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Author Topic: Obama: Corruption, Deception, Dishonesty, Deceit and Promises Broken  (Read 77655 times)
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« Reply #1750 on: February 22, 2013, 10:36:31 AM »

Citigroup’s Man Goes to the Treasury Department

By Jonathan Weil Feb 21, 2013 6:30 PM ET




Jack Lew is the nominee for Treasury secretary whose own bonus as an investment banker was bailed out by the Treasury Department when it rescued Citigroup Inc. (C) in 2008. He owes much to America’s taxpayers. He should also be grateful to Citigroup for agreeing to let him rejoin the government without suffering much for it financially.

An intriguing revelation from Lew’s Senate confirmation hearing last week was that he stood to be paid handsomely by Citigroup if he left the company for a top U.S. government job, under his 2006 employment agreement with the bank. The wording of the pay provisions made it seem, at least to me, as if Citigroup might have agreed to pay Lew some sort of a bounty to seek out, and be appointed to, such a position.


 .
Lew didn’t shed much light on the subject after Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, asked him about it at the hearing. “I’m not familiar with records that were kept, so I don’t have access to things that I don’t know about,” Lew said. It wasn’t clear which records (or even which question) Lew was referring to, and Hatch didn’t press the matter.

READ: Lew Employment Agreement With Citigroup, Excerpts (PDF)

So I did some digging. I wasn’t able to find someone who would show me an entire copy of Lew’s employment agreement with Citigroup. But I did get a look at the first three pages of it, as well as a related addendum from January 2008. Here goes.

Rubin Connection

Lew was director of the Office of Management and Budget during President Bill Clinton’s administration, after which he worked at New York University as an executive and a professor. He joined Citigroup in 2006 as chief operating officer of its global wealth-management division. Lew was recommended by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who at the time was chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee. (There seems to be an unwritten rule that every Treasury secretary must have deep ties to Rubin.) He became chief operating officer of the bank’s alternative-investments unit in January 2008.

Lew’s employment agreement with Citigroup said his “guaranteed incentive and retention award” wouldn’t be paid if he quit his job, with limited exceptions. One was if he left Citigroup “as a result of your acceptance of a full-time high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.” This applied if he left “prior to the payment of any incentive and retention award for performance year 2008 or thereafter.” Such an award wasn’t guaranteed but would be consistent with the company’s practice, the document said.

A similar provision concerned his stock-based compensation. If Lew left in 2008 or afterward to accept a high-level U.S. government position, all of his outstanding equity awards, including restricted stock, would vest immediately, the document said. Alternatively, Citigroup had the option of paying Lew the cash equivalent of any shares he forfeited upon leaving. The terms didn’t mention other kinds of public-service work, such as a midlevel U.S. government job, a position in municipal or state government, or working at a nonprofit organization such as a university.

Lew stood to receive $250,001 to $500,000 worth of accelerated restricted Citigroup stock when he left the company, according to a disclosure report he filed in January 2009. The same document listed $1.1 million of “salary and discretionary cash comp” from Citigroup. Lew said at last week’s hearing that his salary for 2008 was $350,000.

Lew was named a deputy secretary of State in 2009, Office of Management and Budget director again in 2010, and then became President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in 2012. Now he’s up for Treasury secretary, where he would play a critical role in overseeing the U.S.’s financial industry and rescuing it should another crisis ensue. Citigroup couldn’t have planned this better if it tried, which raises the natural question: Did it try?

Government Work

When I asked Citigroup what its rationale was for including the government-service exception, a spokeswoman, Danielle Romero-Apsilos, said: “Citi routinely accommodates individuals who wish to leave the firm to pursue a position in government or nonprofit sector.” I pointed out that the contract terms I was asking about didn’t mention anything about a nonprofit, but she declined to elaborate on her statement.

Later I asked Romero-Apsilos if Citigroup had a policy of providing financial incentives to senior executives to encourage them to seek high-level federal jobs. She replied: “We have no such incentives, then or now.” I’m not sure I agree with her after reading the part about government service in Lew’s “incentive and retention award.” A Treasury Department spokeswoman, Natalie Earnest, declined to comment.

It makes sense that Lew would have been thinking ahead to his next career move when he joined Citigroup in 2006. It’s also understandable that Citigroup sought to discourage Lew from joining a competitor. Why no mention of other kinds of public service, say a city hall job or returning to teaching? Why reward him for landing only a high-level U.S. government post, but not jobs such as those, which also are of high social importance?

We don’t know the whole story, except that Lew’s agreement clearly attached unique value to the possibility that he might get a top U.S. government position someday. Should that be of concern to the public? It ought to be.

(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Weil in New York at jweil6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this article: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net
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« Reply #1751 on: February 25, 2013, 09:58:58 AM »

Citi Offered Jack Lew A Big Bonus To Secure A 'High-Level' Government Position
 


Matthew Boesler|Feb. 25, 2013, 9:51 AM|1,308|10
 
It's not uncommon for a U.S. Treasury Secretary to have served on Wall Street, but what's interesting about this next one is that his bank gave him a pretty significant financial incentive make the leap.
 
The Senate Finance Committee will vote Tuesday on President Obama's nomination of White House Chief of Staff and former Citi executive Jack Lew for the top job at the U.S. Treasury.
 
Lew left Citi in 2009 to become the Deputy Secretary of State.
 
At Lew's recent confirmation hearing for Treasury Secretary, an interesting detail about his employment contract with Citi emerged: a bonus meant to keep him at Citi – meaning he wouldn't get it if he quit – would still be granted on the condition that he left the bank for a "high level" position in the federal government.
 
Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil, who tracked down a copy of Lew's employment agreement, put it bluntly, writing, "The wording of the pay provisions made it seem, at least to me, as if Citigroup might have agreed to pay Lew some sort of a bounty to seek out, and be appointed to, such a position."
 
At the hearing, Senator Orrin Hatch asked Lew, "Now is this exception consistent with President Obama’s efforts to 'close the revolving door' that carries special interest influence in and out of the government?"
 
Lew basically brushed the Hatch off without answering the question directly.
 
Weil, after seeing a few pages of the contract – which he has made available online – wrote in his column:
 
Lew was named a deputy secretary of State in 2009, Office of Management and Budget director again in 2010, and then became President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in 2012. Now he’s up for Treasury secretary, where he would play a critical role in overseeing the U.S.’s financial industry and rescuing it should another crisis ensue. Citigroup couldn’t have planned this better if it tried, which raises the natural question: Did it try?
 
For its part, the bank told Weil, "Citi routinely accommodates individuals who wish to leave the firm to pursue a position in government or nonprofit sector."
 
Needless to say, this isn't the type of thing that inspires confidence in the Wall Street-Washington D.C. nexus.


Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/citis-government-job-bonus-for-jack-lew-2013-2#ixzz2LvmiJp00

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« Reply #1752 on: February 25, 2013, 03:12:07 PM »

Obama's Former Press Secretary Was Told Not To Talk About The Drone Program
 
Jeff Poor, The Daily Caller|36 minutes ago|0|




 On Sunday’s “Up w/Chris Hayes” on MSNBC, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs revealed the Obama White House’s early public-relations strategy on the drone program:  avoid it if at all possible.
 
Gibbs told show host Chris Hayes that although President Barack Obama has been more forthcoming about the program recently, during his vetting to be the spokesman for the Obama administration, he was told not to acknowledge it at all.
 
“I think you’ve seen recently the president discuss the need and desire to be more forthcoming,” Gibbs said. “I certainly think there are aspects of that program that are and will remain highly sensitive and very secret, but let me give you an example here, Chris.
 
"When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was you’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.
 
"And so I would get a question like that, and literally I couldn’t tell you what Major [Garrett] asks, because once I figured out it was about the drone program I realized I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
 
Gibbs said he was in a difficult spot, because the secretive policy risked undermining public confidence in government.
 
“But here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition: You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that’s secret,” Gibbs continued. “… Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I think in many ways, and I think what the president has seen — and I have not talked to him about this, I want to be careful.
 
"This is my opinion. But I think what the president has seen is [that] our denial of the existence of the program, when it’s obviously happening,undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”
 
According to Gibbs, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart elicited the clearest answer yet from the president on the drone program.
 
“I will say ironically the time in which the president probably talked most about the drone program, interestingly enough, was in an interview on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart,” Gibbs added. “Jon Stewart asked a good question, and gave the president the space to give an answer.”
 

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/24/fmr-obama-press-secretary-robert-gibbs-i-was-told-not-even-to-acknowledge-the-drone-program-exists-video/#ixzz2Lx3VznC6

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« Reply #1753 on: February 25, 2013, 03:54:43 PM »


http://freebeacon.com/chuck-todd-on-ofa-fundraising-this-just-looks-bad


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ngyckoSYu0" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ngyckoSYu0</a>


MSNBC’s Chuck Todd criticized Monday the new fundraising efforts of President Obama’s dark money group, Organizing for Action, calling a scheme for high donors to meet regularly with Obama “the definition of selling access.”
 
Todd was describing the quarterly meetings that will be enjoyed by OFA’s $500,000 donors, the New York Times reported over the weekend:
 

But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement.
 
Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.
 
“This just looks bad–it looks like the White House is selling access,” Todd said Monday. “It’s the definition of selling access. If you believe money has a strangle hold over the entire political system this is ceding the moral high ground.”
 
The perk was first reported by the Los Angeles Times earlier in February after a meeting between OFA leadership and top Los Angeles and Bay Area fundraisers for Obama’s reelection campaign.
 
OFA is a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) and therefore not required to disclose the identities of its donors, nor the amounts they give. In addition to major campaign donors, the organization’s leadership has been courting corporate donors.
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« Reply #1754 on: February 25, 2013, 07:10:09 PM »


GOP lawmaker: Obama using fake Twitter messages in fight over gun control

 By Pete Kasperowicz - 02/25/13 12:18 PM ET





A Texas Republican on Monday said President Obama's gun control campaign is a fraud based on fake messages over Twitter.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) accused Obama of trying to make support for his position look stronger than it really is by flooding Twitter with messages from people who don't exist.

 "Obama's anti-gun campaign is a fraud," Stockman said. "Obama's supporters are panicking and willing to do anything to create the appearance of popular support, even if it means trying to defraud Congress," he added. "I call upon the president to denounce this phony spam campaign."

Stockman said that in response to Obama's call for people to tweet their congressman in support of gun control legislation, he received just 16 tweets. But he said all of these messages were identical, and that a closer look at them revealed that only six were from real people.

"The other 10 are fake, computer-generated spambots," his office said in a press release. As evidence, he said these 10 tweets use default graphics and names, and have not engaged in any interaction with other people. Two of the tweets were sent at nearly the same time, and both follow just one person: Brad Schenck, Obama's former digital strategist.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
Stockman also added that only one of the six tweets from real people is a constituent of his in Texas.

"If you are a real person who contacted us about your support for the president's anti-gun campaign, we are listening," Stockman said. "We do not agree with you, but we appreciate your sincere opinions and encourage you to continue to contact us.

"But the vast majority of the president's supporters have no feelings because they fake profiles from spammers."

Stockman said Obama's anti-gun activists "are trying to defraud Congress using the same scam that sells 'male enhancement pills.'"
 
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« Reply #1755 on: February 26, 2013, 04:05:33 AM »

DOJ to Federal Judge: We Can Force Your Wife to Violate Her Religion
CNSNews ^ | February 25, 2013 | Terence P. Jeffrey
Posted on February 25, 2013 7:08:31 PM EST by jazusamo

(CNSNews.com) - While presenting an oral argument in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last fall, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that the Obama administration believed it could force the judge’s own wife—a physician—to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice.

The assertion came in the case of Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, a challenge to the Obama administration’s regulation requiring health-care plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Tyndale is a for-profit corporation that publishes Bibles, biblical commentaries and other religious works. Tyndale House Foundation, a religious non-profit organization, owns 96.5 percent of the corporation’s stock and receives 96.5 percent of its profits. The foundation’s mission is “to minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through grants to other religious charities.”

As a matter of religious principle, the foundation believes that human life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong.

The corporation self-insures, providing its employees with a generous health-care plan. But, in keeping with its religious faith, it does not in any way provide abortions. For this reason, Tyndale sued the Obama administration, arguing that the Obamacare regulation that would force it to provide abortion-inducing drugs and IUDs in its health-care plan violated its right to the free-exercise of religion.

“Consistent with the religious beliefs of Tyndale and its owners, Tyndale’s self-insured plan does not and has never covered abortions or abortifacient drugs or devices such as emergency contraception and intrauterine devices,” Tyndale said in its legal complaint, prepared by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

When Tyndale sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the administration from enforcing the regulation on the company before the federal courts could determine the issue on its merits, Benjamin Berwick, a lawyer for the Civil Division of the Justice Department presented the administration's argument for why Tyndale should be forced to act against the religious faith of its owners. The oral argument over the preliminary injunction occurred Nov. 9 in Judge Walton’s court.

Berwick argued here--as the administration has argued in other cases where private businesses are challenging the sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate--that once people form a corporation to conduct business they lose their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion insofar as their business is concerned.

In the face of this argument, Judge Walton asked an interesting question. His wife, a graduate of Georgetown Medical School, is a physician. She has incorporated her medical practice. Does that mean, according to the Obama administration’s argument, that the federal government can force her to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice?

Berwick effectively answered: Yes.

Here, from the official court transcript, is the verbatim exchange between this Obama administration lawyer and Judge Walton:

Benjamin Berwick: “Well, your honor, I think, I think there are two distinct ideas here: One is: Is the corporation itself religious such that it can exercise religion? And my, our argument is that it is not. Although again, we admit that it is a closer case than for a lot of other companies. And then the second question is, can the owners--is it a substantial burden on the owners when the requirement falls on the company that is a separate legal entity? I think for that question precisely what their beliefs are doesn't really matter. I mean, they allege that they're religious beliefs are being violated. We don't question that. And we don't question that that is the belief.

Judge Reggie Walton: But considering the closeness of the relationship that the individual owners have to the corporation to require them to fund what they believe amounts to the taking of a life, I don't know what could be more contrary to one's religious belief than that.

Berwick: Well, I don't think the fact this is a closely-held corporation is particularly relevant, your honor. I mean, Mars, for example--

Judge Walton: Well, I mean, my wife has a medical practice. She has a corporation, but she's the sole owner and sole stock owner. If she had strongly-held religious belief and she made that known that she operated her medical practice from that perspective, could she be required to pay for these types of items if she felt that that was causing her to violate her religious beliefs?

Berwick: Well, Your Honor, I think what it comes down to is whether there is a legal separation between the company and—

Judge Walton: It's a legal separation. I mean, she obviously has created the corporation to limit her potential individual liability, but she's the sole owner and everybody associates that medical practice with her as an individual. And if, you know, she was very active in her church and her church had these same type of strong religious-held beliefs, and members of the church and the community became aware of the fact that she is funding something that is totally contrary to what she professes as her belief, why should she have to do that?

Berwick: Well, your honor, again, I think it comes down to the fact that the corporation and the owner truly are separate. They are separate legal entities.

Judge Walton: So, she'd have to give up the limitation that conceivably would befall on her regarding liability in order to exercise her religion? So, she'd have to go as an individual proprietor with no corporation protection in order to assert her religious right? Isn't that as significant burden?

In a series of interviews conducted in 2007 by the Historical Society of the District of Columbia, Judge Walton reported that his wife was a doctor of medicine who had attended Georgetown Medical School.
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« Reply #1756 on: February 26, 2013, 05:32:30 AM »

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/02/25/obama_removes_press_to_take_questions_from_governors.html


LMFAO!!!!!  Change you can believe in! 
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« Reply #1757 on: February 26, 2013, 12:18:48 PM »

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/26/dhs-to-release-thousands-illegal-immigrants-blaming-budget-cuts

Isnt this nice - instead of cutting the fat - O-Traitor is releasing thousands of illegals on to the streets in his little meltdown. 
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« Reply #1758 on: February 26, 2013, 12:19:56 PM »

The Department of Homeland Security has started releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants held in local jails in anticipation of automatic budget cuts, in a move one Arizona sheriff called politically motivated -- and dangerous.
 
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement released more than 500 detainees in his county alone over the weekend. A spokesman for Babeu told FoxNews.com that ICE officials have said they plan to release a total of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants.
 
Babeu described the move as a "mass budget pardon" and suggested the administration was going to unnecessary lengths to demonstrate the impact of the so-called sequester.
 
"President Obama would never release 500 criminal illegals to the streets of his hometown, yet he has no problem with releasing them in Arizona. The safety of the public is threatened and the rule of law discarded as a political tactic in this sequester battle," he said.
 
An ICE official confirmed the plans without specifying how many illegal immigrants might be released.   
 
Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said ICE had directed field offices to make sure the "detained population" is "in line with available funding." She stressed that ICE would continue to prosecute the cases while keeping them under supervision.
 
"Over the last week, ICE has reviewed several hundred cases and placed these individuals on methods of supervision less costly than detention," she said. "All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety."
 
The announcement comes after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday warned about the potential impact of the cuts. She said the department "would not be able to maintain the 34,000 detention beds as required by Congress."
 
"We're doing our very best to minimize the impacts of sequester. But there's only so much I can do," she said. "I'm supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration. How do I pay for those?"
 
Republicans in Congress, though, have challenged the numerous Obama Cabinet secretaries warning about the devastating impact to their departments. With cuts set to take effect Friday and no deal in sight to avert them, Republicans claim the administration is trying to make the cuts seem worse than they are -- some want to give the administration more leeway so that high-priority agencies don't get hit as hard.
 
In Arizona, Babeu slammed the move, painting his community as a victim of gridlock in Washington.
 
"Clearly, serious criminals are being released to the streets of our local communities by this mass budget pardon. These are illegals that even President Obama wants to deport. This is insane that public safety is sacrificed when it should be the budget priority that's safeguarded," he said.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/26/dhs-to-release-thousands-illegal-immigrants-blaming-budget-cuts/#ixzz2M2ClUwaN

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« Reply #1759 on: February 26, 2013, 03:06:01 PM »

OUTRAGE: DHS Releases 'Thousands' of Illegal Aliens from Prison - Citing 'Budget Cuts'
 Stand With Arizona ^ | 02-26-2013 | John Hill

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 4:37:41 PM


"Big Sis" betrayed her fellow Arizonans - and all Americans - today by releasing criminal aliens into communities from coast-to-coast

by John Hill
Stand With Arizona



Despite potential budget cuts being 4 days away and Congress and the Administration have been negotiating to avoid them, the Department of Homeland Security has already started releasing hundreds of illegal aliens held in local jails in anticipation of automatic "sequestration" cuts - out of a planned total of more than 10,000 aliens to be released.

Sources tell Stand With Arizona that DHS has "34,000 beds" for illegal aliens, meaning that Secretary Janet Napolitano is releasing nearly 1/3 of all DHS-detained illegal aliens in the United States - despite the fact that no actual cuts have even begun, and despite a record of massive wasteful spending by DHS over the past 3 years.

Napolitano had been warning of potential impact to DHS after impending cuts, but now she has jumped the gun by enacting a "budgetary amnesty" by fiat - releasing thousands of criminal aliens amongst communities and families across the nation.

The New York Times reports that the aliens are being "freed on supervised release while their cases continue in court". But as SWA has reported in the past, many aliens facing deportation or prosecution on immigration holds never show up for those hearings, and remain in the country.

One Arizona Sheriff called the DHS action politically motivated -- and dangerous.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement released more than 500 detainees in his county alone over the weekend. ICE officials told Babeu that they plan to release a total of nearly 10,000 illegal aliens.

Babeu described the move as a "mass budget pardon" and suggested the administration was going to unnecessary lengths to demonstrate the impact of the so-called sequester.

"President Obama would never release 500 criminal illegals to the streets of his hometown, yet he has no problem with releasing them in Arizona. The safety of the public is threatened and the rule of law discarded as a political tactic in this sequester battle," he said.
 An ICE official confirmed the plans without specifying how many illegal aliens might be released.
Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said ICE had directed field offices to make sure the "detained population" is "in line with available funding." She stressed that ICE would continue to prosecute the cases while keeping them "under supervision".

The announcement comes after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday warned about the potential impact of the cuts. She said the department "would not be able to maintain the detention beds as required by Congress."

"We're doing our very best to minimize the impacts of sequester. But there's only so much I can do," she said. "I'm supposed to have (thousands of) detention beds for immigration. How do I pay for those?"

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., called the move to release illegal immigrants "abhorrent."

"By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives," he said in a statement.

In Arizona, Babeu slammed the move, painting his community as a victim of gridlock in Washington.

"Clearly, serious criminals are being released to the streets of our local communities by this mass budget pardon. This is insane that public safety is sacrificed when it should be the budget priority that's safeguarded," he said.

As Arizona, and other states brace for the impact of this disgraceful and lawless action, we call on Sheriffs across America to defy this corrupt DHS Secretary, and detain as many illegal aliens as possible. We know that Sheriff Joe and his deputies are on high alert today as these alien criminals are being set loose in our communities.

Just when you think the shameful pandering and legal anarchy of this Administration can't get any worse, it does...in spades.





PLEASE TAKE THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS IMMEDIATELY:



.



(1) Call Your Representative Now: * Find your elected officials HERE DEMAND Your Reps publically reprimand Napolitano for releasing criminal aliens - puttin the public at risk and making a mockery of the rule of law - before any budget cuts have even gone through.



.



(2) Contact Reps. By E-Mail message: * Direct contact your House Rep. HERE



.



(3) By Social Media: Go to SWA's Facebook Page and urge your friends to "LIKE" it. (Or if you use Twitter, share our Twitter Page and use the hashtag "#noamnesty" in your tweet). AND "Like" or "Share" this article everywhere as well.



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« Reply #1760 on: March 04, 2013, 12:25:38 PM »

There is no "set price" to meet with President Obama, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday amid continued outcry over the role of Organizing for Action, the outside group supporting the president's agenda.
 
"Any notion that there is a set price for a meeting with the president of the United States is just wrong," Carney said during his daily briefing.
 
Since OFA is intended to back the president's agenda, it makes sense that Obama would meet with the group, Carney said. "As anyone would expect, the president would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda."
 
"But, again, any notion that there's a price for meeting with the president is simply wrong," he added.
 
Carney's comments followed critical weekend editorials from The New York Times and The Washington Post. Major donors will get spots on an advisory board that will have regular meetings with the president, "behavior that has become all too common in this town and carries more than a whiff of influence-peddling," the Post editorial board said.
 
The Times was more blunt, writing that a spot on the advisory board "is nothing more than a fancy way of setting a price for access to Mr. Obama."
 
Decrying hypocricy from a president once critical of the role of big money in politics, watchdog Common Cause last week called on Obama to ask OFA's leaders to shut down the group. Carney signaled that Obama would be doing no such thing, saying its existence is "perfectly appropriate."

http://www.politico.com/politico44/2013/03/wh-no-set-price-for-meeting-with-obama-158389.html#disqus_thread

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« Reply #1761 on: March 04, 2013, 02:52:51 PM »

Organizing For Action, Obama Outside Group, Raises Pay-For-Access Questions


By KEN THOMAS and JOSH LEDERMAN 03/04/13 08:38 AM ET EST



WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama learned in his first term that he couldn't change Washington from the inside, saying in the heat of his re-election race: "You can only change it from the outside." Months later, his former White House aides and campaign advisers are embracing Obama's words as a call to action.

Obama veterans are building a wide network of deep-pocketed groups and consulting firms independent of government, the Democratic Party and traditional liberal groups, a sweeping – if not unprecedented – effort outside the White House gates aimed at promoting the president's agenda and shaping his legacy.

From campaign strategists to online gurus and policy hands to press agents, Obama loyalists – including many who discovered that a second term yields fewer administration job vacancies – are slicing his agenda into smaller parts and launching highly targeted efforts on subjects including health care, job creation and electoral politics.

The lynchpin of the effort is Organizing for Action, a nonprofit run by former Obama advisers that has essentially transformed his re-election campaign into a grassroots machine to support his initiatives. In its early stages, the group is raising millions from big and small donors alike and whipping up support for issues like gun control and an immigration overhaul.

Known by its initials, OFA is chaired by Jim Messina, a former White House aide who ran Obama's 2012 campaign, and several former Obama aides sit on its board. David Plouffe, who until February served as Obama's senior adviser, is expected to join the board soon.

OFA's close ties to the West Wing and its control over the former campaign's resources has raised questions about where the nonprofit group ends and the White House starts. The group controls Obama's massive email list and also his campaign Twitter handle, which has more than 27 million followers and frequently tweets links to his government website.

As a tax-exempt entity, OFA by law can't intervene in elections and is subject to strict limits on lobbying. The group accepts unlimited donations from individuals and corporations but plans to release the names of its donors. The corporate funding is a shift: many of the same operatives involved with OFA were once loud critics, along with Obama, of big money- and corporate-fueled entities that emerged after a series of court rulings, especially the Citizens United case, loosened restrictions on money and politics.

The arrangement has also opened the White House to criticism that contributors, in exchange for supporting the groups, could receive special access to Obama that the public is denied. White House press secretary Jay Carney fielded repeated questions last week over whether bundlers who raised $500,000 or more for OFA were promised quarterly meetings with the president – a claim that OFA disputed.

"They have created literally a cottage industry solely devoted to access and making money off the access," said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.




As advocacy groups, OFA and the smaller organizations can coordinate with the White House on messaging and tactics. Carney said the administration interacts with a variety of such groups, adding that administration officials may appear at OFA events but won't be raising money.

An OFA "founders' summit" for donors on March 13 at a Washington hotel will include addresses by Messina, Plouffe and others, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press. The next day will include briefings on immigration, gun control and climate change, with former Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson expected to attend.

But when OFA asks supporters to cut a check, it will be competing with a growing list of pro-Obama factions making appeals to a limited pool of Democratic donors.

Business Forward, a 3-year-old trade group that has facilitated meetings between businesses and Obama officials, is ramping up operation as a liberal counterweight to the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Business Forward is funded by corporate money that was banished from Obama's campaign coffers in 2008 and 2012.

More than 50 corporate members pay $25,000 or $50,000 a year to be involved in briefings between Obama administration officials and business leaders, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Its members include AT&T and Microsoft, which donated to Obama's inaugural committee, and Citi, Comcast and Facebook, whose executives served on Obama's jobs council.

"The goal is to bring new people into the process and help them tell Washington how to create jobs and accelerate our economic recovery," said Jim Doyle, Business Forward's president.

On health care, former White House official Anne Filipic recently took control of a nonprofit called Enroll America, which plans a massive push to get people to sign up for insurance under Obama's health care law, a key part of his legacy. The group is preparing for the opening of new insurance exchanges in October with on-the-ground organizing, online efforts and paid advertising.

Another team of Obama campaign aides, including field director Jeremy Bird and battleground state director Mitch Stewart, have formed a consulting firm called 270 Strategies that aims to bring grassroots organizing to political and industry clients. One early project, dubbed Battleground Texas, has set a long-term goal to make GOP-heavy Texas competitive for Democrats.

Although there's no one group formally coordinating the efforts, outside organizations allied with Obama hold regular check-in meetings and conference calls. Representatives compare notes about strategy, priorities and budgets.

"Many of us have spent at this point six years or longer together," said Teddy Goff, Obama's 2012 digital director, who is not affiliated with the fledgling bodies. "I have no doubt that people are talking to their old friends and making sure they're efficient as possible."

And while the various groups supporting Obama's agenda operate independently, the overlap in tactics, messaging and staff is tough to miss. For example, Blue State Digital, a firm founded by the campaign's digital strategist, Joe Rospars, is providing the same technology platform the campaign used to both OFA and Battleground Texas.

The blurring of the lines between outside groups, the campaign and the White House has rubbed some the wrong way. Critics say it's a sign that Obama has reversed course since rebuking the role of money in politics during his first campaign and at the start of his presidency.

"Organizing for Action is unlike any entity we have ever seen before tied to a president," said Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance reform advocate with Democracy 21, a Washington nonprofit. "This group is so tied to Obama himself, that it creates opportunities for corporations and individuals to buy corrupting influence with the administration – and at a minimum, to create the appearance of such influence."

___

Follow Ken Thomas at: and Josh Lederman at:

Links:

http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
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« Reply #1762 on: March 04, 2013, 08:51:55 PM »


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/9908260/Barack-Obama-a-dithering-controlling-risk-averse-US-president.html



The insider-account of the damaging divisions between the White House and the State Department comes as diplomats around the world wait to see if John Kerry, the new US secretary of state, can persuade Mr Obama to greater engagement on Syria, Egypt and the wider Middle East.

Vali Nasr, a university professor who was seconded in 2009 to work with Richard Holbrooke, Mr Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, records his profound disillusion at how a "Berlin Wall" of domestic-focused advisers was erected to protect Mr Obama.

"The president had a truly disturbing habit of funnelling major foreign policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers whose turf was strictly politics," Mr Nasr writes in The Dispensable Nation: America Foreign policy in Retreat.

The book sets out in detail how Mr Holbrooke, appointed with great fanfare in 2009, was systematically cut out of decision making as both he and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, tried to argue the merits of engaging with the Taliban and the dangers caused by the overuse of drones.



"The White House seemed to see an actual benefit in not doing too much," Prof Nasr writes, "The goal was to spare the president the risks that necessarily come with playing the leadership role that America claims to play in this region."

Admiral Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until September 2011, is quoted lamenting how little support Mrs Clinton received from the White House, even though she remained on good personal terms with Mr Obama.

"They want to control everything," Admiral Mullen is quoted as saying of a White House that Prof Nasr says was "ravenous" in its desire to manage foreign policy, even by the to-be-expected standards of turf wars between diplomatic and national security teams.

As Mr Kerry prepares to return home from his first trip abroad in his new role, Western diplomats in Washington say they are watching carefully to see whether he will be able to put meat on the bones of his promise yesterday to "empower" Syrian rebels in their fight against the Assad regime.

 John Kerry and Moaz Al Khatib in Rome on Friday (AFP)

Last week Mr Kerry pledged $60m in new support, including medical kits and food aid, which will go direct to rebel fighters for the first time, but still falls far short of British and French ambitions to provide more military materials such as flak jackets and night-vision goggles.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is expected to announce a British aid package this week and has done little to hide his impatience on the issue.

Diplomatic sources in Washington say that Mr Kerry had been "left under no illusion" by his European allies of the desire for greater action, but that it was still very far from clear if the White House was serious about stepping up aid. Rebel groups remain openly sceptical.

Analysts looking for signs that Mr Obama might be prepared to be more engaged on foreign policy in his second term found little to suggest a change of heart in his Second Inaugural speech and last month's State of the Union address.

"American foreign policy has been on a four-year autopilot, which I argue has been excessively risk averse and domestically focused. I don't see any clear decision yet to change that," said Mr Nasr in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

"I wrote this book to problematise the way Obama has approached this whole region, and that it is dangerous to disengage and confuse a low-level foreign policy with success in foreign policy," he concluded.

"My hope is that Kerry will be able to do more, but it is still early. He's definitely trying to create more US engagement, but there has to be a fundamental, strategic decision in the White House to reorientate our approach."
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« Reply #1763 on: March 11, 2013, 07:41:07 AM »

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jm-S7k4UqY" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jm-S7k4UqY</a>
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« Reply #1764 on: March 11, 2013, 08:13:15 AM »

US citing security to censor more public records
 
Mar 11, 9:51 AM (ET)

By JACK GILLUM and TED BRIDIS



 
(AP) This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo shows Cryptome co-founder John Young in New York. "I'm a fierce...
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WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. government, led by the Pentagon and CIA, censored or withheld for reasons of national security the files that the public requested last year under the Freedom of Information Act more often than at any time since President Barack Obama took office, according to a new analysis by The Associated Press.

Overall, the Obama administration last year answered its highest number of requests so far for copies of government documents, emails, photographs and more, and it slightly reduced its backlog of requests from previous years. But it more often cited legal provisions allowing the government to keep records or parts of its records secret, especially a rule intended to protect national security.

The AP's analysis showed the government released all or portions of the information that citizens, journalists, businesses and others sought at about the same rate as the previous three years. It turned over all or parts of the records in about 65 percent of requests. It fully rejected more than one-third of requests, a slight increase over 2011, including cases when it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper.

The government's responsiveness under the FOIA is widely viewed as a barometer of the federal offices' transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas.

 
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The AP's review comes at the start of the second term for Obama, who promised during his first week in office that the nation's signature open-records law would be "administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails." The review examined figures from the largest federal departments and agencies. Sunday was the start of Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement that during the past year, the government "processed more requests, decreased the backlog, improved average processing times and disclosed more information pro-actively." Schultz said the improvements "represent the efforts of agencies across the government to meet the president's commitment to openness. While there is more work to be done, this past year demonstrates that agencies are responding to the president's call for greater transparency."

The administration cited exceptions built into the law to avoid turning over materials more than 479,000 times, a roughly 22 percent increase over the previous year. In many cases, more than one of the law's exceptions was cited in each request for information.

In a year of intense public interest over deadly U.S. drones, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, terror threats and more, the government cited national security to withhold information at least 5,223 times - a jump over 4,243 such cases in 2011 and 3,805 cases in Obama's first year in office. The secretive CIA last year became even more secretive: Nearly 60 percent of 3,586 requests for files were withheld or censored for that reason last year, compared with 49 percent a year earlier.

Other federal agencies that invoked the national security exception included the Pentagon, Director of National Intelligence, NASA, Office of Management and Budget, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Communications Commission and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.

 
(AP) This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo shows Cryptome co-founder John Young in New York. The website,...
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U.S. courts are loath to overrule the administration whenever it cites national security. A federal judge, Colleen McMahon of New York, in January ruled against The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to see records about the government's legal justification for drone attacks and other methods it has used to kill terrorism suspects overseas, including American citizens. She cited an "Alice in Wonderland" predicament in which she was expected to determine what information should be revealed but unable to challenge the government's secrecy claim. Part of her ruling was sealed and made available only to the government's lawyers.

"I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules - a veritable Catch-22," the judge wrote. "I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret."

The AP could not determine whether the administration was abusing the national security exemption or whether the public was asking for more documents about sensitive subjects. Nearly half the Pentagon's 2,390 denials last year under that clause came from its National Security Agency, which monitors Internet traffic and phone calls worldwide.

"FOIA is an imperfect law, and I don't think that's changed over the last four years since Obama took office," said Alexander Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney for its national security project. "We've seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government's interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority. In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration."

The Obama administration also more frequently invoked the law's "deliberative process" exception to withhold records describing decision-making behind the scenes. Obama had directed agencies to use it less often, but the number of such cases had surged after his first year in office to more than 71,000. After back-to-back years when figures steadily declined, as agencies followed the president's instructions, the government cited that reason 66,353 times last year to keep records or parts of records secret.

Even as the Obama administration continued increasing its efforts answering FOIA requests, people submitted more than 590,000 requests for information in fiscal 2012 - an increase of less than 1 percent over the previous year. Including leftover requests from previous years, the government responded to more requests than ever in 2012 - more than 603,000 - a 5 percent increase for the second consecutive year.

The Homeland Security Department, which includes offices that deal with immigration files, received more than twice as many requests for records - 190,589 new requests last year - as any other agency, and it answered significantly more requests than it did in 2011. Other agencies, including the State Department, National Transportation Safety Board and Nuclear Regulatory Commission performed worse last year. The State Department, for example, answered only 57 percent of its requests, down from 75 percent a year earlier.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services drove a dramatic increase in the number of times DHS censored immigration records under exceptions to police files containing personal information and law enforcement techniques. The agency invoked those exemptions more than 136,000 times in 2012, compared with more than 75,000 a year earlier. Even though USCIS is not a law-enforcement agency, officials used the exceptions specifically reserved for law enforcement.

Under the law, a citizen can ask the government to reconsider its decision to censor or withhold materials. In the roughly 11,000 such instances last year where that happened, the government prevailed just under half the time. In about 3,400 cases the government turned over at least some additional information. These administrative appeals took about five months each.

The only recourse after such an appeal is an expensive lawsuit or to ask the government's FOIA mediator, the Office of Government Information Services, to intervene.

The AP's analysis also found that the government generally took longer to answer requests. Some agencies, such as the Health and Human Services Department, took less time than the previous year to turn over files. But at the State Department, for example, even urgent requests submitted under a fast-track system covering breaking news or events when a person's life was at stake took an average two years to wait for files.

Journalists and others who need information quickly to report breaking news, for example, fared worse last year. The rate at which the government granted so-called expedited processing, which moves an urgent request to the front of the line for a speedy answer, fell from 24 percent in 2011 to 17 percent last year. The CIA denied every such request last year.

Under increased budget pressure across the government, agencies more often insisted that people pay search and copying fees. It waived costs in 59 percent of requests, generally when the amount was negligible or the release of the information is in the public interest, a decline from 64 percent of cases a year earlier. At the Treasury Department, which faced questions about its role in auto bailouts and stimulus programs during Obama's first term, only one in five requests were processed at no charge. A year earlier, it granted more than 75 percent of fee waivers. The CIA denied every request last year to waive fees.

The 33 agencies that AP examined were: Agency for International Development, CIA, Agriculture Department, Commerce Department, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Defense Department, Education Department, Energy Department, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Interior Department, Justice Department, Labor Department, State Department, Transportation Department, Treasury Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Election Commission, Federal Trade Commission, NASA, National Science Foundation, National Transportation Safety Board, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Securities and Exchange Commission, Small Business Administration, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Postal Service.

Four agencies that were included in AP's previous analysis of FOIA performance did not publicly release their 2012 reports. They included the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Personnel Management.


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« Reply #1765 on: March 11, 2013, 08:16:35 AM »

I saw that yesterday Biden was again blaming the GOP for the economy. These fucking Democrats refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. 2006 = LONG TIME AGO. Will these cowards ever man up?

Get off it...ive seen 3333 come on here and spout his threories on how Obama is to blame over the gas prices (anyone with any remote background laughs at the notion of a US president controlling oil markets) all the way to twinkie closing down. Never have i seen you come at him when you yourself know this shit to be false. Admit it, youre a partisan hack troll that sees the Republican party as an entity for good and democrats as satan. Or as Coach would say "Satin"

When blame is properly and accuratley placed, we'll move on.. but as long as the "one up" game continues... well this is what you get

"oh oh look at this DEMOCRAT sex scandal"...Really bro? you sound like a 14 year old school girl.
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« Reply #1766 on: March 11, 2013, 10:25:27 AM »

what a great day for cut/paste!
no ambulances to chase?
slow day at the office?
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« Reply #1767 on: March 11, 2013, 10:26:12 AM »

what a great day for cut/paste!
no ambulances to chase?
slow day at the office?

great day as any for exposing the criminal chooming crackhead in the WH!   
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« Reply #1768 on: March 11, 2013, 03:54:06 PM »

great day as any for exposing the criminal chooming crackhead in the WH!   
sorry you'll have a bad rest of the day.
i'm spending some of my capital gains today.
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« Reply #1769 on: March 11, 2013, 03:56:10 PM »

sorry you'll have a bad rest of the day.
i'm spending some of my capital gains today.

I'm sure the trucker at the rest stop will appreciate it. 
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« Reply #1770 on: March 12, 2013, 11:02:03 AM »

Obama's Budget Abdication Breaks 92 Year Tradition
 Bretibart ^ | 3/12/13 | Mike Flynn

Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 2:00:34 PM by Nachum

Barack Obama certainly enjoys the trappings and perks of the Office of President. The actual job of being President, however, doesn't seem to interest him. His desire to avoid being tied to any specifics of any proposal have caused him to do what no modern President has done. He is the first President since 1921 to abdicate the task of drafting a federal budget to Congress.

Congress established the modern budget process in 1921. Under the terms of the law, the President is required to submit a budget for the federal government no later than the first Monday in February. Obama has only met this statutory deadline once during his Presidency, a record worse than any modern President. Obama has missed the deadline 4 times. Prior to him, all the Presidents back to 1921 together missed the deadline twice.

Pentagon officials recently advised the House Armed Services Committee that the President's budget wouldn't be delivered until April 8th, a 9 week delay that trumps any previous delay. Worse, though, the long delay means that Congress will initiate its own debate on the budget, without input from the Executive Branch.

On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled the House GOP budget proposal. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats will unveil their first budget proposal in 4 years. By the time Obama gets around to submitted his mandated proposal, Congress will have had almost a month to deliberate on its proposals.

As we've seen throughout his tenure, Obama prefers lofty rhetoric over the day-to-day give-and-take required to enact legislation. He spoke in general, focus-tested, words about ObamaCare, the stimulus, financial services regulation and a host of other issues, while leaving the gritty, horse-trading work to Congress.


(Excerpt) Read more at breitbart.com ...
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« Reply #1771 on: March 13, 2013, 09:24:47 PM »

Greenberg: Obama Administration Threatened AIG Over Bailout Lawsuit
Breitbart ^ | 3/13/13 | Joel B. Pollak
Posted on March 14, 2013 12:03:36 AM EDT by Nachum

Former American International Group (AIG) CEO Hank Greenberg accused the Obama administration Wednesday of threatening the company not to join a class action lawsuit that he has brought against the federal government over the terms of the 2008 AIG bailout. Minutes of an AIG Board of Directors' meeting in January 2013 appear to support Greenberg's claim.

Frances Bivens, the lawyer who represents the U.S. Treasury in the case, warned AIG's board that if it joined the lawsuit, the company could face "another wave of congressional investigations" and public embarrassment.

Greenberg, who had left AIG by the time of the 2008 financial crisis but remained an AIG shareholder, has consistently argued against the federal bailout. He brought the lawsuit on behalf of shareholders who were shortchanged when the government forced AIG to accept what he argues were unfavorable terms.

This week, a federal judge certified two classes of investors in the lawsuit, ruling that the case potentially involved "tens of thousands" of investors--including unions, pension funds, and individual investors. The suit seeks $50 billion in damages from the U.S. government, to be paid to AIG's shareholders at the time.

On Wednesday evening, Greenberg appeared on Neil Cavuto's show on the Fox Business Network to discuss the threats. He reminded Cavuto that "many people lost their life savings, including pension funds, including many AIG employees who worked for thirty-five, forty years to build the value of the company."

(Excerpt) Read more at breitbart.com ...
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« Reply #1772 on: March 14, 2013, 12:41:54 PM »

Obama Administration Plans to Cut Medicare Advantage Reimbursements

March 14, 2013

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-administration-plans-cut-medicare-advantage-reimbursements



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



By Matt Cover

 


In this June 19, 2012 photo, Dr. Bruce Stowell examines patient Robert Busch at his office in Grants Pass, Ore. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
 
(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration is planning new cuts to Medicare, a federal regulatory filing reveals, cuts that could mean higher premiums or seniors losing their coverage altogether.
 
The new cuts come in the form of a planned reduction in the reimbursement rates the government pays to insurance companies that operate Medicare Advantage plans, which are services administered by private for-profit or non-profit providers that offer additional services than can be found in traditional Medicare.
 
In a Feb. 15 regulatory filing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the surprised rate cuts of 2.3 percent – meaning it would pay health care providers 2.3 percent less for providing services to patients.
 
CMS said it was cutting payments because it foresaw the overall costs of the Medicare Advantage program shrinking by 3.2 percent, despite the fact that health care costs – the driver of all federal health care program costs – are only rising.
 
Medicare Advantage is like traditional Medicare except that its plans are administered by insurance companies, who are paid a per-enrollee reimbursement fee by the government. If insurance companies can provide care to seniors at less than what the government pays them for it, they make a profit.
 
Medicare Advantage provides coverage for approximately 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, offering them higher-quality services and additional benefits, such as vision and dental care, than the traditional government program at slightly higher cost.
 
The Obama administration already plans to cut the Medicare Advantage program by $200 billion as part of Obamacare. However, the proposed reductions it announced in February are new, and will cut the program in addition to the planned $200 billion in Obamacare cuts, most of which are delayed in 2014.
 
The new cuts are also scheduled to go into effect in 2014, but as a function of the normal rate-setting process for that year, not a political effort to delay financial pain for seniors past an important election, as apparently was the case with the original Medicare cuts that Obama signed.
 
In its regulatory announcement, the CMS said it was assuming that reimbursement payments in traditional, government-run Medicare will be cut, and cited that as justification for cutting Medicare Advantage.
 
However, while those cuts to traditional Medicare have been set into law for more than a decade, Congress has never allowed them to happen, instituting what is known as the Doc Fix every year, to keep reimbursement payments the same.
 
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote to the CMS urging them to consider political reality and reverse their planned Medicare Advantage cuts.
 
“This assumption is highly problematic because – even though it almost certainly will turn out to be wrong – it translates into lower funding to support the health benefits of the 14 million Medicare beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in MA [Medicare Advantage] plans,” Rubio wrote on March 8.
 
In other words, if the Obama administration continues with its proposed new Medicare cuts, some or all of the 14 million seniors who get health care through the MA program could be negatively affected, that is, paying higher premiums or possibly losing coverage.
 
This is because the proposed cut could make the program unprofitable for insurers, who would be forced to either stop offering MA plans or pass the increased costs on to seniors in the form of higher premiums.
 
One health insurance provider told its shareholders that the proposed rate cuts could mean the end of Medicare Advantage all together.
 
“There are going to be some markets that at these rates, if they go the way they’re going, it’s going to be very hard for Medicare Advantage to survive,” Universal American Corp CEO Richard Barasch said in a February 19 conference call with shareholders, the industry publication Health Plan Week reported.
 
“I think it’s going to be sort of a market-by-market, company-by-company exercise,” Barasch said.
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« Reply #1773 on: March 15, 2013, 09:10:56 AM »



Obama Will Use Nixon-Era Law to Fight Climate Change

 By Mark Drajem - Mar 15, 2013 11:50 AM ET.
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Similar analyses could be made for the oil sands that would be transported in TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, and leases to drill for oil, gas and coal on federal lands, such as those for Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp.
 
President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.

The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.

“It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.

In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.

“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Illinois Speech

The president is scheduled to deliver a speech on energy today at the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. He is pressing Congress to create a $2 billion clean-energy research fund with fees paid by oil and gas producers.

While some U.S. agencies already take climate change into account when assessing projects, the new guidelines would apply across-the-board to all federal reviews. Industry lobbyists say they worry that projects could be tied up in lawsuits or administrative delays.

For example, Ambre Energy Ltd. is seeking a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to build a coal-export facility at the Port of Morrow in Oregon. Under existing rules, officials weighing approval would consider whether ships in the port would foul the water or generate air pollution locally. The Environmental Protection Agency and activist groups say that review should be broadened to account for the greenhouse gases emitted when exported coal is burned in power plants in Asia.

Keystone Pipeline

Similar analyses could be made for the oil sands that would be transported in TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline, and leases to drill for oil, gas and coal on federal lands, such as those for Arch Coal Inc. (ACI) and Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU)

If the new White House guidance is structured correctly, it will require just those kinds of lifecycle reviews, said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity in Washington. The environmental group has sued to press for this approach, and Snape says lawsuits along this line are certain if the administration approves the Keystone pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“The real danger is the delays,” said Eisenberg of the manufacturers’ group. “I don’t think the answer is ever going to be ‘no,’ but it can confound things.”

Lawyers and lobbyists are now waiting for the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to issue the long bottled-up standards for how agencies should address climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970.

Environmental Impact

NEPA requires federal agencies to consider and publish the environmental impact of their actions before making decisions. Those reviews don’t mandate a specific course of action. They do provide a chance for citizens and environmentalists to weigh in before regulators decide on an action -- and to challenge those reviews in court if it’s cleared.

“Each agency currently differs in how their NEPA reviews consider the climate change impacts of projects, as well as how climate change impacts such as extreme weather will affect projects,” Taryn Tuss, a Council on Environmental Quality spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “CEQ is working to incorporate the public input we received on the draft guidance, and will release updated guidance when it is completed.”

‘Major Shakeup’

The new standards will be “a major shakeup in how agencies conduct NEPA” reviews, said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco.

The White House is looking at requiring consideration of both the increase in greenhouse gases and a project’s vulnerability to flooding, drought or other extreme weather that might result from global warming, according to an initial proposal it issued in 2010. Those full reports would be required for projects with 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions or more per year, the equivalent of burning about 100 rail cars of coal.

The initial draft exempted federal land and resource decisions from the guidance, although CEQ said it was assessing how to handle those cases. Federal lands could be included in the final standards.

The White House guidance itself won’t force any projects to be stopped outright. Instead, it’s likely to prompt lawsuits against federal projects on these grounds, and increase the probability that courts will step in and order extensive reviews as part of the “adequate analysis” required in the law, said George Mannina, an attorney at Nossaman LLP in Washington.

Next Administration

“The question is: Where does this analysis take us?” he said. “Adequate analysis may be much broader than the agency and applicant might consider.”

While the Obama administration’s guidance could be easily rescinded by the next administration, the court rulings that stem from these cases will live on as precedents, Mannina said.

Lobbying groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association weighed in with the White House against including climate in NEPA, a law initially aimed at chemical leaks or air pollution.

“Not only will this result in additional delay of the NEPA process, but will result in speculative and inaccurate modeling that will have direct impacts on approval of specific projects,” the National Mining Association in Washington wrote in comments to the White House in 2010.

Leases Challenged

The group represents Arch Coal (ACI) and Peabody, both based in St. Louis. Leases that the Department of Interior issued for those companies to mine for coal in Wyoming are facing lawsuits from environmental groups, arguing that the agency didn’t adequately tally up the effect on global warming from burning that coal.

Given Obama’s pledge to address global warming, “this is a massive contradiction,” said Jeremy Nichols, director of climate at WildEarth Guardians in Denver, which filed lawsuits against the leases.

Arch Coal referred questions to the mining group.

Beth Sutton, a Peabody spokeswoman, said in an e-mail, “We believe the current regulatory approach to surface mine permits is appropriate and protects the environment.”

Since CEQ first announced its proposal, more than three dozen federal approvals were challenged on climate grounds, including a highway project in North Carolina, a methane-venting plan for a coal mine in Colorado, and a research facility in California, according to a chart compiled by the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

Next Target

The next target is TransCanada (TRP)’s application to build the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) Keystone pipeline. The Sierra Club and 350.org drew 35,000 people to Washington last month to urge Obama to reject the pipeline. Meanwhile, the NEPA review by the State Department included an initial analysis of carbon released when the tar sands are refined into gasoline and used in vehicles.

It stopped short, however, of saying the project would result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. With or without the pipeline, the oil sands will be mined and used as fuel, the report said. That finding is likely to be disputed in court if the Obama administration clears the project.

“Keystone is ground zero,” said Snape, of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Clearly this will come into play, and it will be litigated.”

Any actions by the administration now on global warming would pick up on a mixed record over the past four years.

Cap-and-Trade

While Obama failed to get Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, the EPA reversed course from the previous administration and ruled that carbon-dioxide emissions endanger public health, opening the way for the agency to regulate it.

Using that finding, the agency raised mileage standards for automobiles and proposed rules for new power plants that would essentially outlaw the construction of new coal-fired power plants that don’t have expensive carbon-capture technology.

Environmentalists such as the Natural Resources Defense Council say the most important action next will be the EPA’s rules for existing power plants, the single biggest source of carbon-dioxide emissions. The NEPA standards are separate from those rules, and will affect how the federal government itself is furthering global warming.

“Agencies do a pretty poor job of looking at climate change impacts,” Rebecca Judd, a legislative counsel at the environmental legal group Earthjustice in Washington. “A thorough guidance would help alleviate that.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net
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« Reply #1774 on: March 17, 2013, 05:53:07 PM »

“Well then, if the president does it, it’s legal,” Richard Nixon once said. No one would accuse President Barack Obama of being Nixonian. Mr Obama tends to follow the law, would never approve of burgling the opposition and bears no vengeful traits. Yet he has done more than anyone to bury the campaign reforms that were brought in after Watergate. The latest step may be something Mr Obama will come to regret.
Last week he spoke at a fundraising dinner in Washington. The low-key event was the founders’ summit of Organizing for Action – the 2012 Obama election campaign that has been reborn as the de facto fund-raising arm of the White House. The dinner, which included Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, did not appear on most of the evening news shows.
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Yet it marks the moment that America’s permanent campaign was institutionalised. Tickets went for $50,000 a head. Those giving $500,000 or more will get to attend a quarterly meeting with Mr Obama. Not even George W. Bush was this audacious. To govern is to choose, went the saying. Now to campaign is to govern.
In Mr Obama’s defence, Democrats point out that he is doing far less than what corporate groups have done – and are planning to do – to defeat his agenda. Since the 2010 Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court extended free speech rights to corporations by defining them as persons, liberals have worried about a tsunami of special interest money.
So-called “super-pacs” are likely to spend millions in the coming months to defeat Mr Obama’s gun control proposals, any steps to curb global warming and even immigration reform (though most of America’s billionaires tend to be in favour of it). They will also hit the airwaves in opposition to any plan to close tax loopholes for the wealthy. It is only natural that Mr Obama would want to create a level playing field, say OFA’s apologists. In the real world, that takes money.
Unlike Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s former electoral maestro, who runs Crossroads GPS, another “non-partisan” group, Mr Obama also promises a degree of transparency. Following an outcry by Washington’s bedraggled army of campaign finance reform groups, OFA now says it will disclose the names of anyone giving more than $250. It has also banned corporate donations. Moreover, there is scant prospect of an end to Mr Obama’s stand-off with Republicans before next year’s midterm elections. Mr Obama can give as many prime time speeches – and invite Republicans to as many dinners – as he likes. But the White House bully pulpit is not what it was. Putting pressure on lawmakers requires a far wieldier tool.
All of which may look compelling at this point. But OFA’s defenders also underestimate its costs. The first is the lasting damage to Mr Obama’s credibility. The journey from idealist to insider is now complete. Mr Obama started out as an underdog in 2007 railing against the “cynics and special interests who have turned our government into a game”. Many succumbed to Obamamania because of his promise to tear up the Washington playbook.
The young senator pledged to forswear private money in the general election if his opponent did likewise. John McCain, the Republican nominee, accepted the offer. But by then conditions had changed. Mr Obama went on to outspend his opponent by more than two to one. Thus died the post-Nixon era of public financing. In spite of Mr Obama’s promise to replace it, the new has yet to be born.
Not even Mr Obama’s opponents expect him to use OFA as a crude “pay for play” in which donors win lucrative contracts – like Halliburton, the oil services group, did during the Bush years. But he is taking a big risk with appearances of conflict. Things will look worse if Mr Obama appoints Penny Pritzker, his former campaign finance chairwoman, as the next US commerce secretary – as is likely. Ms Pritzker is a billionaire whose immense Rolodex helped raise $750m for Mr Obama in 2008.
Second, Mr Obama now routinely deploys the kind of sophistry he built his brand on opposing. Headed by Jim Messina, who ran the 2012 campaign, it has been set up as a “social welfare” organisation that will be strictly “non-partisan” and unable to co-ordinate with the White House, say officials. In practice, it is registered as a charity to escape ceilings on individual campaign donations.
If a hedge fund manager wanted to give $10m there would be nothing to stop it. “As I understand it, as I’ve read about it, it [OFA] will not take a position in elections,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, recently told reporters. Mr Carney could have checked with Michelle Obama, who made a video to accompany its launch in January. The group would be a way of “bringing ordinary people into politics”, she said.
But OFA’s biggest cost is still hidden. It sets a new threshold for elected US officials. If the president can raise unlimited private funds for his “social welfare” causes so can any governor or mayor, let alone the next president. Mr Obama’s ends may be laudable. It is hard to condemn any initiative that aims to counter the might of the gun lobby. However, the means are for keeps. Democrats will find it hard to complain when President Marco Rubio taps, say, defence industry money for his own charitable causes in 2016. “Yes he can,” will be the response.
edward.luce@ft.com

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