Showing posts with label The President. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The President. Show all posts

February 16, 2016

Naming a Scalia Successor will Not be Easy for Obama but not Impossible


For most presidents, choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a puzzle. For President Barack Obama, the chance to pick a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia is more like a Gordian Knot.

As the White House carries out a rare election-year search for a nominee, the president’s lawyers and top advisers are sorting through a tangled web of political, legal and personal factors.

A smart pick and nomination strategy could determine whether Obama gets to reshape the highest court for the next generation. The wrong pick could cede that opportunity to his successor.

Democrats view this as a moment decades in the making. Recent Republican presidents have gotten more chances to fill seats, tilting the court in to the right.

“The Supreme Court has not reflected where the American people have been on issues,” said Gregory Craig, who served as White House counsel early in Obama’s first term. “This is the first opportunity in many, many years to bring the court more in line with the American people.”

For Obama, the clock is ticking. The sooner he picks a name, the longer he has to try to force the Republican-led Senate to hold a vote.

At the heart of Obama’s dilemma is how to manage the fierce Republican opposition to his decision to name a nominee. Within hours of Scalia’s death on Saturday, Republicans began arguing Obama should let his successor fill the open seat.

Obama brushed that argument aside, but it is undoubtedly weighing on his decision. Given the election-year timing, Obama would likely have been inclined to name the nominee most likely to appeal to Republican senators.

But if Republicans object to Obama even trying to fill the post — and remain united in that position —the president may see little point in bending too far to appease the other party. He may feel the pull to focus more on ginning up his own party’s base. Then key question becomes: What are the chances of getting a vote?

This wouldn’t be “the first time Republicans have come out with a lot of bluster only to have reality sink in,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Monday.

Refusing to allow a vote has consequences for the court, Shultz said, pointing to the prospects for tie votes that would allow lower court decisions to stand.

Schultz said the president will use the same criteria he used when he nominated Sonia Sotomayor, who became the first Hispanic on the court, and Elena Kagan, then-solicitor general.

In those instances, and in his appointments to lower courts, Obama has shown a desire to expand ethnic and racial diversity and to elevate more women.

His nominee would almost certainly support abortion rights, consideration of race in college admissions and other areas of public life, limits on campaign contributions and stronger rights of labor unions — all issues that have divided the court’s liberal and conservative justices on a 5-4 margin.

In all likelihood, those cases where the conservatives prevailed, with Scalia in the majority, would come out the other way if Obama gets to pick Scalia’s successor.

Obama also has prioritized young candidates — people likely to hold the seat for decades. He’s aimed for relatively uncontroversial personalities, people with views that fall into the category of mainstream liberal jurisprudence.

Obama will also be mindful of the clock. He has said there is “plenty of time” for Republicans to consider his choice. The more time he gives them before them — particularly before the height of campaign season — the stronger his argument. The time crunch may lean in favor of candidates who’ve already been vetted for administration jobs or recent court appointments.

It’s standard practice to keep files on possible nominees and assign a staff member in the White House Counsel’s office to manage and update the list. That list has long included Merrick Garland, chief judge for the D.C. circuit. He has a reputation as a moderate, in part because he was an official in the Justice Department who led investigations of the Oklahoma City bomber and the Unabomber. If Obama is going to reach out to Republicans, Garland might be the tool.

But as a 63-year-old, white male Garland doesn’t check the diversity or youth boxes.

For a more historic choice, Judge Sri Srinivasan is considered a leading option.

Born in India and raised in Kansas, Srinivasan, 48, would be the first Indian-American on the court. He joined the appeals court in Washington in 2013, meaning he has been recently scrubbed. The Senate confirmed him by a 97-0 vote.

Srinivasan, however, may not fire up the interest groups Democrats might want to engage in the fight. He initially faced relatively muted opposition from liberal groups because of his work in private practice defending business interests against claims of human rights abuses in foreign countries.

Other judges under possible consideration are Paul Watford, a 48-year-old former federal prosecutor appointed by Obama to the federal appeals court based in San Francisco. Watford would be only the third African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

Judge Patricia Millet, 52, like Srinivasan, worked in the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations. She also was nominated by Obama and confirmed to the appeals court in Washington in 2013.

It’s possible Obama may look beyond the bench for his candidate. Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson has been floated. A sitting senator is an enticing option, if Obama wants to force Republicans to deny a colleague a hearing. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have both been mentioned as possibilities.

December 25, 2015

This is What Modern Presidents Get Wrong About Being President According to Conservatives

(Last paragraph was slightly modified to correct a mistake, apologies)

 This is what conservatives and I am not talking your average Republican voter but I am talking about conservatives with something to conserve imaginative or real and that is $money$. They believe the president should conserve and protect not the American people but the system of government (conservative system of governemnt). I saw an honest posting of these facts and I could not help my self but to post them but with this explanation as prologue and leave it up to my reader to decide what you really think his/her (President’s) job is or ought to be.

We will be confronting in the future financial situations like we did on the lat recession/depression and housing and loan/banking bubble burst. During our last face to face with fiscal doomed the President and Congress took a middle of the road approach. The president tried to protect people loosing their jobs, people loosing their houses to the banks who gave them bad loans in the first place trying to make money on the junkiest of the junk bonds. Many of the loans were not even signed by the parties whose signature appeared on the documents or by people that could not be found. All in all the market (banks which initiated the problem) got off bank free. The people with a lot of money made more money and people with less money lost some or lost it all. Who did the government protect? It seems both sides but conservatives were unhappy that too much money was wasted not on the system of government (capitalism) but to the people with socialists programs.  Below  you will find their argument.

By the way I will like to remind you about a man called Bernie. He sold junk bonds. He got the top 1% as fools and made them loose money. He appeared to be super rich with super connections.
He had all the turkey dressings the superrich like to see: Lots of fats and plenty of gravy (something for nothing). He took them all, even the one famous person that always denied they were part of that group because he said his group “Suffered individuals helping those that have suffered.. 70 yrs ago”
(Not the actual name of the group [to protect the guilty] ).  How he had so much money under his name which he was gambling away with junk bonds remains a mystery to some.

Well then the banking bubble burst with their own junk bonds and what happened to Bernie? I will tell you but first let me remind you about something similar to what Bernie did which was done by the bank President of a Florida Bank called Sun Trust. This is the guy with 24kt. fixtures in his many toilets so you can imagine his office and houses. Remember him?   His sin was in doing the same thing Bernie did but this guy did it to the bottom 99%. He was sent to a federal corrections (gulf) facility to be rehabilitated. He has been long out of jail working as advisor for the banks since he is not supposed to work for the banks according to his sentencing  (*_!_ *)

You had some of his old pals visit him to play a few holes there. Well and what happened to Bernie? Bernie is got a life sentence in a 6x8 23 hrs a day. Two of his sons that worked for him but were put under pressure by the FBI to testify against daddy after the whole thing was over Bernie had no sons because they had committed suicide and his his wife divorced him to start a new a new life with a new name.
Why the difference in treatment: As mentioned, Bernie hit the 1% which is the part that benefits from everybody’s work. The BankTrust guy hit the other 99% which are the ones working and got retirement. You try to hit the center of power and you will be burn…message well taken!
Adam Gonzalez                                                                  

What is the president’s primary responsibility?
The American people voted. You took the oath, danced at the balls, and you’re now sitting in the Oval Office. Quick: what is your No. 1 job? Is it to command the United States military? Appoint judges and cabinet members? Pardon a turkey?

At the Republican debate on Tuesday night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trotted out a familiar answer to this question. “The first and most important priority of the president of the United States is to protect the safety and security of Americans,” Christie said.
That’s a line that will likely be repeated often between now and January 20, 2017, when President Barack Obama’s successor is sworn into office. But on that day, the next president-elect will stand before the American people and say something categorically different about the new job:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Despite the oath and its focus on the constitution, presidents — and presidential candidates — often redefine the job description to suit their own interests 
At the 2004 Republican National Convention, former President George W. Bush said, “I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people.” 
Obama adopted Bush’s interpretation, and has used similar language in policy documents, like the administration’s 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism, and major speeches. 

“The supreme responsibility of the president is to protect our system of government, not the safety of individuals or even their physical security.”
The president, a former constitutional law professor, repeated the claim last week in his Oval Office address on terrorism and the Islamic State. “As commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people,” Obama said.
That’s a misinterpretation of the job’s number one responsibility, according to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.

“The supreme responsibility of the president is to protect our system of government, not the safety of individuals or even their physical security,” Aftergood said.
Constitutional law experts agree, but argue that the oath of office provides some wiggle room.

“If you look at the oath, it dictates the president’s constitutional obligations, but they end up being undefined,” said Michael Gerhardt, the scholar in residence at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The constitution does give presidents “some discretion to say, ‘Here’s what I think my job will be.’”

This debate isn’t new, of course, and it stems in part from the vagueness of the catch-all term “security.” Presidents take on numerous issues that are connected to keeping the public safe, but that aren’t directly tied to matters of war and peace.
John F. Kennedy helped lay the groundwork for consumer product safety regulations; Richard Nixon signed the bill that established the Occupational Hazard and Safety Administration, which enforces workplace safety standards. 

Still, presidents have long prioritized national security and defense over other responsibilities, especially during times of strife.
“Much of the history of constitutional law as it relates to the president [revolves around the issue of] whether they can write their own job description,” said Gerhardt, who teaches constitutional law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Abraham Lincoln
Presidents throughout history, including Abraham Lincoln, have found ways to redefine their job description.
In 1861, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus after declaring a state of martial law, arguing that the unprecedented measure was necessary to help the Union Army win the Civil War. The suspension was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s chief justice, Roger Taney, but Lincoln ignored the ruling.

Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order creating a system of Japanese internment camps in 1942, and the order was upheld twice by the Supreme Court during World War II.
Donald Trump, who has made national security one of the top issues in his presidential campaign, cited FDR’s internment camp policy in defending his call to ban Muslims from entering the country.

The proposal was condemned by party leaders and Muslim Americans, but it has resonated with many conservative primary voters in an election that is more focused on concerns about terrorism than perhaps any presidential contest since the 2001 attacks.
And as fears over terrorism have grown since 9/11, the political rhetoric has followed suit, helping to solidify the notion that the president’s first responsibility is protecting Americans.

“There has been an increase in rhetoric and policy orientation” toward national security in the post-9/11 era, and it’s become more noticeable on the campaign trail, Gerhardt said.
Aftergood argued that the shift has allowed presidents and White House contenders to promote ideas, in the name of securing the country, that violate basic individual rights.
“Sometimes safety can be enhanced at the expense of constitutional values,” Aftergood said. “It’s important to be clear about what the president’s priority is: [protecting the constitution], or physical safety. And too often that distinction has been blurred.”


October 14, 2015

Pres. Obama Memorial to LGBT Rights in NYC?


You know what a park looks like. It’s a green place, full of grass and trees, that lets people enjoy nature. And you know what a national park looks like: bigger, and even more naturey, than a city park. Except you don’t, apparently, because virtually every leading New York politician is calling on President Obama to create a national park that would be little more than a street corner.

Technically, what they want is a national monument, which like national historic sites and national seashores and so on falls under the National Park Service’s jurisdiction. The corner in question is on Christopher Street, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Long identified with New York City’s gay community (although no one but bankers and movie stars can afford to move there now), the neighborhood incubated the modern gay rights movement. Specifically, at the Stonewall Inn, a bar on Christopher Street, in 1969, patrons fought back against a violent police raid. The surrounding streets featured protests and riots in the days that followed. In 1970, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riot, the first LGBT Pride march in U.S. history started on Christopher Street.

But the Stonewall Inn is a bar. How do you make a park out of a bar? You don’t. Rather, you turn the sidewalk in front of it and the city-owned pocket park across the street into a national park. Christopher Park — a fenced-off little garden with a bronze statue of Civil War general Philip Henry Sheridan and an oval of half a dozen benches — looks only slightly more like a national park than the bar itself. It is best known to most New Yorkers as a respite for the homeless. “That park that all the bums fill up?” said a friend of mine upon being told the subject of this story. “That’s amazing. I used to see a shrink near there and I’d never wait in that park. I’d rather stand on the sidewalk somewhere.”

The Gay Liberation sculpture by George Segal in Christopher Park honoring the gay rights movement and commemorating the events at the Stonewall Inn opposite the park that gave rise to the movement.The Gay Liberation sculpture by George Segal is already on display in Christopher Park.Stephen Rees
So would a physical monument to honor the gay rights movement be erected there? Not necessarily. A national monument is first declared, then designed. A physical monument could be proposed beforehand, but it hasn’t been yet. For one thing, the park already features two white statues depicting gay and lesbian couples, and the intention is to keep them. For another, space on the site is extremely limited.

So if the national monument status is merely notional, why bother with it at all? The answer is partly bureaucratic and partly philosophical. Bureaucratically speaking, it would move management of Christopher Park from the New York City Parks Department to the National Park Service. “What that does is it brings the storytelling and historic interpretation capacity and, frankly, brilliance of the national parks department to the gay rights story,” says Cortney Worrall, northeast regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy organization focused on protecting and enhancing national parks.

The National Park Service manages many sites that are primarily about historical storytelling — battlefields, for example — and so it would be well-positioned to do the same with gay rights on Christopher Street. It might lead walking tours of the neighborhood, or create a mobile app with a self-guided walking tour. It might post new signage that more dramatically tells the story of what happened in the area; currently there is only a small sign hidden behind a bench. There are precedents for this kind of national monument. Little Rock Central High School, in Arkansas, is a national historic site because of its high-profile role in school desegregation, but it has not been turned into a museum. “The high school still functions,” notes Worrall. “The park service does tours in the high school while kids are in class. What happened is interpreted outside of what you would consider a normal parklike experience.”

On a more philosophical level, creating a national monument — however abstract — would demonstrate national reverence for the achievements of the gay rights movement. The civil rights movement has the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, and there is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The fight for gay rights deserves the same recognition.

And by creating the park, you open the possibility of it growing into something more physically substantial over time. The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is dispersed over 13 blocks in the center of New Bedford, Mass. It has grown since its founding in 1996 to include buildings that now serve as a museum and a visitor center. National parks, says Worrall, “evolve into their final or best existence. The hope is that the designation happens and that’s a catalyst for fundraising to acquire another location in Greenwich Village that serves as a visitor center and archives of the uprising.”

So what happens now? Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the congressman whose district encompasses the neighborhood, has joined with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in introducing a bill to create the Stonewall national monument. National parks and monuments can be created by an act of Congress, but the current Republican-controlled Congress is about as likely to create Stonewall National Monument as it is to pass a carbon tax.

The president also has the authority, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, to create national monuments by presidential proclamation. Don’t expect President Marco Rubio to do that in 2017 either. Even though Nadler and Gillibrand introduced a bill, their realistic hope is that President Obama will designate the monument while he’s still in office. “President Barack Obama has advanced the arc of gay rights and the last 17 months that he is in office provides a window,” says Nadler spokesman Daniel Schwarz. We’ve seen that national monuments can be well-integrated into the urban fabric, and it seems fitting that America’s first urban president in a century could create this one.

September 22, 2015

Pres. Obama Invites GaY Rights Supporters to Meet with Pope Francis


      Glad-handing is a common political occurrence in Washington, D.C., but the official guest list for       Pope Francis' visit to the White House is causing the Vatican serious concern.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Vatican officials are concerned that photos featuring the pope greeting several prominent gay rights advocates and Roman Catholics who support same-sex marriage during his White House visit could be misinterpreted as the pontiff endorsing non-traditional views on the family and human sexuality.

According to the White House, retired (and now divorced) homosexual Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson will be a guest, as will Nicholas Coppola, a former Roman Catholic who started a petition calling for the church to be more inclusive of gays and lesbians after he was put out of his church parish in New York.

“I think, frankly, the Pope sets his own agenda and speaks his own mind and has his own pastoral mission. And we would not expect in any way the Pope to influence – we would not in any way want to create any expectation that the Pope is going to be a voice in U.S. domestic political issues.”
- Ben Rhodes, Communications Director
Frank DeBernardo, executive director of the dissenting Catholic activist group New Ways Ministry, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, S.L., the organization's co-founder, will also attend. New Ways Ministry has been shunned by both the Vatican and the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops for its views on LGBT issues.

GLAAD, the largest gay rights lobby nationwide, is encouraging the media to speak with disaffected Catholics who believe LGBTs should be included in Catholic life. It also sent a letter to Pope Francis in advance of the visit, encouraging the leader of Catholics worldwide to open the church's doors to homosexuals.

"Currently, our Church's teaching and pastoral practices surrounding LGBT people are causing an enormous pastoral crisis,as well as upholding systemic, institutionalized discrimination against LGBT people and our families. In the U.S. and around the world, we are experiencing alienation from the Church, higher rates of poverty and violence, and discrimination in employment, housing, educational opportunities, and access to health care," the letter said.

"LGBT youth are particularly vulnerable, with nearly half of the LGBT young people in the U.S. considered to be at-risk. Lacking support at home, at school, or from faith communities, LGBT youth suffer bullying, experience depression, self-mutilate, attempt suicide, use drugs, become homeless or enter foster care at rates far higher than non-LGBT youth. This is a crisis that the church can help to address through effective pastoral care and programs that provides love and support for these youth."

GLAAD also issued a media guide for journalists who wish to interview the pontiff and write about homosexual issues.

During a press conference Sept. 17, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if the guest list – which also includes a transgender woman and several abortion rights advocates – was meant to "send a message or make a statement."

Earnest said he believed it best not to draw conclusions "about one or two or maybe even three people who may be on the guest list, because there will be 15,000 other people there, too."

During a subsequent press call about the papal visit, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, was asked by a reporter if Pope Francis would be weighing in on domestic policy issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Rhodes issued a veiled warning for the reporters who might be tempted to draw a connection between the pope's words and American politics.

"I think, frankly, the Pope sets his own agenda and speaks his own mind and has his own pastoral mission. And we would not expect in any way the Pope to influence – we would not in any way want to create any expectation that the Pope is going to be a voice in U.S. domestic political issues," Rhodes said.

"I think the Pope in many ways operates at a different plane of being a spiritual and moral leader. So I think we'd be very sensitive to not suggest that the Pope's visit and his words are inserted into our own domestic politics. He'll make his own determinations and I'm sure he'll speak his mind. And he's demonstrated himself to be a very candid and principled voice on a whole host of issues."

However, some gay rights advocates seem to think the papal visit is their opportunity to interject their views into the life of the church.

The Catholic News Agency reported that DeBernardo, of New Ways Ministry, told the Washington Blade – a newspaper for the LGBT community – Sept. 16 he thought the presence of LGBT Catholics and activists "sends a strong message that LGBT people are a great concern of this administration."

The news agency also said Mateo Williamson, a past transgender caucus co-chair with the dissenting group Dignity USA, will attend the White House ceremony.

According to the Blade, members of other gay rights groups will line the streets as Pope Francis passes in his motorcade.

Daniel Barutta, president of the Dignity Washington, an LGBT "Catholic" group, said his organization will be stationed outside the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) with a banner that reads:

"Pope Francis: The Spirit is Speaking through Us – LGBT Catholics – Dignity Washington."

The newspaper also reported that HRC spokesperson Elizabeth Halloran said dozens of HRC employees will line the street since the organization is only blocks from the Cathedral of Saint Matthews, where Pope Francis will speak.

"We will be part of the crowd welcoming the Pope, and urging him to fully embrace the LGBT faithful," Halloran said.

Ernesto Zelayandia, an HRC global fellow, also wrote on the organization's website that the pontiff should lift the church's prohibition on gay marriage and stop discriminating against the LGBT community worldwide:

"It is important for the Catholic Church to stand on the right side of history and for Pope Francis to affirm that LGBT rights are human rights. He should praise the progress made by those countries that have recognized their LGBT citizens as equals and he should send an unambiguous message that punitive laws and violence against LGBT people have dangerous outcomes that devalue the dignity and humanity of all humans. Pope Francis should employ the message of love, upon which the Catholic Church was founded.

May 17, 2015

PresObama: LGBT ARE Priority Around the World, Calls Gambia,Jamaica,Russia Homophobic


The White House said Saturday that LGBT rights around the world are a “government priority” and slammed the president of Gambia for threats made against gays in his country.
Yahya Jammeh told a crowd in the Gambian town of Farafeni last week, “If you do it I will slit your throat — if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.” 
“The recent unconscionable comments by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh underscore why we must continue to seek a world in which no one lives in fear of violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement. “We condemn his comments, and note these threats come amid an alarming deterioration of the broader human rights situation in The Gambia. We are deeply concerned about credible reports of torture, suspicious disappearances – including of two American citizens – and arbitrary detention at the government’s hands.”
Late last year, the U.S. stopped trade preferences with Gambia because of its “crackdown against its LGBT community and wider human rights violations,” Rice noted, and “we are reviewing what additional actions are appropriate to respond to this worsening situation.”
“We repeat our call for the Gambian government, and all governments, to lead inclusively, repudiate intolerance, and promote respect for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all people,” she added.
Tomorrow is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
President Obama issued a statement today stressing “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are human rights, to celebrate the dignity of every person, and to underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
“We work toward this goal every day. Here at home, we are working to end bias-motivated violence, combat discrimination in the workplace, and address the specific needs of transgender persons. Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach,” the president said.
“There is much more to do, and this fight for equality will not be won in a day. But we will keep working, at home and abroad, and we will keep fighting, for however long it takes until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The administration also released a fact sheet detailing what it’s done to promote LGBT rights, including reviewing passport rules so couples in states with same-sex marriage can use married names on international travel documents and diplomats marching in gay pride parades. This past February, Secretary of State John Kerry appointed Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, and there are six openly gay U.S. ambassadors.
“The U.S. Government has pushed back publicly and privately against discriminatory legislation, including in Uganda and The Gambia,” the White House said. “And senior U.S. officials continue to speak in support of LGBT persons around the world, as President Obama has done in trips to Russia, Senegal and, most recently, Jamaica.                        

May 7, 2015

Concerns grow over Secret Service

 Concerns grow over Secret Service

Public concern about the Secret Service is increasing as the number of lapses mount

Fewer than half of Americans remain very confident that the Secret Service can protect the President.  The latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests that confidence has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the Obama Administration – after a series of scandals, including several breaches of White House security, and questions about the proper protection of former Presidents. 
The series of security lapses that has taken a toll includes bullets shot at the White House in 2011 and not discovered until days later, and a man jumping the White House fence last September.  The recent gyro flight into what was supposed to be a secure airspace, the discovery that an alarm system at former President George H. W. Bush’s house had not been working for more than a year, plus active Secret Service agents’ involvement with prostitutes in Colombia during a Presidential trip in 2012 also haven’t helped.  A majority of the public has similar concerns that the agency can protect former Presidents.
Doubts about the Secret Service are bi-partisan.  Republicans and Democrats express similar positions.  Africans-Americans are the most worried: just one third say they are very confident the Secret Service can protect this President from harm.   
As time goes on and the security issues have piled up, the public has become more likely to see them as part of a broader problem with the agency.   Even as recently as last fall, the Pew Research Center found that Americans were just as likely to see the cases as isolated instances when security was compromised.  In this week’s poll, twice as many think of them as part of a broader problem with the Secret Service. 
Once again, there is bipartisan agreement.  Both Democrats and Republicans don’t believe the instances are isolated ones. 
The hiring of Colombian prostitutes by Secret Service agents and the breach of the White House fence by a man carrying a knife appear to be the two most notable incidents, with 71% and 78% respectively remembering hearing about them.  Fewer (38%) are now aware of what happened in 2011, when bullets shot at the White House were not found for days.  Even fewer (28%) had heard about the recently-reported incident involving former President Bush’s security system.
There is still at least a fair amount of confidence that the Secret Service can turn things around.  Most have at least that much confidence the agency can improve the job it does of providing security to Presidents.  Democrats and Republicans generally agree.
However, the agency has a way to go.  In this week’s poll, just over a third give the Secret Service an excellent or good rating when it comes to how it does its job.  Nearly two in three say it does at best a fair job, with nearly a quarter describing its performance as poor.

April 26, 2015

For Posterity: Luther Interprets Emotions of Obama at Press Dinner


April 12, 2015

The Handshake of Last Century and the Millennium: Castro and Obama


PANAMA — President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba met here Saturday, in the first face-to-face discussion between the leaders of the two countries in a half century.

Seated beside Mr. Castro in a small room in the convention center downtown where the summit was being held, Mr. Obama called the event “an historic meeting.”

The president cast his decision to seek normalized relations with Cuba after 50 years of estrangement in a bid to reverse a failed policy.

“It was time for us to try something new,” Mr. Obama said. “We are now in a position to move on a path toward the future.” He added: “Over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.”

Mr. Castro said the opening would take time, but eventually could yield agreements on long-held differences. 

President Obama greeted his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, before the opening ceremony of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City on Friday.Handshake for Obama and Raúl Castro of  
President Obama.  

A center in Havana that offers free Wi-Fi, a rarity in Cuba. Major improvements in telecommunications have yet to occur since the thaw with the United States.For Eager Cubans, Big Opening in U.S. Relations Is More Like a CrackAPRIL 8, 2015
”We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient,” Mr. Castro said, according to his translator. “We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow.”

The meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas was an important step for Mr. Obama as he seeks to ease tensions with Cuba and defuse a generations-old dispute that has also affected relations with the countries of the region. Ever since his first foray to the summit three months after taking office, Mr. Obama has seen one bone of contention frustrate his efforts to reach out to America’s hemispheric neighbors: the fact that Cuba was blackballed from the gathering.

He was scolded by Argentina’s president for maintaining an “anachronistic blockade,” lectured by Bolivia’s president about behaving “like a dictatorship,” and, in 2012, blamed for the failure of leaders to agree that year on a joint declaration — the result, his Colombian host said, of the dispute over Cuba.

This year, Mr. Obama came to the summit meeting here determined to change the dynamic with a series of overtures to Cuba.

In addition to the meeting with Mr. Castro, the summit was the first time in the more than 20-year history of the summit meeting that Cuba was allowed to attend. And it came as Mr. Obama neared a decision to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial precursor to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana.

“The United States will not be imprisoned by the past — we’re looking to the future,” Mr. Obama said of his approach to Cuba at the summit meeting’s first plenary session on Saturday, speaking just before Mr. Castro took the floor and before their meeting. “I’m not interested in having battles that frankly started before I was born.”

“The Cold War,” he added, “has been over for a long time.”
From left, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama, President Obama and Luis Alberto Moreno, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, in Panama on Friday.Editorial: Engaging With Latin America APRIL 10, 2015
He said the shift in policy would be a turning point for the entire region.

If Mr. Obama was ready to forget past grudges, Mr. Castro was not. He gave a lengthy speech on Saturday that included a recitation of Cuban grievances against the United States — including its support for Fulgencio Batista, the Bay of Pigs invasion and its opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay — sometimes pounding the table for emphasis. But Mr. Castro also made clear that he did not blame Mr. Obama for the legacy of bad blood between their two countries, and expressed admiration for the American president, calling him an “honest man” and praising as a “positive step” his reconsideration of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

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For Mr. Obama, the gathering was a chance to showcase progress toward a goal he aspired to during the first Latin American summit meeting he attended — when he spoke of a “new beginning” with Cuba even in its absence — and to clear away what had become a dysfunctional subtext of the meeting for generations of American presidents.

“Our Cuba policy, instead of isolating Cuba, was isolating the United States in our own backyard,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “This time, we arrived here, yes, certainly not agreeing with everybody on everything,” he said, but with “broad agreement with the leaders here that what the president did was the right thing.”

“It is going to open up the door not just to greater engagement with Cuba, but potentially more constructive relations across the hemisphere,” Mr. Rhodes said.

While several Latin American nations have criticized recent United States sanctions against several Venezuelan officials it has accused of human rights violations, Mr. Obama’s overtures to Cuba, as well as his recent executive action on immigration, to make it easier for some people who are in the United States without authorization to stay legally, have brought an unusual round of salutes and congratulations.

“President Obama is going to leave a legacy the way he is supporting Hispanics in the United States, and also his new policy for Cuba for us is very important,” President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama said just before a meeting with Mr. Obama at the summit conference.

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, who demanded Cuba’s inclusion in this summit meeting as he closed the last one, in his country in 2012, also celebrated Cuba’s arrival.

“The Cuba situation has been an obstacle going back a long time in the relations of the United States with Latin America and the Caribbean, and without that obstacle the cooperation on many fronts will be more fluid,” he told the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo days before arriving here.

“I think it will generate new milestones in the history of all America,” President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico said just after landing here, adding that he hoped for “more brotherhood, more closeness” in the region.

It was a far cry from the last Summit of the Americas in 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia — marred by a prostitution scandal involving Secret Service agents — when some Latin American leaders openly berated Mr. Obama for the United States’ stance on excluding Cuba, and Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela said they wouldn’t attend again unless Cuba could.

The president ended that gathering with a testy lament, seemingly irritated by his inability to move past old disputes.

“Sometimes those controversies date back to before I was born,” Mr. Obama said in his closing news conference, adding that it felt at times as if “we’re caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s, and gunboat diplomacy, and ‘Yanquis’ and the Cold War, and this and that and the other.”

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This time, Mr. Obama cast himself as the agent of change instead of the victim of inertia.

“As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way,” he told Latin American leaders and civil society representatives at a forum on Friday. “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity — those days are past.”

The meeting was not without tension or reminders of the old animosities Mr. Obama is seeking to defuse. It was marred by several clashes in the streets between Cuban dissidents and government representatives, one of whom accused the demonstrators of being paid by foreign governments, including the United States.

But longtime observers of the region said Mr. Obama’s move had robbed hemispheric neighbors of an oft-repeated knock against this American president and his predecessors.

“It opens the door for the U.S. government by removing this argument that has been a pretext and an issue that has been invoked, not only by Cuba but other countries in the region, as a distraction,” said José Miguel Vivanco, the director of the Latin America program at Human Rights Watch, who attended a round-table discussion of civil society leaders with Mr. Obama on Friday.

“The focus has been for so many years on the U.S. policy toward Cuba, not on the record of Cuba,” he added. “This puts the U.S. government and the Obama administration in a very different position with much more credibility when it comes to talking about democracy and human rights.”

Latin America’s often wary eye on the United States goes back even to what historians consider a precursor to today’s regional summit meetings, a congress the South American independence hero Simón Bolivar called in Panama in 1826 among a handful of newly independent countries.

They were suspicious of the United States then and of whether, after throwing off the influence of Spain, the new nations would have to contend with a new dominant power.

Periodic American intervention, coup orchestrations and outright invasions followed and heightened the region’s sensitivity to sovereignty, which continues to this day and often trumps all other concerns.

In recent decades democracy has taken root. Anti-Americanism often plays well to domestic politics. And although the United States remains a major if not the top trading partner to most of the region, the economies of Latin American nations have diversified to be less reliant on aid.

“Latin Americans are in stronger positions, as the result of more stable democratic governments and more sustainable macroeconomic policies and a surer sense of their national interests, which do not always coincide with those of the U.S.,” said Richard Feinberg, an international political economist at the University of California, San Diego, who is attending the summit meeting.

A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Obama and Raúl Castro Meet in Important Step in Thaw of Cuba Relations. 

April 9, 2015

US President Says “Stop Talk About Conversion Therapy of LGBT Youth”

US President Barack Obama has condemned psychiatric therapies designed to "repair" gay, lesbian and transgender youth.
Mr Obama's statement was in response to an online petition calling for a ban on conversion therapies, which gained over 120,000 signatures in three months.
The petition was inspired by Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth who committed suicide in December.
Some conservative groups and religious doctors support conversion therapy.
"We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth," White House adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote in response to the petition. 
"As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors." 
Vigils were held after Ms Alcorn committed suicide in December
Vigils were held after Ms Alcorn committed suicide in December
Counselling and prayer is used in conversion therapy to help some Christians deal with gay urges.
But mental health groups and gay rights activists say it can increase the risk of depression or suicide.
The US states of California and New Jersey have banned the practices. But other conservative states such as Oklahoma are considering legislation to protect the therapies from legal challenges.
While the White House is not explicitly calling for congressional legislation to ban the therapies nationwide, Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, welcomed Mr Obama's statement.
"Having President Obama and the weight of the White House behind efforts to ban conversion therapy is so critical in the fight for transgender and LGBT young people," Ms Keisling said.
In the letter posted on Tumblr, Ms Alcorn said she killed herself after years of struggling with her strict Christian parents' refusal to acknowledge her true identity as a female.
She ended her note with a plea: "The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was... My death needs to mean something. Fix society. Please.”

February 12, 2015

Pres.Obama Compares Radical Islam to the Crusades,This is why he is Right

It's a day that ends in the letter "Y," which means that President Barack Obama has once again had the temerity to state his opinion on matters of state, policy or religion, an action for which his Republican opponents have declared the pillory too light a punishment. 
In a speech Thursday at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, an annual brunch-and-prayer-a-thon coordinated by the Fellowship Foundation, a secretive Christian organization with Dominionist tendencies, Obama had the nerve to suggest that religious fundamentalism and violence is not solely the legacy of Islam, and that Christianity's past is just as checkered by acts of brutality and inhumanity in the ostensible name of faith.

"Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history," Obama said. "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Cue the freakout: The president's comments "goes further to the point that [Obama] does not believe in America or the values we all share," former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore told the Washington Post, arguing that Obama "has offended every believing Christian in the United States." His "ignorance is astounding and his comparison is pernicious," the Catholic League declared in a statement. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, deemed the remarks "an unfortunate attempt at a wrongheaded moral comparison." Michelle Malkin, conservative commentator was a bit more direct direct: "ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades."
Obama, those critical of the speech are suggesting, is condemning the wrong people. "The evil actions that he mentioned were clearly outside the moral parameters of Christianity itself and were met with overwhelming moral opposition from Christians," Moore told the Washington Post. While Obama's remarks were intended to make sure "he is not heard as saying that all Muslims are terrorists," Moore added, "I think most people know that at this point." 
Too bad that's not true. According to a Gallup poll of Muslims sampled from around the world, more than half stated they believed Muslims in the West are not treated as equal citizens. Even when non-Muslims are asked about Islamophobia in the U.S., about half agree that "in general, most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans."

Source: Gallup
As for the contents of Obama's speech, they're historically accurate. Although Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, cites 98-year-old Orientalist scholar Bernard Lewis in declaring that "the Crusades were a defensive Christian reaction against Muslim madmen of the Middle Ages," the historicity of that statement is suspect. Although Lewis and some other historians see the Crusades as defensive war against jihad, others, such as Thomas Madden, have deemed the conflicts the machinations of a powerful Roman Catholic Church to expand Christendom.
In his seminal workThe New Concise History of the Crusades, Madden writes that the "crusade, first and foremost, was a war against Muslims for the defense of the Christian faith," and that the goal of Pope Urban II, the pontiff who initiated the First Crusade, was that "the Christians of the East must be free from the brutal and humiliating conditions of Muslim rule." In other words, the Crusades were arguably an attempt to use violence to expand the power and influence of the religion in a foreign land.
Does that sound familiar? It should.

The crusaders attack Jerusalem: Godfrey of Bouillon (Goffredo) has been wounded in the leg by an arrow: he breaks off the shaft but the learned Paduan healer Erotimus cannot remove the head. In this print, the angel who has fetched the purple-flowered herb dittany from Mount Ida in Crete descends and squeezes juice from the herb into a jar held by an attendant. Erotimus stands by with his surgical instrument. With the aid of the herb, the arrowhead will come out of its own accord. Right, Christian cavalry. Centre background, the Christian assault on Jerusalem. The image illustrates Episodes in Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso, canto XI, especially stanza 74.
Source: Antonio Tempesta/Wellcome Trust/Wikimedia Commons
Which leads us to the Obama's real message: Not all Muslims are terrorists, and not all terrorists are Muslim. The reaction of the National Prayer Breakfast's attendees plays straight into the modern trope that extremists are only "terrorists" when they're Muslims. 
Despite assertions to the contrary by dimwitted breakfast television hosts, the vast majority of terror attacks in the West are perpetrated not by Islamist religious fanatics but by right-wing nationalists or separatists. What's that "vast majority," exactly? Around 98% in the European Union in the last five years. In fact, an FBI study analyzing acts of terrorism committed on American soil between 1980 and 2005 found more than 90% of terrorist attacks were perpetrated by non-Muslims.
The suggestion that Christians might also be terrorists has been anathema to religious conservatives in the West before. When Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 and wounded 319 in the deadliest peacetime shooting in modern European history, his 1,518-page manifesto made clear that the motivation for his attacks was rooted in anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiment: Norway's leaders "are committing, or planning to commit, cultural destruction, of which deconstruction of the Norwegian ethnic group and deconstruction of Norwegian culture. This is the same as ethnic cleansing."
The suggestion that Breivik was a "Christian terrorist," however, was deemed impossible by American conservatives. Bill O'Reilly called the description "outrageous." One commentator declared that Breivik didn't count as a Christian terrorist because his actions were "in no way prompted by any commonly held understanding of the teachings of Jesus."
If the hypocrisy of violence in the name of religion is enough to discount that person's faith from being considered as a motivational force behind said violence, then there are no such things as Muslim terrorists: There are more than 200 verses calling for compassionate living in the Quran, including for those of other faiths.
Fight in the cause of God those who start fighting you, but do not transgress limits (or start the attack); for God loveth not transgressors. — Quran 2:190
The truth is, Christians should embrace the faith's troubled history. No religion with a history marked in millennia can possibly hold up a pure moral slate under the scrutiny of modern scholars. Just as horrors have been committed in the name of Islam and Christianity, so too have crimes been perpetrated by those who justified their actions in Buddhism, or Hinduism or Judaism. 
But some of Obama's critics may have a point — the comparison between Islamic terrorism and the Christian justification for slavery in the U.S. isn't perfect. After all, the death toll from global terrorism since 2000 is estimated to be around 107,000 people.
The death toll for the Crusades? Three million.

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