Saturday, January 14, 2017

President Obama's Final Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

From The G-Man and The G-Man Interviews thank you for your service, Mr. President.

White House Holds Principal-Level Transition Exercise

The White House on Friday afternoon convened a transition exercise with members of the President-Elect's team and Cabinet designees together with current senior White House, Cabinet, and agency leaders. The exercise provided a high-level perspective on a series of challenges that the next administration may face and introduced the key authorities, policies, capabilities, and structures that are currently in place to respond to major domestic incidents. Members of President Obama's team shared experiences and lessons from incident responses they experienced, and both sides discussed a number of response scenarios together. Participants agreed that the exercise was productive and advanced the shared goal of conducting the most professional and seamless transition possible.

Obama Administration Participants Included:

Chair: Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President and White House Chief of Staff
Susan Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Neil Eggleston, Assistant to the President and White House Counsel
Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Avril Haines, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor
Dab Kern, Assistant to the President and Director, White House Military Office
Amy Pope, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President
Suzy George, Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Chief of Staff
John Holdren, Office of Science and Technology Policy Director
Shaun Donovan, Office of Management and Budget Director
Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense
Gen Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security
Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
John King, Secretary of Education
Nicholas Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
James Comey, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director
John Brennan, Central Intelligence Agency Director
Gayle Smith, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator
Sylvia Burwell, Health and Human Services Secretary
Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Ely Ratner, Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President
Thomas Shannon, UnderSecretary of State for Political Affairs
Adam Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Department of the Treasury
Lt. Gen Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Sally Yates, Deputy Attorney General
Bruce Andrews, Deputy Secretary of Commerce
Christopher Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor
Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services
Nani Coloretti, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation
Kevin Hanretta, Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security, and Preparedness, Department of Veterans Affairs
Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator
ADM Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Stanley Meiburg, Acting Deputy Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Maria Contreras-Sweet, Small Business Administration Administrator
Gen Lori Robinson, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command
Gen Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau

Incoming Administration Participants Included:

Reince Priebus
Rex Tillerson
Steven Mnuchin
Gen. James Mattis
Rep. Ryan Zinke
Sen. Jeff Sessions
Rep. Mike Pompeo
Wilbur Ross
Betsy DeVos
Sen. Dan Coats
Andrew Puzder
Dr. Tom Price
Dr. Ben Carson
Elaine Chao
Gov. Rick Perry
Dr. David Shulkin
Gen. John Kelly
Rep. Mick Mulvaney
Linda McMahon
Sean Spicer
Joe Hagin
Stephen Miller
Marc Short
Joshua Pitcock
Tom Bossert
KT McFarland
Gen. Michael Flynn
Gary Cohn
Katie Walsh
Rick Dearborn 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Friday, January 13, 2017

Scathing DOJ Report Finds Chicago Police Use Excessive Force

The investigation was launched in 2015 after the release of dashcam video showing an officer shoot a black teenage, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: CBS News

White House Press Briefing

Donald Trump’s Transition Gets ‘Historically Low’ Marks

By Ariel Edwards-Levy 

The public thinks Donald Trump’s presidency is off to a rocky start. Americans approve of Barack Obama, but are less sure they want to see his legacy continued. And a lot about the U.S. has changed in the past eight year. This is HuffPollster for Friday, January 13, 2017.

APPROVAL FOR TRUMP’S TRANSITION SINKS - Lydia Saad: “Gallup polling conducted two weeks before Inauguration Day, President-elect Donald Trump continues to garner historically low approval for his transition performance, with 51% of Americans disapproving of how he is handling the presidential transition and 44% approving. Last month, the public was split on this question, with 48% approving and 48% disapproving….Trump’s 48% transition approval rating in December was already the lowest for any presidential transition Gallup has measured, starting with Bill Clinton’s in 1992-1993. Trump’s current rating only further separates him from his predecessors ― particularly Barack Obama, who earned 83% approval for his handling of the transition process in January 2009, up from 75% in mid-December 2008….Republicans’ rating of Trump’s transition has remained positive, with 87% approving in the Jan. 4-8 poll, similar to the 86% recorded last month. Very few Democrats approve, which has also been fairly steady, at 13% this month versus 17% in December. Meanwhile, his transition approval among independents has fallen from 46% to 33%.” [Gallup]

Other surveys give him similarly low marks - HuffPollster: “A majority of voters disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his role as president-elect, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. Only 37 percent of respondents approve of how Trump’s managing the transition, while 51 percent disapprove. They rated him favorably versus unfavorably by the very same margins….Quinnipiac also shows a broad drop in optimism about Trump. Only 39 percent of voters find him honest, down from 42 percent in late November. Voters are also less positive about his leadership abilities, intelligence and level-headedness, and fewer respondents viewed him as a strong person. Asked whether Trump ‘cares about the average American,’ voters’ views remain largely unchanged. In late November, 36 percent of respondents said Trump’s behavior since the election made them feel better about him, and only 14 percent said it made them feel worse. However, the most recent numbers reflect a different sentiment. Today, only 23 percent feel better about him, while 28 percent feel worse.”  [HuffPost, more from Quinnipiac and Pew

Click here for the full article.

Source; The Huffington Post

U.S. Needs To ‘Wage War’ To Block South China Sea Access, Chinese Tabloid Says


By Reuters

Blocking Chinese access to islands in the South China Sea would require the U.S. to “wage war”, an influential Chinese state-run tabloid said on Friday, after U.S. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson suggested the strategy on Wednesday.

Tillerson told his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he wanted to send a signal to China that their access to islands in the disputed South China Sea “is not going to be allowed”. He did not elaborate.

The United States would have to “wage a large-scale war” in the South China sea to prevent Chinese access to the islands, the Global Times said in an English language editorial.

The paper, which is known for writing strongly-worded, hawkish and nationalist editorials, is published by the ruling Communist Party’s flagship paper. It does not reflect Chinese policy.

“Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories,” the paper added. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Huffington Post

Veterans Exposed To Contaminated Water At Marine Base To Receive Disability Benefits

WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The Obama administration has agreed to provide disability benefits to military veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to an official notice published on Thursday.

Veterans, former reservists and former National Guard members who served for at least 30 days at the U.S. Marine Corps Base from 1953 to 1987 and have been diagnosed with one of eight diseases are eligible, according to the document published in the Federal Register, the government’s official journal.

Click here for the full article/video.

Source: The Huffington Post 

There’s A Black Lady Liberty On A U.S. Coin For The First Time Ever

By Zeba Blay 

The United States Mint just released an image of its latest commemorative collector’s coin ― and it features a black woman. 

On Thursday, the United States Mint and Treasury revealed the 2017 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin, commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint. The coin has a depiction of Lady Liberty like we’ve never seen her: a black woman with twists in her hair, wearing a crown of stars.

Some social media users on Twitter questioned why Lady Liberty, who has traditionally been depicted as a white woman, appears as a woman of color on the new coin. The U.S. Mint explained on Twitter that the coin is part of a series to reflect America’s diversity: 

Click here for summary. 

Source: The Huffington Post

President Obama: "Don't Underestimate" President-elect Trump

This video was published on YouTube on January 13, 2017. 

President Obama leaves office in one week. For his final network TV interview as commander-in-chief, Mr. Obama sat down with "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft and discussed the incoming administration and why he is not underestimating President-elect Donald Trump. 

You can watch the full interview Sunday, January 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. 

Federal Officials Brief Reporters on Inauguration Security Preparations

 Jeh Johnson

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Secret Service Deputy Director William Callahan, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa, and U.S. Park Police Deputy Chief Scott Fear brief reporters on preparations for the presidential inauguration.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

House Members Speak to Reporters After Closed-Door Intelligence Briefing

Members of Congress speak to reporters following a closed-door intelligence briefing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Briefs Reporters on Capitol Hill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefs reporters on Capitol Hill on a variety of topics, including today’s House vote on Affordable Care Act repeal legislation and whether there were ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

The Origins of Lynching Culture in the United States

This video was published on YouTube on April 7, 2015. 

How did the practice of lynching begin and evolve in American history? How did Ida B. Wells, a black female investigative journalist, start to challenge some of the entrenched practices of the South? Watch Paula Giddings, professor of Afro-American Studies at Smith College, explore one of the most challenging topics in U.S. history: the history and origins of lynching. 

'Flashback Friday': Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill

This video was uploaded to YouTube on June 29, 2010.
From the NewsHour's video vault, watch a 1991 report on the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas and the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused the judge of sexual harassment while working with him at the Department of Education. 

Source: PBS NewsHour

Trailblazers in Black History: Arthur Mitchell

Arthur Mitchell is an African-American dancer and choreographer who created a training school and the first African-American classical ballet company, Dance Theatre of Harlem

Among other awards, Mitchell has been recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, and has received the United States National Medal of Arts and a Fletcher Foundation fellowship.

In 1955 Mitchell made his debut as the second African American with the New York City Ballet (NYCB), performing in Western Symphony. Rising to the position of principal dancer with the company in 1956, he performed in all the major ballets in its repertoire, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Nutcracker, Bugaku, Agon, and Arcade.

Additional information is available here

Source: Wikipedia 

Thousands Mourn NYPD’s Steven McDonald, Who Forgave His Attacker

Thousands of mourners are saying goodbye to Steven McDonald, the New York City police detective who forgave the teenager who shot him 30 years ago, paralyzing McDonald from the neck down. McDonald went on to become a global pilgrim for peace and forgiveness. He died from a heart attack at age 59. 

Click here for video.

Source: TODAY

C-SPAN Online Feed Briefly Interrupted by Russian TV

C-SPAN is investigating how its online feed of the House of Representatives Thursday was interrupted by programming for the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT, a network that an intelligence report said collaborated with WikiLeaks in a propaganda effort to discredit the U.S.

C-SPAN said in a statement the problem was likely an internal routing issue, since RT is one of the networks that C-SPAN regularly monitors. "We don't believe that we were hacked," the channel said. 

Spokesman Howard Mortman said C-SPAN's website was replaced by RT for about 10 minutes. He said the network is "investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence."

The feed of the House floor cut to RT Thursday afternoon during the middle of a speech by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Waters told the New York Times she found the timing of the incident "strange."

"I just think it's strange," Waters said. "At a time when our intelligence agencies are very confident and basically have confirmed that Russia hacked the D.N.C. and other political interests, and then we have, while I'm on the floor of the House, talking about Trump and Russia, I get interfered with and interrupted by Russia Today." 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Christopher Steele, Trump Dossier Author, Is a Real-Life James Bond

The former British intelligence agent at the center of the maelstrom over a 35-page dossier about Donald Trump and the Russians is named Christopher Steele, but an ex-colleague refers to him by a more familiar moniker.

"He's James Bond," said Nigel West, the intelligence historian and spy-novel author. "I actually introduced him to my wife as James Bond."

Like the movie character, the 52-year-old Steele attended Cambridge University, where he was president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society. He was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service, Britain's counterpart to the CIA, better known as MI6, right out of university, West said. 

Click here for the full article.

Trump's Troll: Racist Internet Figure Aiding President-elects Transition Team

 Johnson, right, with racist Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer at the 2016 GOP convention.
(Source: Little Green Footballs)

By Hatewatch Staff

Notorious Internet troll Chuck Johnson, who was banned from Twitter for requesting donations to “take out” a Black Lives Matter activist and was once called “the most hated man on the internet,” is recommending candidates to serve in President-elect Trump's administration.

Johnson appeared Dec. 22 (go to 1:50:20) on Libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux’s online radio show in which he said, in addition to buying a house and “knocking up his wife,” that he had been “doing a lot of the vetting for the administration, and the Trump transition.” Forbes noted in a recent story that Johnson doesn’t have an official position, but is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including Peter Thiel.

Johnson has made a name for himself as a blogger and controversial online conservative personality trafficking in fake news and conspiracy theories. He is also known for his trolling, which includes publishing the home addresses of New York Times reporters he erroneously claimed released the name of the policeman who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson and the home address of a woman he claimed was the source of Rolling Stone’s now-retracted story about an alleged rape on the University of Virginia campus. Johnson posted a photo of the alleged victim, but the woman, with no relation to the case, threatened to sue Johnson.

Johnson also has numerous ties to the racist “Alt-Right” and has professed white supremacist views. 

Click here to read to full article. 

Source: The Southern Poverty Law Center

The Repubs., the Religious Right, and the Criminalization of Religious Belief


With a great flourish, the Dominionist Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, (while also clearly announcing, to his base in the Religious Right at least, his candidacy for the 2020 Republican Presidential nomination) introduced his “First Amendment Defense Act” into the new Congress, the 115th. His stated purpose is to protect the “freedom of religion” for persons who would like to prevent the Federal government (and presumably, eventually, State and local governments as well) from “retaliating against businesses or people who refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals.”  

Put differently, the bill states that “… the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person… with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman…” That is, his bill, (and a similar one was supported by the incoming Vice-President Mike Pence when he was Governor of Indiana) would allow any person to discriminate against any other persons based on their sexual orientation, identity, or concept of what “marriage” is.  Sen. Cruz makes it clear that the protected, allowable discrimination is one that is specifically based on the religious belief of the discriminator.

Sen. Cruz and allies use a First Amendment argument in support of their proposed legislation.  Indeed, the first clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. . .  Presumably, Cruz and his allies, like Senator Mike Lee of Utah, view having the unsanctionable ability to discriminate against persons based on who they are as people and/or certain of their actions and beliefs, that are neither criminal nor the subject of personal/civil intentional tort law, is a “right” that is indeed protected by the First Amendment.  I presume that they would argue not that the persons so protected would not be “establishing a religion” but would be simply “freely exercising” their own religious beliefs and, in many cases, those of the church to which they belong.

Well, let’s take a look at that argument (and I do not know if they would be making it or another related one, but if I agreed with them on this issue, it is surely the one I would be making).  First of all, what about the oft-quoted statement by Thomas Jefferson that the First Amendment establishes a “Wall of Separation between Church and State?”  Well actually, although that interpretation is highly common and has been often followed by the courts, when taken literally there is nothing in the clause that establishes that principle.  Indeed, the Religious Right often makes this argument.  (One contrast in Constitutional interpretation and history, implication vs. clear statement, is indeed the 2nd Amendment, which clearly begins with referring to a “well-regulated militia” as its subject.  But somehow, in Scalia-time, that first half of the sentence has been hived off and we are left with a “right” to totally unregulated gun ownership, including, I suppose, tanks and artillery.  But that is a matter for another time.)  And so, in opposing such Cruzist legislation (as I obviously do), I don’t use the “Wall of Separation” argument. 

Rather I use the “establishing of religion” argument.  For in the Cruz-Pence-Dominionist approach to this issue they clearly advocate that government should use its power to protect the right of certain kinds of believers — to discriminate in the use of public facilities, when such discrimination by, for example, “race” or national origin would clearly be prohibited — as against the rights of other kinds of believers and indeed, like myself, atheists. 

It is not as if members of the LGBTQ community are ciphers when it comes to belief.  Many members of these groups are quite religious and certainly share a belief in God with the Cruz/Pence/Lee wing of Christianity.  Their view of God, and what God sanctions and doesn’t, is just a different one, one indeed, for example, expressed these days by Pope Francis. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Greanville Post