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President Barack Obama, joined by Washington-area middle school students and members of Congress, held a video conference call with astronauts from the space station and from the shuttle Discovery in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

“We’ve got a crew of wonderful schoolchildren here, who are all interested in space, and we’ve got some members of Congress, who are like big kids when it comes to talking to astronauts,” President Obama said, according to a transcript from the White House.

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Todd Heisler/The New York Times

The students and the president quizzed the 10 astronauts on what they eat, how fast they are traveling, how they exercise in space, the number of stars in the sky, what they do besides working on experiments and how weightlessness affects their sleep.

“Can you play video games in space?” one student asked.

“What things did you have to study to be a astronaut?” asked another.

“Do you guys still drink Tang up there?” asked President Obama to laughter. “I’ve got Bill Nelson here, and he says that’s been taken off the menu. That’s, by the way, before the time of you young people. We used to drink Tang.”

Source: The New York Times

Obama inaugural speech

Obama inaugural speech

Those who’ve feared that President Obama will be a soft touch for tyrants and terrorists can take comfort in his Inaugural Address, in which he declared:

      We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
      For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus–and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
      To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West–know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Here is George W. Bush, four years ago today:

      From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.
      So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
      This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

To be sure, there are differences of emphasis. But Obama’s “new era of peace” is not all that different from Bush’s “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in this world.” Both presidents proclaimed the universality of America’s ideals: Just as Bush said that “every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value,” so Obama asserts that “we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve”–as they have in America, a nation that once enslaved blacks and has now inaugurated a black president.

There were differences of substance, too. Obama included the requisite sops to hair-shirt liberalism: “roll back the specter of a warming planet . . . nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.” He also said, in what was surely meant as a rebuke to his predecessor, “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” But our guess is that George W. Bush, too, rejects that choice as false, and that Obama will find many Bush national-security policies are consistent with our ideals after all.

This is not to suggest that there will be no changes in foreign policy under President Obama. The rap against Bush has been that he is too eager to use military force, and Obama opposed the use of force to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. But in his Inaugural Address today, the president said, “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.” Without the Bush-led intervention in these nations, this is a promise President Obama would be in no position to make.

President Bush’s opponents on the Angry Left often succumbed to a blind hatred for the man and ended up mocking America’s ideals because they loathed the man who was speaking up for them. The Angry Right is susceptible to the same error now. An inauguration is a good opportunity to remember that those ideals belong to all of us, and that they endure regardless of party and personnel.

Source: WSJ

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

Marian Robinson and Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

It’s official: Marian Robinson, the 71-year-old mother-in-law of President-elect Barack Obama, will be moving into the White House, transition officials said on Friday.

In fact, Mrs. Robinson is already in town, helping to smooth the family’s personal transition as Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters prepare for new lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“She is here to help them get up and running,’’ said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. “She will determine in the coming months whether or not she wants to stay in D.C. permanently.”

In some ways, Mrs. Robinson’s decision to move – at least temporarily — is no real surprise. During the presidential campaign, Mrs. Robinson was a family mainstay, caring for the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, while their parents were on the road.

She took them to school, to piano lesson and dance lessons, cooked their meals, ran their baths and got them to bed on time. She was a critical part of the family’s effort to keep the girls’ lives as normal as possible in the midst of extraordinary times.

But Mrs. Robinson is also deeply rooted in Chicago. She still lives in the house where Michelle Obama grew up. And she has often expressed ambivalence about the notion of moving to Washington.

“I’ve never lived outside of Chicago, so I don’t know,’’ said Mrs. Robinson, hesitating a bit as she considered last year whether she was willing to move into the White House. “In the end, in the end, I’ll do whatever. I might fuss a little, but I’ll be there.”

Source: Caucus

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Best wishes and happy holidays to all !!

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KAILUA, Hawaii – He’s not the commander in chief yet, but was President-elect Barack Obama briefly practicing his salute on Sunday?

On the first morning of his vacation here, Mr. Obama arrived at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii for his daily workout. As he walked out of the Semper Fit Center, his gray T-shirt soaked in sweat, he lifted his right hand and gave a quick salute to two Marines in fatigues who were standing in the distance.

The brief moment was not captured by cameras. Photographs and video were not permitted to be taken on the military base, according to campaign aides.

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, opened their day with a 45-minute workout inside a large gymnasium at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which is located on the Mokapu Penninsula on the windward side of Oahu, about 30 minutes outside Honolulu. It is sunny and warm here, a world away, at least in terms of the weather, from Chicago.

The Marine base seemed sleepy when the motorcade rolled through shortly after 7 a.m. Home to the 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group 24 and the 3rd Radio Battalion, the base is located only a few minutes from where the Obamas are staying, a rented home at the end of a series of cul-de-sacs (and security barricades) along Kailuana Place.

Mr. Obama, who arrived to his native Hawaii on Saturday afternoon, is taking a 13-day holiday vacation with his family and a few friends from Chicago. At least some work, though, followed him to Hawaii.

He is receiving his daily national security briefing and his transition team is scheduled on Monday or Tuesday to release an internal review of any contacts between his advisers and the Illinois governor’s office over filling his vacant Senate seat. That is the subject of a corruption case and federal investigation into Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama is not expected to address the inquiry, but rather have it released through a written statement from Washington.

The president-elect, after filling his Cabinet in record-setting pace, is taking a break. On tap for the rest of his Sunday? An afternoon tee-time and 18 holes of golf.

Source: Caucus

President-elect Barack Obama named his picks for new transportation and labor secretaries Friday, capping off a flurry of Cabinet appointments in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday.

Obama tapped Ill. Rep. Ray LaHood, a moderate Republican lawmaker, for transportation secretary, California Rep. Hilda Solis for labor secretary, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. trade representative and venture capitalist Karen Mills to head the Small Business Administration.

“Daunting as the challenges we are inheriting may be, I am convinced that our team and the American people are prepared to meet them,”Mr. Obama said. “It will take longer than anybody of us would like — years, not months. It will get worse before it gets better.”

Mr. Obama also fielded questions on the Bush administration’s newly unveiled plan to assist the ailing U.S. auto industry, saying it’s “absolutely necessary” to restructure the companies to save the industry, while also working toward creating “fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow.”

Source: PBS

By David Horowitz

The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, a demagogue who lost a Senate election to the then-unknown Obama by 42 points, should be a warning in itself.

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This tempest over whether Obama, the child of an American citizen, was born on American soil is tantamount to the Democrats’ seditious claim that Bush “stole” the election in Florida and hence was not the legitimate president. This delusion helped to create the Democrats’ Bush derangement syndrome and encouraged Democratic leaders to lie about the origins of the Iraq war, and regard it as illegitimate as Bush himself. It became “Bush’s War” rather than an American War — with destructive consequences for our troops and our cause.

The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)

What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?

Conservatives are supposed to respect the organic nature of human societies. Ours has been riven by profound disagreements that have been deepening over many years. We are divided not only about political facts and social values, but also about what the Constitution itself means. The crusaders on this issue choose to ignore these problems and are proposing to deny the will of 64 million voters by appealing to five Supreme Court Justices (since no one is delusional enough to think that the four liberal justices are going to take the presidency away from Obama). What kind of conservatism is this?

It is not conservatism; it is sore loserism and quite radical in its intent. Respect for election results is one of the most durable bulwarks of our unity as a nation. Conservatives need to accept the fact that we lost the election, and get over it; and get on with the important business of reviving our country’s economy and defending its citizens, and — by the way — its Constitution.

Source: NRO

Obama MTP Interview: Obama Big Three automakers ‘strategic mistakes’

Project Would Be the Largest Since the Interstate System

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

On the heels of more grim unemployment news, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the first glimpse of what would be the largest public works program since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the federal interstate system in the 1950s.

Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation’s highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records.

“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future,” Obama said in his weekly address, broadcast on the radio and the Internet.

Obama offered few details and no cost estimate for the investment in public infrastructure. But it is intended to be part of a broader effort to stimulate economic activity that will also include tax cuts for middle-class Americans and direct aid to state governments to forestall layoffs as programs shrink.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for spending between $400 billion and $500 billion on the overall package. Some Senate Democrats and other economists have suggested spending even more — potentially $1 trillion — in the hope of jolting the economy into shape more quickly.

Read it all…

We’re inviting the American public to take a seat at the table and discuss documents and materials provided during meetings between outside groups and our Transition team.

The latest take on the ludicrous saga as to Obama’s true nationality. When everything else failed – in the effort to stop Obama from becoming president – the last straw to clutch – on the side of this rushing river to inauguration – seems to be various versions of the reason why Obama is not a natural born US citizen – though I hadn’t heard this particular version before. This is the British citizen version. And then there is the Indonesian version – which is usually combined with the born in Kenya mix. Never mind that Obama’s birth certificate was confirmed in Hawaii’s Department of Health director – for these guys the conspiracy will go on.

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Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate confirmed

The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed on Friday what Barack Obama has been saying all along: the presidential candidate was born in Honolulu.

“There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate,” said Chiyome Fukino. “State law prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.”

Citing her statutory authority to oversee and maintain Hawaii’s vital records, Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

“No state official, including Gov. Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawaii,” Fukino added.

Lingle, a Republican, has been campaigning on the Mainland for Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, was born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu. He graduated high school at Punahou School in 1979.

Source: Pacific Business Journal

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Worried – definitely! To many in the Islamic world Obama would be seen as one who has left Islam – or an apostate – simply because his father was a Muslim – under their laws – he would have no choice but to be a Muslim as well. The penalty for leaving Islam – in their eyes is harsh – there will undoubtedly be those who wish to act on this. It is therefore  doubtful that Obama – if he does choose to address an Islamic Nation – at whatever time he chooses it is unlikely that he would be able to make the same kind of speech – made in Berlin. Perhaps if he were to address an Islamic nation it would be in a smaller more secure setting.   

Yesterday The Times’s Helene Cooper had the scoop that Barack Obama is thinking of giving a speech from a major Muslim capital in his first 100 days in office.

Ben Smith of the Politico makes an educated guess:

    Barack Obama told a group of donors in California early last year that his first international trip would be to Muslim Indonesia, a supporter who was present recalled today.
    Obama promised during the campaign to convene a Muslim summit, and the New York Times speculated today on where he would deliver a major, early address to a Muslim audience, settling on Egypt as the likeliest.
    The Obama donor, Los Angeles real estate executive Ted Leary, recalled that Obama spoke of his plan to donors at a February 20, 2007 breakfast fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, soon after announcing his run for president.
    “Obama told the 20 or so of us at breakfast that ‘his first trip as President would be to Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country,’” Leary recalled.

Most the reaction has been from the right. Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard’s Blog feels there’s only one good candidate:

    If one believes that there is some potential benefit to such a speech, and I’m skeptical but open to the possibility, is there a more compelling location for that speech to take place than in Baghdad? Who cares if it validates the war in Iraq? Obama is to be the President of the United States — and he’s already validated the war by packing his administration with those who supported it. In any event, doesn’t Obama now share President Bush’s objectives for Iraq, if not the same strategy for getting there. A speech in Baghdad would be a chance to make bipartisan this country’s commitment to a stable and democratic Iraq. It would be a chance for Obama to assure those Iraqis who were hostile to President Bush and those who fear a new approach. And most of all, if Obama believes that his words may win hearts and minds, a speech in Baghdad could have the effect of saving American lives by further reducing the strain in relations between U.S. forces and the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, Abe Greenwald at Commentary thinks that no matter where it occurs, the speech is a bad idea:

    The global problems generating from within the Muslim world today are so odious and so obviously self-inflicted that any honest speech on the matter would offend and enrage Muslims the world over. At the same time, because of these very problems, a softball speech about Islam’s current role in global affairs would look like cowardly capitulation. If Obama splits the difference and mixes lukewarm praise with lukewarm condemnation, the stunt will be seen rightly as meaningless.
    Obama gives great speeches, and this has encouraged an unwarranted faith in the utility of the medium. No matter how dazzling, oratory is the least effective weapon in the counterterrorism arsenal. If anything, a foreign policy speech aimed at resolving the conflict between the West and radical Islam would give enemies hope that the U.S. is shifting to a less proactive stance, and returning to the more symbolic approach of the pre-Bush days.

 

nyt-logoprinter

After President-elect Barack Obama announced the selection of Hispanic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson into his cabinet, many Latinos are calling for more diversity.

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President-Elect Barack Obama was named the most fascinating person of the year in “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2008.”

The list also included many actors, a broadcaster, an Olympic record holder, a second political figure, a singing superstar and a pregnant man.

10. Will Smith, actor
Smith was chosen because, according to Walters, “no one has created a string of blockbusters like him.” His last eight movies made more than $100 million, making him a huge success in Hollywood terms. Smith says that he is successful because he cares about people and always considers his audience. Another topic was marriage. Smith, who was divorced earlier in his life and career, believes that for him and his wife divorce is not an option so they better learn to have some fun together. Smith says his new character is “probably the darkest character I’ve ever played.” He wouldn’t give away too much about “Seven Pounds” though. We also learned that President-Elect Barack Obama has hand selected Will Smith to play him in a movie, should they ever make one, which we all know they will.

9. Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer

In case you were a cave this summer, Phelps will forever be remembered as a super human and a swimming marvel. At the 2008 summer Olympics he took home a record 14 medals. Phelps said that he believes swimming helped him with his ADHD when he was younger and that his goal has always been to win an Olympic gold medal.

8. Miley Cyrus, singer & television star

Did anyone know that 16-year-old Miley Cyrus just signed a seven-figure book deal? Wow! Cyrus said sometimes it’s hard to be a role model, but she seems to be doing OK with it. Walters combated rumors of no more Hannah Montana and reminded everyone of the upcoming Hannah Montana. Cyrus said that sometimes she thinks about the fact that she could be just a phase, as so many young stars are, but right now she is just living in the moment.

7. Tina Fey, actress & writer

Fey calls the Sarah Palin situation a “strange storm” and “a stroke of luck.” She’s always been funny and a favorite, but this year’s political race really put her on the map. Not to mention the fact that she recently won multiple Emmys and had a huge movie come out. Fey said she never felt she was being mean because most of the time she was saying things Palin had actually said. In fact, the show even showed a perfect split screen showcasing the exact wording of both speeches.

6. Rush Limbaugh, broadcaster

He is called the most powerful conservative radio broadcaster, and he is probably most known for his argumentative nature. Walters started with the hard questions – In this economic recession, are you worth the millions of dollars you’re paid? Limbaugh’s answer – Of course I am, and I choose not to participate in the economic recession. Limbaugh said that Palin will be a great Republican candidate in four years. There was even a little argument between Walters and Limbaugh because he didn’t agree with her about a comment Limbaugh made about aging women in politics and on television. He ended the interview by saying, after being asked of course, that he hopes our new president is as sincere as he claims to be.

5. Thomas Beatie, pregnant man

While he isn’t the first pregnant man, he is the most public. His announcement has been one of the most controversial stories in the past decade. Beatie was born female and when he crossed over to being a man he kept his female parts, minus the breasts of course. Recently Walters did an hour-long special on the couple and was shocked to learn that the Beatie was pregnant again.

4. Frank Langella, actor

In 1979 he was Dracula, and even thought he has done a million things since then, he seems to have always been overlooked as a big star. Now stardom has finally hit for Langella as the role of Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon.” Walters said this the role of a lifetime for any actor. Langella said that at first he didn’t want to play Nixon, but after watching film after film after film of Nixon he began to feel connected to the former president.

3. Sarah Palin, Alaskan governor and former VP candidate

Sarah Palin seems to have really done it all. She started out as a beauty queen, then took on television, followed by PTA, city council, being mayor and finally being the governor. When she became the Republican running mate things seemed to be looking up, but things took a huge turn for the worse after Palin began speaking to the media. She was called “a drag” for her presidential candidate.

2. Tom Cruise, actor

Walters asked Cruise what he regrets since meeting with her three years ago, and although he admitted he could’ve done things differently, he didn’t seem to regret anything. Premiering soon will be “Valkyrie,” Cruise’s new movie about a man that plotted to kill Adolph Hitler. Cruise said he decided to do this movie because he found it inspiring. And even though he has already won the most prestigious German award for the movie, there was much controversy early on. Cruise said that there are probably more kids in he and wife Katie Holmes’ future, but right now they’re just enjoying the ones they have. He also said that he has definitely grown up and learned through all of the mistakes he has made and successes he has had over the years.

1. Barack Obama, president-elect

He is the first black president for the United States, and he signifies change and hope. He also seems to be one of the most popular presidential candidates in history. Obama said that even though the expectations are high he believes he can meet the expectations of an honest and confident government. Obama said that when he was a child he wanted to be everything from a judge, to an architect to a basketball player, but he never expected to be president of the United States.

Final Thoughts: This was very obvious, but what did you expect, it being an election year and all? Plus, who better to choose as the most fascinating person of the year than a person who literally made history. Hopefully, he will continue to make history.

Source: SeaCoast

There, there. Ill try to get you your own office.

There, there. Ill try to get you your own office.

Today, Bill Richardson accepted his safety cabinet position, Secretary of Commerce. The Latino community is predictably annoyed that their guy wasn’t given State, which went instead to Hillary Clinton. Ironically, Richardson stabbed Clinton in the back during the primaries, presumably so Obama would see he was ruthless enough to handle State. (If you can betray a Clinton, you can betray a continent.)

The President-elect tried to reassure jumpy Hispanics, saying “the notion that somehow the Commerce Secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken.”

Riiight. Say your adioses to Bill Richardson. He will never be heard from again, along with whoever gets HUD, Labor and his former post in the Clinton administration, Energy.

Meanwhile, Chinese-Americans are furious at the Richardson appointment, citing his handling of the Wen Ho Lee. Said a California physician, “there was a feeling among many Chinese-Americans, particularly in Silicon Valley, that Bill Richardson did a lot to promote the notion that all Chinese-Americans are potential spies.” Particularly in Silicon Valley. As if to warn that the Richardson pick is pissing off rich Asians, not the dry cleaners.

Ahem, Hispanics and Asians. How are the rest of us supposed to be post-race if you two won’t play along? Can you be happy for us blacks and whites? Obama’s election tricked blacks into thinking that whites like them, and whites into thinking that blacks are over that slavery stuff. We’re finally able to pretend we’re not uncomfortable around each other, after all these years!

Clearly, you Hispanics and Asians need an Obama to call your own. Maybe you should stop arguing and start banging. Now is the time to create your very own Hispasian who can be president in forty-eight years.

But until that day comes, stop raining on our post-racial parade.

Source: 23/6

Obama-philes hoping to make the trek to Washington in January have been saying that it’s impossible to put a price on the value of being there to witness the swearing in of America’s first black president.

Want to bet?

A V.I.P. package for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, including a handshake and photo opportunity with President-elect Barack Obama and a seat at an inaugural ball, is being auctioned on Charitybuzz.com. Its current price? The experience has fetched a top bid of $62,500 since being posted the day after the election, and bidding is still open until tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. E.S.T.

cut-out-for-the-job

Founded in 2005, Charitybuzz.com administers online auctions on behalf of charities that run the gamut from vacation packages, to works of art, to “celebrity experiences” like the photo op with President-elect Obama.

Charitybuzz.com chief executive Coppy Holzman said it took him two months to persuade Obama campaign officials to donate their candidate’s time, the proceeds from which will benefit the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation.

The Inauguration package is currently the highest priced item on Charitybuzz.com, and $62,500 might seem like a crazy sum of money to pay for a few precious moments of face time with the President-elect.

But after comparing to the bids drawn by some of the other experiences up for auction, it seems like a downright reasonable price.

A one-hour private soccer lesson with David Beckham doesn’t close until December 11 and has already attracted a top bid of $45,000. A private meeting with Clive Davis is going for $16,000.

A trip to Washington and photo op with Nancy Pelosi carries a top bid of $9,500, and wouldn’t we all agree that Obama is way more than 6.5 times as cool as Madame Speaker?

Dinner and a movie with Alec Baldwin is currently going for $2,750, and there are plenty of people who wouldn’t take him up on that offer for free.

The coup de grace, in terms of mind-boggling bids, would have to be the $860 top bid for a six week internship at web newsletter publisher Thrillest — yes, that would be someone paying Thrillest for the privilege of working for them.

If that isn’t the sounding of a death knell for anyone trying to make a living in journalism, we don’t know what is.

by Liz Gunnison

Source: Portfolio

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — President-elect Barack Obama said Bill Richardson will be an “economic diplomat” for the U.S. as commerce secretary and a key member of a team that lays the groundwork for renewed growth.

Warning that a recovery from the recession that began last year “won’t happen overnight,” Obama said Richardson has a unique combination of national and international experience to be an “unyielding advocate” for American companies and workers at home and abroad.

“Bill has seen from just about every angle what makes our economy work and what keeps it from working better,” Obama said at a news conference today in Chicago at which he formally announced the New Mexico governor as his choice to lead the Commerce Department.

Richardson, 61, is one of the highest-profile Latinos to hold elective office in the U.S. Before winning his race for governor of New Mexico in 2002 and gaining a second term in 2006, he served in two Cabinet positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration and eight terms in the U.S. House.

He ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and later endorsed Obama, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who can unite the country. That move was a rebuke to Hillary Clinton, who Obama has picked for secretary of state, and her husband publicly lashed out at Richardson at the time.

Past Competitors

Richardson downplayed any suggestions that hard feelings lingered from the campaign.

“There are some who speak of a team of rivals,” he said. “But I’ve never seen it that way. Past competitors, yes.”

Richardson said that he would use his position to promote trade. “Boosting commerce between states and nations is not just a path to solvency and growth; it’s the only path,” he said.

He vowed to make the Commerce Department an integral part of Obama’s financial recovery plan. The “catchphrases of your economic plan” Richardson told Obama, are “investment, public/private partnerships, green jobs, technology, broadband, climate change and research.”

“That is the Department of Commerce,” he said.

Richardson would head a Cabinet agency with responsibilities that include compiling economic data, monitoring the weather and adjudicating trade complaints.

Trade Barriers

Companies such as General Electric Co., the world’s biggest maker of power-generation equipment, said they will be looking to Richardson for help reducing hurdles and tariffs to selling their goods overseas.

Richardson is “very smart on things like free-trade agreements,” said Peter O’Toole, a GE spokesman and former speechwriter for Richardson. “Hopefully we can work with Governor and future Secretary Richardson on making sure that free and fair trade is a two-way street.” …

Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

President-elect Barack Obama and Bill Richardson, the secretary of commerce-designate. (Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

CHICAGO – Bill Richardson is beardless and back in the cabinet. The governor of New Mexico and former presidential candidate appeared beside President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday to accept his third cabinet-level post, this time as secretary of commerce.

Mr. Richardson, the first Hispanic chosen for Mr. Obama’s cabinet, made remarks in both English and Spanish as he took the assignment, signaling the importance of his selection for the new administration. Mr. Obama said he picked Mr. Richardson because of his deep experience and skills, not his ethnic heritage, but promised to produce a diverse senior team.

“When people look back and see the entire slate, what they will say is – not only in terms of my cabinet but in terms of my White House staff – I think people are going to say this is one of the most diverse cabinets and White House staffs of all time,” said Mr. Obama, who will be the first African American president. “But more importantly, they’re going to say these are all people of outstanding qualifications and excellence.”

Hispanic groups have lobbied strongly on behalf of Mr. Richardson, arguing that Hispanic voters in last month’s election helped deliver at least four states for Mr. Obama that voted for President Bush four years ago: Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Mr. Richardson’s New Mexico. Mr. Obama is also eyeing Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to become the United States trade representative, a position that has had cabinet status in the past.

Mr. Richardson has served in the cabinet twice before, first as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations and then as his secretary of energy. Mr. Richardson had his eye on secretary of state this time around but lost out to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although the commerce slot is generally seen as a second-tier position, Mr. Obama said it would play a pivotal role in setting and executing his economic recovery agenda.

“Well, commerce secretary is a pretty good job, you know,” Mr. Obama said to suggestions that it was a consolation prize for Mr. Richardson. “It’s a member of my key economic team that is going to be dealing with the most significant issue that America faces right now and that is how do we put people back to work and rejuvenate the economy?”

As for the beard that Mr. Richardson grew after dropping his own bid for the presidency earlier this year, it was gone by Wednesday morning’s news conference. Mr. Obama, tongue in cheek, declared that a mistake. “I thought that whole western rugged look was really working for him,” the president-elect said.

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Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the National Governors’ Association meeting. (Photo: Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

PHILADELPHIA – Vice President Cheney always seemed to relish working in the shadows. After all, he’s the one who popularized the term “undisclosed location.” But that doesn’t seem to suit his successor.

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared glad to be out in public on Tuesday when he joined President-elect Barack Obama in meeting with the nation’s governors here. In the month since the election, he has been the mostly silent sidekick, joining Mr. Obama in private meetings and standing behind him wordlessly during news conferences.

But this week, Mr. Biden looks to be unleashed, at least a little bit. He was given a speaking role both at the unveiling of the national security team in Chicago on Monday and then again during the meeting with the National Governors’ Association here on Tuesday. By word count, he even had somewhat more to say to the governors than Mr. Obama did.

And then there was that little moment that may or may not have been revealing. At one point during his remarks, Mr. Biden noted the presence of his former opponent, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and greeted her warmly.

thecaucus75 “Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all,” Mr. Biden said. “So maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me.”

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The poster that saw Barack Obama rise to fame has been altered to accommodate the beaky face of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and plastered around the streets of Paris. Nobody knows who’s behind the somewhat baffling idea; only that the mystery is attracting a lot of attention.

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The image is a take-off of the poster designed by LA artist Shepard Fairey for Obama’s election campaign. There are various accompanying messages, like “Make polluting companies pay: Yes we can”, and “Save each household €1,000 a month: Yes we can”.

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The poster-plasterers in action: “Who are they?” “What do they want?”

picture-35The Associated Press says that Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party has denied being behind the campaign. Regrettably, according to a representative from the party’s youth movement, who said: “we would have liked it to have been us, because we like this message”. The Elysee has paid no heed to the campaign… Unlike the French media, which is tying itself in knots over the mystery. Young artists trying to be controversial? Subliminal messaging from industrialists? An anti-Sarko campaign in disguise? Whoever it is, they’re certainly enjoying themselves. Yesterday the group posted photos and videos of themselves prancing around Paris, hidden behind the very posters in question.

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President-elect Barack Obama turned from national security to domestic concerns on Tuesday, telling the country’s governors that his administration would not delay in pushing an economic recovery plan that would bring relief to the states, 41 of which are forecasting budget shortfalls this year or next.

Speaking at a conference of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama said his background in the Illinois state senate made him particularly sympathetic to the needs of state and local governments. And he declared himself open to good ideas that work, whether they come from Democrats or Republicans.

“We are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track,” he told the governors, many of whom he met for the first time at the conference. “We want to figure out what works.” Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. also attended the meeting.

Aides to Mr. Obama have suggested that a recovery plan, which the president-elect hopes to be able to sign not long after taking office on Jan. 20, might carry a price tag of as much as $700 billion.

But even as the president-elect spoke on Tuesday, the dimensions of the challenges facing him at home and abroad continued to grow more stark. The three American automakers were due to announce more weak results and detail their revamped requests for federal aid during the day, while overseas, the terror attack in Mumbai, renewed violence in Iraq and difficult conditions in Afghanistan further darkened the picture.

In dealing with the worsening climate that faces state governments, many of them now obliged to balance their budgets by cutting jobs and programs, Mr. Obama asked the governors not just for their support but for their input in drafting a national recovery plan.

“To solve this crisis and to ease the burden on our states, we need action, and action swiftly,” he said. “That means passing an economic recovery plan to help both Wall Street and Main Street, and this administration does not intend to delay in getting you the help that you need.”

The importance of the federal help Mr. Obama offered was underscored on Monday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared a fiscal emergency in his state and urged lawmakers to “get off of their rigid ideologies” to close a $28 billion budget gap. He said the state could run out of cash within two months.

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hp12-1-08i President-elect Obama made official the worst-kept secret in Washington this morning: that his national security team will be headlined by a bitter political rival (Clinton) and a member of President Bush’s war cabinet (Gates).

Beyond the obvious symbolism, however, Monday’s moves also offer some important evidence on the best-kept secret of the past two years: how will a President Obama actually govern in these troubled times?

The parlor game of who gets what job is largely over, save a few of the less prestigious cabinet gigs. Here is what today’s announcement – combined with the unveiling of his top White House staff and economic team – tell us about the 44th president as he prepares to take over.

• He is an intellectual, who is more impressed by academic and governing credentials than familiarity and loyalty.

New York Times columnist David Brooks nailed it recently when he called the emerging cabinet a “valedictocracy”: a team of the nation’s first-in-class Ivy League elites. He meant it as a compliment. He’s not alone: it’s hard to find Republicans who don’t express admiration (at least in private) for the emerging Obama team.

Of the 18 top appointments announced so far, 12 have degrees from Ivy League institutions, Stanford or MIT. Susan Rice was a Rhodes Scholar; Larry Summers was the youngest tenured professor in Harvard history and Greg Craig, the top White House lawyer, attended Exeter, Harvard, Cambridge and Yale.

Few of the early picks could be considered Obama loyalists. Hillary Rodham Clinton thought she would be banished to the outer reaches of Obama’s world. Now, she’s secretary of state. Robert Gates thought he was headed for retirement. Now, he will run war policy for anti-war Obama. The victor has proved to be anything but vindictive.

There could be a cost to having so many high achievers around the same table. Bush’s war Cabinet was also praised for its experience and gravitas, but wound up being a dysfunctional snake pit.

• He is willing to take big risks.

His economic and national-security teams are getting packed with huge personalities who see themselves as architects, not assembly-line workers. The potential for big clashes in tough times is high. But so is the potential for big results.

Hillary Clinton could be a fabulous world diplomat, considering her familiarity with leaders and global problems. She could also be a disaster if the Clinton family’s penchant for personal and political dramas distract the Obama presidency…

Read on…

Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

President-elect Barack Obama presented his national security team at a news conference in Chicago on Monday. (Photo: Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

That’s a Wrap | 11:35 a.m. As they all walked off stage, Mr. Obama put his arm around Mrs. Clinton and escorted her out while the others tagged along. The entire press conference underscored that, at least for now, Mrs. Clinton is first among equals.

Iraq | 11:34 a.m. The last question was whether Mr. Obama still intended to withdraw American forces from Iraq within 16 months of his inauguration.

Mr. Obama said America is on a path to reducing forces in Iraq but didn’t answer the question directly. He said he would listen to the recommendations of commanders in the fields and that his priority would be to keep the troops safe.

All You’re Going to Get | 11:33 a.m. Asked for details of how they came together after the marathon primary, Mr. Obama wasn’t too forthcoming. He said she is tough and smart and disciplined and shares his core values and that he was “always interested” after the primary in finding ways in which they could collaborate.

“I extended her the offer and she accepted,” he said blandly, adding: “I know that’s not as juicy a story as you were hoping for, but that’s all you’re going to get.”

Reconciliation | 11:28 a.m. You knew some of those old quotes from the primary trail would come up — Mr. Obama suggested at one point that Mrs. Clinton’s global experience consisted of having tea — so how have they come to reconcile their differences?

“This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign,” he says, batting away the suggestion. He directs reporters to look at the statements that Mrs. Clinton and he have made outside of the heat of a campaign. He says they share a view that America has to be safe and secure and in order to do that “we have to combine military power with strength and diplomacy,” we have to build and forge stronger alliances around the world. “I believe there’s no more effective advocate than Hillary Clinton for that well-rounded view” for how we advance America’s interests around the world.

He went on to cite her service on the Armed Services committee, she knows world leaders and she and he have discussed the “strategic opportunities” that exist out there to strengthen American’s posture in the world. “She’ll be an outstanding Secretary of State,” he says, “and if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have offered her the job and if she didn’t believe I’m equipped to lead this nation, she would not have accepted.”

‘Buck Will Stop With Me’ | 11:20 a.m. Q: How can you ensure that the staff will be smoothly-functioning team of rivals?

Mr. Obama gave a lengthy answer here. He said that they have worked together before, have respect for each other and are outstanding public servants. “They would not have agreed to join my administration and I wouldn’t have asked them unless we share a core vision on what’s needed to keep the American people safe,” he said. He said his picks would not have left their current jobs if they weren’t convinced they could work together as an effective team.

He also added that he is a strong believer in having strong personalities and strong opinions. People in the White House can “get wrapped up in group think” but he said he will welcome vigorous debate inside the White House. But understand, he said, “I will be setting policy as president,” and he will be responsible for the vision this team is carrying out. “The buck will stop with me.”

Biden Speaks | 11:05 a.m. The other Obama appointees gave briefer, more perfunctory comments. Now, even Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is getting the chance to speak.

He’s been up on these stages with Mr. Obama several times now, but mute. He congratulates Mr. Obama for picking a “first-class team” (and makes no mention of how he and Mrs. Clinton might work together).

A Difficult and Exciting Adventure | 11:01 a.m. In reference to various crises around the world, Mrs. Clinton said that America cannot solve them without the rest of the world and the world can’t solve them without America.

In a nod to the fact that Mr. Obama will be the boss, Mrs. Clinton said that with his election, the American people have demanded a new direction at home and a renewed effort to improve American’s standing in the world.

She said that “the best way to continue serving my country” is to join Mr. Obama “at this defining moment.”

Paraphrasing President Kennedy, she said: “I am proud to join you on what will be a difficult and exciting adventure in this new century, and may God bless you and all who served with you and our great country.”

Now a Word From the Former President | 10:59 a.m. Former President Bill Clinton released the following statement:

    As an American, I am thankful that President-elect Barack Obama has asked Hillary to be Secretary of State and that she has accepted. As her husband, I am deeply proud.
    She is the right person for the job of helping to restore America’s image abroad, end the war in Iraq, advance peace and increase our security, by building a future for our children with more partners and fewer adversaries, one of shared responsibilities and opportunities.
    She has already earned the respect of foreign leaders and diplomats through her work to promote human rights and the empowerment of women through access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. And Americans know, from her leadership in the Senate on national security, that she will always put the security, values and the interests of our people first.
    In her service to the people of New York and our nation, Hillary has demonstrated the knowledge, passion, resilience, and capacity to learn that our country needs at this critical time. She loves being a Senator from New York, but as she has in all the thirty-seven years I’ve known her, she answered the call to serve. I commend President-Elect Obama for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served.

Clinton Thanks New Yorkers | 10:55 a.m. When Mr. Obama introduced his other nominees, none of them spoke. But this occasion clearly called for words from Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Obama couldn’t very well let her speak and no one else, so now they are all getting a chance to say a few words.

Mrs. Clinton gave something of a valedictory address. She thanked New Yorkers — this is her first time acknowledging to her constituents that she is leaving the Senate. She said they had prepared her for this new job because they aren’t afraid to speak their minds and they do so in many languages. She also used some phrases that Clinton-watchers have heard since her husband’s first presidential campaign in 1992, saying she wanted to help everyone achieve their God-given potential.

The Team Speaks | 10:54 a.m. Mr. Obama invites the members of his team to speak, beginning with Mrs. Clinton.

Get to Work | 10:51 a.m. Mr. Obama said his new team met this morning to discuss the situation in Mumbai. He emphasized the non-partisan nature of their task.

An American ‘of Tremendous Stature’ | 10:47 a.m. Mr. Obama introduced Mrs. Clinton first, calling her a friend, a tough primary opponent and intelligent and said she had a remarkable work ethic. He said she was an American “of tremendous stature” who would have his complete confidence and command respect in every capital around the world. “I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the right person to lead our State Department,” he said.

A Unique Team | 10:46 a.m. “The team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that,” Mr. Obama said. “They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.”

The Team | 10:42 a.m. Mr. Obama’s new national security team is now on stage: Mrs. Clinton; Robert M. Gates, the current defense secretary, who will remain in that job; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, will be national security adviser; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona will be homeland security chief; Eric Holder will be attorney general; and Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations.

‘Looking Forward to You Advising Me’ | 10:25 a.m. As we await Barack Obama’s news conference in a few minutes (10:40 a.m. Eastern), our minds drift back to one of the wittier moments of the long debate season.

It was last December, before the Iowa caucuses, when Mr. Obama was asked how his administration would differ from Bill Clinton’s administration if he planned to appoint so many Clinton advisers.

Senator Hillary Clinton, who was off screen, piped up with a laugh: “I want to hear that!”

“Well, Hillary,” Mr. Obama responded coolly, “I’m looking forward to you advising me, as well.”

It was a brilliant comeback, but few saw it as prescient.

But here we are, less than a year later, with President-elect Obama about to name his former rival as his Secretary of State, a position in which she will indeed be advising him and representing him on some of the most important matters he will face.

For weeks, anonymous Democrats have been whispering about why Mr. Obama made this unexpected choice (“team of rivals,” “global brand,” etc.) and why Mrs. Clinton is choosing to give up her independent power base in the Senate (dead-end job) and head to State (high-profile fiefdom, her own staff, access to the president).

But today, we will hear directly from Mr. Obama about why he is picking her, and we’ll be live blogging it right here. Come back in a few minutes.

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Transcript:

At this Thanksgiving dinner I will toast some very, very wonderful things to be thankful for; my friends, family and supporters, the collapse of Republicanism, the humiliating implosion and utter failure of the Republican party and unregulated free market doo doo economics and the defeat of racism, fear mongering and paranoia- albeit by a margin too close for comfort. One of my hopes for future Thanksgiving toasts will be the death of the contemporary equivalent of racism- homophobia and maybe beyond that the relegation of Religion to the same fate as The Pet Rock.

The party that scrutinizes every single tax dollar to see that it doesn’t risk ending up in the hands of some shiftless minority or rebuilding and equipping public schools, providing health care to the working poor, cleaning up after corporate polluters, advancing clean energy, or any other horrible “communist” enterprise that might provide for the welfare of American citizens, has just financed their own failure with your money- tax payer money. More accurately, your labor and the labor of your children. The tax haters are in line for their hand outs.

Remember when Bush wanted to privatize Social Security? What a fuckin’ joke! More of that brilliant self-reliance fiscal bull shit. It has finally be laid out plain as the nose on your face- these low tax, free market, self reliant, moral giants are colossal frauds and intellectual neanderthals. They are stricken with an illness that prevents them from giving a shit about anyone but themselves. Fearful, violent witch hunters, empty moral midgets and ethical pygmies that protect themselves from themselves with denial, superstition and Religion and now tax dollars.

The cost of The Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, Race to the Moon, S&L Crisis, Korean War,The New Deal, Invasion of Iraq, Vietnam War, and NASA: TOTALS: $3.92 trillion dollars… Inflation Adjusted dollars!

The current Wall Street gamblers, liars and failures bailout is costing us $4.62 trillion dollars.

Universal health care, securing Social Security, providing books and supplies for our children’s class rooms, enhancing veteran’s benefits? Not a fuckin’ chance. Those are godless Communist programs. Picking up the tab for billionaires who lost money gambling on irresponsible bets and playing multi-billion dollar ponzi schemes? That’s the patriotic, self reliant thing to do. What better way to spend those evil, ill gotten tax dollars? Anyone but the poor and working class.

Never forget the Bush Cheney disaster and the crash of the Republican corporate free market, diaper changing ideology. You’re paying for it and will be for a long time. If we’ve learned our lesson, we can be thankful.

WASHINGTON–Representatives from industry, government, and advocacy groups agreed on Thursday that the Internet needs to be open and widely available throughout the United States. The question is how to get there.

A newly emboldened Democratic Congress is sure to have a long wish list, including new Internet regulations that corporations believe are unwise or unnecessary. Net neutrality regulations are one possibility, as is broadband and spectrum legislation. But it’s unclear where the money to pay for sweeping new projects will come from–neither tax increases nor deficit spending on tech seem that likely when a Wall Street and Detroit bailout are center stage–so today’s laws and regulations may end up being extended by default.

Save the internet

Arianna Huffington & Google’s CEO on the Internet Presidency

The next Congress is sure to introduce Net neutrality legislation, a Democratic congressional staffer said Thursday. “With the Obama administration being extremely supportive of Net neutrality, we’re quite excited we can actually get things done,” said Frannie Wellings, telecom counsel for Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

Speaking at a telecommunications law and policy conference hosted by the University of Nebraska College of Law, Wellings said, “We definitely feel legislation is necessary” in the area of Net neutrality. (On the other hand, the Democrats have controlled Congress for two years and have advanced precisely zero Net neutrality bills, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once called it a tremendously important topic.)

Representatives from the telecommunications industry insisted they have a common interest in maintaining open networks since their revenues come from carrying bits–but say that they’re OK with the current state of the law. New legislation, they say, is not the way to achieve open access–and could even have adverse results.

The Federal Communications Commission’s ruling against Comcast proved the commission’s approach of reviewing possible Net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis is effective, said James Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs for AT&T.

Panelists at a conference Thursday discuss the merits of broadband and Net neutrality legislation.

Panelists at a conference Thursday discuss the merits of broadband and Net neutrality legislation.

“The essence of network management is some form of discrimination,” he said. “This really is about what’s reasonable and what isn’t. Discrimination that impacts consumers negatively is something unreasonable.”

Cicconi said Comcast’s appeal of the decision “was a mistake from many standpoints,” and that a ruling in Comcast’s favor would almost certainly lead to Net neutrality legislation, which would make the FCC’s review of telecom practices less flexible.

Replacing a flexible, case-by-case approach to Net neutrality enforcement with a common approach “would lead to more litigation, not less,” Cicconi said. (See a related CNET article about wireless Net neutrality.)

The threat of litigation against Net neutrality rules may be overblown, suggested Ben Scott, policy director of media advocacy group Free Press. He cited the news that the wireless trade association CTIA recently dropped its legal challenge to the open access conditions the FCC imposed on the C-Block spectrum Verizon purchased earlier this year. Verizon dropped its legal challenge in October.

The 111th Congress will also reintroduce legislation to promote universal broadband, Wellings said, though the need for that was also disputed.

“It’s probably the case the FCC, despite the uncertainties, can probably accomplish much of the Obama administration’s agenda without legislation,” said Richard Wiley, a former FCC chairman who now represents telecom companies as a partner at Wiley Rein.

There was a consensus among the panelists that one significant step the Obama administration could take would be to reallocate spectrum currently appropriated to government agencies.

“The biggest reason it’s a precious resource is because the government has appropriated half of it,” said Cicconi.

“If we’re serious about having wireless as a serious competitor to wired networks, we’re going to have to find more spectrum,” Scott added. “The best place I see is government allocations.”

The Obama administration will also have to revamp the FCC’s approach to establishing an public safety network on the D-Block, panelists said.

Cicconi called it “borderline scandalous” that Congress and the Bush administration “saddled the FCC with the conundrum of how to do it without appropriations.”

The situation was analogous to giving an agency land on which to build a highway system exclusively for police cars and ambulances but expecting the agency to get private sector funding, Scott said.

“This is a great opportunity and great challenge for the Obama administration,” Wiley said.

Source: CNET

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called and briefed president-elect Barack Obama on the series of attacks in Mumbai, the State Department said Friday.

“I can confirm on the record that Secretary of State Rice has called president-elect Obama twice since the attacks on Mumbai began to brief him on the situation,” said spokesman Gordon Duguid.

Duguid earlier confirmed that two Americans had been killed and two injured, although he declined to identify them.

Rice was at the presidential retreat Camp David providing updates to US President George Bush.
Indian forces were Friday still trying to hunt down the Islamic militant gunmen holed up in the city after two days of attacks which have left 130 people dead, including at least 17 foreigners.

It was not clear how many gunmen remained at large in the city, nor how many people might still be held hostage, after scores of people were released, many of them foreign tourists.

Source: AFP

AP Raw Video: Obamas Hand Out Turkeys

The Obama girls will be the youngest kids to live in the White House in decades.

The Obama girls will be the youngest kids to live in the White House in decades.

As incoming President Barack Obama ponders economic-bailout plans in the Oval Office, some pretty heavy action will be taking place in the private quarters of the White House, too.

Malia and Sasha Obama, ages 10 and 7, respectively, are the youngest children to inhabit the White House in decades. And they will be facing some seismic challenges of their own, in child-development terms. The Obama girls will pass from childhood into the upheaval of the pre-teen and early teenage years in a venue that past presidential kid Luci Johnson termed a “museum, a public fishbowl and a prison.”

The loss of privacy, continuity and constancy imposed by their move to the White House — coupled with the monumental new opportunities it offers — will have a huge impact on the Obama children’s sense of identity and competence at a critical stage, child-development experts say. While the glare of the spotlight has burned some presidential kids, others have emerged unscathed and strong. A look at the risks and rewards, based on research and past examples, holds lessons for any parent raising children under unusual stress.

Malia and Sasha are facing some core “developmental tasks,” in child-development parlance: the need to build their own sense of personal identity, or their concept of who they are in relation to others and the world at large, and their belief in their competence as individuals. These growth stages must be accomplished in an ever-widening context of friendships, school, the neighborhood and the world at large.

The Obamas, child-development experts say, seem to be a picture of health, based on the deep affection and easy communication family members displayed last July in their only video interview together. Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have vowed to hold life as steady as possible for the girls, and are taking grandmother Marian Robinson to Washington to help.

Read on…

liebermanwinslucasuploa_043819_2087507912 HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman took another step Tuesday toward mending his relationship with Democrats, saying that Barack Obama’s actions since winning the presidency have been “just about perfect.”

“Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration,” Lieberman said during a visit to Hartford.

Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, was re-elected to the Senate in 2006 as an independent but continues to caucus with Democrats. He supported Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign, going as far as to criticize Obama and make a speech at the Republican National Convention.

Democrats threatened to strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee but instead removed him as head of a smaller environmental subcommittee.

Connecticut Democrats meet Dec. 17 and are still considering a possible censure of Lieberman for his actions during the presidential campaign.

“I will ask them to judge me by my record,” Lieberman said. “Generally speaking, I’ve had a record, a voting record, which is really ultimately what it’s about, not unlike most Democrats.”

Lieberman said he believes the rift between himself and the party stemmed mainly from his support of President Bush’s policy in Iraq and will close as that becomes less of an issue.

“It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful — I don’t want to say conclusion yet, but it’s moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic Party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead,” Lieberman said. “And therefore, I think we’ll return to more normal times, which I welcome.”

Source: AP

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CHICAGO (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama announced his top budget officials on Tuesday and promised significant spending cuts to partially offset a costly stimulus package that aims to revive the U.S. economy.

As the top two officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors will closely examine federal spending to cut out wasteful programs, Obama said.

“If we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don’t need,” Obama said at his second press conference in as many days.

One obvious example: Crop subsidies to farmers who make more than $2.5 million per year, Obama said.

Though he does not take office until January 20, Obama’s team of economic advisers are already working out the details of a two-year package to save or create 2.5 million jobs that could cost several hundred million dollars.

Obama himself meanwhile has dropped his former low-profile approach and spoken directly to the American people with two news conferences this week. A third Obama press appearance is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. EST Wednesday.

Bush administration officials continue to extend massive life support efforts to the ailing U.S. financial system.

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced a $600 billion program to buy mortgage-related debt and securities, and a $200 billion program to increase the availability of consumer debt, such as credit cards and auto loans.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged patience and said any effort will take time to work.

Orszag now heads the Congressional Budget Office and Nabors currently serves as staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. Both previously held White House positions under President Bill Clinton.

Their announcement follows on Monday’s unveiling of New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner as Obama’s Treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary under Clinton, as director of his National Economic Council.

Obama’s aides are in contact with Bush administration officials, who said they would work closely with Geithner and other incoming officials on any new rescue plans.

The scope of the economic crisis has widened since Obama’s November 4 victory over Republican John McCain, with auto companies warning that they are short on cash, unemployment numbers rising and the government bailing out yet another gigantic financial institution, Citigroup Inc.

New figures released on Tuesday showed that the U.S. economy shrank more severely during the third quarter than previously estimated as consumers cut spending at the steepest rate in 28 years. Corporate profits and business investment fell as well.

Obama has kept a low profile until this week’s news conferences, which are intended to show the priority he places on addressing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

He said on Monday he has not yet decided whether to roll back President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy, which would provide the government with much-needed revenue, or simply allow them to expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled, a move that would avoid what would likely be a bruising fight in Congress.

Source: Reuters

Three weeks after his election as president, the public’s confidence in Barack Obama remains “remarkably consistent” and “doesn’t yet appear to be have been affected, positively or negatively, by news coverage of the president-elect’s staff and Cabinet appointments, or by reports of his economic and other policy plans,” Gallup reports this morning.

The polling firm’s daily tracking poll now shows 65% of those surveyed say they’re confident in the Democratic president-elect’s ability to be a good president. The figure has stayed between 63% and 67% since Election Day. Margin of error: +/- 3 percentage points.

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Source: USA Today

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his economic team on Monday in Chicago. From left are, Timothy F. Geithner, Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers.

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his economic team on Monday in Chicago. From left are, Timothy F. Geithner, Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers.

Citing an “economic crisis of historic proportions” President-elect Barack Obama announced the key members of his economic team at a news conference in Chicago.

Update | 12:34 p.m. The Q & A was over pretty quickly, and Mr. Obama and his newly introduced economic team filed offstage.

Here’s a quick thumbnail that Mr. Obama gave in introducing each of them:

Mr. Geithner: “offers not just extensive experience shaping economic policy and managing financial markets – but an unparalleled understanding of our current economic crisis, in all of its depth, complexity and urgency. Tim will waste no time getting up to speed. He will start his first day on the job with a unique insight into the failures of today’s markets – and a clear vision of the steps we must take to revive them.”

“Growing up partly in Africa and having lived and worked throughout Asia; having served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs – one of many roles in the international arena; and having studied both Chinese and Japanese, Tim understands the language of today’s international markets in more ways than one.”

Mr. Summers: “Larry helped guide us through several major international financial crises – and was a central architect of the policies that led to the longest economic expansion in American history, with record surpluses, rising family incomes and more than 20 million new jobs. He also championed a range of measures – from tax credits to enhanced lending programs to consumer financial protections – that greatly benefited middle income families.”

“As a thought leader, Larry has urged us to confront the problems of income inequality and the middle class squeeze, consistently arguing that the key to a strong economy is a strong and growing middle class. This idea is the core of my own economic philosophy and will be the foundation for all of my economic policies.”

Ms. Romer: “Christina is both a leading macroeconomist and a leading economic historian, perhaps best known for her work on America’s recovery from the Great Depression and the robust economic expansion that followed. Since 2003, she has been co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research Monetary Economics program. She is also a member of the Bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee – the body charged with officially determining when a recession has started and ended – experience which will serve her well as she advises me on our current economic challenges.”

“Christina has also done groundbreaking research on many of the topics our Administration will confront – from tax policy to fighting recessions. And her clear-eyed, independent analyses have received praise from both conservative and liberal thinkers alike. I look forward to her wise counsel in the White House.”

Ms. Barnes: She has a “brilliant legal mind” and is “one of the most respected policy experts in America, will be serving as director of my Domestic Policy Council.” She will be “working hand-in-hand with my economic policy team to chart a course to economic recovery. An integral part of that course will be health care reform – and she will work closely with my Secretary of Health and Human Services on that issue.”

“As executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, Melody directed a network of policy experts dedicated to finding solutions for struggling middle class families. She also served as chief counsel to the great Senator Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, working on issues ranging from crime to immigration to bankruptcy, and fighting tirelessly to protect civil rights, women’s rights and religious freedom.”

Related: What Economic Blogs Are Saying

Auto Industry | 12:32 p.m. Question: What should be done about the auto industry?

Mr. Obama gets tough on Detroit and says he was “surprised” that the auto execs went to Washington last week without being better prepared.

“We can’t allow the auto industry to simply vanish,” he says, but “we can’t just write a blank check.” Nor, he said, can taxpayers be expected “to pony up more money to an auto industry that has been resistant to change.”

Then this: “I was surprised they didn’t have a better-thought-out proposal when they arrived in Congress.” He says Congress “did the right thing to say you guys need to come up with a better plan and come back.”

But any additional money for the industry, he says, should assure a long-term sustainable auto industry and is not just “kicking the can down the road.”

Economic Approach | 12:27 p.m. Question: How will your approach to the economy differ from the “ad hoc” approach of the last year?

Mr. Obama says he wants to make sure that moving forward he is “clearly articulating” his end goals, what he is trying to achieve and that there is “clarity and transparency” to his plan. Markets have been confused about the overall direction of the economy, he says, and he wants to provide clarity.

Stimulus Package? | 12:25 p.m. Ah, now we’ve got sound. But he still declines to discuss the size of the stimulus package. He says there is a consensus “across the spectrum” that we need an economic stimulus package and that it’s big enough to give a “jolt” to the economy. He is vague about how to pay for it beyond “reforms” in Washington.

On to Questions | 12:19 p.m. In the question-and-answer period, the questions, alas, are inaudible. But Mr. Obama declines to put a price tag on his stimulus package. Apparently he was asked about the Bush tax cuts because Mr. Obama says he isn’t sure exactly how those tax cuts will be repealed.

No Shortcuts | 12:15 p.m. “We need a recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street – a plan that stabilizes our financial system and gets credit flowing again, while at the same time addressing our growing foreclosure crisis, helping our struggling auto industry, and creating and saving 2.5 million jobs – jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing our schools, and creating the clean energy infrastructure of the twenty-first century,” he says. “Because at this moment, we must both restore confidence in our markets – and restore the confidence of middle class families, who find themselves working harder, earning less, and falling further and further behind.”

He adds: “Again, this won’t be easy. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making – and the economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. Full recovery won’t happen immediately. And to make the investments we need, we’ll have to scour our federal budget, line-by-line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices as well – something I’ll be discussing further tomorrow.”

‘Crisis of Historic Proportions’ | 12:09 p.m. “We are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions,” Mr. Obama says, and we need the best minds to bring sound judgment and fresh thinking. He said his team are people who share his fundamental belief that we can’t have a thriving wall street without a thriving Main Street.

The News Conference Begins | 12:03 p.m. The market continues to cilmb as Mr. Obama opens his news conference. The Dow is up 306 points so far.

In addition to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Summers and Ms. Romer, Mr. Obama announces Melody C. Barnes will be director of the Domestic Policy Council, which will Ms. Barnes previously served as executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and as chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee from December 1995 until March 2003, according to the transition team. Mr. Obama said that an integral part of Ms. Barnes’s job will be working closely with the Secretary of Health and Human Services on health care reform.

Prepared Text

The Economic Team | 11:53 a.m. President-elect Barack Obama is about to hold a news conference in Chicago and announce the members of his economic team, including Timothy F. Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, as his Treasury secretary.

Mr. Obama also plans to name Larry Summers, who was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, as the head of his National Economic Council and Christina Romer, a well-regarded economist at the University of California at Berkeley, to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.

And he is expected to make the case for an expanded economic stimulus package to create or preserve 2.5 million jobs during the next two years.

thecaucus75

On the Chris Matthews Show today, Matthews argued that one of the major differences between President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama is the fact that Obama is intellectually curious. As an example of Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity, Matthews played a 2004 clip of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward saying on 60 Minutes that Bush “is not an intellectual” or what “would be called a deep thinker.”

Asked by Matthews to explain why Bush “shows little intellectual curiosity,” Woodward said it was essentially because Bush “doesn’t like homework”:

    WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.

Watch:

Woodward, who has written four books on the Bush White House, has reported multiple instances in which Bush has put his distaste for homework on display. In 2004, Woodward told PBS’s Frontline about how Bush describes himself as “a gut player” who doesn’t “play by the book“:

    QUESTION: What does that tell us about this president, how his mind works and how he functions as an executive? …
    WOODWARD: Bush looks at problems. And he told me, he said: “I’m a gut player. I play by instincts. I don’t play by the book.” And of course the book is Policy 101 about how you make these kinds of decisions, and all of this [is] coming from the gut.

In his most recent book, Woodward reported that Bush actually bragged about not attending meetings where key decisions about the surge were made, telling Woodward, “I’m not in these meetings, you’ll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do.” Woodward has said that in his eyes, Bush has “often displayed impatience and a lack of interest in open debate.”

Transcript:

    MATTHEWS: Bob, he obviously relies a lot on instinct and is proud of that fact. Is that why he shows little intellectual curiosity about other people’s thinking?
    WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.
    MATTHEWS: And Obama?
    WOODWARD: Obama is the opposite. He mainlines homework. He does, you know, where is extra credit.

Source: Think Progress

President-elect Barack Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who will have a desk near the Oval Office, during a pre-election stop on Sept. 29.

President-elect Barack Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who will have a desk near the Oval Office, during a pre-election stop on Sept. 29.

Loyal allies to dominate inner sanctum but Clinton vets will abound

WASHINGTON – Two main quarries are supplying the building blocks for President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration.

Longtime, deeply loyal associates will dominate the White House inner sanctum. And veterans of Bill Clinton’s presidency will hold vital jobs throughout the government, although a bit farther from the Oval Office.

The structure suggests Obama is confident enough to hand top posts to former rivals whose loyalty is not guaranteed, a strategy many presidents have avoided. But most of those on Obama’s team who will have his ear everyday will be old friends and experienced advisers who are seen as having no ambitions beyond his success.

Obama raised eyebrows this month when he tapped some of Clinton’s closest allies for important jobs.

John Podesta, Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, is heading the transition effort. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former top Clinton adviser, is Obama’s chief of staff. Former Clinton appointees Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano appear in line for Cabinet posts.

Even more startling to many, Obama has signaled plans to name former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

Some Obama supporters have praised him for reaching out to his toughest primary opponent. But others question why they worked so hard to defeat Clinton only to see her, and many close to her, grab prizes in the new administration. They note that Obama repeatedly campaigned against “the politics of the past” and Washington “dramas,” thinly veiled jabs at the Clinton presidency as well as President George W. Bush’s tenure.

Stephen Hess, a George Washington University authority on presidential transitions, said Obama is playing it smart.

“It’s easy to make a leap that this is going to be a repeat of the Clinton administration and there’s no way that’s going to happen,” said Hess, who first worked for the Eisenhower administration.

Value of ‘old-timers’
Obama needs a core of Democrats with federal government experience, Hess said, and veterans of Bill Clinton’s administration are virtually the only source.

“The old-timers are exceedingly valuable to him now,” he said, but Obama “also has his own group of advisers, and he will merge the two groups.”

That merger began taking shape last week. Obama’s three “senior advisers,” who will have desks near the Oval Office, are some of his closest and longest-serving allies:

  • David Axelrod, his Chicago-based media strategist, will focus on message and communications.
  • Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman and close family friend, probably will concentrate on intergovernmental relations and community outreach.
  • Pete Rouse, who was Obama’s Senate chief of staff, is expected to work closely with Emanuel on White House operations and congressional affairs.
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