Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gabby Giffords at Senate Gun Control Hearing


In a powerful and poignant moment, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords opened the Senate Hearing on Gun Control with a simple but powerful message. Accompanied by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, the pair made passionate pleas for the government to do something to stem gun violence. Giffords was shot through the head by Jared Loughner and suffered brain damage.

Giffords' Actual Notes for Today's Hearing


Later Giffords' husband Mark Kelly had this reply to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who believes background checks aren't necessary
The Tuscon shooter was an admitted drug user. He was rejected from the U.S. Army because of his drug use. He was clearly mentally ill. And when he purchased that gun in November, his plan was to assassinate my wife and commit mass murder at that Safeway in Tucson. He was a criminal. Because of his drug use, and because of what he was planning on doing. But because of these gaps in the mental health system, in this case, those 121,000 records, I admit did not include a record on him. But it could have.

And if it did, he would have failed that background check. he would have likely gone to a gun show, or a private seller, and avoided that background check. But if we close that gun show loophole, if we require private sellers to complete a background check, and we get those 121,000 records and others into the systems, we will prevent gun crime. That is an absolute truth. It would have happened in Tucson. My wife would not have been sitting here today if we had stronger background checks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

John Kerry Confirmed as Secretary of State


John Kerry was confirmed by the Senate today as Secretary of State to replace the outgoing Hillary Clinton.

From Talking Points Memo
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as the nation's next secretary of state on Tuesday.
The vote was 94 to 3. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jim Inhofe (R-OH) voted against confirmation. Kerry himself voted present.
From the Boston Globe
Kerry’s departure to become secretary of state, after a quarter-­century in office, paves the way for Governor Deval ­Patrick to announce an interim senator Wednesday. Patrick has suggested he will choose a woman or a person of color to reflect the changing face of politics in Massachusetts.

Top contenders are said by political insiders to include his former chief of staff, William “Mo” Cowan, and Victoria ­Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy’s widow.

Politically connected Democrats do not believe that Barney Frank, former US representative, who has openly urged Patrick to appoint him, will get the interim Senate job. Patrick and his political advisers have bristled at Frank’s public pursuit of the job.

. . . The governor said he plans to schedule the special election to fill Kerry’s Senate seat on June 25, with a primary on April 30. Secretary of State ­William F. Galvin said he will make nomination papers available as quickly as possible this week. Candidates have four weeks to gather 10,000 certified voter signatures for their names to appear on their party’s primary ballot.

Obama on Immigrants ~ They are Us


Full Text of the President's Speech Here

From ThinkProgress:
On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled a comprehensive plan for immigration reform based on four tenets: continuing to strengthen border security, cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers, creating pathways to earned citizenship, and streamlining legal immigration.

Speaking in Nevada, Obama said that the bi-partisan enthusiasm in the Senate is “very encouraging,” and offered a plan that closely resembles the framework outlined by a bipartisan group of eight senators. ”So at this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon,” Obama said. “The ideas I’m proposing have traditionally been supported by both Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Republicans like President George W. Bush.”

. . . McCain offered the following statement in response to Obama’s speech: “I appreciate the President’s support for our bipartisan effort on comprehensive immigration reform. While there are some differences in our approaches to this issue, we share the belief that any reform must recognize America as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. We should all agree that border security and enforcement is particularly important in order to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the 1986 immigration reform.”


Barack and Hillary on 60 Minutes


The President and perhaps the next President were interviewed on CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday night. Great stuff, and it's just nice to see them on friendly terms going into the future. It can only help them both.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, January 25, 2013

Military Women in Combat


The United States Military has lifted restrictions for women in combat positions:

USA Today
The new order, signed Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will open as many as 237,000 new jobs to women. Women comprise about 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel.

Military officials who briefed reporters on background said occupations such as infantry and artillery have exacting physical requirements and appropriate standards will be maintained. The officials declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The military has different physical standards based on age and sex for the Army and Marines. In either service, the standards for both sexes would be the same for those trying to get into the infantry and other combat arms specialties.

"The department's goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender," Panetta said.

I struggled with this title for this post because "Military Women Now Permitted in Combat" or "Military Women Finally Allowed in Combat" would mislead the reader into thinking that these women have led sheltered lives up till now. Women have always been in the thick of the battle as medics, pilots, technicians, military policewomen - you name it. And when battle lines change in distant lands, bombs and firefights are their reality, as well as their male counterparts. So it's not accurate to say "Now, Suddenly, Women are in Combat" as if something is new and unusual.

The only "new" feature is that women will now receive combat pay equal to men, and they will be considered for promotions and honors based on their very real combat experience.

Goldie Taylor, MSNBC pundit who served in the military, explained it well on last night's Ed Show:
You know, women have been serving in our armed forces and in
military operations around the world for decades. The fact is we`re doing
the job. We`re helicopter pilots. We`re Marine Corps, you know, military
police officers. We`re military intelligence officers.

We just don`t get formally recognized for it. And we certainly don`t
get paid for it. There`s a differential pay for someone who is formally
recognized as being a part of infantry. That is a boost in pay and
benefits that women don`t have access to. Certainly, if you serve on the
front line, you have greater access to leadership positions. That
opportunity is cut off for women who, again, not formally recognized.

I don`t know how much recognition you need than to look at someone
like Tammy Duckworth who comes home missing her legs, or someone like a
Shoshana Johnson, who was a POW, or someone like a Jessica Lynch, who was shot in the heels of her feet. So I don`t know how much more formal
recognition you need that women are doing the job today.

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SCHULTZ: Women have to volunteer for combat duty and face the same
physical standards that men do. Is that an issue or not an issue at all?

TAYLOR: You know, I went through boot camp back in 1987. My former
husband attempted to go through boot camp that very same year. He did not
graduate from boot camp and was returned home not a Marine. I, on the
other hand, did complete boot camp and did rise to the challenge. I do
believe that the standards for infantry should be high. They should not be

But if a woman can meet the physical and mental challenges of serving
on the front line, then she darn well ought to be able to serve on the
front line, be recognized, be promoted, and be paid for it.

Hillary Rocked Both Houses of Congress


I was so glad to see Hillary Clinton so fiesty with Congress after her recent illness. Of course the Tea Party didn't cut her any slack - she was grilled mercilessly by Congressmen and Senators over the Benghazi incident. Chris Matthews compared her to Gulliver among the Lilliputians, a giant among the little people, in Jonathan Swift's famous novel. Their questions were really ad hominem attacks used to boost their own pitiful careers with an ever-diminishing GOP. The Good Old Boys belched out Fox News talking points that bore little resemblance to reality. "Read the report," Hillary kept saying to them, because it was obvious they hadn't read anything, and were playing "gotcha" more than trying to get to the bottom of the murders of four government officials.

Poseurs like John McCain were especially egregious. He has been using Benghazi since before the election to help himself to another committee chairmanship (Harry Reid nixed that idea) and to wring out more air-time on Sunday morning talk shows. He pretended that Benghazi is somehow different from every other overseas attack, as if this time we should have known from the first moment everything that happened and why. McCain, who has more top secret security clearance than almost anyone, surely knows better. His performance was disingenuous faux-outrage. By contrast Hillary appeared dignified and full of common sense.

The joke of the day was when Senator Rand Paul said if he had been President, he would have fired Hillary for not reading every telegram from Benghazi. President? Delusions of grandeur much? Not to mention the fact that if George W. Bush had read all his telegrams and reports from, say, FBI agents here in the United States, then 911 need not have happened either. Right, Senator Paul? 3000 people died in that attack, plus thousands more over the course of two wars longer than any our military has ever engaged. But please, Senator Paul, proceed with your delusional life. We all know Hillary is much more likely to be President someday, not you.

More Quotes and Tweets from her Day on the Hill:
Snark Amendment: Hillary Kicks Butt on Benghazi

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Unexpected Moment ~ Obama Pauses to Reflect on the Crowd


From Talking Points Memo
Departing the West Front of the U.S. Capitol after delivering his second inaugural address on Monday, President Obama wanted to take one last glance of the hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to celebrate his second term. After all, it would be his last.
"I want to take a look one more time," Obama said, lingering for a few short moments to savor the view as the crowd shuffled past him. "I'll never see this again."

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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Inaugural Poem by Richard Blanco


Poet Richard Blanco, son of a Cuban Exile from Miami, FL, made history today by becoming both the first Hispanic and openly gay man to read at a Presidential Inauguration.

"One Today"

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

Music of the Inauguration


Marine Corps Band "Liberty Fanfare"

Lee University Choir from Cleveland, TN

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

James Taylor:

Kelly Clarkson:


Obama Begins his Second Term in Office


Inauguration Schedule

Source: NBC News via Instagram

It's a picture-perfect winter's day in Washington D.C. for the start of Obama's second term! I'm thrilled that the weather reflects the beauty of the reelection of a great President, the celebration of Martin Luther King's Legacy, and the fact that the people got the man they truly wanted in the White House. Politics doesn't get any better than this. A great day for our country.

Via Huffington Post

Former presidents, House of Representatives members, senators, governors and Cabinet designees begin to arrive at the U.S. Capitol for the public, ceremonial inauguration of President Obama and Vice President Biden.

9:30 a.m.

Fifth-grade chorus from Public School 22 in Staten Island, New York performs

10 a.m.

U.S. Marine Band performs

11:14 a.m.

First lady Michelle Obama takes her seat

11:18 a.m.

Vice President Joe Biden takes his seat

11:20 a.m.

President Barack Obama takes his seat

11:35 a.m.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, gives the invocation

11:38 a.m.

The Brooklyn (New York) Tabernacle Choir sings "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

11:46 a.m.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administers the vice presidential oath of office to Vice President Biden

11:50 a.m.

Singer James Taylor performs "America the Beautiful"

11:55 a.m.

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts administers the presidential oath of office to President Obama
11:56 a.m.

Trumpets perform "Ruffles and Flourishes" and the U.S. Marine Band performs "Hail to the Chief," followed by a 21-gun salute

12 p.m.

Obama delivers the inaugural address

12:21 p.m.

Singer Kelly Clarkson performs "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)"

12:26 p.m.

Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco reads a poem

12:30 p.m.

Benediction is delivered by the Rev. Luis Leon

12:34 p.m.

Singer Beyonce sings the national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"

12:39 p.m.

President Obama signs official documents. The Obamas then attend the inauguration luncheon at the Capitol with the Bidens

2:32 p.m.

Review of the troops

2:36 p.m.

The Obamas and Bidens begin the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House
6 p.m.

Commander-in-chief's inaugural ball at the Washington Convention Center with military personnel and their spouses. The Obamas and Bidens are scheduled to attend.

6:30 p.m.

Official Inaugural Ball, at the Washington Convention Center. The Obamas and Bidens are scheduled to attend.



National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral attended by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden

CNN Inauguration Fun


Funny Moments from President Obama's First Term:

Who Aged Best in the White House?

Also From CNN ~ 100 Years of Inagurations in 2 Minutes:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Obama and Biden Sworn In


The official day for swearing in the President fell on the Sunday before the public swearing-in on Monday, so both President Obama and VP Joe Biden took their oaths more privately today as their terms came to an end. Biden was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina judge to do so. Obama had Chief Justice John Roberts, and unlike last time, Roberts didn't garble the Oath of Office. Justice Roberts will have to stay cool about it tomorrow, too, so "one more time."

Through the magic of video, we could still be there. Enjoy. :)

Inauguration Fever


President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will both be sworn in during official but private ceremonies today, Sunday January 20, 2013. Tomorrow, Monday January 21 will be the public Inauguration with parades, speeches, music, poetry, and gala events such as parties into the night.

We also have the Monday holiday to honor Reverend Martin Luther King, which makes it nice for everyone because the whole family can watch the Inauguration at home together. At least that's what we'll be doing at my house.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama's Historic Plan for Gun Control


On Monday, Joe Biden promised us 19 Executive Orders on Guns.

Today President Obama surprised us by signing 23 of them on stage after his press conference surrounded by children who had written letters to him after the Newtown/Sandy Hook Massacre. He said the actions will take place immediately, plus told Congress he expects them to work on several more pieces of legislation such as an all-out ban on assault rifles.

He stressed responsibility, but also the fact that the children and parents of Newtown, Aurora, and other communities have a Constitutional Right not to live in fear of future attacks. So the 2nd Amendment rights of NRA members do not come before the safety of children. Obama stood up for Newtown, and for all of us, against a group that would rather see him dead and he knows it.

This is ground-breaking and earth shaking, and GOP heads are exploding right now.

I am so proud of my President and Vice President! Bravo!

Transcript Here on Washington Post

Details of Gun Control Proposals from the White House

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Joe Biden ~ 19 Executive Proposals About Guns


Vice President Joe Biden has given his gun committee recommendations to President Obama.

Reports say there are suggestions for at least 19 Executive Actions Obama could take as early as tomorrow.

From Politico
The executive actions could include giving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authority to conduct national research on guns, more aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws and pushing for wider sharing of existing gun databases among federal and state agencies, members of Congress in the meeting said.

. . . Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said the magazine ban and universal background checks would be far more effective than an assault weapons ban without the political cost.

“Probably the most recognizable thing you can say in this debate is ban assault weapons,” Thompson said. “But the other two issues” — forbidding high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring universal background checks for gun purchases — “those two things have more impact on making our neighborhoods safe than everything else combined. Anytime you try and prohibit what kind of gun people has it generates some concern.”

Biden has gotten input from many groups including the National Rifle Association (who is "disappointed" and sees no point in restricting anything), Hunters and Sportsment, Mental Health Officials, representatives of the Film and Video Gaming Industries, and Multi-Faith Groups.

Biden also spoke to the parents of children killed in the Newtown tragedy.

From CNN
Beau Biden, attorney general of Delaware, said on CNN's "The Situation Room." "He was on the phone with many of the survivors of the tragedy in Connecticut."
"I was in and out of the room when he was on some of these calls," he continued. "I would, you know, go to the door and go away when I knew he was on the phone with these moms and dads," Biden said. "So he's listened to everyone that has a stake in this and is doing his best to come up with a comprehensive strategy."

Law Links ~ The Tragic Case of Aaron Swartz


In July 2011, Swartz, who acknowledged battling depression, was charged in US District Court in Boston with hacking into the archive system JSTOR on MIT’s network during 2010 and downloading more than 4 million articles, some of which were only available for purchase.
Authorities said Swartz planned to distribute the information free on file-sharing websites. At the time, he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.
Swartz pleaded not guilty Sept. 24.
Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment Friday, according to the statement and the New York Medical ­Examiner’s Office.

Family Statement
. . . Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
12 Jan 2013

From Boston Globe
Andy Good, Swartz’s initial lawyer, is ­alternately sad and furious.
“The thing that galls me is that I told Heymann the kid was a suicide risk,” Good told me. “His reaction was a standard reaction in that office, not unique to Steve. He said, ‘Fine, we’ll lock him up.’ I’m not saying they made Aaron kill himself. Aaron might have done this anyway. I’m saying they were aware of the risk, and they were heedless.”

. . . Marty Weinberg, who took the case over from Good, said he nearly negotiated a plea bargain in which Swartz would not serve any time. He said JSTOR signed off on it, but MIT would not.
“There were subsets of the MIT community who were profoundly in support of Aaron,” Weinberg said. That support did not override institutional interests.

Elliot Peters, the San Francisco lawyer who took the case over from Weinberg last fall, could not persuade prosecutors to drop their demand that Swartz plead guilty to 13 felonies and spend six months in prison. Peters was preparing to go to trial and was confident of prevailing.
But the prospects weighed heavily on Swartz.

“There was such rigidity with the people we were dealing with,” Peters said. “I couldn’t find anyone in that office to talk about proportionality and humanity. It was driven by a desire to turn this into a significant case, so that some prosecutor could put it in his portfolio.”

From Democracy Now Interview with Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, a friend and mentor of Aaron Swartz

Yeah, he was dedicating his life to building a world, a nation at least, but a world that was as idealistic as he was. And he was impatient with us, and he was disappointed with us, with all of us, as we moved through this fight. And he—as he grew impatient, he called on people to do more. And it is incredibly hard for all of us who were close to him to accept the recognition that maybe if we had done more, maybe if we had done more, this wouldn’t have seemed so bleak to him, maybe if we had stopped this prosecution.
I received an email from JSTOR four days before Aaron died, from the president of JSTOR, announcing, celebrating that JSTOR was going to release all of these journal articles to anybody around the world who wanted access—exactly what Aaron was fighting for. And I didn’t have time to send it to Aaron; I was on—I was traveling. But I looked forward to seeing him again—I had just seen him the week before—and celebrating that this is what had happened. So, all of us think there are a thousand things we could have done, a thousand things we could have done, and we have to do, because Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal. He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives.

AMY GOODMAN: We spend today’s broadcast remembering the life and work of cyber activist, computer programmer, social justice activist and writer, Aaron Swartz. At the age of 14, he co-developed the Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, web protocol, the key component of much of the web’s entire publishing infrastructure. By the time he was 19, he had co-founded a company that would merge with Reddit, now one of the world’s most popular sites. He also helped develop the architecture for the Creative Commons licensing system and built the online architecture for the Open Library. Aaron Swartz committed suicide on Friday. He hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment. He was 26 years old.
His death occurred just weeks before he was to go on trial for using computers at MIT—that’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—to download millions of copyrighted academic articles from JSTOR, a subscription database of scholarly papers. JSTOR declined to press charges, but prosecutors moved the case forward. Aaron Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and a million dollars in fines for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. When the case first came to light, the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, said, quote, "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars."
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what the case against Aaron was? Explain what happened.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, I have to be very careful, because when Aaron was arrested, he came to me, and I—there was a period of time where I acted as his lawyer. So, I know more about the case than I’m able to talk about.

But here’s what was alleged. Aaron was stopped as he left MIT. He had a computer in his possession, which there was tape that indicated that he had connected the computer to a server—to a closet in MIT, and the allegation was he had downloaded a significant portion of JSTOR. Now, JSTOR is a nonprofit website that has been for—since about 1996, has been trying to build an archive of online—giving online access to academic journal articles, you know, like the Harvard Law Review or journal articles from geography from the 1900s. It’s an extraordinary library of information. And the claim was Aaron had downloaded a significant portion of that. And the question, the obvious question that was in everybody’s mind, was: Why? What was he doing this for? And so, the Cambridge police arrested Aaron.

JSTOR said, "We don’t want to prosecute. We don’t want to civilly prosecute. We don’t want you to criminally prosecute." But MIT was not as clear. And the federal government—remember, at the time, there was the Bradley Manning and the WikiLeaks issue going on. The federal government thought it was really important to make—make an example. And so, they brought this incredibly ridiculous prosecution that had multiple—you know, I think it was something like more than—more than a dozen counts claiming felony violations against Aaron, threatening, you know, scores of years in prison. But, you know, it’s not the theoretical claims about what he might have gotten; it was the practical burden that for the last two years, you know, his wealth was bled dry as he had to negotiate to try to finally settle this matter, because the government was not going to stop before he admitted that he was a felon, which I think, you know, in a world where the architects of the financial crisis dine regularly at the White House, it’s ridiculous to think Aaron Swartz was a felon.


. . . LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, Aaron was depressed. He was rationally depressed. You know, he was losing everything, because his government was overreaching in the most ridiculous way to persecute him, not just because of this, but because of what he had done before, liberating government documents that were supposed to be in the public domain. Of course he was depressed. He wasn’t depressed because he had no loving parents—he did have loving parents who did everything they could for him—or because he didn’t have loving friends. Every time you saw Aaron, he was surrounded by five or 10 different people who loved and respected and worked with him. He was depressed because he was increasingly recognizing that the idealism he brought to this fight maybe wasn’t enough. When he saw all of his wealth gone, and he recognized his parents were going to have to mortgage their house so he could afford a lawyer to fight a government that treated him as if he were a 9/11 terrorist, as if what he was doing was threatening the infrastructure of the United States, when he saw that and he recognized how—how incredibly difficult that fight was going to be, of course he was depressed.

Now, you know, I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t know whether there was something wrong with him because of—you know, beyond the rational reason he had to be depressed, but I don’t—I don’t—I don’t have patience for people who want to say, "Oh, this was just a crazy person; this was just a person with a psychological problem who killed himself." No. This was somebody—this was somebody who was pushed to the edge by what I think of as a kind of bullying by our government.

Obama Presser on Debt Ceiling: "Not a Deadbeat Nation"


So I want to be clear about this: The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to.

These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them. So, while I'm willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they've already racked up. If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America's bills on time, Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed.

We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialist who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn't get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire, interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money. Every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.

It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession. And ironically it would probably increase our deficit. So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It's absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be, and I'm quoting Speaker Boehner now, "a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy."

So we've got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America's bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better choose quickly, because time is running short.

The last time republicans in Congress even flirted with this idea, our AAA credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history. Our businesses created the fewest jobs of any month in nearly the past three years, and ironically, the whole fiasco actually added to the deficit.

So it shouldn't be surprising, given all this talk, that the American people think that Washington is hurting rather than helping the country at the moment. They see their representatives consumed with partisan brinkmanship over paying our bills while they overwhelmingly want us to focus on growing the economy and creating more jobs.

So let's finish this debate. Let's give our businesses and the world the certainty that our economy and our reputation are still second to none. We pay our bills, we handle our business, and then we can move on because America has a lot to do.


Chuck Todd, NBC: Thank you, sir. As you know, Senate Democrats -- Harry Reid sent you a letter begging you, essentially, to take -- consider some sort of executive action on this debt ceiling issue. I know you've said you're not negotiating on it. Your administration has ruled out the various ideas that have been out there, the 14th Amendment, but just this morning, House -- one of the House Democratic leaders, Jim Clyburn, asked you to use the 14th Amendment and even said sometimes that's what it takes. He brought up the Emancipation Proclamation as saying they took executive action when Congress wouldn't act, and he compared the debt ceiling to that. So are you considering a Plan B? And if not, why not?

OBAMA: Well, Chuck, the issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation. And so there's a very simple solution to this: Congress authorizes us to pay our bills. Now, if the House and the Senate want to give me the authority so that they don't have to take these tough votes, if they want to put the responsibility on me to raise the debt ceiling, I'm happy to take it. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, had a proposal like that last year. And I'm happy to accept it.

But if they want to keep this responsibility, then they need to go ahead and get it done. And, you know, there are no magic tricks here. There are no loopholes. There are no, you know, easy outs. This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending. They order me to spend. They tell me, you need to fund our Defense Department at such-and-such a level, you need to send out Social Security checks, you need to make sure that you are paying to care for our veterans. They lay all this out for me, and -- because they have the spending power.

And so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills.

Separately, they also have to authorize a raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure that those bills are paid. And so what Congress can't do is tell me to spend X and then say, "But we're not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills."

And I just want to repeat, because I think sometimes the American people understandably aren't following all -- all the debates here in Washington. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more. All it does is say, that America will pay its bills. And we are not a deadbeat nation.

And the consequences of us not paying our bills, as I outlined in my opening statement, would be disastrous. So, I understand the impulse to try to get around this in a simple way. But there's one way to get around this. There's one way to deal with it, and that is for Congress to authorize me to pay for those items of spending that they have already authorized. And the -- you know the -- the notion that Republicans in -- in the House, or maybe some Republicans in the Senate would suggest that in order for us to get our way on our spending priorities, that we would risk the full faith and credit of the United States, that I think is not what the founders intended.

That's now how I think most Americans think our democracy should work. You know they've got a point of view. Democrats in Congress have a point of view. They need to sit down, and -- and work out a compromise.


Major Garrett: Thank you, Mr. President. As you well know, sir, finding votes for the debt ceiling can sometimes be complicated. You yourselves as a member of the Senate voted against a debt ceiling increase. And in previous aspects of American history, President Reagan in 1985, President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990, President Clinton in 1997 all signed deficit reduction deals that were contingent upon or in the context of raising the debt ceiling. You yourself four times have done that; three times those were related to deficit reduction or budget maneuvers.

What Chuck and I and I think many people are curious about is this new adamant desire on your part not to negotiate when that seems to conflict with the entire history in the modern era of American presidents in the debt ceiling and your own history on the debt ceiling. And doesn't that suggest that we are going to go into a default situation, because no one is talking to each other about how to resolve this?

OBAMA: Well, no, Major. I think if you look at the history, getting votes for the debt ceiling is always difficult and budgets in this town are always difficult. I went through this just last year. But what's different is we never saw a situation as we saw last year in which certain groups in Congress took such an absolutist position that we came within a few days of defaulting.

And, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that we have never seen the debt ceiling used in this fashion, where the notion was, you know what, we might default unless we get 100 percent of what we want. That hasn't happened.

Now, as I indicated before, I'm happy to have a conversation about how we reduce our deficits further in a sensible way, although one thing I want to point out is that the American people are also concerned about how we grow our economy, how we put people back to work, how we make sure that we finance our workers getting properly trained and our schools are giving our kids the education we deserve. There's a whole growth agenda which will reduce our deficits that's important, as well.

But what you've never seen is the notion that has been presented so far at least by the Republicans that deficit reduction will only count spending cuts, that we will raise the deficit - or the debt ceiling dollar for dollar on spending cuts. There are a whole set of rules that have been established that are impossible to meet without doing severe damage to the economy. And so what we're not going to do is put ourselves in a position where in order to pay for spending that we've already incurred, that our two options are; we're either going to profoundly hurt the economy, and hurt middle- class families, and hurt seniors, and hurt kids who are trying to go to college, or alternatively we're going to blow up the economy. We're not going to do that.


REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) three-month extension for this? What ever Congress sends you, you're OK with?

OBAMA: No, not whatever Congress sends me. They're going to have to send me something that's sensible. And we shouldn't be doing this...


OBAMA: ...then we should -- and we shouldn't be doing this on a one to three month time frame. Why would we do that? This is the United States of America, Major. Why -- what -- we can't manage our affairs in such a way that we pay our bills? And we provide some certainty in terms of how we pay our bills? Look I -- I don't - I don't think anybody would consider my position unreasonable here. The -- I have...


(OFF-MIKE) REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) talk about this on a daily basis (INAUDIBLE.)

OBAMA: Major, the -- I am happy to have a conversation about how we reduce our deficits. I am not going to have a monthly, or every three months conversation about whether or not we pay our bills. Because that, in and of itself does severe damage. Even the threat of default hurts our economy. It's hurting our economy as we speak. We shouldn't be having that debate.

If we want to have a conversation about how to reduce our deficit, let's have that. We've been having that for the last two years. We just had an entire campaign about it. And by the way, the American people agreed with me, that we should reduce our deficits in a balanced way, that also takes into account the need for us to grow this economy, and put people back to work.

And despite that conversation, and despite the election results, the position that's been taken, on the part of some House Republicans, is that, "Nope, we gotta do it our way. And if we don't, we simply won't pay America's bills."

Well, you know, that -- that can't be -- that can't be a position that is sustainable over time. It's not one that's good for the economy now. It's certainly not going to be the kind of precedent that I want to establish, not just for my presidency, but for future presidents. Even if it was on the other side.

Democrats don't like voting for the debt ceiling when a Republican's president. And yet, you -- you -- but you never saw a situation in which Democrats suggested somehow that we would go ahead and default if we didn't get 100 percent of our way. That's just not how it's supposed to work.

Newtown Parents: "Change That Will Outlast Any Legislative Careers"


"Sandy Hook won't be remembered for the tragedy, but for what started here."
~ David Wheeler, Ben's father

Rachel Maddow did an incredibly moving interview in Newtown, Connecticut with the parents of seven-year old Benjamin Wheeler, a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. They were among the parents who met to start Sandy Hook Promise, a group pledging to take a measured approach beyond politics to make children safe from gun violence.


"It's really not about your party, right now. I really feel like it's about our children. At this moment my gut's telling me that we have to keep talking about the children. They are the future of this country. They're going to be the next set of parents and they would want the same things we want - protection and safety."
~ Francine Wheeler, Ben's mother

The policy debate may move quickly, but we all know that legislation does not move quickly, and we know that government doesn't move quickly. We know that culture and societal change moves much slower than that. It's glacial.
So there may be quick moves in legislation here and there. There may be quick policy announcements or quick policy stances taken by many different people. But what this group is talking about is change that may outlast a great number of legislators' careers.
So this may go through a few generations of people in positions of representation. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes, because we are in it for that long.
~ David Wheeler, Ben's father

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, January 14, 2013

Make the Sandy Hook Promise


A new pledge movement is happening to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Please take time to join and spread the word.

I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.

This Time There Will Be Change.

Website Here ~ Make the Promise

On Twitter @sandyhook

"Turn Conversations Into Actions"


Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a non-profit corporation* created by members of the community of Newtown, Connecticut in response to the shooting on December 14, 2012, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed 20 children, four teachers and two administrators.


There was a gathering of people in Newtown. It was in someone’s kitchen, and it was filled with friends and neighbors who knew they needed to be together. Gradually, as they spoke, they also realized something else. They understood that they had a responsibility. To honor the kids and teachers they’d lost, as well as the survivors. They promised to do whatever they could to not let this tragedy stand as just another in our country’s history.


The first mission of SHP is to support the families of the victims, the survivors, first responders and teachers and staff of the school as well as the community of Newtown, (“our community”) by providing financial and service support and assistance whenever possible and for as long as it takes for each individual to heal.


Moving forward, the SHP mission is to work to identify and implement holistic, common sense solutions that will make our community and our country safer from similar acts of violence through education, outreach and grass-roots discussion. SHP believes the time has come to enter into these discussions with equal parts of Love, Compassion, and Common Sense.


This is the time. The time to stand up and say that our society should not live under the threat of this kind of violence. Sandy Hook Promise is committed to making Newtown be remembered as the place where we came together both as a community…and as a nation, and decided that we must do everything we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. Let Newtown go down in history as the place where real change began.

Counting Down to the Inauguration


Here are some tidbits gleaned from the interwebs about President Obama's Second Inauguration on January 20th and 21st. I can't wait to watch all the pomp and circumstance! Rarely do we have an election that is so historical and full of meaning.

Schedule of Events

Press Releases

Sign up for Email Alerts Here

Long List of Inaugural Parade Participants

Official Inaugural Store


If you are attending, please note:
If you plan on attending any of the public events, please be prepared to be outside for a long period of time and dress warmly. A limited amount of food and beverage vendors may be available, but attendees are encouraged to bring snacks and beverages in order to stay healthy and hydrated.
The following items are prohibited and will not be allowed through any security checkpoints: aerosols, animals (guide dogs will be allowed), backpacks, bags larger than 6” x 4” x 8”, balloons, bicycles, coolers, glass or thermal containers, horns, laser pointers, mace/pepper spray, packages, structures, sign supports, weapons, and any additional items deemed a safety hazard by security.
During the inauguration, much of the National Mall and surrounding areas will be closed to vehicle traffic. You can get the latest on D.C. public transportation by visiting the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s website at or by following @wmata on Twitter.

All Your Rebel Base Are Belong to the U.S. - Death Star and Secession Petitions Denied


The White House has responded in the negative to the tongue-in-cheek petition to build a "Death Star" like the planet-destroyer in Star Wars in order to create jobs for workers. Obama also put the kibosh on the multitude of Secession petitions from every state in the union that appeared after President Obama was reelected.

At least the Star Wars petition almost made sense and showed some thought about the general welfare of the country. The Secessionistas - not so much. And Darth Vader probably took the news better about the Death Star. The Wingnuts went ballistic and accused Obama of "ignoring" their movement to dismantle the Union - again - as if it worked the first time. You could say their response was more like Princess Leia when Commander Tarkin told her he was going to blow up Dantooine. They flipped out.


Read some reactions here:
Snark Amendment: Obama Tells Wingnuts "No" to Secession - Call a Wahmbulance!

WhiteHouse.Gov: Our States Remain United
Thank you for using the White House's online petitions platform to participate in your government.
In a nation of 300 million people -- each with their own set of deeply-held beliefs -- democracy can be noisy and controversial. And that's a good thing. Free and open debate is what makes this country work, and many people around the world risk their lives every day for the liberties we often take for granted.

But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don't let that debate tear us apart.


Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States "in order to form a more perfect union" through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot -- a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, "in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual." In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that "[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States."


Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people" -- all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.

So let's be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed. As President Obama said the night he won re-election, "We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future."


Whether it's figuring out how to strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit in a responsible way, or protect our country, we will need to work together -- and hear from one another -- in order to find the best way to move forward. I hope you'll take a few minutes to learn more about the President's ideas and share more of your own.

Jon Carson is Director of the Office of Public Engagement


WhiteHouse.Gov: This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.


Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.
If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alan Grayson is Back!


Nice to have Rep. Alan Grayson, R-Florida, back in Congress. He points out that the Republicans keeps dragging us towards these "cliff" situations, and it's all contrived by Congressional Republicans.

"This is completely unecessary. These are artificial crises manufactured by the Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate in order to bring about cuts in Social Security, cuts in Medicare, cuts in Medicaid the country doesn't want and would never even consider except for these crises that they create. We're not talking about an earthquake, we're not talking about Hurricane Sandy, we're not talking about any natural disaster.

It's a disaster created by the Republican Party's Agenda, which is highly unpopular, and wouldn't ever be considered except that they keep dragging the country again and again into these "cliff" situations.

On Gun Control Reform:

There's a fundamental difference here between the two parties, and it crosses NRA lines, so to speak. . . . Over and Over again whether you're talking about guns, talking about employment, healthcare or any other problem that's facing the country, what the other side wants to do is very clear: Nothing. I pointed out three years ago, they're healthcare plan is don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly. And now we see the same thing is true with guns in the wake of a terrible national tragedy. A recurring national tragedy. Their answer is "Do Nothing."

They want to instill in us a kind of fatalism and nihilism that means we can't do anything to solve our problems.