Tag Archives: Warfare and Conflict

FBI: Four Georgia militia members plotted to attacks

The Seal of the United States Federal Bureau o...

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As a resident of a suburb about twenty miles outside of Atlanta, this news is disturbing on so many levels…

MSNBC

‘I’d say the first ones that need to die is the ones in the government buildings’

Four Georgia men in their 60s and 70s were arrested Tuesday, accused of being members of a right-wing militia group that plotted to attack federal office buildings and to disperse a deadly biological poison in Atlanta.

Their alleged plot was revealed to the FBI by a confidential informant last spring, and members of the group have been meeting since May with someone they thought was a black-market weapons dealer but who turned out to be an undercover federal agent, according to court documents.

No attacks were ever attempted. Federal officials say the men were disrupted before they could act on the plot.

The documents say the men, Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, Ga.; Dan Roberts, 67, Ray Adams, 65, and Samuel Crump, 68, all of Toccoa, called themselves “the covert group” and began in March to talk about staging attacks against federal targets including the IRS.

A confidential informant secretly recorded some of the meetings for the FBI.

“I’d say the first ones that need to die is the ones in the government buildings,” Adams was overheard saying in an April 16 meeting, according to the FBI.

“When it comes down to it, I can kill somebody,” he allegedly said.

Read court documents on ricin allegations (.PDF)

They allegedly obtained a silencer from the undercover agent and plotted to buy explosives. Crump claimed he could produce ricin, a deadly biological agent, and talked about dispersing it from a car driving on an interstate highway, according to court documents.

Continue reading here…

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Filed under Right Wing Extremism, Right Wing Violence

The $1.2 Trillion Trap: What America Gave Up For 10 Years Of War Since 9/11

Think Progress

[...]

By spending this much money on wars that ended up being America’s longest in history, the United States in some ways fell into Bin Laden’s trap. This money could’ve been used in ways that would’ve invested in America — securing access to health care, a decent education, and infrastructure for alternative energy. Using NPP metrics, ThinkProgress has assembled ten alternative policies that the United States could’ve pursued instead with this money that has been spent on the wars so far:

– Provide 63.3 Million Scholarships For University Students Every Year For Ten Years

– Give 58.9 Million Children Low-Income Health Care Every Year For Ten Years

– Give 23.6 Million People Access To Low-Income Healthcare Every Year For Ten Years

– Provide 20.68 Million Students With Pell Grants Worth $5,500 Every Year For Ten Years

– Provide 15.12 Million Head Start Slots For Children Every Year For Ten Years

– Provide Veterans Administration Care For 14.7 Million Military Veterans Every Year For Ten Years

– Hire 2.01 Million Firefighters Every Year For Ten Years

– Hire 1.76 Million Elementary School Teachers Every Year For Ten Years

– Hire 1.73 Million Police Officers Every Year For Ten Years

– Retrofit 69.4 Million Households For Wind Power Every Year For Ten Years

– Retrofit 26 Million Households For Solar Photovoltaic Energy Every Year For Ten Years

These numbers reflect only the monetary costs of the wars. The human costs are much more difficult to calculate, both because it is it impossible to quantify the value of a human life and because calculating the death toll among Iraqis and Afghans is very difficult. But over 6,400 American soldiers have perished in Iraq, Afghanistan, or supporting theaters and death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan combined are in the hundreds of thousands.

The cost in blood and treasure of these wars since 9/11 demonstrate that they enacted a heavy toll on our country, and this data should inform our actions in the future.

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Allen West (R-FL) Says the ‘Arab Spring’ Is Actually About Reestablishing the Caliphate

You can’t get farther right than this idiot…

Crooks & Liars

Extreme right-wing Florida Congressman Allen West, who recently declined to run for United States senate, said in his weekly address that the Arab Spring of democratization in the Middle East and surrounding areas is really about Muslims trying to re-establish the historical caliphate:

This so-called “Arab Spring” is less about a democratic movement, than it is about the early phase of the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate, the last being the Ottoman Empire.

We are witnessing secular Muslim leaders being deposed in very volatile and unstable nations. This growing Islamic Totalitarianism manifested in militant Islam has had a modus operand [sic] of capitalizing on unstable political situations (Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia).

Now we see these same types of instances occurring in Egypt, Libya, and Syria and the rose-colored glasses of some seek to portray this as a great awakening of liberty. History does not support this in the Middle East.

We must evaluate these occurrences through the prism of keen strategic and operational insight which looks out 10, 20, or 30 years.

If we had done so during the deposing of the Shah of Iran, we might have been able to prevent what arose. The Iran with which we must contend today is the major exporter of Islamic totalitarianism and state sponsored terrorism.

In the rest of the essay, he goes on to condemn Barack Obama, Palestine and the United Nations, while calling for militant support for Israel and its current borders.

The term “caliphate” refers to the historical unified Islamic government that dominated much of the Middle East and northern Africa through 1924. West and others seem to be suggesting the return of a caliphate would involve a anti-Western, anti-Israeli unified Muslim front that could threaten the United States and its allies. West’s remarks echo those of Glenn Beck who frequently warns of a coming caliphate.

West has a history of extreme rhetoric relating to Islam and the caliphate comments are far from the worst:

(h/t Saint Petersblog)

 

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Filed under Islamophobia, Rep. Allen West

Pat Buchanan: Norwegian Right-Wing Terrorist ‘Breivik May Be Right’

Pat Buchanan

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This is no surprise, Buchanan has written that Hitler may have been right as well.

A Daily Kos Diarist sums it up this way:

It’s not every day that a major media personality decides to defend Hitler, but Pat Buchanan is old, cranky, anti-semitic, racist, and has a permanent cot in the MSNBC green room. So apparently, he doesn’t give a shit anymore.

Think Progress

Today, in a World Net Daily op-ed, failed presidential candidate and conservative pundit Pat Buchanan offers an example of the ethnic bigotry and racial insensitivity that has come to define him.

Offering his take on the horrendous terrorist attacks in Norway, Buchanan joined the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post in arguing that the far-right extremist perpetrator Anders Breivik may have had a valid point. Arguing that Breivik was bringing attention to his cause, “a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims,” Buchanan declares that, on the “climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world…Breivik may be right“:

But, awful as this atrocity was, native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.

That threat comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists.

Europe faces today an authentic and historic crisis.

With her native-born populations aging, shrinking and dying, Europe’s nations have not discovered how to maintain their prosperity without immigrants. Yet the immigrants who have come – from the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia – have been slow to learn the language and have failed to attain the educational and occupational levels of Europeans. And the welfare states of Europe are breaking under the burden.[...]

As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.

The sad reality is that Buchanan helps mainstream anti-Muslim intolerance. A regular MSNBC contributor and frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Buchanan once invoked the Nazis’ attempt to march in Skokie, Illinois as an argument against the Islamic Center proposal in New York. He also used this platform to defend Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) “McCarthyesque hearings” on the threat of terrorism from American Muslims, saying American Muslims are “most susceptible or vulnerable to the recruitment” by terrorists who will “radicalize them and make them enemies of America.”

Of course, Muslims are just the most recent group of people on Buchanan’s enemies list, which already includes LatinosAfrican-Americans, and gay people. As Buchanan said, he “prefers the old bigotry.” And he’s bringing it back to the mainstream.

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Hackers Cripple al Qaeda Network

H/T: Don In Mass

The Daily Beast

A “sophisticated” cyber-hack has crippled al Qaeda’s online communication networks, a terrorism expert said on Wednesday.

The attack, which will cut the terror cell’s ability to communicate for at least a few days, was pulled off with “an unusual cocktail of relatively sophisticated techniques.”

The strike has the hallmarks of a government operation and it mirrors a recent hack by the British government that left cupcake recipes in the place of bomb-making instructions on the group’s English language magazine.

Read it at NBC News

 

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NEW ! The 244 ACCOMPLISHMENTS of PRESIDENT OBAMA

This list will undoubtedly have some points that cross over to the “other” list published here two days ago, but BOTH serve it’s purpose in showing that this President has not been sitting on his butt doing nothing.

Click here for an updated version of President Obama’s accomplishments!

B4B News

ETHICS

• Ordered the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act and overturned Bush-era limits on accessibility of federal documents (2009)

• Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible (2009)

• Placed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House (2009)

• Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration (2009)

• Signed a measure strengthening registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists (2009)

• Ordered that lobbyists must be removed from and are no longer permitted to serve on federal and White House advisory panels and boards (2009) * Note: After saying he would not hire lobbyists, a few have been hired in the Administration

• Companies and individuals who are delinquent on their taxes or owe back taxes are no longer allowed to bid for federal contracts (2009)

• Initiated the “e-Rulemaking Initiative” (in cooperation with Cornell University) to allow for online public “notice and comment” of federal laws and initiatives (2010)

• Issued the “Open Gov Directive” ordering all Cabinet departments to promote transparency and citizen participation in their policies (2010)

• Signed extensions on banning lobbyists from serving on agency boards (2010)

• Developed the “Don Not Pay List” with data on contractors and recipients of federal funds who are deemed to be ineligible because of fraud and abuse (2010)

GOVERNANCE

• The White House website now provides information on all economic stimulus projects and spending, along with an unprecedented amount of information on our government (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era practice of circumventing established FDA rules for political reasons (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results (2009)

• Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000) (2009)

• Has urged Congress to adopt “Pay-Go” (whereby each dollar of spending is offset by a dollar in cuts or revenues, which was used in the `90s but abandoned in the `00s) (2010)

• Has been holding open meetings with Republican leaders, although they complain of a lack of access and information (2010)

• Signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (2010) * Note: To curb wasteful spending

• Tasked federal agencies to develop plans for disposing of unneeded real estate and then to eliminate unnecessary or non-economical lands, properties, etc. (2010)

NATIONAL SECURITY

• Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane (which wasn’t even used in Iraq/Afghanistan) and other outdated weapons systems (2009)

• Announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (2009) * Note: The closure has been delayed due to massive opposition but it remains on the agenda.

• Stated his interest in housing terrorists at a new federal “super max” facility in the US (2009) * Note: this has been delayed in the face of massive opposition but it remains on the agenda

• Cut the expensive Reagan era missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010 (2009)

• Cancelled plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic (2009)

• Replacing long-range, expensive missile systems with more efficient smaller systems (2009)

• Increased US Navy patrols off the Somali coast in response to pirating (2009)

• Established a new cyber security office and appointed a cyber security czar (2009)

• Ordered the first nation-wide comprehensive cyber threat assessment (2009)

• Instituted a new Nuclear Posture Review, revising US nuclear deterrence policy to encourage more nations to join the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (2010) * Note: Components of the policy include: a pledge to stop nuclear testing; a pledge to not build a new generation of nucs; identifying nuclear terrorism, rather than a launch from another nuclear state, as the major threat; a pledge to not use nucs on a non-nuclear state in a conventional conflict; etc.

• Executive orders to block payment, transfers, exports, etc… of individuals and organizations support the regimes of North Korea, Iran, Somali pirates, and other foreign threats (2010)

• Presidential Memoranda to extend certain provisions of The Trading with Enemies Act which was to expire in September 2010 (2010) * Note: This includes freezing assets and banning trade that benefits the Cuban regime; however further efforts at normalizing travel to Cuba are supported

• Signed bill for southwest border security and increased funds and agents on the Mexican border (2010)

• Signed the Comprehensive Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act to deal with foreign regimes like Iran and North Korea (2010)

IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN

• Began the phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (2009); continuing the withdrawal (2010)

• Changed the US military command in the Afghan conflict (2009)

• Tasked the Pentagon to reorganize US policy in Afghanistan; the new policy includes 30,000 additional troops deployed, priority training of Afghan forces, developing agriculture and infrastructure, limiting aerial bombing, etc. (2009)

• Ordered the Pentagon to send additional helicopters to assist US Marine units and Special Forces in Afghanistan (2009)

• Increased unmanned drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date (2009)

MILITARY & VETERANS

• Ordered the Pentagon to cover expenses of families of fallen soldiers if they wish to be on site when the body arrives back in the US (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era “blackout” imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers (2009) * Note: The media is now permitted to cover the story pending adherence to respectful rules and with the approval of the fallen soldier’s family

• Ended the Bush-era “black out” policy on media coverage of war casualties (2009) * Note: Full information is now released for the first time in the War on Terror

• Ordered better body armor to be procured for US troops (2009)

• Funding new Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (2009) * Note: The old Hummers were very vulnerable to roadside explosives and an alarming percentage of our soldiers lost in Iraq were on account of IEDs

• Working to increase pay and benefits for military personnel (2009)

• Improving housing for military personnel (2009)

• Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses (2009)

• Ordered that conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other neglected military hospitals be improved (2009)

• Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military to a post-Cold War, modern fighting force (2009) * Note: Bush announced in 2001 his intention to do this but backed off the reforms after 9/11, which include: new procurement policies; increasing the size of Special Ops units; deploying new technologies; creating new cyber security units; etc.

• Ended the Bush-era practice of awarding “no-bid” defense contracts (2009)

• Improving benefits for veterans as well as VA staffing, information systems, etc. (2009)

• Authorized construction of additional health centers to care for veterans (2009)

• Suspended the Bush-era decision to purchase a fleet of Marine One helicopters from suppliers in favor of American made helicopters (2009)

• Ordered a review of the existing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military (2010)

• New GI Bill for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (2009)

• Signed bill providing assistance for caregivers of veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan (2010) * Note: The omnibus bill does the following: Training, funding, and counseling for caregivers; promoting pilot childcare programs for women vets under treatment at the VA; independent oversight to prevent abuse; readjustment counseling for National Guard and reservist units; etc.

• Eliminated co-payments for veterans who are catastrophically disabled (2010)

• Fulfilled campaign promise to have combat troops (90,000) out of Iraq by August 31, 2010 (2010)

• Established a new interagency task force to assist veterans owning small businesses (2010) * Note: The efforts include promoting federal contract opportunities, improve access to loans and capital, mentor assistance programs, etc.

• Signed The Families of Fallen Heroes Act, which covers the moving costs of immediate family members of those lost in service (military, intelligence, and security personnel) (2010)

FOREIGN POLICY

• Closed the Bush-era “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy allowing “enhanced interrogation” (torture); the US is again in compliance with Geneva Convention standards (2009) * Note: Obama has permitted some controversial interrogation techniques to continue

• Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols (2009) * Note: Bush withdrew from non-proliferation talks and dismantled the inspection infrastructure

• Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush

• Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush

• Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office (2009)

• Banned the export of cluster bombs (2009)

• Overturned Bush-era plans to increase the US nuclear arsenal (2009)

• Authorized the Navy SEALS operation that freed by force the US shipping captain held by Somali pirates (2009)

• Restored the US commitment to the UN population fund for family planning; overturned the ban on providing funds internationally for family planning (2009) * Note: The family planning efforts were suspended under Bush

• Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit families (2009)

• Extended an offer of engagement (free from sanctions and penalties) to Iran through December 31, 2009 (Iran did not accept the offer) (2009)

• Sent envoys to the Middle East and other parts of the world, reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy (2009)

• Authorized discussions with North Korea and the private mission by former president, Bill Clinton, to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons (2009)

• Authorized discussions with Myanmar and the mission by Senator Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive (2009)

• Renewed loan guarantees for Israel (2009)

• Signed the USIFTA trade agreement with/for Israel (2009)

• Authorized a $550m advance for Israel (six months prior to the scheduled date) in order to accommodate Israeli’s economic and financial needs (2009)

• Continued agreements with Israel for cultural exchanges, immigration, etc. (2009)

• Spoke on Arab television, spoke at an Egyptian university, and met with Arab leaders in an effort to change the tone of US-Arab relations (2009)

• Ordered the US to finally pay its dues to the United Nations (2009)

• Attended the Summit of America’s meeting in Trinidad and Tobago (2010)

• Dispatched several envoys and initiated talks with numerous nations (2010)

• Signed a nuclear limitation treaty with Russia (2010) * Note: The agreement calls for both countries to reduce their nucs by one-third (1,500) and launch systems by half (800)

• Hosted nuclear non-proliferation summit for several nations (2010)

• Executive Order to establish support offices in the State Department to assist the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan (2010)

• Presidential Memoranda to continue drug interdiction support with Columbia (2010)

ECONOMY

• Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) (2009) * Note: Bush was the first president since Herbert Hoover to not make infrastructure a priority

• Authorized the US auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages (2009)

• Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees (2009)

• Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan (2009) * Note: 1/3 in tax cuts for working-class families; 1/3 to states for infrastructure projects; 1/3 to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers, etc. at risk of losing their jobs because of state budget shortfalls

• Instituted a new rule allowing the public to meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (in as quickly as one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying (2009)

• Authorized a continuation of the US financial and banking rescue plans initiated at the end of the Bush administration and authorized TARP funds to buy “toxic assets” from failing financial institutions (2009)

• Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that stimulated auto sales and removed old, inefficient, polluting cars from the road (2009)

• Convened a “jobs summit” to bring experts together to develop ideas for creating jobs (2009)

• Ordered the FDIC to beef up deposit insurance (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of protecting credit card companies (2009) * Note: In place of the old policy, new consumer protections were instituted and the industry’s predatory practices were banned

• Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses (2009)

• Placed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires and a few other products such as pipes after China was found to be illegally “dumping” exports below cost (2009) * Note: Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan all refused to “get tough” on China’s predatory trade practices; Bush II refused four times during his presidency

• In November 2009, Obama extended unemployment benefits for one million workers

and expanded coverage for some existing homeowners who are buying again (2009)

• Called on Congress to deliver a “Jobs bill” (2010)

• Credit card companies are prohibited from raising rates without advance notification or arbitrarily if customers are paying bills on time (2010)

• Signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits set to expire (2010)

• Signed historic Wall Street reform bill (2010) * Note: Designed to reregulate and end abusive practices and promote consumer protections

• Signed the HIRE Act to stimulate the economic recovery (2010) * Note: The bill includes: tax cuts for small businesses who hire someone unemployed for at least two months; small businesses can write off their investments in equipment this year; etc.

• National Export Initiative established to enhance federal support (technical assistance, training, trade missions, etc.) and coordination efforts to help US businesses export products and services (2010)

• Initiatives to promote a “Wireless Broadband Revolution” (2010) * Note: Among other things, broadband is finally being considered as necessary infrastructure, with efforts to expand use, access, and spectrum…

• Expanded agricultural credit to farmers during current economic crisis (2010)

• Signed bill – US Manufacturing Enhancement Act (2010)

• Signed bill – Single Family Housing Mortgage Insurance (2010)

TAXES

• Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks to permit the US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs (2009) * Note: The new policy promotes in-sourcing investments to brings jobs back to the US

• Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provides small tax cuts for 95% of “working families” (2009) * Note: The tax cuts were not as big as was suggested during the 2008 campaign

• Convened an advisory board that is looking into simplifying the tax code (2009)

• Ordered the closing of offshore tax safe havens (for individual and business tax evaders) (2009)

• Reduced taxes for some small businesses to stimulate the economic recovery (2009)

• Extended the Home Buyers Credit for first-time home buyers (2009)

• Proposed doubling the child tax credit (2010)

• Called for the repeal of the capital gains tax for small businesses (2010)

• Proposed rolling back the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (2010) * Note: This would be for families earning over $250,000/year and would return their tax rates to the 1990’s level

BUDGETING 

• Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut federal spending (2009)

• Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify wasteful spending and practices (2009)

• Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient (2009)

• Overturned the Bush-era practice of not listing certain federal programs in the federal budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did this (so did Reagan) in an effort to hide programs and make the budget look smaller; such “off budget” items are now included in the annual budget

• Full appropriations for war are now included in the budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did not list many of the appropriations for Iraq, Afghanistan, and War on Terror

• Funds for emergency appropriations are now included in the budget (2009) (2010)

• Proposed a three-year freeze on federal discretionary spending beginning in 2011 (2010)

• Is in the process of cutting 120 federal programs identified as either wasteful or unnecessary (2010)

• Established a bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility, staffed by House and Senate members and private citizens, tasked with submitting proposals to balance the budget (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down

• Established a bipartisan commission on the future of Social Security, tasked with submitting proposals to preserve and strengthen Social Security (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down

• Cut $20 billion from federal budget and has pledged to cut at least this much every year (2010)

• Ultimately decided to cancel planned new presidential helicopter fleet and stick with marine One (2010)

• Freezing all discretionary spending for next three years, except on national security (2010)

• Presidential Memoranda to freeze discretionary awards, bonuses, etc. for federal political appointees (2010)

• Beginning to use “Pay-As-You-Go” (Pay-Go) to offset budget expenditures with budget cuts or revenue enhancements (2010)

HEALTHCARE 

• Removed Bush era restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research (2009)

• Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research (2009)

• Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children (2009)

• Established an independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare (2009)

• Reversed some of the Bush-era restrictions that prevented Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical firms for cheaper drugs, allowing government to again competitively bid (2009) * Note: Obama had promised to lift all restrictions but, while he did negotiate with drug companies for them to lower their costs the deal only lifted some restrictions

• Expanding government vaccination programs (2009)

• Issued new disease prevention guidelines and priorities for the CDC (2009)

• Authorized the FDA to finally begin regulating tobacco (2009)

• Tasked federal labs to prioritize research on and deployment of H1N1 vaccines (2009)

• Asked multiple congressional committees to bring forward a healthcare reform bill; held dozens of public hearings and town halls on the issue (2009) (2010)

• Established a new council on National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health to be chaired by Surgeon General and charged with promoting healthy lifestyles and integrative healthcare (2010)

• When accusations to the contrary arose, an Executive Order was signed to reaffirm that federal funds are not to be used for abortion services (2010)

• Historic healthcare reform bill signed – $940 billion over 10 years (2010) * Note: 32 million additional Americans will receive healthcare coverage and costs will be lowered for most Americans, but many of the goals are phased in over four years

Components of the bill 

- Prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals/family members with pre-existing health conditions; a temporary plan is being developed to cover high-risk individuals with pre-existing conditions until the full reforms go into effect in 2014

- Prevents insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on benefits

- Bans “rescission” so insurance companies can’t cancel coverage if individuals keep their policies current or if they become ill

- An individual’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are capped

- Closes the “donut hole” (Part D) for Medicare prescription drug coverage (under Bush, Medicare helped pay for drugs up to $2,600 and above $4,550, but individuals had to pay 100% of the costs in between these amounts); now Medicare helps cover costs irrespective of the amount – seniors will now pay only 25% of drug costs up to $4,550 and only 5% of drug costs above that amount

- In 2010, an emergency provision will offer seniors a $250 rebate on the costs incurred within the “donut hole”

- Individuals living at or below the poverty line were eligible for healthcare under Medicaid, but by 2014 individuals/families living slightly above (making up to $14,404/$29,327) the poverty line will also be eligible for benefits

- Individuals/families making less than $43,320/$88,200 per year will qualify for government subsidies to help purchase health insurance

- All individuals must have health insurance or face a government fine; all large (over 50 employees) employers must offer health insurance to employees or pay a fine

- Small businesses can get a tax credit if they offer health care

- There are hardship exemptions if individuals can’t afford health insurance

- Families can keep their children in college on their plans through age 26

- Promotes health insurance “exchanges” so consumers can buy “wholesale”

- Creates consumer assistance offices to help consumers file complaints or appeal decisions from insurance companies; beginning in 2011, insurance companies can no longer make excessive rate hikes without justification and approval, and those doing so may be barred from participating in new health insurance exchanges

Funding sources:

- Large employers (over 50 workers) that don’t offer health benefits will be charged a $2,000/worker fee; if the employer offers coverage but employees instead purchase federally subsidized insurance the fee is $3,000/worker receiving federal subsidies or $750/worker (whichever is lower)

- Annual fees on pharmaceutical companies ($27 billion), health insurance companies ($60 billion), and medical device-makers ($20 billion)

- Annual penalties on individuals who do not have health insurance (up to a maximum of $695/person)

- Increase in the Medicare payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.35% for individuals making $200,000+ and families making $250,000+

- 3.8% tax on unearned income for millionaires

- Insurance companies will be subject to a tax on each high-end insurance plan (so-called “Cadillac” plans) they offer

Miscellaneous:

- Illegal immigrants are not eligible for insurance or subsidies

- By Executive Order, such federal funding can’t be used for abortion

- The federal government will assist states by covering all of the increased expenses of expanding Medicaid coverage (90% of costs after 2020)

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT 

• Removed a ruling that now allows individual states to enact automotive fuel efficiency standards above federal standards (2009)

• Offered attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles (2009)

• Overturned Bush-era rule that weakened the Endangered Species Act (2009)

• Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions (2009)

• Signed a measure requiring energy producing plants to begin producing 15% of their energy from renewable sources (2009)

• Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites (2009)

• Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s energy reform was killed by Senate Republicans

• Proposed a new refuge for wild mustangs (2009)

• Cancelled several Bush-era mountain-top removal and mining permits (2009)

• Reengaged in international treaties and agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009)

* Note: Bush had withdrawn from such efforts

• Asked Congress for an energy reform and “cap and trade” bill (2009) * Note: The Congress failed to pass such a bill

• Developing plan to lease US coastal waters for wind and water-current energy production (2009)

• Overturned Bush-era policies that allowed uranium mining near national parks such as the Grand Canyon (2009)

• Expanded the Petrified Forest National Park (2009)

• Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protects millions of acres of scenic, historic, and recreational lands and trails (2009)

• Requiring that government buildings and facilities be retrofitted to save energy costs (2009) * Note: These green retrofits are moving very slowly

• Authorized studies in several western states to determine how to support large-scale solar installations (2009)

• Attended the Copenhagen talks and, after the talks were stalled, negotiated an international (voluntary) agreement on reducing carbon emissions and raising funds to assist developing nations in offsetting carbon emissions (2009)

• Banned importation of pythons in response to a growing population of pythons damaging the Florida Everglades (2009)

• Committing the federal government to increasing research and use of renewable, clean energy sources such as wind, biomass, etc. (2009)

• Executive orders establishing a federal initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all federal operations (2009) (2010)

• Called for exploring the possibility of additional off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf, Atlantic, and off Alaska (but not in ANWR) (2010)

• Agreed to consider increases in nuclear energy production and requested a study on the feasibility of nuclear power plant construction (2010) * Note: Nearly all energy initiatives were defeated by Republican opposition in Congress

• Increased investment in clean energy projects (2010)

• Executive Order to develop a new strategy for and commitment to ocean and lake resources, and for scientific research on water quality (2010)

RIGHTS

• Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Bill) (2009)

• Appointed Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina, to the Supreme Court (2009)

• Held the first Seder in White House (2009)

• Appointed a diverse Cabinet and diverse White House staff (2009)

• Spoke at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization (2009)

• Signed the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation that includes acts of violence against gays under the list of federal hate crimes (2009)

• Reversed the Bush-era practice of politicizing Justice Department investigations and prosecutions against political opponents (2009)

• Pushing for some of the 9/11 perpetrators to be tried in federal court (2009) * Note: The process has moved at a snail’s pace and, in the face of opposition, Obama has remained quiet

• Signed an extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Bill to provide federal research and support for treating the disease (2009)

• Allowed the State Department of offer same-sex benefits for employees (2009)

• Proposed that the Pentagon repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; placed a “freeze” on current efforts to remove alleged homosexuals from the military (2009)

• After eight years of neglect, the Justice Department and EEOC are again enforcing employment discrimination laws (2009)

• Convened the White House Tribal Nations Conference, inviting representatives from 564 federally-recognized Indian tribes (2009)

• Provided increased school projects for Indian lands and increased funds for the Indian Health Service (2009)

• Signed an Executive Order mandating that his Cabinet develop plans to work with and consult Indian tribes on issues impacting Indian lands (2009)

• Commissioned a study to develop alternatives to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)

• Called for federal agencies to look into recognizing gay partnerships in terms of benefits (2010)

• Signed an Executive Order for the President’s Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010)

• Increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010)

• Signed Executive Order to promote the federal government as a “model employer” when it comes to hiring the disabled (2010) * Note: This includes new efforts to increase the recruitment, hiring, and training for the disabled

• Programs to assist Spanish speakers with the US Census (2010)

• Elena Kagen appointed to Supreme Court (2010)

• Tasked all federal agencies to develop new strategies to address HIV/AIDS (2010)

• After organizing studies on the topic in 2009, tasked the Pentagon to eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)

• Signed Fair Sentencing Act (2010) * Note: The Administration continues to deescalate marijuana interdiction and raids; increased dramatically the amount of cocaine one must possess to be sentenced to jail; eliminated mandatory sentencing for first-time drug abusers and simple possession

EDUCATION

• Authorized construction funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access in K-12 public schools (2009)

• Increased funding for school construction (2009)

• Increased funding available for student loans (2009)

• Expanded the national youth service program (2009)

• Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years (2009)

• Changed the rule to allow students struggling to make college loan payments to refinance their loans (2009)

• Beginning discussions with Congress for education reform (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s education reform has been sidelined by opposition in Congress

• Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies (2009)

• Instituted a “judgment review” allowing families with student loans to petition to have their current financial status determine the loan rather than the previous year’s finances (2009)

• Launched “Educate to Innovate,” a public/private partnership making $236 million available for science, mathematics, and technology education programs (2009)

• Proposed capping the maximum amount students must pay on student loans (as percentage of their income) (2010)

• Proposed reducing student loan obligations for individuals going to work in community and public service jobs (2010)

• The federal government will offer direct student loans, cutting out the cost of private banks (“middle man”) who increase the costs in order to make a profit (2010)

• Increased investment in technologies for schools/education (2010)

DISASTER RESPONSE

• Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness (2009)

• FEMA once again reports directly to the president (2009) * Note: Bush removed FEMA (prior to the Hurricane Katrina disaster) from this status

• Demonstrated an immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters (2009)

• Ordered that funds be released and red tape be streamlined for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in the Gulf Coast (2009)

• Timely and massive relief effort in response to the January 2010 earthquake and ensuing humanitarian crisis (2010)

Components of the response:

- The FBI’s National Center for Disaster Fraud was tasked to look into possible fraud with organizations soliciting funds for relief

- Announced the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund

- Established an emergency Haiti Task Force in the State Department

- Established a website with information, resources, and a posting of a “person finder” online to help families and friends to locate loved ones

- Joint aid and relief planning with the U.K.

- Sponsored a resolution in the UN Security Council for additional security and police forces in Haiti

- Dispatched the US Navy floating hospital (USNS Comfort) and, within 5 days, 9 naval and relief ships, 5 Coast Guard cutters, 8 Coast Guard aircraft, and 12,000 US military personnel

- Initial dispatch of several ships and cargo planes full of humanitarian aid and supplies, 6 search/rescue teams (500 personnel), and 265 Department of Health & Human Services personnel for emergency medical and aid support

- Established a mobile US air traffic control center at the destroyed airport in Port-au-Prince

• After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a freeze was placed on new deep water projects (2010)

• Executive Order to establish new security measures to minimize accidental release of bio and chemical agents; new strategies for public health and bioterrorism response (2010)

• Established a national commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to examine facts and report a plan of action; new efforts to prevent offshore spills (2010)

• After a slow start in responding to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the White House is promoting a long-term plan to reconstruct the damaged Gulf and negotiated with BP the establishment of a multi-billion dollar trust fund for victims of the spill (2010)

• Extended national flood insurance program for those in need during current economic crisis (2010)

OTHER INITIATIVES

• New federal funding for science and research labs (2009)

• Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program (2009)

• Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program (2009)

• Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud (2009)

• Ordered the DEA to stop raids on medical marijuana usage (2009)

• Ordered a review of existing “mandatory minimum” prison sentencing (2009)

• Signed an order to limit airport tarmac delays and the time passengers had to sit in the plane/on the tarmac during delays (2009)

• Restored the EPA to “Cabinet level” status (2009) * Note: Bush removed the EPA from this status

• Beginning discussions with Congress for comprehensive immigration reform (2010)

* Note: Much of Obama’s immigration reform had been stalled by opposition in Congress

• Commissioned expert panels and reports from NASA; announced a new direction for human space flight that involves funding a new heavy lift-launcher and jettisoning the Ares 1 program; boosting NASA’s budget by $1 billion in 2011 (2010)

• Ordered a ban on text-messaging for all commercial truck and bus drivers (2010)

• Signed bill – FAA Air Transportaiton Modernizatin and Safety Improvement Act (2010)


P.S. IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING…

• The Obamas paid for the renovations of the private living quarters in the White House with their own money rather than using the funds provided to all new first families (2009)

• The Obamas reused many Christmas ornaments from previous White House trees rather than buy new ones (2009)

• The Obamas used LED energy-saving lights on White House Christmas tree (2009)

• Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; donated the award money for the prize to several charities (2009)

• Planted a garden for the White House’s vegetables and flowers (2009)

• Installed a swing set/playground for the Obama daughters and children of White House employees (2009)

• Held over 150 public town halls, press conferences, interviews, etc. in first year in office (2009) * Note: Official numbers are not available on such things, but this seems to be a new record high

• Less than 30 days of vacation in first year in office (2009) * Note: Official numbers are not readily available on such things, but this seems to be a new record low

…And A FAMILY MAN !

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Filed under Obama Administration, Obama Administration’s Achievements, Obama's Accomplishments

Times Square bomber gets life sentence

MSNBC Nightly News

‘Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun,’ Shahzad says in court.

As the would-be Times Square bomber was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, intelligence officials warn that Pakistan’s training camps could be preparing as many as 100 Westerners to launch terror plots in Europe. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

 

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Anti-Park 51 Rally Attendees Echo Fox News Misinformation And Right-Wing Islamophobia

Fox News Channel

Image via Wikipedia

This is not surprising at all…

Think Progress

For months starting in May, conservatives, right-wing media, and Republican lawmakers engaged in a campaign of misinformation, paranoia, fear, and anger toward Muslims, sparked by (old) news that the Cordoba Initiative led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf would begin an effort to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York. The hysteria culminated in a protest rally near Ground Zero on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Saturday. Led by the group, Stop the Islamization of America, rally attendees regularly chanted, “No mosque here!”

Fox News and the network’s hosts and Republican guests — such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity — led much of the charge against Park 51, regularly trying to tie Rauf and his organization to either terrorists, terror funders or Hamas. Other conservative figures smeared Islam, made no distinction between the terrorists who claim to act on behalf of Islam and normal, moderate Muslims, or claimed Park 51 is a victory monument.

ThinkProgress attended the anti-Park 51 rally near Ground Zero on Saturday and witnessed placards and interviewed dozens of attendees. Not surprisingly, many of them echoed the right-wing noise machine’s anti-Islam rhetoric of the past few months:

PARK 51 A VICTORY MONUMENT: “History shows us that they do build where they have conquered,” said one woman. “We came, we conquered and now we’re putting our mosque on this sacred spot. That’s what we believe,” said another.

ATTACKS ON ISLAM: One attendee said, “They kill in the name of their god, it is not a peaceful religion,” while another claimed, “I don’t think Islam is religious at all.” “They’re not peaceful people,” one woman said. “Islam is a political system parading as religion,” said a gentleman we talked to.

ATTACKS ON IMAM RAUF: “I think he’s a liar,” a rally-goer said, adding, “It’s gonna be a Sharia law mosque which, they believe in the Jihad.” “His intentions are not what he says,” said another attendee. “Hamas’s financier is financing this,” said another.

ThinkProgress also spoke with one New York resident observing the day’s events. “I’m so emotional here. It’s really crazy. It’s so aggressive…it’s all fear and it’s all anger, and it just makes me cry. … What is wrong with a mosque? It’s just the same, it’s a great religion just as all the others.” Watch a compilation of the interviews:

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Filed under Fox News, Fox News Distortions, Islam, Islamophobia

911 Widow: My Husband Didn’t Stand for Hate

I suspect thousands of the victims of 9/11 felt the way the author’s husband did…

Huffington PostRaina Wallens

This time of year is always very hard for me. The rapid drop in humidity, the crispness of the air and clear blue of the sky that prior to September 11, 2001 could only be described as deliciously divine now catapult many 9/11 victims and family members, such as myself, immediately back to the sheer horror of that day nine years ago, and the weeks, months and years following. The actual anniversary day is the most harrowing for many. I say “for many,” because unlike the leaders of the organizations protesting what they’ve coined the “Ground Zero mosque,” I don’t claim to speak for all 9/11 family members. We are an enormous and diverse group, with varied opinions. But for many, the anniversary can be a day of sacred remembrance, of relived visceral terror (not helped by the bombardment of crass media coverage), and of many, many other private rituals and feelings 9/11 family members have.

Now, if the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, conservative bloggers and founders of an organization called Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), have their way, the anniversary will also be a day for their anti-’mosque’ rally near Ground Zero. (Notice I say “near” and not “at” because little details like the truth actually matter to me.) SIOA, the organization largely responsible for making the “Ground Zero mosque” a national issue, will seize upon the opportunity to exploit our devastating losses to promote their agenda of hate.   Continue reading…

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Filed under Fear Mongering, Hate - mongering, Islamophobia

September 11, 2001 – A Personal Retrospective

Whenever I would fly into my hometown of New York City, the one thing that I would look for to let me know that I was “really home” were the Twin Towers, glistening in the sun as if to say, “you’re home”. 

I also loved walking on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in Clinton Hills, where my oldest son and his family live.  One could see the New York City Skyline of lower Manhattan which is a spectacular site to see.  The Twin Towers always dominated the beautiful skyline and added a stylish elegance to the already stunning light-speckled silhouettes.

The weather in Atlanta on the morning of  September 11th, 2001 was absolutely gorgeous.  The infamous “Hotlanta” heat had started to subside for about a week and I had decided to go walking.  I turned the television on at about 8:55 am, having no knowledge of what I was about to witness, I stood staring at the tv, stunned and confused.  The reports from CNN indicated that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.  My phone started ringing off the hook.  My children were all checking in with me to let me know they were ok.  That is, all but one, who I had not heard from at all.

To make things worse, My son, Marc’s wife called to tell me that Marc had an appointment at the WTC that morning at 9:00 am.  As I spoke to her, we both watch the second plane going into the south tower.  I was trying to console my daughter-in-law and at the same time my heart was racing, wondering if my son was in one of those buildings.

I asked my kids to find out what they could and get back to me.  I told my son’s wife that I was certain he was ok and that I would call her back shortly.  My heart was in my throat, thinking about Marc and the thousands of people in those buildings.

By this time the news reports indicated that we were being attacked.  I couldn’t believe I was witnessing what was tantamount to my mother’s recollection of the events that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

I sat on my sofa, mesmerized by the unfolding events.  Eyewitnesses telling their stories, correspondents and reporters trying to piece together what happened.  I felt helpless because I lived in Atlanta now and I kept wishing I were there, to comfort my family, to help or volunteer my services somewhere.  All I could do was stare at the television screen in total shock and disbelief.

My son Marc called me at about 10:00am telling me his bus was stuck in the Lincoln tunnel and he was unable to use his cell phone to tell us he was ok.  I was so relieved and grateful that he was alive and well.  Conversely, I was  very sad to see the many people who were searching for their loved ones, some of whom would be found and so many many more who wouldn’t.

What I take away most, from the events of that day was not the hostility of who or why, I wasn’t “there” yet.  I remember the entire world, rallying around us in gestures of good will.  I remember the people of New York City coming together and helping to do what they could to make things easier for the first responders, especially after the south tower crumbled to the ground.

I remember thinking how New Yorkers always come together in a crisis and this was no exception.  I also remember thinking how the NYPD and the NYFD rocked!  They were the finest and the bravest, working together regardless of risk and without hesitation.

The politics of that day came days later for me.  As things began to unravel and reports surfaced that the Bush Administration may have been negligent in foreseeing the ensuing the disaster. 

On September 11, 2001, I was in the moment.  The human triumphs and tragedies.  The tears and laughter.  The horrific loss of life, including a group of firemen who’s communication equipment failed them (thanks, then Mayor Guiliani.)  In fact, I was in the “moment” for at least first three days of  broadcasts and repeats of important events.

September 11, 2001 is one of those days  when people ask: “Where were you when….?”  In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed the  assassination of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy,  the March on Washington, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Malcom X. 

Yet, the events of 9/11/2001 hit harder because of the global implications and the sheer numbers of people killed at all three sites.  I’ll always remember where I was on that date.

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