagland said. “Who has done more for that than Barack Obama?”

Aagot Valle, a left-wing Norwegian politician who joined the Nobel panel this year, also dismissed suggestions that the decision to award Obama was without merit.

“Don’t you think that comments like that patronize Obama? Where do these people come from?” Valle said by phone from the western coastal city of Bergen. “Well, of course, all arguments have to be considered seriously. I’m not afraid of a debate on the peace prize decision. That’s fine.”

In Friday’s announcement, the committee said giving Obama the peace prize could be seen as an early vote of confidence intended to build global support for the policies of his young administration.

The left-leaning committee whose members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama’s calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease U.S. conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.

However, the decision stunned even the most seasoned Nobel watchers. They hadn’t expected Obama, who took office barely two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline, to be seriously considered until at least next year.

The award drew heated derision from Obama’s political opponents in the Republican party, and was even questioned by some members of Obama’s own Democratic party, who wondered what the president had done to merit the $1.4 million honor.

Michael S. Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said naming Obama showed “how meaningless a once honorable and respected award has become.”

In a fundraising letter, Steele wrote that “the Democrats and their international leftist allies want America made subservient to the agenda of global redistribution and control. And truly patriotic Americans like you and our Republican Party are the only thing standing in their way.”

Columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times that Obama “has not done anything yet on the scale that would normally merit such an award.”

Even in Europe, where Obama is hugely popular, many editorials and pundits questioned what he had done to deserve the award.

“Scrap the Nobel Peace Prize,” foreign affairs commentator Bronwen Maddox wrote in The Times of London. “It’s an embarrassment and even an impediment to peace. President Obama, in letting the committee award it to him, has made himself look vain, a fool and dangerously lost in his own mystique.”

Yet Obama was humble in acknowledging the prize.

“Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,” Obama said Friday in the White House Rose Garden. “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize.”

Nobel Committee member Inger-Marie Ytterhorn noted that the president didn’t greet the news with joy.

“I looked at his face when he was on TV and confirmed that he would receive the prize and would come to Norway, and he didn’t look particularly happy,” she told AP.

Some of the most celebrated peace prize laureates include Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. The award has occasionally honored more controversial figures, like the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Sometimes it raises the profile of peace workers or activists, such as Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala in 1992 or Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai in 2004.

“Whenever we award the peace prize, there is normally a big debate about it,” said Ytterhorn, a nine-year veteran of the award committee.

Asked whether there was a risk that the prize could backfire on Obama by raising expectations even higher and give ammunition to his critics, Ytterhorn said “it might hamper him,” because it could distract from domestic issues such as health care reform.

Jagland said he didn’t think the Nobel Peace Prize would hurt Obama domestically but added the committee did not take U.S. politics into consideration when making their decision.

“I’m not so familiar with American politics, and I don’t want to interfere with it, because this is a totally independent committee,” he said. “We should not look at internal politics.”

Kaci Kullman Five, a former Conservative Party parliamentarian and longtime Nobel committee member, said “we all expected that there would be a discussion” about awarding Obama. She declined further comment, deferring to the Nobel Peace Prize tradition of only having the committee chairman discuss prize selections publicly.

Valle, who left her seat in Parliament last week because of her Nobel panel appointment, said the criticism shouldn’t overshadow important issues raised by the prize.

“Of course I expected disagreement and debate on the prize, on giving him the prize,” she said. “But what I want now is that we seriously raise a discussion regarding nuclear disarmament.”

I really want to know what my people think of this

article!!!!

I Can’t Believe I forgot to Post This Article!!!!!!

Obama humbled by winning Nobel Peace Prize

October 9, 2009

President Barack Obama winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize – only less than nine months into his presidency – is news that shocked much of the nation, including the White House.

Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel committee, said Obama won “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the committee said.

Jagland said the decision was “unanimous” and came with ease.

“His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population,” Jagland said.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said of Obama’s award: “The international standing of the United States has suffered in recent years, and the international response to the election of President Obama was deeply heartening to me. Already, I sense a change in how the rest of the world sees our great nation.  We face grave challenges in the United States, as do people around the world.

“I believe our president will use his leadership and diplomatic skills to not only inspire us, but to do the hard work necessary to build a better future.”

Obama becomes the third sitting President to win the coveted award, behind Theodore Roosevelt (1906) and Woodrow Wilson (1919) and the fourth president overall behind Jimmy Carter (2002).

Congratulations to our President!!!

SMH

Kwame Kilpatrick’s Lifestyle In Question

Kwame Kilpatrick just can’t seem to catch a break. The former Mayor of Detroit claims to have cleaned up his lifestyle and is on probation in Texas. Now he has 10 days to hand over financial records to prosecutors that claim he’s violated his probation and is hiding funds owed to his former city.

Since his infamous days in the headlines Kwame’s been relatively quietly. He’s been working as an account executive at Compuware Covisint in south Texas, concentrating on health care. Now after he’s been spotted driving around in “fancy cars” like his Cadillac Escalade and living in a million dollar mansion, prosecutors are curious.

Kilpatrick’s attorney is defending his client however saying that the Escalade was a “gift” and should not be reported to the city. No word on the mansion. Kilpatrick will have to make an appearance in court October 29 to clear his name.

When Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to charges of assault and obstruction of justice, he agreed to pay the city of Detroit $1 million in restitution while serving five years of probation. He’s been ordered to pay $6,000 a month toward his debt.

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