Monday, November 29, 2010

Obama to Freeze Pay for Most Federal Workers

November 29, 2010

Obama to Freeze Pay for Most Federal Workers

WASHINGTON -- President Obama plans to announce a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers later Monday morning in his latest move intended to demonstrate concern over sky-high deficit spending.

The president’s proposal will effectively wipe out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise in 2011 for 2.1 million civilian federal government employees, including those working at the Defense Department, but the freeze would not affect the naion’s uniformed military personnel. The president has frozen the salaries of his own top White House staff members since taking office 22 months ago.

“Clearly this is a difficult decision,” said Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer. “Federal workers are hard-working and dedicated.” But given the deficit, Mr. Zients added, “we believe this is the first of many difficult steps ahead.”

The pay freeze will save $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in September 2011, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, officials said. That represents just a tiny dent in a $1.3 trillion annual deficit, but it offers a symbolic gesture toward public anger over unemployment, the anemic economic recovery and rising national debt.

Mr. Zients said the president is announcing the plan on Monday because of an approaching legal deadline for submitting a pay plan to Congress. But by doing it now, the president also effectively gets ahead of Republicans who have been talking about making such a move once they take over the House and assume more seats in the Senate in January. Some Republicans have gone further, proposing to slash federal worker salaries.

The number of federal workers making more than $150,000 a year has grown ten-fold in the past five years and doubled since Mr. Obama took office, according to a USA Today study earlier this month. Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3 percent annually above inflation, compared with 0.8 percent for private sector workers, according to data cited by the newspaper.

This is not the first time Mr. Obama has addressed government pay to make a political point. He froze the salaries of his own top White House staff members when he took office 22 months ago. He later extended that freeze to political appointees throughout the government and canceled their bonuses.

The chairmen of a fiscal commission appointed by Mr. Obama have proposed a three-year freeze for federal employees in a draft report. The commission is supposed to issue a final report by Wednesday.

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GOP Rep. Asks Clinton to Declare WikiLeaks a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’

A Republican Congressman from New York has invented a new definition for the word "terrorism" that doesn't require guns, bombs, vast underground networks of sleeper cells, a criminal conspiracy or even violence.

All that's needed to be a terrorist, according to Rep. Peter King, is a website and some inconvenient information.

That's why King sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday, demanding that whistleblower website WikiLeaks be deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" and it's founder declared a terror ringleader.'


Calling A Shamrock A Shamrock

By Howard Rich
As the European economy grapples with yet another bailout of a bankrupt sovereign state, a storyline is emerging that seeks to frame this latest instance of government interventionism along deliberately disingenuous lines. According to this misleading narrative, Ireland’s abysmal fiscal condition did not come as a result of chronic state overspending, but is instead due to the island nation’s comparatively-low corporate income tax rate.

Sound like a familiar song? On both sides of the ocean there appear to be plenty of Keynesian apologists who believe that economic downturns are always caused by greedy capitalists — never by greedy politicians and government bureaucrats.
Get full story here.

Busted Lip

Get permalink here.

Is 2011, the year when medical malpractice reform finally comes of age?

By Rick Manning

Video by Frank McCaffrey
There will be a lot of heat generated in the first month of the 112th Congress as the newly elected Republican majority in the House of Representatives moves, as they should, to repeal the signature legislation of the Pelosi era — ObamaCare.

It is common knowledge that Harry Reid’s Senate will not vote for repealing the law, so where should the Republicans head from there?

One answer is pass the single most important health care reform that the Pelosi-Reid Congress left off the table — medical malpractice reform.

This makes sense from a cost perspective as the Congressional Budget Office estimated that medical malpractice reform would save $54 billion over the course of the next ten years.

Get full story here.

Did the White House Authorize the Center for American Progress to Use the Presidential Seal?

Readers Respond: Backlash Over Bishop Eddie Long Gospel Today Cover

Cover Chaos: Backlash Over Bishop Eddie Long's Gospel Today FeatureThe Nov/Dec issue of faith-based glossy Gospel Today is catching flack from some of its subscribers who take issue with Bishop Eddie Long being featured on its cover.

With a headline that reads: "Bishop Eddie Long At The Center of The Scandal That Rocked The Church World;" the magazine is being accused of downplaying the allegations against the pastor of the New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Georgia, who was accused in Sept. of sexual coercion by four consenting-age men from his church.

Additionally, some readers believe that Gospel Today lacks objectivity as Long serves as the chair of the magazine's board.

One unedited subscriber note read: "I got my latest issue of Gospel Today; with [Bishop] Eddie Long on the cover. I read the article and said to myself hmmmm seem like some sugar coating going on. Turned back to the 1st page and saw where the Bishop of his Church in NC is on your Board of Directors, I looked down and also saw that Eddie Long is on your Board of Advisors, I said all of that to say this. The best thing your magazine should have did was to not comment, but I do understand why you did. God is not pleased with all of the hypocrisy going on with these leaders and the things people will say and print just for MONEY!!!!"

Gospel Today publisher Teresa Hairston is facing the criticism head-on. She posted a letter in response to reader comments on her website. Teresa Hairston

"The Word of God teaches us that God is love; and far too many times we have been unbalanced and unloving-all in the name of a God who not only loves, but loves unconditionally and restores sinners-us included. Whether Bishop Long is guilty or not; whether the young men are guilty or not, the BODY OF CHRIST must handle this situation according to the Word of God! The mainstream press has painted a hideous picture; some have even called for Bishop Long's resignation! They're not even members," she replied.

Some believe that Hairston took a softball approach to Long by purposely omitting his legal woes from the story. She believes her stance was a spiritual one.

"Gospel Today did not explore the legalities or the issues; we presented a biblical perspective-something no other outlet gave," she countered. "For those who don't want to 'deal' with or look at this situation; I encourage you to read this story so that you can have a BIBLICAL perspective to help you 'answer' the mainstream perspective. Yes you should pray and speak about the 'hope' that you have that God will turn this situation into something that will be used for His glory! Yes, you should respond! You should 'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.' (1 Pet. 3:15)."

Gospel Today magazine has been in business for more than 21 years.

In Feb of 2009, the magazine announced it would end pubGospel Todaylishing the traditional magazine and become a digital-only publication because of the bad economy.

(Read: 'Economic Woes: Gospel Today Magazine Suspends Printing.')

In June of that year, it resumed printing in magazine format with a cover featuring President Barack Obama.

(Read: 'Back In Print: Gospel Today Magazine Returns.')

Over the years, the Christian lifestyle magazine has featured gospel luminaries and celebrities like Star Jones, Steve Harvey, Bernice King, Kirk Franklin, Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child, Marvin Sapp, and Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore on its cover.

Iran Has Purchased Advanced Missiles from N. Korea – WikiLeaks

North Korean advanced BM-25 missiles on display in October. Iran has reportedly bought 19 of these missiles.

The New York Times reports today that the leaked secret US intelligence assessments dated 24 February of this year concluded that Iran has obtained 19 advanced missiles from North Korea capable of hitting targets in Western Europe. The missiles, based on a Russian design, are much more powerful than anything Iran was thought to have in its inventory. The US officials said that the missiles’ advanced propulsion could speed Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The North Korean missiles are based on a Russian design called R-27, once deployed aboard Soviet submarines carrying nuclear warheads. The North Korean version of the missile is known as BM-25, and could also carry nuclear warheads. The 24 February secret document obtained by WikiLeakes indicated US intelligence belief that 19 of these missiles have already been shipped to Iran, and that Iran is working to master the technology in order to build a new generation of missiles.

Previously Iran was thought to have missiles capable of 1,200 miles range. The range of Russian R-27 launched from a submarine was thought to be 1,500 miles. The BM-25 is longer and heavier, giving it a range of up to 2,000 miles.

By obtaining BM-25s, Iran not only has dramatically improved its missile capabilities, but it now has the know-how to design and build a new class of more powerful missile engines, the cable said as reported by The New York Times.

“Iran wanted engines capable of using more-energetic fuels,” the 24 February able said, “and buying a batch of BM-25 missiles gives Iran a set it can work on for reverse engineering.”

At the request of the Obama administration, The New York Times has agreed not to publish the text of the 24 February cable.

Click here to read The New York Times article.

Photo: The New York Times

North Korea Deploys Surface To Air Missiles to its West Coast

By Douglas V. Gibbs

North Korea has deployed SA-2 surface-to-air missiles near their Yellow Sea border with South Korea. This move happens as naval drills, led by the United States, have commenced in the region. The positioning of the missiles make it look as if they are targeting American fighter jets as they fly near the Northern Limit Line (NLL).

This deployment by North Korea follows an attack by North Korea on Yeonpyeong Island, a South Korean island, where four people were killed and 18 others wounded.

The Soviet-designed SA-2 missile that North Korea has deployed have a range of between 13 and 30 kilometers. These missiles join other missiles deployed on North Korea's west coast. The already existing missiles, Samlet and Silkworm, whose ranges are up to 95km, have also been put onto launch pads. The implication is that North Korea is preparing for a strike.

South Korea, and neighbors like Japan, have prepared for the possibility of further provocations by the North Korean military.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

N. Korea deploys SA-2 surface-to-air missiles near Yellow Sea border - Yonhap News Agency

GOP No Longer Needs a Black Man as Chair, Therefore Michael Steele is Dead Man Walking Within Republican Party

The vote for the next chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) takes place in two months. The current GOP chairman, Michael Steele, indicates that he will be running for re-election. However, a significant bloc of Republican National Committee members wants embattled chairman Michael Steele to step aside, but the rank and file have failed to settle on a clear alternative. [SOURCE]

More than four dozen interviews with members of the 168-member central committee found fear that a badly damaged Steele could emerge from the wreckage of a knockdown, drag-out fight to head the party as it challenges President Barack Obama in 2012. While most agree that Steele’s time has been rough — and costly — the members also recognize that a leadership fight could overshadow gains that Republicans made in the midterm elections. [SOURCE]
You can’t keep spending the kind of money they’re spending every month just to operate the RNC,” said committee member Ada Fisher of North Carolina. “I would hope he would step aside.”

The question is who should be hired for the next two years, It’s not a matter of firing anybody,” said James Bopp, a committee member from Indiana who holds great sway among social conservatives on the panel. “I just don’t think Steele has performed at the level we need for the presidential cycle.”
Steele appears to have delivered for the Republican Party.  Didn't they just win a historic landslide victory in the mid-term elections earlier this month?    Shouldn't Steele get some credit for the fact that Republicans won at least 63 new seats in the House. Republicans picked up 10 governorships and added six Senate seats. The party also gained control of 19 state legislative chambers and now hold their highest level of state legislative seats since 1928.

I think that the Michael Steele served his ONLY PURPOSE for the Republican Party.   He was an African American face for the GOP elected in January 2009 to serve as a counterbalance for the remarkable election of Barack Obama ... the first African American president in our nation's history.

Be honest.  That is the ONLY reason that Michael Steele was elected GOP chairman in the first place.  The Republicans couldn't afford to have another old white man as their 'talking head'.   Michael Steele became the puppet.

Steele didn't mind.  In fact, he enjoyed it.   Steele did his 'Bojangles' best to entertain the media and the public when he first got elected.

But, it's not January 2009 any longer and the Republican Party is now powered by the Tea Party ... and the GOP doesn't see any need to pretend like they are a diverse political party.   They are very comfortable being the party for white folks in America as evidenced by the prominent role that Senator McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) have as party spokesperson.

Michael Steele served his role.   The Republicans are now laying the groundwork to remove him in January 2011.
He’s a wonderful man. He’s done a good job,” said Cindy Costa, a committee member from South Carolina. “But it would be better for him — and I want the best for him — to step down knowing he gave an honest shot and did a good job this election cycle.”
Dead Man Walking.

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens Speaks out on Death Penalty; Calls it Racist, Filled With Politics

Justice John Paul Stevens
By Allan Lengel
WASHINGTON — Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has finally explained his opposition to the death penalty, “saying personnel changes on the court, coupled with ‘regrettable judicial activism,’had created a system of capital punishment that is shot through with racism, skewed toward conviction, infected with politics and tinged with hysteria,” the New York Times reported.
The Times reported that Stevens wrote a very candid essay for the New York Review of Books to be published this week.

The Times said that Stevens, 90, appears intent on speaking on issues that were off limits while he served on the court.

To read more click here.

Iran: Nuclear Physicist Killed in Bomb Blast

Via: Reuters:
A university teacher was killed in a car bomb blast in Tehran and three people were wounded in another explosion on Monday, Iran’s al Alam Arabic language television reported.

Wikileaks: Arab World Agrees With Israel--Iran Is More Urgent Than A Palestinian State

Last year, it became clear that the Obama administration has made a point of putting pressure on Israel to make the peace talks work as the first step towards addressing Iran:
Israel risks losing support from Arab nations against Iran if it does not make progress in Mideast peace talks with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

..."For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts," Clinton told legislators on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

The two "go hand in hand," Clinton said.

Arab nations want "very much to support the strongest possible posture toward Iran," Clinton said.

"They believe that Israel's willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran," she said.

If there is progress on peace talks "then a lot of the Arab countries are saying to us there will be a sequencing of support that will strengthen the region's response to Iran," she said.
Now Mere Rhetoric has pointed out that based on the documents leaked by Wikileaks, it is clear that the Arab states do not share the focus on creating a Palestinian state.

For example, The Guardian provides notes in a US cable on April 20, 2008, noting how strongly the Saudi King urged the US to strike Iran
1. (S) Summary: US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus met with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, General Presidency of Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abd al-Aziz, and Interior Minister Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz during their April 14-15 visit to Riyadh. The Saudi King and senior Princes reviewed Saudi policy toward Iraq in detail, all making essentially the same points. They said that the Kingdom will not send an ambassador to Baghdad or open an embassy until the King and senior Saudi officials are satisfied that the security situation has improved and the Iraqi government has implemented policies that benefit all Iraqis, reinforce Iraq's Arab identity, and resist Iranian influence.

...The Need to Resist Iran

10. (S) The King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needs to cooperate with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence and subversion in Iraq. The King was particularly adamant on this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well. Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.
The attitude in the Arab world did not change after Obama took office. A cable from November 4, 2009 obtained from the Embassy of Manama, notes King Hamad of Bahrain was vehement in insisting that Iran be stopped:
1. (C) SUMMARY: In an hour-long meeting on November 1 with CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus, Bahrain's King Hamad said Arab states need to do more to engage Iraq, discussed Afghanistan and the positive role India could play, urged action to stop Iran's nuclear program, and reviewed regional plans for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. END SUMMARY.

...4.(C) IRAN: King Hamad pointed to Iran as the source of much of the trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their nuclear program, by whatever means necessary. "That program must be stopped," he said. "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it." King Hamad added that in light of these regional developments, Bahrain was working to strengthen GCC coordination and its relations with allies and international organizations. He specifically mentioned NATO and confirmed that Bahrain had agreed to the Alliance's request to use Isa Airbase for AWACS missions, although the detail on numbers and timing have yet to be discussed.
In fact, Obama has made the same mistake vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia as with Abbas--insisting on making an issue into a priority to the extent that he has forced the Arabs to follow suit. In the case of Abbas, it was settlements; in the case of the Saudis, it is the issue of the peace process itself:
Whatever side of the political divide you are on, it seems clear that Obama’s June 2009 trip to Riyadh was a disaster. After pushing the Israelis on settlements, Obama counted on securing some minor confidence-building measures from the Arabs and instead wound up with an earful from the 85-year-old Saudi king. The administration had not done its homework.

“People at the upper echelons do not seem to understand the complexity of Saudi Arabia,” the former official said. “If you come at it blindly and conventionally, then you assume that their main concern is the peace process: ‘It is a huge issue for all Arabs, so the Saudis must care.’ The Palestinian-Israeli issue was not the highest priority with the last administration, and we found that if you don’t bring it up, the Saudis won’t bring it up either. But if you do bring it up, they feel they have to talk about it, or else they will be shamed—the Saudis can’t be less pro-Palestinian than the Americans. The Obama people didn’t know this or care, and they didn’t seem to know or care what the Saudis were really concerned about. The number one issue in Riyadh is Iran.”

...the Saudis themselves tell anyone who will listen that their major concern is not in achieving a just resolution for the Palestinians but in countering the Iranian threat [to] the kingdom.
In May 2009, Salah Nasrawi of the Associated Press wrote that unlike the US, Israel and the Arab world see eye-to-eye on Iran:
Israel and the U.S. suspect Iran's program to enrich uranium is aimed at developing nuclear weapons — a concern shared by the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council].

"There exists a strategic and military threat (to Gulf countries) and we are against any nuclear program that isn't approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency because we believe that the Iranian nuclear program should not destabilize the region," the organization said in its statement.

...The London-based Palestinian daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi even said the Arab moderates governments are actively working on building an alliance with Israel to counter Iranian influence in the region.
Maybe it's time that Obama get with the program, realizing what the Middle East itself thinks is the top priority in the region--and acting accordingly. Who knows, it may afford Obama his best chance to get that foreign policy success he is looking for.

More at Memeorandum
By Daled Amos

Actor Leslie Nielsen Has Died At The Age Of 84

Actor Leslie Nielsen, best known for his comedic roles in movies like Airplane and The Naked Gun series has died today in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was being treated for pneumonia. The Canadian born actor began his career in the 1950′s and playing dramatic and romantic parts. However, his role as the dimwitted doctor in the movie Airplane revived his career as audiences loved his dead pan comedic abilities.
He is survived by his wife Barbaree Earl and his daughters, Maura Nielsen Kaplan and Thea Nielsen Disney.